August 15th – The day I got my freedom

Every Indian is aware that August 15th is our Independence day – back in 1947 India became an Independent country as well as was divided up based on religion thus causing the bloody partition. It signifies freedom after 400 years of colonial rule. We may not be doing great things yet, but I am sure we enjoy the freedom that we have. Just visit India once to see how its been used and mis-used.

I will always remember August 15th not only for what it means to be an Indian but for what it means to me personally. Long time back (oh God, one sign I feel really old is that – this feels like a long time memory). After I finished my college/MBA in 1998 – I was like any other Indian student. Full of dreams and no sense of reality. I was sure that I would be able to find a job of my dreams and just find that ladder to climb up in the corporate world. So naive I was, but then who isn’t when they are 23.

You should know that India is a very populous country. I mean very. To get a sense of it – ask any guy who is trying to get a job. I used to go to an interview (publicly open to anyone qualified) and then find myself standing in a line with like 200 students in front and back of me. Forget getting to actually have an interview – after 4-5 hours of waiting they would ask us to go away. This was the situation (and sadly it still is for many) for me. I tried my best to find a job for about 6 months and nothing happened. But good thing I was hungry (think I still am). When reality dawned on me I realized that I will have to work it through the lower rungs to get to a place which I like.

And so it happened through my friend I got a very small job (paying about $65/month). The job was in an Internet Cafe. For those of you who enjoy un-interrupted Internet access now – an Internet cafe is a place where you pay hourly to browse internet. Since there was no way I can have my own internet access at home, as it was expensive – I jumped on the opportunity to work there. By work I mean, just making sure all computers are turned on and working fine – make entries about people coming in and sitting at the cash register now and then. I was ok with it. I was looking forward to what it means for me – an opportunity to learn so many new things.

The place sucked like hell. The job was hard – manual labor. I showed up at 9 am and left for home only after 9pm. Sometimes I slept over at work – because there were people who would come in to browse (mostly porn) after 12am. The cafe was open all 24 hours. More than that it was filled with politics. My boss was abusive and constantly putting me down to get more and more work from me. He was kind weird too. More than anything else I hated was the politics. Every employee there was kinda brain washed to manipulate someone for something. They took advantage of my naiveté and made me work like a donkey.

I was completely helpless. Here I was trying to make a career in software but stuck in a place where I have no control on anything and I couldn’t even get close to any programming environment. I spent all day (and sometimes all night) helping people to browse and learn what Internet is. How to use Altavista, Yahoo chat (messenger) and ICQ.

My only way out was to learn something on my own in my own time (I think this trait stuck with me till this date). So, I joined a course to learn Java every evening. My friends were making fun of me about how I am spending more money learning Java than making it on a monthly basis. I was un-deterred. I knew this would show me a way out. So for 3 months everyday I would leave work at 6 and go to a class and try to learn frigging Java (I despise it for various reasons which came up later).

This gave me some confidence that I can escape this crazy job and also make it on my own. So finally after about 10 months of abusive job on August 15th 1999 I woke up (It was supposed to be a holiday for everyone except for people who work there) and decided that I won’t be going to this pain in the butt job any more. I went right back to sleep. My dad was worried as to why I am not up – but I think he was relieved at some level that I am ending this painful experience. I got like 10 calls from my boss threatening me but I didn’t feel anything. I was so happy inside and just didn’t give a shit.

So on this day about 12 years back I became mentally free – which led to the transformation of my life. So powerful was change in my life – that in the following month – me and my friend took a gamble and went to Singapore for work and succeeded in establishing a career. It took me 40 days to do what I really wanted, but my mind was shackled for almost a year in a painful job.

Every year I feel more happy about the choice I made on this day and thank my stupid courage that pulled it off. I will never forget this day.

Jai Hind. 🙂

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