Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Monday, September 19, 2011

143. Survival ++

On alternate days, I used to walk to office. It was just a fifteen minutes walking distance. On other days I used two- wheeler to reach the office.

On these walking days, I used to meet Vishal, one of my young colleagues, at the entrance gate. From the gate, it took about five minutes to reach the office. Whenever we met we talked. Slowly, when the comfort level increased, if one of us saw the other behind, we would wait for the other and then walk together. That became an ‘alternate day ritual’ as we named it. Generally we discussed office work, his hobbies, Pune city, visits to field areas, books read etc.

One day he said, “If you don’t mind, I have a question.”

“I hope I know the answer,” I said smilingly. Sometimes talking to young generation makes me feel ‘out of date’! But I don’t mind saying “Sorry I do not know” and hence was ready to answer whatever he wanted. He was sort of technocrat with management degree and not very proficient with softer issues in development. I anticipated some work related question.

“What do you carry in your shoulder bag?” he asked innocently. My office bag is inseparable part of me; I always carry it with me. Occasionally there have been jokes about it. So, at first I felt there was some trick, but he seemed vary serious. Then I laughed with the unexpected turn. I mean here I was waiting to face a very important question and this guy was asking me such a simple one!

Well, every day I carried too many things in my bag – home to office and back home. I sincerely tried to think. Why did I carry this bag? What was there in my bag?

Office Identity card to swipe in and out was essential.

Vehicle license was essential in case I decided to go somewhere out after office hours. Now, when I was walking, it was not necessary. But taking things out of bag and putting those again next day meant unnecessary work. So, it was always there.

Then there were two or three pens. Why two or three? Because someone around would always be without a pen and would ask me if I had extra pen and would borrow it from me. I am used to keep stock of pens as those who borrow pen would certainly forget to return it.

In addition to it, there was a pencil. What for? For marking some important points while reading various documents.

Then there would be money purse. Of course with some money in it! You never know what amount you will have to spend – so the ATM card was part of the kitty. And so was cheque book. You never know when it will be needed.

Then there were some blank papers – of different sizes – to write notes, messages, task lists, phone numbers etc. There were always needed in meetings. The pocket telephone diary; as I have not stored all the numbers in the mobile handset.

I also had some office documents – which I used to take home for reading and working. Similarly some printout taken at home was brought to office for filing, sharing, review etc.

Then there would also be a book – in case I needed to wait for someone (delay in appointments) at his/her office. Many people have this habit of spending lot of time on their mobile even when someone is sitting in front of them. Instead of getting irritated, I read something on such occasions.

In addition to it, there were home keys, office keys and vehicle keys. Some bills to be submitted would also be there. So would be the digital camera to download work related photographs on the office PC. There also was a pen drive, a CD.

And so on. I realized that I carried too many things in the bag assuming the daily need but most of them I hardly used everyday. I assumed a range of activities every day, but I certainly carried on very limited activities on a given day. Somehow, I had trained myself to be ready for any situation that demanded various resources. I feel responsible for the surroundings, for the people around me. This habit had certainly saved me from some awkward situations and always made me ‘resourceful’ person. 

While explaining this list to Vishal, I too saw the lighter side of it and started laughing with him.

For the first time I realized that I never have seen Vishal with any office bag. He came to office empty handed and he left office empty handed.

“Well, now I want to ask you a question,” I said to Vishal.

“Yep, I know, now you are going to ask me why I do not to carry such a hold-all to the office, am I right?”

Vishal was smart, I smilingly nodded.

Vishal reflected a bit and then pronounced – “I keep office life and home life separate. I do not carry anything from office to home and the other way, unless that is absolutely necessary. Is it not the responsibility of all others to bring in whatever they need e.g. pen or paper?  I carry only the swipe card – without which I won’t be able to enter in and out of the office. Rest of the stuff I need in the office, I keep it in the office. I do not take office work at home.”

Personal and Professional  - well I know about it.  I admire people who can live in such a segregated way. It must have its advantages. However, I have never been able to keep these two identities apart. For me, my work is expression of my interests and my values; my work reflects my personality – good or bad there could be debate about it. Like Yin and Yang, personal life flows into professional and professional life influences the personal. The co-existence of personal and professional life is absolutely essential to peace, harmony and happiness. If in one area I have trouble – I have trouble in both. If I am glad in one sphere, I carry the joy in the other sphere too. How can I be unhappy at one place and happy in the other sphere?

I am not sure whether it is right or wrong, but people like me need more of integration, synthesis rather than segregation, division. We are at our best when we are one across the sphere of activities. People like me feel good when we belong to, when we can contribute, when there are bridges of relationships. There are always people who are sensible as well as sensitive, they would volunteer for any kind of work and any amount of work - it is fun to team with such people. Though detachment, delegation of responsibilities, and withdrawal also happen – it is done as a process and not as  'the' outcome. They happen in its own way and independent style. Every time it happens, one changes, one wonders, one reflects, one grows. The process of withdrawal is initiated separately for each of the steps that professional (as well as personal) life brings across. Doing it in bulk, doing it hypothetically does not work. This part by part process builds the magnificent Whole.

I shared these thoughts with Vishal. He laughed and said, “You are indeed so old fashioned. The world is changing, with this kind of attitude you will not survive in this world. You need to have a paradigm shift to have better prospects in your career.”

Well, to be frank, this is one of the areas where I have not yet changed. I don’t think I need that kind of change. Why should I worry about few more ‘Professional years’ ahead? Till now, I have survived on my terms; there is of course, much more than just survival.

Even if you are ‘segregating’ type, you will agree that in both Personal and Professional life, we aim beyond survival. The feeling of attainment is much broader, wider and deeper than survival and we all seek that kind of joy. Life actually offers us many opportunities. I fear Vishal was still too young to have experienced it: If you don’t survive at one place, don’t be worried. There are other times and other places, where you not only survive but blossom. You will have the satisfaction of having crossed the limits, the boundaries of survival.

It is Survival ++.


  1. My morning flourished because of ur these thoughts …………….
    The thought is out of this world that the feeling of accomplishment is much broader, wider and deeper than continuing only existence …….which we cant express in words and others will not understand it……………….
    How can I be unhappy at one place and happy in the other sphere?..................really I also agree with it…………….can’t divide our whole day in 2 components
    - Ashlesha

  2. Ashlesha, glad to note that we agree!

  3. liked it


  4. I agree with you about work and personal spaces. When you are lucky that work is your passion, then the boundaries are full of holes.

    Reading about your bag, I was wondering about my bag and then things I carry all the time.

    And I remembered a french short film, where an aspiring actress is asked to take out all the contents of her bag and talk about them during an audition. The woman, initially hesitant, slowly forgets her inhibitions and tell stories about all the things in her bag. Only in the end, when she is gone and the director finds "her" bag, it comes out that it was not her bag, but someone else's bag. :)

  5. Suniljee, she must be a great actress. On second thoughts: she must be so creative to be instantly connected with strange things :-) Would love to watch this short film.

    By the way, what do you carry in your bag? :-)

  6. Indeed a plus post.

    Enjoyed. I used to carry a bag earlier. not any more.

    though reasons are different.

  7. Ah, Makk, like the shoe-series (Shoe Watch post), I realize that I can have a 'bag series' now :-)

  8. I fully agree with your point of integrity. With integrity, it is survival++

  9. Preeti, Integrity is an important ingredient!

  10. In my bag most important things are water bottle, lunch box, fruits bag, some pen drives & keys ..

  11. Suniljee, I too have water bottle when I am traveling 'out of office'.

  12. Wonderful insight. Some old habits hardly die.

  13. Another beautiful post! Really liked it, especially the way you have summed up everything - "If you don’t survive at one place, don’t be worried. There are other times and other places, where you not only survive but blossom. You will have the satisfaction of having crossed the limits, the boundaries of survival.
    It is Survival ++."

    And my guess about pen drive was correct. I remember you depositing that at Infosys office :-)

  14. JP, that was a job to deposit my pen drive at Infosys!

    And those who have left one place, know what Survival ++ means!


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