On a dreary day at work, I decided to take an in situ break from work with my colleagues. The mini office seats Rash – the warrior, Ants – the foodie, Abs – the events guy, Neers – the designer and me.
The warrior was out, and it was the four of us in office.
My communications with the representatives from the Department of Social Welfare had been going back and forth, with no clear results. I was also annoyed with some directives issued to me. Some bits of information I gathered bothered me a little. I was debating over morality of decisions. I felt tired. At that moment, I wanted to go away for a Vipassana retreat.
I had broached the subject of Vipassana meditation with my colleagues. They showed interest in knowing more. We spoke about it for a while.
I then moved my chair to the centre of the hall that seats us, and asked Ants, who was at the other end, “If there was one thing you really wanted to do in your whole life, your single dream that you wanted to come true, what would it be?”
Ants is a chubby, cheerful person with a heart of gold. She loves to talk about dreams and wishes. “I want to clear the final group of Chartered Accountancy exams. I just want to do that. Everything in my life has boiled down to becoming a CA. If I had to ask for one thing, that would be it.”
Abs and I protested over, what we called her myopic vision of life. But she was clear.
I then posed the same question to Abs.
“I want to go away to a quiet and peaceful place and settle over there. Alone. I want no company. I want nature, peace and serenity. I don’t want anyone around me.”
So far, so good.
I turned to Neers with the same question.
Neers is a short, thin, dark guy, very soft spoken and very courteous. He is our designer. He is recovering from appendicitis. His appendix burst at work about two months ago, and he went on a one month leave. He has been with the organization I am currently doing a project with for over three years, yet he is a contract employee. He doesn’t get any employee benefits, gets a pittance in the name of salary, and yet he works diligently, painstakingly, day in and day out. He is not particularly scholarly, but he is good at his work – designing. He comes from a humble background, and doesn’t talk unnecessarily.
When I posed the question to him, he pulled away his chair from his computer monitor to face me with a sad smile and said, “Ma’am, mere zindagi ka ek hi sapna hai – ki mujhe ek sarkari naukri mil jaaye. Wo kuchh bhi ho, kaisi bhi ho, bas ek sarkari naukri mil jaaye. Aur kuchh nahi chahiye mujhe.”
(“Ma’am, I have just one dream in my life – that I get a government job. I’ll accept any role, I just want a government job. I don’t desire for anything else in life.”)
Neers grew up dreaming of a permanent government job. Not a lot of money, but security and stability. The fact that he works day in and day out without any acknowledgement, verbal or monetary, does bother him. The fact that he doesn't earn on days he takes a sick leave breaks his heart. Even though he maintains equanimity through everything that is said to him, even when he shrugs off the disrespect people show him, I can see the sadness and disappointment in his eyes.
He works very hard. He never says no. He is extremely soft-spoken and humble. He is a pushover. He is a simple man, with simple needs, simple wants. All he wants is stability in return for his efforts. When I shared my lofty dream of traveling the world after listening to Neers, I felt sad, self-centered and selfish. Some dreams are as simple as that, and yet it is a gargantuan effort to realize them. Some things are so uncomplicated, and yet people don't bother to spend a minute to understand them. For reasons that I had not fathomed at the outset, this job is proving to be an immensely valuable learning experience.
I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, but I really hope that Neers, Abs and Ants do.