Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pack your bags mate!!!! Lets do some OZ!!

When I move, it usually happens because of inertia. With 'move' I mean the physical equivalent of a move. The amount of laziness in my day to day life can be used to make atleast 3 people super lazy (if you use the lame 'amount of money that x has can feed y number of...' analogy). That said when I realized that within a couple of months of moving from one job to another (as if this was not too much), I would be moving to a completely different country, lock stock and barrel !!!!! I lost much of the meagre 8+ hours of sleep that I usually get each day.

Its not easy, I can tell you with first hand experience. There are so many moving parts to this process which are not visible on the surface and absolutely anything can go wrong and frustrate the crap out of you. In my case it was the Visa process. Believe me I didnt even had to apply for it, Google hired some agency to do it for me. But the whole retarded process of waiting for it is like the 80's hindi film songs where the lead pair is running towards each other in slow motion. That is really irritating, everyone knows they would end up hugging and kissing each other, then why the slow motion. Just do it. Well, even I knew my visa is going to come but they took 6 weeks just to put a stamp on it.

I took that in my stride, visa came, everything is fine, done and dusted. Now the grind starts. This time there is no red tape to blame, nothing you could probably get done by slipping a quick note to the God while praying each day. This was the stuff that me and Shveta had to accomplish within a week : Pack the stuff in the house, send it back to Bilaspur, sell my car, Some shopping here and there, paying the bills, meeting everyone, go back home meet parents, probably attend a wedding, find a international courier to send stuff to Sydney and last but not the least if there is time left, get some rest/sleep etc. This is where the 'move' thing comes. I am constantly in Inertia of Rest, as Newton would have called it. The Escapist inside me, who tries to puts everything off till the last minute is a full-time employee of mine. That procrastinator is my personal assistant, he cancels all the meetings and important decisions till about the 11th hour and also is efficient enough to provide me with excuses for doing that. I never had any complaints for him (though my wife hates him), hence I never found any grounds to fire him.

But this time because of peer pressure and pressure from the Board of Directors (read wife) he has to be fired. It pained my heart but it had to be done. So, my days during the process became something like this : wake up at 6, try to go running, cajole my mind out of it, sleep till 7, start calling packers and movers for quotes, go to market- do random stuff, start packing everything according to the guidelines created by Shveta, Shopping time, review the to-do lists, sleep, wake up in the middle of the night - think about what the hell is going on. Now repeat this for atleast 15 days and you have a recipe that takes you to a mental asylum and not the sunshine country.

I dont know how but all this stuff was wrapped up too, all in a week's time. Though super hectic but still fun. The moment we buckled up in the plane to fly for Sydney from Delhi, I started missing India. Remember the feeling of sending a mail and then thinking "Shit!! Can I unsend it and think about it a bit"? I had the very same feeling, I kept telling Shveta that we are going to come back soon. Already little sad about leaving India we overcame the sadness by criticizing the bad service and seats on the plane (apparently an instant mood-uplifter for most Indians: Criticizing). Soon, we were loving it, our sadness was transformed into sheer displeasure for the service, even after flying business. Halfway through the Journey, that feeling was already gone, replaced by hunger and pain from stiff necks. Loved the second leg of the journey though, amazing proactive service and great food. One Tip: If you wish to travel International in the near future, make sure you travel with a Pregnant lady ;). They take really good care of them in the skies.

Sydney gave us a cold and wet reception, almost like a snob neighborhood kid who is not happy to see you because he thinks you are here to take his toys away. Thank God for the fact that we were going home to my sister and could anticipate some nice hot India food. That kind of cold and wet weather makes you a hell lot homesick. We thought its not going to be easy settling in. Boohoo, we were missing India.

Its been more than 1 month since that day. I feel settled in, Shveta feels at home and summers here are just a month away. Sydney is beautiful, has these pockets of calm and chaos,old and new and makes you a friend easily. My next project is finding a nice place to call home, I keep improvising my shortlist all the time.

All this while I am trying to keep pace with the city, catching trains on time, brisk walking to office and enjoying being orderly and disciplined. In this 1 month I have already figured out the train timetables for Sydney, learned how to make coffee in the coffee machine at office (designed to make people quit drinking coffee), can almost decipher the meaning out of an Australian English conversation, got a hang of the driving rules and have come to terms with life without honking and jumping queues. But Still, sometimes when I wake up in the morning, all I crave for is 'The Times of India' to kick start my day.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What really is Independence day??

This is probably the first time in my life that I was working on the Independence day and loved it. Well, I am not trying to sound too NRI-ish here because 1) I am not 2) I really loved it, for a change.

Its amazing how our brain remember things and words only because there is a story or picture associated with them. For example When someone says Bat, and Indian would definitely think of a wooden Club used to play cricket and not the flying fox. Whenever I read or hear 15th August, It reminds me of a Holiday and a couple of Nationalistic sounding songs. I am sure like most of my friends in India, I would have been more excited about the whole 15th August thing this time because it was a long weekend. Seriously thats the only thing we care about these days, long weekends. Go for movies, dinners, plan out a trip to the hills, drink and when you come back load the pics onto facebook. Album title 'Independence day weekend' and yeah make sure that our profile pic is replaced by the Indian Flag till atleast 17th August. Thats Independence Day.

I remember the last independence day and also a couple of them before the last. The most patriotic thing I did last year was buy a small Rs 5 Indian Flag at the Traffic light in Delhi to put up on my Car's dash. I didn't put it there eventually but, hey I atleast bought it. And also an Independence Day may be an year before because I felt terrible at not having an Indian Flag like everyone else to put on my office desk, though I had diligently put one up on my Orkut profile.
In Sydney this time, I came to work yesterday. Spent the whole day working and in meeting and went home after a good productive day. It was kind of liberating because I didn't have to prove that I care about Independence day by buying flags.

I think we are the worst generation that India has seen since Independence. We are a generation of Armchair thinkers and Twitter Revolutionaries. We are the ones who put the most flags and start the most number of public conversations, and do nothing. I think we have wrongly started to assume that words written on Twitter or expressed on a blog like I am doing are impacting a change and would eventually make India a better place. It saddened me to the core reading the headlines on Indian dailies this morning. Someone who tried to do something and not just pretend like we do, had been arrested and disallowed. Numerous updates on this have been posted to twitter since morning and if you are following the right people, the story has already been converted into jokes. And pay attention please, its only 16th August today and most of the DP flags are still there.

Just because we posted it here on blogger, tweeted on twitter, shared on Google+ and updated on Facebook, many of us believe we have done our part.
India probably needs a huge 'Cleaning up the mess' drive. I don't know how but I know who would do it. Its eerie to even try and work up a similarity with events that happened in Egypt and rest of the middle east couple of months ago.

I have nothing more to add here, would go back to my happy existence and pretend to ignore whats happening on the streets of Delhi today. Let me read some technical articles and not think of the rot thats crippling my country.

I am sure this was a good blogpost that I wrote, I am sure most of you who read this would be nodding your heads. And that exactly is the problem, we have started mixing the real world with the virtual. We have convinced ourselves that since we wrote/read the patriotic article on a blog and listened to some patriotic songs on Youtube, thats exactly the amount of patriotism we require these days.
I am not against being social on the net. In fact I am the most ardent fan of the things I just described here as bad. My only request is that if you find a Patriotic article on twitter, Facebook or Google+, go ahead and share, But don't stop there.

Googling Google

Mountain View is not the kind of town which could give the first time visitor any indication of its importance. Like many other small towns on the El Camino Real it has a old world charm and laidback persona.
But this little town has been the center piece of my imagination for a longtime now, only because Google Inc, the organizer of world's information is headquartered here. I used to form pictures of this town in my mind when I first heard that Google is HQ-ed here and they were of a Space age city with lots of fancy cars and super cool technology. I must say I was taken aback. The only indication that Google may be around here for any first time visitor is the ubiquitous 'GoogleWifi'.
I reached Moutain View near noon after a very annoying and tiring 13 hour flight with the worst service one could imagine and all I could think of was a hot shower and hot Indian food (though still imagining about the space age town).
Believe me Mountain View or MTV (as it is known inside Google) looked different and beautiful partly because of the un-hurried vibe but also because I saw an Indian restaurant right across the street from my Hotel. Waaah, my day is made, took a shower in record time and gorged on some south Indian delicacies.

Next day was big, figuratively speaking. Had been planning this day for many years, What is it like to be at the GooglePlex? Are all those Youtube videos true? What is to be at the heart of where it all started?
11th July 2011 answered most of these for me. Googlebus was there to pick us up in the morning and wow it had wi-fi. The campus is enormous and nothing like what used to play inside my head (space age, flying saucer like vehicles and robots all around). Rather its such a cool and leafy surrounding. Brick buildings housing different teams and google bikes like the ones in the Pic below for transportation. I was sold yet again, isn't one of the reasons why we love Google is that its so simple and friendly? These google bikes made me love the place a bit more (would have been a different feeling if there were cars or buses). Our training was happening in a building that was a little removed from the real 'Plex', so the first lunch time cycle ride to famed 'Charlie's Cafe' was the real thing. I wanted to see everything and also take a pic of everything like a 5 year old in Disney Land for the first time. A dedicated Indian 'Namaste Cafe' didn't disappoint a bit either.

Took numerous trips around the campus on the lovely cycles in the after hours to see all the landmarks at Google. From 'Stan the dinosaur' to Space Ship One and the Giant Android to the Google Store. I loved the vibe of the campus, everyone is friendly and helpful and you run frequently into guys who look exactly like the ones who come to your mind when you think about words like 'nerd', 'engineer', 'geek' and 'hacker'.

One of the evening social events that was on schedule was a 'Bowling Social'. I had thought we would be put in the Googlebus and transported to some Downtown bowling alley in MTV or Palo Alto. On the evening of the event we were rather asked to take the cycles and go to another building. Whatt????? Google has an on-campus bowling alley aswell?? yeahh, it does and how cool is that. I would have totally made that place my 'Adda' if I was working in MTV. The Bowling Social without doubt was fun with the team from Dublin beating the shit out of everyone.

Didn't realize it was almost a week since I had come to MTV, last day here was a friday. Another big day figuratively speaking. I had been imagining this day as well, for sometime now. Why? because friday at Google means TGIF. Yes, the weekly event where no matter how big or small you are in the company, its your chance to be in front of the Big shots and ask questions. I went there early and took the TGIF equivalent of a Balcony seat. It was 5 PM and who did I see walk past right next to me, yes Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Whoa, disbelief (the celeb gazer that I am). Larry was quite 'dressed up' which in Google terminology means wearing a jeans and a polo. But the interesting part was Sergey Brin, in shorts, a sweaty t-shirt and socks, yes you read it right, socks no shoes. Whoaa..whats happening?? Aren't these guys the founders of one of the most recognized companies and oft-used web service in the world? worth $38 billion each? And where are the airs and the Charisma? Well, there is none. Engineers at heart these guys are the closest you can get to the Billionaires who behave like normal human beings. My respect for this company's culture of openness and coolness just went a notch up.

As I was walking out of the event to pack for my flight back to Sydney, I realized Google is not a company, its the 'zeitgeist'. Its the way people in my generation think and behave and express themselves. Google is tuned to that wave length, it knows why and what we are. And, I was here at Google, attended TGIF, heard Larry and Sergey standing right next to me crack self-deprecating jokes and ate at Charlie's Cafe. It had finally happened.

I went back to the hotel, packed and left for San Francisco International for the flight back to Sydney, proudly wearing a satisfying smile and my Google T-shirt.