Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Bumming Around

Right. Unemployed for more than a month now. Not looking for a job. Its been different.

This was not my original intention. I was looking to switch jobs. Two or three interviews later, I decided to screw it. I am forty years old and discovered the thought of remaining a honourable salaryman for the rest of my life repellent.

But being jobless leaves an eight hour hole in your day – and surprisingly, it hasn’t been too difficult to fill that gap. The first couple of days, I was at a loss. I used to drive around. I hung around at coffee shops smoking endless cigarettes and watching people come and go. I hit the gym again, after years. Spent hours at bookshops, reading stories of the green lantern corps.

Played games. Naturally. Red Dead Redemption, Assassin’s Creed, The Force Unleashed, Mass Effect (1 & 2). DA:O.

I reread the Wheel of Time. I would sit on a stone bench at the Independence Day park and lose myself in Randland. Compare Brandon Sanderson’s books with RJs. Reread TGS and TOM over and over. Make lists of plot threads needing resolution.

I reread Robert Fisk’s fantastic The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East . Artemis Fowl. Identity and Violence. Most of Grant Morrison’s Batman run.  Even got used to the idea of Damien Wayne as Robin. Oh and Edgar Wallace – The Iron Grip. The Feathered Serpent. The Four Just Men. The Council of Justice. The Law of the Four Just Men. The Reeder books. The Avenger. The Traitor’s Gate. Reread my favourite James Bond books. OHMSS. Casino Royale. You Only Live Twice. Read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Tripped on the verses in Sylvie and Bruno. The Hunting of the Snark. My Lucky Lukes and Asterixes.

I watched BtVS, every episode from Season 1 to Season 7, from “Welcome to the Hellmouth” to  “Chosen”.
Watched “Hush” and “Something Blue” and “Nightmares” and “School Hard” and “The Pack” multiple times. I watched “The Prisoner”. The Star Wars  six pack. Jeeves and Wooster. And the Astaire/Rogers eight pack. Avatar, The Last Airbender. (The DiMartino/Konietzko masterpiece, not Shyamalan's dreck movie version)

Listened to music. Listened in a way I hadn’t listened to music for a long time. To stuff I hadn’t heard in years. Love. Fairport Convention. Traffic. Supertramp. Roy Orbison. Watched all my Springsteen Videos – from the early Rosalita recordings to the London Calling at Hyde Park. More on that later.

Started cycling. Madras in January is wonderful for cycling. Went around the city, listening to 80s songs, the synthesized sweetness of OMD and TFF and Madonna gently offset by the tearing in my thighs. Went to the Marina beach in the morning and stood in the water, playing like a child in the waves.  Riding around with nowhere to go makes even the worst gridlocks and traffic signals enjoyable.

Spent four days at an ashram. Meditating and yoga and other new agey stuff. Watched a concurrent sunrise and moonset. Spent more time at peace with myself than I have before.

Of course, its not all been roses and fractals. Its not exactly pleasurable to deal with parents who make no secret of their displeasure at your unemployed status, or a sister who wields guilt like a scalpel, in conjunction to a mother who prefers the spiked club approach. Its no fun to hear melodramatic sniffs that you are meant to hear. Its irritating to be told how your cousin – who’s been respectably employed in Oracle for a decade, is now planning his sons’ upanayanams. It’s painful to hear the bile in your mother’s voice when she discusses the US employed or the newly married members of the family, with a meaning look in her eye. It’s frustrating to listen to sister who asks if my current status means that she has to prepare herself to take care of a fading parent – if such a thing is necessary, of course. And all this is over and above your own self doubt and all the questions you have no answers for. Maybe I will have to go crawling back to one of my old bosses and beg for a job. Maybe I am doomed to cubicle hell. Maybe what I think I want is completely screwed up. Maybe I’ve fallen for too many homilies and platitudes. So many maybes…

But then, there are all those lyrics -

Little doubts, little doubts, they keep coming round. Carry On. Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time, its easy. It's my direction, it's my proposal, it's so hard it's leading me astray...

So I don’t know. On balance, there has been beauty and grace – a great deal more in my world since I quit my job. It should do, for now. Even if the mermaids do not sing to me, its cool that I hear their song.