Wednesday, December 03, 2003

The Revolving Doors

A couple of days ago I was bobbing along with the surge of humanity at Churchgate station, when something caught my eye. The drab railway office opposite the ticket window looked uncommonly bright and colourful. Streamers and fairy lights bedecked the entrance. A bright blue curtain served as the backdrop for a glitter-etched placard which read, ‘Mr. M.G. ROY RETIRES TODAY AFTER 37 YEARS SERVICE.’

I climbed out of the subway with the number 37 still on my mind. 37 years! I tried to imagine what it would be like coming to the same desk each day and seeing the same faces, perhaps with new wrinkles as the years went by. And finally signing out with fairy lights, cheery placards and teary speeches. Perhaps, even a gold watch.

Well, one thing’s certain. No one’s handing me a gold watch. My peripatetic career graph has covered 5 jobs in 8 years. No moss on me, for sure. And while I’ve no regrets about each move, I’ve begun to feel a wee bit guilty lately. ‘Work Experience’ has far too many bullet points on my bio-data. Friends and acquaintances ask me, ‘Now where are you working?,’ heavily emphasising the ‘now’. And if my answer hasn’t varied, they feign shock with, “Still there???”

On the other hand, ‘Still there?’ has a different ring in Advertising circles. It’s like asking Liz Taylor, ‘Still Married?’ The shock accompanying the question is real. That’s because at any given time, most people are either switching jobs or planning to switch. My ex-boss evenly admits that she’s worked in 7 out of the top 10 agencies in a span of 12 years. My ex-art partner sheepishly confesses she’s been in the same agency for 6 years and promptly suffixes that with, ‘But I’m planning to move now.’

My new workplace is an eye-opener. My boss recently spoke of someone who worked in the company ‘for a short while’. The short while, I discovered, was 8 years! My boss completes 19 years next month. Most people around tell me they’ve ‘been here for donkey’s years’. (Wonder if there’s something in that phrase now!)

Recently, an old colleague from Advertising joined the team. In the course of our conversation she said, ‘You’ve been here for a while, haven’t you?’

I replied, ‘I’m nearing the one-year mark.’

Without missing a beat, she queried, ‘Ok, so what are your plans now?”