Two semesters at IMT had worn me out. I led a wild existence, going to bed at two AM, being woken up again at three AM for a project or committee meeting and then crashing into bed at around six, only to have the alarm shrieking by eight.
Breakfast would be eaten in a daze and then I’d go into a coma in class. I’d stare glassily at various lecturers who inhabited the podium for an hour and half each until it was time for lunch. They could have set fire to themselves or swallowed tube lights for all the difference it made to me. I treated each one of them to the same vacuum of indifference.
Post lunch, I’d try to crawl into bed for a few hours of sleep but then the phone would ring again. More committee work. I’d wail and complain but I had no choice. My conscience would gnaw at me leaving me both sleepless and feeling very guilty. The nap would be postponed and I’d report at the office.
Once at the office, I’d make dozens of calls everyday. As part of the committee, I was responsible for implementing a number of initiatives. Most of the initiatives involved making cold calls and cajoling people into helping us out. I deeply disliked calling up individuals who were complete strangers to me and sweet-talking them into agreeing to an idea. I wasn’t actually bad at it, I was pretty successful at converting nay sayers into reluctant helpers but the very idea of sweet-talking bothered me. The feeling that to most people I was a chirpy, persistent and thorny individual who wouldn’t take no for answer tore at my conscience. Everyday when I looked at the long list of names and phone numbers of people I would have to call, my heart would grow heavy. If anybody called me ten times a day to sell an idea I really wasn’t keen on listening to, I’d rip him to pieces. Yet, I was the one doing the selling.
The afternoon would melt into evening and my nap would be reluctantly abandoned. After some snacks, it was time for more calling or for holding a meeting. I attended a lot of meetings in the last 8 months. Some were scheduled but more often than not, they were emergency meetings. These meetings threw my own schedule into disarray and left me very irritable. I started getting tired of being on call 24/7. When I was hurrying to the committee office and saw my friends unwinding over a game of basketball, my stomach would clench with jealousy.
I began to miss writing. It’s hard to compose light, pleasant humor when all your brain can do is worry about meeting targets and deadlines. It’s even worse when you don’t even believe in what you are marketing.
In the beginning of the third semester, I was fortunate enough to win the debate at IIT Kharagpur along with my friend Ali. Somehow the win helped me put things in perspective. For the first time in months, I had really enjoyed myself. I decided to quit the committee and focus on activities I preferred doing and not stuff where I’d be forced to meet targets.
My decision was met with disbelief in college. Surely I wouldn’t want to leave what was considered to be a fairly prestigious committee. When I pointed out that it was permanently eating into my time, I was told that I wasn’t managing my time properly. All that was needed apparently was a little focus and a little commitment and it would not be that tough. Look at ‘X’ they’d say. He takes time out for himself and still manages, why not you?
It troubled me. Was I just a lousy manager of time? Perhaps if I were a little more organized, life wouldn’t be so difficult. Could it be that I was running away from what was unpleasant? Were my friends right?
But then I realized they didn’t understand. To ‘X’ taking out time meant playing tennis and spending time with his girlfriend. To me taking out time means sitting in front of my laptop and trying to write something funny or thoughtful. To be funny or thoughtful, I need to spend a large amount of time doing absolutely nothing. I need my mind to wander aimlessly. Out of the million thoughts that stroll casually through my head and saunter out, I need to latch firmly onto one. And that wouldn’t happen if I was attending a meeting at four in the morning.
And so I quit. My friends thought I was either lazy or nuts or both. I tried ignoring them as I settled it into my new life. Initially the amount of free time I had unsettled me. I could now sleep in the afternoon and go jogging in the evenings. I had time to have dinner outside instead of settling for the same dull fare at the mess.
But now I enjoy the sheer freedom of not being at the committee’s beck and call. No more emergency meetings, no more cajoling phone calls and no more saccharine sweetness while dealing with irate individuals.
But best of all, I love lying idly in bed wondering about what I’ll try my hand at writing today. I have dreams of finally writing my book, of being published and being famous. The thought of making it in life without running around meeting targets and deadlines appeals to me immensely. Its my way of winking and sticking my tongue out at the focused and driven achievers who dot the MBA landscape.