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Thief in the night

Thief in the night
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First Published: Fri, Jul 15 2011. 08 46 PM IST
Updated: Fri, Jul 15 2011. 08 46 PM IST
It was perhaps when you were in class VII or class VIII that you first realized that you had an unusual propensity for fast bowling/singing/papier mache sculpting. You bowl/sing/sculpt profusely. Your parents even encourage, within decent middle-class limits, your abilities. There are certificates/video tapes/sculptures in the living room. Few are the relatives or neighbours who aren’t tired of appreciating on demand.
But then class IX creeps upon you like a thief in the night. Your parents want you to hit class X with a smooth, Waqar Younis-like run-up. Everything must make way for the IIT Starter Kit from Brilliant Tutorials. The athlete/artiste/sculptor inside you is unhappy. But your parents are right, of course. Without education you are the most unwashed of the nation’s unwashed. You switch on the table-lamp with great resolve.
There is a seething restlessness as you pick science/commerce stream in XI. You don’t mind being an engineer or a chartered accountant. Both professions are utterly respectable. That maternal uncle who is an engineer has a proper car, with dickie and AC and Pioneer speakers and all. Your father’s great regret is never completing his chartered accountancy. Otherwise he wouldn’t have to constantly make small compromises all his life. He speaks from grim experience.
But your sculpting? You can’t sculpt anymore now. Surely.
You are the toast of the college, and that too by second-year itself, when you design the most awe-inspiring t-shirts for the mechanical/commerce department. “Boss, you should become a designer boss,” says the comely thing in architecture. Next to each name in the handbook given away in final year is a photo and a nickname. Yours is “Design”. Everyone calls you “Design”. Your email id is DeadlyDesignerRawks@rocketmail.com.
Which is why you broach the idea of perhaps joining a design firm. This is done from the safety of the hostel telephone booth. It does not go well. Father is particularly livid. But what was the point in educating you so much, at so much cost, if you were going to waste it all on some hippy career like design? Please do what is required without unnecessary discussion.
There is rage. But...father has a point. It is a huge risk.
But there is a sense of liberation as your first few months at Infosys/Standard Chartered Bank roll by. You are free. You are making money. Eventually, you will be able to decide on your own. Meanwhile, you are still designing the odd t-shirt or poster or coffee mug. To great acclaim.
The MBA-breakthrough happened on a whim. Even idiots are making 14 or 15 lakhs after wasting two years doing nothing in Ahmedabad or Bangalore or somewhere. Then why not me? But I have a plan: Advertising. Sure, it will mean making a lot less money than everybody else. But only in the beginning. Once I get a chance to prove myself...the next Piyush Pandey? Prasoon Joshi? The thought itself makes you tingly.
Your internship with the FMCG multi-national is great. But you can’t get over the fact that the banking and consulting dudes made so much more money. I mean twice as much. They were partying with stipend. What the heck. Unfair.
Not a single advertising company comes to recruit. But that is not an issue. You have a new, better, more sensible strategy. Two—at the most three—years in that excellent bank/consult in Hong Kong. Save like a psychopath, and then either open your own design outfit. Or join somebody in India. Maybe even as a mid-level guy. Who needs the pay when you have the savings?
Five years later you are relieved when you are finally transferred to the Mumbai office. Not because of the money—there is too much nowadays to keep track of—but because now your parents can help with the children. Banking/consulting is really, really time-consuming and sometimes it is just too hard to balance work and life. Also you’ve just seen Rock On for the fifth time and that old DeadlyDesigner is rearing up his head again.
Too soon though. Another year, maybe two, and you’ll make VP/manager. Your first bonus is going to be the seed money for a trendy, cool design outfit in Mumbai. Start from home, keep overheads low, and use your excellent networks to make a breakthrough. If it goes bust— unlikely in this booming economy boss! —a thousand banks will be happy to have you back. (Psst. Call it a sabbatical. Wink. Nudge.)
Four years later and you are scrambling around Mumbai to establish the Indian head office of the British company you’ve just been hired to run. Big job. Massive money. Crazy schedule. Your local hires are all morons. So you decide to scout locations yourself.
You meet a broker at Cafe Leopold. Or maybe have an espresso with “real estate advisors” at the Taj at Apollo Bunder. Maybe a friend at the club knows of excellent properties at Opera House and Dadar. And you go to see for yourself.
And now it is much too late for sculpting or fast-bowling or singing or designing.
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at cubiclenama@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Jul 15 2011. 08 46 PM IST