Friday, April 20, 2007

A life called Infosys - When I was in the US ...

In my last post I talked about the American Reality. However I did forget to mention that the reality also included several other non material experiences. These however form a part of cherished memories and not just material aspects of the life in US.
These include various experinces around the daily life like Driving, cooking, friday night parties, travelling, the snow fall, the autumn colours. I would have to write a whole different post(s) on those memories to be able to do justice to them.
This post is however about the after effects that those memories and the American reality have on an individual who returns to India after a really long time

My first observation as I came back to India, was of the vibrant life out here. There are people all around in the city of Mumbai .. even at 4:00 am in the night.It was a pleasant change after moving on roads which only had vehicles. So now that I am back in India to stay I might as well highlight (in no specific order) the after effects of coming back after a long stay outside India.

The Amnesia
After shocking my Mom by turning up unannounced at 4:00 am, I set out to rediscover India. Things had changed a lot in that 1.5 years that I was out. The stock market indexes had more than doubled themselves, the Indian economy was on an unprecedented growth path, old sick industries were replaced by tall buildings or shopping malls, there were many more cars on the street. It was almost a place alien to me.
That's when I realised that coming back from the US was more like waking up with an amnesia and as if I just can't remember what had happened in last 1.5 years. It was almost as if I had a void in my life for that period and the whole country had somehow propelled itself several light years ahead. Thus apart from the economic changes there were some other significant differences. Indian cricket team was no longer the world beater (except Australia) that it was in 2003. Himesh Reshamiya was a hit, and you could hate him but not miss him on any channel. Stand up comedy was now a big hit and Jhonny Lever, Shekhar Suman could now be seen as pioneers of a growing cult. Cheap airlines where everywhere. I thought wow ..where was I, when all this was happening... I guess I just lost two years of memory .. Frankly I didn't lose any but yet there is still this feeling of Amnesia.

1 Usd = Rs 45
The first few weeks on return spent shopping. As yet I hadn't received my rupee salary so I was still converting everything into USD and thinking .. wow India is so cheap..So I ended up buying goods worth more than a couple of months of my Indian salary in just 2 weeks. The good old 14 inch T.V used to suffice in the bachelor's room but now I wanted to unleash a 29 inch gaint in my 1 bedroom apartment. The I was even thinking of buying a small flat on down payment, but to my surprise I discovered that along with the booming economy the real estate prices too had doubled. Around the same time my first Indian salary came down and thankfully realty dawned on me. The fact that I wasn't really getting paid in USD any longer and that rupee is still a poor currency.

Traffic Sense .. What's that ?
Even as I stepped out of the airport into the front seat of a an out of production "Premier Padmini" taxi, I was still stuck in the traffic discipline of the US. Then I realised the first "When I was in the US" effect. As I sat on the front seat, I was searching for the non existent seat belt. The lack of it did make realise that I was back in India, but for the first time I was scared about effect of accidents in absence of seatbelts. After all "when I was in the US" wearing a seat belt was cumpulsory on the front seat. I also discovered that the 2 second rule exists only in books (all 2 / 4 wheeler license holders who haven't heard of this rule .. please do 10 sit ups as a punishment for getting the license through corrupt means). Every time the taxi drew close to the vehicle in front I was scared that we would rearend the vehicle and was shouting in my mind at the peak of my inner voice ... "Brake Brake !"
Later I realised that in India people do appreciate the concept of brake, except that they prefer optimising the distance between 2 vehicles to virtually zero.

Cooking and cleaning
"When I was in the US" I used to cook my own food and wash utensils. This had left a lasting impression. For the first few days I was still used to washing utensils and it was difficult to let go off the lunch plate after eating. That even if my Mom insisted on me not entering the kitchen. Of course my laziness ensured that I didn't resist much, but I have to say that being served and taken care of was a very welcome change. Apart from that, I was always out there to proclaim my culinary skills with head held high. Of course, that only upto the point till some one asked me to cook up something. Then I realised that I could cook excuses better than food. .On day one. I proudly announced to my Mom, that I could cook well. To date I haven't cooked the fried fish or chicken that I promised would leave her licking her fingers. At least I learnt cooking excuses I guess.

Now even though I had that amnesia, I discovered that there was something useful also about it. As I entered my Infy campus, I realised that there was a whole set of people who had joined after I left the campus on my deputation. Thus the campus was full of whole new and younger crowd. Suddenly there was a new found sense of seniority. There were now people who took even my crap quite seriously. Afterall I had the onsite return tag associated with me. The managers treated my ideas with more respect and seriousness. The new joinees seemed to look up to me. Informal "Tu" and "Tum" words in the daily hindi were replaced by a respectful "aap" except by people who had like me recently returned from onsite. In fact for some time they were the only people I knew. Hence I guess the associated "seniority" factor. Soon I got tired of hearing the formal diction of people with me and decided to give up the seniority feeling for a more peer feel. However it is one feeling which was a pleasant change for some time at least.

Art of Story telling
I was never a stranger to the art of story telling. I think talking from own experiences coupled with using simile, metaphors and hyperbole comes quite naturally to me. Most of my blogs are also thus written. However the seniority factor had kicked in quite well and people listened (especially juniors) quite patiently to all my stories. They showed keen interest and I happily obliged. I soon found my stories starting with "When I was in the US .....". Soon as the seniority turned to peer feeling, the term "When I was in the US ... " was used more to pull my leg whenever the "Amnesia" seemed to hit me. Thus the name of this post.

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