Category Archives: Work wisdom

>Kaam Devta…

>

…Isn’t happy with me. Please don’t confuse this Kaam with Kama; they are two different entities, and while you’re at one, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to manage the other. So the Kaam I’m referring to is what we call in English, ‘work’. And now that we’re not lost in translation, let me tell you why exactly I think my Kaam Devta is unhappy with me. Suggestions to improve the situation are invited.

Today, I had an argument with the photog, the reporter and the page designers in office – just about everyone there is to argue with. I’ve been having day after day after day of stressful weekdays because I feel like I’m doing all the dirty work in my office. Which means I do more work than most others, and get all the flak for the mistakes, while the credit for all the right stuff goes to others. Not a unique situation in an office, I understand, but it’s been so prolonged now that I’m tired of filling in for inefficient others — one day one person, the second day another — while doing my own work, and making it appear like team work when it isn’t.

Probably, everyone’s doing the best they can, but if their best isn’t sufficient, what do I do, being in a perceived position of responsibility? I keep wondering, how will they improve if they don’t have it in them to improve no more? Probably, and hopefully, this is temporary.

In other circumstances, I’d quit because I hate working under stress, but now the bloody money has become so good, I can’t quit! I want that cash coming into my account every month. And the bonus, and the hiked salary. And I have no other place to take my talent to within this city! So it’s catch-22.

Actually, I don’t know what Kaam Devta thinks of me these days and if he’s unhappy with me or not, but clearly, I’m quite unhappy with him these days.

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>Wanted: A working homemaker

>It’s been more than 8 years of non-stop work for me, and I still don’t know how a teenager who wanted to grow up to do nothing turned into semi-workaholic me. My biggest high in life, for now, is work. And the three years when I was still working but had it easier, I fretted over how I was frittering away my time when I could do so much more. I put a lot of my other life on hold to carry on with work, but it gives me joy.

Having said that, I sometimes grudge the fact that my absence from home for most part of the day makes me less part of the family than the domestic helpers who spend the entire day at my place. I often have the feeling that they’re part of the family life I’m missing out on because I’m at work. For those who don’t know, I live in a joint family, with my in-laws. And I worry, lesser now than I used to in the initial years of my marriage, that by being away from home for such long hours I am making myself totally dispensable to the ‘family’. Everything can happen without me, ‘can’ being the keyword here. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it does.

I know a lot of full time working women – women who don’t just have jobs but careers. And I know they also have this underlying insecurity, like I do. More so if they are mothers. So I know I’m not the odd one out. But I guess it is one of those things I have to make my peace with. And to a great extent I already have. It’s the remainder that still bothers me occasionally.

It’s sad that whenever a woman chooses to step out of the house to work, she’s leaving behind a part of her life she would like to take along with her. What is it – our conditioning or our emotional constitution – that makes us want to inhabit two worlds at the same time? Sometimes I wonder if it really wouldn’t have been better if women had continued to play the role of dedicated homemakers, living to every stereotype of wife, mum, daughter, whatever instead of straddling two worlds and spending their lives trying to bridge the divide between the two. I know I would be a more relaxed person if I didn’t have in my head the idea of working. Or if I did, it would be better if I didn’t also have the idea of being a homemaker while away at work. Then I could just put my head and heart into one thing. Where did this idea of ‘woman of substance’ come from, of this woman who can manage both the worlds efficiently? What kind of superwomen set such high-stress precedents for the rest to follow?

At no point am I suggesting that I’d like to retire from my work and take up the stay-at-home role, simply because I cannot. It’s not me. I do wish though I could get rid of compunctions to be a ‘complete’ woman. Is there such a thing as a complete woman, as the Raymond ad would like to sell to us the idea of a complete man?

>At work, apart from work

>The company finally decided to spend a li’l money on us apart from the measly monthly salary they give us (Salaries will always be measly. Otherwise, we’d be unambitious!). So there we were, 20 people from 10 cities converging for a conference in Goa. Making people work in Goa should be made a crime punishable by law. Making people sit through meetings from 10 in the morning to 7 in the evening in a sea-facing room with a view of the golden sunset on the beach should be made a bigger crime! But since it’s not, we could do little but use all our concentrated efforts to stay mentally within that room.

Outside the conference room, though, I was using all my concentrated efforts to fight something of a gender situation. Let me put it this way – I was the youngest member of the female sex present at the conference and the centre of unwanted male attention for reasons other than work. But how do you react to men – ranks senior in the official heirarchy – when they’re hitting on you? Do you react to them in the same spirit that you would react to harmless flirting outside the workplace? Or do you snub them, just like that?

Honestly, I was flummoxed. And I did neither. For most part, I ignored it, refusing to get pulled into even ‘harmless’ flirting. But I was super uncomfortable. I’ve realised that women, good-looking women if I may be immodest enough to say so, are forever being slotted as people who want to manipulate their looks to climb up the professional ladder, their good work be damned. But I want to be known for my work and not my looks, because I work my ass off to put something on the table that counts. And because I like to dress well and won’t land up at work in shapeless kurtas and the same pair of shoes every single day, doesn’t mean I don’t know my job. It also doesn’t mean that every man I talk to and share a laugh with at work is someone I’m flirting with. I hate being judged like that.

I won’t lie: like every woman, I like the attention from the opposite sex. But there’s a time and place for things. At work, I can appreciate a compliment, not a pick-up line.

Also, why is the onus of fending off the undue attention on the woman, I ask. I’m no Sita, and won’t have a trial by fire. Why can men not be responsible for respecting the Lakshman Rekha?

>Updates from a Survivor

>I survived it, that thing called work and that condition called overworked. Yesterday was the first Sunday in a month probably that I’d not spent at work. I had been working on every off, even festival holidays because there was so much happening in the office. On most days, I was the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. Because with great power comes great responsibility. And what am I if not Superwoman, eh?!

So there I was doing 10-12 hour days at work, only to come home, get ready and be off to celebrate someone’s biirthday, someone’s baby’s birth, someone’s Eid get-together… And I have to give it to The Guy for being super patient all the while. If I were in his shoes, I’d be bored and whiny. He was plain supportive, just like I like my man to be – missing me but not killing me with guilt. He messaged me a dozen times to tell me he was missing me the night we closed the special edition we’d been working on, and I landed at for a party after midnight!

It’s been like a roller coster ride. Lots of yelling, highs and lows, twists and turns, fear, excitement, joy to be doing something I’d never done before. But this roller coster ends right on the top. The extra hours, the working in my sleep and the tendency to eat/breathe work has paid off, I guess. Hopefully, it’s all been worth it. But I’m glad now to be getting back to a more normal pace at work.

I want some quietude, some time to relax, to go get a pedicure, to get my arms and legs waxed instead of picking up the razor as a last minute resort, to get a facial once in six months, like normal women do. I’d like to have enough time to not have to go out on a limb just to meet my sick nephew. Or have to plan a call to my cousin who’s suffering from dengue. I was planning a European holiday – to look and explore and learn. Now, I just want to go to place where I can unwind, to switch off my Blackberry and deactivate all email notifications. And I wonder what it must be like for my boss, who has ten times more sh$% to handle than me!

But does that mean this pace is killing me? That I want time out? No, not yet. I think that after all, this is how I like it. I like my days full, my head crammed with ideas, my heart and head all in one place. But if I could slow down just a tad bit, I’d be able to stretch myself out longer, I think. And blog a little more!

Considering how erratic I have been with blogging, I should be considering shutting down this blog. Most days I have no time to come and write here, others I have no coherent thoughts! But I can’t give up blogging. I can’t! I like it here – to be talking, to be around here listening to what you have to say. Even in this mad rush of the last month, I’d check up on a few fave blogs, just to de-stress, just to check up on bloggers I was thinking about. I don’t think I can blog with the same fervour that I did before, because that fervour has gone to work with me, but I still can’t stop being a blogger!

>And that’s how the story goes

>I’ve been trying to draft a soul-stirring, eye-grabbing, attention-seeking intro to this post for 20 odd days. But this is all I’ve been able to come up with. And while I know it’s a pathetic attempt at creativity, how long can I stave off this big news from spilling onto my blog? I’ve bidden my time, as much as offices would expect in such cases, and here I am telling you I’m going home. Yes, let’s throw those imaginary papers in the air, jump with joy, dance around the room and pop the champagne – because that would kind of do justice to how I feel!

So you say, three months was all I was in Delhi for? That’s what all the hullabaloo was about? Not quite. A little over three months ago, I’d told you I was going to be out “temporarily”. I had deliberately withheld for how long. Because it was too long to say, and to elicit an encouraging response from anyone. My job offer came with the rider: stay in Delhi for anything between 6 to 18 months, which averages out to be a year! And that they’d transfer me back to Lucknow if things worked out. I had withheld that bit of info from friends and family as well, except the immediate. Because I knew no one, no one and no one would give me their ‘go ahead’ if I told them the lock-in period. And I wanted so badly to give this a shot, thinking all the time that if worse comes to worst, I’ll run back home.

But we went from worse to alright and then pretty good. Three months and the boss wants me to go back to Lucknow to handle things on my own. Now, I can’t be divulging office details here, because that would be professionally unethical, but let it suffice to say that what I was expected to do in a year’s time, I’ve done in two months! The last one month has simply been the waiting period. And honestly, more than about going back home, it’s about having achieved so much at work that makes me happy. I was loving it here, I so was, but I’m glad to be going back to handle an office almost on my own because it means I’m capable of doing it.

And there’s so much to say for the experience that this has been. I’ve discovered things about me in these past months in Delhi I had either forgotten or lost or did not know existed. I’ve looked forward to every single day at work and I finally realise that there’s nothing else I should be doing but this. I’ve clocked 12-hour days and been exhausted to the point of crying, but it’s been bittersweet – there was such a sense of satisfaction at having done a hard day’s work well.

Living alone took time getting used to, but really, it was like time off from everything – from the monotony, the routines, the meaninglessness of some relationships, the predictability of life. Had I known I was going to be out only for three months, I would have cried a little less in the nights, missed The Guy lesser. But I’ve savoured every moment of this experience – the pain and the gain. These months, they’ve been like two hundred per cent ‘me’ time that women rarely get. Sometimes too much, but in hindsight, not all that much either.

I’m the kind of person who falls in love with everything around her, or hates it all. I fell in love with my life here – the comfortable pattern that things had fallen into. Yes, I hated lots of it as well, but in every one of those things that I hated, I found something to love. In the long hours of commuting, I found the quiet to be thoughtless; in the lonely nights, I found how much I loved my man; in the traffic snarls, I found how little some comforts meant to me. In all of it, I realised how much I was capable of withstanding, how much I was capable of loving Delhi!

I could go on… about the people I met, about the friends I made, about having to say goodbye to them before I could even tell them I love them… But you’ve already got the drift, haven’t you? I’m just so glad I took the difficult call to risk coming here, so glad I’m growing to grow old without any regrets. This is my life and this is me, unapologetically.

>And words are all I have…

>For somebody on the precipice of 30, I’m ashamed to say I don’t know what my calling in life is. Or perhaps I do.

I started my career when I was 22 as a lifestyle journalist. My name became a staple in the most widely-read English newspaper daily of the city. I wrote happily about social trends, celebrity interviews, off-beat events. I took dakka after dakka (the gifts that journos get at press conferences) with embarrassment and stuck a ‘Press’ sticker on my car. I spent hour after hour calling up elusive celebrities trying to get a quote for my stories and hated it. I battled writer’s blocks to meet my weekly stories-filed target. I racked my brain during ideation meetings. I clocked extra hours into work uncomplainingly.

I edited – threw out the words and phrases that offended English grammar and replaced them with my own that fit the eccentric rules of the language. I gave “catchy” headlines, played on puns, twisted and turned the words in my head to come up with headlines that met the demand of the “young” product that I was working for.

I made pages – the ones that you see ultimately see in the morning papers. Added colour here, pictures there. Visuals here, word play there. I discussed, often debated, with my editor what stories would be carried on the top fold, what would go under. What story needed to be scrapped because it couldn’t hold its own. What reporter needed to be rapped for copy-pasting from the internet. I met deadlines. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking if I had let the overflow of words from that article in the right column of the page go to print as it is. I stressed over having misspelt a word in the introduction, of putting a wrong picture caption, of not giving photo credit where it was due.

That was my job.
I earned peanuts. I got promoted. I got new enemies. I got passionate about what I was doing.

And then I left it all. Because they came in the way of me and my work. Because I wasn’t there for money and the satisfaction of a four-year old job was being snatched away by an idiot, politicking boss. Because I couldn’t wait to be 40 to be where I should have been!

I left it all to become an entrepreneur with my husband.

It’s good to be the boss, but what of my words? Where do I take them now?

I bring them here, on my blog. But without the byline that shone atop every newspaper article I wrote. I bring them here without the promise of having them read by thousands of pairs of eyes that pick up the newspaper everyday. I bring them here, but I leave behind the ones that do not find a place here.

I cringe each time a friend or family member tells me I made the wrong choice, that I belonged there. That that was where they expected me to rise. That what I am doing now may be great but it does not match up to what I was doing then. That the place I vacated is still unoccupied.

And it breaks my heart to know they may be right.

>On the other side of the table…

>…The deal is just as raw as it was when I was around it!

I spent a large part of my life, nay, all of it, wanting to be the boss. The first year I started working my very motivating boss asked me where I imagined myself five years hence. And I replied candidly, “As the boss.” I never stopped to think that could mean replacing him, because I never thought of it like that. I just always wanted to be the boss; you could give me any time frame, and my answer would remain the same. I chucked that job five years later to become my own boss. And for appearances’ sake, I have to say it’s the best thing in the world – being accountable to no one but yourself, being free to take an off when you want to, to be “ma’am-ed” (not that I dig that too much!) all the time, to be saved the heartburn of someone less worthy being promoted out of turn… All of that is true, no doubt. But there’s so much baggage that comes with it that there seems to be little time to enjoy any of it.

No, I’m not cribbing, but I am expressing my agreement with that cliche – “the grass is always greener on the other side”! I know now the boss’ job isn’t enviable at all. It’s like waiting all your childhood to grow up and when you’re all grown up, you know you were so much better off as a child! Today, I’d rather go home with a lesser salary at the end of the month than be saddled with the problems of being the captain (or co-captain) of the ship! If it floats, people aboard just take it for granted – that is the captain’s job. But if it sinks, it’s certainly the captain’s fault.

They say it’s lonely at the top. And though we do not follow the kind of hierarchy in our office that makes it lonely up there, sometimes it just feels so. When you and you alone are accountable for everything that goes wrong (even if you’re accountable to no one else but yourself) at work even if you can chide someone else for it, when despite trying to be more than an employer, you end up being treated only as that, when there’s no one to pat your back at the end of a difficult day and say “well done”. It gets lonely then. It gets lonely when you can’t have your employees sit with you and explain to them the financial crunch that is making life slightly difficult for you. It also gets lonely when all you do is expected and all that you do not is carefully noted in some mean crevice of a staff member’s mind.

As for off days, there are no off days anymore – none at all, because how do you leave your baby behind and enjoy an off without guilt? You can get subsitutes for everyone in the office, but unfortunately, there’s none for the boss!