Thursday, September 08, 2005

Older and wiser

Today is a day of reminiscing.

For one year now, I have not known exactly what I have been doing at work – but whatever it is, it has worked, because I recently got a performance rating that was as good as anyone could get. I was thrown, one year ago, head-long into a field of work I had no clue about and that was as new to me as the moon was to Armstrong when he first stepped on it. Till then, I was more of a ‘development’ person. Education, globalization, poverty – in short, the problems and issues of the world – those were my subjects. Interesting, I can hear some of you say. Maybe. But it just wasn’t working for me at that point. I couldn’t figure out where I was going, or why. I didn’t even know what my stance on most of those issues was because I had seen both of the sides of the coin and neither of them was very pretty or, more importantly, hopeful.

And then suddenly I was grappling with concepts of business and sales and retail and growth and what-not. I would be lying if I said I was not hugely unsure of what I was doing when I took up this job. I only knew I had to get out of what I had been doing. I am fairly satisfied with what I have done since I did (though people who know me will also know how terribly unhappy I have been on some days, I have come to terms with the fact that everyone probably goes through those kind of days).

For one, I have travelled. And I look forward to travelling much more. I have seen places that I never would have, if I had never made this move. I have discovered many new aspects to India and have come to think that if I saw even 60% of India in this life, that would be an achievement. I have made considerable progress in that direction over the last year – Jaipur, Chandigarh, Amritsar, the Wagah border, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Kanpur, Calcutta, Srinagar (including Pahalgam and Gulmarg), McLeodganj, Rishikesh, Dehradun, Mussoorie, Shimla, Chail, Kufri – and many of these I have traversed alone. I have faced questions of all kinds, being a woman travelling alone, but have also seen these places with my inner eyes. I have gained courage and confidence.

Talking of confidence, that is also something this job has given me. It would go almost unnoticed to most, but I know that I have changed in that aspect. I am no longer tremulous or afraid to ask questions, to stand up for what I think is right. I am no longer doubtful whether I will discharge my duties well enough, even if it is something I know nothing about. For what is life about, if not learning?

I learnt to live alone. Absolutely alone. I paid my bills and got internet connections made and removed, I called up travel agents to make bookings, I stood in queues in railway stations for tickets, I bought groceries, cooked, cleaned and washed clothes (and God knows in a city like Delhi, the more you clean the more dust there seems to appear out of nowhere – not a very good thing when you have a dust allergy and wind up sneezing violently, as if your nose was going to fall off). I learnt to deal with an almost non-existent social life, living alone in a new and slightly aggressive city with hardly anyone I knew from before – but I also learnt to go out of my way to make new ones. I learnt that you cannot force friendships in such circumstances, but you can meet some nice acquaintances along the way.

All of this might sound reasonably simple. It is. But I have done some of these in London, and I have done them in Delhi, and let me tell you life in India without the central heating or airconditioning or servants to run around at your command, or a car of your own (the last two are almost habits for a middle-class Indian)…is not easy.

And now, as I think about the year gone by, I realize why they say ‘older and wiser’. In every sense, I am both those. In a positive sense.

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