Don't Blow your Job
An anthology of ordinary working people
Mr. Naik, like all days, wakes up at 5:30 am even today. Without disturbing anyone he swiftly leaves for his morning exercise routine, where he meets his neighbours, opines about current events, and discusses ongoing incidents! Around 6:30 am he walks back, as his wife greets him with a cup of tea. They sit in the balcony and he continues the discussion he left with his friends. He quickly but methodically gets dressed in his work attire – the typical formal checked shirt, crisp ironed cotton trousers and black dress shoes. He eats his breakfast and steps out for office sharp at 8:00 am, as usual.
Difference between today and the past 13,870 days is that he is not carrying his lunchbox today. In fact, he is accompanied by the one who prepared his lunch every single day – his wife.
Today his work family is making various arrangements in order to celebrate his retirement from the organisation & felicitate him for his long-standing service.
As Naik babu enters the office, he heads straight to the desk to introduce it to his wife. He sees his close group (sales buddies, as they called themselves) have arranged gifts and placed it without disturbing his belongings.
Mr. Naik’s senior staff have carefully placed hand written notes at his desk. The younger lot is gathering around Mr. Naik’s work space to shake his hand in appreciation.
A voice breaks from the gathered crowd, “Even on his last day of work, he is on time”, resulting in a loud cheer across the room.
To which another just adds “At home will you be wearing casuals every Friday?”. The questions did not demand answers but only unlocked memories for further anecdotes.
Recollections of that day when Mr.Naik, reached office without being delayed by the heavy downpour; how he managed his son’s wedding without compromising work; the day he made tea for everyone while working till midnight; and other daily events that marked from the time he had thick hair until today where he sports a partially bald look.
“I remember those delicious festival sweets the most”, said a colleague in an admiring tone. Hearing that Mr.Naik made a gesture towards his wife. The entire room clapped.
“Just like the ticking old clock, you have not changed Naik. Neither have you stopped”, said a voice with a hand around Mr.Naik’s shoulders.
A teary-eyed Naik babu looked up to the clock as it struck 5:30. It was time to pack up. He looked up to his wife with a sense of joy, pride and happiness and announced, “From tomorrow I have promised her I will wake up at 7.00 am.” And in the same breath said, “Hope to see you all soon!”.
Naik babu’s wife just smiled and folded her hands in acknowledgement towards the entire office, as Mr.Naik turned towards the main door.
“Will you like another khamba (bottle of drink), mere Khambete?”, said one of the friends unable to control his excitement of being able to catch up with his former colleague; that too on an odd day of the week.
While cross conversations and the rhythmic sounds played in the background in the gang’s favourite brewery, one of them remarked, "It is easy for the 'boss' to just ask for an alternate project idea! Khambete, tera life set hai yaar (your life is settled my friend), you're your own boss now !” Khambete passed a smile sipping through the beer while his eyes constantly peeped for scrolling through his phone notifications.
Mr. Khambete as his friends lovingly called him, especially after he set up his own company a year or so back, was by now used to these statements. But he never quite retaliated with the hard work that had gone in to set up his start-up. His mind now had multiple tabs open – upcoming schedules, investments, next pitch... He left his desk at work, but his work had not left him.
“Khambete, thinking about finance deals?", quipped a friend.
“No, just an application. I think, it would be good to have a new member in the team." In continuation he also instinctively retorted, “To have someone come in and quit soon also makes it difficult to manage, specially in the initial years.” Placing his beer mug on the table, Khambete said “you may not get what I am saying”. “So ask for a commitment”, said the friend across the table.
“The company is new. And I have been handling everything from talking to investors, managing logistics and talking to the suppliers. If she stays on, she will learn the dynamics and will have equal stake in the office. After all her experience is not so less than mine.” An anxious Khambete now revealed.
“Then why do you not put in a clause of say about 2-3 years?” another solution was tabled.
“Taking my personal stand while setting up the start-up and channelising the progress through the team are two different things. It’s a big challenge in building the right team. And if I tend to provide her the clause, she may feel she is dispensable. And you know girls. Marriage is always on the cards! And just not that. Even if I include a clause what is the guarantee? She may simply quit without a notice, between the tenure?”
“Just like you did Mr. Khambete!”, said a voice from the farthest end of the table.
“My case was different, you will not understand!” Before Khambete could finish he got up from the table and answering his phone said, “Yes, I will definitely be there on Sunday sharp at 8am. Thank you so much for confirming!”
“Yeh life set kia hai maine (This is the life that I have set)”, announced Khambete. The friends raised a toast.
“You know my daughter is sitting in the house, for the last 5 days. I'm not sure what she is planning to do. She is so bright, but I don’t understand what she wants!”
Hearing her mother rant these dialogues over the phone, was not new for Ms. Joshi. After all this is the third job she had quit, in the last five years. The other way to look at it is that she found three jobs in these years – that too with ease. Joshi’s mother was right, she was indeed bright. A synonym of Joshi being educated, hardworking and brilliant.
As her mother continued her own investigation of what made Joshi leave the job, Joshi simply slouched in the sofa, dig her head into the television and constantly kept shuffling her feet. It was the best way Joshi could keep the anxious voice away. And importantly, allow herself to be distracted from the newspaper advertisements lying beside her.
Advertisements that read - better jobs, latest job openings, professional social networking sites. However, Joshi did not quite succeed. The head started making calculations. "I must respond to this advertisement; register myself to the website; also, may be, just speak to them tomorrow."
Ms. Joshi suddenly got off the slouch and thumped herself towards her engrossed mother. She took the phone from her hand and said, ‘Aai, for me job is a trial and error method. I am good enough to find any number of jobs I want. It is not that I am thrown out, I have quit for a reason! So, relax and stop talking about me all through a Sunday!” She was tired of her mother’s regular taunts. After all she had not followed the conventional step wise growth to success, like her elder sister did – the other Ms. Joshi.
Joshi’s mother quickly took the phone from her, and said “Aj kal chi mula, kai sangu! ” (Today’s kids. I tell you!) Joshi receded in the background towards the balcony.
This time Joshi’s head was calculating again, not so much about the next move but about the statement - 'I have quit for a reason.' She recalled, the first time it was about the pay scale and working hours, the next about the lack of excitement at work, and this time it is about comfort at work and it was getting less challenging. She had a smirk, thinking how she turned down a recent offer just because the people in the office looked dull!
Joshi always had reasons, and even for the new offer she already knew her answers for her acceptance and the conditions to quit. Now exhausted with her own nomadic mannerisms, she slouched back again and even more rigorously shuffling her leg murmured to herself “What is that I am looking for? What is it?” while adding to the wish-list a few more jobs listed on the website.
Her mother peeping over the phone said, “Bhatkun Bhatkun ved laglay watatay! ” (Looks like the wandering has made her crazy!)
This story is about the one who is called a Karmachari. A definition that is just not a word, but as much a statement. The one who is usually given a name - employee, professional, staff, employer, entrepreneur. But more than the name it refers to the one who is composed of excitement, happiness, disappointment, frustrations, monotones, opportunities, relief and a lot of hope. The proportions of this composition vary, but nonetheless one is never deprived of any of them.
This karmachari is always trying to achieve something through the job. Sometimes it is roti, kapda aur makaan (food, clothes and shelter) and at the same time dreams, aspirations and goals. But more than achieving this list, this person is constantly trying to find a basis in the day to day work. From stability, to security, to financial reliability, creative capacity, opportunities and even comfortableness. These are the basis through which this karmachari is seeking only one aspect – a sense of belonging (to the job).
However, the karmachari at the onset never realises that it is this belonging that is sought after and even now may be does not. So, the karmachari chooses different ways - sometimes curates it, at times creates it and frequently searches for it. Often this karmachari is categorised for the path that is chosen not realising that you, the one next to you, the one carrying the lunch box, the one with a bag slung around the shoulder, the one within the crowd of the train, the one inside the backseat of a car and me – we are all this karmachari.
Which is the correct path? What is the ultimate belonging? But, how does one karmachari answer that to another? Each one has their own paths – through settlement, through shifting or through striving. Each belonging different – sometimes singular, at times a combination of a few and even an evolving one.
The only thing a karmachari may say to the other is – identify the belonging not the job. It may be in the place you are now (or have been long enough) or even the next one that you are looking for (or even the next). And once you have identified, make the most of it. Don’t blow that job! Don’t blow ‘your’ job.
The job does not define what we are, the karmachari in us makes who we are.