Saturday, December 26, 2015

The tale of two brothers

No this is not Deewar, but it is pretty similar.

There are two brothers who work in the same office that I do, here in Madrid. They both are about 50 years old. One is my client reporting manager, while the other is the one whom I eat lunch with and socialize after work.

One brother, the younger one, wears suits to office, drives a Mercedes M Class which costs around 50 lakhs in India, eats lunch in a fancy Italian restaurant every day and is like a VP here with direct reporting to the CIO.

He is also unmarried, lives alone, has a reputation of being too picky, has only travelled once outside of Spain to Germany, that too for work and makes a graceful but quick exit from office parties after one drink. He also looks more aged than his older brother and reportedly gets upset if you compare the two of them.

The older brother on the other hand drinks till everyone else is drinking and then urges them on some more, he taught me the Spanish toast before a shot (quite handy if you are travelling in any of the Spanish speaking countries or quite cool if you are not). He has been to India twice, once to Nepal, Egypt, China and pretty much all of Europe. Can speak a few words of Hindi, Swahili, Cantonese, Croatian and fluent German. Can sing ‘Pardesi pardesi jaana nahi’ and say ‘Mero Nepali naam Ram Bahadur ho’. He has a wife that works in the same office, a daughter; a dog named Kika, he sings in the local choir on weekdays and treks on the weekends.

By now you I think you would have pretty much made up your mind which brother that you want to be. But wait, there is more. The older brother is actually junior to the younger brother in the office hierarchy, though he has been working longer here. He drives an old Volkswagen hatchback full of dog hair, his trekking T shirts have holes in them and he brings lunch in a reused plastic container. His reportees skip him to discuss a severe problem in the software that he works on and directly go to the manager. While the younger brother has a cabin of his own the older one sits in a cubicle like me, with his headphones on, listening to western classical music. He said he has never been to Ibiza as it very expensive (it is).

I want to be rich and well liked and well-travelled and fluent in multiple languages and high up in the corporate ladder and have fancy lunches wearing fancy suits and to have time for my hobbies to which I want to go to in my expensive car. I really do like being married (except when I am made to clean a perfectly clean house or when Supermodels invite me to share a hot tub with them; although the former happens more frequently than the latter) and I want to be close to my family. But seeing these brothers I understand that some of these things are mutually exclusive. It’s like the ending of the two paths, which I keep wondering about, laid out in front of me. One of them is the future of the decisions that I take today. I sometimes do console myself saying that “Naah, I’ll walk the middle path, get the best of both worlds.” But I don’t know if there is a middle path? And does it entail the best of both worlds or the worst of both worlds?

And to people who keep sharing posts like “If travelling is free you will never see me again” or “I'd rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff” I say bullshit. You can sell the stuff in your house and travel half the world. Hell, you can sell your phone and spend 5 days travelling Cambodia or buy a return flight to Europe or have a week exploring Rajasthan. But no you want that STUFF, you need that stuff. You want to hold a job which says Associate vice president or Product manager or some other fancy shit.  You want a fancy car. You want a big couch for days when you want to stay at home and don’t want to meet new people. You want to stay in a beach resort in Thailand with a staff that speaks fluent English and has a good Italian restaurant, while drinking a Dutch beer. More on this later perhaps.

Getting back to the two brothers, I really can’t say who has done better, who made the better choices, who is enjoying his life the most, whose compromise is worth it. It is like choosing between the Devil and deep blue sea, or rock and a hard place. When I think of it I feel that I am not choosing some things but rather letting go of some things. I mean will you let go of your brand new SUV  for a trip to the Moon? Will you give up an extra bedroom in your house for meeting your dad 15 more times before he dies. Will you like to have a best friend in office or would you like to get higher rating than your colleagues and rise above them. There was once a survey, can't find the exact link, but it went something like this. "Would you want a week in Paris or would you want a new wardrobe?" 75% people took the new wardrobe, they all said that the new wardrobe will last them years instead of the trip to Paris which they anyways plan to have. 90% of the people regretted their decision. And none of new wardrobe people took a trip to Paris in the next 3 years the survey tracked them.

We live in a society and everyone of us likes to get to a higher place in that society. Many of our decisions are influenced by what will others think of it. Getting a tattoo is only cool if others around you appreciate it, otherwise you are paying money to scar yourself. A Volkswagen Beetle's classic value of 22 Lakh is only derived from people who think it is a classic, drive that shit into a village in India and people would be laughing their asses off. So the point is that, between these two brothers can you even make a choice yourself or is the choice made for you by the society that you live in or our parents? Main Engineer / Doctor bana kyunki ye meri maa ka sapna tha. Aren't we all dancing on the strings held by the people who came before us, who were dancing on their forefather's strings? Acting how we do to live up to their expectations or do disprove their theories. I know quite a few people who did the shit that they did do just to piss their parents off and be established as a rebel. So all in all, do we even have a choice a chose a path? Or is nature or nurture? Or kismat as some of us call it? Or answer to the hundreds of prayers that people around us keep us chanting?

Poets die with an empty stomach but a full heart, materialistic people at least have a full belly even if their dreams are crushed. And from what I know hunger pangs hurt as much as hopelessness. No matter how I think about it I cannot make up my mind about which brother that I want to be. Can you?

Aaj mere paas building hai, property hai, bank balance hai, bungalow hai, gaari hai, kya hain
tumhare paas?
Mer paas Kika hai!
(Kyunki maa to dono ke pass nahi hai, wo Leon mae unke baap ke saath rehti hai)

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