Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer Months

A few days ago a friend from IIT had '9 years' as his Facebook status. Apparently it was 9 years to the day that we had attended our first class. It got me thinking about all subsequent summer months (May, June, July) and how I've spent them. And more often than not, they have been characterized by changes and transitions.

2001 was when it started. College. The weeks leading up to that day in July were amongst the most anxious and most joyous days of my life. It was sweeter because it had come after a year in the dumps. I wasn't quite sure if I was more happy for myself or my parents. The weeks after that very first day, however were memorable in a totally different way. But for the bunch of us who underwent the arguably necessary ritual of ragging; things would never be the same again. Inhibitions were shed once and for all, swear words hearted, physical and mental tolerance levels increased, and a sneak peek given of a world full of quirky, smart, different-from-me, nice, not so nice people that was to be our home for the next four or five years.

2002 was my first 2 1/2 month long summer vacation. A lot of my friends from school had come home. We would later realize that it was the last time we would have such a big gang. Get-togethers happened practically every day at each others' house. Dinners. lunches, movies and just chatting about stuff. I was in the stage where I missed school and my friends and had not yet totally become comfortable with college life. So it was a return to my comfort zone, so as to say. 

By 2003, I had assimilated the IIT culture and known myself a lot more. Although not by choice, I had also realized that I wasn't going to break any academic records. So I decided to pursue other activities and learning the guitar took more importance than anything else. Just before coming home for the summer vacation, I had my friend teach me how to hold the G, C Em and D chords. He told me that if I could play them and do the transitions, I could play practically 90% of all the songs that I had ever heard. I believed him, went home, convinced my parents to buy me a guitar (it wasn't hard in any way though. I had quite a bit of music sense in me and my parents knew that) and spent the better part of 2 months trying to string together Greenday's Time Of My Life and Poison's Every Rose Has It's Thorn. When I went back to college, I had added Take It Easy to my repertoire. It was a thrilling experience. 

2004 was my first real experience with the city of Bangalore. Hard to believe, but I didnt drink alcohol back then. Bad life choice. Watching the Euro with my friends in the common area of the place we stayed in, the trek on the railway track at Sakleshpur, working in a company (the most exciting part was getting the ID and being able to swipe in and out!) and working for a boss, the feeling of getting the first pay check, and for the first time being able to buy something for my parents - those two months were full of first experiences.

It was in 2005 that I finally got to feel the summer heat of Delhi in its full glory. We had to stay back in campus to start our final projects and I was also beginning my preparation for the CAT. The 45+ temperatures forced me to a very scheduled life. Swimming pool at 6:30 followed by breakfast at 7:30. I would then rush to the library or the lab to either give a mock test or meet my supervisor and get some project work done. Lunch was mostly taken at the nearby canteen and I would come back to the library to study or read a novel but mostly ended up taking a nap. It wasn't until after sundown that all of us would return to our hostel rooms which were like furnaces. It was impossible to sleep there. So we would have dinner, go out at times and come back to grab a place in the common room in front of the cooler. It was obvious therefore that finally when it rained in Delhi, all of us just went berserk. Windows were opened to let the rain come in the room as we went outside to get drenched.

2006. I remember feeling a void after my final presentation was over. 5 glorious, memorable years had ended. There was more than a tinge of sadness amongst us. It was relief rather than happiness which was the dominant feeling. I had to pack up everything and send it home to Bokaro. A new life in Bangalore was about to begin in June and I don't think I was looking forward to it. I hadn't achieved what I had been striving for the last year and was utterly disappointed. It was a tough couple of months. Suddenly I felt uprooted and very unsure of myself. There was however, a new job in a new city. And thankfully, a lot of my friends were coming too. And there was the World Cup. July was spent house hunting with my future room mates which was nothing like any of us had experienced before. I started my life as a coder in Java, cheered for Zidane and started discovering the pubs of Bangalore.

My parents left Bokaro in 2007. That was the biggest change for me that year, I think. Home took on a different meaning when I went there for the last time. A year into the job, I loved my life and had actually started to like my job a bit.  But apart from the usual weekend trips and hanging out with friends, the summer of 2007 did not have anything particularly different. The usual highs and lows.

By 2008, I had finally realized that I wanted to do an MBA in the US. So I began seriously preparing for the applications. That was the main theme of the entire year, let alone the summers. And yes, I watched Euro with my roommate. We made french toast and maggi and tea during the half time break. Good times.

And finally last year. Well, Darden happened. I quit my job in June, left Bangalore and really had mixed feelings towards where I was headed. It's always hard to leave behind something permanently. Knowing that there is no coming back. No matter how much you disliked it when you were there. I didnt hate being a software engineer. I just didnt like it as much as I should have if I wanted a longterm career in it. And there was house #40 and Bangalore and all my friends. 3 terrific years of a continuation of life after IIT. It was hard to let go of all that. 

So there it is. I have successfully been able to keep myself occupied for almost two hours now. Which takes care of most of my evening. If you are still reading, you're either really jobless or know me pretty well enough to read through the summary of my summers. This one? Well you already know about it, I guess. It's quite significant in the scheme of things. How much impact it will have on my future is hard to say. But like most of the summer months before, it has been different than the rest of the year.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Month To Go

At lunch today, a fellow intern said -"I'm ready to go back to school". No, she's not done with her project and I don't think she hates her work. And if I remember correctly, over the last week or so, I've seen the stray Facebook update from a couple of my Darden friends saying the same thing.  It got me thinking. Am I ready to go back to school? Like most things, I don't know.

I miss C'ville. I miss the energy and the familiarity. And a host of other things. But that is for another post. Next year, same time, maybe. 

At the same time, the summer has been an interesting experience so far. A self discovery of sorts. A perfect transition, as far as I can think of - from the no business, all coding software engineer to this mixed bag of technology trends, competitive analysis, consumer habits and the art of converting bullet points to fancy looking shapes which provide second order insights.

Getting to talk to heads of various divisions has been great. Product Management, Business Planning, Content & Services, Product Marketing. They mean more than just titles now. Also, the 'real world' aspect is becoming very clear. With everybody from the OEMs and the Carriers to the Content Generators and the App Developers trying to take a share of the same pie, so often, it's the framing, the positioning, the negotiations and the compromises which see a business proposal through. There is absolutely no dearth of innovation or crazy new ideas in this space. But not every idea is making a million dollars. Not every app is getting a million downloads. 

But enough of trying to sound intelligent and MBA student like. Dallas is like an oven now. And somehow, more than the temperature, it's just the brightness of the sun which fries my brains. There are no evenings. I mean when the sun sets at 9:00 PM, where do you squeeze in the evening?
More alone time has meant longer and more frequent emails to some of my friends. Then, apart from the Despicable Me's and the Inceptions, I've managed to watch an eclectic range of movies. The Visitor, Religulous, The Big LebowskiApocalypse Now (I also read Heart of Darkness after it which I thought was too wordy to enjoy or understand in one read).

Exploring good places to drink beer has been fun. And it's given me the opportunity to hang out with my friend from IIT. It's funny how having lead very different lives since our college days and pursuing very different careers, we still have so much to talk about. Some of it revolves round the very differences and trying to understand the other's perspective. Then there's recounting hostel days and people. A good part of it is about our current state of being - internship, bosses, decisions and  the changes ahead. And lastly, there's music and a bit of physics thrown in. I guess the alcohol helps a lot too. Particularly memorable was last weekend's chance visit to 'Bavarian Grill' - a family owned German restaurant in Plano. I had some of the most amazing tasting beer ever. So smooth. There was an old man playing the accordion close to us. Our waitress was super helpful in deciphering the German menu for us and suggesting beers based on what we liked. Even my 'not too hoppy, wheat, kinda light - yes, I like Blue Moon' was enough for her to suggest me a couple. Both of them were fantastic.

And lastly, I read this book. Loved it.