Saturday, July 11, 2009

Five years on

Five years ago, on a rainy Friday afternoon, I was just coming out of an internet cafĂ© in Thiruvella when the mobile rang. There had been no new mail in my inbox, so I wasn’t really expecting a phone call from Bangalore. The interesting thing about a CUSAT M.Tech is that you get to spend one full year doing research, either in academia or in industry. The dot-com gloom had lifted and after five years of classrooms, I couldn’t wait to get into a cubicle. So I answer the phone, wishing that it would be an interview invite.

The lady on the other end introduced herself as a HR person from Motorola. Asked if I could be in Bangalore by Monday. Motorola office, C.V. Raman Nagar. At nine in the morning. To join.

Wait…What! Join! No interview? I was confused, not sure if this was for real. Even after I got an email a few hours later with joining instructions, I wasn’t really convinced.

Sunday evening, I packed my trusty old travel bag and took a bus to Bangalore. Monday morning, Motorola office. Few of my classmates were already in the lobby. Sometime later, we got our joining letters. There was a collective sigh of relief. We were now officially in the corporate world. By lunch time, we were introduced to the hiring manager, who bought us lunch. And then we spent the rest of the day exploring the coffee machine.

That was my first day at work. It was a strange feeling. The thought of earning a salary. Of free coffee and urinals that flushed automatically. A feeling of having arrived and yet not having reached.

As I look back at the last five years, I can’t help but be grateful, for the opportunity to touch a million lives, for the excitement of a product release, for friendships that will last a lifetime, for hope and despair, for success and failure alike, for every single day of this exciting journey. Hallelujah!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Brown Swan

An Indian film wins 4 awards at the Golden Globe and then goes on to bag 10 Oscar nominations. It is not really an Indian production, such a thing has never happened before and most people out here hadn’t even heard of the film. Now that is what I call a perfect The Black Swan. No one saw it coming.

But then, how could it not be a hit. A R Rahman, Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, Fox Searchlight, a feel-good film and the worst economic crisis in most people’s living memory. With the world going through such difficult economic times, a feel good film about money, about how it’s only the means and never an end in itself, that is just the kind of movie everyone so desperately wants to watch right now. So seemingly obvious in retrospect.

Slumdog Millionaire is about fate, attitude and human nature. It’s not really about India or its slums. It’s a lot like my other favorite feel-good movie – The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith and based on the true story of Chris Gardner.

Slumdog is about the startling success of the underdog, a kid who never went to school winning millions on a Quiz Show where doctors, engineers and professors have failed. Now consider this. An independent production, a director whose last movie didn’t exactly do too well, a cast that is virtually unknown to international audiences goes on to win so many awards where major Indian cinema houses and superstars have failed. Notice the parallel.

In the movie, instead of admiring Jamal’s success at the quiz, the game show host suspects him of cheating. In real life, instead of admiring the success of the film as one would expect, many Indians criticized the film for supposedly maligning the image of an otherwise shining India by showing the slums. As a wise man once said, “As is the microcosm so is the macrocosm.” The same pattern repeats infinitely at every level of observation and as you look deeper you see infinite complexity, the picture of a fractal and chaos in all its ethereal beauty. Finally, enlightenment emerges from the fluttering wings of a butterfly. Or maybe not.