Monday, February 14, 2011

The pursuit of happiness

It has been seven months. Seven months and five days, to be exact. July 9th to February 14th. Yeah, today is St. Valentine's day - the Lover's day or the loser's day, depending on whose side you are on. It has been seven months and five days since I quit the corporate world.

"Why did you quit?" and "What would you do next" were questions to which I had no definite answers at that particular point of time. I have produced a lot of flak over the first questions, such as "I hated the work-life imbalance", "I did not like the work" or "The company was shifting to operational consulting, something I was not very comfortable with." The truth, while encompassing each of the above three elements has been that despite putting in much more effort than I am accustomed to, I was not getting the results on a personal level. Here is a sample of what I mean:

(Characters: I, and two senior consultants (S1 and S2). Time: Saturday 10 am, in one of the small meeting rooms in our office, even though it is supposedly a 5 day week.).

I: Why are we even here today? (whisper, I have a bad hangover).
S1: To DISCUSS the recommendations we will make to client.
S2: It is very important to DISCUSS these.
I: Did you go through the recommendations pack I made and sent you. I was in the office till 10 last night, making the pack, and all the recommendations are listed there. You can now see which ones to incorporate. Why am I needed? I need to catch up with an old friend, who has just landed in Delhi from Switzerland, and will be here only till 1p.m. It has been six years since I have met him.
S2: We all need to DISCUSS. It is very important for all of us to DISCUSS. All of us need to be present. Without DISCUSSING, we will not be in the same wavelength.
S1: I think we need to go step by step in our recommendations. Zubin, you project the recommendations presentation on the screen, and let us go through it.
I: Yes, S1,S2, our first recommendation is .....
(And I make them go through the recommendations I had made the previous night. I take 10 minutes explaining the entire set of recommendations after which the discussions begin, usually between S1 and S2, while I am generally quiet and angry. The discussions include an half an hour of discussion on whether the designations be written in capital or small letters. It goes on till 10 p.m., and it is a Saturday).
The end result is a "revised" version of the document I made the previous night, with only a few cosmetic changes. No recommendations are dropped, while no new recommendations are added. And this took 12 hours. At the end of which, I showed my irritation by whispering something like " Fuck!! You wasted an entire Saturday", which I guess someone of those two heard.)

Now, the following conversation is something that I only suspected happened. I am pretty sure this is how it went based on the feedback I got - about being insincere and non-hardworking. This, when for the past two years and two months, I had spent, on an average, 60 hours a week in that fucking office.

Characters: S1 and S2, Manager (M) and Partner (P).

S1: Sir, we have come up with a list of recommendations.
S2: Yes, sir the DISCUSSIONS helped us to come to a consensus on the results.
P: Wow, great recommendations! This is impressive. Who did this?
S2 and S1: Sir, we discussed it among ourselves, working all through Saturday.
M: These two work very hard, sir.
P: Cool, I will make the two of you managers. And you, M, will become a senior manager. Was there anyone else on the project.
M: I think there was a consultant, but I forget his name.
S1, S2: Ohh, it was Zubin, but he has a horrible attitude. He shirks away from work. He has plenty of potential, but he doesnt use it. If we were not there to guide him, this work would never have been done.
P: So its decided, promotion to S1, S2 and M. Give Zubin the lowest rating possible, but call it the average rating. And we will loan him to another team and make them send him to some plant. I dont think I like his face.

And I lived a two years and two months with that shit. For someone used to high Return on Investment philosophy, the no returns after investment was not something I was ready to live with.
So, ladies and gentlemen, was why I quit.

"What will you do next?" was a question I had no answer to. So I just told people, "I will write." And so started writing, but it certainly has not been a smooth sailing so far. Most times I think about what to write, and even when I have it all figured out, I cut the script a number of times, and hence, after seven months, I have just 30000 odd words to show. And a story that is not going anywhere.

I have not traveled much these past seven months, and the month long trip to China and Singapore discounted, the only trips I have made are the three trips to home. It has not even been a dazed seven months, and I have cut down a bit on alcohol too. Have played a bit of tennis, and made some new people.

However, this time has been, both literally and figuratively, a blast. I have had a great time doing nothing, and I feel I have become a much happier person. Moreover, my hair has blackened and I have had the time of my life. I dont have to suck up to someone, I can do my own thing, and my finances are hanging up pretty fine so far. All in all, its been a good life so far, and I would not trade it for a corporate slave anytime.

That being said, my finances are going bad slowly, and I recently did interview for a position with a company known for its good work-life balance. However, the first question I had to answer was, "What was your GPA in IIT and IIM?" And that kind of sort of set the tone for the rest of the interview, and it re-emphasised what I had known all the time - that the corporate world sucks. You are being pulled down for your weakest points than being appreciated for your strengths. And which is why, not being in the job with someone to suck to, has made me so much happy.

And you might say that this is the sour grapes fuck up, as people will probably do, but I am actually happy. HAPPY and more importantly, satisfied. And the interview fuckup probably happened to prove a point to me - Never trade happiness for anything else. :).

To quote Will Smith from a Pursuit of Happiness, "This period of my life, this little period, is what I call happiness."