Haasar and The Hatman
#2 Varumaiyin Niram Sivappu (The colour of poverty is Red)
I was forced to take a break from work to compulsorily give a government exam that would make me ‘competent’ to avail promotion in my field.
It is something that is actually prescribed by law.
I had a decent bank balance that pushed me through the first few months of giving these exams.
I chose to give this exam in a city that was around 1700 km from Chennai.
Though I was accepted into a family and a set of friends who were more than happy to call me their own, my cash resources dried up pretty soon.
Transportation, first brushes with having money in my name, food and occasional parties were responsible for me becoming bankrupt soon thereafter.
I still hadn’t cleared that exam that would let me get back to work.
I didn’t have an option to leave my adopted city that would have in turn resulted in the costs getting reduced.
My family now had the burden of taking care of a grown 25-year-old who was shuttling between cities to finish an exam that others around him seemed to clear with ease.
I became the proverbial ‘Dhandasoru’ of the house, but my parents never said a word.
They slowly laboured through their retirement fund to keep me living a life that I was used to, waiting for the day I would clear those exams.
They waited for me to go back to work.
But, I failed to clear the exams in repeated attempts.
I decided to look for jobs and swallowed my pride to ask a couple of friends for part-time jobs. I scoured the internet for a job in a BPO, a job in a school, a job as a caretaker of a ‘home’, a job as a teacher and looked for someone who’d want to employ the services of a driver.
However, my parents never wanted me to do a job that didn’t seem right for my educational qualifications.
I don’t blame them. They were conditioned in a particular way.
They reduced their spending because I was now clearly the burden in the house.
They never said a word, but that hurt even more.
It is during these trying times that after clearing those exams, I finally decided to call it quits on the career they were counting on me to continue and elevate the family from its present state of existence.
Everyone around me was shocked and distraught. The decision to forget my ‘professional’ degree, leave my ‘high-paying’ job and at 26, start life from Point ‘Zero’ baffled many.
Social conditioning dictated that the only thing a 26-year-old guy should do is work, earn and whip up an efficient profile that would make me indispensable in the marriage market.
People ask me why I chose journalism, especially print journalism. They ask me why I left the job that paid so well that also took me around the world. Relatives ask me what will happen to my marriage, a sentiment that is time and again echoed within the walls of my house too.
There are many men and women like me who follow their hearts even though collective minds dissuade us.
I am not an exception or an anomaly. I wish people like me become the norm. There is no point in thinking one job is better than the other.
However, I am not saying that there is no point holding on to a job where there is no sense of ‘you’ in it. People grudgingly continue in jobs for a variety of reasons. I don’t look down on them. Why should I? We are all creatures of habit or are burdened with expectations of a large number of people who depend on us continuing our present jobs.
It is just that I couldn’t.
I didn’t want to go through the grind of going around the world, earning money, being away from my family and not doing something that had ‘me’ in it.
I wasn’t brave as my friends who are still working their asses off in conditions that can get extremely tough. I couldn’t cope up or hold on.
Some say I was naive to say I don’t need the money, security or the social status, some laud my decision on my face but categorise me as a loser behind my back, some look at me as some sort of brave-heart to do what I did.
I am just someone who decided to look at the other opportunities that the world was ready to offer for the ones who looked hard enough.
I am just someone who found that there is no one best job and there will always be one profession that pays better than the other or be socially accepted better than the other.
I am just someone who is okay with dropping out of a race to start crawling on a different track altogether.
I am not unique. I am not alone. I look around to see people trying out different things all the time.
Some are noticed, many are not. Some are recognized, many are not. Some are emulated, many are not. Some are lauded, many are not.
I am in an ever-growing crowd.
I am one among the many who jumped ship to other professions to feel more at home.
I am one among the many who had the liberty to choose a life to live on our own terms.
I am one among the many who are willing to let go the rope that was beginning to strangle and jump into the water in the assumption that the tides and currents would be favourable.
I don’t want to be someone else’s idea of me. I don’t want to be someone’s idea of success. I don’t want to be someone’s idea of dignity. I don’t want to be someone’s idea of a bachelor that is way past his selling date. I don’t want to be someone’s idea of what’s right.
I might be wrong or I might ‘fail’ or I might even fall.
But, in this world where there are influences all over, advices from left, right and centre and opinions galore, I know it was all me.
I just want to be me.