Saturday, October 20, 2012

How are you feeling?

Me? Yes.. how am I feeling?

I'm going to get married in a week.. and every person who comes within earshot tries to ask me this question. I find the question as vague as it is weird. In some cases, I find this more to be an assertion of a fact than a question. Let me elaborate:

1. Single guys who still have few years before being peer pressured in to getting married: Their eyes will light up, they'll have a big grin on their face, as if mocking me. Their unbridled enthusiasm about my marriage and what I might not be able to do after marriage is funny. These guys expect me to be remorseful about my decision to get married. They might even be scared because they see me as their future.. and they'd be right. I felt the same way few years ago.

2. Single guys who are trying to find some one to get married to: The tone of these guys is more somber  These guys would have preferred if I tell them that it is not a big deal and that I don't feel any different. These guys would like the reaffirmation of the fact that they are not missing out on anything. Again, I've been in this boat, so I sympathize with them, but they need to understand that I'd be ill equipped to answer their question until I'm 2-3 years into my marriage.

3. Single girls who are trying to find someone to get married to: Their tone is a bit melancholic. They'd like if I drop into a bollywood dance routine or a Broadway musical to express my feelings. Marriage is a highly romanticized affair for them.

4. Single girls who don't plan to get married soon: They don't ask this question.. or if they do, it's followed by "woooo.. so excited for you" :P

5. Married people: Maybe they ask this to compare notes on how they felt, or they are scoping out the new couple to hang out with... I really don't know. This is soon followed by a platitude about married life and some joke.

Now.. the above 5 points cover every one I know, so obviously I'm not looking to offend anyone... but here's my honest answer:
1. Never ask a dude about his feelings.. it is weird. I might cry like a baby during SRK flicks or a Broadway musical, but I'll be damned if I tell anyone how I really feel about something I do feel about.
2. Wedding.. specially wedding in India is an expensive affair with an attendance of over 500 people, organized by people who have little to no experience in event management. Even if you are not involved in any of the planning, the magnitude of event is enough to cause a nervous breakdown.
3. I'm somewhat of a workaholic and I've been very very busy at work during the weeks leading up to the wedding. I've been working nights and I've been working weekends.. so the amount of time I've had the liberty of thinking about something is little to none.
4. I'm an engineer and I like to do literary survey and read up on problems/issues before they happen. I've been hitting the psychology journals to find out effective ways to diffuse no-win situations.. i.e. I've been assuming the worse and trying to visualize my own behavior in those times, so when the time comes I can take the most logically sound action.
5. I turned 30 recently, at the height of the bug fix phase at work.. you have no idea the about the magnitude of existential crisis that introduces.
5. Lastly.. Yes I'm excited about my wedding.. I'm happy about getting to spend the rest of my life with someone.. but I'm also anxious and nervous about it for the same reason. I'll be gaining something and I'll be losing something.. hopefully I'll gain a lot more that I lose, or I care to lose.

In short, all the conflicting and ginormous potpouri of emotions has made me emotionless. You won't see me gushing about marital life, nor would you see me lamenting the death of my single life. I haven't got the time or chance to process any of it yet.. and chances are, I won't until I actually get married. Or maybe, I've gone through the nauseous happiness phase during my engagement. More than anything, I feel a sense of peace, the way I did 6-7 years ago... Going out, socializing, to meet people, is any introvert's nightmare.. but I guess my EQ got a boost in these last few years.

Now being an introvert, I might just be over-thinking a harmless question, maybe it is just a norm to ask this question to anyone who is going to get married. I guess I should be ready to field similar questions after marriage too. *sigh* .. I guess I should start writing another blog post for that..

If you still need a song out of me... here it is (if you have seen this before, don't view it in the context of original musical):

Monday, July 23, 2012

Taking risks..

There is something unsettling about taking risks. I don't claim to be a maverick and say that I don't enjoy the calm and quiet of a risk free environment, but taking risks does have it rewards... at least that is what I keep telling myself. Now that I've spent about three decades on this earth to draw parallels from my own life (we earthlings are much too often too egotistical or too self-deprecating to draw inspirations from others.. heard this phrase: "You can't do it... you are not Steve Jobs").

There were couple of moments in time when my life took a complete turn and became something which I never imagined it would be... every time I shake the equilibrium, the lows are lower, and the highs are higher.. with every jolt I become more jaded, more cynical, more experienced as I watch the child inside of me die.. but have been holding on to it. It is very important to hold on to your inner child. The moment you let him go, you are one of the old dudes, who have settled down, bitch about government/people/society/environment/police without actually doing something about it.

As I grow older, the ghosts of my years past, my mistakes, my accomplishments and my losses become my baggage that I've to carry. I'm not a religious guy to believe in a divine plan, I've seen too much for that.. life is random, life is temporal, the ideas.. they stay forever. So even with this knowledge, the engineer in me tries to plot the trajectory of my personal and professional life and what may be in store for me these coming years. Let me take you to few pivotal moments from my past:

1. 11 years ago: I failed the IIT entrance exam. This was probably the first time that I felt suicidal, not because I didn't clear it, but because of the nagging doubt in my head that I didn't give it my all. If I had, life would be very different for me now. I was as harmonally charged as any other 18 year old would be at that age, and wanted to have another go at it.. but family didn't allow that. It took a long time for me to forgive them.. as I got older, I realized that things were not as financially cozy as they seemed to me. I ended up topping the college that I went to and made the best of the friends, to whom I still turn to for my emotional support.. Had I not failed in that exam, I wouldn't have met the wonderful people who taught me so much about life.. and I probably would have a moderately lower self esteem at IIT ( come on.. most of those guys are way smarter than I can fake to be).

2. 7 years ago: I graduated as a geeky hot head with a B.E. in Computer Sc. The world seemed to offer you a clean slate after you graduate, which I didn't like.. After being molly coddled by academia for about 4 years, I didn't want to be treated the same way as my 100 or so other colleagues who got the job.. I didn't want to join the army of employees in Infosys/TCS or the likes and just be a number on their balance sheets. I wanted to stand out. So even with 7 job offers, I did the most risky thing, I rejected all of them.. I applied for M.S. and got an admission here.. my plan was to be the next Bill Gates, the next Steve Jobs.. still is. Had I not made that decision, I'd have never met so many like minded people, many of whom humbled me with their empathy and lack of pride for their skill. These guys taught me that it was possible to be Howard Roark with a dash of Patch Adams thrown in..

3. 5 years ago: Now one thing you need to know about grad school in USA is that if you want to do it right, you cannot do anything else. I was knee deep in research, doing things that often didn't understand, and things that you cannot google for. After 2 years into masters, I was seriously considering going for a PhD, more than one professor offered to be my mentors.. but I soon realized that I was losing touch with reality, most of what people talked about felt like buzzing.. I was so wrapped up in what I was doing that I didn't like to do anything else, talk to people, even eating and sleeping were activities that needed to be done. I wrote a paper as a part of an independent study and realized that this was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my life, at least see the real world before sticking with known one. So I ventured out into the real world.. I've met so many doctorates, post docs etc who were doing the same thing that I was doing in the workforce, but had overstayed in academia because they were comfortable with it.. there is something very reassuring about judging your success based on grades and have specific metrics to work on. I wished we had those in real world..

4. 3 months from now: I have a sweet life, I've been a single geek in the valley of geeks, working on the stuff I love. In the past few years, I've hiked to my hearts content, ran a marathon, back packed across eastern europe, met few of my idols, worked in a startup, worked on few failed startup ideas.. in other words did what I wanted to do. That is all going to change soon.. I'm going to get married to a girl I adore.. and although I'm excited about the future, I know that my life is going to change.. I'd need to de-prioritize a lot of things that I love doing that I barely get to do now ( it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that you can't be a photographer, a musician, athlete and an engineer at the same time without being shoddy worker).. I probably would need to be more thrifty.. both with finances and time.. all the more harder in country where being thrifty essentially means being risk averse..  I don't know what the future has in store for me and how I'll react to it, but I do know that I'll gravitate towards risk like a moth is driven towards light.. I might pack my bags and setup shop in India, if that's what it takes to follow my dream of having my ideas out to the world.. although I'm happy to have a companion with me to share my ups and downs.. and dear fiancĂ©, if you are reading this, you have been warned :-) .. rest assured, life will be interesting.

Life is not about fixing bugs, returning phone calls, observing social niceties or doing what others want you to do. Life is about exploration, taking risk, taking the off beaten path.. we are nothing but blips on the cosmic timeline.. but even a butterfly flapping it's wings can cause a hurricane, so there is no use being cocooned in.. let's flap our teensy wings all we can. Even if we don't cause a hurricane, we are sure to fly :)