MADHAV was in Class X when his father finalised his profession. The family tradition of being in the Services was to be followed. He had a tentative desire to do engineering since his favourite cousin was an IITian. But there was no time to dwell on that option since the moment his board exams got over, he was made to sit for the NDA entrance exam. Before he could say "Amen," he found himself in Pune amidst a rowdy bunch of boys training to be the torchbearers of the nation.
Madhav was a delicately-built child for whom the physical routine was punishing. What took the cake was the ragging. No one quite knew when he matured from a young boy to a grown-up man, but it was the NDA which toughened him up and taught him that life was no cakewalk. His bunch of school friends made the separation from home less harsh. Their constant letters and boyish prattle gave him warmth and comfort on many lonely days. There were times he wondered if what he was doing was indeed close to his heart.
Which is when his
father's words would ring in his ears: "You are no
number-crunching genius. You are a little above average. Rather than
struggle and experiment with your life, count yourself lucky that you
will be an officer before you are 21 with a good salary and excellent
perks." Training over, it was time for the Passing out Parade.
The gang unfailingly rallied around him every time he came on annual leave. Varun decided to do hotel management after Class X. Abhishek zeroed in on IIT, making it to Kolhapur on his second attempt. Varun opted for B.Com with the hope of acquiring entrepreneurial skills which would unearth the proverbial pot of gold for him. Bharat, intelligent and serious about studies was still undecided. He enrolled for B.A in economics. Madhav's arrival in Delhi was a time when the gang met and since he was not just earning but privy to all the elite service clubs and messes, he could entertain in style.
Gradually, as life picked up a momentum, each of the boys drifted off in different directions. Varun was not too happy serving guests and taking orders in restaurants of the hotel he was training in. He figured out early that he could not be patient enough to wait for things to iron out.
Thanks to the family’s backing and support, he started afresh by setting up a small printing and advertising agency. Abhishek, after finishing engineering was lucky to be picked up by a Singaporean firm to work in Delhi as their local representative. Seeing his diligence and commitment, they invested in him by sending him on a fully-paid MBA scholarship to Boston, after which they positioned him in Singapore. Varun did his B.com, drifting in and out of college, working on half-baked projects, always trying out something new and then abandoning it. After having tried at least a dozen ventures he turned successful with the coming of the Internet. He made his millions by setting up portals which were later bought over by venture capitalists. With sound financial backing and a strong business acumen, he used his IT skills to move with the times, diversifying his businesses with the swiftness of a chameleon. Bharat took the longest to settle down, following his B.A in economics with a Masters and then topping that with a two-year course from XLRI. He chose a niche area like HRD but moved his CV fast and in the right circles. After switching jobs, he finally landed with an established MNC in a Vice President slot before he turned 30.
All the boys were now married. They tried catching up but meetings were fewer. However, they make it a point to catch up especially when the guys who were out of Delhi happened to be visiting. It was natural that each do a stock-taking of the other. Even if some were not the boasting bragging kind, their lifestyle revealed their status and spending power. They evaluated each other's cars, lauding those who upgraded brands and models. Then there were addons like mobiles, laptops and buying of residential property. While they still were old buddies from school, the wives definitely were affected by the trappings which somehow made the gaps between the boys more ambiguous. Interestingly, it was Madhav now who was clearly "left behind in the material race". He made no bones about the fact that the services did not pay as lucratively as did the private sector but surely they were stabler and did not take you on a roller coaster every time business was down. There was stability, respect and comfort. Also there was time to cultivate other interests.
There were times when Madhav felt that his talent was underutilised in the mechanical kind of work he was doing. He tried opting out of the services to get into the private sector but was dissuaded by his father who felt that he ought to complete 20 years, earn his pension and then break free. Meanwhile retain his seniority and rank and instead add value to his CV by picking up a few degrees or pursuing other interests. This made sense and Madhav religiously set out making the most of his time. He did his MBA and added a plethora of management degrees. He involved himself in local chapters of YMCA and the Rotary. He developed an eclectic social life and kept drawing useful lessons from his interactions. He worked consciously towards not becoming a "typical faun who was rigid in his ideas and found it difficult to fit into civvy life". For purposes of leisure he took up golf which the service clubs made it affordable and easy to pursue.
By the time they were in their 40's when the boys met and did a silent stock taking yet again, it was interesting to find that Madhav was the one who was the most well adjusted of the lot. He was a happy family man with a sporty
wife and daughter who loved trekking, mountain climbing and golfing. Most of his friends had broken up with their spouses or were miserably married.
Their high-profile jobs had left them with no time to pursue interests or relationships seriously enough. The slowdown in the economy and a dampened business scenario had created a major dent in their lifestyles. Two of them were under severe depression battling as they were with both the bulge and the bottle. Unable to cut down their lifestyle costs they were under constant pressure to deliver. Having led unidimensional lives and getting caught in the "more work, more money" trap they had left the simple pleasures of life far behind.
Madhav earned his pension. His wife did her Montessori training and set up a successful school. He found a good job in a stable corporate house. He was an organised man who had clearly earmarked one part of his life for work while the bigger chunk was devoted to family, friends and personal hobbies.
His golf was a great leveller as were
his Rotary and YMCA involvements. He may not have a huge bank balance
but he surely had enough to meet his needs and live a life of comfort
without worries and tensions. Most importantly he felt comfortable with
the idea of growing old though he still retained his boyish charm.
Somewhere he had turned the disadvantage of not being in a high profile,
high reward profession to his advantage by focusing on himself, on the
kind of person he was becoming and the value system he wanted to share
with his family. He managed to rise above his limitations and become an
interesting, multidimensional person rather than a useless, unproductive