Skydiving : When seconds feel like hours

So here’s a photo blog of my skydiving-at-the-hamptons adventure! Keep calm. I wasnt scared or nervous as it looks in these pics ūüôā My instructor said I should’ve been though. It was not normal how I jumped from the plane from a height of 10,000ft. without blinking. Well, maybe I have secret suicidal instincts? I kept on screaming through those seconds out of sheer excitement and the unbelievable ease by¬†which I could fly like a bird, which has been my unrealistic dream since forever. I have always wished to be born as a bird (but preferably a bird of prey. Dont ask me why.) in some¬†life.

Skydiving is one of those adventures which feel like forever while you are doing it. It may seem¬†like you were soaring for¬†hours among that clear sky, over the sparkling blue water, in the mist of those thin clouds. And once you come back to the ground and check your watch, you realise it was not more than 3-4 minutes! I guess that’s how our happiest moments are, short but feel like forever. And now, my pics for your fun, enjoyment and jokes. Go on, I wont mind ūüôā Totally worth.

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Excitement – 10. Nervousness – 0

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Woah! The view!

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Happy as a clam!

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Do I look good?

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The view – 2!

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A little nervous maybe?

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And we jump!

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Jump towards your death is what you’ll feel

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Something’s gone wrong? Why are we rotating?

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Again! What’s with the rotating?

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And we are stable! Wohoo!

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Ignore me. Checkout the view.

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Wow. I can see the horizon!

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Still alive!

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There’s the horizon!

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While I’m in another world, my instructor keeps reminding me to pose while in the air! Absolutely love him for that!

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You can actually see the Earth’s curvature!

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hahaha…I’ve gone mad! I’ve had the elixir of life! I’m free!

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Steer 1.

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Aaaa….what’s happening! Heartbeats skipped – 100

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Am I alive?

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I’m falling and about to die! For sure!

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Steer 2 – Heartbeats skipped – 10

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Ok. It should be over in an hour.

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Or not?

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Wow, I dont know what to say! Its over already?

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I cant pose right now. Give me a minute to breathe!

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This pic best expresses my feeling!

I think I did get¬†nervous when we were navigating the parachute because you actually get into a sort of no-gravity zone for a second or two. And that’s little scary because it happens when you least expect it. Thanks to the instructors!

After landing, I frankly dint know how was I feeling. I was so high on adrenaline that I just wanted to keep on screaming. And it was so exhausting (because of the wind blowing at such high speed right in your face and body), that I couldnt move from my bed for 2 days staright. I caught a little fever, cold and everything. So frankly kept on cursing for doing this to myself.

And then, after I got normal and thought back, I could still feel the rush. And that’s why now I can say it was THE most awesome experiences I’ve had. Because of the feeling you get later thinking about it. At least in my case that’s how it is. I might not need to take another jump for a long time because my heartbeat still increases thinking about this one! Wow! What an activity!

Oh, and I loved my instructor for not giving up on me regarding the pics though. I was busy enjoying the moment(s) and practically lost in my dreamland but he kept bringing me back, tapping me on the shoulder with a little whisper ‘Dont forget to look towards the camera and smile.

Again, a huge shout-out and thanks to the 516-skydive team for this amazing experience!

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Girls Just Want Equal Funds

Girls just want equal funds but how do you know?

This might be one of my most foolish moments and I am writing this post so that I can come back to this foolishness whenever I want a good laugh on myself.

So, one of the many principles of feminism and gender equality is minimising the pay gap. We have read enough material and witness enough debates on a day-to-day basis about how females are paid only 79 cents for every dollar paid to men.

When I first started reading about this injustice, I was intrigued. Not surprised, shocked, angry, but just curious. This was something very interesting to me because personally, I never experienced such a situation. None of my friends had any insights into it too, maybe because they had never experienced it too or maybe we all are too naive to know when it happens. And that’s exactly what this post is about.

Whenever I switched jobs and reached the point of salary negotiation, I always stated my minimum salary expectations with very little negotiation window really. Sometimes the discussion would just end in one call when the HR would tell me if that’s something the company can offer or not. I never gave them any room for compromise on my minimum salary expectation. The negotiation would be around how much higher can they go. This way, most of the times I ended up with settling the matter in just 10-15 mins. since I hate salary negotiation discussions. I actually developed this trick over time, to be frank. And companies who would go¬†back-and-forth for $2k-3k, I would just reject their offer after 2nd or 3rd call. It just felt this organisation would somehow not be a good fit for me and I trust my instincts A LOT!

So until I started reading about pay gaps and salary biases based on gender, I was really unaware¬†about this issue. But now that I know, I have been contemplating whether I might have been a victim? Since I have always put more¬†emphasis on the company’s work culture, people, vacation policies etc., salary never was very high on my priority list (maybe because I am single and mostly have¬†a minimalistic lifestyle). But still, I don’t want to be knowingly underpaid when I am aware¬†that my counterparts are earning more for the same work.

This brings me to the practical question that I have been trying to find an answer to for some time now. How do you know if you are being underpaid? How do you know if the colleague sitting next to you in the same cubicle is having more funds to his disposal for the same brain-hammering that you both do together; sometime me doing more of it than him when he has to leave early¬†(which really happens quite often) with his wife or kids? It’s not about the money but it’s just not fair. I would not feel good about working with him anymore. My dedication and motivation would take a backseat for sure.

So how do I avoid this? From what I have been taught, it’s rude and uncivilised to discuss salary matters with your colleagues. Then whom do I discuss with? My friends are all in¬†different sectors and different stages in their careers and I hardly have any with the same job profile as mine. Even if I had, I would feel grossly uncomfortable bringing up a discussion around salary. Maybe I’ll feel better if I mention it around the lines of me trying to understand if I am being paid fairly but that might not make any difference.

So what’s the way out? Is this a call for companies to make the base salaries (excluding bonus, incentives etc.) public for every employee? It will most definitely make the system absolutely transparent but may also start some new riots ūüôā

In the new job situation¬†that I just accepted few weeks back, I tried to be clever around this problem. Maybe it dint help me in any way, but I tried the only way I knew. After accepting the salary I was being offered, which actually felt right to me and quite¬†enough, I honestly declared – ‘Since I am new to the US market, I don’t yet know if this is the market rate for my role. But at any point in the future, if I felt that I am being unfairly compensated, I would come to you immediately for a raise and you would have to justify or give me a raise.‘ My new manager-to-be was quite surprised and amused I could see. He gave me a slight smile and readily agreed, assuring me that the situation would not arise for¬†at least a year. Well, I hope he was right because I really hate confrontations or any sort of discussions about salary. Mainly because I don’t feel too strongly about money. I think there is no end to our want of luxury. And¬†I havent met a person who said that he/she thought they were getting paid much more money than they needed. So in actuality, our¬†salary will really never be enough. How much ever we¬†make, we will always have new desires. At the same time, I just want to make sure that my company doesn’t undervalue me or compromise on my worth. And that’s the only reason for me to stand against this evil.

I don’t know the solution but please comment¬†if you¬†have any suggestions for me or¬†how you made sure you were being paid the same as your colleagues.

Why are salaries confidential anyways? If they were made public, I think it would solve a lot of jealousy and resentment among colleagues at the same level. But this is me just thinking out loud.

And now, Cyndi¬†Laupers voice for a cheerful weekend morning. Or afternoon?¬† Depends on when you woke up ūüėČ

Girls Just Want to Have Fun has always been on the top of my playlist for all-time fun songs and it was such a treat to hear her again after so long.

Happy weekend!!!

 

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A sad self-discovery

This is one of those times when I discovered one of my weird character traits which I am not so happy about. I believe everyone’s beliefs and nature evolve over time and so will mine. But for now, I’ll have to live with this.

The prelude is that I am not an animal-person. Actually, I don’t know if I am or not since I never had a pet. I feel awkward around pets and I think, I might make pets feel uncomfortable too because I just don’t know how to be around them. Given time, I may¬†learn¬†but at this point, I dont know. Although, I do know that I love to watch animal videos, I have visited a couple of zoo and really liked being around those animals, liked it a little less them being in cages but I felt good. I also nursed a couple of kittens for a few days during my vacations whom I discovered in my backyard, but as soon as they grew stronger, they went away. The point is, I think I love animals but again, I am not completely sure if I love them enough to have as pets.

So I recently moved to a new house where I am renting a room with a small family. It’s a huge 4-bhk owned by a mother of 2. Since the kids study at¬†boarding, the house is mostly empty and so she rents out the bigger room. As¬†I was directly coming to the place from another state, I did not get a chance to meet her in-person or checkout the house before moving.

I flew down from Jersey and landed directly at her door with all my luggage. As soon as she opened the door, I saw a cute little small white face peeping out. Frankly I did not notice until he started barking! And then we were introduced ūüôā

At first I felt a little irritated about this lack of information even when we had spoken at least 5-6 times about all aspects of the house, my requirements and her conditions etc. She never mentioned anything about a dog. What if I was allergic to dogs? What if I dint like dogs? I just felt it was another cases for my famous lying-by-omission diary.¬†But I was too tired to dwell on it for now. As long as it doesn’t bite or bother me, I was good.

It has been a couple of days and I have started to be comfortable around him now. But this one discovery has troubled me.

He is a really really cute, all-white, fluffy little dog but as dogs are, he is so obedient! After she introduced me to him, he wanted to get really friendly but I digressed, feeling exhausted and uncomfortable at the same time, so the situation passed. But I am working from home since 2-3 days now and there is nobody else to give him company. So he just follows me around. And what irritates me is exactly that.

He is just too obedient. If I sit, he sits; if I eat, he eats. If I order him to stay, he just stays and makes that cute little puppy face. How can someone not like him!! If I walk, he just follows me! AND, it’s really bothersome to have someone following you around all the time!

Why doesn’t he know what to do with himself? Why doesn’t he rebel to go out? Why doesn’t he bark when he wants something and I don’t listen?

Ah…I might not be making any sense but I think I am¬†not a dog-lover for now just because they are so obedient, which is pretty ironic. And this¬†doesn’t make me feel good at all. [The licking thing grosses me out too. Thats also something I am NOT OK with.]

So maybe I am a cat person? Meh. Oh, I know!

I am a unicorn person!!!

UnicornLover

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Bucket list item #3 – Skydiving – Check

Finally after a long hiatus of procrastination and contemplation, I am getting a chance to write about my 2nd favorite hobby i.e. travel ūüôā

Although this was one of the most awaited activities on my bucket list, it happened in a moment of utter panic, without much planning.

So it struck me 2 weeks back that I am leaving the vicinity of New York in a few weeks and with that, might miss the golden chance and easy accessibility to skydive near the Hamptons! Shock stricken, I jumped on to Groupon and booked the best deal I could find. I purchased the deal, called up the guys at 516-skydive to confirm a few details about distances and dates, and there! I was all set to go and dive the next Saturday.

I called them up once again on Friday to confirm the weather because skydiving is an activity very much dependent on the weather; if it’s very cold or windy or cloudy or hot, the dive could be postponed. Plus,¬†I had to commute¬†for approx.¬†4¬†hours either¬†way to reach the point. I dint want to waste the whole ride because of weather surprises. But good for me, the team was expecting a clear sunny day with pleasant temperatures so¬†no change in plans. I happily packed my travel pouch with just some change, one debit card, a novel (which unconsciously helped put me in a great mood before the dive, future post! ), water bottle and¬†some snacks. Carrying my wallet with all the cards and cash would be risky so I dropped that idea .

The place was approx. 60 miles from where I stay, so I had to leave around 7:30AM in the morning to catch all the right trains and arrive with some buffer before the expected time i.e. 1PM. I looked up NJTransit and MTA LIRR for the train schedules to find my connections.

  1. North Jersey Coast #7212 direct train from Secaucus to New York Penn Station via NJTransit
  2. Long Island Railroad (LIRR) from Penn Station to SPEONK via MTA

The MTA website gave below schedule :

Depart Arrive Transfer Leaves Trip Duration
9:49 AM 11:51 PM Jamaica 10:10 AM 2 hrs. 2 mins

In my excitement or anticipation I don’t know, I did not pay any¬†notice to¬†the 3rd column which says ‘Transfer – Jamaica‘.

I reached Penn much before time so took an earlier train than the one I had planned, chose¬†a nice window seat on the above deck since this was going to be a long ride, and dived into¬†my novel, or so I tried. The ticket collector came, punched my ticket, mumbled something which I casually¬†ignored¬†(later I came to know, he said¬†‘change at Jamaica’. Oh the signs!) and carried on. I was busy enjoying the view from my window en-route and couldn’t peel my eyes away. Jamaica came and went, my adjacent seat was getting a new traveller almost every stop. Oblivious to everything, I was in my own dreamland, already flying like a bird above the Hamptons.

2 stops after Jamaica, a new ticket collector came to verify my ticket and asked me where was I going. I told Speonk and he informed I had to change at Jamaica. F***! Seeing my extreme disoriented look, he tried to calm me down saying I can get off the next stop, take the next train back to Jamaica and then continue to Speonk. He thought he was helping when he said there are trains almost every hour. Did I hear that right? Every hour? So that’s that. I will never be able to reach on time. It was a bad idea in the first place. I should never have made such a long trip. What was I thinking! I started frantically checking the train schedules from where I was (I don’t even remember that station name now) to Jamaica and from there to Speonk. There were no connecting trains which could take me to Speonk¬†on time. It was already 10:30AM. I checked Uber to see if I can reach Jamaica to catch the next train in time but I realised that the next train from Jamaica¬†is only at 12:35PM which would arrive Speonk by 1:45PM. Bummer!

I decided to call the 516-skydive team and¬†inform them about what had happened and maybe try to get a refund? Well, not really. I thought my money and time, both went to trash. I called them with no hope and narrated the whole story. The guy at the desk seemed to recognise me from the¬†multiple calls I had made¬†to confirm or clarify or inform this and that (‘O! So you are the one coming from Secau….or something like that in Jersey?’ – is what he actually said ūüôā). Luckily, he was an awesome person¬†and very¬†sympathetic. He knew¬†I was coming a really long way so agreed to try and¬†help me out. After being on hold for about 5 mins, he informed that since I was jumping alone and not with a group, I can be accommodated but may be¬†not immediately on reaching. They will try to squeeze me in¬†between other bookings. I couldn’t have asked for more. Finally got some color and relief back.

So I managed to reach the station and booked an Uber to drop me at the diving point. But of course, was it going to be that simple?

The cab came and I got a really nice friendly driver. He got excited to hear that I was there for skydiving and cheered me up with his own amazing experience. On the way, I could see boards of numerous skydiving companies almost every 200 meters. I concluded I was on the right way. But was I? We reached the address as per the GPS and it made us stop right in the middle of the highway with just trees lined up on the sides. The driver being such a nice fellow, asked me to call up the company and confirm if I have the right address. He could have just dropped me there and continued.But lucky me to keep meeting such kind people all the time!

I called them up and it turned out, the address has 2 routes. Since it’s the address of a huge huge ground, the common/shorter route¬†takes us to the backside which is the wrong side. The front-desk guy asked us to turn around and follow the other side of the highway. Unfortunately, he wasnt aware of the landmarks around the area so we were having trouble locating the right road. Finally the driver used his instincts and the guy remained¬†on the phone guiding us along. In fact, he came and stood on the side of the highway so that we can see him from far and locate the drop point. And we did! I thanked the driver and gave him a good tip which I felt he deserved. It should be pretty smooth from here on. But wait! There’s more.

I proceeded to the front-desk to start with the formalities. They gave me a few forms to fill and asked for photo-id proof to verify. I filled the forms and reached for my bag to get the ID. Now what? Oops, I left my wallet at home and with that, all my identity proofs. Wow, speak about nervous excitement haan!

The female dealing with me saw my agony and the puppy face I had got on and could she have escaped the enchantment? I dint think so. She spoke to her Manager and he came over to speak to me. Turns out, he was the same guy I had spoken to before about the delay. He recognised me and agreed to make an exception, AGAIN! I was really running out of words to thank these people.

After the form fiasco, we continued with the next steps of watching a cautionary video which is mandatory to be shown so that we are aware of the risks involved. Trust me, this will be the most hilarious part of the whole experience. The narrator (it was Bill Booth. I just had to had to find who this person was), who was also the inventor of skydiving safety equipments back in the 80s, had  the longest beard I have seen on TV and the most fearsome look, which dint bind very well together to give enough seriousness to what he was saying. I kept trying really hard to control my giggle. After witnessing all those gruesome details about why this could fail and I could just tumble to my death from 10000 ft. in the air, we had the introduction of harness, postures and safety signs etc.

About 20 mins. of briefing and we were ready to board the chopper and take off on our first skydiving experience! Wohoo!

The complete photo blog of that journey will be my next post. Stay tuned!

ReadyToDive

Again, a big shout out to the awesome team at 516-skydive and my instructor Yuri (did I get the name right?)

P.S.¬†: For bucket list items 1 and 2, refer below posts –

  1. Paragliding
  2. Waterfall rappelling

Update : The photo blog is now live. Check it out here.

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What would a guy do?

The prelude to this post can be found here which briefs the background story.

So one of the¬†friends’ advice in the matter – “A guy¬†in your situation would never think twice. He will do exactly what I am asking you to and that’s the only option that’ll even come to his mind.

What is that supposed to mean? A brag, a justification, what? Did he mean that this was the only logical or sensible way to go because a guy would do exactly that.

My retort – “Are you trying to justify the move by saying that a guy would do that and that’s why it makes sense? I hope not.” I don’t know if he was embarrassed but he was a little surprised. Maybe he dint mean it that way but unknowingly as it may be, that’s the impression I got.

He defended by saying – “Guys don’t go into the emotional side of things. They think practically. The system uses everyone so why to get so sentimental?” I disagreed. I don’t think it was a ‘guy’s perspective’ he was giving me. Maybe¬†he was conveying what he would do in my situation. I know plenty of male friends who would find themselves in the same dilemma as me. So it maybe the popular option¬†in the conventional patriarchical culture, but it’s definitely not a guy thing. I call this ‘unconscious sexism‘, the kind which is prevalent in our society and wich we promote without even noticing.

Another incident happened when my boss was discussing about my future with the company. He said that he is putting a lot of trust in me in taking this risk and I should assure him that I’ll give this at least 2 years of my time before thinking of a change. I agreed. He added – ‘Is that a gentleman’s promise? Because I can’t force you to stay. I can only take your word for it.‘ I responded – ‘Its a gentlewoman’s promise.‘ How about that?

It was a joke for him but not for me. These little things matter. Gentleman’s promise, man-up, be a man, ladies first…..and so on and so forth.

My advice to all my male colleagues – I know you want us to be equals as much as we do and this requires efforts and initiatives from all of us, the 100% of our society, maybe even a little more from you. It would mean thinking twice before promoting sexism as harmless as it may seem, even as a joke. When we come to you for advice, it doesn’t mean we need a man’s solution. It means, we need just another perspective. This has seeped into our subconscious without our knowing and we would have to remove it from the roots before being able to joke about it. I trust you to be with me on this.

GenderBias

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True-Love Snapshot

I read ‘The Five People You Meet In Heaven‘ yesterday and this was my favorite quote¬†from the book – “Every life has one true-love snapshot.

That moment in your life thinking about which even after years will make your heart¬†skip a beat, will make you lose a breath in the fraction of a second. It happens to me and so I know its true. I consider myself lucky to have found my true-love snapshot, only, I dint know if it was real and what to call it ūüôā

I used to think this is some kind of a personal secret I have created in my head to stop myself from forgetting about that fantastical feeling of love-at-first-sight. But now I know it’s not fiction, it’s not my secret. It’s a fact and it has a name, even though I found it in a fictional novel ¬†ūüėČ

My true-love snapshot is a time so many years behind but I still experience the same heartache I felt the time it happened.

I had recently confessed my feelings to my then best friend. He dint feel the same way for me but we decided to give it a shot. One late evening, I went to his office after my work-hours to spend some time with him. This had become a sweet little routine. We were both in different offices so it was difficult to meet on weekdays and¬†this somehow happened organically and we started to meet in late evenings at either one’s offices. So one day, after our rendezvous, he was walking with me to the bus stop to see me off. We were talking casually while waiting for the bus and I dint notice any change in his behaviour. We had been really comfortable with each other since a long time. Even before I had told him anything about my feelings, we were best friends for some time now.

The bus arrived and I was the last one to get in, always trying to buy a few¬†more minutes¬†with him. Right when I reluctantly got in, a second later, he jumped in, the bus was about to move, gave me a quick peck, I felt in a very different way than any other times he had before, and got down. The bus started to move and I moved sheepishly towards the last seat, completely embarrassed at what had just happened. I kept staring¬†back at¬†him through the window until he went out of sight. I still remember that weird feeling I got while looking at him. He looked so perfect to me right then, all that I wanted in him without even knowing. I still remember that smile he had on when he got down and saw me staring with my eyes wide open. I’ll never forget that smile, that brown lined shirt, ¬†those black pants, the silver watch or those¬†black shoes. That point/look/snapshot¬†etched in my memory still makes me crazy ūüôā

People say but I know its true that sometimes you feel that the heartache would kill you. That feeling is real when you think that your heart will burst right out of you because of so much love for someone or something. Even though I am not with him anymore, it happens every time I think about that moment in time. My heart skips a beat and I lose a breath. This was my true-love snapshot and will always be.

That kind of love happened to me!

TrueLoveSnapshot

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Honesty & Integrity – foregone?

I was in a very sticky situation a couple of days back. Although I tackled it my way but it made me question if honesty and integrity have become a privilege of the rare. Has it really become a norm to assume that honest ones are naive or dimwitted?

Background –


I am going to leave my current organisation in 2 weeks and join another partner company right after. The offer came as a pleasant surprise and I happily accepted. Meanwhile, I was also pursuing other companies but nothing had materialised by the time I accepted this offer. 2 days back I got a call from one of those other companies with whom I had interviewed some time back. They wanted to go ahead and offer me the role. Ideally this should have been a very exciting moment for me, but I was disheartened. Although this was one of the most sought-after companies in my field and the role was really ambitious for me, it came at the wrong time. I asked them for some time to think about it because I was super confused to say anything.

I was in a dilemma because I had already accepted an offer with another great organisation who had been my clients and I had loved working with them. On the other hand, I was being offered one of my dream roles in another great organisation. I spent the whole night just analysing the pros and the cons. I prepared a list of questions and discussed with the hiring manager. Finally, I discussed with my friends and colleagues in both these companies to get a better perspective.

Almost everyone suggested the same thing. Join the previous company with whom you already have an offer. Keep working for them until the new company completes the formalities (they are a little slow and their process usually takes a few months, plus there was the visa transfer etc.) and then simply switch. As simple as that! They were surprised why am I even spending so much time thinking about it. I mean, this way I would get the best of both worlds Р2 big names in my resume! What could be better?

I was actually appalled at how many people thought that way. This is plain deceitfulness if you ask me. Why would I want to use any company as a tool? I would not only burn the bridges but also not really learn anything substantial from the role in such a short time. Was this really required?

Apparently, everyone misunderstood what my dilemma was. My confusion was about which company to join of the two, not how to use both and make a star-studded resume.

I considered it unethical because the company would spend so much money, time and resources on hiring me and I would just leave them in a few months? Its one thing if I was forced to leave because of some unforeseen situation. But otherwise, I couldn’t think of any way to justify taking such a step. It just felt wrong. Also, why am I a fool by being transparent? Is this not rewarded anymore? Have our morals changed?

The shocking part was that when I expressed this, I was called stupid and emotional (if being emotional was a bad thing, which I don’t get). I was asked to use my¬†brains and not my heart since this is a cruel world to survive. One of my friends gave me this¬†analogy when I asked about something called “conscience” – ‘When companies fire people, do they think about us? And anyways, they have already extracted more work from you than what they were paying you for, you being a star-performer n all. So its nothing unfair you would be doing because it’s all business. Nobody does charity here. And if anyone thinks that, they are really naive and will learn the hard way.’

Wow! That was really harsh. I have two questions now –

  1. What role are the companies playing in harboring this culture? Of course, there is no smoke without fire. Are they really not keen on retaining good talent that we have to lie and cheat this way?
  2. Why are employees assuming that everyone plays this dishonest game? Is this a macho thing that is a credit in the popular patriarchal work culture?

Its clearly a two-way problem which labels that – If I dont use the system for my gain, the sytem will use me for theirs.

Finally I decided to follow my heart (and my brain, for that matter, since they were in sync, ¬†this time at least ;-)). I told¬†the situation¬†to both¬†companies in separate calls and requested for¬†an honest opinion. And boy, am I happy to have done¬†that! This could have gone either way and been an eye-opener for me. But not only did I earn respect for my honesty, it all ended perfectly and I went home¬†with¬†no extra baggage or guilt. Absolutely clear on conscience and clear on the future ūüôā

No compromise with integrity!

Honesty

P.S. – There is also a feminist angle to this story which will be my next post. Look out!

[Update : The related post is now published here]

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