I never thought I would be sharing a post on transitioning into a new job in 2020, during the global pandemic… but the emotional upheaval has been great enough, accentuated by the way life has turned out in the last 12 months! The transition to a new job, a new city and a new life, swept me off my feet in a way that could be blamed for the delay in publishing this post. But I cannot embrace the new year, without having expressed my gratitude and letting go of the year that was an unforgettable one for a melee of reasons. And hence, my post comes at the end of a year that most of us will never forget!
My journey began in the pre-covid times when I secured my new job with the Aga Khan Academy. It was a perfect fit… a return to residential life, an accompanying full-time job for my wife Chandreyee (who teaches English and TOK in the DP), and a place for my daughter in MYP Year 3. We really wanted her to have an unbroken experience with the IB continuum having been immersed into the PYP since Day Care. As the icing on the cake, a move to a campus accommodation meant safety and comfort for my pet dog too!
However, as India got caught in the whirlwind that Covid had already unleashed in the world, from March 2020 our lockdown began. It was hard to overlook the insecurity and instability in our daily lives that each passing week, exponentially brought about. And amid all of this, began work from home. Initially, we were naive to think that life would return back to normal in a month or so, but soon we realised this was for the long haul. Which meant that I had to transition without physically having said my goodbyes and without physically meeting my new colleagues at the Aga Khan Academy.
There was a lot of letting go I had to do… an arduous process, because letting go is not always easy. I was walking through a forest of emotions, things, work, relationships, aspirations, successes and failures to determine which trees to keep and carry and which ones to axe! I needed to clear the overgrowth and not miss out the undergrowth. What is essential in life? Covid 19 had definitely turned us outside in and armed with my belief in Buddhism, I realised that the ‘treasures of the heart’ are the most important and can’t be let go!
To add to that what made the departure so special and the walk out of the forest bearable, was the farewell I received from my colleagues. The showering of love, respect, adulation, fondness and support was overwhelming and helped me realise that the true treasures are the bonds we build. At the same time, I had to experience a declutter in all these aspects of my life:
Letting go of a city: moving from the epicentre of Covid 19, Mumbai to a new city, where I have lived briefly a few decades back, had its pros and cons. It was emotionally reassuring to know that my brother and his family were living there for more than 2 decades. The city wasn’t unfamiliar to me, but alien to my family. Moreover, we missed Mumbai greatly and carried the heavy heart of abandoning the city when it was on the verge of a mammoth infrastructural collapse in the face of Covid and its unique pulsating spirit at its nadir!
Letting go of a job: having invested my heartfelt time, sincere efforts and loving dreams in a school with incredible potential, leaving my job was like plucking an organ out of my body. But it was time!
Letting go of eternal bonds: leaving a city, a building or an organisation is still less emotionally demanding compared to leaving people with whom I have grown eternal bonds over time. Be it from my workplace, or from my Buddhist practice, some ties and relationships are best nurtured when we are together sharing life’s challenges, experiences and journeys together. It is not the same thing as preserving that relationship long distance. So though it sounds like an oxymoron, it is not easy!
Mid 2020 brought in the rains and with it a refreshing reinvigoration of the soul and being, as the world was reeling under the fire of the unprecedented Covid 19 cases. We soon realised that the universe was looking after us as its own children, having extracted us from Mumbai and planted us in this paradise of a campus. It was not just the space of 100 acres, the greenery of forested land with its peacocks and snakes, the layout of beautifully planned buildings, but the overarching freedom and protection from Covid we received.
Our children, human and canine discovered the land with newfound freedom. Each step they took on the winding paths and the grassy greens, were a step forward to a surreal sense of peace, serenity and ‘normalcy’ while the world outside was grappling with the infection. We stayed home and stayed safe, with every breath laced with gratitude for the environment that was nothing short of divine!
At the same time, the workplace embraced me, my ideas and my experience like a mother embraces a long-lost son. It was the best part of my healing process. Being acknowledged and appreciated, loved and respected… that too through the thick barriers of the online environment, restricted social interactions and limited access to colleagues and only online access to students. Above all working with an exceptional leader like my current boss is like a dream-come-true!
As an icing on the cake, amid all the turbulence of lockdown and social distance, the opportunity to meet my brother and have our kids interact and engage with each other on a regular basis is a seed that will flourish into sibling plants of precious and special love in their lives in the new future. We are building wonderful memories, that will help us look back at 2020 with acceptance and look forward at 2021 with hope! I am reminded of the Gosho lines from ‘Happiness in this world’ (Nichiren Daishonin), where he says “Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, no matter what happens.”
As I am at the threshold of a new year, I know many things will not change and there will be new ups and downs. But with family and friends (old and new) by my side, I look forward to a year of hope and victory, as it is time to pay back to the nourishing environment with meaningful thoughts, words and deeds. May hope and peace blossom in the muddy waters of an unknown adventure of a year… 2021 here I come!