Friday, October 5, 2012

Penning my Roller Coaster Work Life!

I was just wondering over a cup of coffee yesterday... It has been 7 long years that I have been working. Seven years sounds like a really long time. And when I think of it otherwise, it feels like a fraction of second. Woooossshh,,,, Flashback!

"Dipti, you are very ambitious, but your fate lines indicate, you will not be working! You might work for couple of years maximum, after that you will be a house wife!" this came from a very good friend and a hand and face reader. I still remember how crazily ambitious I was when I was in college. I always knew I want to be independent and work for my own satisfaction. Ambitions are a different thing and coming from a middle class Marwari family and dreaming of being independent is a different.

Today when I look back, I wonder how I have come out of so many hurdles that came my way in continuing with my professional life. It reminds me of the lines “If God creates problems for you, he also gives you their solution along with it"

I remember, after 1 month of my marriage, I started my first ever job hunt. It wasn’t easy to go from office to office just to submit the resume.  Now when I think of it, it was all worth the efforts. First job in IT industry is the toughest part for a fresher and I was lucky to have got it in a very prestigious XE Healthcare in Bangalore. My resume was forwarded by my cousin’s friend and my interview for a trainee post was not that challenging. I cleared it easily and started with my little dream.

I still remember my first day at work. That first auto ride from Old Airport Road to Hoodi Village of 13 km felt unending. And in 2004 when I joined the company, that part of Whitefield, was considered as another planet from Bangalore.
I went through so many security checks that I felt like saying "My name is Dipti, and I am not a terrorist". Those amazingly landscaped gardens, multi cuisine cafeteria serving at least 3 types of cuisines everyday with a lot of facilities like gym (with expert trainer), steam, sauna, TV room, sick room, free doctor visits, awesome coffee and loads of varieties of biscuits makes XE one of the best places to work. Not only that they have grand celebrations on Family day, children's day, Diwali. Every now and then you have a discounted stall for electronics manufactured by XE. So in office campus terms, I couldn’t have asked anything better!

Though I never liked the culture there. Reaching office sharp at 8.30 am was still ok, but leaving office after 8.30 pm was something I couldn’t fathom. If I don’t have work, I cannot pretend to sit for extra 3 hours just because my manager is still in office. But XE rewarded those extra 3 hours more than being extra productive for those 8 hours. So I kind of disliked the culture there.

I was doing pretty well with my work there and made some very talented friends there. Our lunch times were fun and I learnt a lot about corporate world from my friends and colleagues. It was a 6 months training period for me. Looking at the progress I made in XE, my manager initiated an interview for making me permanent even before I finished my 6 months.

I had waited for this day for long, I had taken extra efforts to make sure I am well prepared for this day. But something went off terribly wrong, I was not in the best of the state of mind and I literally cried on my first official interview. A confident girl like me, crying in a petty interview was something I have never imagined in my dreams. But that was the first hurdle in my professional life, I was in trauma for next 1 week as I could have digested not clearing an interview, but crying in an interview,,, so not like me!!

It could have been an end to my career as I had no compulsions of continuing the race being from a well to do Marwari family. But my manager gave me another chance, he asked me to continue for next 3 months and then conducting another interview, which doesn’t happen ever in XE. God's grace No.1

I would have easily cleared the next interview and got permanent without any doubts, but this is my life, it cannot be so straight forward. So here comes HURDLE NO. 2.

Ashish was working with an IT company and he had got a 6 months project in US. And I being a Marwari bride, I had to accompany him without any ifs and buts. It was a lot of pressure from my parents and my in-laws to join him asap. It wasn’t easy for me to leave my just started career and accompany him in US on H4. H4 is the worst Human sorry.,. Women right violation on earth. It cuts your wings and chops your legs and puts you into a golden cage for the time you are in US. You can do everything from shopping to schooling, but you cannot work. :)..Sad but true!

So for next 8 months, I was in a golden cage named US. I travelled the east, lived like an American. Enjoyed every bit of nature there. But something wasn’t correct inside. The fun loving girl in me had given up on the career path, but the career loving girl wasn’t ready to give up. Days passed by and I started with a management course in IT at Harvard. I being a hardcore optimist, dreamt of returning to India as a Harvard return and restarting my career.

Hurdle No. 3, I had to return back to India overnight. My father in law was detected with Stage 3 cancer. He had only a month or so, we had tickets for Las Vegas and Grand Canyon, but it wasn’t important. Harvard was also not important!

We returned to India on 11th Oct and 25th Oct, my FIL rested in peace. I had an offer with a prestigious Telecom company dated 5th Nov 2005, which would have been another ray of hope. Guess what? My MIL was detected Stage 2 cancer and I being a good daughter in law was supposed to be at home, taking care. I am brought up in a family where we can sacrifice anything for the family, so I almost accepted that I am going to sacrifice my career now. But Ashish was adamant that I start with my new work. He supported me and that was God's grace No. 2.

Joining new workplace was like starting afresh. We had three months of training, then proper tests after that. The flexible culture in the company helped me taking care of my professional and personal life well.

It wasn’t easy working for 5 days a week and then getting MIL treated on weekends. Chemothearapies, radiation, that hospital atmosphere, the injections, smell of medicines is not only depressing for the patient but equally depressing for the care takers! We cannot compare the pain patients go through while getting treated, but an equal or more pain is felt by the loved ones who are around!

Everyday was new, brought new problems, regarding maids, regarding medication, regarding social pressure, regarding guests coming over to visit my mother in law, regarding high work pressure at times and regarding my own guilt at times! But each day I reminded myself, I have chosen the hard path, now I cannot step back on it. I have to do it, problems are temporary, and things will change!!

There was a stage when I was cooking at 7 am in the morning as I couldn’t find a cook and maid to look after the chores! I was calling 10 times at home to check my MIL's health and 10 times to the doctor and attending 10 calls from the well wishers about her health. I had to concentrate at my work at the same time I had to be there for any emergencies. Those are the days, you really understand, how important is your support system in life.

When it became unmanageable and I thought I cannot handle anymore multitasking, I called my MOM and like my savior she came to look after my MIL. Not only my MOM, my relatives Asha Masi, Meena Masi, Payal Bhabhi, Aditi Bhabhi, Micky bhaiya, Chiku bhaiya, Didi,Jiyaji everybody stood like a tower of support to me and I passed the HURDLE NO. 4 with flying colors :).

My mother in law expired, we had a tough time settling down with this fact, especially for Ashish it was tough! But then life caught up and we continued.

Suddenly one day, I discovered that I am expecting. First three months were hell of a time with morning sickness, nausea, etc. Fortunately my office, was just 4 km from home, so it was manageable. Then we got the biggest gift of God in our life! Our daughter, our angel, love of our life KHUSHI!

While I was on maternity leave, not even once the thought of returning back to office bothered me. I was so much into my little bundle of joy, that every moment seemed special. The world was unimportant to me, forget office work! I clicked 10,000 pictures of my baby in every possible way in just 4 months. Sleep deprivation was a joy when at 4 am my little baby smiled at me. It was a joy close to none! Khushi had become my sole thought for those 4 months. But at the end of the 4th month, we had to decide! And just when I thought I would resign and be with my new found love, Ashish told me that I should try if I can manage both Khushi and work at the same time.

I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to get back to work, leaving my itsy bitsy baby doll home. But then I had to give it a try as I had given my work my 4 years, I have fought all odds to be where I am! So I returned back to work.

Morning 8-10 am, I massaged, bathed, fed and played with Khushi, 10-6 pm worked in office and again from 7-9 pm played with her. From the 10-6 pm I was in office, Khushi slept, ate her food and went to park. And since I was guilty of leaving her home and going for work, I spent more quality time with her. The 5 hours I spent with her were completely for her.

I giggled with her, I was more patient with her, I read stories to her, I bubble bathed her, I taught her colors, I taught her rhymes, I dressed her up in different attires and clicked her, we had a fabulous 5 hours everyday with each other. At 1.5 yrs age, Khushi was able to solve 4 pieces jigsaw puzzle, which can be enough proof of her intellectual growth for me.

That was the time I realized, kids would be happy with us, if we are happy with ourselves. If I left my work, my independence I would have always thought I have scarified my career for someone else, and hence would have always been in the "KAASH..." mode and unhappy with myself. But today when I am happy with myself, I can radiate that happiness to my family. I don’t shout at Ashish when he comes home late, I don’t scream when Khushi gets demanding, all because I am happy!! I get the ME time for myself and at the same time can look after the family better! So I am proud that I went back to work and in spite of the emotional trauma of leaving a small kid home I was able to get ahead in life.

Of course, having a support system at home is very important. If I did not have a reliable live in staff at home, I would have never been able to leave my little doll in a crèche or with a new novice maid. Without a support system, leaving a small kid at home/ creche alone is a crime. You have no right to have a kid, if you cannot give the best to him/her. Today if I am able to manage work well even after having little kids is only because I am not bothered what if I am 1 hour late from office? Who would make healthy food for my baby? Who will take her out for playing? Who will keep her hygiene in check? We are not SUPER WOMEN, so without a support system, we cannot manage house, kids and work. Accept that each one of us have limitations, if you don’t want to be frustrated in life, keep yourself within your limitations, never cross them.

In my professional life I have always been lucky. Of course, luck doesn’t come without hard work! In my 7 yrs of career I was never on bench, I was always growing and always learning. I was never scared to learn and my social skills made it easier to work as a team. Today I am known for my customer handling skills, customer’s faith in me is tremendous. If there is a problem, Dipti will have the solution! This kind of confidence is overwhelming at times, but then I know it isn’t build without the hard work I put in! There were self doubts, awkward moments, frustrating jobs, crazy schedules, disappointments, huge questions in mind about the need to work, days when Khushi wasn’t well, days when I had to choose work over festival celebrations, but it was all worth it.

And then another phase of life began. I was expecting Avani!
Khushi and work never gave me time to sit back and think of how time has flown and before I could gauge, Avani was in my hands.

This time I took it slow, took a 5 months leave and enjoyed every bit of my time with Khushi! Yes, you heard it right, with Khushi! I arranged play dates for her, I took her to the park, played outdoor games with her for 2 hours. In fact I had become popular with little tots of her age. Khushi's mummy had become an entertainer and a game organizer for those 3 months of holiday.

I read her books, I played constructive toys with her, painted with her, sang with her. Everyday we had one craft activity and sometimes multiple activities to be completed. I had exhausted all the internet resources for these activity sessions! Internet, especially Google is the biggest boon of our times! :)

After 5 months of fabulous time with my little babies, I returned back to work. This time more confident and more optimistic about my career. I had my support system in place before I returned, hired another full time maid to take care of the physical needs of Avani, hired a driver so that I don’t become lazy in going back home for lunch.

It’s almost 5 months now that I have returned from my second maternity leave. I am giving my 200 % percent to work and 400 % to my kids. Our jars are never too full; we just need to change our perspective.

So to sum it all, today your job is not only your financial independence it is your ME time, time when you are not sacrificing for anybody else, time when you can grow in life, more than corporate ladder, you are growing on your personal scale. Hurdles are temporary, and it’s never too late. Breaks are fine, but before taking breaks make sure you have a timeline when the breaks are going to get over!

I know tomorrow when my kids need me and if God forbid my support system is not that strong, I will choose my family over my career. I am open to that, I wouldn’t have any regrets for that. I may not work 9-7, but I sure plan to take out at least 2 hours of ME time in that 24 hours to write, paint, travel, communicate, laugh, recollect my sanity, to retain my individuality and to be happy so that I can radiate HAPPINESS!!