The Toxic & The Terror

I recently resigned from a job I loved. It was a tough move – there was so much happiness there. I went from someone figuring out life to someone who knew what they were doing within the three years I spent there – with a team that appreciated, celebrated and stood by me through it all. I didn’t really think I would leave as early as I did but I also can’t believe I stayed there that long.

Every workplace has problems. It can be workload, it can be processes, it can be pay. But sometimes, it can also be a person. In a department of 60+ amazing human beings that I loved working with, that one person had more effect on me than they should have. It all only started when they started.

After a year of everyone around me being jealous of the experiences I was having through my job, I had an experience nobody would want for themselves. A casual conversation used against me to keep me out of a project. Something I said I intend to do in the future was turned into “We never know how close the future is. She could leave tomorrow.” That should’ve been my red flag, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it.

In a flat working environment where my former manager is now one of my closest friends, they tried to set hierarchy. I was beneath them and they wanted me to know it. When something I did wasn’t working for them, there was never a conversation. I never received feedback on the 14 versions we worked on together where I tried to keep up with changes that were continuously presented on wrong drafts. I simply got removed from the project when they responded directly to the person on their same paygrade. It bothered me but I told myself, “One less thing on your to-do list. Focus on the rest.”

I should have seen how the small things were adding up. Not just in the real world but emotionally. How this person was making me feel with every decision they made against me. But that’s the thing – these things never capture our attention long enough for us to know. If only I’d known.

6 months since they started. That’s when I knew. The anxiety, the panic, the constant jitters on calls with them. But I’m not silent. I’ve never shied away from letting the world know how I feel. So, I spoke about it. I spoke to the people around me. I spoke to the ones who had power to make change. I spoke to colleagues who could sadly relate.

There were emails – words that person wrote to taunt others just so they wouldn’t get called out for their own flaws. There were phone calls – things that person said to put ‘people in their place’ so we wouldn’t tell that person how they were failing at their job. There was so much that so many people were going through together that we all spoke about.

Nobody cared.

So, I made a decision. I stopped talking. Instead, I observed. I went to meetings and said nothing. Watched everyone try and watched every reaction on that person’s face. I sent emails with different people on copy to learn when their tone changed. I learnt to work around them, never having to be in a call together, never having to talk to each other. It’s no way to work but it’s the only way I could.

For the first time in a really long time, my anxiety was tolerable. I wasn’t panicking every time I heard their name. My heart wasn’t in my mouth when they said my name. I was able to function because I taught myself how to manage them and when I couldn’t, I followed their tactics and asked to be removed from their projects. I was lucky enough to have a team that understood.

Not everyone does.

When you are a manager and your team member tells you someone’s rude, someone wasn’t nice or that someone was making them nervous – listen.

Don’t encourage them to have open conversations with that person. Toxic people are often narcissistic. They don’t like hearing how they aren’t doing something right. When you encourage a person affected by them to speak to them, you are encouraging someone who trusted you to walk into a war path where the other person will always hold more power.

Don’t tell your team that the toxic person is nice deep in their core. Don’t humanise their behaviour. Bullies with a million reasons are bullies still. If there’s a deep underlying cause, it is their responsibility to work on it. It’s not yours to tell them. It’s definitely not the victim’s.

I watched a toxic person rise through the ranks after we told people how they behaved. I watched them build a stronger army. I watched them fail at everything and get away with it every time. I watched them stay – no matter how badly we all threatened to leave.

I ultimately left for a very different reason but the day I left and realized there will never be another call, another look, another casual sentence thrown around to prove how low on the food chain I stood – I felt my shoulders relax, my heart stopped racing and I knew I’d done the right thing.

Not everyone can.

To Find Meaning

I’ve been reading this book called Ikigai by Albert Liebermann and Hector Garcia. If you haven’t read it and belong to the generation that does not understand stress-free life, I would strongly suggest giving it a go. It has made me admit to myself something people have said to me before (while I constantly denied it and called them insane).

I am a workaholic (that wasn’t the admission but we’ll get to that in a minute). I love working. I can complain about my job, my pay and even toxic environments but when you ask me to stop working, I’ll only come up with reasons why I can’t. I can’t stop. I was in a meeting until 7pm today. I was dragging my feet to the train but my ego was flying. I was so busy, I had to be in a meeting until 7pm. Like that makes me feel really good.

And there’s nothing wrong with it. We all like different things and I like to be busy working. It makes me feel important and productive and like I’m doing something with my life.

Now let’s get to the thing people complain about that I don’t like admitting – my work defines everything I do outside of it. I was on the train at 7.30pm and told myself, “Don’t check your emails. Shut it off and focus on the music and the words on your Kindle.” You know what I felt? Not anxious, not peaceful and definitely, not focused. I felt guilty.

I feel guilty when I don’t respond to emails beyond work hours. I feel guilty when I turn off at the end of the day. I feel guilty when I take a day off because the doctors thought I might have cancer. I feel guilty when I am not working for not working because my work defines every other aspect of my life.

Before I read Ikigai, I had read Man’s Search for Meaning – thank you Abhishek, if you ever read this. Viktor Franckl talks about logotherapy which is mentioned a lot in Ikigai. The core concept of both these books are the same. (Can I please mention I didn’t go looking for these books? It came to me through suggestions and surprisingly they had the same messaging.) That when you have a why to live, you’ll do so no matter how. So I spent time thinking about my why.

I often tell people I want to be really rich. That’s the purpose to my existence. Money. I want the kind of money that people I grew up with can’t even imagine. To be so rich and yet so humble. To buy the things I see and I see a lot. To own my own place – massive with floor to ceiling windows and a view you would kill for. I don’t want to inherit it. I don’t want to be married into it. I want to earn it. My work will bring that money that will be mine.

Except, I’m beginning to wonder if that isn’t really true.

I work at an amazing place in Singapore. It’s great. I get to go to these incredible events with speeches by amazing human beings. One such event in October addressed purpose and stress. She asked us to look at the person next to us and talk about our purpose. My answer was easy. “Money.”

Then the person next to me mentioned, “I want to do good through my job.” I stopped and realised that it’s what I really wanted but didn’t like admitting because it doesn’t offend my parents as easily. I wanted to do good for the beings on four legs that can’t speak for themselves. I couldn’t admit it to myself, I wasn’t going to tell her that. So I said, “Cool.” But I kept thinking. I always told people I wanted to start a rehabilitation zoo. For abused animals. To recreate a forest in a closed environment so they were home without being subjected to hunters or abusers.

That carried into Viktor Franckl’s explanation of logotherapy. I continued to think about the things that really make me wake up to that insane alarm at 6am. And now as I read Ikigai and they repeatedly talk about the thing that keeps you going, the meaning, the reason and the purpose behind my need to keep existing in this seriously not-so-great planet, I am realising the truth and I don’t know if it’s the wine typing or really me but…

Remember how I mentioned that I got very used to answering “Money” because it offended my parents? Imagine my surprise when I realised the purpose to my existence was really them.

It didn’t matter how much money. It mattered what I could buy with it for them. It didn’t matter how big an apartment. It mattered how successful it made me appear and how much prouder it made them by default because…

I wasn’t an easy kid. I was smart that wasted the smarts and emotional that made stupid decisions based on those emotions. And my life, this incredibly weird thing I didn’t ask for that they gave to me, I spend working like a mad person because it gets me closer to making them look like they birthed a fricking genius – a result of which makes them stand taller than the others in any room – something they deserve.

Yeah, I wasn’t expecting this post to get so real as well but I just wanted to put this out there.

Sometimes, it’s good to find the meaning behind the things you do. It may make them that much more worthwhile.

So, yeah, I’ll say it. I’m a workaholic. I chase after success and I will slave my soul away until I reach it. My purpose is money. But there’s a meaning behind it.

Find yours.

Laugh Like Her

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I’m a 26-year-old living in Singapore working a job that takes me to different countries. I buy clothes every weekend and complain about how many nights of wine and cheese my colleagues throw in lieu of a party.

I post pictures of me with large groups, great food and brilliant surroundings. I spent an evening in Paris at an apartment one street away from the Eiffel Tower with women who are so strong and brave, it’s unrealistic. You saw the champagne, you saw the image, you never saw the truth.

Welcome to the facade of us happy working women.

“I met the CEO of a fancy company. He introduced himself to me.” – I saw the CEO of a fancy company. I stood around awkwardly while he spoke to my boss because I was too embarrassed to introduce myself and so I just stared for a half-hour and he ended up being really nice and introduced himself to me.

“I went to Paris. My office sent me.” – I went to a small town that’s a one hour drive away from Paris where I didn’t realize things shut down on Sundays and has very limited vegetarian options all 7 days of the week. I lost a lot of weight and developed severe ulcers when I came back.

“Oh my God! I feel so bad. Are you okay?” – I don’t know how to care. Sometimes, I think it’s a flaw. Sometimes, I think it’s normal and we’re all like that.

Because, come on…

When someone falls down, do you actually care? Do you rush out of reflex because society has taught you to ask how they are, let them know you can help and pretend you give a fuck about anyone but yourself or is it because your heart actually hurts when you see someone fall?

I don’t. Not unless I really truly care. Which is so fucking rare. Because I’m in constant competition with everyone I know since I was in first grade. “I have to be better. I have to score higher. I have to look hotter.” You know what? Fuck that shit. Here’s the truth.

I have high-functioning depression. I see a therapist once a month. I fight with my friends every other day. I’m jealous of girls and their laughter even though I know it’s all fake, just like mine.

I spend endless hours staring at blank pages. I travel one hour in two trains to reach eight hours of work before I travel one hour in two trains to come back home and cook. I haven’t slept for 8 whole hours in a very long time. I don’t think I’m drinking enough water anymore. I don’t know if I’m eating the right things. I think I’m weak. I’m scared to check. My eyes are tired. My body is sore. My heart has been breaking in pieces for months. I’ve been staring at a draft of a second book that I can’t bring myself to edit.

I want to get married. I can’t admit it. Because it’s weak. Women don’t need men in their lives. Women are strong. Women can survive alone. But holy fuck, how desperately I want to live under one roof and play house.  Sometimes, I think it’s the companionship. Sometimes, it’s because, fuck you strong and independent, I want to be a wife.

I’ve been studying GMAT. For months. I suck at it. I want so badly to get good at it. So I pick up the book and my phone rings and I try to spend time with human beings in actual conversation but my emails go off and I want to be a good employee who responds to my boss past midnight and I remember my book that I would really really like to edit but then it’s past 1am and I have to be up at 6am and I want so desperately to sleep.

So I do none of it. I turn music on and slowly cry.

Sometimes I stare at my Instagram. Sometimes I stare at hers. I don’t know whose smile is fake. Whose laughter is painful. I don’t know whose life is a lie.

But we all want to say, “Mine.” Because I cried when I went home but I bet she laughed and loved.

I sobbed alone into my pillow but I bet he shares hers.

I broke down every night but I bet she partied forever.

Her life. Her travel. Her hair. Her nails. Her boyfriend fiancé. Because didn’t you see that ring? Didn’t you see his proposal? I did. They’re meant to be together. Maybe we’re not. They never fight. Oh, you should hear us growl.

So here we go. I’ll try this again.

I’m a 26-year-old living 3000 miles away from the people I love on a routine that leaves no time for me. I work a job that takes me to countries I can’t explore because I’m always broke. I buy clothes I can’t afford, credit card bills ceiling to floor and that free wine? It’s my one true lifeline.

I love my job. It’s the only thing that keeps me going.

But that’s the only thing you’ll ever hear me complain about.

Because, that’s the new normal, right? We’re supposed to have perfect lives and shitty jobs but it pays for the perfect life and so it’ll be yet another thing I continue to lie about?

I have a messy life.

I have shitty interpersonal relationship skills.

I have one best friend.

I’m worried sick about my aging dogs that live with my aging parents.

I’m worried sick about my aging parents.

I want to be rich through my capabilities as a creative thinker in the world of writing and advertising and marketing.

I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be doing.

I’m anxious 90% of my existence and you know what I do when I am?

I log on to Instagram. To look at lives I am not living. To look at lies we’re both saying.

I follow a lot of happy looking women on Instagram. Because my inspiration is not their clothes or their face or their bodies. It’s that laughter.

And so I go…

In a crowded train, early Monday morning. Staring at my phone. I find myself wonder…

What an incredible life it will be… if only I could laugh like her.

And I post yet another fake picture.

Welcome to my lie.

A Year That Was

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I wrapped up my 2018 on an emotional note. I am struggling with the resurfacing of suppressed emotions. I’m grieving a loss eight months after it happened. Or maybe, it’s just the feeling of such an overwhelming year coming to an end. But I’ve been emotional and always two minutes from tears.

This year has been all over the place. When I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. When I thought it couldn’t get better, it did. Sometimes, I can’t believe it all happened in 365 days. But it was filled with lessons for a lifetime.

I started my year with a job offer. The people around me looked excited, but I knew it wasn’t the right one. I knew there was something better waiting for me. I still took it. I traveled 3000 miles for it. I sat in a hotel room with my mother who was there to help me settle in and I knew in my gut I wasn’t supposed to be there. I cried, sobbed and came back home like a kid on the first day of kindergarten. With that, I learnt to trust my instincts and tune out other voices because I was right.

But making that choice meant living off of my father’s money again. I know a lot of people who don’t mind this part. But I do. I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY do. My need to live on my money is high. And so I sank. Deeper and deeper into depression. The kind I haven’t known before. The kind where I volunteered to get help against the wishes of the ones near and dear to me. I was prescribed medication. Yet, on a dull afternoon, I picked up a pencil and started to draw anything that made sense. When I finally put the pencil down, a weight had lifted off of me. I was free. I can’t express why. I can’t tell you how. But it was like my emotions had poured itself out and a light had found me. With that, I learnt the importance of art for my mental wellbeing.

And I thought to myself, Well, the worst is behind me. Life sat in a corner and laughed knowingly.

For the first time in my life, I learnt loss. I learnt how to know and love someone and have them be taken away. I learnt pain like nobody can ever teach you. I watched as the light went out from my fur baby’s eyes. The young one. The sweet one. The one I didn’t fear losing because I had another four years older. And I never understood how to process that pain. I never truly felt that loss wash over me. I find myself unable to say her name without breaking inside today. The therapist tells me it’s because I didn’t grieve. But I don’t know how to. I’m so used to not letting myself feel this pain, I don’t know how to just let it take over. This year, I learnt to love and lose, never to see again. I learnt the importance of grieving as I continue to struggle today.

They said she took the evil away. That worse things needed to happen but she took it so we could have it better. I don’t find myself enjoying the better when someone adds that spin to it. Because if I had to be at home depressed out of my mind to still have her with me, I’d do it in a heartbeat. And that is how I learnt that I’m not going to be the hard-ass, heartless and cold entrepreneur that I hoped to be. Because I can’t walk over people I love to get what I want. I need the ones I love around me, always.

A few weeks after my fur baby passed away, I landed the job I knew I would get. The one that feels like a dream.

And so began the better part of the year. We adopted a stray dog. I identified my real friends. I announced my second book. I wrote the first draft of the second book. I ticked off two new countries on my list. I met global leaders, I shook hands with people I hope to one day be and most importantly, I found myself surrounded by women doing all the things the world I came from told me was absolutely impossible. I found myself inspired everyday and after endless months of not knowing why I’m here, I found my reason again. I found the need to move forward. And for the first time in a long time, I found hope.

My job makes me travel. And in October, I went to Paris. I saw the Eiffel Tower in shivering cold! It was magical. I remember standing there with four women who were way high up on the food chain at work laughing with me and teasing me. It was… perfect. Life laughed again. I spent two weeks in France unable to really experience my surrounding, faking laughter and fighting tears. Wanting to leave, knowing I should stay. I can’t ever explain what happened. But those two weeks taught me – I’m stronger than I think I am.

Because now I know. I know how tangible happiness is. How fleeting perfection is. And no, I won’t hide. I won’t be afraid to take bold and bright steps forward. But I’m going to be prepared. I have the ability to say, “I’ll make my plans, you do your worst. I’ll find my way again. I promise.” That was the biggest lesson 2018 taught me.

We all slip and fall. A number change in the date doesn’t change that. Sometimes, we fall harder than ever before. It doesn’t matter as long as you find the courage to rise again.

In 2018, I learnt the meaning of the words, “This too shall pass.” Because the good and the bad, they pass. And every morning is a fresh start. Every minute is a new one. Ride the waves as they come but be prepared to fall off the board. You’re the only one who can get back on it again.

I spent my last week of 2018 in Dubai. With people I love, doing things I enjoy. I created, I worked, I toured and of course, I fell more in love with life again.

2019 will change many things for me. Personally and professionally. For better or for worse. I’m going to tell myself what I hope you’ll tell yourself, too, when life gets the better of you – Keep moving. Life doesn’t stagnate, you shouldn’t either.

Have a fantastic 2019! Happy New Year from me and mine to you and yours!!

With lots of love, bright smiles and bear hugs,

Me

In memory of Mika (2016 – 2018)
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My 26-Year-Old Life in a Blog

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I don’t think this is the life I imagined for myself as a girl heading towards 30. I did say, girl. I don’t feel quite like a woman yet. I often compared my life to the overly successful 26-something ladies and wondered if I’d get there. I often compared my life to the horrible 26-something ladies and wondered if I’d wind up there. But somehow, I’ve gotten to neither.

I set an alarm for 6 every morning. I wake up at 8:10 when I’m supposed to be at work before 9. Did I mention work is 30 minutes away? Yep. I get through my day with 80% work and 20% chit-chat. I enjoy it. That’s something I was afraid I wouldn’t. I never wanted to be in my “prime” years, hating what I was doing. So I’m glad.

I want to wrap up at 5:30 every day. I end up staying there past 6 EVERY DAY. I make plans for coffee. For a quick dinner. For a drink, maybe. That sounds ridiculously old. “I catch up with friends for a drink after work.” That’s the new normal now.

I make plans and I always show up late. I was never late. I’m now always late. I smile, I laugh and I make eye contact as I say, “Cheers,” while I text fight with the one constant in my life not tied to me by blood.

I sigh through Thursday nights wishing it was Friday. I get so much done on Friday because I wish I could get to bed fast. I’m still out at 1am on Saturday morning wishing I’d worked on that ONE LAST THING so I didn’t have to work the weekend. I wake up past noon wishing I’d woken up sooner. I Netflix all day wishing I could turn it off and get some chores done. I start doing chores wishing I was Netflixing instead.

I skype. I text. I watch as my calendar fills up and my bank account empties. It’s the last four days of the month and I’m counting pennies until the salary kicks in. But payday isn’t what I imagined it to be.

Because now, you’re right. I do get a lot more money than my parents gave me for pocket money. But my expenses are sky high, too. Did they tell you about this magically horrible thing called BILLS? No, they didn’t. Because learning about subatomic particles was more important than bills. I don’t even know what subatomic particles are anymore. But here’s what I do know. I pay bills. Every first day of the month. And then my bank account reduces by half. And then I pay this incredibly crazy thing they call, “Taxes and Pension Fund.” I know taxes help keep my city safe and working. I know it. I wish they’d all had other ways of income so I can afford to do some retail therapy after that texting fight I mentioned before. But no. I pay it. I mean, I also need to have money when I’m 60, right? RIGHT? No, I’m not right. I don’t want a pension fund. I want money. To eat out. To have one extra drink. Why is there no rule that you don’t pay pension fund in your 20’s so you can have a life and then you start saving at 30 for your 60’s? There should be, right?

But there isn’t. So I live on 1/4 of the money I make after one month of waking up at 8:10 and staying at work till 6:30. And I repeat this every day, every month, all year long.

And I spend my Saturdays feeling like I have all the time in the world to do chores and Sundays wondering why I slept through Saturday. I get to work on Monday wishing my boss hasn’t reached yet and smiling while scared when I realize she did. CAN SOMEONE TELL ME HOW BOSSES HAVE THE ABILITY TO WAKE UP AND GET TO WORK ON TIME? LIKE HOW? I MEAN THEY HAVE FAMILIES. THEY WAKE UP, THEY DEAL WITH FAMILY AND STILL GET TO WORK ON TIME! I only have to deal with me. I don’t even eat breakfast. I wake up, shower and show up. But I’m still late.

And this repeats. Over and over and over again. I meet with friends from college. We can now stay out past 10pm! WHAT A REVELATION! My friends and I can travel! – That’s not really approved though. I’m just pissing some people off in the process. Do I also have to mention the many people I piss off by not texting back because I was in a meeting, then I was working, then I had plans and I totally thought I did!!?

I deal with, “You’re old enough to be married,” and “Are you dating someone? We can get you married to him.” I find myself repeating, “I’m not into the idea of marriage.” Then the elderly continue to tell me why it is important while I dream of a weekend in Bali and tune the other voices out. Sometimes, I also dream of pizza. I mean, come on. It’s PIZZA! It’s the poor man’s Michelin food.

I fight with my best friend. I show up at work sulking. We fix our fight. I go out  saying, “I’m not drinking.” I come back stumbling. “Which way does this key go in again?” I hate myself the next morning as I get through four cups of coffee. I tell myself, “I’m never going out again,” as my phone rings and my next plan is made. If you’re wondering, no. I can’t afford this. But we do it. Because if I wasn’t drowning in credit card debt in my 20’s, am I really alive?

And so this continues. I pay the bills. I spend the money again. I pay it again. I spend it again. I drink. I swear to never drink. I drink again. I set alarms I sleep through. I buy shoes I’ll never walk in. I buy clothes I don’t have time for. Don’t even get me started on make-up and self-care products. I’m not awake long enough to be self-caring. BUT OMG! Did you see the new face serum?

And then, as the month draws to an end, and I sit at home broke on a Saturday evening that feels like morning because I just woke up, I write a post after quite a few months to tell you all, “Here’s my 26-year-old life in a blog!”

Is yours the same?

(4/6) The Firebranders

Patience.

That was the first thing I learnt when I waited half hour for him to show up for my interview.

Patience.

It’s what I saw when he told me to come back to work when I know I should have been fired.

Patience.

It’s what they all embraced while I created havoc.

But never once was I stopped.

In a world where degrees were a necessity, Arvind hired me for my ability. Never once were my squashed dreams a hiccup. It was always what I could do and couldn’t do. And if I couldn’t do something, he was right there, willing to teach.

I walked in on a bunch of guys that acted like a stranger had crashed their secret club. I actually had to complain to the boss that they wouldn’t talk to me. Not even to get work done! I was hoping he would talk to them in private. But you see, that was never Arvind’s style. In he walked, to the middle of our space, and announced out loud, “Shame, you guys. A girl has to complain that you won’t talk to her. What are you all doing?”

I bet sometimes he wished he hadn’t done that. Because that became the beginning of one of the best years of my life.

There weren’t that many of us. It gave us the ability to get to know each other.
The Philosopher (Hey Raj!)
The Married Man (Girish Thaatha)
The Patient Yogi (*coughs*Arun*coughs*)
The Brat (Mannoooj)
The Boss Man (He hates being called that)
The Fun Traveler (She doesn’t mind being called that)
And how can I ever forget… The Intern (Meri Shaaaamil)

Shamil was the only other girl in the gang. She also was the first person to talk to me besides the boss. We’re almost the same age. She laughed at all my jokes. She flicked me every time I swore. We got along brilliantly.

The two of us began to work our way into the secret club. With post-its about smoking, tsk-ing about nothing and laughing over everything, the wall was finally broken and the boys remain friendly until today for which Sham and I take full credit. You’re welcome newbies.

Amidst our achievements I found out that my boss wasn’t actually my boss. Arvind told me she’ll come to office at some point during the week. I expected a stuck-up and bossy human to come dictate my life. The person who walked in was anything but. She is chaotic fun redefined. “Poornima! Nice to meet you! You’ll come to my reception no?” I’d only met her ten seconds ago.

Karishma. She is your dream boss. She is my dream boss. She doesn’t care if you show up at noon. She doesn’t care if you’re working at night and wasting all day. She doesn’t care if you take a trip in the middle of the week. You can be in Antarctica, drinking with Panda bears, she won’t say a thing. “Just get the work done and have the client approve.” It was the best! 

She is downright the most chilled out boss you’ll ever meet. She’ll even be your therapist if you’re struggling with something. Her reception is also where the ice was finally broken and the team became a team

I learnt social media at this company. I learnt how good I am with ppts at this company. I learnt how to get work done at this company. And most importantly, I learnt how not to judge a book by its cover here.

The shared office space meant more people – Bushu, Laaloo and Tanya. All the people I first looked at thinking, “I bet they’re snooty af.” All the people I call with problems and gossip today. I haven’t bought something they don’t have a picture of so far. There’s not much about my life they don’t know. I can’t imagine a world where they’re not on my last ten whatsapped. The number of coffee breaks we’d take just for the heck of it. Their boss hated it so much.

Mine would join us. Both of them. That was the best part about my year. My bosses never acted completely like bosses. I’d get yelled at, obviously. But if we walked out of that meeting, they didn’t carry that fight with them. It was one of the first things Arvind told me at my interview. “We’ll argue. We’ll fight. But that’s not personal. Work is work. You can’t take it against the person in this company.” And that’s how it was. Always. Like a big gang of friends.

When I curled up sobbing about a boy, when I couldn’t finish a particular work because I wasn’t feeling upto it, when I felt sick, when I needed to go on a date, when I needed to vent – Oh my God! The number of times I needed to vent! – when I needed a punching bag, when I acted childish, when I demanded things I couldn’t afford, when I started things others couldn’t be bothered with – Nothing scared them. Nothing made them go, “Absolutely not!” I got them to play Charlie Charlie, a game that invites the demon, and they did!

And when I told them I’m leaving them in a hurry because I get to go back to study and couldn’t do much hand holding to the next guy, they smiled instead of complain. That’s why this place is so amazing.

I still go to the office. More often than most people do. I miss faces like Deepika, Tharini, Ramya Akka, Duggu and Reshma when I walk in. But they’re replaced with faces I got to know towards the end of my time there like Renuga and Vinoth. It always feels comfortable.

I still call my bosses to chit chat. When I find things that make sense to me, I always pass it their way.

I got to keep so much from my time with them. The golisoda bottle, the tiny despicable me character, the secret Santa presents, the insane birthday memories. The best of all? The friends. Sharath, Akku, Manoj, Raj and the entire lot.

The first time I saw High School Musical, I wanted to be Gabriella somewhere. I got to be her at Firebrand Labs. I got to be me at Firebrand Labs.

To finish it off the HSM way,
Once a Firebrander, ALWAYS a Firebrander.