How to Survive Unemployment: A Short Horror Story


How to Survive Unemployment: A Short Horror Story

Illustration: Arati Gujar

Preparing for unemployment is a lot like preparing for the apocalypse. You double-check all the resources you have, and start stocking up on supplies. And just like the apocalypse, unemployment can arrive without warning. As it did in my case – even though it was by choice.

After yet another miserable day at work, I came back home one night and screamed into my pillow, tears streaming down my face. After about an hour of weeping, I fell asleep thinking that I needed to slow down and catch my breath. I needed a break. I needed to quit, even if I did not have another job at hand.  

Now – at the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious – the first and most important thing you need to do before quitting is check your finances. Track your monthly expenses and cut out whatever’s unnecessary. Sadly, that includes your Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hotstar subscription, no matter how many times you list that under the “Essentials” tab.   

Like most millennials, Swiggy, Zomato, and PVR is what I spent all my money on. So my struggle began with saying no to outside food and multiplex visits. What worked in my favour was my frugality, probably a holdover from my Sindhi lineage. I realised that with my finances I could survive eight months without a job, even though I didn’t plan to go on without one for so long.

But more important than the financial problems, more important than the self-loathing that accompanies joblessness, is the niggling doubt about how others perceive you. This was my biggest concern during my days of unemployment. Quitting a job without any plans for the future, is not something parents and relatives take to comfortably. For my family, my unemployment meant I’d be taking away their bragging rights. Now each time mum was asked, “Kya karta hai aap ka ladla?”, she had to awkwardly change the subject. Suddenly, I went from the hardworking apple of my family’s eye to the spoilt brat who didn’t value things in life.

One benefit of having 24 hours to yourself, is that you can take in your fill of all the shows you’ve been missing out on, from Nat Geo documentaries to Gossip Girl.

But the one thing that will suck the life out of you, will float around like a spectre in your waking hours, is the amount of free time you suddenly have on your hands. I had enough time to bite my nails in the fear that all the criticism from my fam is probably valid.

Still, unemployment is not all stress and no fun. One benefit of having 24 hours to yourself, is that you can take in your fill of all the shows you’ve been missing out on, from Nat Geo documentaries to Gossip Girl. When the binge-watching gets tiring or you run out of what to watch (the latter is going to happen sooner), you might want to try your hand at something productive. I got back to running, and even experimented with cooking, which led me to a great epiphany: Cooking breakfast and taking my own time to eat it, rather than rushing through it just to make the 8.05 am train helped me calm my nerves and gave my day a great start. (Pro-tip: It’s as effective as doing pranayam at 5 am.)

It was after a routine of eat, sleep, run, repeat that I actively started looking for jobs. The first month flew by in a haze, and I realised if I was going to survive unemployment, I had to stick to a schedule. Ever since we stood in that school assembly line years ago, we’ve become so attuned to somebody else deciding how we need to spend our time, that a sense of lethargy seeps in when we have time of our own.

There were days when all I had to do was show up for interviews or just drop in at random offices and introduce myself as the newest entrant in the unemployment sector. But to get myself under a shower and into a fresh new set of clothes seemed like a task. That’s when I realised that I had to get a job soon. Besides, I needed to renew my Netflix subscription.

But when no jobs were in sight and it all seemed bleak, my family, who had for the past few months reserved only snide remarks for me, decided to take a holiday. I was invited (all expenses paid of course) and I tagged along.      

A few days of putting up enviable pictures of Instagram later, I stopped cursing myself for taking a break. When I got back to the city, I had offers from three companies. The time I’d spent not working helped me question a lot of the things I’d taken for granted, and it also allowed me to arrive at a conclusion: Relax, the rat race is a lie.