It was my first day at work, and I was dwelling between the entire VIBGYOR range of emotions. When you don’t know what to expect, you still expect something. You judge everything and everyone, yet, wish not to be judged. Things affect you, a little too much, a little too soon. You’re exhausted, carrying the immense weight of the notion of first expression.
All of it becomes layered with a strange tint of mystery, when the place, people, work and environment is chosen for you. You didn’t pick any of it. You have endless (mostly senseless) questions running in your mind like a hamster on wheel. Yet, you got to look confident and composed.
With those thoughts, I ended up in a small town in the outskirts of Udaipur, with an organization working on financial inclusion of Migrant labors. While I was given a brief of the organization and my role, the keyword was ‘Finance’. I had spent last couple of years trying to evade from my Chartered Accountant tag, and creating a new identity instead, finding new prospects for myself. Joining India Fellow was supposed to be one such prospect but the keyword Finance eclipsed everything else, and invoked my fear of darkness.
When I reached here, I wasn’t absolutely sure as to what is expected of me, although I knew that there are expectations. I knew I will be scored on the yard sticks of fellows, who came before. We call them ‘Ghost Fellows’, merely for the fact that they’re not present physically, but, their time, experience and performance constantly affects the way you’re perceived. Coincidentally, I also look like one of my ghost fellows. (Feel the terror?)
My first day at office (and many that followed) reminded me of a story I read somewhere in my teen years. It’s called ‘The secret life of Walter Mitty‘, written by James Thurber, dates way back to 1939. Walter Mitty, the protagonist, is a meek, mild man living in a vivid fantasy. His life is quite ordinary, but, in his head, he lives it full of adventure.
Whenever I find myself on the spectrum of “Un” feels, (like Uncertain, Unsure, Uneasy, Unsettled, Unhappy…), I try switching to a world burgeoning inside my head. It helps taking a moment and lets the impulse pass, allowing me to look at things with objectivity. Also, Its fun!
Visuals from my first day at office are still afresh in my head. So I figured, how about I write the scene down. Here:
Black screen Muffled sounds of people chattering, foot steps, and passing vehicles in a distance. 1 - Int. Office morning ‘ANONYMOUS’, 25, enters the office (A 20*20 sq. Ft. room cluttered with furniture and people), accompanied by a young man, holding an important designation. Young man introduces ANONYMOUS to the people. A nervously fabricated smile, followed by an awkward shake of hands. Voice over - Female - Anonymous (While ANONYMOUS is observing the colorful posters and banners on the walls. Her eyes are stuck on a crayon-colored poster depicting a family surrounded by their financial challenges. Such things always makes her uncomfortable.) “A hand shake? When was the last time I shook hands with people? Not in this lifetime it seems. Do they do this every morning? 10 people - 1 handshake each for 12 months multiplied by 25 days. That's a lot of handshakes!” ANONYMOUS takes the only vacant chair in the room. Some 10 people, moving around in the room, picking documents, putting things on table, walking in an out. (Every time she re-visits this part of the memory, people moving around plays at 3x speed, the playback slows down only for the moment when someone notices her, and continues to run on hyper-lapse.) The people who aren't moving, find someone to talk to. Now, every present soul in the room is engaged. ANONYMOUS is engaging herself in observations. "Are all these people as restless as my wandering eyes? Is it a race? Let's see who wins it?" Suddenly, aroma of ginger boiled in tea spreads across the room. A man is serving tea in little cups, making his way through the crowd. ANONYMOUS is still in the chair, dwindles her legs, attempting to reduce the surface area, to make way for the tea server. Voice over - Female - ANONYMOUS (While ANONYMOUS is looking at people with flying glance, careful not to make eye-contact.) “What is happening! Everything else in the world seems to be moving and you are sitting here, still. Frozen! Clueless! What are you doing here?” “Is it always going to be like this? How would I ever fit in? I don't even drink tea. Tea is supposed to be a bonding opportunity here. What am I going to do? I'll be left out. A misfit, as always.” “Relax! take a deep breath. Inhale... Exhale... Good! Now one more time. Everything is gonna be alright. All izz well..” Black Screen
Guess what? Things did get better. Stay with me for more updates.
“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality. – The Cheshire cat.”