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Cinderella Man in times of Recession- Of Lists and Pink Slips


For men, what they do is the inevitable second question in social interaction and being in-between job is not an inspiring answer. It puts a question mark on their very existence, what does a man exist for if not to provide for those who depend on him, just as what does a woman exist for if not to love and fulfil the emotional hollowness of a man? The man who just lost his name and has become a number on the list has no clue on how to respond to this sudden change in his existence. Lists are cruel, cold-hearted and top-down. One can not talk or reason with a list. The name as an individual gives an opportunity to counter, convince and cajole; The number as an individual takes away all those opportunity. It looks less of a judgement on your capability, more like the outcome of a faltering dice thrown up in the air. You can argue with a reason, you can not with the stroke of misfortune.



The government of the day is moving from disaster to disaster. The celebration of completion of three years in power (did you think, in service) ends with a free slide of Rupee. A large telecom behemoth which used to be an inspirational vocation for most people in the industry, known for great employee friendly policies including a five-star quality Gymnasium in the office and flexible work hours, came out with a list of around two hundred people, another one from China showcasing the Chinese march, which seemed to have borrowed the British adage of the empire on which Sun did not set, now is looking at the Sun sinking around the horizon and has come with a list of its own of almost equal numbers, though not in Mandarin.
When crisis turns in to disaster, names loose relevance and a man's identity is confined to a number. The man who was intelligent, kind, obnoxious, industrious, lazy, funny, somber - is suddenly a number. Survival kills ambition, and one is no longer worried about job content, and is rather content with having a job. There is a reason to it as to why we have these lists, people seldom get fired one a day. People keep talking in hush tones around coffee machines, waiting with bated breath for the day when the doomed list might arrive, and pray to whoever they believe in for not having their name on the list, with the same fervor with which they would have prayed years back, begging to see their name on the list - the list of college admission, the list of candidates selected for employment.
Crisis restores faith, and when confidence in self is so shaken, it finds a hinge to hang on to in God and Destiny. It might sound discriminatory to advocates of gender equality, the fact remains that while being out of job when being gainfully employable is excruciating to every one, it is truly catastrophic to men being out of job. Our centuries of positioning which has placed men to play the role of a provider, Women mostly being in job for reasons other then being a provider, to prove themselves, to make a case of gender equality, to enhance and augment a sense of individualism, to have an unquestioned account of expense, to kill time, whatever.
Another aspect which makes this even more pronounced is what was hinted by noted modern age thinker, Alain De Botton, when he talks about the idea of meritocracy. He says the basic premise of meritocracy is that if you are good enough, you can be anything. A corollary to that is the thought that you can always be good enough if you choose to be. By that premise, he argues, a non-achiever who was termed in middle age as "unfortunate" is termed as a "loser" today. This, he proposes, takes aways any influence that fortune or destiny might have had on the current state of a person and increase the sting in the ill-luck that might have befallen on a person for the reasons being entirely not of his doing. I posit, in the same line, that destiny might not be pre-ordained or be based on some of your Karma from earlier life, but does have a role to play in your life. There are events happening elsewhere which you neither have the understanding nor influence to control, whether it be Bunga-bunga parties of the Italian premier, the fallen Greece, or Indian government's attempt to "give the citizens a party which will make them forget the miseries that they are living in" with CWG a-la the Romans of earlier centuries, keeping citizens busy with gladiatorial fights.
Things happen, and even more often, bad things happen. People make mistakes, then correct them, and sometime people doing well, decide to make mistakes and it falls on the last man in the line to make sense out of all the fool-hardy happening at the bonus happy echelons of large organization, while the stock market, claps, whistles and cheers in anticipated turn-arounds and every one makes money and go home happy. The man at the end of the queue, having long seen neighbours and co-workers loosing jobs, positions and relevance, with a feigned ignorance and studied self-belief that it can never happen to you, stares at his name at 28th number on the list and a notice of a month.
What can one do in such time? I have not answer.
I have been through it, when the guy at the top, who hired people as he decided to join the happy carnival of Information Technology at the turn of century,  decided one fine day to get out of it and close the division. I had nothing to do with it, I did not break it but was left to collect the pieces. I was nothing but collateral damage of corporate stupidity on the top, responding to the political stupidity which necessitated for them to do something to survive, and this is the best they could come up with. It makes you question the whys and wherefores of your existence. It brings a constant chill of scare down your spine, which stays with you in the following years of your work life. The helplessness which you feel at such moment is true, you need to chew on it and accept and understand that it is not your doing. You, your competence, or lack of it, had nothing to do with it. To quote, or mis-quote from Somerset Maugham, there is no justice in it, there is no reason to it," the rain falls on just and unjust alike" (much to our chagrin).  It is like being on the stage and loosing the microphone due to some technical flaw suddenly. As an expert actor what you need to do is that while you loose your voice do not loose your script. Keep talking even when no one can listen, so when the sound is back you are on the track. Do not let go of working on polishing off the rough edges of your professional being.  Keep  working on your skills, your abilities which you had and which you wanted to have, but never had time to inculcate. Keep your head, no matter how bad things are, they could have been worse. Discover your dreams, there could be something potent in you lying undiscovered, hit the gym, join a music class, writing class. Share the tiny twinkles in your child's eyes. You are not the sum-total of your job, you are much beyond it. You are the man, not only the provider of the existence and physical sustenance, you are the provider of dreams, the gardener of new herbs, the guardian of ethics and righteousness, you are the one who needs to teach your kids what they should do when they grow up, which to quote from Ayn Rand in "Atlas Shrugged " is "the Right thing".
Father's Day has just been around the corner, and in the midst of such gloom around, I can only tell my child from Neitzsche, I teach you overman, you need to go beyond a man. Man is but the bridge between the ape and the Overman, and we are walking over the abyss. I hold your hand, and we will walk over it together.
Atlas has shrugged today and we are therefore being governed by timid, self-serving souls, we need to create, nurture and preserve the Atlas for tomorrow, so that the present do not repeat itself in future.
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