Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Solitude Voyages - 2

(Its been a long time since Solitude voyage-1 , but travelers dont have the luxury of indgulging in literature)

Great philosopher Chanakya in his creation ‘Chanakya-neeti’ mentions that the place of work shouldn’t be far away from the place of residence. However during those days little must have he realized that centuries later it would interpret as looking for accommodations (read as PGs or rooms) near the company you work for. On one fateful day in July I ended up inscribing my signature on an agreement with a leading IT firm. Little did I know it will take me on an expedition that would be the longest in my life so far.
Packing my stuff into a single bag I set out on my voyage. My first destination was Bangalore. I had been on a short trip there once and the city had registered pleasant images in my mind. I had stayed there for 1 day and that too at my aunt’s place in a plush locality, so was looking forward for this trip of mine in the city of gardens.
I had no clue about accommodations in Bangalore. I did a bit of homework on the internet and tried booking rooms at hotels there. However I had to shelve off this activity because pleasant sounding feminine voices threw 5 figured numbers as daily accommodation rates at those places. Then I altered the search criteria and began looking for flats where I could set up my pad for 3 months of training the company hiring me wanted me to go through so that I would be fit to deliver nonsense in a way corporate world accepted it. This time male voices greeted me at the other side of the connections and bombarded me with legal jargon and 6 figured deposit amounts which would be returnable after 11 months. Pictures of me eating in hotels and sleeping in gardens and footpaths started dancing in front of me when fortunately a couple of guys I had befriended during the health checkup for the same company called me. I breathed a sigh of relief.
The last time I had visited Bangalore I had befriended an auto driver. I called him on his mobile and asked him to pick me up from the bus stop. My acquaintances from Mumbai had invited me to the place they had found for themselves. The plan was I would stay with them for a couple of days until the time I found myself a suitable accommodation nearby or in the same building. I got down from my bus and was mobbed with auto rickshaw drivers voluntarily offering me help with my luggage. Thankfully the guy I had called for arrived and loaded my baggage into his auto. I gave him the details of my destination. The place was called electronic city. I had a visualized it all the way from Mumbai to Bangalore. All along the hour long journey the visualization was scrapped layer by layer and finally I arrived at a location diagonally opposite to what I had in mind. It was at the outskirts of Bangalore and just 10-12 km away from Tamil Nadu. I entered the room my friends were staying in. Though the population density is the highest in Mumbai, the per-capita space allocation seemed to be the least at that location. 2 Beds were joined so that at night three of us could sleep. I was already feeling obliged to my friends who were going out of the way to make me comfortable. There was another room inside which was occupied by guys from the same company we were supposed to work for.
Biryani from a restaurant specializing in Kerala cuisines and a couple of hundreds of mls of whisky later I felt at home. I dozed off instantly only to get up by the dusk. I expected my house but images of the existing room emerged as my tired eyes adjusted to the glum ambience.One of my friends snoring by my side brought me back to reality. The fact that I had to be a part of this set up for the next 90 days gave me a sick feeling. The connotation of the word ‘Home-Sickness’ dawned upon me. I freshened up and opened the door to roam in the verandah outside. It gave me a picturesque view of a middle aged man brushing his teeth in the verandah of another building. ‘Welcome to Bangalore’ I yelled in my mind.
The first week after our joining various training sessions were conducted which lay stress on personality development and ideal traits in corporate culture. The training was so well designed that any person to master the skills would be a perfect fit for a water purifier sales man in any part of India. After tolerating the nonsense for 1 week finally our technical training began. We were supposed to assimilate over 500 pages in 7 days followed by another 1000 pages in the remaining 15 days based on which an assessment was scheduled. I decided to take a “bed” in the same building where my friends stayed as it was very economical. And it would also give me the luxury of having my own half of the wardrobe.

I was shifted to the ground floor by the “aunty” who owned the building. After discussing the monetary details she made me sign on a paper which had a number of rules and regulations listed on it. The first one said drinking was not allowed in the premises of the building.I had already broken the rule,even before signing. A smile accompanied my signature. The room I shifted to was empty. However within a week it was accommodated by 3 other guys who had signed a contract with the company similar to mine. One was from Zarkhand one from Coimbatore and one from Hyderabad. Incidentally the guy from Hyderabad was Marathi however decades ago his ancestors decided to make Hyderabad their base and the result was this dude who couldn’t speak Marathi but could understand it and was very good at Telugu.

After the first couple of days the barriers of formalities collapsed and the spears of interference and bothering started piercing everywhere. I was never a gadget freak, however its only here I realized the important role mobile phones played in negating the past karmas of your life so that you could get nirvana in the current one itself ,especially if your room-mates possessed it and weren’t single. It seems He was very keen on me attaining Nirvana in the current reincarnation. Not just one but 2 of my room-mates had a fetish towards mobile phones and had female counterparts on the other side of the connection who themselves seemed to have selected talking on the mobiles as a full time profession. With gradual escalation of romance and female acquaintances the amount of time dedicated to talking over the phone by my room-mates increased gradually. I could over hear verbal versions of sweet musings in Telugu and Tamil with “Solla” and “Chepu” being the most repeated words. The chap from Hyderabad had his bed just at one hands distance from mine and unfortunately a huge appetite for conversation. Sessions would begin post dinner lasting till 2.00 in the morning. If this wasn’t enough ‘good morning’ calls became a trend. A peaceful 6 hour sleep would be possible only on weekends. After attending monologues in the company which would last for over 9 hours and traveling for 90 minutes to and fro, studying became almost impossible. Finally a couple of weeks before the examination I decided to shift. I had to bid good bye to friends who were otherwise very fine people to hang around with.

Sometimes life throws difficult questions at you. You have to opt between life and lifestyle, wealth and happiness, those whom you love and those who love you. Everyone comes across such a question in life, mine was simple, it asked me to choose between good friends and sleep. I opted for sleep after all sleep counts very high on my priorities in life. It is nirvana without meditation and moksha without death. It is one of the greatest gifts by almighty to humankind.
One of the local boys whom I had befriended during the training helped me out in finding the accommodation. This time it was a professionally run boarding house. And the person who would take over the job of sharing my space and driving me nuts was from Karnataka itself. I hadn’t come across such a master piece in my entire lifetime. If nonsense had a human face it would be his majesty who offered me an acoustic ambience at night. He conversed with himself in his sleep. At 2.am one morning I offered my prayers for the wellbeing of the poor girl who would share her bed with this moron for the rest of her life. Soon telephonic conversations ensured that his conscious self would ruin my peace till 12.00 am and his subconscious mind would take over then onwards. And unfortunately he would accompany me to my office too as he was a colleague.

Finally the day arrived which would decide our worth, or for that matter our staying back in the company. An examination would judge how well we had assimilated the imported software which our company would export. “The company shouldn’t kick us out after so much money spent on training, exams are but just a formality”, “and won’t it be sensible for the company to bear some loss now than investing further money for advanced training? I think they will kick us out if we fail” the naïve software engineers were found discussing that morning. As far as my preparations were concerned I was busy considering whether to take an A/C Volvo or a non-A/C bus while returning home.
The paper consisted of about 100 multiple choice questions. After carefully looking through the questions I was overjoyed to see that it was a classic case of “smart –stupidity” Whoever had set the question paper had paid utmost attention towards enlisting the most confusing options with the answer, however he/she had committed a major blunder. While the correct option of the line was copy- pasted from the software literature, the wrong options had their origin in the cranial cells of the paper setter. I blessed those English teachers who had imparted marvelous literary skills to the setter and answered the questions by just evaluating them on English. The trick worked and unfortunately I was one amongst the toppers. Had I known the outcome of scoring good marks earlier I would have given the paper blank. My posting location was altered from Pune to Hyderabad. But it had a brighter side to it too. I missed my posting location by just 800kms.Some of my friends were promised Pune and posted at Chennai.

I visited my home in Mumbai for a day and flew back to Hyderabad. My father had taken care of the flight and hotel accommodations in Hyderabad, even monetarily. When I was dropped at the hotel by the auto rickshaw driver I had hired from Paryatak Bhavan to Amirpet I was pleasantly surprised. My dad had booked a suite in a very posh hotel for me. The windows in the hall offered a divine view- a gurudwara. The interiors were done aesthetically and the room service was prompt. The restaurant offered good cuisine. Through out the day the sound of the prayers at gurudwara rejuvenated my soul. Especially in the evenings the whole place acquired a captivating aura under the yellow street lights and the ambience in the hotel added to the charm. The next morning I had to attend lectures at a local college as the company was sponsoring my post graduation. Boring would be an understatement for those lectures where the professors started bombarding us with artilleries of technical knowledge from day 1.However I was pleased as of the faculties introduced half were experienced, knowledgeable, passionate about their subjects and friendly. 50 percent is a good enough ratio as in most of the universities the ratio is exactly what you would get by interchanging the positions of the digits. I passed my day struggling hard to keep my eyelids from covering my retina. I had the company of a couple of friends from Bangalore who were posted at Hyderabad too. I returned to my hotel room sharing my auto with them. In the room I spent my evening with television and alcohol to my company.
The next morning I had to meet my manager and his manager at the company. I along with two friends of mine started from our place in an auto. The girls had been to the company earlier as they didnt visit their homes. for me it was the first time. Just like in Bangalore this center was located at the outskirts of the city too. With two experienced female guides for company,and an auto rickshaw driver new to the place, we reached the destination precisely with just over 8 halts for direction.

The trend was being followed by all the IT companies all over in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The state governments obliged with large pieces of barren lands and supportive infrastructure at special prices at the outskirts of the city thus striking symbiotic deals with the entrepreneurs. The companies reaped high margins because of lower investments and the governments benefitted from the taxes even if they were at a lower rate because the companies ensured development in the surrounding regions. As the number of people recruited by the company swelled, housing complexes, schools, hospitals, hotels and malls would mushroom in the surrounding area and within half a decade the perimeters of the cities got redefined.

The center was developed as per international standards and was very beautiful. However unlike Bangalore this facility was still under construction and a part of it was still being developed. Near the place offices of other service sector giants were also budding.
Coincidentally my resource manager was from Mumbai too and quiet young for his position in the organisation. Further conversation revealed he belonged to a generation where everyone irrespective of their academic background was diving into the IT sector as it was the “in thing”. A good performance ensured a trip abroad and a fat pay-cheque. Most of the entrants then worked on technologies which over the period of time lost their grip on the market and became obsolete. Those who were smart enough kept jumping and over the period reached a stage wherein they could now maneuver projects irrespective of the technology with a basic training. Introduction to the way the company functioned and the figures and graphs indicating the revenues and performances of the company followed.I have my own point of view on these sessions.To me they appear a bit strange. Its like taking a person to the presidential suite in a hotel,showing him around and finally asking him to join the staff in the garden for lunch.Figures in millions of dollars were thrown at us as quarterly gains. I was busy calculating the number of reincarnations I would have to undergo to earn a quarter of that amount. Then we were inquired about our performances in the test back at Bangalore. "I, I am the unfortunate fool who unknowingly altered the posting location which was just an hour and half away from my residence" I could hear my inner voice. I suppressed it and proudly blurted out my score.
Next we were introduced to our respective project managers to whom we would be reporting to. My manager was a Telugu person who had a peculiar way of pronouncing “R”.I was glad that my name didnt end with 'R'. He pronounced 'R' as you would pronounce when pronouncing 7 'R's in a line. He was a pleasant personality and an authority over the software he handled. He resembled a famous south Indian actor who has played the role of Mumbai police commissioner in one of the Hindi movies based on underworld. After viewing my resume the first question to come my way was "So do you think this is the right time to migrate to IT,especially considering the turbulent times the industry is going through?" "Sirrrrrrr, I have not migrated,given a choice, forget migration I wont even work, but my parents dont subscribe to my way of thinking and keep niggling,all I wanted was some time to myself before I could begin with my MBA preparations next year and burry myself under the luxurious errands of a student" I suppressed myself from blurting out my thoughts. Making a serious face & adjusting my specs I said "these turbulent times are a characteristic of the service industry.They are like Sin waves and will repeat cycles once a decade, we need not take them seriously " . My managerrrrrrr seemed to be impressed. "So what kind of work would you love to do". "Work??!! are you kidding, work kills creativity, I would just love to be the laughing buddha of the team,I will swipe in daily,smile at whoever looks at me and surf the internet.Moreover with the payment I am offered here even that would be overwork." I thanked Him for bestowing the human anatomy with a filter mechanism which scanned the thoughts before they were configured as vocal waves in the throat."Anything which suits you suits me sir" I replied. You will be a configurator and a developer he said. In my mind I praised his courage and thanked him before taking his leave.
I returned home with a relieved heart as I was placed with good people. Boss, girlfriend/wife and dentist are capable of giving you a lot of pain if you are unfortunate enough to find the wrong set.

After returning to my room a new problem started hijacking the peace of my mind. I could afford the room which my father had booked for me for just a month if I splurged my entire year’s salary. I had to look for an accommodation. Experience is a great teacher and Bangalore odyssey had revealed unto me the priceless worth of solitude. I was more than sure I would stay alone. The contacts my uncle had provided proved useless and finding an accommodation fast seemed impossible. The places at which it was available were far from the company site. One of my college friends who happened to spot me at the Sunday classes came to my rescue. I had just mentioned the problem to him over the phone and he called me back within a couple of hours stating that he had found a nice place and if I would love to check it out. I jumped out of my bed and within an hour was already checking out the place. It was a studio apartment with the owner of the building as my neighbor on the first floor. I made an advance payment, returned to the hotel and slept after celebrating the occasion with a sumptuous meal and spirit to my company.

1 comment:

Rahul said...

ye kya tune toh khudki ramayan likhdali............