Sometimes I wonder as to what I am doing here.
No, I am not asking why I am in this city, or this country or this planet, or why am I in this human body, or why am I in any body at all. Why do I exist – is not my question. I am not into such deep introspection. I am not married yet; hence have not much need for it.
I am just questioning the raison d’être for me to be blogging in this space.
This, here, is the breathing space of entrepreneurs, a gurukul for those seeking its path, and a conclave of all the gurus who renounced the comforts and pleasures of a secure job (go say that to the beautiful women of Jet Airways who are just learning the difference between being “landed” and “grounded”) to embrace the harsh ascetic ways of the entrepreneurial discipline and found true freedom.
I am the antiparticle of an entrepreneur. Damn!, I am so ignorant of that creed that I am not even sure of how the E word is spelt. Many a time the servile MS Word has to step in gently, and unobtrusively whisper in my ear, “entrepreneurs, Mr. President, not enterpenis.”
The Great South Indian Dream
I am a good South Indian brought up in the rough and tumble of North India. Over the laawng history of South Indians, their kids – regardless of which corner of the world they grow up finger-wrestling curd rice in – are brought up on the Great South Indian Dream…… or one of its variations.
Before independence, that dream was to become an English or a Maths teacher in a primary school. That was the highest ideal an educated South Indian could aspire to.
25 years ago, that dream was to grow up and be the best steno typist the world has ever seen. It was such a mass south-of-the-Vindhyas-obsession that we transfused one of our great gods into an assiduous, diligent secretary. Lord Ganesh – in some legends – is supposed to have broken off one of his tusks to take dictation in shorthand as the sage Vedavyasa narrated Ramayana and thence was the art of shorthand and the cult of the madrasi-secretaries born.
With the advent of the slim, eyelash fanning, convent-accented short-skirted ladies it became tougher and tougher for the bright-yet-black, hair-slicked-with-oil, efficient, honest, hardworking (“So What!!?? I still wouldn’t want you sitting on my lap and taking a dictation”) Southie kids to live upto this dream. The Dream began to waver and fade like their plaintive cries of “Aiyyo saaar, dee yak-scent is nawt showing when aiyyaam wrraiting it naaa”.
But the Dream didn’t die. It just changed.
Today, to prove his worth, the South Indian kid has to take a mighty leap across the oceans – far mightier than Lord Hanuman had taken in his times – to land standing on that foreign land, lungi flailing in the wind behind him like a superhero’s cape tied at the waist, and there in that strange land full of white (yenna!!? no colour aa? Then no culture daa!) people, he of the eyes-red-like-priya-pickle’s-tomato-chutney must drain down a huge bowl of sambhar, and declare chest-thumping, with the trickles of the sambhar drawing tamarind-rich fangs from the corners of his mouth to his jaw, “Aiyyaaamm THE BOSS! Aiyyaaamm SHIVAJEE! YES!, I AM a software engineer working onsite”
The Great South Indian Dream over time has made many variations. But the central theme always remains the same - I am born to be an employee. The giant who turns the wheels of another’s fortune. Unlike, say a Marwari or Baniya or a Gujarati or a Sindhi, who are born entrepreneurs. Of course there are exceptions on both sides. But then, they are the exceptions.
In the Shoes of Dravid…..Forever
I hail from that long serving line of Hanumans, Birbals, Tansens, Tenali Ramans, Teachers, Stenos and software engineers. We are talented, yes, we are disciplined, focused, hard-working, and definitely far more intelligent than the guys we serve. But most of all, we believe that “balls” are things you hide safely in the folds of a lungi, not things you conquer the world with. We play safe. And we are always the support cast.
I don’t think that right now, or in the near future, I am going to turn into a screaming, rolling rock on the slopes of entrepreneurship. I am very likely to lie, as I lie now, like a pebble on the bed of a river, letting the mighty Job smooth me round and shiny.
Then, what am I doing here?
There are more than a zillion voices here, guiding you, helping you, motivating you, stoking and keeping aflame that fire in your belly. You – who wants to be, or already is, an entrepreneur. People who have been there, done that. And I am just sitting here, watching that.
What am I doing here?
I am here to give you the view of the other side. Of the people who wanted to but could never make that leap of faith. Others who leapt, and realized mid-way through their jump that they had stretched too wide and torn a gaping hole in the seat of their trousers. Still others who though beaten haven’t been defeated. Who, in their quiet, unsuspicious 9 to 5 jobs are biding Time like revolutionaries – their visions burning deep marks into their hearts as they sleep – waiting for the moment that shall beckon them to take the plunge.
I am here to tell you how it feels when you start suspecting that The Great Dream is just……… a way of putting you to sleep.