When I gave up my first job I dare say I gave up a lifetime of materialism. I broke the news to jaw-dropping disbelief from my peers and silent indignation from elders. But I did not care…I wanted to lead my life…no matter how frugal, how puny.
Standing at the cross-roads of my career was a world of advertising beckoning me with all its glam-sham; suave efficiency and cash-rich corporate destiny and another that had the madness of pursuing news, holes in the pocket and satisfaction of having done something great.
It was a battle between self-actualisation or else-actualisation. It was a tight decision…what was important my image or my reality? It was about the mask fitting so tight onto the face that the skin sizzles into the plastic and ceramic mix.
The way we live our lives is decided with the very first choice one makes as an adolescent. After the first board-exam we take up a stream that our teacher feels you are good at…our parents wanted to make a career out of it but could not…and finally what our neighbours and friends think would make us look smart in. The dye is already cast. Start living for the others, as they say.
Once education gets over…it’s time to get a job. We will certainly not take up a job where your heart lies, that which acts like a magic potion and lends a spring to every step one takes towards office. Instead we end up taking up a job that increases our value in the marriage market. That helps our kins proclaim we are the Suitable Boy…Mr Eligible, so that the best horse trading can be brokered a few years later in the marriage bazar. What punditry…I must admit. It’s a job well done, both ways I mean. The heart may have slipped into a coma, but the head works overtime.
Then the house gets decorated in marigold and jasmine, sparklers and trip lights adorn the walls…the sehnai flutes out an ancient mellifluous note…We are getting married…tied to a post of compromise forever…for the girl we marry is someone who has all the qualities to be a good wife, a better daughter-in-law and best mother on earth on whom the children would shower…”Dekho Ami Barchi Mummy”. So where is my life partner, my better half, my friend. It doesn’t matter. So, and God forbid, we end up- marrying the wrong girl for all the wrong reasons. And the same goes for girls, ending up marrying the wrong guy for all the wrong reasons. And still call it our life or rather your marriage…Or rather our compromise. Now having written the last act of the first disaster…we turn in all our energy into the profession and like the ‘Hawk” roosting in Auden’s world. Having failed in the biggest war, we now want to be the boss of everything we survey and keep winning smaller battles.
Now we are ready to sacrifice, change, adapt and adopt…we are ready to plunge headlong into the dog-eat-dog rat race for biting the gold medallion. The image, the reflection, the picture, the portrait needs to be larger than life…so an instant makeover. We need ties that scream out “I am sexy”, cufflings hanging about the sleeves covering the rippling muscles proclaim “I have arrived”…Oh! a metrosexual male in its totality. We long for and get a house with more rooms than we will ever live in…Our children shout “my daddy strongest” and wife flaunt me about like “neighbour’s envy owner’s pride”….but knock-knock and we are dead-wood inside. My Image is me.
In office we need to be excellent, any other adjective other than the superlative will not do…so pardon my weak repetition of epithet…best, the best employee, best boss, best colleague and role model. So we work harder, faster and better than the others. Do it every day, day after day…working late nights, getting back early, forgetting dates and personal appointments, weekends and holidays…and we rise the escalator…both kissing and kicking arse suiting my needs. The rise is a heartless illusion…an enticer that draws me to the top.. a very lonely top.
By now we have reached 40. Some say life begins at 40…they must have been great philosophers, for truly life begins yet again now. The cycle starts all over again. For suddenly we realise there are people younger and much better placed. Then you start cursing…the dice was always loaded against us…right from the beginning…i failed to see the mark on the wall…we were always trying to climb the windward slope.
Its then you start bending it like Beckham…bend rules, twist norms, jack-up our price and open a new safety vaults for storing the morality. We start getting jealous..envious of your neighbour’s house, car, wife, puppy or i we have reached that neurotic stage …we start to get envious even of his janitor.
And then the cycle begins again…again we start working hard…lie, connive, steal, con and sink in the muck…in our effort to further stretch the already larger-than-life reflection….get sucked into the vortex of being into nothingness.
The final chapter….one evening…when the sun has set into the horizon and the ruddy glow of muffled orange spread along the dark-blue of the evening…we sit in the verandah and ponder…whose life did we live? All that we have gone through our life to shine is gone… but where has the sheen gone…the sparkle of youth was lost…the mellowing gravity of middle-age drowned…the quiet sense of dignity and self-respect compromised…life has escaped our hands…
The point I am trying to make is that running the race to breast the tape has always been very important… going faster, higher and farther will always be there…But at what cost… the point of running in the jogger’s park is not to lose weight…weight will be lost sooner or later…the point is to enjoy the morning breeze, the fresh blades of grass, the morning glory and the children laughing and playing about by themselves…fill in the lungs with a whiff of fresh air and heart with a genial smile that has laden the garden-path….my life means the road to the goal, the pebbles of memories that I fill my pockets with and not the goal only…fatal, enticing and cutting both ways.