Shinjini, was introduced to me by my senior as a new colleague. Short, petite, young and enthusiastic, is what I made out of her first appearance. She sat next to me, looking at the screen, the reports and ERP that we used. It was her first day so as usual HR was hounding her.
At lunch time, all the gals (ours being an all gals team) pulled out their 'dabbas', got up and left. Shinjini was looking around skeptically. And that is something I absolutely abhore about females in the corporate world, god knows why can't they be courteous to their own sex, and then make such a humdrum about males treating them right!
"I usually go a little later than the rest as the canteen is crowded, come with me when I go, unless you wanna go right away!" She relaxed and smiled and came to my desk. We did the routine round of buying the coupon and taking a plate and found a table to sit.
As the conversation unfolded, I realized she was married and she also had a one year old baby. She just didn't look like a mom! I mean not that you have to look a particular way if you become one, or God stamps you with a 'Mom' stamp on your forehead. But she was just as peppy and as perky as any other single, unabashed, independant woman. It was a love marriage for her; her husband was her senior in college. They both had made it inspite of severe opposition from both sides and you could see the 'Merit' of that decision from the confidence she exuded when she spoke about relationships and life. The world was at her feet. I didn't understand it so much as I do now, that a relationship can make or break you. When you are with the right person, you know you can face any goddamn situation even if its an unknown one! And if not, you will watch your steps on an already trodden path too! I am not fighting a case for marriage here, but marry if and only you find the right person... You can be 'happily married', you can be a 'content couple', but the real game is when you are 'the right team'!
One year ago she was working with a very big brand name in our Industry. She was handling a team of people and doing a swell job of it. It was a tough decision for her to let it go as she consciously decided to devote full time to her growing child. Those people promised her the moon, to make her stay; but she decided to quit. Her comeback was more of a assertion of the fact that she had made the right decision then and a note to the corporate world that a quality resource doesn't get corroded just because he/she decides to go on a sabbatical due to personal reasons.
Shinjini didn't go back to her previous office only because this place was closer to her house. Every morning she would get her toddler ready for the day, drop him off at the creche and come walking to the office, in the evening she would go at 4.30 pm, pick up the kid at 5 and her husband picked both of them from there. The husband and wife took care of his cleaning and feeding. She cooked, served dinner and the day would end. Of course you had a few days when baby was running high fever, or the baby spilled the entire vessel of milk on the carpet or the made didn't turn up. But our lady was managing.
Office incidently wasn't less demanding either. It was newly established entity, there were nascent systems in place, gruelling reporting requirements, work pressures were more severe and she was new too. Her predecessor was too perplexed about having been chucked out from her role so she didn't help Shinjini much too. She tried to start from the basic inflow of data, to the processing, and finally the output. She sat with every individual in her team to understand what they were doing and made an all-out effort to get into the groove. Slowly, the 4.30 pm stretched to 5.30, 5.30 to 6.00, so on and so forth. Once she said to me, "The look on my baby's face when he is the last one to be picked up from the creche crushes my spirits."
She reported to a woman who was a self-proclaimed epitome of the modern emancipated corporate woman. A conventional DINK, age just spilling into forties. A holiday to 'spend some quality time at home' was uncomplimentary for her. The only thing she enjoyed was showing down people by pointing out their inefficiencies especially if the underlying cause was personal gratification or personal happiness. She took pride in the fact that she missed out on some crucial milestones in life because of her career.
Shinjini turned out to be a delicious target. Firsty, she was new; she had no clue what used to happen before her as nobody told her; if she tried to find out herself, obviously out of 10 she would get 5 things wrong; she had too many questions and asked again if she it didn't make sense to her. And she experimented alternatives to the sluggish systems too. Her Manager pounced at every opportunity to tell her that she went wrong somewhere, or that she wasn't too involved in her work, as all she cared was about leaving office in time (That was Shinjini's tagline... 'we have to leave in time like other departments, so we have to organize ourselves'). And there was our David up against Goliath, even before she knew the corridors of the office well.
One day I found her, grappling to leave office at 6.00 pm and our Mrs. Goliath was hell bent on making her stay for an issue which she was supposed to work on, but was stuck because of somebody else. According to her, if that other guy gave inputs at 9 p.m. our lady should hang around even then. Goliath wanted her in office on an official holiday too, to add to her woes, creche had a holiday that day. The reason was the entire department was working that day.
Somehow the scheme was not working out as expected. Was she an inefficient parent or a rusty employee or both put together? She knew she could turn the place around once she knows the system. She knew everything would work on schedule in the department once she puts it in. Then no more late hours, no more of making her baby wait. But in reality, it was all falling apart. Her husband wasn't saying much about it, but she could see it. He was over-sympathetic and over-encouraging, as one is with an underperforming ward in school.
One day Shinjini came to office about an hour late. The lady at the creche was concerned about her Son, he was becoming irritable which he never was. As soon as it was evening time, there would be a gloom on his face and he just went quite. Goliath, just happened to see her walk in and said, "you aren't very particular about the in-time I guess!" Well, firstly Goliath could have asked her about the delay. She could have been stern if she was doing it everyday. An average boss would simply ask what happened? Your subordinate is not a school gal to be spoken to like that.
That day Shinjini called me after office. She was so perplexed. There was a reputation she carried with her name in her previous organisation and here she was struggling with operations. Its much easier for an average guy to make it big, but its a great calamity for a maestro to become mediocre. Her previous organisation had called her and they were restoring her old designation and salary and her previous manager had even enquired in a creche near that office for her son; she was strongly contemplating that offer. "The only thing that is killing me is I am quitting without living up to the challenge." And I said to her, "If you took up that job, probably in the larger scheme of things, you actually would have killed the beast.
Next month, I was out of town and she quit. She stayed at home for a week, and joined the old place. One day I was having lunch with Goliath's superior and he said, "I have heard Shinjini goofed-up a couple of things while she was here!" I instinctively had an urge to tell him that she was performing exactly the same role as she was supposed to with us, in a competitor's office, and was evidently happy to be where she was right now.
Well... when I sign a contract for employment, do I sell my soul to the devil? Does the contract ever mention I have to give up a happy family back home to earn that money, is it even called for? Are we making Rockets or satellites in office to devote that kind of time? Why should it be sinful if a drink with my friends after a day's work is more precious to me than the day's work? And why should a sabbatical of one or two years from my ohh-so-long working life, to make babies, to write a book, to backpack around the world, to start a business; be such a big deal? It is my life, and all I traded were those specific hours out of my life... and people if you are giving anything more, make sure you are paid for it and if not, there are more precious moments which you are losing out on, which cannot be measured in money.
Arnav is two now; a very naughty and playful child. Goliath still occupies the Valley of Elah. Shinjini is doing her best, which is reflecting in her appraisals. She does have late hours but things are more organized. And Kim Clijster is back as the US Open Women's champion after a sabbatical of 2 yrs and a baby one year old.