Work Etc.

There are these days when you wake up and start wondering what the fuck you are upto. You start asking yourself why you are where you are, doing what you are doing. You ask yourself why you are not on that monthlong roadtrip of rural Karnataka, with the hope of maybe producing a shelf of books at the end of it. You ask yourself why you haven’t been doing stuff that you had promised yourself that you would do.

That new guitar has already started rusting, and the left index finger that you had cut the last time you played has long healed. The car mileage grows only in small increments – which approximately represents the distance you go to work. Half the days you cook rice, and mix it with copious quantities of Mother Dairy Dahi, and some pickle that has been sent from home. The other days you go to the same restaurant, sit at the same table and order the same set of items.

You are doing it for the sake of your career, you tell yourself. Career. Tha FUBAR thing. Which you are trying to marginally resurrect and repair by doing what you are doing, and trying to bring back to it some vague sense of recognition. You meet your friends. You hear them shag about their jobs. You hear about all the cool things that they are doing, and about how they are fast moving up the corporate ladder. About how you are a failure in life if you don’t work hard at this stage of life, and if you can’t win the rat race.

You meet friends’ friends. The first thing they ask you is what you do – and you are likely to get judged on that. So you need to make sure that you have a good story to tell about your job, which makes you sound cool. Coming up with formulae to price the movement of sacks of rice is not cool, as I found out. Financial services is usually met with a question asking you to predict the direction of the index. Sales is usually met with “the sun is very hot nowadays, no?”. And IT is met with “are you a Java coder or a C# coder?”.

Occasionally you want to get away from all this. These are the times when you accept that you are doing what you are doing because of the increments it produces in your bank balance. Sometimes you realize that the monthly increments in your bank balance are not enough; and some of those times you console yourself saying that you are doing this in expectation of larger inflows in the future. You consider your job to be an investment – that the dough you are not getting now will get more than compensated for later in your life. 

So when on certain days you wake up and ask yourself why the fuck you are where you are and doing what you are doing, you usually don’t have an answer. In those states of mind, “career”, “development”, “investment”, “corporate” etc. all don’t matter at all. Neither does “net present value of expected future earnings”. Your total costs look inflated. Your benefits look deflated. Every line of thought that runs in your head then tells you that you should go off into the Himalayas. You go to office instead. 

I’ll stop this essay here. In a forthcoming essay I’ll explain about how a job is essentially about costs and benefits, and why they use the word “compensation” to describe your salary. I have occasionally argued in the other direction, but thinking about it again, I think the word “compensation” with reference to salary package does make a lot of sense.

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