By Suma Varughese June 1997 Finding work tailor-made to your dreams is no longer just a fantasy. Here’s how you can find the kind of work that is the expression of you deepest longings, interests and talents, and also your chosen vehicle taking you towards your personal jackpot—happiness and growth When I was an articled clerk at a chartered accountancy firm, I uses to scream my head off while sleeping at night,’ recalls Parag Trivedi, 39, who now holds classical music appreciation workshops. For Mahesh Ramchadani, 38, a freelance journalist, hell was his job in the garment export company he was formerly employed in. ‘Blessed is he who found his work; let him ask no other blessedness,’ said the fervent Thomas Carlyle. Ramchandani and Trivedi would wholeheartedly agree. And so would the multitude of their ilk who have awakened, or are in the process of awakening, to the realization that there’s more to work than just the monthly pay cheque. Rahul Bose (lead actor in the critically-acclaimed movie English, August) threw up a high-flying job as creative director in the major advertising agency Rediffusion in order to concentrate on his interests in an acting career. Rashmi Uday Singh, 42, the ebullient director and anchor of the Health Show on Doordarshan 1, and author of an enormously popular food review column in The Times of India‘s supplement, The Bombay Times, let go of the power, prestige and security of her job as an assistant income tax commissioner, only to follow her heart. Deepa Krishnan, 33, a computer graphics designer at the Tata Consultancy Services, too a year’s sabbatical to study the cult of the Mother Goddess. Her forays into Bihar’s tribal belts and the eunuch community have transformed her consciousness. She now wants to increase awareness of the more holistic tribal culture, study mythology, work with people, and teach children. Meanwhile, the job may well be truncated in to a part-time activity. Computer scientist Dilip D’Souza. 37, is today more comfortable as an activist-journalist, supporting a whole slew of worthy causes such as the Narmada Bachao Andolan of India. When he was in his 30s, Jaideep Mehrotra left his corporate job to return to his interests, his first love, painting. Not one of these ‘ mavericks’ are doing what they trained for. Their calling emerges from who they are, not from what they learn. Despite the pressures of family and society, of security and public endorsement, or even the inertia of motion, at some point they halted the inexorable juggernaut of life, and restraining it lightly by the tips of their fingers, skipped nimbly away in the direction of their own inclinations. There’s a certain magic in their ability to command and control the forces of life—to lightly wave their dreams into reality-to, as Trivedi puts it, get paid for what they love to do, not have to do to earn their salaries. Surprisingly, the message they collectively flash is reassuringly down-to-earth: work as a form of self-expression, as a medium of joy and self-satisfaction, as an instrument of growth, is not a quaint, impractical notion, it is a reality. Looking for work that fits us as snugly as a pair of Calvin Klein jeans is no longer the rum-soaked fantasy of a salary slave—it’s more than just a distinct possibility. This redefinition of work from tedious drudgery into the purpose of life, or at any rate integral to it, is a paradigm shift of impressive proportions. Work is no longer separate from us; it is an important part of us. It is no longer the means to an end, it is an end in itself. Money, financial security, power, fame, and prestige are ceasing to be the goal of work, they are becoming its by products. From external gratification, we are plugged into an internal self-fulfillment container that is constructed of our deepest impulses, desires and interests. Such an idyllic scenario is in dramatic contrast to existing reality. More than most nations, the job choices of Indians have been influenced by hidebound notions of security and conformism. ‘Like everyone else, I went into engineering, and like everyone else, I went to the USA for post graduation,’ says Dilip D’Souza. With this continuous exodus of India’s best brains, the loss to our vitality and resource bank is incalculable. The impact of this drain can easily be ascertained by India’s tragic paucity of world class talent in academics, technology, the fine arts, sports, etc. Our potential scientists are probably eking a living as petty traders, our artists crunching numbers in a nationalized bank. Like an insanely assembled jigsaw puzzle, inclinations and talents have no relation to occupation. ‘I can understand how millions of people simply hate their lives,’ says Ramchandani. Such alienation inevitably results not just in dissatisfaction and boredom, but in the loss of one’s own life energy. Indu Kohli, housewife-turned-personal growth trainer working with the information technology (IT) industry, says that the dissatisfaction is widespread. ‘IT people change jobs over lunch,’ she says. Worse still, she their bland personalities. ‘Their faces are as deadpan as their computer screens. All their degrees still give them nothing to talk about,’ she says. To condemn a person into an occupation he hates for the better part of a lifetime would seem like refined torture, but that is what we routinely do to ourselves. All the more reason to cheer, then, the change looming on the horizon. Today, we can take charge of our work not only because human potential is infinite but because the very forces of life are conspiring to push us in the direction of our dreams and our desires. For starters, 50 years of independence has freed us somewhat from the bugbear of insecurity. The urge to dive and nestle into the ostensible safety of a government or a bank job is no longer so compulsive. And the number of those coming up for air is no the rise. Not just at the top levels, as in Rashmi Uday Singh’s case, but even in the lower ranks. Says Rekha, a government clerk converted into a computer teacher at Mumbai’s Somaiya College: ‘I knew it was time for me to leave when I finished knitting my second sweater at work!’ Moreover, there are more opportunities today. We have a staggering number of alternatives to the traditional doctor/ engineer route to occupational nirvana. When else in the history of the nation have we had at our command, the possibility of earning a living as a video jockey, a disc jockey, a TV anchor, scriptwriter, pop singer, hairstylist makeup person, photographer, novelist, deep-sea diver, meditation teacher, spiritual guru, personal growth trainer, consultant specializing in just about every subject under the sun, self-employed businessperson, sportsperson, and innumerable other forms of vocations? In fact, the satellite revolution, liberalization, globalization and the hothouses of information technology are each, in their own way, conspiring to place our destiny in our own hands. Thanks to all four, our access to the world or to the frontiers of change has never been so immediate. With a remote in hand or logged into Internet, we can coast through the accumulated wealth of human knowledge and achievement, and tune into the here and now of human activity. Technically speaking, today the world is indeed our oyster. The innovations in computers and to other aspects of information technology have released the workplace from the limiting tyranny of location. Thanks to e-mail, Internet, the fax machine and private courier services, you and I can collaborate on a project, me seated in New York and you in Mumbai. Freelance writing, for Ramchandani, is both swift and painless, thanks to his computer and a local fax machine. T.A. Balasuramanian, a computer systems engineer-turned-entrepreneur and writer, uses the modem to connect with his overseas publishers. Corporate convulsions are also dictating their own brand of changes. Liberalization and globalization have enforced ruthless downsizing and re-engineering, converting job security into a myth. At 50 and over, middle managers are being catapulted out of their cozy corporate nests and no to skid row. This harsh reality now places a premium on jobs that emerge from individual interests and talents. Conveyor belt jobs are vulnerable to layoffs and downsizing, but not those created by an individual’s talent for, say, apparel designing, cooking, or even washing dishes. It is a fact that the complexities of modern life do breed disillusionment. Says Deepa Krishna: ‘Nine to five is usually nine to nine, which means you never have time for relationships or your own interests.’ The rise of the double-income household has put unprecedented pressure on the family, leading to marital discord, neglected children and a low-threshold stress level. Says Rashmi Uday Singh ‘Although I work harder now than before, my time is more flexible. This morning, for instance, I enrolled my son in a computer class and stayed there with him. I would never have been able to do this earlier.’ The burgeoning materialist and consumerist culture has introduced its own brand of tension, as we ascend the treadmill of earning more to spend more. Trivedi, who also worked as a diamond merchant before seeing the light, says a definitive moment came in 1987 when he looked into the mirror. ‘I had become a Dorian Gray-ugly, obscene. My philosophy was, so what if I’m cheating people, I’m making money.’ Working for material such as money, fame or prestige carries with it a price tag that more and more people are unwilling to pay, forcing them to look within for more enduring satisfaction. Rupa Karthik Vyas, a production executive at Merind L
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