Tuesday, May 8, 2012

To grow is to learn is to plan

June 2nd, 2004. Flashback.

Tears. "Really?!" She thought to herself. She was never openly emotional. In fact years ago when she was just a little girl her older brother had told her that she looked awful when she cried and that if she had any sense at all she would be sure to only cry in the bathroom behind closed doors. He also suggested that looking at herself in the mirror while she was there would be a good idea since he guessed that would make her stop crying as quickly as she could. It was probably lighthearted brotherly wisdom but Simran had never forgotten that advice. Actually, she lived such a blessed happy-go-lucky life that she couldn't remember the last time she had cried and she certainly couldn't remember the last time she had cried in public. But today was the last day  she would see many of her best friends from college before they each went their separate ways, to different cities in pursuit of their dreams. She had stoically kept a smile plastered on her face but as they drove to the train station to see off the first of their friends leaving the city, she felt an overwhelming sadness and those darned tears spilled over without warning. It felt like the end of an era - a beautiful era. The sadness was extremely short-lived though and thankfully no more than a few tears were shed even though many around her were copiously crying or practically bawling out loud.

Within a few hours the excitement of the life ahead was back in full force. She was practically tingling with anticipation as she thought about the new phase of life. Starting a career, earning her own salary, working with seasoned professionals - it all seemed so daunting and yet so fun! So what if she hadn't known any better when choosing her course of study? Computer science may not exactly be what got her juices flowing but she knew she could be good at anything she put her mind to. In reality, she'd always had a head for business and had done very well in the few accounting and finance related areas she had encountered. She liked to think it was in her genes - her father was a successful businessman after all. Or perhaps she had picked it up during all those stimulating dinner table conversations that had turned to channel conflict, sales and marketing or ethical and moral dilemmas related to their family business. In fact she had often thought that some day she would be part of that business but somewhere along the line, as she grew up it became clear to her that it was not meant to be. Her father clearly wanted his son to take over the business and was obviously grooming him for the role. He adored Simran and pampered her no end but firmly kept her out of all future business plans. It confused her initially - was she not competent or capable enough to join their business? Had she not topped her class in every single test throughout her schooling? She had always been pampered by her parents and brother. For the longest time it did not occur to her that her father was merely being old school in his thinking when he decided that his son shall be the sole heir to their business. The logic was simple - the daughter would get married and be part of a different family after all. That would make her an outsider and it simply wouldn't be practical to involve an "outsider" in the family business, would it?  When this reality eventually dawned on her she felt so deeply hurt and so alienated that she did not even raise the issue with her parents or even her doting older brother. She had often wondered how things might be different if she were a second son or if her brother had been a sister instead. Still, she looked up to her father so much that when he firmly guided her towards computer science engineering as being the "ideal choice of career for a girl" since it seemed to be a well paying 9-5 desk job, she demurely accepted and put her heart & mind into it.

 Simran graduated with flying colors, with two job offers in hand but what she really wanted was to write the CAT entrance exams for a coveted admission to one of the prestigious IIM business schools. When her father discouraged her from pursuing an MBA straight out of engineering, again she relented. To her it merely meant that she would have to work as an engineer for a bit, stash away some initial savings and take an education loan to go to business school. There would be plenty of time to build her own business later. Yes, she was going to build her own successful business someday. Someday soon.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Poised for first flight

Monday May 7, 2004. Flashback.

She stepped outside the classroom and smiled at no one in particular. It was after all the last day of her undergrad course and she knew she had aced that last test as well. Simran Baliga, Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Sciences. It had a nice ring to it. Simran had enjoyed the last four years at the University but she was eagerly looking forward to graduating and starting her career. She had made lots of friends right from the first week at school and they had stayed close all through their time there. And over time they made a lot more friends and their circle grew bigger till their core group of friends had become so big that deciding where to spend their free time turned into hour long  exercises in consensus building, and finding a coffee shop large enough for the entire group was becoming increasingly difficult. But what fun it had been! Memories flooded her for a second. Her first crush. Her first drink. Her first kiss. The smile playing on her lips widened into a grin. She had enjoyed studying, travelling and just plain hanging out  with these dear friends and she was going to miss them all so much. She once again made a silent promise to herself that they would stay in touch no matter where their lives took them.

Laughter and cheerful banter filled the air all around her. Sometimes it felt like she carried the sunshine with her and at times it felt like there was already so much warmth everywhere she looked. But her life had always been like that. Growing up in a happy home filled with love and laughter she never had a care in the world. She was also blessed with a mind that allowed her to sail through her courses with hardly any effort and absorbed everything like a sponge. Luckily for her that meant she could spend time pursuing her other passions. She loved the limelight and happily took center stage for all types of dance and theater performances, loving the long hours of rehearsals just as much as the final adrenalin rush on stage.

Simran was tall at 5'9" and her slim body moved with a dancer's grace. She had a fine bone structure that gave her a distinctive jawline which went very well with her ready smile. However the most attractive quality about her was the twinkle in her eye particularly when she gave free reign to her subtle humor. She was friendly on the surface yet had a strange touch-me-not quality. Nevertheless she had her fair share of suitors. But she was having too much fun and didn't feel ready for complicated relationships so she surreptitiously kept all romantic entanglements at  arms length.

Yes, university life had been tremendous fun and she could hardly wait for the new adventures that awaited her as she got ready to step into the workplace. She already had two job offers through campus placements but even at that young age she knew that her longer term career plans would be better served by starting off on the right foot and she was determined to approach the company she had in mind. She had no doubt that with just a little preparation she would be able to get exactly the job she was eyeing. Everything always seemed to work out after all. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Damn the rearview mirror

Sunday May 06 2012

She woke up late, well past 11am on a Sunday morning, unable to shake the feeling of unease that gripped her. "Nothing good ever happens after 2 in the morning", she reminded herself. In this case what had started off as a rather harmless late night chat with Vishy had soon turned into a half brutal and half tender conversation that kept her awake into the wee hours of the morning.  She had been in constant touch with him for the last 4 months, flirting, laughing, bantering and enjoying every minute of getting to know each other with shared dreams of a happily ever after -  until she had hesitatingly called it off just the week before. The last one week had been pure agony as she tried to reconcile the shredded dreams with reality. Had she been too hasty?

 She had once before made a very hasty decision followed by four excruciatingly painful years of indecisiveness. Was she overcompensating for her previous mistakes effectively making Vishy a victim of her past? With a brisk shake of her head she tried to push those thoughts away and told herself for the hundredth time that week that she had probably made the right decision. That she had learned from her divorce and now had more sense than to marry someone just because she liked him. Even though the act of liking someone was something very rare and beautiful since she had only felt it three distinct times in her life of thirty years. She had tried to do the sensible thing. She had promised herself that she would listen to her gut and pay attention to the little red flags. Red flags that frustratingly turned to yellow or even a bland white with little warning, leaving her doubting herself like this morning. Like the fact that he wanted a nomadic life while she craved stability had seemed a bright red flag. But could it be that his definition of nomadic just meant the ability to go where their dreams took them? And her definition of stability actually meant the exact same thing with the only difference being that she wanted the stability that let them pursue those dreams of their own accord. She had been on a gut wrenching roller coaster for the last few years. She had finally jumped off it, her head had finally stopped spinning and now she craved a normal life with a husband and kids she could love and care for even as they went about achieving big things. Besides she couldn't ignore the fact that he constantly made her feel like she just wasn't good enough. She couldn't tell if it was superiority complex, plain intellectual snobbery or his way of trying to impress her. She had no illusions about herself - in finding her feet after the divorce she had become rather wrapped up in the mundane and the day to day routines because it was necessary to find a familiar rhythm to life so she could start feeling like herself again. One day at a time. Establishing routine had been top priority. As a result she had lost touch with her interests - she hadn't dabbled in theater or dance for a while,was unaware of pop culture, sports or latest TV shows and rather disconnected from the country's politics and history.  But surely she still had her wits about her. She was a successful highly respected executive in her day job, knew her industry extremely well and having devoured enough books to fill a small library could talk intelligently about most subjects. While she absorbed with interest every new thing he introduced her to, she had found him openly bored whenever she talked about her life & interests leaving her feeling like a bore no matter how hard she tried to engage him. She couldn't possibly spend her life wondering if she was indeed boring and trying hard to entertain him -  it would get rather tiresome rather quickly.And most importantly she had no clue where his heart lay. He constantly gave her mixed signals and had made it painfully clear that that he didn't like her quite as much as she liked him. He had actually said it in so many words.

With a sigh she finally dragged herself out of bed and decided to make herself a scrumptious brunch to compensate for neglecting more than a few lunches and dinners during the course of the week. One day at a time, she reminded herself.