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Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Fanboi Diary

December, 1983.

Backstage in a little country side auditorium at Cupertino, California. He was standing there in silence. An handsome young man in his late twenties, his eyes were closed and his blonde hair drew some rough brown arcs on his forehead which were marked with other nervous wrinkles. The stage and his audience were just a few feet away, the academy award winning single by Irene Cara was filling in the hall. But, he heard something else, he heard thunderous applause that would travel across the world, across geographies, across time. He heard his heat to beat. His hand was holding a little brown bag which housed a revolution, another little leap for mankind. He was holding his own dream, a dream that he was chasing for more than a decade then. A dream which made him step down from the Himalayas where he was searching for the absolute truth of life, smoking Ganja, growing beard, and singing praise of the Kali. A dream that brought him back to America. A dream that was his destiny. And today he lets the world get on board.The lights were then cut off. The music softened. The hall came to a standstill. He knew his time has come, he knew his name would be called anytime now, the distance between the backstage and the podium was now the distance between today and tomorrow. His name was then called. He opened his eyes.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Steve Jobs.

Standing in the minimalistic podium which was marked only with the apple logo on it. He spoke. Like being mesmerized by an ancient melody, like being made to inhale a very dense perfume, they listened to him. He charmed them. He spoke about the era in which they lived, an era where possibility and access of computing was dictated by IBM. The big brother of the industry and also its monopoly, a big brother which tried to crush all the startups, a big brother which imposed itself on everything related to technology thereby denying growth, preventing innovation. A big brother which kept computers far away from the reach of common man, which blindfolded the world and made the world take the road that it paved, a dangerous road which led to a hopeless cliff. Steve then said “Apple is going to fight IBM”. Apple was then nothing compared to IBM, in manpower, in expertise, in size, in dollar muscle. Apple was just an underdog. Deep under. As people kept guessing, an advertisement was played on the screen.

George Orwell’s dystopian world of 1984 opens on the screen. The information era is controlled by a Big brother who appears on huge telescreens, dictates and keeps the citizens in constant surveillance. The citizens have become void of choice and options, that they blindly follow him. And one day, she runs into the world. Wearing a tank top and bright orange shorts, carrying a huge sledge hammer, she runs in and the army of the big brother chases her. She then dashes into the chamber, approaches the screen hosting the big brother, spins her hammer to build some momentum and finally she lets it go, it travels down and smashes the giant screen, then happens an explosion and a huge flash of light. The Big brother goes in smoke, the hollow grey eyed citizens wake up from their prisonlike slumber to the new brightness and finally a voice over rolls and it says, “On January 24th Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll understand why 1984 won’t be like 1984”.

A month later the brown bag was opened and Macintosh was introduced to the world. The rest as they say - is History.

This happened two years before i was born, and it took another six years for me to meet an Apple computer. It was in my school in the early nineties, in the air cooled computer laboratory, into which we were let in once a month had an Apple Lisa, the predecessor of the Mac. But even then it looked different from the rest of the machines we had at school. It had a graphical user interface, a clear monochrome display which put the other command line interfaces to shame. We were not allowed to touch the Lisa. My eyes were then caught by the rainbow colored Apple logo, and in that early age somewhere in my sub conscious mind. I fell in love with it. It took another ten years to actually work on a Mac. I was at college then and we had a Apple Lab as a part of our main building. It differed from the rest of the campus, it was all done in crystal glass and anyone who entered my college would fall in love with the sight. A glass building filled with 50 odd iMac’s and it was in the main facade of college. I fell in love all over again, we had sessions there as part of our multimedia paper. Finally i logged into a Mac. A childhood dream. But BOOM! it was the first use and i hated the experience, being a hardcore PC user till then, i was heartbroken to know that everything was different, i was shamed to not like it. Everybody was. Time passed, and slowly like learning to play a piano i was learning to work on a Macintosh, it took a while to look beyond the obvious, to understand that a Mac was not different but it is the way computers should be and behave, that the Windows i was using was nothing more than Big brother reborn. I loved everything that made the Mac, from the beautifully done interface, the perfectly spaced Helvetica type facing, the easy to use applications, the streamlined navigation, the tightly coupled hardware and software, the single body design, the simplicity of interaction that happened between the man and the machine. I fell for it, or i was destined to fall for it. I attribute the elegance of Mac for kindling the passion of designing in me. After my fourth semester, in my sem holidays i visited the Apple lab when it used to be empty. Most of the time, i just looked at the empty machine, i did my amateur design work in those Mac’s. And in those beautiful summers when i travelled back home in those sitting in the window seats of empty busses, i would imagine becoming someone different, someone who is a misfit, someone who is a rebel, an underdog who someday will challenge. Then in that age, i did not know that i was associating a brand with my own aspirations and vice-versa. Then in that age, i did not realize that i was slowly turning to become, an Apple fanboi.

and it just began there.

Friday, November 27, 2009

W.

Mapla can you swap with me for next weeks night shift?”. He asked me, and he looked anxious. For he knew I preferred coming in night shifts, he knew I loved the precious solitude i shared with the empty cubicles while working in the midnights, he knew I loved to disappear with a glass of tea into the roads which led me far away from work. He then opened up almost in tears. “Having a function at home next month, we are supposed to do the customary spending for my sisters kid and her in laws keep pushing us for more. Running short of money da, and appa is already broken I somehow have to make up for the rest. I need the night shift allowance. Can you swap?” He looked at me, and he looked anxious. For I knew he was the only earning member of his family, his father has had a neural failure and his sister is married as a helpless house wife. We swapped. While working in night meant peace for me, it meant hard earned money for him. Not just for him, but for a hundreds and thousands of people who are sarcastically branded as the IT crowd, who are termed to have no real purpose or maturity and who are accused to bloat the society with their easy fortunes, it means hard earned money.

My perception of the industry i work for has changed over the times, not that i am going to stand in the frontline and fight for its worth. But I am not going to accuse it randomly. For i have had first hand evidences of its potential to change lives. My once team lead shared, over a drink of whiskey in the sloppy hills of Moonar, that he almost lost his hope for life before he got this job. It was the mid 90’s he was a very average student at college who had an extra load of arrears to carry at the end of each semester, he had a delayed degree, he never got a job and roamed around with drinks and dope and after losing precious years if his early twenties he at last knew he was going no where in life. Someone made him take an software course and then he joined a startup as a programmer for a meager 3000/pm. He worked hard and then harder, he shifted companies, he travelled across continents and finally he, someone who could have ended up as a hopeless suicidal young man, or a rapist, or a suicide bomber destroying lives in the name of God, instead became a man who is deeply respected. Same applies to me, the guy who sits next to me at work. This industry has redefined the old world and parpanaric views of who can be given the opportunity, of who can be successful, it has brought wealth and dreams into very ordinary households, it has empowered a generation to be independent, it has turned many a boys into men, it has not only turned many girls to women but also made young women to stand up and live without dependence. It stands as the gateway to a more self dependent and open minded future. For me? I wonder what would i have done if  i didn't have the smooth transition from  college to work,  for all the rebellious speeches i give, and the assumptions i proclaim- i would have suffered and be shamed. It has personally made life easy for me, just like taking the next step in the staircase, like has been easy. Money flow has never stopped,  I am now able to feed myself,  pay my internet bills, and buy my own perfume and razors every month, it has taken care of my everyday life while i wonder about which Ingmar Bergman movie to download next.

It has been almost two and a half years I started wearing tags and started entering into large buildings embellished with glass facades, I have met the most interesting people in these building. From the guy who could discuss Dostoevsky's literature to the guy who can detail me on how the Nasdaq operates on a daily basis. From the guy who pings me every time our mutual crush comes in a revealing top, to the guy who would call me over a midnight to ask for a shoulder in the rough times. I have earned people. I have outgrown my shell, i have amazed myself. But all these have not brought love for my job. I do not find enough comfort in my place i have chosen in it. I respect the Industry as a whole but not in parts, for i have also met with the most pretentious people on the planet within the same buildings, i have punched walls with the over flowing hate for bosses, i have witnessed the worst inter personnel politics, i witnessed slavery in its most meanest forms, i have seen someone else stealing my work in front of my eye, i have witnessed enough stabbing on the back as it bled but anyway all these are universal. But for most part i am just spiritually un-involved in the work i do,  for most times i have seen myself only as a misfit. Yes, this is not what i wanted to do with my life. I always knew that. That doesn't mean i wanted to study middle English literature and arts in an old European University, or plainly become a bearded hippie look-alike filmmaker, or become a rebel preaching communist values, or someone who wanted to spend rest of his life serving the starving children in West Africa. I always wanted be into the business, of illusions and branding. A different kind of corporate. For i always knew i had more patience and love looking at typefaces and doing designing than looking at the computer generated code and developing modules of software.Anyway.

Sometime in the summer of 2007. I entered the Tidel park for the very first time, it was my first day in the company  and a bunch of us were being officially  inducted. After document signing and hours of lecture by the corporate heads. I knew i was caught in the wrong place, with time i turned really restless and bored. Sometime in the noon the pretty HR girls with their totally made up smiles came in and screamed “IT’S TIME FOR SOME GGGAMEES”. I was like what the fuck?. Some other rebel(?) joined me and we came out for a smoke. We crossed the road and found a tea shop on the road between Tidel and Thiruvanmiyur. The sun was right above us.The traffic was maddening. I had my tea and i  didn’t feel like getting back into the building. I hated the formalities, and the fake wave of happiness and security they bestowed on us. I wanted to be free, get back to my room to my senses, forget the mess and get some real sleep. I walked to catch the train, and got my tickets. Standing on the cemented platform of  the station and waiting for the train i saw Tidel park at a distance, it was glowing in deep blue.

A few minutes later I crossed the road and was walking again into the grand entrance of the big, blue building.

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