Guest Blogger: Anjan Purandare
Here’s the story of Anjan Purandare, a successful investment banker, who quit number crunching, learnt to stop worrying and love the movies, thanks in no small measure to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Over to him now.
As a 13-year-old bespectacled boy, I stumbled upon a very curious title while browsing through the VCRs of my neighborhood library. The jacket cover proclaimed that 2001: A Space Odyssey, was “an adventure like none other.” As I signed my name across the blue record slip, the guy at the counter remarked “Kuchh nahi samjhega.”
He was absolutely right. However, for some inexplicable reason, I could not walk away from the enigmatic 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the months which followed, I researched the film thoroughly, trying to make sense of the mystery. As I delved deeper, I experienced a strange sense of attraction to Stanley Kubrick and his craft – his ability to visually mesmerise and tantalise by asking more questions than providing answers. That was my earliest memory of wanting to be associated with the magic of the movies. Somewhere though, it all went awry…
“Ten year Gilts are trending upwards. Looks like a flight to safety is being triggered. Europe in a mess in the first half. Portugal CDS up 50 basis points overnight. That’s what we have from the Syndicate Desk here in London mate. Hope you guys on the other side of the ocean have something to cheer about? Say hi to Zaps and tell him to message me his latest handicap. Bye, ” capital markets whiz, Andrew, hung up.
On the other side, I listened with little emotion, unbuttoned my jacket, and settled into a chair. As I sipped on my dose of Starbucks, four screens swung into action, rattling off the events in Asia and Europe overnight with a zeal that belied their machine status. The screens flashed data points of supposed significance, meant to capture attention, as if underscoring earth-shattering events. However, I continued gazing robotically.
Rewind the clock nine years to a wiry lad, graduating at the head of his Chemical Technology batch, agog with enthusiasm and a crisp career path defined within the confines of a rather sharp cerebellum. The film-making dream had already begun to ride pillion on the superbike to corporate success.
“You must consider doing an MBA from a top university. Get into the corporate world. A good grasp of the sciences has rendered you with a superior aptitude. There’s a crying need for technical managers like you!” I was encouraged.
It was all about academics. The introverted yet bright school boy had graduated from the role-model engineering student, and was on the threshold of management of organisations. As most students from a technical background often do, I fell in the inviting yet deceptive trap of numbers. The progression seemed seamless and swift, as I found myself in a deluge of spreadsheets, spitting out valuations. The biggest mistake is often committed at inception. I mistook my dexterity with numbers for my ability to enjoy them. That is what my story is about.
With a top rung MBA tucked away neatly under my arm and corporates willing to throw cash like meat in front of a pack of rabid wolves, my journey commenced literally, with the “Greed is Good” mantra. As the money flowed in (it was a good time to be an investment banker back then), so did the travel and perks, with bespoke suits and accessories to match. Life was good and my equity was on an upswing.
Then came the promotion, the icing on the cake.
“What! You have been asked to move to New York?! That’s awesome Anjan!” relatives buffeted my mailbox, relatives whom I had not met for decades. The phone buzzed relentlessly. My parents and wife must have felt like demi-Gods. I knew though, that something was going wrong. Had this entire process of excelling at my chosen vocation, inadvertently taken away from me more than what I had bargained for? Was I beginning to lose grasp over the human touch? More critically, did I have any regard for that human touch at all, knowing fully well that it was slipping away from me like sand through my fingers? I was to discover the rude answers, shortly.
“The New York Minute,” as they say, spares nobody. It did everything it could, to answer my questions rather abruptly. Yet, somehow, I failed to acknowledge the obvious. From an individual searching for answers, I turned to a number cruncher, a doppelganger version of the person who was once a dreamer, a writer, a poet — a person who valued freedom of thought and creativity. It was a form of dehumanisation, not too different from the one depicted in Kubrick’s slightly uneven yet haunting Full Metal Jacket, although seemingly not so violent.
That was when the turning point happened. It was almost as if destiny took it upon itself to push me towards taking a step out of my self-created cocoon. We had a baby daughter. One day when she was two months old, I returned home late only to notice that her face had changed since I consciously saw her last. That was the spark I needed. A rude awakening from a slumber that was devoid of any true peace.
Two weeks later, with a skip in my step, a whistle on my lips and a two-and-a half-months old Kiara, we landed in Mumbai. I was still not very clear of what I desired from life, but this time I was sure not to have any regrets. I pursued a double MBA, from the flagship Indian School of Business, concentrating on Entrepreneurship. I knew I had to get back my creativity that had deserted me in the quagmire of numbers. For the first time I relied on my instinct, willing to look beyond life as being a mere excel spreadsheet. The best part is that I am happy. With entrepreneurial ideas blossoming with renewed vigor and creative avenues opening up, I am truly in the best mind space today.
I am the last person on earth to get preachy. I believe that each one learns through his or her own path, but the only advice I can offer is to keep re-evaluating where one has reached with respect to one’s life. Priorities keep changing. Perhaps, most importantly, keep learning even after you think you have learnt it all, because trust me – you have not!
If you thought these Pink Floyd lines were not written for you, read and think again!
Did they get you to trade…your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees…hot air for the cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange…a walk-on part in the war, to a lead role in a cage?
Want to get in touch with the writer? You may mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check his blog at http://theturniptimes.wordpress.com/
Anjan, this was brilliant.. had never known this side of yours at ISB..all the best and make us proud!
I agree with Srikant, there was lots unknown. I guess there is always time to know more. Keep writing buddy, I’ll keep reading