By NAVEED GILANI
We have all heard the phase; ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’. I don’t know how many of you from my gender agree with this but if I was to google that exact phrase I would find many additional affixes to this term that convey the worldly wisdom of my fellow genus. The best one of all is; ‘… if you want to be more successful then increase the number of women behind you’
My story, unfortunately defies the proverb as firstly, I have not been very successful and secondly, there have been plenty of women at every stage helping me to no avail. Despite these many standing behind me, here I am, with no time left to attempt to jump start my success, wondering ‘what the *&^%+* happened’. This is what the data shows: without these women, I would be a complete klutz and wouldn’t know where to begin my day or when to end; walking into trees or walls and definitely losing my way when driving. I strongly suspect that I am not an outlier rather part of the crowded bunch of men around the statistical mean.
Sometimes, I wonder if I am essentially incapable of completing the simple tasks or I have been conditioned to think that I am incapable. Conditioned by who, you may ask? I check with my wife and she assures me that I am fine the way I am and to continue going on my way doing things that I do do and can do.
After graduating from college, my first job took me to an office environment which, upon reflection wasn’t too different from Steve Carell’s Office. Those of you not familiar with Steve should download an episode of the American sitcom, ‘Office’; you will enjoy. In our office, it was Barbara who was its heart and its mind too. She was the know-it-all, the fix-it-all, and the purveyor of information that is so necessary in playing the game we call office politics. Barbara was the person who would help me find the envelopes nicely stacked in the stationery cupboard; they would be right there as you opened the door but somehow hiding from me. She would get upset at me when after opening the cabinet’s door I would ask, ‘where are the letter heads’ or ‘where are the pencils’. She would then stomp over and without even looking pull them out and thump them in my hand. In my professional life Barbara was the first women who came behind me to prod me to success. At the time, I had a long way to go. I tried and tried and tried but still couldn’t find my way around that maze.
Things got worse over time. I got Married. And you know how THAT goes. Everything changed. I now had a formidable go-to woman behind me “helping me” 24/7, every step of the way on that yellow brick road to success.
If you have ever been a management consultant, one of the key lessons that you learn for success is to always ‘get a buy-in’ from the client before pitching a change proposal. The most failsafe way to do this is to let them think that it was their idea and you were just a foot soldier implementing their strategy. Very few men, including those who have been management consultants, know the divine plan of fitting women, at birth, with this ‘getting a buy-in’ talent. My dad didn’t know this nor do my brothers. And there is a corollary; if at first, he is adamant on a certain idea you slowly bring him around with patience and firmness. Punctuate with a little bit of love and tears, if necessary, and voila! He will believe that the way you wanted it done was exactly what he had been wanting to do. Some men, like me, who are able to crack the code also learn from experience that the cost of defiance is too high to pay for a measly adrenalin rush of ‘I did it’ feeling. So, we compromise.
The compromise solution is in this anecdote. One guy boasts to another that he has found the key to a happy marriage. He makes all the big decisions while the wife make all the little mundane decisions. ‘What are these little decisions’, the friend asks? She decides what clothes to buy, what house to buy or rent, what to cook, what movies to go to, where and when to go on vacations, etc. etc. Cars are exempted from the list. Okay, ‘what are the big decisions then’? Well! I decide if US should send boots into Syria or if Russia should veto a certain resolution in the UN.
I am now programmed and fully attuned to the divine plan and reflexively follow it quite well. When we go for a drive, my wife sits next to me and helps me with making the turns, entering or exiting the highway, slowing down, speeding up, the speed limit is announced every so often. I now believe that without this I would probably be lost and take twice as long to get to a destination. And on occasions when she is not by my side in the car I have Siri to guide me. Siri is not as animated but does the job. I am sure technology will fully catch up soon so I wouldn’t know the difference between Siri and my wife.
Barbara and I are no longer colleagues, it has been a long time since we worked together. Where I work now, Shoba has replaced her. It is Shoba who shows me how to turn on the printer or the paper shredder. And on rare occasions when I am able to turn them on and still they just sit there not doing anything she comes to my rescue; walks over confidently and wiggles some thingamajig and the printer starts to print and the shredder starts to shred.
What would I do without these women?
Any ambition of success on the wayside, I am well trained and resigned to be happy.