I’ve been privileged enough to be receiving a formal education sponsored by my loving and ambitious parents, which made me into a graduate sometime in the year 2001, with a certificate in Electrical & Electronics engineering, a job with the then fourth largest software company of India and lots and lots of dreams & hope. This should probably sound like the setting from an Indian happy-happy movie, but then I was soon to learn life isn’t a Bollywood flick!
The infamous dot-com balloon that burst in the Uncle Sam during the turn of the millennium had plans to change lives in some of the most rural of towns in India as well. Lucky me, I was chosen to be one of messiahs of the balloon that burst, metamorphosing the jubilation of a campus-recruited job to the chagrin that I shared with lot of other engineers (who regardless of the specialization in their graduation course, used to come out as software engineers, back then) who graduated that year, all across India. The software company that came into the campus and selected me to be one of their associates, into what-has-to-become the cornerstone of the later India Shining movement (the we-work-for-less based in-sourced software maintenance business projects), sent me a snail mail (that arrived unusually fast), saying they are to defer indefinitely the job offer they had extended me earlier.
Metaphoric balloons burst inside me too. The name & logo of a company that I used to doodle onto the desks of my college classrooms and on my and my friends’ notepads, to express my relentless loyalty and solidarity with them, long long before I even got into their payroll; that very logo put on a lot of ugly fat and grew into a gruesome shape adorning cactus-like thorns on it in my mind. I think I even resolved to never seek a career in that company ever again !
Spending the next couple of months to take in the first real stark life situation, I bounced back and got my self a job on contract terms with the state electricity board to be the ‘Assistant Engineer (Temporary)’ at the KSEB sub station that was less than a mile from my parents’ home. Hindsight is never ever healthy or productive, but the days in that job were some of the best in my life (second only perhaps to the days I spent as a student in the engineering college/hostel). Work was nominal, the main event of the days being literally instrumental in executing the load shedding aka power cut, by switching off the electricity supply to the different surrounding areas fed from that substation, at scheduled and announced time slots. It was announced/advertised to all the public, but thanks to the reputation of the state electricity board, these days taught me many new and varied curse words in my mother tongue of Malayalam. I was at the receiving end of all the badgering from the justly indignant torrent of calls that came in and that helped me learn, though I was unaware of the learning then, on how to shamelessly be bashed about: be it for something you are not faulty at, and more importantly, for something you are! Those were also the days where my reading flourished, thanks to a vast library of books that my well read friend and mentor shared freely with me and the long work hours at office where finding work was very difficult than finding a good book from my friend’s collection.
That went on for close to an year where I continued to enjoy my mom’s good food, growing slowly but steadily into that stereotypical youth, for whom energy, enthusiasm, aspiration etc. are words to be seen only in the dictionaries. Well then for me, as fate would have it, towards the end of 2002, I get a call from a good friend from the school days (who also is from the small town of Nemmara and who also is an electrical engineer by degree; but he was working in a small-time company in Chennai for a big-time call center as a network engineer), that his employer has a position available, that is equivalent to his. In the same call he reminded me rightly of how my life is getting wasted being in the same town that I have been all my life and how we were supposed to be aiming big and that computers are where we should be and that I could always go back to the Assistant Engineer (Temporary) job with the KSEB anytime I feel the Network Engineer job is not for me and many more things. To cut the long call short, I was convinced. Within 18 hours of my receiving that call, I was on a train to Chennai with one shoulder bag for the clothes for a week and lot of hopes !
The interview that was to happen on the next day of my reaching Chennai took a couple of more days to arrive. And when it did, it was in fact a piece of cake, thanks to all the tips from my friend and his new friends there handling similar roles. And so I got selected for the job. The pay was lower than what I was drawing from the Assistant Engineer (Temporary) job. And the new location worsened it, because Chennai is much much more expensive than Nemmara and on top of that the food and accommodation was not free now, as was the case earlier. But what bewildered me the most was the fact that, I was signing up for the same Network Engineer job like my friend, but my work hours were to be aligned to the US timings! That meant that I was to transform into a nocturnal and that too for a remuneration that could not even be called peanuts (I remember the peanuts from Chennai Besant Negar beach were costlier at least by 500% than the same measure of peanuts from Nemmara Lakshmi Theater!).
This phase of my life lasted just three months, but was wholesome once again in that it taught priceless lessons that has enriched my life as I see it now. There were two other guys to share the not-so-bad 2 BHK apartment in Velachery (the only suburb of Chennai, I have lived in) along with me and my childhood buddy. I learned some real good lessons in patience from how one of the roomies used to be compassionately patient towards my rude and belligerent screams of unrest towards him, by considering them to be from the lack of proper night-time sleep that I was going through. Whatever were the reasons for my getting irritated at the others, those never were just, but still the embodiments of compassion and patience endured me! But the weekends there were real good; for me it used to start soon after the dawn on the Saturdays, and for my sake the others would join in by getting up early resuming pretty much where they left off late into the small hours of Friday night. Now thinking back, those also were some good days notwithstanding the sleepless nights and the sleepy-hot-humid-and-mosquito-(and-flea-and-fly)-ridden & I-hardly-dozed-off-and-that-car-honked-in-the-street-outside kinda days, because of the same friends that I had who made their weekends sleepless and we all did some real good merriment. The learning I had on the work front were also tremendous, for, it was in Chennai office that I was seeing more than one computer connected into a local network (excluding the very little of exposure to internet that I had earlier).
And how that phase evolved is like this. I got called in by the same company whose logo I first used to scribble on my classmates’ notebooks and then later used to see as a gruesome cactus-like image. They were ready to take me in for the job that was offered a couple of years ago, to make me a part of the large section of Indian youth, male and female, in doing stuff faster, better, larger, cheaper (there some 6-8 such adverbs, all ending in -er, and all of them put together gave one of the visions/missions of the company) for the clients from the Western world, mainly the US. Forgetting all the resolutions I made earlier, I jumped into the job, probably from the exhaustion of all those night shift hours at that Chennai office. This meant I had to abscond from this Network Engineer job, as it was only 3 months since I have joined them there. I did that too, to start another phase of my life in Hyderabad, that was to change quite a few facets of my life and indirectly to be part of the IT/BPO based boom of Indian economy that was to happen 3-4 years down the line, and therefore indirectly again, to be an impetus to some creative writer, to come up with the faux caption of India Shining.