The life of a ‘work from home journalist cum columnist’ can seem terribly attractive to someone who has a more conventional cubicle-bound job.
You corporate types wake up in the morning with your BlackBerry in throes of vibrating apoplexy. Mayhem in marketing! Scandal in sales! Attrition in accounts!
I too wake up, three or six hours after you do, with emails pouring into my inbox. But most of them are from public relations people inviting me to review a new luxury hotel or a new high complication watch, or from the editor of this newspaper wondering why it is 4pm in New Delhi and all he can see in this column space is 830 words worth of magnificent desolation.
You corporates types, meanwhile, have already sat up in bed, cried a little, and then run off to wash and shave.
I have checked all my email. And gone back to sleep. With a 34-day stubble.
And thus our respective days progress, on ever more divergent routes.
I am reminded of this divergence on a weekly basis when I meet my more cubicle-bound friends for a Saturday brunch or some such. They ruefully drink orange juice in small glasses and say: “You are so lucky, yaar. You are living the dream, Vadukut…”
They are only partially right. All these flexible schedules and lack of personal grooming might seem like an office-goer’s dream. But there is much more to “living the dream” than just doing what you want to do for a living.
There is also the small matter of how you do it.
And a co-passenger on a recent plane journey made me realize this.
Fernandez is a Portuguese executive director of an international chain of hotels, construction outfits and property development companies. When I met him on the plane, he was flying from Tripoli in Libya to Brindisi in Italy via Rome’s Fiumicino airport. And at first sight he looked the quintessential frequent flyer type: crisp collar on a crisp white shirt, bright but not un-sensible necktie, suit jacket hanging from a little peg on the seatback in front of him.
After some disposable chatter about the weather, we began to talk about our respective livelihoods. Fernandez turned out to be one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. Not only did he grow up in South Africa, and then Dubai and then decide to move his family to Libya to take care of the post-war construction boom there, but, most importantly, his personal assistant and household manager is a Keralite called Prasad.
Fernandez also spent several months on a consulting assignment in Gurgaon, a few years ago, evaluating construction projects and being bewildered by Indian multi-millionaires. He spoke about one construction mogul who invited Fernandez onto his personal jet. And then asked all the passengers to take off their shoes before stepping into the cabin.
Fernandez travels more than anybody I have ever met, chewing through Portuguese passports at the rates of one every three or four months. Still he makes it a point to be back home every weekend, wherever home maybe at that point in time. Still, besides some mild diabetes, he seemed tremendously thrilled with his life. And he lives in five-star hotels.
“Ah yes…,” we said to each other nearly simultaneously after narrating our respective autobiographies, “you are living the dream…”
Which is when it hit me. What made both our lives appealing to each other was not just the fact that he was travelling all the time and living in luxury hotels, or that I was sitting at home typing and being ‘creative’ all day.
What was also important was the fact that we both seemed excited, enthusiastic and, crucially, content with what we were doing. Neither of us voiced an ounce of disappointment with our professional state of affairs.
Sure, there were days when Fernandez got fed up of running out of one aerobridge into another, or when he went home to his family utterly drained of his life force. And the same goes for me, too. Sometimes I have minutes left to file a column. And nothing on the Internet seems worthwhile plagiarizing.
But, by and large, Fernandez and I seem to love what we do and, what is more, we felt we did it reasonably well.
Too often all of us, your columnist included, fall into the trap of thinking people with sexy-looking jobs have sexy-feeling lives. We think that the guys who run bed and breakfasts, make films, review restaurants and own quaint little bookstores by the banks of the Seine or Tiber are all living the dream. While we wallow in a nightmare of self-pity, frustration and discontent.
But maybe there is more to this dream. Maybe doing your job well is part of the dream. Maybe going home everyday content with what you have accomplished is part of the dream. Maybe waking up in the morning aching to get back to work, however quotidian that work may be, is part of the dream.
Maybe, then, a lot of us are living the dream without realizing it.
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at email@example.com
Also Read | Sidin Vadukut’s earlier columns