Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Life changing moments, really?

Our lives are governed by a random set of fleeting moments that, with the passage of time, it is rather easy to realize which of those are going to assume significance. It is the way we play these moments that propel our way forward, for good or bad. These moments, when viewing in retrospect, define whether we have moved well in time. Of course, whatever happens, we move ahead in time, but the way we move forward rests exclusively on these testing times.

As I bring back these nostalgic moments in life, moving back and forth, with a chain of events that has transformed me considerably in the last so many years, I am not sure whether I could have altered my life by taking a different course of action. Looking back, it is easy to say which are the right decisions, and which of those, if I had gone with the other choice, could have got me in a much better position. I say, one or the other, because all important decisions are taken from one of the two choices that we are presented with. The others cancel by itself.

School life had taken a toll on me, as I wound my way through the much dreaded public examinations. I was fed up of listening to the This is the most crucial examination of your life. By the end of the exams, I had come to a conclusion, that this indeed is the most important moment of my life. As friends and alike poured through books and project materials to find out what exactly happened in the 16th and 17th centuries, it was a sheer battle of will to find out details about tiny nuances of the past that was actually, shaping our future. What do I care how the climatic conditions affect the rest of the world? In any case, I could predict rains on the days I went out, because the going outs were rare, and so was the rain. Magically, they seemed to coincide beautifully. I always had this heady feeling that I was a cool dude when it came to Mathematics, only to realize years later, during my Masters program, how easily, that I could change opinions on things that I was absolutely sure of years ago.

As the results of my tenth exams were announced, the possibility of getting into college for I PU and II PU left me with an exhilarating feeling. Now, nobody can question my authority; after all, I have entered college, I thought. I could not take even the first year easy, and in the second year, I slogged like as if there is no meaning in life, if I got anything less than a fantastic percentage (don't ask me how much I got though) in exams. Again, this is the important exam in life, surfaced repeatedly, much to my annoyance. If you can get into a good Engineering college, you just don't have to worry for the rest of your life. Now, I could not understand why tenth results were so important, because, irrespective of which college you went to, tuition classes ruled the roost in the second year. Luckily, there were no subjects apart from basic sciences, but you just had to see the general attitude when it came to handling language classes. Nobody cared for it, as if studying languages was a sin. Just concentrate on PCMB (Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Biology); why worry about overall percentage, when only PCMB marks are counted for professional courses. Get a good rank and get into a top college; placements will be a cake walk.

I don't have to say how my Engineering life went ahead, with the usual cliched dialogues, and the life changing importance talk given by the general public. After having written well over five hundred exams and tests in my twenty years of the Indian education system, I felt liberated, after having had to get through the grueling system of theoretical studies. Studying for engineering exams was way different from school and college exams. The way I used to prepare for the exams, I doubted whether I could retain any subject knowledge even one second after the exam.

So, at every stage, even after I joined work, and moved on in life, I always wonder how many choices we actually have in life. All that I have done till now is to choose one college over the other or one job over the other. Nothing more than that, really! I think our real decision making process rests once we come out of education. Maybe I just have to wait and watch to capture that one moment that can change my life altogether!!!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The moving equation

It certainly has been a moving time for everyone in the family.  As I made my way from Boston to Kansas, my brother graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Engineering, and found a job in one of the numerous IT companies in India right now, getting placed in Madras.  Like him, a lot of my friends have their brothers shifting away from their respective homes to wherever the placement calls.  A couple of my cousins too are going out to other destinations to excel in their careers.  So, certainly a moving time for all.

For me, relocation from Boston to Kansas has certainly not been a huge task.  In fact, it has been quite easy, considering the fact that the cost of living in Boston is much much higher than the mid west states in US.  Not that Overland Park is too economical, but at least, compared to Boston, here, it is easy to cut costs on quite a few things.  Just to give you a comparison, a 2 bed room flat in Boston (in the suburbs) costs about 1500$, whereas in Kansas, the same costs about 800$.  That should give an idea of the kind of difference in costs, considering the fact that the standard of living in Kansas is definitely a notch higher than that of the west and the east coast.  Having a lot of friends here makes the task of settling in a new place much easier.  There was never a problem of getting the temporary accommodation, and there was never a feeling of uneasiness to migrate to a different place.  Thankfully, I am settled well here.

I was equating the migration to a different place in India, from within India, and realized how things can be difficult if you don't have any idea about the place.  Even though my parents are comfortable in a place like Madras, and in spite of the fact that they know Tamil (Madras is a place, where not knowing the local tongue can put you in a very disadvantageous position), they really have to put in their best efforts to find a reasonably good place for my brother (he has still not found a good place to live in).  All the talks about being in the Information Technology (IT) sector, and being offered loads of money, pales in comparison, when you consider the fact that you have to stay away from home, and do all the things by yourself.  One might argue that the same thing happens in US as well, but the fact is, at least you have the facilities to make things easy for yourself.  Thankfully, I don't have to wash my clothes by hand!!! Good pay package in India is almost nullified by the monstrous rate of inflation engulfing the country right now.  It is scary to think that the rate of inflation is a double digit number, perched at the top at about 12%, a ridiculously high figure for a country, where most of us are hovering between lower middle class and middle, middle class.  The rent for a 9 by 6 feet room is about five thousand rupees!!! Even if you earn about fifteen thousand rupees after tax, and spend on the bare minimum, you tend to save not more than five thousand per month.  That would have been very good savings, if it was about a decade ago.  But today, with the way the economy is going, it is hardly sufficient.  Considering the fact that today in India, the average cost of building a house is about thirty to forty lakh rupees for a single bedroom apartment in a decent locality, a monthly saving of even five thousand is not much.  The average rate may hold good for a person in IT, but what about a person who has taken up a career in basic sciences.  He must be spending more than the earnings.  The disparity is totally appalling. 

Some of them back in India do not cease to surprise me.  I was talking with one of them, and he told me that he had gone to a restaurant in Bangalore, and was very surprised to realize that he had not spent much for four or five people on dinner.  When I asked him how much it cost, he told me coolly that it was a mere two thousand rupees.  I was shocked!!! When did two thousand rupees for five people become cheap? Are people earning in millions? I still don't know whether I would be able to get past the local darshinis for a decent meal!!! Give me Benne Masala Dosa at CTR; my day is made!!!!

I might have digressed, but the point is, unlike in US, there is no uniform rent structure in our society.  The apartment rent is fixed by high and mighty landlords, who think that anybody in the IT field is destined to make money by hook or crook.  A new city traveler anywhere in India is taken for a ride.  Everybody from auto drivers to the greedy landlords will make him feel as if he is from a different land altogether.

It would be great to see quite a few things set straight back home.  It is fantastic to read reports that the Indian economy is skyrocketing, but on an equal footing, it is distressing to note that the cost of living is going up in unequal steps, and with the current rate of inflation, it is all the more disturbing.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Boston to Kansas: On the Road

It's been quite some time since I wrote anything on the blog. In fact, I have been running busy these days, that I could not find time to keep in touch with the various tech blogs that I have subscribed to, and more importantly, I have not been catching up with the regular blogs of my fellow blogger friends. Honestly, the last few days have been quite hectic, but now, I am in a settled mode, and all set to turn the online world upside down with my write-ups, hopefully, regularly!

In spite of all the haphazardly organized ways of my life, I found time (rather quite some time) to catch up with, probably, one of the greatest Wimbledon finals ever. I was glued in front of the television set for seven hours, waiting for the intermittent rains to disperse quickly, as my mind struggled to keep pace with the phenomenal racquet speed generated by Federer and Nadal. It was breathtaking tennis, and it was a treat to watch Nadal outbeat Federer, though it was painful to realize that there could be only one winner.

Anyways, on the personal front, I have moved from Boston to Kansas City, since I felt that it was time to move on with a new job!! So, I had to take care the hectic bout of paperwork (transfer of immigration documents) and relocation related stuff to move into a new city. Leaving Boston was tough, but then, at every stage you realize that you have to do some tough things. It is all a part of moving ahead in life. Before you realize what happens, you are in a new place with a new set of people (in this case, the old set, since most of my university school friends are placed in Kansas), and you are already getting used to the new pace of life. Quite intriguing and interesting!!! Kansas is very different from Boston, in the sense that there is so much area in the mid west. Nice, single bedroom apartments are well affordable, compared to the expensive east. So, the life style is altered, but the kind of person that I am, the place does not make a difference, as long as the week days keep me occupied.

I decided to leave Boston, and the adventurer in me told me to take a road trip to Kansas. It is a 1400 mile journey, and I planned to cover the trip over four to five days. So, I took my first pit stop at Pittsburgh, PA which was about 800 miles from Boston. I spent a couple of days with Rama and his parents, and the luxury of home life took me back to Bangalore days. Home made food for breakfast, lunch and dinner made me think more than twice about what I am doing here. The comfort and warmth of home almost took me out of the present, and it was as though I had descended in an heavenly abode. But, life is fraught with practicalities, and soon, it was time to cover the remaining distance of my road trip. I packed sufficient food for the next stop, and I halted at Indianapolis, IN for the night at Holiday Inn Express. I ate the packed Puliyogare and curd rice, and slept like a log. The next day, I covered the last leg of the journey, reaching Kansas City safe and sound, and the talkative man in me, along with the rest of the crowd stayed back well into the night. I also had a chance to catch up with the latest animation movie, Wall-E, from Pixar and it was a delightful watch.  I was lucky to have traveled all along without encountering any difficult situations, since I had no idea even to change the tires of the car. It is a different story that I am well versed with this now!!!

Moving from one place to another is always tough, since a whole lot of things have to be taken care of. The initial phase of moving in is difficult, since the period of temporary stay doesn't allow you to settle in comfortably. So, now that I am all set, I should be able to get back to writing and keeping in touch with what my friends in the online world are upto.

PS: It is cool that blogger has come out with a much needed revamp of the dashboard!!!