Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The End of an Era

Clicked with my Galaxy S3 at a friends house,
Autumn leaves collected by my friend's 5 year old daughter! :)
“So why are you doing it?” someone asked recently, “Leaving a high paying job, where you are the prodigy in your dream role having had an unprecedented growth path?”. I rambled on with an answer for 10 minutes about some vague reasons, at the end of which the friend in question looked a bit skeptical and said “You haven’t really answered the question, you know.”

Which is perhaps true. I don’t have a reason, really, not the kind people look for. No nasty bosses, no boredom at work, no complains about compensation, no missed opportunities. Except the reason that sometimes I crave change. I become restless. I was reading my post “Just Another Phase” from June this year, and I realized that the restlessness has been there for some time. In Hindi we say that sometimes one has a “kida” (worm) inside him. A worm that will not allow you to sit quietly, even in the most favorable of situations. A worm that will make you restless and drive you to do things, make changes, strive harder. Yes, this was my dream company for as long as I can think, right from school. Yes they did treat me in the most awesome way possible. Yes I did accomplish a very steep climb up the corporate ladder. Yes, I am well loved, well respected and well paid. Yes, even the future prospects seemed very bright. Yes I love my job, my bosses and my colleagues. And yet, I leave. And the reason why I leave all the successful history for a blank page, the known for the unknown, the success for the new beginning, is this “kida”. The reason is because life, after all, begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Separations are never easy. And of course I am nervous, maybe even a bit scared. I do not know a single soul at the new company; the new role involves more responsibilities and decision making, and there are more chances that I will make mistakes. I am changing domains, which means I cannot walk into a meeting and have people listen to me just because I have unbeatable domain knowledge. I will also be speaking to more senior executives at the client end, and be the most senior rep from my company, with no day-to-day support from senior colleagues. As scary as it can get... so yes the transition is not easy.

What is surprising though is that the experience goes against all that I was told. That in sales you get ostracized the moment you put in your papers. That you are forced into quarantine, if, like me you are in a position where you have visibility to company management decisions and sales strategy. And that you are asked to leave immediately because they want to reduce competitor risks. Quite the opposite happened to me, the company made counter offers, but when I didn’t budge, I was requested to serve my full notice period, continue to take part in all negotiations and bids till the very end, and treated in a much nicer way than I expected. I continue to solve issues, address escalations, close bids and coach people even in my last week. And the love is overwhelming, I have a tough time keeping attendance at all the farewell dinners. All senior executives I meet say they are sad to lose me (and believe it or not, that's not what has been said to some people I know who left :P) and that I should contact them if I ever want to come back. And I continue to be invited to the company volleyball matches.

Which goes on to prove that even if I don’t, some people I work with might actually have understood my reasons for leaving, and respected those reasons. I am happy, it would have been horrible if I had left on a bad note. Just like the first kiss and the first girlfriend,  one is always emotional about the first job. Especially if one has been around for 5 and a half years. I am happy, because the company makes me feel loved, even if I will not be a part of it in the future. I am happy, because I know that I can come back someday and be welcomed back.

The challenge in the future will be to go out and find my own identity. As I graduated from my business school and joined my first firm, the identity of my firm became my identity, perhaps because it was a well known brand name in the industry. I became too used to saying “Hi, I am Merlin, from XXX” and people nodding and listening to me more because I was from XXX than because I was Merlin. That perhaps, will change. Just like a kid who comes of age and leaves home to find his own identity, I hope I will be able to stand up and say “Hi, I am Merlin” and for a change, just that.. would suffice! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

People in My Life

Clicked by me, Millesgården, Stockholm, Sweden, May 2012
Sometimes I feel a strange pleasure in surrounding myself with interesting people. People who are not ordinary. Not mundane. You might argue, rightfully, that everyone is interesting in their own way. Maybe. I come from the country of a billion people. Where even extraordinary is so common that it is ordinary. So pardon me if my measure of interesting is different from yours. Pardon me if I seem slightly superficial to you. Or maybe a bit too deep. But my kind of interesting interests me. If you know what I mean. To the extent that I go out of my way to surround myself with those people.

They are not all in one category. There is the IIM graduated banker with an enviable salary who is always kinda sad because of the feeling of not having achieved anything in life. And there is the single Swedish mother who has lived in Syria and is raising a half Persian daughter, lecturing about diversity in universities. And the half Indian-half Pakistani graduate hire in my company, born and brought up in Sweden, has never been to India, is yet so much more “desi” than a lot of desis I know who live back in their “des”. The childhood friend from my home town, who dropped out from school, has lost 2 jobs, and had a broken marriage and is still one of the most cheerful people I know of. Or the American work friend, who has been a gymnast, lived in a Kibbutz in Israel, studied in Japan and married a charming Uruguayan and is raising a family in Sweden. The Swedish colleague who left her career as a Project Manager in the IT industry to write a book on making European dresses from Indian Sarees. The rich magician’s daughter, who is an MBA graduate, has performed magic shows, dabbled with being a professional dancer, has been an internet entrepreneur and is now a consultant in a fancy international firm. The stranger mysteriously appearing on my google talk to tell me how I am a failure and have achieved nothing notable in life, that I am arrogant, conceited and full of myself, and then to tell me that he/she does not know me well, compares me with his/her successful corporate father and his friends and that he/she religiously follows my blog.... managing to dig out my identity and gtalk id while refusing to reveal his/her own identity... creepy, yes, but still interesting. I can go on and on.

I hear their stories and I secretly admire them. Some tell me that they have been called weird, strange, crazy and some other not-so-good things. But there are some things you cannot call them. Boring. Mundane. Ordinary. They are not that. Some of them tell me that sometimes they wish they were, their life would be so much simpler and easier that way. But in a way, I know that it is a gift. If they were ordinary, they would perhaps not be happy. And I am happy that I have them in my life. Sometimes just as an entry on my Facebook friend list. Sometimes as an integral part of my everyday life.

You guys make my life interesting!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Global "Gyaan" from the Global Citizen

Clicked by me, Barcelona, Summer 2010
I flaunt my "wanderer" status. Like all the time. Although I am not the most well travelled person I know of.... 15+ countries, 3 continents, 50+ cities, I have known better scores. But I can easily say that I am " better travelled" than most people I meet. But as one teenager recently told me, it is not the traveling, really, that makes one a global citizen. It is the attitude. Maybe. Traveling certainly enhances it. And I have no idea why auto-correct keeps asking me say traveling instead of travelling. Darn this american engish :P

There are only 2 kinds of people in the world. Those that are global citizens and those that are not. So what is the hype all about? It is simple, when you are brought up in a certain way, in a certain city, country and continent, you have notions, characteristics, culture and opinions which are influenced in a big way by that background. It is inevitable, even for global citizens. The difference with the global guys is that they can look beyond it. Be a less judging person. Not be governed by localized thoughts. Understand and relate to someone across the world. Who might be of a weird color. Speaking a weird language. Wearing weird clothes. Eating weird food. Behaving in a weird way. In the global world, there is no weird. Because you have seen so much weird, that weird stops being weird. Because in the global world, you understand that where you come from is the weirdest of them all. And you are comfortable with it.

The problem is, everyone thinks they are global. It is almost like how everyone thinks they are not judging. A friend recently told me she is not judging. And I asked her what she would think about a girl having a relationship with 2 guys simultaneously. Or of nude beaches. Whether she would relate to threesomes. Or orgies. And she reconsidered her "non judging" opinion. Saying you are not "judging" is a relative thing. Like being global. It has degrees. But like everything else in life, if you clear a certain basic level, you will feel comfortable with the fraternity. 

There are, of course the fakes. I have been bumping across a lot of those fake NRIs back home, people who have never stepped out of the country, or stepped out on that one stand-alone vacation/business trip (usually to Nepal), yet consider themselves an expert on global culture.  But they snicker at racist remarks, have notions about continental food (the real one, not the fancy continental restaurant in your local mall), and cannot understand most foreign accents. They do not know there is no language called "chinese", cannot tell you what caviar is made of and do not know that Montenegro is a country. Sorry, I will not call you global just because you watch CNN.

When you are a global citizen, you have a problem with people who want to stick to their stereotypes. Of course, I feel more comfortable with Indian people too, but I don't limit my friend circle to them. Some people I know give me the impression that they are working in a global work environment only because they are forced to. For heavens sake, broaden your horizons, stop being a "frog-in-the-well". Look around you. Learn. Grow. Mix. Try having a steak for a change. Or fajitas. Or tapas. Ask your Nigerian colleague about the language they speak and your Romanian friend the food they eat. Date a Turkish girl. Have some beer with the Irish guy. Dance with the American couple. 

Or if nothing works.. do this...

Clicked by me, Parc Guell, Barcelona, May 2010

And if you have not had the chance to socialize with anyone outside your country. Then I have only one piece of advice for you. Travel.

Be a global citizen. Break your local mould. You will discover how "Indian" or "British" or "American" you really are when you associate with others who are not like you. It will open your mind to bigger and better things. And you will stop worrying about the smaller insignificant things in life.

And yes, the teenager was right, it IS all about the attitude, so get that straightened out first!

P.S. I know that the official definition of the term Global Citizenship is quite different.... but you know what I mean don't you ;) 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Jack of All Trades

I hate stereotypes. Indians abroad are all techies. Or people in IT are nerds. Or Ph.D. scholars are geeks. Or good looking NRIs are players. Or guys don't like cooking. Things of that sort. The world is full of them. My life is in sorts a contradiction to many. And I have lived trying to refute a lot of them. I am a bit tired really, and wary. So sometimes I let people be. I let them talk, believe and spread the stereotypes. Till they realize that I am a contradiction of sorts. Then sometimes they shut up.

I know stereotypes are born out of generalizations. Generalizations are sometimes statistically more probable. If someone says he is European, there is a high probability he will be white Caucasian. But it's wrong to assume that to begin with. Just like it is wrong to address a chairperson of a meeting as "Dear Sir" in a letter when you do not know the person's sex. Or to call him a chairman. No, I am not feminist, but if I understand why that could piss off a lady. Like it pisses me off when someone asks me "Are you a developer?" when they get to know I am Indian and in IT.

So I am in IT. I am Indian. I live abroad. I am a guy. I am also a Ph.D. scholar. As I narrate these sentences, you start forming a picture. Don't get me wrong, I do too. White ill-fitting formal shirt. Blue baggy jeans. Expensive ridiculously colored sneakers which don't match. A laptop bag. Oiled hair neatly combed like a "good boy", or totally untidy. Looking a bit lost at some international airport. 

So it surprises a few that I don't adhere to the image. The clan who do, actually get mad at me for not falling in line. The other Ph.D. scholars find it strange that I am in the basketball and football teams at my company. Or that I am dressed in suits like the "corporates". My Indian friends think its strange that I ice skate. The other guys snicker when I tell them I love cooking. My Indian "onsite" colleagues look incredulous when they notice I gel my hair into spikes. My weight training mentor at the gym thinks it's ridiculous that I would want to have a Ph.D. degree. My Ph.D. guide thinks its ridiculous that I would want to do weight training at the gym.

I can go on and on. The point is that I don't like sticking to stereotypes. And I feel there is too much focus on being the "master" of a few trades. I don't question those who are, I actually respect them. But don't stop there. Just because you became an actor doesn't mean you are banned from pursuing higher education. Or vica versa.

So I do it all. I love sports. Volleyball, basketball, football, cricket, table tennis. I could beat a few at most of them. I am not really the proverbial IT manager, I actually have a sense of humor. I love to ice skate, or at least I try to. I weight train at the gym. I blog... or again.. I try to. I watch European football, and marvel at how it is close to a religion in Europe. I study cultures. I have friends from all over the world, from countries most Indians haven't heard of. I love cooking, I love to learn ways of cooking from others, the French, the Croatians, the Latvians. I love teaching at the University, it opens up my mind to interact with youngsters from all over the world. I adore the research workshops, the passion in each researcher thrills me. I love my job, people say I am married to my company. I love the fact that it makes me meet so many new people from all over the world. I travel. I hold motivational workshops. I listen to club and trance, and to Bollywood music. I play Boule. I have formal training in short-movie making. I like photography. I have been a national level debator, oratory used to be my life. I am crazy about motorbikes, stunt biking is my passion. I live for road-trips to weird places. I like business meetings. I like beaches. I love the fjords.

And so I do it all. Don't type cast me. You might say I am not good at any of them, or maybe I am. It doesn't really matter. I believe that everything in life is worth a try. If you can be good at a few of them, that is great. If not, at least you tried. At least you will not have a lot of regrets in life on your death bed. You will identify with more people, understand how the world works. And most of all, your horizons will be much broader. Oh yes, I love being the Jack of All Trades!

Pic courtesy:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Its Not All About The Money, Honey.

I will be honest with you. Money matters to me. Actually it does to everyone, except the monk who sold his Ferrari (poor guy, I could never read that book, I would not be able to bear the sorrow), it’s only that some people wouldn’t admit the relevance it has in their lives. I am not one of them. I am blatantly shameless about it. Money matters, I will never deny the fact. Give me the best job in the world, if it doesn't pay me well, I ain't moving nowhere. And don't give me the cliché of money not being able to buy happiness, puhleaze. It is always more comfortable to be crying in a limousine than on a bicycle. Point being, if money cannot buy you happiness, the lack of money cannot guarantee lack of sorrow either, so while scientifically we have established that there is no relationship between money and happiness, if given a choice I would prefer to be rich thankyouvermuch.

Then what am I doing writing about "Its not all about the money". Well, the key word in that sentence is ALL. My argument is only about the time when people start getting competitive about it. Money matters - but only to an extent. Don't go all psycho about it. Like with everything else in life, create your goals, achieve them, and then ---- chill. It is not a race. In the competition of hoarding, I would like to opt out, if you don't mind. Because I don't see a point. You aimed for a lifestyle, you got it. You aimed for certain things that money could buy for you, you got it. After that, what is the point? Especially, what is the point when you entire goal was stacking up, and nothing else? I cannot understand when people do that, like stack-up and then live in a miserly condition. Are they taking it all to their grave, like literally having gold plated platinum coffins? If not, is it only about the idea of hoarding, the numbers? If so then count me out, the money was not my end goal, it was only the means.

To tell you the truth, the whole number game is a pain in all the wrong places. I am a Marketing guy I tell you, though they did force some Finance subjects down my throat during MBA. I do make my investments and play around, but its a pain. I don't identify with those deriving orgasmic pleasures out of stock trading. Not my game. It again goes back to me saying, money is not the end goal for me, its just the means to get there.

So what are the end goals then? Not really objectively defined, but they have a lot to do with experiences. Having a variety of experiences. Through traveling, through interacting with different people, through having various professions. You might argue, those have nothing to do with money, especially the latter two, and yes, I have heard that argument before. True, everyone meets different kinds of people in their lives, but think about it, if I have lived, worked and traveled to 20 countries in 3 continents, I surely must have encountered a greater diversity than those who have never stepped out of their own country. If I have worked on 4 multi-national, multi-cultural organizations in 4 cities, with 4 very diverse roles and professions, I must have seen a much broader professional spectrum than those who have worked in . Regarding wanderlust, I can go on and on, there is too much written about how traveling is an education in itself. I am pursuing my Ph.D. now, and let it just suffice for me to say that I have learned a lot more from my travels than my formal education, and this is a school from which I will never, and don't want to, graduate. Of course not to trivialize the fact that formal education, in itself is a blessing, and a lot of people who have it, do not appreciate it. I can go on and on. Sports. Music. Art. Dance. And then some which are best left unmentioned. The list of experiences is endless. And those I feel are the end goal, not money in itself.

And although money enables you to achieve all this, it becomes the means to reach these pinnacles, I still see people, including some business school classmates, trying to compete with each other on the numbers. And I feel sorry for them. I still meet insanely rich men who have not experienced so many things that their money enables them to experience. I still stumble across rich men with no personalities because they have not used their money to gain experiences which enriches them. And to them I feel like saying: Its not about the money, honey.

If you are thinking "the true experiences which bring happiness in life are free", pardon me but I would beg to differ. And I would only agree to you if all the worlds governments stopped charging money for all tourism related activities. Traveling can change your life, and its not free. And if you have not traveled, you have not lived.

And yeah, if you live in Sweden, you just feel that extra bit of a right to share ABBA than others :)

Pic courtesy:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Just Another Phase

I have probably written about it somewhere sometime on my blog already. Everyone has. It is one of those favorite blogger topics. About the phases of life. I probably have written about it multiple times. Coz I used to be such a cliché blogger that I got a bit fed up of my own blog. Like someone somewhere said, that if I were some else, I wouldn't read me. No, not all the posts, really, I am quite the narcissist at times. But a lot of it. Like the ones where I have celebrated the birthday of my own blog. Ugh, that's lame really, corny even. Its almost equivalent to having a funeral for your iPhone. 

Yeah you guessed it right, I am a bit disillusioned. Pardon my skepticism and sarcasm, my sincere apologies if you expected a blog post celebrating my comeback. Nah, not the Merlin you knew. But what the heck, its a phase. Like all others, maybe it will pass, maybe it will get worse, maybe you won't like me anymore, but it doesn't matter, I call the new avatar I-don't-really-care. To tell you the truth, that is the formal name, the actual one starts with I-don't-... but what follows is something I choose not to publish.

So I have changed my views about blogging. Like I have been changing most things about my life. Cities, countries, professions, companies, girlfriends, friends... whoa.. I saw your eyebrow go up at girlfriend, and I noticed the look of exasperation when you read friends. Go ahead, judge me if you will. Oh yes, I change friends... like... all the time. Not all of them, but most of them. I can give you excuses like "I have never lived in any city for long" (lots of cliché posts about that one as well), "I have a traveling job", "All my friends have traveling jobs", "I don't live in my own country", "I have expat friends who move out" etc etc. but those would be only partially true. I don't know the real reason. It's not really that I don't keep in touch, coz I actually am over enthusiastic about that part. I am the most active facebooker, gtalker, skyper, probably a pest for some. I give calls in the middle of the night after 4 years of no contact and talk like we have talked everyday for the last 4 years. And yet, my friends change. I thought that is what everyone did, change friends... till FB happened. And then I see all my school friends hanging out together, engineering college friends vacationing together, and business school friends getting married in groups.

And I wonder, how I have never stuck around, I have changed gangs in the transition from school to engineering college, engineering college to first job, first job to business school, business school to Bangalore job group to Stockholm job group, to the current sets of friends which form my circle of "Indian Friends", "Expat Friends" and "Ph.D. Friends". And although I keep in touch with all the older gangs, my hang-out, vacationing, partying and weekend crashing is always with the "current" gang. Is that something that happens often, or am I weird? And what about the million something people I liked or who liked me, who still "faded" away? Does that happen to everyone?

Anyway, I digress. Point is that I live in phases. We all do. For some the phases are more clearly marked out than others. I have written about mine here and probably more places on this blog, and mine have been clearly marked. Each phase has lasted around 2-3 years. This one has been the longest, it will be 5 years in Sweden soon (I know! What the heck have I been doing in one city/country for so long!). And so, soon I will get restless, I have started getting restless already. I talk about how the battles won fail to quench my thirst here (highly recommended self advertising link). I am bored of finding excitement in signing multimillion dollar contracts, stacking up money for my old age and getting promotions at my work. I fill up my life with trying to get a sixpack body, a swedish drivers license, a Ph.D. in a record time line, beating the 50 something guys who hate me being so young, and becoming the best player at volleyball in my team but nothing seems to quench the thirst.

Point is, I am restless. Point is that all this stuff fills up my life, but it doesn't float my boat. Point is I feel restricted, held back, restrained. I feel like changing my country, my profession, my social circles and my life. So the question is, what is going to happen next? Answer is: I dont know ;)

Oh and I do need to write about what's been happening in my life lately. I might also stop being anonymous and publish pictures of me. Darn, I am so narcissistic, how did I manage being anonymous for so long?!

Pic: Me at Öland, Sweden