Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Confessions of an Unemployed Youth

It is hard to describe how it felt to be working at the age of 22. Although slightly proud that i had landed a decent job, managed to hold on to it, and earned quite a bit of money while at it, i couldn't shake the feeling that there were a thousand other things that i should have been doing instead. As a result, i spent most my working life in a state of conflict. In the end it was a compelling mix of fatigue and boredom that finally led me to give it up. Throw in the towel. Retire even. And so it was, that in the summer of 2006, i was finally out.

In the months following my astonishingly decisive decision to throw away what seemed like a perfectly good career, i continued to remain in the aforementioned state of conflict. i missed my job, but only in the way a dog would miss being being kicked in the balls by his master, which, by the dog's reasoning, must surely be the master's way of showing affection. In later years the dog would perhaps recall some of these kicks and wonder with appalled fascination at how much they meant to him. He might even reminisce with his pups, if he managed to have any, about the Good Times. But enough about the dog.

My problem was slightly more complicated. Even though I managed to convince myself that the job was surely not that good, and the pay was surely not that great, i found that i still missed it. So what was it that i missed?

For starters, it was Something To Do. Before you dismiss that as a uselessly unconvincing reason to hold on to a job, i must point out that there is something softly re-assuring about going to bed at night knowing exactly what it is you are going to be doing the next day. It might be a completely horrific, mind-numbing, please-get-me-out-of-here-before-i-kill-myself job, but it was still Something To Do. There were no surprises. You woke up, got ready, walked right into your worst nightmare, and actually managed to feel good about it. Because like dogs, you see, we humans are slaves to routine. The painful monotony of a job that takes up almost all our waking hours is, in fact, something most of us crave. The drudgery offers us security. I hate to sound philosophical, but it is what provides us with Order in a World of Chaos. Without that, you're left with Choices. You end up lying awake at night wondering whether you should watch tv in the morning, or go for a jog, or perhaps it might be a good day to take up para-gliding. Before long you are debating the pros and cons of each of these choices and you find yourself desending into a black hole of meaninglessness, an endless void from which the light of no star could hope to escape. But this, as i pointed out, was merely for starters.

At this point i will refrain from listing the other reasons why i missed my job because if i dwell on them any further i may lose my mind. So i will instead list out reasons why i DON'T miss my job. (Writers Note: In today's high-stress environment, it is important to maintain a balance as i have just done. Insanity is never that far away.)

One the reasons i looked forward to my new-found freedom was that i would now finally have the time to do the things i always wanted. Yes, i'll admit there is some satisfaction in being able to choose how you spend your day, but to my surprise i found that i was now busier than i was when i was actually working. This seemed so inexplicable that i resolved to spend some time thinking about it. What was all this stuff that i was doing without even realising that i was doing it? Where was all my Free Time going, time that i was supposed to have spent reading, writing, and watching TV?

Ah, yes. Writing. This was one of the things i always wanted to do. My lack of work, i reasoned, would give me all the time i wanted to write. So i decided to get cracking. Writing, however, as much as i'd like to argue otherwise, is not, evidently, considered a Job. And so when people asked me what i was doing and i said 'writing', they would give me disappointingly vacant stares. I felt myself falling so fast in their estimation of me that i was almost dizzy. Writer? I could not have been Wronger.

I soon realized that for some reason, writing is seen as something you did in your Free Time (which i now had) as a respite from Work (which i now didn't have). Unless of course I was Salman Rushdie (whom I wasn’t, and thank Allah for that). The plain truth was that I would never be considered a writer because all my time was now Free Time. As a result, now when i am asked the same question, i respond with "I am planning to study writing." This particular answer is received well by the Adults (at 24 i am still at that age where i'm never sure whether i'm a Young Man or an Adult. I prefer to think that i am both, and this has its perks which i will elaborate on later) and they nod their heads in approval. "Yes, yes, writing these days is a very popular thing. Everyone seems to be writing in their Free Time. Indian writers are now becoming world famous, you must study well and write properly," they tell me solemnly, "Once you find a Job." It is now my turn to nod in agreement. It is a purely instinctive nod, however, and comes from years of pretending to listen to what Adults had to say about my future. My brain prefers not to interfere in these matters.


"No Arithmetic?", is invariably the response when I tell people that I now spend most of my time Reading and Writing. Two months without a job and suddenly everyone's a stand-up comedian. If I had a rupee for everytime I hear this particular joke, I wouldn't have to bother looking for another job. Which, I must point out, I'm not doing in any case. I think the whole Unemployed look is starting to grow on me.

I think it was Mark Twain who said - 'Man is faced with a curious dilemma- he must choose between his work and daytime television.' Since I've never really had the opportunity to put this particular theory to the test, it has been, up to this point, just a clever thing to say to people. However, having now gained a deeper understanding of daytime television over the past few weeks, it is clear that Mr. Twain had a point.

In order to place this next piece of information in context, you must know that I did actually spend some time thinking about where all my New-Found Free Time was going, as I had resolved earlier to do. Surprisingly, a lot of it was spent approximately 2 feet away from the television. Even more surprisingly, the time spent in this particular activity was significantly more than I had initially estimated. Upon closer analysis, I found that Newton's third law of Cable Relativity explains this phenomenon. According to Newton, in the world of Cable TV time is calculated in units (where 1 unit is equal to 30 mins: the length of the average sitcom) Therefore, when one watches 4 successive re-runs, one is likely to consider this as merely 4 units wheras the actual time spent was in fact 4 x 30 = 120, i.e, 2 hours, out of a possible 16 hours that one spends awake. Which, in my case, immediately becomes 2 out of a possible 12 hours spent awake, what with my theory that as humans we are designed to sleep for exactly half the duration of each day.

Which brings me back to Mr Twain and the quality of programming itself. The results of my careful research are revealing: There are, at any given point in the day between 10 am and 5 pm, only three main types of shows to choose from. I will now list these in no particular order of suckiness.

1. The Psychotherapic Talk Show

Guest: Oh, it was horrible, i was this young skinny kid and i had, like, pimples, you know?

Mature Audience: (sharp intake of breath)

Host: And how did that make you feel?

2. The Hyper-Exciting Nature Show

Voiceover: As you can see, the majestic lion just twitched his tail. This is absolutely incredible. He will now spend the next three hours contemplating his prey and will then, if we're lucky, start to make a move towards it. The spotted deer, meanwhile, visibly ages in anticipation of its imminent death. It's almost as if it knows that it will not roam these grasslands for much longer. A week, at the most. Stay Tuned.

3. The Tele-Marketing Show

Voiceover: And welcome back to Asian Sky Shop. Here now is our all-time-best offer, much better than the all-time-best offer that we told you about this very morning. Introducing...(drum roll) The Super Duper Sauna Belt. Yes, it's true! For the astonishingly low price of 500 rupees, you get a product that is actually worth 10,000 rupees in Croatia. And you get free gifts worth another 10,000 rupees. And you get a handbook worth 1000 rupees which explains how you use the free gifts worth 10,000 rupees. And the first 10 people to order this fantastic product get a surprise gift worth more than all these free gifts put together! Order now!

Model (who's a housewife, no surprises there): Trust me this is truly works! I am used the Super Duper Sauna Belt and i lost 20 kilos while i was peeling the potatoes. Thanks You to Asian Sky Shop.

Voiceover: So, what are you waiting for? Grab the phone and order your Super Duper Sauna Belt NOW, exclusive to Asian Sky Shop! Postage is FREE! And even if it isn't, and you don't get actually get any free gifts, and the product isn't worth even 10 bucks, don't bother trying to find us because we're in the Sky, remember?


deepali said...

bang on! it was too funny! :) you should write about that 'what does the man meaaaaannn???!!!" lol!

Anonymous said...

LOL!!! good 1 m8!!

Anonymous said...

Ajay J it's a good work. Sometimes it gives a slight joy when we know that we are not alone in this world of struggle. But remeber my friend there are people who have gone through even worst situation. it's true what you said "Insanity is never that far away". But there is hope that one day.......