How We Went Off Script: A Young Corporate Couple’s Search for Meaning

By Sana Hoda Sood

Once upon a time, there lived a couple who – apart from being irregularly tall– maintained an otherwise regular life. They woke at the same time to the blare of their alarms, then commuted to work every day via the same regular route, where they participated in meetings about meetings that had previously been held, only to discuss what should be attended to at a future meeting.

Emails were sent, best regards were conveyed, and the relevant attachments were often forgotten.

It wasn’t all drab and droll, no, of course it wasn’t. A ray of hope often shone through their ordinary days. The muted excitement of a new fancy coffee machine in the office kitchen, for one. It has pods! Flavours! We have choices! Choices! Like real-life free humans!

Free humans with coffee pods and paychecks and stability. A foreseeable financial future, and a well-rehearsed answer to where they’d be in the next five years.

But then, as the days and years marched on, as their family grew and the hamster wheel they raced on creaked more frequently, those well-rehearsed answers began to feel like a carefully crafted sham. Till more and more, the pair couldn’t quite remember those well-rehearsed lines anymore.

And I happen to know that for a fact since I was there – I’m half that pair, you see.

And one autumn morning of 2015, I woke up in my suburban Washington DC home in a dull panic. Nothing dramatic, really – just a strained uneasiness, a parched throat and a solid titanium bowling ball in the pit of my belly.

And no matter how much I willed and scolded my body into hauling itself into the shower and off on that regular route to my ordinary life, it just refused to budge. The rehearsal was over. The lines had gone stale, the jig was up. It was time for a grand new opening.

And so the pair, and their little pair, forgot their lines and went completely off script.

Sana Sood
Sana Hoda Sood

We packed up our bags, and their bags and more bags still. We fit our lives into a 20-foot container, shred the script into tiny unrecognizable scraps and bid farewell to everything familiar and comfortable.

The askers were mortified – a startup in Delhi after a lifetime in the US wasn’t an answer they’d willingly accept. “But!” they protested. But! But! But!

But by then, we were busy building something completely out of the ordinary. Our startup didn’t come with a script – we were writing the lines as we went along, often cobbling together words as and when we chanced upon them. Making mistakes, taking risks, and hurtling headfirst into entrepreneurship.

The air was thick with the buzz of Make in India. The powers spoke of great visions for the nation and grand schemes of success. But as we soon discovered outside the world of the front-page news, contracts were merely suggestions, timelines were laughable at best, naps were a survival mechanism and money was a hazy, misty memory.

Then, there was the college intern who warned I would fail without her, like, insight, and the investor who’d only message me after midnight.

So, two years on, a twinge of longing for that old ordinary does creep in every so often – those predictable emails, the familiar meetings, the comfortable routines.

But on most of the days and the nights, we relish in the extraordinary. That no two days are the same, that no adventure seems far-fetched. If it can be done, we try it; if it’s a mistake, we don’t mourn it.

Even the smallest wins deserve celebrating, as they’re victories we eked out of tiny scraps. There’s a peculiar enjoyment in toying with that titanium bowling ball in my belly here and now, in the most bizarre way.

Entrepreneurship has spectacularly astonished us.

Sana Hoda Sood is the founder of HappyShappy.com, mother of two little boys, and has a deep appreciation for bouquets of sharpened pencils

First published in eShe magazine’s May 2018 issue. Lead photo credit: Lance Anderson on Unsplash

Co-published on CNBC TV18.