“I thought you would become an Engineer or a Doctor but……….!”
The above lines spoken by my dear dear Mother pierced my heart every time I thought of it. I mean it almost gave me a feeling that I am just another of those failures in life almost at par with a repulsive slug! A wastrel whose existence in this world has no meaning. Someone who has missed the bus in this birth and might as well await the inevitable demise and hopefully do better in the next life by living up to the career path chosen for me by her .i.e,”become an Engineer or a Doctor”. Who would have the guts to argue with her that everyone in the world does not become an Engineer or a Doctor. I mean that is like wanting seven Sundays a week or eleven Sachin Tendulkars in the Indian cricket team.
Not that I didn’t try to live up to her ambition. I too burned the midnight oil, mugged up the heavyweight books, religiously attended post school tuition and took my annual pilgrimage to the ‘JEE’ with utter devotion, all for her. I mean, just for her! But then the results told me what I always knew. I was not cut out to be a either an Engineer or a doctor. You can say, the script of ‘3 Idiots’ was written well before Chetan Bhagat or Raju Hirani even dreamt about it! Finally my Mom resigned to my fate and permitted me to do that MBA, Sales & Marketing which I always wanted to do! All you Engineers/Doctors, soon to be engineers/ doctors or hope to be engineers/ doctors, may kindly stop giggling. An MBA degree is no joke mates. Especially when you compete with some of the brightest minds in the country who couldn’t become Engineers or Doctors and those who did end up becoming Engineers and Doctors! To cut the flash back short and come to the present immediately, yes I did manage to pass out and yes I did manage to land a plum assignment with an MNC in the Sales department.
Once into the rat race, I suddenly realized that a few lakhs as fees and a few years of slogging over books doesn’t take you beyond the patronizing smile of a ‘25 years expert’ in ‘field work’ who is assigned to break you in. A loser in life who could neither live up to his Mom’s dictate nor lug books to a business school. I was put through the grind of unlearning the “A/c cabin ka gyaan” and make my bones in the ‘market’ just like the newest shooter in the underworld did. A few months of grind later, the eventual happened. I got an offer from the competition on much better terms and designation. And Lo! I finally experienced what they teach you in Business schools, competition is the best thing to happen to us. And I also learnt that you should like your organization but love your career. The simple guru mantra to take the elevator rather than the staircase to the Air conditioned cabin with a Secretary, driver, ‘personal’ peon was upon me in a flash. So too were an unlimited expenses and entertainment budget, membership to frequent flyer programme , company car, company credit card, cheque signing authority, the works I mean.
To say I was lucky is only part of the story. Getting the above perks was not easy but it didn’t stretch me too much either. But keeping these was another story altogether. With every floor that I rose, so did my waistline, every success added to my daily intake of tablets for Blood Pressure, every high gave my ulcers a more severe jolt. Targets, targets, targets, every month, every day, hour, minute. Oh the pressure of it! A living hell till it is done, not once, not twice but every time. Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and yet another back up plan if the above plans didn’t work. Pesky customers who behaved like they were the Queen bestowing the OBC on me every time they placed an order. Customers, whose cheques bounced with the inevitable finality of Indian openers failing on bouncier tracks. Stock holders with hundred shares and thought their wish should be my command. Sundry consultants who at the drop of a hat were summoned to give me lectures on ‘Target orientation’. “A business without target is like a game of soccer without goal posts” being the most quoted gospel.
And then I learnt what they don’t teach you in business schools. Competition is not good for you! Every time you think you have a winner of a product or a service, the competition either came with a cheaper me-too or a better offer. You expanded the network, they followed suit. You programmed a “never before, never again” scheme only to be duplicated across the terrain before you could take the same National. Small 2/2, garage sale sized ‘local’ companies with no baggage, no overheads, no ‘heavy’ National team and a Country Head, fleet footed, with ears to the ground chipping away at your market share. New entrant MNCs with a war chest to push you off the pedestal. Pressure, pressure, so much of it that a last ball six to win a T20 match seems a walk in the park in comparison. Social life became a zilch, family life zero, marriages were given a miss, hobbies and interests were mere words that you quoted in your bio, friends group consisted of fellow journeymen chasing the imaginary growth percentages over rounds of Bloody Mary. Millions of different ways were invented to ask only one question, “How much more, to meet this month’s sales plan?” Airports, railway stations, bus stands and national highways became your permanent address……………………………………………
Then one day the bubble burst! It had to! And I saw light! I will not go through this pain again. I will not let the life be consumed by these meaningless and never ending targets. I will not get into the vicious cycle of going around in circles to stay where you are. And I told this straight, no holds barred, without any emotion or hesitation:
“I hope you will become an Engineer or a Doctor, Son!”