What’s The Secret To Happiness

Mumbai is hot (literally). And it feels even hotter when you are wearing a suit. Wear a tie if you want to add a pinch of suffocation. If you will add the tremendous amount of sweat and the humongous pressure of an IIM Lucknow interview, then I guess you’ll get a recipe to make a perfectly roasted Abhishek.
And this roasted Abhishek was having a really terrible time that day. He had failed to catch the bus he was supposed to. He had somehow managed to reach Andheri in time, just to find that he had forgotten to charge his phone in the night and now was unable to book an Uber or Ola (or even to call his mum, and he knew that he has to face the consequences of such a ‘terrible crime’ later, once he would return to Pune). He got robbed by a rickshaw driver, who charged him 100 bucks to go to the hotel, which was hardly a km away from the place at which he had made a mistake of getting into that rickshaw without asking the fare. And after reaching the centre, he had realised that he had forgotten an important document (but fortunately, the IIM Lucknow profs didn’t ask for it. Phew…).
Plus, my IIM B interview had gone terribly bad (read it here). I was questioned about my decision to not take a placement on the campus, my failed attempts to start my company and most of all, about the past year, which according to them, I had wasted “trying to do some random things”. My confidence had really taken a hit after that and I was still unable to let go of the burden of their comment’s from my shoulders.
My day was going south. Until I met him (You were expecting a ‘her’, weren’t you? Sorry you poor souls, but it was not a romantic encounter). He was sitting next to me in the waiting area. We’ll call him PD (of course, his initials, cause I haven’t taken his permission to use his name. When I’ll meet him again, and may I meet him again, I will take his permission). A tall, slender, handsome boy with a constant smile on his face. It was his smile that made me talk to him. After a basic round of introductions, we started opening up about our lives (he really had some sense of brotherhood, which made me tell him everything about my life, including my failures and the ‘wasted year’). But his story was way much astonishing than mine.

PD (with that constant smile on his face): “You know, your life is not that bad. At least you know what you want to do in your life, which is actually a rare thing. I still don’t know what to do with mine. I am not sure if I want to do an MBA or not. And guess what, this was my 4th CAT attempt.”
His smile really amazed me. I couldn’t stop crying after missing the 99 mark in my second attempt, and he was smiling even after his 4th attempt.

His smile really amazed me. I couldn’t stop crying after missing the 99 mark in my second attempt, and he was smiling even after his 4th attempt.

PD: “So what that you are a 2016 graduate and don’t have an experience? I am 2012 graduate.”
Me: “2012? Then you should perhaps apply for an Executive MBA”.
PD: “I can’t. I have an experience of just 3 years and the minimum requirement is 5 years.”
Me: “Something doesn’t add up. Can you please elaborate a bit.”
I really had that perplexed look on my face. I have never been good at maths, but my “intensive calculations” (if they were right) suggested that 2012+3=2015, and when the last time I had checked, it was 2017. I am a fan of science fiction and have read stories about how people travel back in time, and the bus which I had taken from Pune to reach Andheri, had really looked suspicious.
PD: “I hear that a lot. Let me explain. Just like you, I had taken a gap after my graduation and prepared for CAT. But, unfortunately, I got distracted in the last months and failed to clear the exam. But I had somehow managed to clear SNAP and joined Symbiosis.”
Me: “So this is your second MBA? Amazing.”
PD: “Hold your horses, tiger. I left it after one year.”
Me: “But why?”
I never appeared for SNAP, but I knew that Symbiosis is not that bad a college.
PD: “Because I felt that I wasn’t in the right place. I felt suffocated. I tried to get along for a few months, but I wasn’t feeling right. Something was missing. So, one day, I gathered all the courage that I had, and put in my papers.”
Me: “Whoa. It must have been a tough decision, right?”
PD: “Yes it was. I had talked with my parents, they were completely against it. Even I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But I just knew that this is not the place where I belong. And it’s no use to be in such a place. I left it and then I was jobless for a brief period of time.”
Me: “And how was your life after that?”
I know the weight of being a jobless person, I have been experiencing the same for about a year now. First, you parent’s support you, then they indirectly suggest you go and find one. You hear stories of that “Sharma Ji ka ladka who is earning 10 LPA” and “Patil Ji ki ladki who went to an IIM”, over and over again, until the point where you start either searching a job or ignoring your parent’s. (I am not blaming my parents, they just wanted to see me happy. I was really frustrated after the failure of my first startup attempt and wasn’t doing much at home either).
PD: “Yes, life was really terrible for a while. I was trying to find a job but my poor acads were haunting me. Oh, I forgot to tell you, I was a terrible engineer. It’s a miracle that I finished my engineering within four years.”
He suddenly turned towards me and asked, “You don’t drink, do you?” He knew the answer before I can say anything. My face somehow reflects my 23 years of sobriety.
PD: “Perhaps you should drink. It was the alcohol that helped me find my new attitude. One night, when I was drunk as hell, I realised that I am suffering because I am giving adverse reactions to the actions taken by the world. I was getting angry at all the taunts by my relatives, neighbours and parent’s as well. I was replying to them with counter-taunts. But perhaps Newton’s third law (I hope you know that) has no use outside the physics. I decided that I will stay happy, no matter what. I guess, that night, alcohol was responsible for my ‘spiritual upliftment’, or whatever you call it”.
(NOTE: The author neither consume nor supports the consumption of alcohol. There you go censor board, I’ve said it. You happy now?)
Me: “Everybody says it, but it’s not that easy. I have been trying to do so for some time now, but haven’t succeeded yet.”
PD: “I know, being happy is not as easy at it sounds. But it’s not that difficult too. See, everyone says that there are two ways to face a difficult situation: One, cry and give up and Two, fold your sleeves and tackle the situation till you either resolve the situation or die trying. But, there is a third option: fold your sleeves, maintain a smile, try your best to tackle the situation, but if you can’t, then simply say that ‘everything happens for a reason’ and move on. Tell me, if you don’t move on from your failures, how will you get the other and perhaps better things?”
He was right. I had finally decoded the secret behind his constant smile: it was his attitude. His attempt to be happy all the time, irrespective of the situation. Rather, his smile was the reason behind his “smile”. I had always tried too hard to understand the concept called “recursion”, but what I saw that day, was a live example of it.
Me: “So what do you do now?”
PD: “Oh, I am glad you ask it. Now, I work in a bank (a big public sector bank) and hold a very respectable position. I earn handsomely and things are going well now. Which reminds me to tell you one more thing: money is not as important as the effort is. I learned it the hard way. You had said that you couldn’t generate much revenue through your startup, but it’s ok, cause you learned some very valuable lessons which shall help you in the future. So, never make money as your motivation and learn as much as you can.”
I remembered that an old person (read here) had told me the same thing, but I had conveniently forgotten it. Now, I was getting a revised and refreshed lesson again.
Before concluding our meeting, he told me about his dream.
PD: “You know, I want to be a film director. I am a huge fan of Hollywood and the kind of movies that we make in Bollywood really hurts me. I want to make intellectual movies.”
Me: “But why an MBA then?”
PD: “Well, if you see the top film directors and heads of top producing houses from Hollywood, then you’ll find that they are either Stanford, Havard or MIT graduates, and most of them are MBAs. We, Indians, do an MBA just to earn some handsome salaries. But my dear friend, an MBA is more than that, if done the right way. You see, an MBA teaches you a way to live your life. It’s less about the placements and more about the perspicacity that you are bound to develop.”

My IIM L interview went ok, and so did his. I gave him my number and we parted ways.

I don’t remember much about the interview, though, but I remember everything he has taught me, especially the secret of his happiness: It’s all about your attitude.

Abhishek Kshirsagar

Just a dreamer!

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