Friday, November 02, 2007

Friends from Qualcomm

Qualcomm was a wonderful workplace and I got along very well with everyone. But still, there are always a few who are closer. These guys formed my inner circle and made my days in qualcomm truly memorable.

Ganesh and I joined on the same day. We did our trainings together. We chatted a lot and got to know each other very well. The first thing I noticed about Ganesh was how much he resembled another close friend of mine .. Anand Narayanan. For both of them, when something needed to be done, there would be no dilly dallying. they'd do it at the earliest. I really admire that. Ganesh is also very very honest. I remember the time we were stopped by a cop. The job of a constable is really the last resort of a desperate man. He's not fully a cop, in that he doesn't have the authority to do anything. Not even fine a vehicle. He gets pounded by the citizens as well as by his superiors. And to top it all, the pay is pathetic. Therefore, a typical constable in India is a bitter man whose morale and ethics have long flown down the drain. All he cares for is the occasional bribe he gets from traffic stops with which he can feed his family. I've know some to accept 5 rupees (10 cents) and let people off. Anyway this cop stops us and asks for our papers. I had just sold the bike to ganesh and the papers were in the RTA office so that the names could be changed. We told him that. The cop's eyes lit up. He smelt a big one here. Maybe even a 100 bucks. Asked us to turn off the bike and park. After a few minutes he slided down as said in a conspiratory tone "You know, if you are fined it could be as much as 2000 bucks". Pat came the reply from Ganesh "Actually it's 200 .. I've checked that. If you don't believe me check the back of the ticket book. The rates are there". The poor fellow was in shock. In all his years in the department, he hadn't yet met someone who had memorized the rates for all the fines. He made a few more attempts and they failed too. Now he was mad. He wanted us to suffer. Threatened to impound our bikes. Said he dint believe us when we said the papers were in the RTA. But our Gandhi was unmoved. He said he'd rather pay the fine than pay a bribe. Said that if he gives money to the government, the citizens should get it back. Net result, the cop took our bike. We spent the day getting our papers back from the RTA, and finally, when everything was done, with all the bitterness and resentment born from having his bribe stolen from him, the cop fined us for not having a pollution certificate. We paid that fine (a hundred bucks) but we still dint pay the bribe. Naturally, Ganesh handles our finances for all our group outings.

Anand Siddharth and I are the original QIPL runners. They wanted to train for the Bombay marathon and I joined them because I love to run. We used to meet at KBR park. It has a circular trail of roughly 4kms. I still remember the runs. The feeling of being superman once the adrenalin hits after the first 2-3 kms, the rain, soaked all the way through, still running, finally tired and still running, and then it's over. They were both very very passionate about running. Maintained a blog, kept excel sheets, followed a training schedule, the works. Anand still is like that. The runner in Sid, however, was ruthlessly murdered by the massive juggernaut called marriage. He's now as fat as I am. I sympathize. Like I always maintain, before marriage, I was thin too. Despite the loss of Sid the running group has grown. Ganesh and Atul and regulars. I go whenever I can. And there are some real pros who run ultra marathons and all that. Anand and I often talk about the software lifestyle. There's no focus on fitness and health. Most people sleep late, work late, eat at odd hours and have no exercise whatsoever. Right now the average age of a software engineer is about 30-35. Soon this generation is going to age and then corporate India is going to have a huge health problem in its hands. We try to talk to people about this, but there's this thing about youth. It makes people feel they will live forever. And by the time they realise it's only an illusion, it's too late. I really really hope this does not happen to India. But somehow, whenever I think about this, I get this feeling of inevitability. We also started the Friday evening counter strike ritual in office. Counter strike is a computer game. Every Friday evening someone would start a server and eventually 10-20 people would be playing. All of us have our nicknames. Sid was 'bajrangi', I was 'mad goat', Anand was 'Bhagat paaji', ganesh changed his name every time. We became pretty good at it, but no one came even close to Sid. Bajrangi was unstoppable. Still is. My cubicle was next to the dry pantry and anyone who went for coffee could see that a game was on. Therefore, my manager told me that if I wanted to play, I should change my cubicle. I dint see what was wrong with playing after office hours, but hey, he's the boss. I played one last game. Really got into a zone in that one. Single-handedly destroyed the opposition and finally 'mad goat' went down, one last time, in a blaze of glory. We downed a few sodas, said a few words and retired that pseudonym.

The QIPL math club was founded by three eccentric individuals whose managers failed miserably in their attempt to give them too much work to think about anything else. The three were Mithil Ramteke, Amit Prakash and yours truly. All of us were interested in math, but the credit for bringing us together would surely go to the 'Ponder this' link on IBM's website. If you like tricky math problems, I would certainly recommend you google this. 'Ponder this' puts
up a math puzzle in the beginning of every month. The next month the solution is provided. for the average math guy (as opposed to the genius math guy) one month is just enough time to solve the puzzles. So we ponder this for a month and sometimes get the answer. that was where the math club began. Working together is indeed the best team building exercise and we became very close. Mithil and Amit are really unique. Amil was always a geek. He used to have a chemistry lab in his house when he was a kid. A true alchemist, he dreamt of the day he could make a diamond in his lab by heating charcoal. All his calculations told him it was possible. All it takes is persistent pressure and heat .. for about 5000 years. Unfortunately, a few years down the line, he got admission into the best Engineering college in his state and his parents forced him to douse the fire in his bedroom and pursue his degree. Much like Russel crowe in ' A beautiful Mind' he has spent the rest of his days searching for the next breakthrough in mathematics, particularly number theory. Mithil was the quintessential nerd. First in class, all through 12th, then B-tech at IIT (Indian equivalent of MIT), then M-tech at IIT and then, when there was no way he could stay on in college, took up a job. But years of persistent effort twisted a nut loose in his head, and so he is never at peace. Either it's the war on Iraq or the morning coffee. But there has to be an irritant around for him to feel comfortable. When life's good, he panics. Amit and I are saved by our marriages. Our spouses would never let us reveal our true nature in public, but Mithil has no such restrictions. A free bachelor, he walks around dreamily with NERD written in block letters all over and under and around him. He spent his life's savings on the coolest laptop he could find and hides behind it foolishly believing that he's going to impress girls with it.

There are a lot of others .. Kasse, Rumit, Atul, Sushim, Srihari, Venu, Nukala etc to name a few. People I really admire. But I've never really hung out a lot with them. All these guys are unique and special. I know, that's what everyone feels about their friends. I don't pretend mine are better. But mine are the ones I like most, and so, to me, they are certainly the best.

description of pics : In the chairs are (L-R)Ganesh, Anand and Me. In front of the car are (L-R) Anand, Siddharth and Me and in the cubicle are (L-R) Mithil, me and Amit.