I can never quite forget a cartoon I saw depicting the possible phenomenon that when a pet and its master stay with each other for too long, one starts looking like the other. Not quite straying from the point, since we all know that India created the concept of Zero a long time ago, can I be blamed if I feel that the value of the creator and its creation are therefore not dissimilar? In today’s context, it translates as a country that seeks nondescript sitting on the fence, never being tempted to excel, attempting but never achieving – because then that would be the end of the road.
My preamble is aimed at all those who are trying to surpass the next; my sincerest word of advice is “Don’t”. Excellence costs dearly; Mediocrity pays well. Keep near the Zero; its safer and more comfortable at a C level than a treacherous A level. You can stand up and be counted; at an A level, you are pushed into a class apart. It’s better to be trying than be crying, because so called success can lead into even more trying, and distressing, circumstances. As an also-ran, you may be called pint sized; as a doomed winner, you will be ostracized. It’s better to be a member and part of a rat race than be a lone cat. See Tom and his Jerries. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about – I should know.
In school, I both read and wrote voraciously and enjoyed the feel of the language. Eager to share my expertise with my mediocre class fellows, I often helped them with their essays and short stories. Obviously my largesse did not escape the vigil of our teacher. Though I was congratulated for my Christian charity, I failed miserably in each class though my mates did well. Reason? Logic ruled that if I shared my virtues, I must share the marks awarded; my own grades were reduced pro rata by grades afforded to others. Did I learn the true value of comfort at C level then? Alas. No.
Years later, I bagged a coveted job with an Australian Colliery as a Content Manager, putting my heart and soul into the rigours of my assignments. My efforts were lauded by the leading international who’s who, who recalled my stint as one of the big assets of the program. Came the end of the project, my ego got a kick in the assets; I was never recalled. All attempts to contact Personnel were thwarted, paradoxically reducing me to the role of Lazarus – from Leprechaun to Leper. Even then, rigor mortis should have set in on my vigorous rigors, but it was yet too early to comprehend the wisdom of C level.
After a brief interlude, I started working with an advertising agency, armed with clear concepts, copy-writing skills and a sensitive feel of the resurgent market. Teaching clients that this counts and that counts, I was compelled to realize that all they really wanted was discounts and more discounts. My skills had proven an embarrassment for them, I daresay, because they felt they were bound to pay for it. So they would, in their individual capacities, take off Icarus style into the Sun, never to return, not because of melting wax, but because of pending arrears. Even then, no strategy had yet evolved as to not being so involved, so the agency folded up origami style as a tribute to level A.
In dogged pursuit, (cur)se me for that, I freelanced to service a market leader in the hospitality sector, learning all the innuendos of guest care, guest relations, sales promotion, interiors for theme restaurants, theme shows and programs etc and graduating on to secret audits on employee services, and other surveys on public acceptability of future politics. I was relying on the fact that my boss was US trained, unbiased and quality conscious. He consistently rated me as ‘the best’, which only served to redouble my efforts with the feeling that he seemed to have more faith in me than I had in myself.. The mutually beneficial honeymoon went on for a year until the gravitational force of nepotism took over, bringing India’s Zero into place. Even then, stupidly, like Jude I was obscure. I passionately objected to my being taken over by a novice, outlining the gravity of consequences to the institution. I was heard impassively, and promised that, with time, I’d be back. I never was. An Institution, once highly seeded, has reportedly since gone to seed, protected by employees comfortable at C level. More the fool I. The only sane one to hang on to his Laurel was Hardy, and see what it got him – the position of a laughing stock.
I always prided myself in effective letter writing, getting accolades from luminaries as diverse as Indian corporate CEOs and VP (Marketing) of Paramount Pictures, Tata Steel. Ryerson etc. “Your letters make for compulsive reading”. I daresay, such comments would have made Oscar wild. Colleagues, partners and correspondents said similar things. Needless to say, I don’t know whether they contracted the mad cow disease, but I never heard from them again.
Recently I was ordained as assistant creative head (whatever that is supposed to mean) with a successful ad agency. Not crossing my brief this time, after due sanction I revamped their antediluvian logo, gave them a b(u)y line, designed their corporate folder, created in-house ads that were subsequently blown up – (not in terrorist terms), mounted and displayed all over the office. To boot (an unfortunate expression), I contributed in getting them valuable national accounts in proper sequence, but that was ultimately of no consequence. All my other colleagues who worked and continue to work at C level survived and happily. I did not. Because the boss dictates the toss; after all, he is the only A level headed guy permitted in the organization!
So young wannabes, aspire but don’t perspire. Seek comfort at C level. Destination Achievement is a Cul De Sac – you can only turn and go back.