Article by Pratima Harigunani
Not everyone gets to be Jerry. Rats are either busy belling their cats or running madly alongside their brothers in the good old rat race. That’s why rats squeak and birds chirrup.
WHAT’S the toughest problem about climbing a mountain, a tree, a staircase or a rope? The height? The stamina? The balance? Or the crabs nibbling away at your feet?
The answer does not hit many of us till it’s ouch, too late.
Ever heard of the phrase ‘barking up the wrong tree’?
Nothing hurts a person most than the moment when after reaching the top, one finds out that the ladder s/he was climbing was actually the wrong one.
We all have ladders. We choose them. At work. At home. Life. Career. Society. Everywhere.
But what’s the point in panting breathlessly to the lonely spot at the acme, when it leads you to the peak of a dump yard and not the Mt. Everest you imagined.
I know I am sounding all preachy, weirdly philosophical, and too quixotic for a Monday morning and all that.
Sometimes a yawning student tells you that without using as many words.
So, better make it quick.
Every time, I see those glorious dreams of conquering the corporate elevators in those fresh, young, raring-to-go eyes, I take a torturous moment to warn them.
Anything, any height, absolutely any level one picks is attainable. After all, it’s not about conquering the mountain, but conquering yourself.
But do you really want to pick a mountain where you will be the CEO, or some hi-flier name plate, with so many cars, so many yachts or so many acquisitions?
Do you really want to waste your life using your friend, your colleague or neighbor’s son as the lifelong reference point? And every time getting disappointed, whether you lead or lag?
Well, If that makes you happy, you are not a lesser mortal. That’s not what I mean. To each his/her own. We all have our own versions of happiness.
But before you decide which tree you want to ascend, try and Google this word – Downshifting.
When I first bumped into this word, I too thought of it as some far-flung, alien trend happening somewhere in the US or Britain.
April and June are celebrated as Downshifting weeks did not strike any chord then.
That it was more than a fad, was very well underscored by many surveys, like a study by Clive Hamilton, wherein the Australian Institute conducted a survey, which revealed that 23 per cent or about a quarter of Australian adults had chosen to downshift in last ten years. Britain and US show similar patterns.
Yes, it means going down one gear, slowing down. When this automobile nuance gets extrapolated onto the corporate pedals, it is hinting at those ‘weird’, ‘maverick’, ‘crazy’ bunch of people, who suddenly leave their corporate jets, jump off from their career altitudes and land on the land of a simple life.
Some of these people are trying to wave goodbye to too-much-materialism, while some of them want to devote time to priorities (like health, family, friends, environment, community) they feel have been shadowed by hectic lifestyles. Some just do it in a bolt-from-the-blue-moment-of-sheer-epiphany, when they realize that their true happiness or passion is elsewhere, and not in the cubicle where everyone is just an inhuman corporate coolie.
Trust me, I have seen these feelings, heard these words, and experienced these sentiments in more places than a magazine story or a survey.
I have seen friends asking the same frustrating ‘what-the-heck-am-I-doing-here’ question. I have seen acquaintances, who are beaming with happiness after relocating out of a metro and doing stuff like paintings, restaurants or pottery.
I have seen yesteryear corporate junkies, looking so much better, feeling so much better just because they can now pay attention to their health.
People who have toiled for years to earn that car, that bungalow, pay that EMI and get that promotion. They leave it all one fine day!
And not like monks who sell their Ferraris. Not also like silver-haired elders who have a spiritual calling, after 55 years or 60 years. These people do not live in monasteries, and they are very much well-coiffed, young heads.
It’s not about old age but some good old questions.
Do you want to waste your time crawling all the way up, when somewhere; intuitively you already know that your happiness lies elsewhere? If you value your health and your passions, and your family way above those pay-cheques or preposterous societal pats, you better save yourself before it’s too late.
Does that mean that you should not apply for a job and rather start roaming in jungles with cameras, or notepads or frying pans?
Absolutely not. Live a good life.
Ask your self these questions whenever you get time:
1. Does this work make me happy?
2. Do I feel alive on a Monday Morning?
3. Have I been ignoring my family and friends for my boss?
4. Do I make any difference?
5. Does this new shirt or phone make me happy, or make me happy because I make someone else jealous?
6. Would I really mind it or die if I earned a few bucks less, worked a few hours less and may be moonlight for something I like?
7. Have I got this raise at the cost of my health?
The point is poignant and simple. Know that you should always have a parachute handy when you realize it’s too much. Heights are great. Only when they uplift you. Not when they transport you into a pierced ozone layer where you gasp for oxygen.
That’s why sometimes downshifting is more fulfilling.
That’s why a Shayar warned very rightly:
In Hakikaton se zoozte zoozte hum ye bhool gaye. Ki ek Khwab bhi khada tha mere sone eke intezaar mein.
Long lecture. Sorry. Explains why my students snore so much.
Mercy for now. More torture later.
Till then watch your gears.