Sunday, November 30, 2008

A leaf from an old book...

Thank God, the rains are over. As my friend Ramki put it, it's been raining lions and elephants in Chennai the past week. So much that there was no power for days, no newspapers, no milk, no vegetables in shops and it had been like being in another planet for a while.

But rainy days are always nostalgic. And nostalgia is almost synonymous to childhood memories, which you can't deny are surprisingly evergreen. You tend to forget what you did and where you were during the last monsoon. But you cannot forget the times you came home from school, drenched in rain to your heart's content, or the little paper boats you sailed in water puddles when you parents were not around.

I especially remember one day when I was in class four. It was raining heavily since morning and the streets were flooded. After school, I was waiting for our rickshaw man to come and pick me up. But who turned up instead was my dad with an umbrella! On one hand, I was pleasantly surprised. On the other, I was a little apprehensive because besides that I had an innate fear for my dad (just like several kids of my generation), he never allowed us to get wet in the rain and got furious if he saw me waddling in puddles, which I was then hoping to do, if the rickshaw man did not turn up.

I quietly started walking with him holding my hand. There came the street round the corner, filled with rain water. I was sure my father would turn back and try taking another route or an auto- rickshaw. My dad looked down at me with a mischevous smile. "Thanniyile jal jal nu polaamaa?" (shall we tread happily through this water?) I was overjoyed. I couldn't believe it at all. I hastily agreed with a big grin on my face, before he could change his mind. I can never forget the way I waddled through the flooded streets to my heart's content, alongside my father that day. Long after I came home, washed myself and changed to dry clothes, the feel of the water lingered around my legs. And that daddy appreciated my childish desire to play in the water and let me indulge in it for once, was absolutely heart-warming.

I hope I'll remember this little deed of my dad which made me so happy that day, whenever I tend to make rules for my child, for her own good.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Playing To Your Strengths Pays Off

It’s good to make plans, but sticking to them no matter what, is not. As Winston Churchill said, “There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.” And that was how I faced the most pressing hurdle that I ever faced in my life - Unemployment.

It was the year following my graduation. I had a bachelor degree in Civil Engineering. Though I was a good student and had scored well, there was a major problem. It was a time when the construction business was pretty down in my country and job opportunities for fresh graduates in Civil Engineering were almost zero.

I kept looking at the “Wanted” columns in news papers. I sat for various competitive examinations. I even walked-in to interviews that had specifically asked for people with experience, assuming I could win them over with my academic qualification. None of my efforts bore fruit.

Finally I was offered a contract job with a polytechnic college that offered diplomas for various branches of Engineering. As I loved teaching, I gladly accepted the job, though the pay was low. It was fun and I loved the work. But again, my troubles were not over.

The contract staff had to keep a log of the hours worked, get it authorized by the head of their department, and then claim the amount from the office. This process usually took about a weeks’ time. However, several months went without payment. We were told that funds were insufficient and aid from the government was expected. Also, we were assured every penny of our claim, even though delayed.

It was frustrating to work for months together without getting a penny. Also, I was commuting a long distance on bus and it was tiring; I quit the job. Most of my friends were employed by then. It was painful to listen to them talk about their funny bosses, friendly colleagues, and altogether what a jolly or hectic time they had at work. None of them meant to hurt me, but they did, all the same.

It was then that I had started browsing the Internet, and there was this Internet Cafe that I frequented. The guy who owned the place was my friend and he always had an ear for my cribbing about how difficult it was to get a job for my qualification.

One day we were talking about the boom of Information Technology and the spurt of IT companies in our country. That’s when he suddenly said, “Deepa, I have no doubt that you’ll be a very successful woman in the future. But it looks like you have taken the wrong road.”

It took only a minute for me to ponder. The words from a friend, who had confidence in you, were absolutely rejuvenating. I thanked him and headed straight for the nearest computer training centre. I enrolled myself for courses in various computer languages hoping to become a computer programmer or software engineer.

I soon found out that programming was not my cup of tea. I also saw that it was not the only profession in the IT field. There was a special niche for something I loved and was good at.
People with a fair amount of computer knowledge plus good writing skills were sought after for Technical Writing. This profession also required that one has to grasp things quickly and have the ability to elucidate the most complex topics in an easily understandable manner. The job was not as well-paid as programming, but it got me hooked.

I knew instinctively that this was what I was looking after. If at all there was a job in which I could play to my strengths, it was this. I loved teaching, and the job is all about putting things simple for people who want to learn. I then had the necessary computer knowledge – thanks to the courses I had taken. I loved writing and the job required extensive writing.

So, to make a long story short, I became a technical writer and have successfully completed seven years in the profession.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference.”
- Robert Frost

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