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Sunday
, August 4, 2002

Life Ties

Imprisoned by his own temperament
Taru Bahl

HARI was the eldest of four children. His father was a small-time trader based in Indore, whose only concern was to accumulate enough dowry for the marriage of his three daughters. As a result, Hari was left to fend for himself. A bright student, he went through the initial paces of his academic life in an almost robot-like manner.

The only guideline that he followed was to ensure he didnít get in his fatherís way. His mother and sisters were perpetually talking of food, clothes and relatives, all of which he found boring. He sought refuge in a forgotten attic on the terrace and converted it into his den where he devoured books. Hari absorbed new ideas, articulated his views confidently and secured good grades. Since he did not have to conform to set standards or do anything to please others, he became fiercely independent-minded.

The driving force behind his endeavours was self-gratification. He did not have to fine tune his behaviour or lifestyle to seek othersí approval. By the time he reached high school, Hari knew he had to move to a bigger city in search of a better lifestyle and a broader perspective.

 


Delhi provided him with the challenges that his mind craved for. He found endless avenues and opportunities. Seeing other boys, he often thought why his father had not charted out a career path for him? Was he not proud to have a son who had the ability to rise above his background? He dismissed such negative thoughts and set about finding a vocation which could make an optimum use of his intellect.

After graduating in economics, he found a job as a management trainee in an international bank. Unfortunately, things did not augur well for him. All this while he had been functioning on his own and team-play was an alien management concept. He was a maverick who was self-willed, opinionated, unwilling to bend and argumentative too. Having survived and excelled in a vacuum, he found connecting to people difficult. This affected his performance. From being a high achiever, he vacillated as far as his inter-personal behaviour was concerned. As a consequence, the results he showed were affected. Contradictory signals compounded with poor man-management skills made working in a straitjacketed atmosphere difficult for Hari. Always a man of the moment, trusting instinct over caution, Hari quit his job. He was engaged at the time but the fear of being perceived as an unreliable prospective bridegroom didnít even cross his mind.

For a while, he dabbled in teaching since he believed that the idealism of the profession suited his temperament. His wife needled him to make more money by taking tuitions. Not only did he dismiss the idea of charging students for the extra hours he devoted to them, he got extremely involved with extra-curricular activities in the college. This enraged his wife. Sadly, their marital bonding did not go beyond the mundane needs of their relationship. However, he tried to spend a lot of time with his only son. His wife did not want a second child.

Teaching in the university turned boring after a while. When the offer of evolving a new management course in an institute catering to corporate training came up, he looked forward to broadening his perspective. He was, once again, thrown in an atmosphere where he needed to cooperate and adapt to the working styles of his superiors as well as his peers.

He had not learnt to tone down his volatility, acerbic tongue and fixed opinions. Irrespective of gender or seniority, he minced no words on issues he disagreed with. He was labelled as "bright but difficult."

During this period his son got married and within the first year of the marriage his wife returned to her paternal home. The messy divorce created bitterness at home. Since he was not in a position to draw any comfort or strength from his wife, Hari spent more time in office. His contribution to various projects got noticed. However, it was his rigidity vis-ŗ-vis people that made him an individual who was difficult to work with. His promotion was stalled and he was sidelined into an area where there were lesser chances of human interaction.

This was the final straw. He made up his mind to branch out on his own. He had worked too long with bosses and organisations he barely tolerated. His son had re-married. His wife and daughter-in-law had set up a nursery school at home. On the one hand, he saw he was an easily dispensable appendage and, on the other hand, he was relieved. His wife was less cantankerous. She was making money and could use her busyness to distance herself from him. He was not averse to the idea of being left alone. The pattern was familiar. In childhood, it was his father who saw him as a piece of furniture. Now, his family endured him. His own house was not his. There were children, ayahs and teachers running around all the time. The house exuded cacophonous sounds. First, it was the garage that the school took up and later the entire house. The bedrooms were stacked ceiling high with toys, books and files. His Maruti van served as conveyance for children. He quietly took to using the bus or cycle rickshaw.

For a while he dabbled in management consultancy but for the better part he spent time in a one- room apartment that was walking distance from his house. Without telling his family, he spent hours there, reading, listening to music, tending to plants or thinking. He always found things to fill up his hours. He was also not unhappy and miserable. Though some of his friends felt sorry seeing a man who had worked hard to make a home and fulfill his responsibilities, Hari was himself not given to self pity. Home had never meant anything but a place to eat, sleep and seek shelter in. Fortunately, he had kept his mind alert and alive. That was to be his companion. He only hoped that his body would not let him down.

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