Monday, October 15, 2007

This Rambling Life

I wore the right suit (conservative blue, and yet a feminine cut with a barely discreet skirt hem at the knee)

I bullshitted plenty about my work, academic achievements and skills (first on the phone, and then with a battery of four interviewers for the greater part of an entire morning and afternoon)

I did a nimble tightrope between eager yet restrained, professional yet personal, razor sharp yet team player (and why don't these interview guides tackle the elephant in the room - the weird sexual dynamics between a female interviewee and male interviewers?)

As far as I'm concerned I gave it my best shot.

Just freakin' give me a job already!!

The last two months have been the vortex of a perfect storm for me - everything that could get complicated, malfunction, and generally annoy the hell out of me did.

Relationship troubles - check

Going from smug and cocky to nervous nelly on the job front - check

Moving to another apartment and the lifting and moving of my gazillion books that involves - check (I'm whining on this - I had about 50 odd books to move - my remaining books are in storage)

Dealing with a colleague at my temp job who's the poster child for personality issues - check

My Dr. Jekyll advisor showing his Mr. Hyde side and continuing to ignore the fact that I haven't yet been able to defend thesis I wrote and submitted at the begining of this year - check

Yesterday I just curled up in a fetal position under my faintly medicinal smelling new Ikea blanket and clung to the warmth, the surety of the bed, the solid four walls and wondered what it would take to do what needs to be done.

When my friend Suze collapses in a heap of angst, self-doubt and anguish at how her life swerved course from a dazzling research scientist to a career-switching MBA student languishing in a town she hates, I tell her that this too shall pass. That 10 years from now, when all shall be well (and of course, why wouldn't it be?), when she'll be happy, rich, successful and content in her life, she would remember her miseries and shake her head and smile. Or perhaps, not remember at all.

And I convince myself of this - repeat and repeat again. When you look back at your life a decade ago, it is not the sadness and the frustration and the heartbreaks that spring forth immediately. It's the happy moments of shared conversations over coffee, afternoons spent with the drizzling rain boucing off your face, rushing off to the pastry shop after work to get Ma's favourite pastries, the smell of roasted peanuts blended into roasted corn.

It's not easy. Because try as I might, I can't seem to convince those around me that it's perfectly all right to measure life in books read, teas sipped and tuberoses smelled. Or perhaps measure life in coffee spoons, but Prufock is a creature of The Wasteland and I'm not. I'm not disappointed and morose at my mediocrity. I rather like this life of mine - tempered with ambition, but perhaps not a whole lot.

But I disappoint those who make it their business to be concerned about my life. Some out of genuine affection and concern, some because I stick out like an un-hammered nail among rows and rows of those who bow timidly in their places. When will you have a job? When will you marry? When will you have a house? When will you be rich? In due time, I say. But the years are piling up - they say, raising their tone to give added urgency to the admonitions. I shrug my shoulders. This is the only life I can live - I know not how to live any other life.

After lying still for an hour, pressing my knees against my breasts and gripping my shoulders with my fingers, I feel the need to rise up. The ridiculousness of that wave of self-pity makes me recoil from my fetal self. There are things to be done - jobs to be applied to, muscles to be exercised, work to be accomplished, professional qualifications attained and a need to push the mind and body harder than it's been pushed before.

A friend of mine jokes that inside my Bengali heart resides a sliver of Germanic resolve. My most treasured moment of the day is the 30 minutes or so of silent contemplation in early morning as I sip tea and watch the sun rise from my kitchen window. It is a much beloved ritual of Bengalis, and its loveliest manifestation is at sea resorts in Eastern India, where before the break of dawn, the beaches are full of people sipping tea, waiting to see the sun rise above the receding ocean ripples.

Soon after though, when I'm at work, I'm consumed with it, fascinated by the idea of being part of this giant all-encompassing engine of global trade. This is why I could understand why the Germans would take old industrial buildings and create industrialkultur out of it - my Bengali side, on the other hand, shudders slightly at my fascination with industrial spaces, global business and corporate ambition. I am one person, and I am many. So it is for us all.