It was a strange time in my life, one of those periods you look back at in relief and marvel that you escaped, self and soul intact. I was in a city I wasn’t particularly excited about and had landed a job, which wasn’t what I was qualified to do.


In the first week I realised this new job was something I was going to be very bad at. It wasn’t that it was hard, it’s not like I had to do a double valve surgery, it was just mind-numbingly boring. A decade and a half in communication had rendered me incompetent when it came to repetitive tasks.


To add to the woes of being spectacularly bad at something, I had the boss from hell. Rude and nasty, she was also what a friend of mine would call a ‘crazy-maker’. She would create work when none existed as a result of which, all of us minions in this department would leave every day at 10pm, only to be back at work at 8 the next day. 14 hours of doing something you hate is one version of hell.


This litany of woes doesn’t end here. In this sad department of three, one of my colleagues for some reason had taken an intense dislike to me. She would go out of her way to make me feel incompetent (Sneering at small mistakes, snorting at a genuine doubt) and twice even deliberately misled me with bad advice. I called her bullshit and told her she was being rude. She denied it and there was a sharpening of knives between us.


Normally, when a battle is declared I fight to finish. This time, perhaps it was the sheer exhaustion of working so much, I decided to go Gandhian. I gave her compassion. Every day when I walked into that room without windows, I focussed on my work and when she was drowning in her insane to-do list, I offered to help.


The change was infinitesimal. She began by giving me a nodding smile. Then she offered to get me tea. I won’t go on to say that we became best friends and to date still send each other birthday wishes. No, I think we settled into an atmosphere of quiet work. At least, the intense negativity between us had dissipated.


Six months later, I quit the slave ship.  I think I learnt one of my biggest lessons there. Even today, when I am in blind fury about something, I try and think about being compassionate. I focus on how  all of us humans are vulnerable creatures, filled with our own small problems, insecurities and need to survive. For some reason, when I think of how frail we all actually are, the intensity of my anger changes into a benign calm.


We are all trying to make it, in one way or another. If we remember that, maybe we can all be nicer in this world of changing dreams and shifting destinies.



Still Figuring It Out is a funny, sad, questioning take on adulthood that appears every Saturday on Asianet NewsableArathi Menon is the author of Leaving Home With Half a Fridge, a memoir published by Pan Macmillan. She tweets at here. The views expressed here are her own.