( A santised, edited, sanskaari version of this article appeared last Saturday in the Bangalore edition of The New Indian Express. I write a weekly humour column called Urban Bourbon. If you live in Bangalore and are jobless, you should read my column.
I will be publishing a dirtier, foul-mouthed version of my articles here on my blog).
When I was 16, I ran away from home with the confidence of Amitabh Bachchan in the 70s.
I couldn’t stand my parents, having lived alternatively with both of them. Their morals, their lack of empathy to my aspirations, their ideals and expectations of me were too warped and illogical.
I had nurtured a baby-dinosaur of an ego in the 15 odd years I’d spent on this planet. I wanted to live on my terms, earn money and pay for my fantasies, such as buying the latest MP3 CD of Lucky Ali, or the latest BSA SLR bicycle.
When you’re in your teens, the universe conspires to tell you that it’ll all be okay. Even if the universe doesn’t tell you that, you mistake all its messages for precisely that – let’s see what happens. And so, armed with the confidence of Vijay Dahiya facing Australian fast bowlers, and no real skills except fluent English, I set out to find my calling in life.
What I found instead, was a call centre. In the years since, I have worked in travel agencies, PCO booths, sold investment plans, drawn up press meets and conferences, dubbed for TV serials, advertisements and infomercial campaigns, worked in customer care centres. I have burnt the midnight oil as a teacher, writer, bar singer, M.Phil scholar, sports commentator, copywriter, stand-up comedian and calligraphy instructor.
I know it sounds impressive when I put it all out like this. Sounds like I went through a sea of experiences that changed and shaped who I am today. That it was a time of struggle and survival. In reality, it was not. I was honestly tripping. Each part of these jobs is intrinsically linked to one or the other narcotic substance.
Like for example the Customer Care Executive job where I had to answer 400 calls a day from customers all over Orissa. I used to report to work at 3, and wait for the bhang shops to open at 4.30. The first two hours were torture – assholes calling with strange complaints like:
“Hello! Your network is fucked up. I have two phones in each hand. I can’t call from one to the other”.
“Hello. Your network is bad on Wednesdays. I have to stand in the toilet or the balcony to get any network.”
“Hello. I want to fuck you, baby! Aah *hangs up*
I tolerated it all, waiting for the clock to strike 4.30. I would then shoot out of the office for a smoke break, and gobble up a big ball of bhang. The rest of the day was smooth as butter! I spoke to the customers with a smile on my face (my colleagues attributed it to my patience!). I listened to their problems with empathy and solved their issues.
Every single job has been a whirlwind journey of sorts, a blurred mix of memories and intoxication. I have followed my passion, plunging right into it, even if my passion changed drastically in a few weeks.
And finally, after years of searching for my passion, I took up a desk job at the ripe age of 31.
Most of my friends have desk jobs, and I would listen to them complain and crib all day. I would hear them bitch about their bosses, and shiver with excitement as Friday approached. Their stories were all the same – their bosses were assholes, the food in their office was shit, HR executives got paid a salary to make their lives miserable, and Fridays were for ethnic dressing.
Thanks to their constant cribbing, I’d nurtured strange ideas about a desk job. I detested having to wear formals, disliked the control that managers exert over employees. I was wary of bosses constantly prying over their employees’ work; and mundane, boring work.
But like Shakti Kapoor says in every movie where he accepts a bribe – Paisa toh paisa hota hai. I got an offer for a job and took it, fully armed with the complaints and grouses that my friends fed me. Each of my assumptions fell flat on my face, like a sidekick in Bahubali.
I work for Microsoft, and write content for Game of Thrones – a series that I am obsessed with. My work involves watching older seasons of GoT, looking up conspiracy theories, and tripping on Wikia – the 2nd greatest website on earth after Reddit.
My boss has never come to see me work, he doesn’t even work in the same floor. On my first day, I came to work dressed in formals. I was shocked to find everybody else in shorts – looking like hippies in Dev Anand’s Hare Krishna Hare Ram. I travel using a cab-sharing app, get to travel with other people along the same route, having interesting conversations and making friends on a daily basis.
So what do I do all day?
Well, a number of things. Firstly, there’s an Amul fridge near my desk. I keep a close count on how many ‘Cool Kafes’ there are in the fridge, and give dirty looks to those who take more than one with them. I play Table Tennis for an hour a day, getting smashed by a homo sapien belonging to a new gender, race, and age everyday. I smile at the boy whipping up my salad, hoping he’d add a few pieces of chicken for free. He doesn’t.
It’s been a month now, and contrary to what I believed about myself, I have no qualms to admit I wait to come to
work the office everyday.
However, if there’s one group of people who are unimpressed by my taking up a desk job, it is my stand up comedian colleagues. They look at me like I’ve let down the entire institution of stand up comedy by choosing to do a job. To rile them up further, I carry my tag even when I go on stage!
I have come to realise that having a job is not necessarily a bad thing. All the wonders of the modern world, all the tools you use to pursue your passions, were created by passionate people with desk jobs. They fused their passions with their professions so you could better pursue your passion!
And yet, all our films constantly push the same idea. Of not being ‘trapped’ in a job, to venture out and ‘seek’ your passion. It was with great catharsis that I read the news recently about a couple who quit their jobs to travel the world. They used to post breathtaking pictures on Instagram (created by hardworking people with desk jobs!). They are now cleaning toilets to survive!
Or look at Ranbir Kapoor’s films like Wake up, Sid!, which invariably involve him finding his passion in photography, videography, theatre, singing, and politics. I am waiting to watch a movie where Ranbir Kapoor’s passion is to find his passion!
What the fuck is this passion that our new-age India keeps talking about? I have followed each and every one of my passions, and honestly, I regret following half of them. I see this everyday. During my stand-up shows, I ask people where they work, and they mumble apologetically, ‘IT’ – like it’s a crime, it’s something to be ashamed of.
For some strange reason, we have made a whole generation of IT workers embarassed about their jobs. Made it seem like they’re taking the ‘easy way’ by doing a desk job. Fuck Ranbir Kapoor, and fuck his passions. Seriously.
I am happy with what I am doing. I can’t guarantee it’ll go on for too long, given my history of running away from jobs – but it’s been a month of fun. Of course, at the end of the day, while my ‘artist’ friends buy Sai Baba Beedi from the shop, I’ll smirk over my scotch. Suck on my passion, assholes!
When I look at my life, I realise it is a Ranbir Kapoor movie in reverse. I was pursuing my passion(s), and was beside the love of my life. Today, I’m single, and have a desk job.
I should call it Go to Sleep, Hriday!