Archive for the ‘work life balance’ Category

Marathons and the art of Outrunning Hubris

In Health, humor, SlavesInc, work life balance, Working on Weekends on January 31, 2018 at 17:45

There is nothing like a saleable product. Any product, service or idea that has margins can and will be exploited to its legal limits and beyond. And if it gathers enough steam it will itself become a part of law and eventually canon. That’s how most religions were born and how new social customs find footing.

One of the most saleable ideas of the past decade has been simply the act of running. Everyone can do it, almost everyone. It is very difficult to feel bad about or guilty after running, unless you have caused yourself an injury but more about that later. You can sell everything from space-age t-shirts to cattle tag watches to electrolytes that cost as much as scotch around the mere activity of sprinting. Marathons have become city-defining events to the extent that taxpayers see no absurdity in paying money to be allowed to run on their own calories in their own city on their own streets. In fact, they look forward to it.

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It is every marketer’s waking wet dream. Our lives lack many things; direction, motive and target being the most common absentees. A marathon packs all these into one certified package, a space-age solution to an age-old problem.

In the classical world, Marathon runners were employed because the 4G bill hadn’t been passed yet, labour was cheap and capital punishment was indulged in like dessert. Marathon runners would run hundreds of kilometers without Nikes over dirt roads and such to deliver your message. Sometimes, they never made it. Other times, they did but later died of exhaustion. And if the recipient didn’t like said message, they were known to cull the messenger without even offering him Gatorade first. That is probably where the expression ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ comes from (Please do not try this with your Blue Dart guy). You could afford to this if you were royalty of course. If you were a commoner, you probably didn’t have any friends on the other side of the Alps to ping. But in the modern world, marathons have somehow come to stand for celebration of the triumph of the human spirit. Over what? Hamburgers?

At a time in history where most of our frail muscle power is redundant and the parts of our body we use the most are our eyeballs and fingertips, a feeble display of our collective sprinting abilities reeks of vanity. After you’ve worked yourself ragged over the week, the same companies now want you to transform into weekend warriors who will overcome a life time of stuffing your face with cheese with a couple of months of preparation leading up to one day of running. The effort to get a city of over 10 million people into festival mode is a gargantuan one. And they do a scary-good job of it. But with enough profit and political will, we could have been on Mars right now and had a Mars Marathon…sponsored by Mars bars with Bruno Mars as the opening act.

Then, of course, there are those running for a cause.
“I am running for __ (insert cause of choice from pandas to penguins to pygmies).”

If only it were that easy. It is a step ahead of push button activism but many steps short of any real difference. Fitness of the body is an everyday habit and fitness of the mind is a life-long struggle. It is not a public holiday based circus event. Marathon see as high as 50% of participants needing medical attention. Is this not enough for people to wake up from their ad-induced trance and for the health authorities to wake up from their general state of coma? Running for long periods on hard surfaces (few are harder than concrete) is terribly ill-advised. There are enough studies and general understanding of anatomy to prove it. But all the products that can be sold to inactive consumers at home have already been sold. Only your own pain receptors and sense of self-worth can save you now.

Sure some people feel elated after running, specially if it gets 100 likes on Insta. But the rest of us are just caught in a wave of mass paranoia and marketing afterburn. There are many blogs, videos and stories that have you convinced that few things will make you as happy as running. But that faint throbbing you feel in your head after a morning jog through industrial smog…is just peer pressure that under the anaesthetic of daily drudgery and hourly advertisements, it may vaguely feel like happiness. Just like bungee jumping, Zumba and MBAs.

Running is not even a complete body exercise. And anyone who has bored himself to death on a treadmill will tell you that the calories burnt can be undone a couple of glazed donuts or one chocolate eclair. The most dangerous aspect of this entire circus are the stress injuries and long-drawn joint niggles. Prolonged physical stress and exertion shoots up a lot of adrenaline and you feel the damage only next morning when you have only yourself left to blame. Boxers go through this in every match. But they don’t have to submit that sales report the next morning after wading through two hours of rush-hour traffic.

There is nothing like a saleable product. And anything that doesn’t kill you immediately will keep selling with Warning Labels.

– Punit Pania

Hobbies and Jobbies

In Blogging, Monday, Motivation, Office humor, SlavesInc, Wage Slaves, work life balance on October 27, 2017 at 17:12
Employment is an increasingly thin disguise for lives being spent on auto-pilot. Hours, years, decades spent at desks convincing yourself that this is what you were born to do. Your entire childhood, education and the relative exuberance of your youth add up to this contract of employment at this CTC. Most of your time and faculties are spent not in working but in telling yourself that this…it it. This is all there is to life. This and shopping. Shopping is why you exist. And voting once in a while. In the modern world, we are consumers first, citizens later. Social media; at best, let’s us humour ourselves. At worst, it keeps you in a semi-comatose state throughout the day. Man did not evolve to grow old in cubicles. But via the miracle of the modern economy he can gladly do so simply because everybody else is. The mass tranquilization of conformity.
Stray ideas and interests can be kept as pets and called hobbies. Something you do in your free time, on the side, in the most inconsequential way possible.  ‘Yeah, he still does that…collecting stamps,’ followed by a sympathetic smile. As if we were describing a disease he has to live with, ‘Yeah, he loves getting Asthma, but only in his free time…and on rainy days.’ We never reserve the same disdain for day jobs, ‘Yeah, he is Vice President Marketing now. It only took him twenty years, two angioplasties and one divorce to get there.’ Hobbies are looked down upon as guilty pleasures. Not only can they not earn a livelihood they are not even supposed to. Which is why the most powerful people in the world are the ones who have made making money their hobby. A single-minded pursuit of money is bound to succeed in a world designed to worship it. But simply existing in defiance of it is the bigger success. In times when money is by itself a consumer product, a healthy detachment is essential to maintain sanity. You don’t have to be a hermit though. Struggling artists give artists a bad name. The compulsively struggling down on his luck stereotype is why we can’t imagine a world run by artists instead of politicians and businessmen. There would be no material progress, only a never-ending hippie party. And it’s probably true. If artists ran the world we may not have had nuclear power but then we would not have needed it either.
I still know people who state ‘General Knowledge’ as a hobby. GK. Admittedly, they are all old. But there was a time; not long ago, when it was cute that uncle Shyam could recite the capital of Azerbaijan and all Soviet states in alphabetical order. Now; in the 4G era, it is just sad. But at least Shyam had a personality. He tried to grasp something beyond the mundane. We remember people for their quirks, not their routines. If your entire life’s work amounts to a flat in the suburbs and a few FDs, the world could have probably done without you. ‘He was a nice guy…yeah…’
– Punit Pania

Relevant Experience Junkie

In conspiracy theories, humor, true enlightenment, Wage Slaves, work life balance on July 20, 2017 at 19:41
In the end we are all just chasing experiences. Experiences that crystallize into memories and add to the narrative that somehow convinces you everyday that life is worth getting out of bed for. Getting high is an experience, so is attending a comedy show. Some are deemed legal by the ruling majority, some are sneered upon and others are punishable by law. We are all dealers then separated only by the sensibilities of the owners of the country.
Money is just a common language that facilitates the scores. But some people get high on just the money, too many people if we go by the distribution of wealth in the world or rather the lack of distribution. All that money locked up in nameless offshore accounts and tasteless jewellery. Such a travesty. All the highs you could buy with that money, it would take you to the Milky Way and back. But it lays with a man who is happy just knowing that he can buy a lifetime’s worth of experiences with it but is still busy hoarding more money. May be does not know what he wants, what truly gets him high. So he goes for the next best thing, making others believe that he has bought happiness itself, with warranty.
But hoarding is the opposite of happiness. Money, clothes, social hierarchy and job designations, hoarded for an eventual cosmic audit that will never happen. Energy always dissipates. You either buy illusions of control or you let go and enjoy the free-fall. But first you must find your drug and let it consume you. Metaphorically of course. Physical abuse is just a waste of protoplasm. And the system can’t let you waft away so easily. Who will pay all those taxes?
– Punit Pania

Late Shift Blues

In Artist, freelancing, Office humor, Organisation, SlavesInc, vitamin d deficiency, Wage Slaves, work life balance, work stress on June 8, 2017 at 20:13
‘You again?’ he said. You could have said the exact same thing but you stick to the more traditional, ‘Hi.’
This must be the seventh time you have ran into the man on the last train home. You vaguely remember him in the audience at one of your dos. You don’t recall ever asking his name and it has not hampered your acquaintance for lack of a better word.
Train Kandivali
You fill him in on all that has been happening in your little version of rebellion. He listens with amusement but that is about it. Then you ask him about his…work. Not that there is much excitement he can share about the ERP offshoring project that is gainfully employing him. Then you try silence for a while and it catches on. Till it’s time for you to say goodbye at your destination. The empty rake takes the man home only to repeat the cycle again tomorrow. He didn’t seem sad but he didn’t look hopeful either. A version of you in a parallel universe. It was a rather Fight Club moment, like meeting your spirit animal.
There is something about late night shifts that brings about contemplation even in the most wound up of automatons. May be it is the moonlight, the relative coolness or just the silence. The sweepers on the platform, the rickshaw drivers waiting for a last ride home or just an excuse to call it a day and you on your post-gig high seem to share an unspoken camaraderie, a loose brotherhood of odd-jobers. Going through the motions of their respective mime acts. Like you were in a video for a blues song together.
New York Workers

PhotoShop always was a latent need of the market.

Some days you see your ex-colleagues on the other side of the tracks, on the right side of market sentiment and the wrong side of traffic. Their belts struggling to contain their impending cardiac episodes and the compartment barely containing the class struggle. As you wave at them from your empty compartment going upstream, the success is almost cinematic in contrast. But it’s not the end, it never is. There is always a higher plane to abdicate to. And unfortunately life is a series of sequels no one asked for.
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Man is a creature of habit. All creatures are. Meaning can always be retrofitted. From training troops to telecallers, most mission calls are euphemisms at best. Lies we decide to believe collectively to make life bearable. One should always be weary of replacing one drudgery with another.
Slice of Life Dexter
Small talk about traffic, weather and elections is just static filling the emptiness of your years. You can choose to wake up or sleepwalk through the rest of your life, no one will notice either way. But at least pick the shift that feels most defiant.
– Punit Pania

Inflation and the Myth of Satisfaction

In Motivation, Salary, work life balance on April 20, 2017 at 17:05
The really premium stores are the ones where you can’t even make out what they are actually selling. It is difficult to tell what’s on offer, the crockery, the antique toy cars or the staff’s mime act.
Italian decor, Indian prints and African drum music because…why not? You can’t tell if the staff has an accent or they are struggling with queer product descriptions they have been made to memorize. You can’t tell if the look on their face is irony or a perpetual shrapnel up their ass.
And they are always empty. You could either feel like you are one of the chosen few or you stumbled in mistakenly. Either way, you have never felt so out of place since the time your Mom left you alone with Grandma and her Poker Club friends.
The price tags have detached themselves not only from the inherent value of the product but from gravity itself. And yet it feels impolite to walk out without a purchase but not to price a scarf at 5695 bucks in the first place!
It’s only numbers afterall. In a world of rival religions and vicarious recreation, numbers are the only real thing and they rule everything we do.
Your salary, your BMI, your EMI, your credit limit and your per capita GDP. All numbers; manifested in the struggle you call a life. The jumble of neurons you call a consciousness. And competing hormonal levels you call a personality.
And somewhere down the line we decided that they should all move upwards, double digits, year on year, more chaos, more dollars, more entropy, less sleep, no stopping. A death spiral of consumption, diminishing returns on investment and the myth of satisfaction that always lies beyond your salary bracket.
Clooney Boat
But you don’t know when to give up. You never do. Make do with the MRP bars and save for the birthday bash. Wait for the online sales and splurge in Diwali. Scratching, clawing and ducking into another financial year of accounting obscurity.
Sure there are alternatives and different trends but the shop selling detox depends on the shop selling liquor. And the only right answer to any question is: More!
When the last tree has been cut down
More and more till the last beach is turned into a carnival and the last forest is strip-mined into a grave. The centrifugal force of consumption is so great that only the blessed few with resolve can resist and that too only within the sanctuary of their minds. For the rest, life will be at best a blurr of alarm clocks, plastic pop songs and credit card due date reminders all held together by a constant primordial anxiety to belong, never really getting there but never realising freedom can be as simple as turning the WiFi off!
Don’t you give up, nah-nah-nah
I won’t give up, nah-nah-nah…
– Punit Pania

Being Polite is the Slowest Way to Die

In Communication, Organisation, work life balance, work stress on March 5, 2017 at 15:39
‘Being polite is the slowest way to die!’ you had heard in a motivational workshop. But that was for sales guys.
Now you are in an air-conditioned office where interactions can be more hostile but language always has to be civil to the point of flippancy. Words like help start losing weight and assume a life of their own. And some words are hunted to extinction. Like the sweet and simple No.
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No is decisive, firm and has gravitas. No doesn’t wait for regret to seep in, No moves on, No has a life. Which is why it has no space left in corporate life. ‘I’ll get back to you’ has taken its place in perpetuity. Because with enough euphemisms, we will all be immortal one day.
And in the midst of this nihilism you have ended up saying yes to another stinker of a project. Coz it came in the garb of help. Help; a word so versatile it can never go extinct. It’s scale is quantum but it’s demeanor is benign. You can keep helping blind old ladies cross the road remembering that Jesus too once helped us by taking one for the team.
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As you now type away into the wee hours of the evening instead of being home with your family of online subscriptions, you begin to wonder is it that difficult to say no? You wonder how all the succesful VPs and up-and-comers get through the muck of life and come out clean and gleaming. You wonder how people can get away by simply saying ‘I need your help’ instead of ‘I know you hate doing it but there is no way I am going to do this myself so we are in this together now’?
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But it is difficult to say No. Increasingly so, in the minefield of power structures, dotted line reporting and 360° appraisals. And beyond the niceties and tea parties, No has to come from a very real place deep inside your hollowed conscience, beneath all the layers of conditioning and anxiety. Do it when you are ready, when there is no looking back and there is no regret. Life in the wild can be brutal but life in climate control is excruciating.
– Punit Pania

Bachelor of Commerce

In humor, SlavesInc, work life balance on January 4, 2017 at 17:46
‘I can’t afford one more baby,’ you say instinctively as the collections start for Govind’s second child’s first gift.
Ideally Govind should have been saying it. Perhaps he did but after it was too late, because the script demanded it.
Everyone is running their own story based on their myths, their favourite band’s lyrics and the last movie they saw. So are you. But while the Lone Ranger, the hopeless romantic and unrequited love are celebrated on celluloid, 9 to 5 bets its money on conformity and predictability.
Bachelors are the new Social outcasts and unlike the Wild West, you don’t even have a Sheriff’s badge in your defense let alone a sidearm. And there too many occasions on which you wish you had a gun, from Baby showers to BringYourSpouseToWorkDay.
Bachelors have fewer rights than Syrian refugees on Thanksgiving Day in Oklahoma. Need to show that expat from Barcelona around? Someone’s got to stay back in office to ensure the file transfer is complete? Someone needs to represent us at the conference on Sunday? Who you gonna call?
– The Bachelor.
What hurts more than not having a life is the general assumption that you don’t have one. And how is ‘You don’t have a family to go to home to’ still a valid argument? It’s 2016, the only lasting family anyone has is their collection of now defunct smartphones.
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Buying into the societal concept of legal marriage seems to be like getting a Presidential level AmEx Platinum Card. The privileges are many and ridiculous. How could you not want this lifetime membership?
Any contract that is permanent gives you the qualms. And the budgets for these baby shower gifts keep inflating every quarter. With more people chipping in and more Chinese kids working in factories around the clock; before you know it you are buying a baby carriage with a jet pack and a drone mode for stealth bombing…all for a kid who has not even taken its first breath of polluted air yet.
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But Bachelors have to play their part, everyone does. Kingdoms are built on division of labour where the King gets to be the biggest asshole the land has ever seen and everyone else gets to clean up after him. At least now you get to pay your taxes to the ruling class and go home and cry in peace.
– Punit Pania

Freelance Warrior

In Big Brother, Blogging, SlavesInc, Technology, Wage Slaves, work life balance on January 2, 2017 at 18:45
It is easy to fall into the ‘Pen is mightier than the sword’ wordplay. But one man’s knight is another man’s mercenary.
In a post-modern WiFi inundated world, knights are often slouched behind desks following up on their pizza home delivery. Nature is inherently violent and only the fittest survive. But what is fit is changing and physical violence is now translated into the language of money and economics.
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Most of us visualize life as this long epic battle for which we are fighting, suffering and sacrificing everyday so that day one day we will reach Graceland. The Big Payoff, the Big Promotion, the Big Offshore posting – which may or may not come and if it does it may or may not seem worth the life force spent in chasing it. One would think it would be hard to sell this world view. But it’s not because the scriptures themselves prescribe daily drudgery in lieu of otherworldly salvation. And we have all bought into Jehovah’s stock-options that will not mature in this space-time continuum.
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The ads selling you fizzy drinks and fitness bands, your employer’s mission and vision statements and the condolences you offer yourself every night before setting the alarm again – all adding to a loosely bound narrative that keeps you in a trance you call a life.
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You do a have choice though, increasingly so. A choice of sitting it out, hitting the eject button on the rat race, watching the circus from the sidelines. Live a little bit of Graceland everyday, happiness in small daily installments. Mutual funds are always subject to market risks but Ponzi schemes are only subject to your ignorance.
Freelancer, rebel, outcast or just social slacker, at least you have the freedom to own your mistakes. That’s better than being an extra in someone else’s Forbes dream.
– Punit Pania

Switch off the damn WiFi

In Big Brother, Blogging, Motivation, SlavesInc, work life balance on December 20, 2016 at 15:46
It’s been an hour since you’ve been staring at your screen, a month since you took a break and a year since you put out a blog post.
But Facebook is the new blogging, Insta is the new Facebook and SnapChat is the new Insta. You don’t even have to wait for the next InstaSwipeClick thingy to take away any residual need left to think or even simply take a deep breath. It just keeps coming, like wave after wave of zombies. You can keep striking them down but drowning is only a matter of time.
Sure you have friends and something akin to an employer and a guiding deity. But they are all increasingly mute. Just acting out their parts in mime unless double clicked to say more. Just one more thing to scroll past on a never-ending conveyor belt to oblivion.
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There are happy moments, funny cats and morbid quotes but they are all faint proxies for a real-world cousin who doesn’t even matter anymore. Neither do you nor your blog nor any other form of documentation you force into a habit.
But you do it anyway more as an exercise in free will than in any meaningful defiance. In the flat, hot, post-truth world, creating, holding and relishing an independent thought in your head is by itself revolutionary.
And detox is always just the flick of a switch away. So switch off that damn WiFi and start some real work.
 Merry Christmas!
– Punit Pania

Work and Play

In SlavesInc, Training, work life balance on March 1, 2015 at 19:27

Work and play don’t mix. But that doesn’t stop your overlords from trying. Outbound fun they call it. Predictable logos and free-size t-shirts are made. And very quietly, it is mentioned that participation is not voluntary. Everything else seems to be, voluntary i.e. From the menu to the venue. So you, the cubicle mice, have the freedom to decide. These are like all freedoms that are given away without asking, inconsequential. Carlin Illusion of choice The agenda is classified, sort of. Not many give a hoot. But most are able to fake it. Yet; all the manufactured enthusiasm in the world can’t come up with one original idea. Which is why Head Slave does the only thing left to do. Incentivize. modern_life_work_home_play_sleep ‘Surprise Gifts’ are announced for suggesting innovative lodging, boarding and catering. Between not too much fun and not too much cost, there aren’t many places left. You can’t for the life in you think of a place that is new and can pass off as fun-come-work. One sign that you have been around for too long is when waiters at hotels start recognizing you.

‘The gifts are not working, just come up with a damn place,’ Head Slave tells you in his cabin.

‘What is the gift?’ You ask to make conversation.

‘Just book a new place so people are not switched off before coming,’ he says entrusting you with the inside job.

‘It isn’t coupons again, is it?’ you express your concern.

‘Just get it done, I will personally handpick your gift,’ HS tells you.

You have reached a comfort level with the man, which is scary.

You decide on a new ‘Adventure Sports’ place up in the hills. Their website tries very hard to look casual before getting in to the Corporate Discounts section.

Post three days of zorbing, ‘team building exercises’ and compliance training, everyone is moderately satisfied. It is a mixed feeling, like the one you get at the end of every month. Bart all work and no play True to his word, HS hands over a gift to you. It truly looks like his choice. It is a vase, sort of. It is unnecessarily ornate and has a red pearl at its centre which looks like an evil eye. Actually, there are two evil eyes, one on top of the other. It could easily pass off as Mogambo’s head gear but not a vase. The Vase You don’t take it home, you can’t. But you don’t throw it away either. It stays on your desk to remind you that work and play don’t mix. Forcing them to would be like marrying science and religion, inconsequential.

– J.