Out of Box

‘I quit my 9 to 5 job to travel.’

Given our vast young, urban population, it is reasonable that there would be few people who would be doing such things. I know one such person myself.

But the way these stories are told in media, is typical of our dishonest collective desire to appear urban cool. Nobody writes about how much money these people had saved, or whether they had family support. It is always people in cool professions- who have had enough of their corporate life and quit one fine day to travel. Or sometimes write. Or volunteer.

How, pray, they pay their Bangalore or Bombay rents? Or put petrol in their expensive bikes?

Writing about it is not cool enough for our papers. Yesterday an article I read, said that the young woman who quit her job to travel, is funding herself through blogging!! Now that is, knowing a bit about digital media, hard for me to believe.

I am not, mind you, criticising people who have quit their jobs to travel. It takes guts to do that and a readiness to throw your future in somewhat uncertainty – in a country where there are hundreds of candidates willing to take your job at one tenth of salary. Kudos to anyone who decides to take that jump.

But what the story writers always hide , is the fact that these activities are almost always done by people who have safety nets. Parental support 9 out of 10 times. A privileged position and network in powerful society which allows them a possibility to return to their jobs once they want to ( because just take it from me no-one can afford even a room in Bombay on their own with their writing in the biggest of travel journals alone).

Having this doesn’t make their choices any less awesome. Not at all.

But subtly, not writing about the privilege inherent in these choices, we are making ‘out of the box’ choices a classless thing. Since these choices are aspirational for vast majority who don’t have these choices- by not pointing out the very economic basis for ‘out of box’ choices- we make the majority ‘uncool in the box people’. It makes the very basic struggles of modern life as something ‘crass’ and ‘ conformist’ – when it appears that it is only your inner voice which can dictate your choices. If you continue with 9 to 5, you are not brave enough, cool enough, modern enough.

It is like how film people still talk about sleeping on the footpaths when they were strugglers and hide the fact that they in fact went to India’s top rated boarding schools and have at least five relations in the film industry. ( Let us not even talk about star kids who insist that they had to struggle just as much as any outsider- and that their success is down to their talent alone and not dear producer papa.)

Recently at a prestigious literary event, I disappointed a few Goodearth wearing, out-of-box people in expensive haircuts, by going in details about how I quit my job only once I had paid off my loans and got my ESOPS. They were longing for a story of a spontaneous inspiration and a writing bug. I could see from their reactions. I finally gave in to a kind man who kept on insisting about my inner voice and how it had NOTHING to do with money and all that. As I looked at his Timberland shoes, I couldn’t help but nod in conformity.

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4 thoughts on “Out of Box

  1. Thank you. I think this is part of the larger “follow your dreams” discourse without any discussion on the extent of privilege needed to achieve this. Then everyone else feels like a loser.

    I’m one of those people who keeps trying to dig up the backstory of people who have “cool” jobs and nine of ten times they have some external support and/or connections that landed them that spot.

    • Yes, exactly. Interestingly, this kind of coverage sharply contrasts with coverage about start-ups ( requires a blog post of its own for that)- another ‘ follow your dreams’ narrative, which is somewhat covered with some journalistic responsibility.

  2. Perhaps I want to believe that some people in this world exist that do things just because one day they felt like it. But I agree with almost everything else you said. It’s generally a thought out plan, with some back up to fall back on.

    Did you really quit your job? 👍🏻

    • I am not doubting that there are people who generally throw caution to the wind and quit. Being one of them. But not talking about the safety nets makes it appear as if a choice exists in vaccum- in this case an economic one! Which is unfair because this creates an impression that ‘to do things just because one day they felt like it’ is upto them. While nine out of ten times it is safety net driven.

      That doesn’t make those nine people any less cool BTW.

      Yes I did quit my job. 3 years ago! But as I said, 1. I had a safety net. Not like some millions:) But husband with a good salary, all loans paid off, decent amount ( for us since we are not too ambitious) in savings and property etc. etc. And I did wait for 6 months before I got my ESOPS. And given my profile, I was pretty sure I would get a decent job when I wanted ( sort of!). So it was a calculated risk.

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