“It’s a day to remember. What an experience! Who would have thought that the event would be so insightful and refreshing considering the high-profile company and its high-minded CEO, Gangadhar Rao? Let’s hope that our biggest, most valuable client finds it as per their requirement. Remember ‘the work done’ tag is yet to pop up.” Though there was excitement in Sujal’s voice, a small doubt hovered at the back of his mind.
His colleagues were delighted that the project was completed and delivered to the client on time and without any issues. It was a prestigious project and many reputed organisations had put in their tenders. If given, the project would transform the destiny of that company; the gain would be twofold. It was a 100-crore project and the financial gains would skyrocket the company that bagged it; the other gain would be to work with the flagship company that has created waves in the financial sector.
Having bagged the monumental project, E-Tech Solutions, one of the biggest names in the IT solutions market, had earned the benefits announced by Ultra Foundation Company.
The genius at work was Sujal, the project head with his team leader Mehak. The duo was known for coordination and time sense.
The deliverables went through several stages of its workability, and reliability and all glitches were addressed immediately. Sujal believed in on-time completion and he ensured that the team worked in unison.
His strict military discipline was tough to go along with but his team knew it would pay them in the long run.
It was celebration time.
“Guys, let’s wait for the client’s call. Unless we get a confirmation about the workability and accuracy of the project, we are not yet done. Meanwhile, I think we can have a round of applause with hot tea and snacks, to begin with. What say Team Sujal.com?”
“Sujal, don’t give us chills, just as we thought of celebrating the hard work and its obvious ‘successfully delivered’ accomplishment, you threw cold water on our high spirits. You are a wet blanket,” concluded Arvind Nayar, one of the ace team players. Others seconded him.
Sujal’s long-term goals aimed high and his ambitious nature was not easy to relate with.
People in the company would appreciate him from a distance but to associate with him on any project was challenging. Only a few felt it was an honour to work in his team.
One such person was Mehak. She admired his time management skills, decisiveness and the ability to work under pressure. His focused effort yielded expected results and both the management and the clients appreciated his foresight which gave him deep insight into a future problem that could arise. His prospects in the company depended on his choice of growth – vertical or horizontal? He was indecisive – was he aiming at climbing the ladder from one position to another or creating his path in the industry? Would he be interested in continuing in the same company at higher positions or would he want to reach out for better opportunities and better positions outside?
His dilemma was genuine and understandable. He owed the company for his first-ever job and also the exposure to the industry and its challenges. Should he focus on going up a level by level? There were no shortcuts to success or double promotions to access the higher positions. It had to be through the correct channel.
He knew after the success of his prestigious project he would stand a chance for a higher grade
“So, you are thinking about the higher position? What would that be? A senior project manager or higher than that?” Mehak was curious.
“Well, when the scope and prospects are within my reach, I would go for it. You see Mehak, when opportunity knocks the door, open the door and let it in. That’s my strategy of work.”
She knew he was in the race for a higher position, maybe leaving behind some of his colleagues and seniors.
‘He deserves it. He has worked for it. What a transformation!’ Mehek’s admiration grew as he climbed the ladder, horizontally, vertically, maybe in all directions possible.
His growth was phenomenal from the dilemma stage to the acceptance phase, from the struggle and conflict stage to the adjustment stage and the ultimate stage – the achievement and appreciation stage.
A career growth where the graph from the horizontal plane to the vertical plane is strategic and prodigious.
Senior Project Manager was observing the jubilant team and a smile spread on his lips.
He remembered Sujal six months back when he was a fresher, a boastful, rigid and arrogant youth with high aspirations and nil knowledge of the industry. He would often end up arguing with his colleagues and they would laugh behind his back. His training period was the toughest for him as well as his trainers. He would never agree on a schedule, a format or a plan of action. His haphazard work landed him in trouble several times and the management had almost decided to terminate his services, but a sudden incident brought forth his latent skill and presence of mind.
A new project launch programme was going on and Sujal was asked to coordinate the event. The PowerPoint Presentation to the client was in progress and the head of the team had assigned the presentation to the assistant project manager. As the presentation progressed the client team had several queries about budget management and what measures would they take to ensure that there was no overrun of the budget. The presenter floundered and said they are yet to plan the tightening of the budget. This enraged the clients and there was an unpleasant exchange of words.
Sujal who had not gained much experience intercepted and explained to them that they do have an action plan to ensure that the project is completed within the budget shown at the time of agreement. He explained that they would manage the budget by splitting the project into smaller units and allotting the amounts as per the need which would save them time and money; smaller groups would define their accountability for the budget outlay.
The clients were satisfied with the strategy and plan.
This unexpected analysis of the budget for the project brought in cheers from everyone. It was the turning point for Sujal and then there was no looking back.
Sujal had joined the company as a Project Coordinator six months back.
His work profile (he felt) was rather that of a rag-picker (clearing and sorting data), reviewing market campaigning, and working out on methodologies for a wider reach…. and the monotony of it all rubbed him on the wrong side.
Later he realized that his entry-level role allowed him to help the Project Manager on bigger projects.
To start a career in the IT industry was never his dream.
Sujal, with a Post-graduate diploma in market analysis and a post-graduate degree in astrophysics, was the rarest of the rare combinations. His ambition was to join ISRO as a scientist and explore the horizon and beyond. But when at the entry-level exam, he couldn’t, his interest started fading, and he couldn’t accept rejection.
The next choice was in the most-happening industry -the IT sector. His marketing skills, he was sure, would fetch him a high position in a premier company but when it came to an interview, he had to face rejection. His dejection was mingled with apathy. His technical knowledge, communication skills, and command over the subject, were undeniably strong but that % of much-required experience to tackle the interview rounds became a gigantic hurdle for him. His ‘yes, I know’ was taken as one who was rigid in his approach and not open to guidance, and training. He had nil-interview skills and had rejected ‘help’ and guidance from his friends and family.
When challenges come as opportunities, one has to accept the platter positively, but he was too boastful of his competence. The opportunities became challenges. Reversal of order!
His continuous failures and his inability to accept defeat made him a wreck. With his parents ignoring him for his insolence, granny preaching to him etiquette and decorum, and his friends ‘not reachable’, he felt at a loss. Has everyone abandoned him? Written him off as a failure? Dumped him?
He was left to himself to ponder, to think and introspect.
He remembered his talk with his granny about social media influencers and how they brought hope into the lives of those who were dejected and suppressed by society. The demands of society, expectations of the family and pressure of peer groups, put such pressure on the youth that they need someone to speak to, to let out the steam. It is at this juncture that the influencers step in and help reduce the baggage that each one is carrying. They help you to let out the pent-up emotions that create turbulence and keep you off track.
Realization! When it happens, it cuts across all hurdles sweeps you off your feet and lands you where there is radiant light.
Sujal was at a crossroads in his life, he had a choice to make- either turn his back on the challenges and failures or face them and be what he wanted to be. How long can one be what others one to be? A failure or a success that can’t define one’s life. They are only a minuscule per cent of one’s life.
He felt his breath come in spurts and gradually it became normal.
He was sure he did not want anyone, not even granny to point out his flaws. He had to learn to cope with his infirmities and tantrums. No more taunts, no more preachings. He was done with all that stuff.
‘Maybe I’m cynical, but I don’t think any of that stuff works for anyone who is truly broken. Serves us better to just keep barrelling forward and hope the demons can’t keep up, so you might as well be who you are.”
It was the day of judgement. It would either mar or elevate our relationship.
How would he take it? Would age gap, family background and perspective influence his decision? Would my upbringing and social stigma affect our understanding of each other in the given time frame?
My present and his present, though in the same time frame, had two different perspectives. And the generation gap that we talk about is a stumbling block that would magnify the errors on both sides.
My inability to relate to the present and his reluctance to put himself in my shoes to comprehend my point of view clashed like Titans.
Considering the times, both were right.
It is a general belief that the grandson is the ‘apple of the eye’ of grandparents, that they dote on the grandchildren and sometimes this ‘extra-large affection’ would be displayed as a taunt against the daughter-in-law. I had no intention of doing anything that would create a wall between us. But occasionally that mother-in-law would peep out and try to assert herself emphatically. My daughter-in-law’s wisdom wouldn’t let me get into any tussle with her. She would remind me of the rules of the family laid down by my mother-in-law.
The basic infrastructure of the family was always maintained with propriety and diligence.
No clashes, no conflicts no insights and no banter.
Life was going through rough patches, ups and downs methodically. Even the rough times were handled with care, for I believe that everything in this cosmos happened for a reason. Life couldn’t be served on a platter with all the items made to your taste. Challenges were many from the agricultural land to our son Deepak’s education in government school. The agriculture sector was going through transformations and to increase the yield it was imperative that we too implement mechanisation of agriculture, improved variety of seeds, and irrigation methods; farming was becoming an expensive profession, and my husband found it difficult to manage on his own. He employed a few more to look after the needs of the fields.
Thus began a new journey of our lives. Machines were introduced to facilitate our day-to-day activities at home. Ceiling fans, kitchen tools, and kerosene stoves were introduced into our lives. Initially, I resisted, a change would mean adjustment, and though it made my work in the kitchen easier, its application was not so easy for a village belle.
My husband saw my wry face and struggles in the kitchen with the new equipment and said, “Ratna, I thought you would thank me for making it less burdensome, see each tool, and appliance and how it saves your time and energy and you can have time for yourself instead of being in the kitchen throughout the day.”
Was he laughing at me for not being accommodative or was he taunting me for not upgrading myself to go with the changing times?
When the gas stove and mixer-grinder came into our lives, more than the comfort, it triggered fear – what if they didn’t work and had to be given for repair? It would mean extra expenditure. My one-track mind looked only at the flip side of things forgetting the comfort and ease of work.
Such was my conservative thoughts.
Yet I call myself accommodative, adaptable and all. Life gives you opportunities to learn and live better. Either we take it and move on with the changing times or hold back and watch the world going ahead with renewed life hacks.
I decided to move on though still cribbing and complaining.
I transformed myself to go with the changing trends and what a relief it was to be able to learn new ways of living.
I realized my adaptability gave many the scope to move on with me. My in-laws old by now, had learnt to accept the food that I prepared in the cooker and feel the taste of chutney in the mixer grinder. When we bought the wet grinder, my mother-in-law was happy that I did not have to sit for long hours at the grinding stone. Manual labour was being replaced by machines. And I was steeped in joy for saving my energy and time.
As I sit and brood over the changes, I feel my generation was more accommodating in accepting new ways of life easily, though with initial resistance and reluctance, but accept it, it did!
As life moved on, I made many adjustments with my family, my immediate neighbours, my friends and social circles. At every juncture, I decided to be a bit more accommodative, a bit more resilient and a bit more flexible, if it does good to you and to your people why not? When my easy chair was replaced with a cushion sofa when my cotton mattress was given away to the maid and a soft bed was placed on the huge wooden bed, I felt something break within, but my son Deepak said, “Maa adjust kar lo, you will feel more comfortable. It is not snatching away your sentiments, it is making life comfortable and smooth-flowing.”
Life saw many changes and adjustments and I was okay with it.
Let me not carry the baggage that would only make me bend further in pain.
But I did carry the weight of my favourite things going out of the house and new things taking their place.
How apt is this thought:
“The old order changeth yielding place to new……”
Adjust I did but with a pinch of salt.
I am still accommodative with my new family members, additions to the family, daughter-in-law and her family, relatives, grandchildren, and their friends, the list keeps increasing and additions are sometimes difficult to handle, but that one word is deeply rooted in our culture, ‘be accommodative’ rings in my ears. The values have changed, the outlook has gone through drastic changes, and the thought process is more liberal and all-encompassing.
When my grandchildren’s friends would visit our house, I was expected to meet them for a brief moment, exchange pleasantries and exit. I realized, of late, that I am keen to listen to their talk, the topics they comment on, and their viewpoint on many aspects of life that we never discussed openly for they were taboo topics.
Whenever they talk about live-in relationships, open sex, or multiple partners, my first reaction is – eh! How easily do they talk about these ‘taboo’ topics in public?
“Sujal and Namitha, maintain decorum in your speech. These are not to be discussed in public so openly. The talk becomes cheap and intolerable when the older generation is around. Be within your limits. How could your parents allow you to ….”
“Granny, what do you mean allow, we belong to the next generation, liberal ideas, independent thinking and freedom to live the way we want, no curbs, no restrictions.” Sujal was clear in his tone.
“Sujal it’s not the question of independent thinking or liberal living, it is etiquette and respect for the other family members with whom you share your life and space.” I was bent upon teaching them decorum and decent behaviour.
His friends made faces and giggled.
Meanwhile, my husband who was witness to the exchange of heated words, called me aside and said, “Ratna, they are brought up in an environment that is diametrically opposite to what we were exposed to or allowed to do or say. Our era was different, we were taught to behave, talk and watch in a restricted way, but times have changed. Their exposure is different and they don’t feel the need to hide anything, life is a public event, and even the biological changes in the human body are openly discussed, they don’t feel the need to restrict their purview or opinions. That’s how they live and like to live. Lock your conservative ideas in the locker. Don’t get into a brawl with this generation of youth.”
I respected his words and left the room with a low feeling. I felt dejected. Wasn’t I only trying to instil some good values in them?
I reviewed my life from the present perspective – I was told by my elders that to maintain and strengthen the bond, the relationships one needs to be accommodative. I did. Wherever, whenever, whatever, I adopted that methodology and lived a comfortable, happy life, I don’t remember cribbing about adjustments.
Not that there weren’t any conflicts but we were groomed in a way that the disputes were handled subtly and without causing any damage to the relationships.
Had I not gone through the hard times decades back, I too would have resonated with his thought process. If I were given the luxuries of life, I too would have talked about how to do or not do a task in a particular way, but isn’t it a fact that my reality and his reality are poles apart?
He belongs to the next era and I am the old school. My ability to relate to his era is more because of the very gap. I am more adjustable, accommodating and adaptable. I have seen life in its multitudinous hues. My mature approach is not acceptable now, because of the void, not just a gap.
Is age the reason for the conflict? Did my mother-in-law, the sole proprietor of the family, exploit me? If she did, did I take it sitting back and not answering?
I couldn’t recollect any such incident. On the contrary, her wisdom and understanding were way too ahead of the times. Why did she give me equal status? She too wasn’t literate but was educated in the real sense of the word. The culture, the grooming, and the values that were instilled in her from her childhood would have taught her the etiquette of life.
Hers was an accomplished life despite a large joint family to cater for, with orthodox in-laws, and relatives thronging the house. She would have bent her back backwards to run the house noiselessly, peacefully.
When I came into the family, the size of the family had reduced to half, as my brother-in-law shifted to another city with his family in search of work (that’s what I was told, God only knows the truth). The farmland was our responsibility and my husband, the only son to have remained in the village looked after the ancestral property.
His voice was heard occasionally when he wanted our son and daughter to go with him to the field.
“Deepak and Meenakshi, get ready, I will take you on a tour of our farmland. It’s so beautiful….” he would talk to them in a lyrical tone and the sweetness of his voice attracted many children across the village. He carried Deepak, the younger one, on his shoulders and held Meenakshi’s hand as he walked along the paddy fields.
During the harvest season, he would take them to the fields and teach them the nuances of cutting the crop and the process of removing the chaff from the final product rice.
My husband, known for his calm and easy-going nature, would never intervene in family matters that women had to deal with but would raise his voice against any exploitation or atrocities against women. He believed that a woman had a more significant role to play in the universe not just as a wife, mother or sister but as power, and energy that made life on earth orderly and coherent.
I understood that it was his mother’s influence that had given him insights into a woman’s nature. He respected women and this quality he imbibed in his children.
Such was my life after marriage, a caring family with no discrimination of gender. ‘No gender politics was the motto of my mother-in-law. The much-longed-for emancipation of women was already being practised in our family.
The seeds of conflict:
The conflict originated way back in the black-and-white era. It was either black or white or both, no other hue nudged in between. If I see the black, I am a negative character and white would make me a positive-thinking person. So how does anyone zero in on the black-and-white perspective when in reality there is colour in life? The sunrise and sunset have similar hues splashed across the sky, dipping the high mountains in crimson, purple and reddish orange, giving the brown soil a spectacular colour fusion. The river water shines with a combination of blue, yellow and blackish brown, but isn’t water colourless and reflects the colours of things around it? What perspective do I assign to these natural phenomena?
Natural beauty changes its colours during each season, Spring looks filled with fresh tiny light green leaves, flowers with their multi-coloured petals spread their fragrance and colour the environment in multiple hues, and rains lash out on the hills bringing out the green of the grass and the brown of the sand breath it. Autumn leaves the natural surroundings with yellow and brown.
Which outlook is the right one? The one with multiple hues or the one with bare trees and fallen leaves? Both are truths, some are harsh while others are homely.
Should I change my viewpoint to suit the present or accept that change is constant and so sign off? It was more of a dilemma within than an external conflict. Maybe my experiences are also getting old and haggard, experiences that no one has time to listen to or implement. Life is moving so rapidly that the younger generation has no time to wait and pause.
“What is this life so full of care,
There’s no time to stand and stare!”
Ummm! That’s it. I had time to pause and take a break. Those small tea breaks, no, not alone, with the family, were a luxury. Those moments when we would snatch those few minutes to be together, speaking nothing, just holding hands and watching the sun go down the sea. These precious little moments don’t seem to happen with the young people.
Is that the conflict?
I have seen my grandchildren grow up into teenagers and tell me occasionally, “Granny, you are old, you don’t know ….”
Earlier it hurt me but then I learnt to take it as the changing phenomena of the new world.
Sujal grew up to be academically literate but culturally illiterate. He refused to understand the nitty-gritty of life. He was brusque in speech and caustic in his manners.
Some people learn it the hard way and Sujal asked for it. My efforts to bring him around were futile.
His tantrums grew along with him and his imbecile attitude too fed on him like a host and a parasite.
His academic profile and work approach were a mismatch. But he didn’t care much for it. What he failed to understand is that either vertical progress or horizontal development in an organisation needed a balanced approach towards the team.
The day he joined that prestigious company he was excited beyond words but very soon he complained of the job being monotonous, not exciting, not challenging and the list of complaints was endless.
Knowing his temperament his parents asked him to bide time and not make a hasty decision.
“Sujal beta, things don’t happen just like that. You need to get into the work environment, talk to your colleagues, ask them how they cope with the workload, timings, food…everything matters in a job. Moreover, you have a flair for this kind of job. It was your choice to do a diploma in market analysis after your PG in Astro-Physics. Such unrelated subjects would take you nowhere. Your aspirations to be in ISRO didn’t see the daylight because of your rigid ideas. Your lack of flexibility is your main problem. Completing a task, or assignment once is not an accomplishment, it is the continuous effort in different directions to keep the flag high is what is being good at one’s job….”
“Papa, you are taunting me about my failures. But have you thought how disgusting it is to face failure? I am not rigid, I like a particular way of dealing with my job and if not given that freedom, I can’t go on with it mechanically. Let me decide. Don’t compel me to do things your way.”
That was the last time his father ever spoke to him about his temperament or his job. Time flew with wings spread across the sky, as though it did not matter who came under its wings.
Sujal did not apply again for any job, he whiled away his time. His parents remained passive observers.
As I sit in the easy chair in the garden and breathe the first showers of rain, I mull over the tug-of-war happening between me and my grandson, Sujal.
Why don’t they consider our views as experience? Why is it that the young generation is led astray by social media influencers?
Why is the young generation looking up to these influencers, the role of parents is being taken over by someone who doesn’t know you in person.
Who are these influencers? Way back in our era, there were no influencers to change the pattern of our lives, it was either the family or the teacher who had that ‘influence’ on us.
Now just the other day, Sujal walked in with his friends and asked his mother, “Mama, get all of us some soft drinks.” My daughter-in-law, not very educated, but who understood hospitality, went inside and came with some soft drinks in steel glasses.
The moment his eyes set on the steel tray and steel glasses he lost his cool and without thinking he emptied the contents on the floor, threw the glasses on the floor, glared at her and said under his breath, “You don’t have etiquette to serve? What happened to that crockery set Papa had bought?”
Hearing his voice my son came out of his room, understood the situation and said, “Lakshmi, why don’t you get what he wants and be done with it? This everyday brawl is annoying. Why can’t things be done smoothly? This house is one battlefield ……A man comes home after a day-long work and expects some peace of mind but that too is denied. Good for nothing wife.” he muttered under his breath.
I sat there, tucked comfortably in the swing chair, and did not utter a word neither in his defence nor raise my voice against the exploitation of another woman, who slogged all day through.
Was I secretly enjoying the insults heaped on her? The mother-in-law in me peeped out. I had to keep that monster under wraps so as not to distort my image of an understanding in-law. The deceptive me!
Where were the influencers that day? Why didn’t anyone come and save her from humiliation? Why didn’t my daughter-in-law retaliate? Had there been social influencers would they have allowed this atrocious behaviour? Would my daughter-in-law be ‘influenced’ by their inspirational talk?
Now it was my inner struggle with my external image.
Where have my wisdom, and ethics gone? Vanished, melted away and my true self was forcing itself out.
I thought I would confront my grandson and question him about his behaviour and lack of decorum, lack of respect for elders in the family. I was annoyed at his impudence but when I witnessed the ill-treatment of my son’s wife, I failed to rescue her or at least support her and defend her.
Hypocrisy thy name is human!
‘To be or not to be’ has always been a moral dilemma since Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and we were all caught in it at some point of time in our lives.
Do we glide over it or face the inevitable challenge to prove that this moral dilemma can be handled prudently?
I was all set to question my grandson, but introspection brought home my reality.
Time, in its stride, transforms lives!
I am no exception. Sujal too!
I wait for Sujal with a renewed spirit.
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