Strange sense of nostalgia has been engulfing me the past week, in couple of days, I would be celebrating my 20th work anniversary , a unique milestone, since my work experience would exceed the age (19) at which I began working. While I have nothing worthwhile to show as achievement for my labors of 20 years in terms of titles, rewards, assets or income, but what I have earned ,can only be described as the ‘privilege’ to reflect on my journey as ‘epic’. And that I can say with immense pride & self-confidence.
When I began working 20 years ago on 14th Oct 1994---world was really very different and so was the workplace. Indian economy was still dominated by manufacturing , Indians still had only 2 career options- engineer or a doctor. Internet and email were words that you heard being said without understanding what they meant. Only large MNC’s in Baroda– ABB / FAG Bearings were connected to this mysterious thing or so we were told. LG and Samsung were yet to arrive on our shores, Wipro, Infosys , Cognizant all were fledgling companies. Windows was yet to be launched, Steve Jobs had not yet reignited Apple.There were no cell phones,, wait a minute, forget cell phones that time even land lines were few and far between. No one owned a car in our entire family, If you wanted to hear music, you bought cassettes. Most televisions had 12 channels and that was deemed enough. Computers were mostly used for DTP ( Desktop publishing). Jobs were hard to come back and it was hard scrabble existence for most.
It was summer of 1999, while working as Sales Officer in Philips based out of Bhopal, I used to frequently stay overnight at a small nondescript hotel in Itarsi . Since Itarsi junction was located centrally, I could do day trips to various upcountry towns like Pipariya, Gadarwara, Metul etc. Each morning I checked out , left my tour bag at the reception and went to visit one of the towns. In the evening, would return to the hotel and based on my schedule either check-in the hotel or onward travel to my home in Bhopal. One such evening on my return , I found a small crowd along with a few policemen gathered in front of the hotel. Puzzled, I casually inquired the reason,while collecting my bag from the reception. The clerk answered matter-of-factly, person staying in my adjoining room had committed suicide previous night, while I slept next door. What sorrows consumed him I do not know, I had not seen him, knew nothing about him, not even his name but the very thought that while I slept ,another human being, just a few feet away was taking his own life, depressed me no end.
I was 23, the experience left me wondering whether someday under pressure of meeting my sales target, alone far from family & friends, without anyone to reach out, and at an age when other youngsters were romancing, if I would instead meet such lonely end in some dark ,poorly maintained hotel in some God forsaken place. I did not check in and never visited that hotel again.
Three months later I left Philips without any other job in hand, but with determination to change my circumstances by re-engineering myself for a career in IT. It was a fresh start and a year later in 2000 having successfully re-engineered myself and with divine grace, I was working as a Manager in a software firm managing multiple teams in Bangalore. 2 years later in the wake of 9-11 attacks, US economy faltered and the software firm where I worked went under.
In the last two decades Indian economy has grown massively, and is now largely services based . Stock prices and salaries are booming, so is inflation. Most of my relatives now own cars, almost everyone in our family over the age of 18 has a cell phone. Work places are now employee centric, most of us work on computers for a living. Country has been transformed yet millions live in poverty, filthy living conditions, without access to basic healthcare, sanitation or education.
In a weird way , my own career reflects the destiny of my country … both embarked on their respective journeys with great expectations 20 + years ago, and have witnessed splendid transformation, an incredibly long voyage and yet falling far short of their full potential. May be someday both of them will fulfill their legacy.