Staying Afloat or Learning to Thrive not merely survive

Nina, 42, worked as a HR manager in a globalised corporate entity for over 14 years steadily climbing the ladder from being a fresh minion in the HR department to managing the human resources need for the company’s Asia-Pacific rim. She was touted for a promotion and a rewarding bonus in the next review cycle. 

Ravi, 35, worked in the sales team for the newly-opened foods division within a software to sanitary pad conglomerate. He had already made several trips overseas, was his boss’ blue-eyed boy and much-sought after in social events. His boss had given him a challenging target for the first quarter and he was confident of surpassing the numbers. 

Both Nina and Ravi found themselves scouring wanted ads in the next review cycle. While Nina was passed over for promotion over a younger colleague and quit her job feeling slighted, Ravi was rendered unemployed due to ‘a structured downsizing.’

Six months later, Nina had reinvented herself as a life skills coach and opened a training academy that helped companies strategise and implement better HR policies, provide soft skills and life skills training to employees and make the workplace ‘a place to live’.  She had three steady clients and several prospective leads. 

Ravi had switched two jobs and was busy figuring out where his next pay check would come from? Though he wanted to continue working for another corporate he was unsure of facing the bleak prospect of a lay off. 

How do you think this should play out?

In the real world, unless Nina had good, paying clients, minimal commitments and a nifty nest egg set aside she would have  had to fold up and look for another job. Ravi would have had to take whatever came his way till he found his feet. 

Nina, indeed, held on to her new-found entrepreneurial zeal and today has several happy clients in her kitty. She is a much-sought after speaker in management colleges, conducts training programmes for aspiring HR professionals, mentors youngsters in communication skills and helps senior managers enhance their life skills and perform better at the workplace. 

Ravi decided against working for yet another corporate. He banded with four of his friends to set up a business consultancy that offers virtual sales leads and business support services. He has a handful of clients and is busy developing a mobile app that will help companies schedule meetings in different time zones and geographies. 

So what differentiates people like Nina and Ravi who learn to thrive in crippling circumstances and the rest who go into survival mode?

For starters, both Nina and Ravi were consummate networkers. Chance meeting in the corridors were not reserved for gossip but used as a chance to cultivate relationships. Social networking platforms and office events were fertile ground to nurture relationships based on commonalities, collaboration and bonding.

Upgrading Skills. Nina and Ravi were always willing to expand their sphere of influence meaning they helped on projects and functions where their expertise besides the functional one furthered the need of the organisation. Nina, for instance, had a knack for project management and ended up volunteering on projects that were not related to her core area of expertise – HR. She was not shy of speaking about her accomplishments or taking on additional work. Nina had also enrolled herself in weekend classes on project management to get certified.

Ravi  represented his organisation at industry -level meetings and trade lobbies. Though an introvert by nature he was starting to enjoy participating in these events, networking and even speaking at smaller, focus groups. He was slowly shaping himself into an influencer who always stayed abreast of industry trends and standards. He wrote articles and papers on his areas of expertise – food processing and agro sector.

Life did not begin and end at the workplace for either Ravi or Nina. Ravi was an adventure junkie and had initiated a Adventurers Unlimited club in his organization. The club had grown in popularity by the time he moved out of his organisation. He ran a language club and also volunteered for social causes run by the CSR department including teaching slum children maths and english. He had met several interesting people through these volunteer projects. Nina had initiated a Buddy Programme as part of the new employee orientation. She made it a point to meet up with group heads and mid-level managers to understand issues and concerns. She held random lunch table meetings with new employees. On weekends she was a lecturer at a management institute mentoring management graduates.

Big Picture for these two was not a seat on the directors’ board but living a more meaningful life. For Nina this meant having time to spend with her family, her garden and two dogs while continuing to volunteer at the old age home and lecture. Through her business venture, she roped in experienced veterans to teach life skills at her sessions for corporate clients and academic institutions. Ravi enhanced the scope of his work at the NGO that provided learning to children living in slums. He used his contacts to get stationary, books and used computers for these children increasing their confidence. He was able to build a proper school and enroll more volunteers for the programme.

Both these people are thriving in the environment they have created. Though both are stressed at finding clients and managing their full calendars, they are enjoying every single minute. They have learnt to be the Boss of their life by managing themselves, their network and their team more effectively.


Be the Boss:

Always look at the Big Picture. Your life does not end and begin with the Organisation

Have Life Skills. Volunteer. Enjoy Activities that are only for your (inner) growth

Build Your Credibility. Communicate.

Network. Professionally and Personally.






Coping with Back Pain

Well like almost everybody I know I’m paying the price for leading an unhealthy lifestyle=long working hours, junk food, minimal to no exercise, no fresh air or sunlight and stress.

Here’s how:

Getting jiggy with it

Getting jiggy with it

The red circle indicates the full-blown disc prolapse on the lower spine, lumbar spine to be exact, and the green circle represents a fledgling one at the crick of the neck.

And that beautiful black and white visual you see is mine own beautiful spine.

The beginning:

Oh wow, my back really hurts doc. I can hardly walk. A fortnight of bed rest along with some pain killers were given. The customary x-ray had shown a small ligament tear. Nothing to worry about said the good doc. I was happy since this gave me a break from chasing headlines and corporate head honchos for afore-mentioned headlines. A cotton mattress was made to order along with matching pillows by a very worried mum. I loved the pampering and all the books I got to catch up on.

A fortnight later I was started off on physio, which at that time (mark you this was a decade back) was stretching exercises.  A week later I was back at my desk complete with desktop, the Collins Advanced Dictionary, Rogets Thesaurus, the Brittanica Encyclopedia, some editions of Time and Newsweek (filched from a colleague) and our inhouse brands (Frontline, Sports Star). Ahem, I did mention this was a decade back, didn’t I?! Back to chasing deadlines, long walks to and from conferences, food at sundry hours but an enjoyable time (had by all including yours truly)

The Middle:

Switching jobs and cities meant catching the very precise trains at Wadala, Church Street, Bandra, Vashi, Church Street…you get the drift. This was Mumbai in the early part of the decade past. Food was at even more sundrier hours, when I could afford it that is unless it was the Vada Pav with its mircha that gave prime time sustenance. Chasing deadlines meant traversing lines across the city and beyond. But note, very active life it was. Stress aplenty but the sprightly version of me managed all of this with a smile and a snarl. Eve teasing was prevalent but not as much as Bangalore. The office was a place you went to park your weary butt and key in a story that had nearly formed in the recesses of your head. The outside beckoned. Endless Cutting chai, walks around Marine Drive admiring the Queen’s Necklace and rounds of shared puffs ended most days.

The Beginning of the End or the Middling-End:

Job switches to take up the role of plumber and carpenter. Like one of my brilliant colleagues said by way of introduction to the new way of journalism. “Forget about writing stories, what we do here is make Tables.”

So there it was. “Table in File” yelled a hundred times and more by fifty vociferous voices and chorused by another fifty. I no longer chased CHs for headlines, which came to me on an engine powered by the Internet. It wasn’t about thinking hard to get that great story peg but acting fast to grab the header and make it the headline. Running across town for stories got replaced by running to the File Head, who usually sat a strike away from you, and food was no longer an issue. Well stocked canteen meant you ate during dinner and had breakfast the next day if on the night shift and ate breakfast at home and lunch as well if you were in one of the odd hour shifts. It was no longer so easy to be sprightly but a gym strategically placed in the office and plenty of nubile nymphets made you conscious if ever the sprightliness was lost.

Brain fatigue at a brain dead job set in since being a first-rate carpenter had never been my lasting ambition so a call to set up a start-up wanting to make it big in a cluttered finance market beckoned. Of course, it’s another matter that a year down the line the start up remained just that but I got out of warming seats for 9 hours as I went back to chasing exclusives and reporters who gave aforementioned exclusives.

A new line beckoned yet again but little did I know that this would be the beginning of the very-near end. Instead of writing I started monitoring what others wrote. 9 hours beholden to the desk, 2.5 hours of travelling across the city on pot-holed roads, 1.5 hours of after-office duties trying to monitor what competitors were up to and of course all this while carrying an extra appendage on the back – the shiny, sparkly laptop. All exciting at first till I started to feel slight cramps in my back. Motion became a problem and I started piling on the pounds.

Nearly 2 years later heavier by a few pounds I switched over to what I thought would be an exciting new line of work. Chasing executives to write their biopics, chasing marketing heads to write their dreams helping them sell more products and make ‘valuable’ contribution to the company’s top and bottom line. I was hooked on to the great career jumboree for in my head I was near the summit of excellence as  I got rewarded for hard work=being on the speed dial of my boss(s), attending all the important meetings, my laptop was my best friend followed by the exec admins of my boss(s), trips overseas and yes more pounds.

The cramped back became a bad back pain. A few day’s of rest alleviated the pain. Visiting an orthopedic never occured, after all there were plenty of people in my team and outside of it who had back pain but still did 72-hour days and beyond with never a complaint. Why couldn’t I?

The pain became chronic. It would start with a dull ache in the center of my back and slowly spread to a 3 inch band. I would lie forward on my desk waiting for it to subside while surreptitiously placing the laptop, where else but on my lap. A visit to the GP after an acute case of back pain meant more anti-inflammatory and pain killers.

One fine morning of an all important trip I could not get out of bed. Sleeping on a cotton mattress had not helped and neither had a hot water bag. A SOS call and stronger pain killers prescribed. I pulled out my lumbo-sacral belt that had gathered dust (remember the beginning and the ligament tear) and wore it around  my waist. Aren’t I a trooper after all?

I finished my meeting but the day after I returned I called up a friend, who was going through something similar and I got my ears chewed out from the long distance belting.

WTF hadn’t I consulted an orthopedic?

WTF had I waited this long to cry out for medical attention?

……and so on and so forth.

New sets of x-ray and prolonged rest recommended. I was back on my feet, and very  strictly advised not to put any pressure on the lower back. ANY PRESSURE.

So I get better, and I’m back to carrying the laptop to work; slouching over the laptop for endless hours; giving the Indian yogi and the India rubberman a run for their money with my unearthly poses; no sunlight; no exercise; unhealthy diet….you get the drift.

Arghhhhhh, aaaaah, ouch, nnnnnnnnnnnghhhhhhhhhhh….one fine morning.

I message my boss : In pain, unable to get out of bed due to severe back pain.

My sympathetic boss messaged the number of his orthopedic. I was ferried to this clinic which was a 40-minute drive and I realised what hell is. Bangalore roads suck!!!

Every single crevice, pothole, speed breaker, cow on the road, kids crossing, bikers trying to cut in…I could feel all of them from my lower back down.

I gritted my teeth, cursed the Gods, cursed the poor ferrier, cursed myself and remembered all the Mumbaiya slang I had forgotten from a life past.

I hobbled to the clinic holding on to my kind ferrier BB, my nails have left marks that are visible to this day and slipped into a chair just as a eel slips into the crevice. Tears streaming down my eyes I limped into his cabin. Lie down, he says and lifts my right leg. Surprisingly I can lift it like a gymnast, supple and firm. His hand reaches out to the left leg and I wince, and an inch more and I cry out loud only stopping myself in the nick of time from cursing him to kingdom come (Good upbringing tells, or didn’t you know).

Bed rest prescribed and this time it meant the only time I could get out was to have a wash and attend to the daily ablutions. Nothing else. A week later when the pain subsided, the MRI was taken. (Another post on this…).

What you have is a surgical disc, he says. Huh, what?!

So essentially, years of bad posture and heavy weight lifting and being indifferent to my poor spine has resulted in the discs between L3,L4,L5 bulging out and putting pressure on the sciatic nerve endings that go to my left leg. I could either opt for surgery or opt for prolonged bed rest and physio. It usually takes between 6 weeks-3 months for normalcy of any sort to return.

As of now my dear readers, for those who care I have opted for the latter. You see, my threshold of pain is rather high and though my left leg is numb with pain caused by the sciatic nerve I still have 2.5 weeks to go before the pain frame runs its course.

Here’s how I’m coping:

  1. PATIENCE (more than enough to cope with churlish remarks about laziness or boorish remarks about being a cripple)
  2. Lying down on my side with my knees slightly curled
  3. Omron Heating Pad, Moov Heating Pad
  4. LS Belt when I walk
  5. Cushioned flipflops/chappals
  6. Quick Meals
  7. Anti-inflammatory
  8. FAITH

No getting up unless it is to the loo

Tried the cotton mattress on a hard floor but getting up put pressure on my leg, so struck it out

On good days: bathe

I have good days now when I can move about and walk around for a bit and even sit for ten minutes or so before I ease into the bed. But at nights, when I lay awake feeling this ceaseless throbbing pain travel down my left glute, hamstring, the knee, calf and finally forming a thorny band around my ankles. Nights when I would like to take an axe to my calf and just lop the leg down because my feet burns and the pain increases to new intensities I never imagined it could touch. At times like these I’m almost tempted to give in and opt for surgery.

But hey, I’m a trooper remember, and so I’m waiting it out!!

Neoexistential crisis…huh, what?!

This is truly a first for me.

How much is too much? and When is too much ENOUGH…

I didn’t mean to be cryptic but thought of letting these questions buzzing in my head out there in the open! Now what’s the deal, eh??

Here goes: I finally found a job that I like working in a place I like for a boss I respect with people I share a good rapport with, the usual stuff notwithstanding, and I get paid a decent sum, which maybe indecent by some standards but heh, whose complaining.

So what’s my gripe you ask..

The problem, and don’t laugh here, is I like my job so much that the world outside has ceased to exist. I wake up at 1 in the morning to check my mails. I respond to mails in such a jiffy that at times I do not read the mail through and end up sending addendums. I’m trying to be the go-to person. I alert my boss to whatever I think is important, even if it means calling him at 10 in the evening (yea yea it is night but in my work-filled haze it is but the start of a pleasant evening when I start working on documents and organising my mail).

I volunteer for work outside my defined profile and JD, and at times end up taking on more than I can chew..and boy, believe me, never knew leather was that tuff…ugh!!

Now I find myself unconsciously donning the role of admin assistant (nowhere near my JD), fairy godmother (you get my drift :-(( ), one-woman army (huh, since when) and doormat.

Yes, and before I forget there are a team of similar drones all over the organisation whom I found ludicrously endearing and leg-stomping hilarious but now…..




I know several people who love to say “We are not here to make friends” when they are in the workplace facing an antagonistic colleague or someone they probably upset by being hyper-assertive.

Somewhere during the span of my over decade-long career I have bought that logic. “We are not here to make friends”

I have seen peers and friends use this stance at work to intimidate an under-performing subordinate or coerce co-operation from colleagues who refuse to tow the line of a corporate agenda or a personal mandate. And do this quite successfully too.

But what about those underlings frustrated at being treated like Man Fridays and Girl Fridays with never a thought about their career aspirations. I have seen many a closed door fights with resignations thrown and water poured over heads; HR playing referee or peacemaker and temporary peace reigning till the next time this stance rises its head again.

So how can camaraderie and work go along hand in hand, would love to hear your thoughts on this……….





Infy’s Mohandas Pai says company plans to hire 40 k people

Times Ascent increases its page count and doesn’t look like an exclusive for Jerry Varghese & co

Consultants are spamming inboxes with job offers even if they do not match or are related to areas of experience

Mad rush to hire again, good for me and sigh, not so good for me……

Coz, naukrihub, monster, apnacircle seem to think I need to update my resume giving me a better chance to get offers coz currently their matches for me equal to security guard, receptionist, sales manager, house keeping, assistant store clerk…you get the picture

Meanwhile, jobsdb and jobscircle and will not be left behind, with alerts mailed on an almost hourly basis. Doesn’t matter if I don’t know the Vb of a VB plus and java is still a better flavour of coffee for me. XYZ from xyz, abc, lmn, and u-know-who wants to spruce my resume so recruiters know I have what they are looking for. All I need to do is shell out a month’s one-way auto fare to my current place of employment. Truly ‘can’t say no‘ offer u say, if only u knew that I travel 2.5 hrs each way. U do the math!!!

Microsoft, Yahoo, Shell, BP and some god-forsaken companies in god-forsaken places want me to fill up a form so I can be considered for openings here. Mr.Ahmed/Achmet/Harifilford or Ms Jane Mary Sheley/Megan watzhername want to share this terrific business opportunity with me, oh glory be, and all I need to do is share my details and they will either :

  • Mail money
  • Mail instructions
  • Transfer funds

Oh even as I write this I’m getting mails galore, oh my, oh my, I have won a 250,000 GBP lottery from Microsoft, Yahoo, Shell, ufillintheblanks co…..and even as I refresh there are more offers….EARN FROM HOME, WORK FROM HOME, Join the thousands of Indians making money from home. Never to say (k)NO (w) to such an opp I open …please mail ur details to free lunches or dinners or even a biscuit these days

Mad rush CONTINUES as lads dump pamplets SAY  ” WORK FROM HOME call 435453452424 now” AND I wait for an auto to go…..





To the Graveyard and Beyond..

If you expect something ghoulish in this post, then you may as well plunge into the world of the AfterLife, where night takes on a new meaning and darkness new dimensions, where shadows stalk your every move and help is not a call away. Welcome to the World of the Graveyard shift.

Yes, without further ado let me tell you where I disappeared to? After promising myself “NO MORE,” five years on I returned to do a graveyard shift, which let me tell you was foisted on.

Day 1 was a drag. Couldn’t wait till the shift started ‘coz I had prepped myself by sleeping most day, having a cold shower followed with hot coffee. Torture indeed!!

Cab came-a –calling, literally. Cabbie used to ferrying bones to the yard made it a point to honk all the way from end of the road to my house, just to ensure his boney customer was ready and waiting. Grumpy neighbours, even grumpier family and a boisterous dog all gathered around to bid a fond adieu to yours truly.

So at work on day 1. Climbing stairs to meet a cheery bahadur, our friendly securitywalla and trudging up further to the floor I worked on. Other days I would hurriedly rush to catch the lift before it clanked shut in my face, today I was curious to see how many other ghouls shared the goal with me. Not a whisper, I could even hear my floater and its lumbering sound on the steps until floor 2 where I was greeted with terrific yells. Apparently, someone’s system had conked off and production schedule was thrown out of gear so there was a terrific to-do between the all-pervading TEAMTECH vs Floor-in-Charge.

Onward I trudged on, as shadows danced around me in the dark. A terrific setting for the opening sequence of CID or the closer in a Ramsay Bros flick. The floor I worked on seemed cheerier at night than day, when it resembled a hospital ward. People only acknowledged silence during tea time or lunch break. Even whispers were looked askance. So there I was playing tag team with 3 other fellow ghouls, interspersed by cheery “hi, welcome aboard” to “chai will be served at 10.30 and snacks at 2.30” – type info thrown my way. Wonderful, I thought until as night progressed, the shift got better.

Music thanks to an obliging BD cum LJ (laptop jockey if you must know). When do I work? was a tempting question to ask but why push your luck I thought. Bonhomie unfettered. Juice, chips et al. Work was in progress with each comrade taking turns at doing what they were paid to do. Long breaks were in order but who was keeping count. Guilt poured down my brow as I was the uninitiated one.  Again the Q popped and again I bid it stay.

Music played on getting happier and happier. Juice came and went, as did scheduled reports. Comrades found time to train the rookie on the rigors of the night shift, what rigors I thought. Foosh ball in competitive spirit broke the monotony, what monotony I thought. Time for another snack break when day break came upon us.

Ghouls slowly parted to meet again for another round in the Graveyard. Time, what time..I didn’t notice it fly by as I loaded myself into the cab for the journey back home amidst a ceaseless drizzle.

PS – This is what the city looks like on a rainy morning..

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