A Shimmering Moment

I often ask people close to me: “If someone tapped you on the shoulder when we first met and said that, so many years later, your life would turn out the way it is today, how would you react?”

And often, the answer is a simple: “I would tell that someone that they were bonkers.”

It results in a little laughter, and some reminiscing.

My mum has recounted the story of how she met my father numerous times. My father doesn’t come off as particularly prepossessing in her account, so he tended to interrupt a lot, and argue the details. Knowing his comedic penchant, I disregarded all these additions.

It is a simple enough story though. My mum was the Personnel Manager of Holiday Inn Mumbai, before the hotel opened. They were still in the construction phase of things, and they were interviewing people for the restaurants. My father had just returned from a working stint in Germany, and had come to the hotel on the recommendation of one of the managers.

Being in charge of personnel, my mother coordinated the interview, and later the documentation. My mother’s first impression of my father was that he was very snooty and stuck up, because when she tried to make small talk, he didn’t respond.

Both my parents are ace hoteliers, but very different kinds. My father is the outgoing, fun-loving type, one associates with sales and food and beverage. My mother is the policy and administration type, with a knack of controls and processes. On the surface they couldn’t be more different.

I should also perhaps mention that my father was exceedingly handsome; something that didn’t wane the slightest with age. My mother was also beautiful, but was completely oblivious to the fact. (As I was growing up, she used to tell me that she was glad I took after my father, because she wasn’t pretty. *sigh*)

Girls threw themselves at my father, whereas my mother was the prude. Well, not a prude exactly, but she kind of radiates purity. In my father’s words: “I knew I couldn’t mess around with this one.” So he flirted with all the other females in the hotel, and finally fixated on my mother.

They did become friends, and my father pursued my mother quite a bit. She, being naive in these matters, was oblivious to it all. She later told me that, since every girl sought him, it didn’t cross her mind once that he was interested in her. He once took her to the kitchen, and introduced her as his wife. The chef responded: “Sundaram (our surname), you bring a new girl every day and announce her as your wife!”

My mother, not to be outdone, also retorts: “Sundaram, if you were the last man on earth, I wouldn’t marry you. A girl would have to be insane to marry you!”

40 years later, here we are. Famous last words, eh mum?

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Omission of Commission

Today has been one of those days: the kind fraught with confrontation and unpleasantness. I need to get the feeling of lowness out of my system though, so here it is.

A few months ago, I was approached by a digital agency. A very bad one, at that, with cheapskate clients. But since I had just been shunted out of my job, I was open for business. I had previously been asked to quote for content development jobs, but they always fell through because my quote was apparently “beyond their budget”. And yet, time and again, they come back to me.

Each time I am asked to quote for a project, I have to develop an editorial plan. I have to write samples, because my body of existing work, spanning a decade, apparently doesn’t cut it. I spend days perfecting these proposals, and having the client fall all over themselves with praise, only to be shot down because of my price tag. Why does everyone expect quality to be cheap?

And so, I was asked to meet up with this new client. I met up with them, and was fairly impressed that this company appeared to be on the up and up. The agency had developed their website too, and it was awful. And I mean absolutely the worst website I have seen made this side of Geocities.

I didn’t tell the client this though. I just assumed that it was the old website, and asked to see the new one instead. Poor guy cringed a bit when he said it was the new one. My jaw may have dropped. He asked me whether I could get someone to fix it. I said I could find out.

Then I asked about the agency. They had set up this meeting, and probably expected a commission. To which, he blithely waved his hand and said he would take care of it. The company also has a digital marketing agreement with them, and so anyway they would be meeting up.

I brought up this subject multiple times with the client, and each time he assured me not to worry about it. Their contract with me was independent, and that they would be paying the agency separately for their previous work.

After a point, I stopped asking. The agency had sent me a couple of emails before that, and I told them that the client would be speaking to them directly. And thus, the project commenced.

Today, I received an email asking for the commission. And just as an aside, the commission for the “referral” was pegged at 15%.

Anyway, because I am tiring of this miserable saga, and to cut a long story short, I called the client. He was very accommodating of the idea of a referral fee, but was aghast at the exorbitant percentage. I said I would loop him in the email, so everyone was on the same page.

Of course this set the cat amongst the pigeons at the agency. I got an irate call, and had the silly woman yell at me for including the client in the email thread. Well, considering it is his money, considering I would have to bill him extra to accommodate her demands, and frankly, her absurd notion that he shouldn’t know of our arrangement, I had no qualms in telling her where to get off.

While I was writing this post, I looked for an email that I had sent to them, saying that the client would be speaking to them directly, and that they should follow up with him. Since they had a separate contract for some other services, I had thought nothing of it.

She accused me of hiding the entire episode from them, and taking business away from them. I didn’t. The client still paid them for their work, and was prepared to pay a reasonable referral fee for my work. However, this didn’t sit well with the agency because he now knew about the referral fee.

I don’t get it; what do people have against honesty? I have honestly quoted my prices, and my reasons for them multiple times. I don’t remember having a meltdown just because a client knew why I was charging a fee. Besides, if someone isn’t willing to pay for your services, referral or otherwise, they really aren’t worth entertaining as clients in the first place.

Inertia and Passion

Imposter syndrome. I knew I suffered from a version of this for very long. Only, I am not a high-performance individual, and I don’t have a string of achievements to my name. What I do have is the desire to excel at something I do, and be recognised for it. And while I call myself a writer, I see only flaws in my work. But I will come back to this.

I grew up in the blogging era, or rather came of age within it. Therefore, I often dreamt of a place of sparkling wit and prose, where people flocked for inspiration and there were many sprightly conversations to be had. An online salon of sorts.

The trouble with the dream was the requisite effort and time that needs to be ploughed into a project to make it truly successful. I don’t have the capacity for those factors. There are multiple reasons (excuses in my mind) that I can’t put in the effort, but those reasons aren’t enough to make me feel better about not doing it.

Back to the point about being an imposter in terms of writing, it is rooted in the fact that I studied to be a software developer. I chose to chuck that up to become a fledgling writer, and thereafter the confidence in my work has waxed and waned considerably and with alarming regularity.

To compound matters, over the last few months, I had lost myself. I couldn’t think of anything that defined me. But, over the course of the silence and seclusion I have experienced since, I am slowly beginning to rediscover my essence. There was a point in the midst of the fog, where, if someone asked me what I enjoyed doing in my spare time, I would flounder. It wasn’t because I sat around doing nothing, but because the basic enjoyment was absent. I was mired in a fog of grief and loss, both for my father and for my relationship, and I couldn’t see my way out of it. More than that, I didn’t want out of it.

Time is a great healer they say, and yes I finally did heal considerably from the ravages of my break up. However, the grief of losing my father will always remain. It intensifies sometimes, and quietens at others. But the fact is that the acceptance of the status quo has led me out of the fog.

I can see a glimmer of my old self again, and thus I feel I am now equipped to pursue the path to my passion. I will still face the obstacles I had before the turmoil of this year, but all in all, losing and then finding myself has made it more imperative to do so.

At least there is one baby step in the right direction. And that’s something.