Sunday, July 20, 2008

Stranger In A Strangeland - Part II

Another brave soul landed on the shores of Strangeland on April 6 last year, hoping the experience of working here will turn his career around. I must have surprised myself when events took their turn in such a mysterious manner to push me on that Air France flight to Strangeland, for my second, but extended, stint. Surprising because most people close to me know that I despised the idea of working here, and swore never to follow the Patel family troops to the land of opportunity. I have always maintained the haves are hypocrites who are certain the have-nots are simply either "not bright enough" or lazy, and that Strangeland is the outstanding example. Why would I want to work for them?

Yet, events like becoming a Computer Engineer, and then getting a Master's degree, joining the IT services industry, and ending up on the project I worked on have conspired to make me go against myself. After 1 year and 3 months, I felt it was time to take stock!

Why Am I Here?

The same reason why I am not a physicist or an astronomer today. Popular choice. I don't blame anyone, not my peers, not even myself. When I was 18, I somehow weighed up spending long years earning a PhD against starting to earn within 4 years in the IT industry, and the financial implications made sense. You just go with the flow after that. Working as a software engineer in India, it is only a matter of time before you get the chance to come down to Strangeland. Of course, you do need to be in the sweatshop business serving Strangelandians.

How Do I Feel?


Lonely because I miss my family and my friends from my student-life. Once you leave all this behind, you start to realise what they meant to you, and that you just took these things for granted. I feel damn lucky to have such friends as I once had in Kandivli, a bustling suburb stuck away in the crowds of Mumbai. In a way, what I never once experienced amongst my own for 24 years, I am now suddenly exposed to.


The confusion arises from all those questions my idle mind is now starting to ask.

  • "What do you want to do with your life?"

  • "Is there any purpose to all that you do with your struggles at work and the daily chores?"

  • "Should I believe the Bhagavad Gita and blindly carry on my work, because there is nothing else to life other than fulfilling your purpose, your work (karma yoga)?"


Low-rise skirts, shorts, tons of make-up, short-trim - all of these can be found in Homeland too. You just have to walk into a mall in one of the big cities. Yet there are things that amuse and surprise me everyday.

  • You see 4 in 5 women flaunting tresses that don't defy gravity and simply fall straight down in neat parallel lines. How many of those are natural!?

  • The smiles when they pass you at the grocers - where the corners of the lips move outwards, not upwards - an unwarranted pleasantry.

  • Ladies pulling out the mirror and make-up kit when the car is waiting at the traffic light, for barely 30 seconds.

  • Answering questions about where I get my protein from, if I "only eat vegetables". And, "What the hell are pulses/lentils?" or "So fish is not vegetarian?"


Working with a bunch of 40-year olds is quite a treat. They seem to anticipate everything, and can map previous experiences into current situations and rationalize solutions so well. They finally have stopped treating me like a baby, so that's a good sign. I have also found a few itchy genes that make me want to cook various dishes over the week - surely a gift from my mom! I read more books like I used to when I was in school, and re-living that experience is a joy. Ok, so that's not an enlightening, but I sure have discovered stuff about myself in this little journey.

What have I inherited?

I now sport a really short-trimmed mane, although that was more the fault of the first time a male barber chopped my hair off in Strangeland. He was in a kind of hurry that I have only before witnessed in commuters in Mumbai ambling hurriedly to catch the 6.03PM Borivli Fast local train. Contact me for pictures if you want to amuse yourself. The sad part is, I now seem to like this trim!

I walk to work everyday, which is an arduous task when the temperatures are touching 40 degrees Celsius (me no understand Fahrenheit yet), and it gives me an excuse to wear shorts, "cos they are comfortable". Oh, they sure are and I can't seem to make myself wear jeans anymore! I even pranced around Bangaluru in shorts this April.

A work ethic totally different from what I witnessed in Homeland. The good part is, you only work in the workplace and dedicate all your energy to work while you are there. The bad part is, you never develop any personal relations with any of the office folk, and every relation is "strictly professional".

All in all

Eventually, I do feel less of a Stranger in this Strangeland, partly because I have inherited some Strangelandian qualities. And thankfully, I have learnt things about myself that I never had the time to discover.