Sunday, October 03, 2010

Life is a small boat in a pond

An excerpt from Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes:
Today, while we were walking around the lake, along that strange road to Santiago, the man who was with me - a painter, with a life entirely different from mine - threw a pebble into the water. Small circles appeared where the pebble fell, which grew and grew until they touched a duck that happened to be passing and which had nothing to do with the pebble. Instead of being afraid of that unexpected wave, he decided to play with it.

In our lives we encounter many such waves which seem to be unexpected. If we are not disturbed we think they are good not worrying about the source of the pebble, but if they disturb us then we label them as bad and start looking for the source that disturbed the serenity of our pond. We get caught up in incidents for which the sources are unknown or very far from our reach, but some of these incidents cause a huge impact on our lives. A year back when the economic recession had hit the world, we all felt the jolt. For some it might have been minor and for others it could have been major. A huge number of people lost their jobs and in many cases even the hard workers were not spared because the companies had no other option. I knew a guy from my previous company who was one day asked to leave with many others. He was the only earning member of a family of four, which included his old mother, wife and a small kid apart from him. He knew that his mother and wife won’t be able to take in the sudden shock of losing a job, so he never told them about the dismissal. For the next five-six months he followed the same routine which he had been doing – leaving on time for work with a lunch box every morning and returning home about 10 hours later. During the day he would run around to different companies with a copy of his resume to find a new work place. Everywhere he faced rejection because every company was on a retrenchment drive and not in a recruitment mode. He found a small odd job later and once the recession was over he was back with a bang in a new place. He kept the entire thing hidden from his family just to make sure that they were not affected in a negative way. Today this guy is earning much more than what he would have at the previous organization. I also know another guy from the same company who even today is sitting at his home just because he took the dismissal to heart and refused to look for a job or starting up some small business on his own. He finds solace in blaming everyone (from America to his manager) for the loss of his job, but he neither wishes to make corrections nor wants any deviations in his charted course of life. He is simply fortunate that his wife has a job and is currently managing somehow to make ends meet with a recent addition to their family.

In my new organization there is a person who travels in my bus and also was an ex-colleague of a few new colleagues of mine. Nobody, actually nobody talks with this guy. Even in the bus he is avoided and I have seen a couple of times that other people don’t even answer his simple questions. From his ex-colleagues I have learnt that this guy is a ‘foolish’, ‘dumb’, ‘good-for-nothing’ fellow and he should be kicked out of the company. Good vibes take their own time to travel around while bad ones compete with the speed of light. The next thing I heard that his manager had kicked him out of the project and he was ‘on bench’, i.e., out of work for some time. Coming from a small organization which respected every individual’s strengths and weaknesses I was somehow troubled by this thought because I considered that people could be trained to do good work, no matter how difficult the task was. I decided to talk with this guy in the bus and deliberately waited for him to take a seat first. Sitting beside him I casually smiled at him and that was all for us to start a conversation. I avoided telling him that I knew his ex-colleagues, but in fact he mentioned about them after I told him which group I work in. We talked for about 70-80 min of the bus ride and he did most of the talking. To me he seemed to be a simpleton rather than stupid. I believe he still doesn’t know how this world functions with the fierce competition in every discipline. He is definitely a bit slow, but as long he gets an understanding manager who can work on him he will be a good employee. Agreed that who has the time to spend on an under-performing employee with the stiff deadlines to meet and an ever mounting pile of work, but then employees like him will be thrown out without any considerations. I felt that if I had the authority to choose my team members (which I don’t) I would have accepted him in my team. It might have turned out to be a disaster for the project, but it might also have turned out to be the opposite. Today I heard that the allocation manager had called him up and gave him a hint that he might have to look another job. Sad thing is that, call him stupid or in my words simpleton, he did not understand the hint in its literal terms. He thought he was told that he would be ‘on bench’ for another month due to lack of projects. No one (in the management or his ex-colleagues) knows that he is the sole bread winner of his family – old mother, wife and a young daughter – living in a rented apartment in a city which is spiraling upwards everyday in terms of living expenses. I just hope he gets a good superior and his family gets enough strength to ride the waves which might rock their boat for a while.