Friday, March 2, 2018

First Impressions Are Overrated. Period.

First impression is the last impression. This statement has been done to death over and over. I have come to desist this after I had different experiences opposing the said statement. First few times I thought them to be exceptions to the rule. Because let’s face it, this phrase has been drilled into our minds since childhood. But when I had a repetition of many a first impressions changing from good to bad and bad to good, I had to re wire my brain to accept the new rule. Thou shall not judge anyone based on the overtly overrated first impression. Taking about first impressions takes me back to this very dreaded memory. The time I screwed up my first ever job interview with my first ever manager on my very first day in the big bad corporate world. Yes, that’s a lot of firsts in one sentence but you get the point no? It was a very important day in my life, in a way the first day of the rest of my life and I left a very bad first impression. So bad that it had the power to jeopardize my future.

It began like this. We (Myself and few other new joiners) were shown around the campus and introduced with what would be our new team. Fresh out from college, first time out of my hometown, so many ethnically diverse people, the hot humid heat of Mumbai, early morning traverse from Borivali to thane, unwelcoming dry hellos from people, strange screens on everyone’s computers, the strange cacophony of keyboard thumps, a new language (Marathi) detected, a group of girls looking like The Mean Girl gang. It was too much too soon. I craved the familiarity of my old life. Missed my folks and friends. I wanted to hop into the next plane home. I could feel tears brimming in my eyes. But before I had the chance to steady my emotions, I was called for a one on one with my would-be manager. Hmmm. Very bad timing. I had a very bad feeling about this meeting and bad it went.

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 It started with the usual introduction and blah blah. Mr Manger was a South Indian gentleman and I had a very hard time understanding his accent. He pronounced M as Yem and N as Yen. I had never been so confused in my life. There was just so much going on in the day, in my mind and everywhere else. Somewhere in between all this Mr Manger asked me my engineering subjects of last semester. And surprise surprise I went totally blank. Like Zero. Zilch. Nada. I tried my best, forced my brain to think but the only thing I could muster was a lot of sweat. Even my palms and soles started to sweat. The room started moving and my world was turning upside down. Taking pity on my condition I was offered some water and in a pretext to buy some time into thinking I took big gulps. After the drinks break I did manage to blurt out few subject names but Mr Manager had already lost interest. I came back very disheartened and with “First impression is the last impression” echoing in my head. I spent the next few days learning and revising all my engineering subjects from 1st semester to the 8th. A useless effort no doubt but I wanted to take no chances.

Few months went by and I prayed for a miracle. I wanted another one on one. Every night before I went to bed, I practiced my newly learned technical lingo and plotted on how I would impress the hell out of Mr Manager. And just like that one day my prayers got answered. My mentor (the one who took all credit for my hard work) fell sick. There were some important meetings and work lined up and in her absence the entire responsibility of this fell on me. I gave it my best and like they say – the rest is history. The clients were happy, the feedback was good and I was again called inside the cabin. However I did not get a chance to show off my skills because it was Mr Manager doing all the talking, while I was brimming with pride and happiness! And that’s how after months of being in agony I changed my impression from silly to smart. Also taught myself how important it is to give people another chance. We all have bad days and just cannot be perfect 24*7. It is very important to understand that you cannot judge people based on a single mistake or slip-up.

But even I forget this rule many a times. When I was little we used to get a subscription of India Today magazine in our home. My activity only involved looking at pictures and reading only if the picture was filmy. One fine day I spotted a very pornographic cartoon accompanied by a very erotic story. The name of the author was Khushwant Singh. Being in 5th or 6th standard I was disgusted by the story. In my mind Khushwant Singh = Tharki (Lascivious). While growing up whenever I heard his name, that story popped up in my head and I snorted with disgust. Just a few months back I was discussing about books with an online friend of mine. He is an avid reader and a beautiful writer. So when he suggested I read Khushwant Singh I decided to give it a go. So I bought the two books suggested by him – Train to Pakistan and Delhi. I started with Train to Pakistan and My-Oh-My, I was spellbound. The book was so beautifully written and totally my kind of book. I like the books wherein each work, each line created a picture in my brain. I imagine the entire sequence and setting of the story. It is only possible when the author gives attention to details. Explaining small little things, which even though might seem inconsequential but are very important in forming a picturesque story.

The book had this very charming details right down to things like black dirt inside finger nails! Mr Khushwant had intertwined these little details so beautifully that I found myself right inside the little village of Mano Majra. I quickly hopped onto the other book, Delhi. Another masterpiece. It’s an ode to the city that has seen and been a witness to so many important historical events. The city is described like someone would write about his mehbooba (beloved). It also provides a quick lesson in history as it details everything from accession by Nadir Shah, Taimur, Mughals to beautiful poetry nights by Amir Khusro, the lives Britishers led in India with their memsahibs, the building of Lutyens Delhi, assassination of Gandhi (Both MK and Indira) and many more events. The book made me fall in love with Delhi and its rich heritage. So, now I am a huge fan of Mr Singh’s writings and curse myself for delaying to read these extraordinary books because of my prejudices.

And while we are not the topic of books, I had another experience proving the theory of first impressions wrong. Once upon a time when I was in 12th standard, I happened to read this book called “The Rendezvous” from my school library. This book really left a positive impression on me. It was a love story in the backdrop of holocaust and I sweared by it for years altogether. So much so that when I decided to create a blog I named it Rendezvous. The book was a very old publication and not easily available in market. I had wanted to re-read it for many years and my joy knew no bounds when I found its second hand copy on Amazon. I was really excited to read the book I had admired and put good words about to anyone who’d listen.

But this time around I wasn’t that impressed. The book was a clichéd write-up of everything that clichés are made of. You name it and the book had it. The hero was Tall dark handsome, heroine was beautiful and sexy in a virginal way, the heroine had not really experienced true love before meeting the guy, after being with guy she understood the true love, when the heroine said NO hero assumed it to be yes, because shy girls never say yes. After reading a chapter or two, I had to stop and ask myself… Really? This is your favorite book? But then back then I was clueless about everything. Hence another point to prove, how dangerous (and false!) first impressions can be.

So my point of writing this post is a very small attempt on my part to remove the first meeting impressions and assumptions. Please refrain from forming an opinion based on limited facts.

Let’s live and let live and give second chances :)