On Quitting your Job

It will take some time to carry out the social un-conditioning. The layers run deep. The more you explore, the more you would realize how prejudiced you are. It won’t be easy, to discover contradictory things about yourself. It may shake your confidence. It may rob you of your faith. Your insecurity may grow.

You are allowed to take a call. Mission abort! Mission abort!

But I hope you will keep going.

Remind yourself again and again – why you are doing this. You will have to. It’s medicine – you need to take it every day before breakfast and after dinner. And even then, all kinds of what-ifs will crop up each day. There is no guarantee. The roads are hazy, and from time to time, you would wonder if you took a wrong turn. Don’t worry about the wrong and the right turns. What’s done has been done. Just trust your voice and keep on going.

Sometimes you won’t hear that voice. There may be too much noise inside your head. Clear that traffic. Sit down. Relax. Breathe. Introspect. Your ego might not like it – the rejections, the un-replied mails, the criticism, the other people, the could have beens. You would be scared. Be courageous. Look up and face your fears. When you do, you would realize it’s not that dreadful after all.

fear

Of course, your Plan A won’t work. Many times your Plan B might not either. Allow yourself to be creative. You will conceive a new plan. Remember, there is always something you can do. The idea may not hit you right away, but it will. Tell yourself it will.

If you were your actual manager you would hate yourself. It’s hard to satisfy yourself, harder than your ex-boss because you know what you are capable of doing. And this is something you love to do – of course, it can be so much better! God, it will be hard. Your inner boss is a demon. But hear, hear, be assured that when he is pacified, he has brought the best out of you. He won’t let you rest for long though. Next day there would be a new project, with even higher standards. And no, he would never approve your leaves. And criticism is the only language he speaks.

The most difficult appraisals happen before the mirror. Tell the mirror about the things you did right. The journal you wrote, the little Haiku at the back of your diary, the book you read and what you learnt from it, the interesting thing you got to know from the internet, the way you helped a friend in need, the way you spent time with your family, how delicious your lunch was, how you went for a nice walk, how new ideas struck you and how you took note of them, how you worked on them, talk about your new strategies, how you searched for new opportunities and dared to apply, how the small event you organized went well, how you inspired the people you met and how you got inspired by them, how you discovered that old book in library which you wouldn’t find anywhere else, how you meditated, how you sang and learnt something new, how you enjoyed the rain, remind yourself that all of these count as valid building blocks. All of this is work. Value-added work.

Your inner boss might just scoff, but don’t take him too seriously. Don’t take any of those things seriously that discourage you. Don’t let other men and the man in the mirror validate you. You might not know the whole map, but trust yourself and keep on going the road you are on.

Yes, it’s not going to be easy. Definitely. SO think twice before quitting that job. And if you decide not to, then dedicate yourself to the job you do. Eventually, you will learn to love it. You may feel you have lost something. But remind yourself you have gained something too. And if you do quit your job and decide to follow your heart – Don’t look back. You are doing just fine. Remind yourself of the good things. Work on those good things. And just keep swimming.

*

 

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The Absurd Struggles of a Writer

When I told my mother that I wanted to be a writer, I expected some kind of disagreement. She was not very delighted but she wasn’t angry either. I got a modest and an are-you-sure okay and soon we both forgot about it. Somehow, sluggishly, I finished college and I obtained a degree that said I was an Electrical Engineer.

Even though I had told a few people that I wanted to be a writer I wasn’t really serious about it. I fantasized about it yes –  Living in a big new strange city, lost and lonely among millions; I am sleeping on the pavements, cold, helpless and yet the fire in my heart kindles and I dream and I dream. Often I don’t eat, often I forget to eat, my writing is all that is and all that will be. I stay in my miserable room devouring two-three books I have, day and night, again and again. But those few books are my life. War and Peace, Madame Bovary, The Ulysses, and oh how I read! Like a demon. My room is built with bricks and rejection mails. And still, I breathe. And still, I write. No one in my family is talking to me. I have no friends. The fumes of my cigarettes and a glass half filled with cheap warm whiskey are my only companions. Yes, it is hard. It is so difficult that almost all kinds of poetry make sense to me. But I am on my way to be a great writer.

The reality, however, is that after graduating out of college I joined a company. We manufactured switchgear, did our bit in providing safe electricity to people. It was a normal 9 to 5 (or 7 or 9 or sometimes 10) job, which I grew to hate within two months. But I could have continued doing it for the rest of my life if it wasn’t for my family.

‘You don’t deserve such a job,’ my mother used to tell me. ‘You should do something else. Do you have anything in mind?’
In my mind, there was a dream that I never thought could ever come true.
‘I don’t know’
‘How about MBA?’ she asked.
Another trending degree that I am actually not interested in studying but I may get a better paying job with it so yeah why not.
A day later, she called me again, ‘How about English?’
That would be wonderful! Wait, what?

No, Ma, you are supposed to force me into choosing a ‘practical’ degree.
You are supposed to be an antagonist so that I could be a protagonist.
You are supposed to say things like – ‘Just because a few odd people praised your writing that doesn’t mean you could be a writer!’  Then I am supposed to leave home, burning with fury and ambition and say stuff like, ‘Oh but you are wrong Ma. I am leaving now. Forever.’ And out of this tragedy, a great writer shall emerge.

‘Why not study writing if you like writing so much?’, my mother told me instead.
You are supposed to resist my dream. You are not supposed to make it your own. What’s wrong with you! What kind of broad-minded dreamy mother are you who sends her daughter to study creative writing all the way to England?

They say that artists live wretched lives. They say they have the worst family. And that somehow contributes to their genius. I have a decent life, a supportive family, so does that mean I am disqualified?

And I wonder…

Do I really need to be Charles Bukowski or is it okay to be the way I am and still be a good writer? I don’t smoke cigarettes and I don’t drink cheap warm whiskey. I haven’t read War and Peace. And no, most poems still don’t make sense to me. Sometimes my own poems don’t make sense to me. I live in a decent apartment. I don’t have money in my bank account but I can’t call myself poor. I can afford to buy books. I have Kindle, Netflix subscription (which I just canceled), and a car to go to the nearby library (which I never drive because I don’t know how to drive). Such is my writing life – not ideal but still privileged, and the only real hurdles I face are mental. Hurdles like questioning whether I am actually a writer if I haven’t struggled enough to ‘know the reality of life’. Hurdles like – Can I ever stop wondering what life would have been as an engineer? As a management student? Can I really be at peace knowing how my social rankings have slipped now that I have switched to humanities, that I can no longer consider myself ‘smart’, that Engineering to me is just a paper in my folder, that I have no knowledge regarding that field anymore, that I never really had any, that I have no idea what I am doing right now, did I ever have any such idea, does anyone have any idea, that I am not designing any kind of artificial intelligence, but I am sitting here writing a dumb book. But I love writing that dumb book. So shut up.

*

The Portrait of a Writer

The artist looks at the writer again, this time a few minutes more than his usual duration. He then dips his paint brush in the palette for blending the colors together into just the right kind of shade. A slight stroke over the eyebrow and he looks back at the writer searching for his own permission. After the slight approving nod from his intuition, he makes a few more bold strokes over the other eyebrow. The result is magnificent. The imperfections that had been bothering him suddenly melt away. He looks at the face of the writer again and compares it with the portrait. He had been working on it for the past three months and finally he has arrived at the point where he can proudly say that it’s been completed. He puts down his brush and allows himself a brief moment of pride. Then, he asks the writer to see his portrait for the first time.

The writer’s reaction was not quite what the painter expected. He imagined a proud smile, a string of compliments and a pair of grateful eyes but all he received was a single inexpressive word (just a single word, mind you from a writer!) – “Good”. The laconic reply suddenly turned his masterpiece into garbage. The writer’s suppressed smirk still haunts him.

The portrait of the writer stares back at him, teasing at his shocking incompetency. He picks up his brush once again to give a last finishing touch to the painting but he is too distracted by the writer’s lack of appreciation.What could possibly be missing in this painting? Nothing! It’s perfect! How dare that insolent bastard insult his work? How dare he? What does he know about painting anyway? No, there’s nothing else that needs to be added here. The portrait is complete. Even a single stroke would prove to be redundant in this painting. And redundancy is not permitted in the work of reputed artist like him. So, he puts down his brush and pours himself a glass of the most expensive wine he owns in order to celebrate his moment; His moment of arrogant denial. He moans at the exotic taste of the wine only to feel annoyance instead of satisfaction.

The portrait stares back at him with his screaming dishonesty.

No, this can’t be like this. As if under a spell, suddenly he realizes what has been missing in the painting. Almost immediately, he engages himself in series of ferocious strokes, completely taken over by his instincts and subconscious memories. Caught up in a symphony that only he is capable of hearing, he engages in beautiful dance with his artistic instincts. When he at lasts stops, he is dumbfounded by the transformation. The man in the canvas looks back at him like he knows all his secrets, like he has looked into every corner of his heart, even in the most reticent spaces in his mind that is known to him better than the artist himself. This baffles him. He immediately looks away in embarrassment. However, when the amazing beauty of his creation begins to sink in, he sheds his cowardice and faces the portrait again. This time the gaze of the writer intensifies. The man in the portrait is no longer whispering but speaking in resounding words that while the artist was busy capturing every detail of his face in the canvas, he had been writing a story of his own – where the roles are reversed, where he is penning down his entire existence in a bunch of syllables, recording every insecurity, every emotion, every story that his physical presence unconsciously conveys. While he painted the veins emerging and disappearing at the back of his hand, while he painted the cuff link peeking out of his coat, while he struggled getting the correct shape of his specs resting on his nose, the man in the portrait had already written a tome on him. The painter feels completely naked, a feeling he had not been willing to accept since the very beginning of this painting.

The next day when the writer walks into the studio, he is shocked after seeing his portrait. The intensity of his own gaze doesn’t spare him. Through the corner of his eyes he sees the artist smiling at him. The writer smiles back in appreciation. Their eyes meet but no word is spoken. The emotion is conveyed perfectly.

Touché, comrade.Touché.

***

A wasted vocabulary

Words give away, you know. The snitch. Ratting bastards. Force your detachment, a vehement denial or a secret acceptance for a fiction juxtaposed on a non-fiction and yet they would make the forbidden revelations anyway. Tell them not to and they would confess loudly and openly your hitherto secrets even before you could confess it to your own self.

Words give away, the treacherous cartographers! They would shamelessly plot a map of your vulnerability; leaving it for others to discover and explore. Don’t use them on drawing books. They’d sketch and re-sketch your nakedness in all its ugliness.

Words! Don’t know how to handle them! Such confused creatures! Make them too simple and they would convey your message as a cacophonous crow’s call. Coat them with luxurious vocabulary and instead of glorifying the beauty of your thoughts they would fashionably accentuate your dishonesty and pretentiousness.

Words give away! Oh dear! Don’t trust them! The ultimate occupational hazard! Once you let the valves open there is no emergency button to shut them down. Keep these deceptive creatures away – they have several pathways leading straight to your heart, welcoming everyone, sparing none.

Words give away, the misleaders, the irritating fuckers!  Once the chosen ones hit your head, no synonyms can help you. Replace them with all the fancy syllables you know and yet they would stay out of tune until you use that clichéd set of musical notes that you had meant to avoid all along. Words leave you at odd times! They wouldn’t appropriately describe that amazing moment you had so desperately wanted to capture. And yet they would perfectly document the embarrassment that you resolved to forget permanently.

Words give away, don’t trust these babies and if you can still runaway, RUN! But if you can’t. Then welcome comrade! How have you been? Lie back. What can we do? Let us write a poem together. Don’t let someone else read it though. If you do, we would forever be trapped in the act of differentiating between false appreciation and honest compliment. Nothing would ever be good enough. But nothing can be bad either. Nevertheless, stay here, don’t go! Let’s marvel at the innocence hidden behind their maliciousness instead. Let’s watch them catch our ugly truths with infinite gracefulness. Let’s bloom without wondering about the odd colour combination of our petals. Let’s watch them make way for our idiosyncrasy carefully peeking out from the blanket of our sentences. Let’s swoon to the awkwardness of the lyrics that we just penned down. Let’s dance to the sorrow it conveys. Let’s share the tears at the joy it expresses. Aren’t you amazed by these supernatural abilities? Words give away, the lovers. Once they connect with you, there’s no way to break that bond. Words give away, the interpreters, they would translate the message that can never be spoken or seen. Words give away, the saviors! Even with all their treachery, how do we learn to live without them?

~Musings from the coffee shop

P.S. You can find more posts on the musings from the coffee shop here .

 

 

 

A writer’s delight

I would like to pour you on to the phrases of my writings;
Carelessly, till the pages are soaked wet with you,
You might worship me or might not even recall my name,
But I would still endlessly use your metaphors in my poems…
Wrapped (or strangled?) in the loving arms of my words,
I would like to place you together with fragments of my utterly diverse emotions,
A careful blend of imagination and honesty,
And noone could ever guess who you could be (not even you).
And I might succumb to the sanity of senescence,
But I would like to make sure that you never age,
Slowly and steadily as you get drenched in the ink of my pen,
I would like to give you a snippet of my ending life
while I take away your mortality forever and beyond.

Hope you don’t mind.