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Carry On, Fungus October 23, 2006

Posted by fungus in Uncategorized.
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I thought it would be a lot tougher than this. People labour through fourteen years of school, four years of engineering, a couple of years doing an MBA and then much effort goes into making CVs, fitting into expensive-looking suits, fake smiles, misleading answers and misplaced expectations before you land that first job at the IIM. Corporate life, with all its allures, beckons. Different motives drive people to corporate life. Money would be the usual suspect but for most people it is because they’ve never actually thought seriously about any other way of living – our society seldom lets us think for ourselves anyway. Some have responsibilities that only a steady, salaried income can fulfil. For some the glamour of an Investment Bank or a Consulting Firm is irresistible. I always knew these were slots I didn’t fit into. But till very recently I didn’t know where it was that I belonged. I didn’t think I was ballsy enough to be an entrepreneur – they give up cushy jobs for a life of uncertainty and poverty (yeah, that’s what I thought). So that was out. Or so I thought.

I didn’t think I was going to be an entrepreneur. Sure, I’ve talked about it in the past. But everyone who has had a bad day at the office or the whiff of a better salary, or the desire for a new car or a better boss has threatened to walk out on it all and do something on his/her own. No one, actually, wants to be tied to a chair, or a company, or a boss, or a salary. We would rather all be there trying out new ideas, making tonnes of money and being our own bosses. We’d all, rather, be out there creating value and employment rather than seeking it. But most of us don’t have an idea that singular that we would risk our comfortable 9-to-whatever routines for, some don’t believe in themselves enough and most of the rest just don’t have the balls. There are some, it must be said, who exist to do salaried jobs. We need the Investment Bankers, the Consultants, the Brand Managers, the Sales Managers, the secretarial staff and all the others. Some people exist to be exactly what they are. But we all wish it could be different. We all complain. If only things weren’t tight right now I’d be out of here. If only this report didn’t have to go or these plans didn’t have to be made or this deal didn’t have to be struck I’d be exploring my options. And I thought I’d comfortably ride out the next few years, till I knew what I really wanted to do, making excuses for myself in the very same way. But then my bluff got called.

It wasn’t any one particular thing. It was a fortuitous series of events that led up to the Big One. A friend had passed through town a few days earlier and we had talked about his plans (already put into action) of quitting and starting something on his own. As always I had told him what it was what I would be doing if it weren’t for such and such. And, for the first time, I actually discussed the feasibility of my not-so-concrete plans with him. It made me feel a whole lot better because setting out on my own seemed a lot less scary and a lot more promising than it had in the past. The next day my Vice President of Sales came up to me and told me that he was shipping me out to a Sales role – something, he claimed, the others would kill for. I wasn’t particularly looking to leave the cosy confines of the Bombay office or those of my newly-acquired apartment. I was loving the easy routine that let me do this and that on the side, the facilities at the office and tonnes of personal space, not to mention easy access to a bunch of good friends who were in Bombay. I told my Boss I wasn’t particularly interested in going. He responded: if you want to stick around and make a career here it is best if you go. But I wasn’t particularly looking to make a career there. In fact I hadn’t, yet, thought of my job as a career and I had no intentions of doing so henceforth. I told him. What was it that I wanted to do, he asked. Well, in time, I wanted to do something on my own. He laughed. Of all the people who say they want to do “something on their own”, he said, hardly any ever got down to it. According to him, I should either quit straight away or resign myself to the fact that this was what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life and put up with it. I went home pensive. It didn’t take a lot of thinking, though. A couple of sick-days later I came in and told my Boss I was quitting.

I thought it would be a lot tougher than this. I had no qualms, no reservations and no second thoughts. There was no worry in my head. And all this not for any lack of knowing what I had to do. Oh, I knew. I called up my Mom and told her. Her reaction was most reassuring. When you need to sign up people, she said, go for the brains, the money will come. I told my Sales Vice-President. He couldn’t believe his ears. I almost felt bad telling someone who has been nothing but supportive and trusting albeit, in his own way, that I was leaving. The moment passed, however, and I was composed while I dealt the death-knell. It took a while for him to come around. He still looks at me wistfully at times and shakes his head as if to say I could have gone so far. Everyone else reacted in a different, but consistent, way. When I tell them I’m leaving they look at me in a manner most surprised, ask where I’m headed and shake their heads in disbelief when I tell them. Then they encourage me whole-heartedly and tell me that the World is mine for the taking. I tell them that I know it already. My gratitude to all who have been supportive and encouraging.

So, what is the plan, Fungus? Hmmm. Brace yourself. And if you’re expecting me to launch a strategy to take over the world I would ask you to sit this one out. The plan is to start my own restaurant in Delhi. A small, high-end, speciality cuisine place that promises you the best food in town. The key words are “small”, “high-end” and “speciality cuisine”. I want to cook myself but I’m open to other possibilities. This much I have decided. What I haven’t decided is what cuisine I’m serving, where in Delhi I’m going to set up shop or how I’m going to finance the whole shebang. Not the most trivial details, I know, but I have a lot of time to finalise them. You see, and here is where there is a twist in the tale, the plan is also to spend all of 2007 as an apprentice in a similar setup in Delhi and start 2008 with my own label. So that, ladies and gentlemen, is the extent of my plans. None of the details have been finalised but they will sort themselves out. Rather, I will sort them out but only if I have no options, so to speak. Desperation is a great motivator, especially in my case. So I’ve handed in my papers, packed my bags and am all set to make a triumphant return home.

Of course it is scary, the prospect of not having regular job, of not having a steady salary, or the prospect of having to, possibly, mooch off my parents for a year or, shudder, more. But Valhalla beckons. And, by Odin, I shall go there worthy of judgement.

I have one regret, however. In my habitual need to make more of my plans than necessary I have not informed a whole host of near and dear ones of my plans. Others I have told multiple times. There is one lady, in particular, who I haven’t kept posted with my life despite demanding to know what’s going on in hers. And for that I am sorry. But now you know about the Big One. Wish me luck.