Don’t Be An Achiever

Or How I Realized Two Weeks Ago That People Are Not Nice And Are Essentially Dementors With Human Faces

My life changed a few days ago.

Lots of things change everyday but nothing has changed my life in the same way ever since I was offered a job in Amazon.

Let me just give you an idea of what happened. A few days ago, I wrote an exam. On the same day, I attended two grueling interviews and I came back home with just enough energy to walk to my bed straight from the door. Two days later, I get a notification informing me that I was one of the few students selected from a huge pool of applicants.

It sounds boring because, in all honesty, it is. Waiting is no fun. I didn’t like waiting for the result of the first test, I didn’t like waiting for the interviews to start, certainly didn’t like waiting for the interviews to end. Hundreds of thousands of people walked up to me, people that I don’t know, and the conversation that followed between me and them can be accurately summarized as follows:

Them: Hey man, how did it go? What did they ask you there?
Me: Uh, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. Some programming, something about databases, those are the topics they were posing questions on.
Them: Ah, alright, see you later bye!

Small and yet annoying conversations were all I had initially. Repeating the same thing over and over again to a bunch of random strangers separately. It’s one thing to talk to people about what had happened, it’s an entirely different thing when different people ask the same thing over and over again with the same level of innocence. Little did I know that there could be long and worse conversations.

If you’re not an Indian, then you should know something to understand what I went through. In India, everyone is interested in what you’re doing. Everyone. There are no exceptions. Literally any living, breathing organism you come across wants to know what you’re currently doing and what you are going to do next. That’s all they’re interested in. Here, the old ‘Ignorance is bliss’ approach to these people will not work. Not with Indians. The more you try to avoid the conversations, the more they want to know.

Now with this knowledge in mind, let’s move on.

If you’ve ever been on the internet, you probably have come across some stereotypes regarding Indians. The ones which indicate your neighbor or a relative or a family friend is always looking forward to knowing how you’re doing and then tell you a random story about a random person in her family who’s almost definitely doing better, if not as good, than you with his/her life. You can find this over the internet very easily. Stories or stereotypes spread over the internet are usually the by-product of mixing one or more real-life incidents, some humor, and a good deal of exaggeration.

The stereotype I mentioned above, I’m assuring you, it is as real as it gets.

There was an event the day after I attended the interviews. Lots of people had come to that. I did a lot of talking that day, lot of interacting. Unsurprisingly, every single person above the age of 17 had the same thing to talk about. My interview with the Amazon recruitment team. Things like this suck the interest out of living.

Indians are weird people. The generation gap between the current and the previous generation is possibly the widest it has ever been. The standard template of a life of a Indian child according to the previous generation is one that has been passed on for generations now:

  1. Study well (score at least 90% no matter what you’re studying)
  2. Higher studies (preferably MBA because it’s just an Indian middle class thing)
  3. Get a job (the higher the pay, the easier it is for parents and relatives to brag)
  4. Get a car (because they’re bigger than motorcycles)
  5. Get married (the wedding isn’t as important as the meal, the latter has to be stellar)
  6. Kids (has to recite rhymes and sing songs when he/she is barely a few months old)
  7. Salary hike (no matter how much the pay is, getting a hike is necessary)
  8. Retire (the retirement party is to be an event where everyone must attend)

It’s a template that every middle class kid in India is expected to uphold and adhere to. No one knows why this is the way it is. Every single parent and teacher feel what they think is an inherent responsibility to shape the upbringing of their child to suit the template. They call it a responsibility, but it’s pressure. Herd mentality is a very real thing. That’s why there’s the pressure on every Indian kid from at least one source to turn out to be an engineer or a doctor. Just anything but arts. It’s a very simple conversation between a parent and a child regarding arts:

Kid: Mom, I don’t want to study medicine, it’s not my thing.
Mom: Oh wow, you’re having plans for your life then?
Kid: Yeah mom, I want to be a dancer, I’ve always loved dancing and you know-
Mom’s death stare begins
Kid (slightly uncomfortable): I’ve never wanted to be a doctor in the first place and it’s just not-
Mom lights the stove with her stare and turns to the Kid with a machine gun in her hand
Kid (shivering to death): I-I-I, clears throat, I mean it’s too, uh, too hard and, uh, you know, my heart is not really in-
Gun cocks from behind, Kid turns to see Dad armed like it was Judgement Day
Kid (peeing in his pants): Yeah, no, uh, I think I’ll, uh, study for tomorrow’s exam, uh bye thanks for your blessings
runs to his room praying to different gods to escape out of there alive

I realized that I’ve been shaped to fall into the template. Of course I’ve skipped number 2 and landed on number 3 but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. I’ve had people name the remaining stages on the template saying that those are the only achievements I have left. Stuff like that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth and makes me want to get a chainsaw and pretend to be Christian Bale. It’s that terrible. What’s even more frustrating is that once I name the company, the next question is always about the pay. Always. This is how the world is, as I’ve discovered after I started talking to the people in it:

  • People see Amazon as an e-commerce company and nothing more. This makes them ask stupid questions so as to where I fit in the process of online shopping.
  • The default assumption is that a student of computer science will definitely end up as a software developer and nothing more. There is so much more to the world of computers than to just write software. Almost no one asks what the job description is. It isn’t only saddening, it is depressing.

That’s that. Life has been that way for the last two weeks. If you’re not an Indian, you probably pity me. If you’re an Indian, well, thanks for understanding. I appreciate it.

However, I’m not letting that dictate my current state of mind. I have a job, and it seems that I actually performed well enough under pressure for the first time in my life. I’m finally moving in a new direction, one that I have no idea about. I’m going to be Charlie entering the Chocolate Factory and to be honest, the uncertainty gives me adrenaline rushes, making me nervous with excitement. And you know what?

It is the best feeling I’ve had in a long, long time and I love it.

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5 thoughts on “Don’t Be An Achiever

  1. It is always so interesting to hear about how living and growing up is in countries you have not grown up in, and i like how well you described everything. I could picture all clearly. And good luck with your Job!

    Like

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