This one is on the you’re-too-young phenomenon. You’d think that being the youngest post-graduate the Indian education system allows for, living alone in an unfamiliar city, earning a salary enough to feed more than one mouth and managing it all with grace would make you somewhat of an overachiever. You’d think it would make you eligible for some respect (if not downright awe). Externalist as it is on your part, you’d expect that the fact that you are managing a career and a life people ten years elder find difficult to pull off, the fact that friends and colleagues from other generations turn to you for personal and professional advice would hold some credit in the eyes of the world.
You’d be wrong.
Its funny – how they laud you and herald you as a boon to mankind when you ‘stand first’ at school, when you top your university or when you crack an entrance supposed to be the toughest known to education in your first attempt. But the moment it is job-seeking time, suddenly you are the lowest of the low. No more boon to mankind. No more young genius. Suddenly, with no years of experience on that sheet of paper that decides every human’s worth, you are the Scum of the Universe. Recruiters are not willing to touch you with a ten-foot pole. And this is just the beginning of the extravaganza heading you way.
There’s that first job. You’d think that starting working with a label bigger than half your organization stamped to your forehead would count for something.
And the first day at work is enough to illustrate how wrong, exactly.
After the first round of introductions (of which “Where did you work before IIM?” is a surprisingly indispensable part), the cat is out of the bag. The difference between 5 measly months’ worth of typing code versus none makes more difference than you could have imagined. Mind numbingly, it is the difference between people treating you as an equal versus people all but pulling your cheeks.
Suddenly there are just 2 kinds of people walking the earth as far as you are concerned – the mother-figures and the father-figures. Its baby crèche all over again. Except, this time, there’s no ice cream. You have your senior female colleagues looking at your with welling eyes, seeing their rotten teenage kids in you and force feeding their leftover nutrition to you at the lunch table much against your will. And then you have the male part of the population showering you with their un-asked-for pearls of wisdom.
(At this point, you will notice that most guys come up with a stop-gap solution for this by growing a stubble. Its amazing how much weight a little vegetation on your face adds to other’s opinion of you. Alas, us girls do not have that option. Not that I am complaining. My suggestion to the ladies: Enjoy the food and pray someone younger comes along soon.)
The family and friends. These change stances in the blink of an eye, the day you get your job. As you step into the much-dreaded ‘real world’, they seem to take upon themselves, the crusade of protecting you from its evil clutches (which are, strangely enough, feeding you sprouts at the office lunch table).
From the intelligent, mature person who has made a mark for themselves through their sheer grit and toil, you overnight become the bumbling starry-eyed kid in the big city. Your ideals that they once loved and respected you for, suddenly become ‘a passing phase of idealism’. Or worse, that expression I have come to detest and hate with every fiber of my body – ‘the honeymoon period’.
Colleagues, clients, family and friends. These well meaning souls will do all that is in their power to get you to their Dark Side. And unless you display an equal capacity to crib about how unfair life is and how the world seems to be fast approaching a well deserved gruesome end, unless you shed that very last shred of optimism and faith in the goodness of man, they will not be convinced that you have ‘grown up’ (grrr…). Demonstrate a sense of disillusionment and frustration vying with theirs for the first place, and they will nod wisely and say something to the tune of “Welcome to the real world”. Now, they are finally convinced you have come on your own. Now, they can finally sleep at night.
And, of course, hold your breath all that time while you desperately pray for the next newbie to make an appearance soon – the junior from campus, the oven-fresh new joinee at work, the younger cousin – whoever. It’s a predative world out there. Lesson #1.