Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day 38: Getting Over The Weather

Back in Britain, I am struggling to keep my upbeat mood despite the weather. This has been a particularly nasty winter, all over the Northern Hemisphere I am given to understand. Returning from India, which has also enjoyed a 'good' winter this year, the contrast is mind-numbing. One feels happy about winter with 23 degrees in Mumbai, but despises it when it turns to snow, worse, sleet, and minus 3 degrees in Croydon.

The immediate casualty was my resolve to resume my morning runs. I started it, and dropped it after I realized all my colleagues in India knew about the schedule and started calling me up at 5am in the morning. It invaded my Sunday mornings too, and made my life rather miserable [and this is also the time when I had a particularly nasty run-in with one of the business associates]. Things are much more settled now, and I was hoping that I can go back to those morning runs and double them up as meditative periods. But this winter has come in the way.

I am a morning person. This is the time when my abilities are at their best. I start getting dim after 6pm, whichever time zone I am in [there is something Pavlovian about this]. I am usually an early riser, and actually feel guilty if I start the day any later than 6am. And, that guilt stays with me all day, usually spoiling all my other activities.

So, I could not get it better than doing the morning run. That alleviated another guilt - of leading a chair-bound, unhealthy life - and gave me a great start in the mornings. Until the calls started coming. However, that was the story of a particularly brilliant summer that we have had, and does not have much resonance now.

But this whole thing about morning run is also symptomatic. I am trying desperately to go back to meaningful lifestyle. My current lifestyle, with its travel commitments, uncertainties about where I live etc, is too disruptive. Besides, I have this feeling all the time that what I do is not important. Well, meaningful work is about, yes, creating a dent in the universe. More I do my meaningless day job, I understand the concept better.

I have to answer, every day, what is my plans, what I am going to do next. I keep giving different answers, depending on my mood of the moment. Same goes for where I am going to stay. I have a few different emotions overlapping all the time: I want to go and live in Kolkata; no, in Mumbai, where the actions are; no, in KL, I need to see and understand Asia; but I love the freedom in London; but I haven't seen New York; and, finally, isn't Beijing the capital of the new world? So, it goes.

In a way, this is mind-numbing, and usually my interlocutors give up at this point. They say, I have nothing fixed in mind, just adolescent confusion. Others, more reflective ones, find that I am searching for a purpose without knowing what it is. I agree with the latter, just that I feel I know what the purpose is. Of course, knowing what the purpose is does not mean it is easy to articulate - because our articulation must conform to certain social norms and expectations but our search for purpose may not. Besides, my purpose may sound a bit woolly - to open opportunities for a large number of people and unleash the human ability that go wasted due to our social constraints - though it is not necessarily a mad one.

In short, meaningful work, which creates a dent in the universe. I have spent my energies for such a long time at the services of people who wanted to commercialize education. In some cases, like in NIIT, I have seen the positive social impact of such business action. What attracted me and kept me in the job was the social impact, and I found my work, particularly in Bangladesh, profoundly meaningful. My best experience in life was to do the programme with Unilever, which gave away Fair and Lovely scholarship with 1000 girl students, who we then taught computers. I know the limitations of what I did is exemplified by the fact that no efforts were made to keep track of these school girls who received the scholarship and learnt computers. I do not know whether that helped change their lives. I do not know whether I helped advance, in effect, the message of fairness discrimination more than the message of empowerment. However, that was meaningful work while it lasted.

My objective now is to immerse myself into this meaningful work, and not let short term considerations distract me from the purpose. I am trying to reconstruct my life - morning run and all that - so that I can pursue this. The essential problem is, of course, to liberate myself from the slavery of the paycheck. I have always lived modestly and waited for the moment when my time will come. Now, I have started feeling that I have waited too long already and I must get going.

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"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

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We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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