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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the most lovely bit of writing I have read in a long time.

It helps that post-interviews, I am waiting for my internship to come through. I know I did well, so send me that contract already!


Take care... life generally works out for the best.


12:48 AM  
Anonymous Shantanu said...

Great post! Can identify with most of it other than the 'sexual dynamics' bit since I have hardly ever (actually never) been interviewed by women. :-)

1:21 PM  
Blogger ggop said...

This has got to be your best post to date. I suppose I should spare you the cliches of "Hang in there" "Good things come to people who wait" etc.

I know the impatience..been there.
All the best!

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I am a regular reader of your blog and enjoy your postings. I might have a few referrals for you on the job-search front. What e-mail address can I reach you at?

2:38 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Deepti: Thank you! And my very best wishes for your internships - keep the spirit!

Shantanu: We really do need more women to do the hiring, though I have no idea how that would work out for me as a job seeker.

Ggop: Thanks - you're really generous! I do hope the impatience has rich rewards at the end.

S: Thank you so much for offering to help. I'll send you an email.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Rimi said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:52 AM  
Blogger Rimi said...

I'm concerned out of affection, and it's got nothing to do with you, Swati. I've been worried about people not getting back to you, because twice while chatting you referred to interviews, but they didn't seem to reach their logical conclusion (which, to me, is you getting a fabulously interesting and paying job).

But to heartlessly veer away from the content... what powerful writing, Swati! An incredible piece of recorded history, and thank you for making it public. I shall email when I'm back home later this week. In the meanwhile, try food. And don't cut down on the aerobics ;-)

5:54 AM  
Anonymous Greatbong said...

Best of luck. Had a long painful history of job hunting so can empathize.

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah! The whole job hunting process is like giving birth, nothing about it is simple and easy. When it finally happens, Yay!! My house overlooks the San Juan Islands and the best time of the day for me is just before light breaks on the water, sipping a cup of ginger gur tea. Always wondered about the wierdness of it, now I understand... it's the bengali in me.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Pooja Sharma said...

rather enjoyed reading your posts. great blog. keep it up.

3:16 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Rimi: sweetheart, of course I know! And yes I do worry about my own ability to convert an interview into a job offer. And your praise means much - because many a time, I've been similarly moved by your writing. Hmm....though I still await that elusive email :).

Arnab: Thank you so much - words of comfort from a fellow Potato Highly Defective are always a relief!

Anonymous: I so look forward to that wow moment. And how marvelous that you get to sip your ginger gur tea (mmmmm...that sounds yummy) overlooking the sea. A dream of mine too.

Pooja: Thank you.

10:02 AM  
Blogger The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

Good luck. This post reflects a lot of strength beneath the trials. More power to you!

6:27 PM  
Blogger Szerelem said...


I really know what that feels like and its was just depressing and frustrating. Of course it was worse for me because the job hunting was more for contractual obligations and what I want more than anything else is to go back to school :(

Oh well, I can say with experience it shall pass soon....

7:38 AM  
Blogger That Armchair Philosopher said...

Job hunts suck, for sure. Hopefully you're having better luck these days!

but imho, what does even more is not having all your books to look at or flick through if you're at odds with the world! How do you ever manage with books in storage? I'm the kind of person who needs them around me to look at and feel their presence at times :)

The tea at sunrise ritual sounds lovely, incidentally. And nice blog - I've been here eons ago, but stumbled across it again from Szerelem's!


12:39 AM  
Anonymous Shreyas said...

Some wierd coincidence this but I am in the same phase, breaking out to ramble these exact thoughts!!

If it's any consolation(and one that you have already marked as 'repeat'), appears most of us go through this one time or the other - new job, job-hunts, dead-end careers!

5:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read some comments you left on another blog. I have only one word to say to you. Thoo!!!!!!

12:23 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

The Girl from Ipanema (lovely handle): I do wish you are correct. And thank you!

Szerelem: Thank you so much. I need lots of hugs and encouragement.

That Armchair Philosopher: You know - you're so right. There are times when I desperately miss having a book that I want to refer to - it's not a happy situation.

Shreyas: That is so true - and you know this is probably the first of many such tribulations to come.

Anonymous: Oh, I'm crushed, crushed that some anonymous wanker was disgusted by my comments on a blog.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love, simply love, your blog - I just stumbled across it for the first time today at random...its wonderful. Your expresiion is just so eloquent and so appropriate I can't tell you enough. Honestly I haven't read through the whole of it but will do so with immediacy. The dizzy socialite made me crack up even though it is rather old :) There is enough to talk about her...can give you enough juice if you want :)If you need my email address tell me pls and would provide you with more updates on that dizzy soialite if you feel like :) Take care and have a great day.

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