Episode 1 – The Genesis
It was during the spring of 2002 that I decided to join RidgeCliff Corp as a senior application developer, leading a team of 10 mobile app developers. I wasn’t completely unhappy with my existing job, nor was the salary increment very lucrative, but I had moved to a stage in life where I had to have a life beyond work. I had been working for the state development foundation R&D, among a group of middle aged men, bent by years of research, with glasses and a sweater, mufflers round their neck even when the thermometer registered 35 degree Centigrade. I was strong academically, and loved coding more than anything else, and so even though I wasn’t really the nerd material, I had done well enough to get the most coveted job at the university. But when I looked at my current roommates, who by the way were my college friends too, I was torn between whether to continue with my mundane life of work and no play, or to start living life the way my friends did. I saw them work from home, party during the weekends, go for outings, make new friends, and all I did was work 9 to 7, even during weekends at times, on a project that someone of much lesser calibre could deliver, at a workplace which was far from what I had dreamt of. I had the liberty of working on new pilot projects which never seemed to meet closure among the company or clients, or train interns and new recruits. After a long time I gave in to the persistent requests by my friends to make the switch. Now thanks to them and their referrals I was going to be a part of a global team of 2500 developers mainly working out of the Denver office, which meant the only work on our hands would be minor enhancements, bug fixing, and quality assurance. It seemed like moving from the 12th standard to the 3rd standard, and yet getting paid more for doing so, but I guess I had made my choice.
After a month’s break from professional career, I joined RidgeCliff. I soon started feeling at home, and loved the work environment. There were no fixed working hours, you just had to clock a total of 40 hours every week. My roommates became my colleagues, which meant going to office was now much easier, and time off work was much more entertaining. Life seemed perfect for the first time since college. After more than 3 years, I could feel all the positive energy, the enthusiasm coming back to me. I started playing football again, went back to my old routine of workouts and indulging in various extra-curricular activities. I am a 6 feet tall well-built guy, a black belt holder, with good knowledge of various martial art forms. I love my friends as much as they love me and we never missed any chance to hang out together after work or during breaks. My friends called me Bruce Lee, a name I am yet to fathom, as I looked more like an Undertaker when he was young and without the tattoos, and my real name is Kairav. My facial features were sharp with a strong jaw line and I had long, messy hair. Not really the person who could carry off a Bruce Lee. Maybe a Bruce Springsteen came closer within believable limits?
In the next 2 years, a lot changed, and yet many things remained the same. Vikash and Aveek got their own apartments and moved in with their girlfriends. Anuj still shared the apartment with me. It was a 3 bedroom apartment, and too big for the two of us, but with the salaries we got, we were not too keen on saving a few extra bucks by moving to a smaller house. I was on the verge of becoming a manager, and so was Anuj. Vik and Avi were much less interested in work life, and concentrated more on weekend plans than any of the application releases, and so barely scraped to a senior developer position, with a salary almost half that of ours. But we never let salary or designation come between our friendship. We made a couple of friends outside the four of us at office. Both were girls, Rita and Pooja, of almost the same age as ours, though it was very difficult to tell most of the times.
As far as my love life was concerned, the college affair and the way it ended, had left an indelible scar on my heart. It seemed to be a classic movie plot, where the girl’s family had other plans for their daughter where I did not fit. But I hoped to at least get a chance to place my argument in front of her parents. When that did not happen, and she was not willing to go against her family, thus sacrificing a 5 year relationship with me, I found it very difficult to set my heart towards love again. My team and the management at office were very appreciative of my efforts and I would frequently get invited to team outings and parties. But even among a group of people, there always seemed a vast hollow, an emptiness that was never to be filled again. My friends had been with me through thick and thin, and they understood what I was going through. With them, there was a bit of solace. But things became difficult when my parents started hunting for the perfect bride for their son to settle down with. And on top of that, my dad felt that the Social Media was an easier option to use than e-mail, and started posting the prospects’ pics on my profile column. Soon people started morphing their pics with mine, hugging each other, and posted back on my profile, just for fun. I wasn’t getting any younger, and there was no one in my life, but I needed some more time to clear my head.
During March 2004, the organization went through a major revamp. There was a completely new management, headed by a visionary CEO. RidgeCliff signed up two Government projects and took up quite a few new assignments. There were fresh hiring, and work load increased significantly. We started spending more hours at office than what we were paid for, sometimes even overnight. Anuj was moved to a new team, as the Team Leader, which was finalising a major deployment for one of our largest clients. It was a 2 year project, due in less than 2 months. Anuj was so happy with this new work experience that whenever we sat for lunch or dinner, he would speak volumes about how the application would change mobile usage beyond calls / SMS. He envisioned that this would have the capability to integrate various aspects of daily life and more, in just one handheld device. Avi and Vik were the worst hit among us. They were both getting married soon, and their girlfriends kept complaining about how irresponsible they were towards marriage preparations and also that they spent so little time beyond work.
Over the next couple of months, we had a number of freshers joining the company, and I was one of the trainers / managers who would teach them various aspects of mobile application development and enable a smooth transition from college to corporate, and at the end of it take a few of them in my team. The first session I had was with a group of 30 new recruits, I started off with a round of introduction, knowing them, what they wanted to do in their professional careers, how much they knew about coding, analytical reasoning, and their background. On the farthest right corner sat a boy, pale white face, medium height, with dark curly hair and brown piercing eyes intense enough to fetch your innermost thoughts without the slightest of efforts. By the time the round of introduction reached him, it was noon. Everyone in the room started giggling and passing comments about him. Clearly he wasn’t a favourite among them. He did look way too young for the job. He stood up and started introducing himself, “Hi. I am Mehul.” As he spoke, a round of suppressed laughter broke across the room. He continued unaffected, “I am 20 years old, holding a double dual degree in Electronics, Electrical Communication, and Computer Science and IT Communication Systems. I am a gold medal winner from India’s Best Engineering College, and with scholarship offers from any top 10 Universities across the world you may like to name. I have an IQ of 170, which, looking at the extreme lameness and lack of behavioural etiquettes or sense of humour of those sitting around me, I would assume is more than the cumulative IQ of the other 29 fools sitting in this room. I guess what you cannot comprehend, you just want to portray as sour grapes. Their behaviour is just a manifestation of the frustration they are feeling to share the space with someone so much younger to them, yet so much more superior in every regards. Now, coming back to why I am here. I do not consider education inside a classroom, to be the means of adding value to your knowledge or providing practical expertise to theory. So, I have set off from studies and want to pursue a professional career and see the world in all its practicalities. I have no doubt that if this doesn’t prove to be a good idea, I can get into any University I want, across the world, but I also know I won’t fail in any of my endeavour, unless I start interacting with these nitwits around me and get down to their level of mediocrity.” The room was in pin-drop silence save the smooth and cutting words coming from the mouth of this eccentric and overly-proud genius. It took me a couple of minutes to find my sorts and comprehend what had happened. And all I could say was, “Lets take a short drinks break.”
Eventually I took Mehul in my team, knowing very well the risk involved when it comes to working as a team, but also acknowledging the huge potential that this guy had in delivering world class solutions for our legacy platform. He did learn faster than what we could imagine, during the training, and started pointing out flaws in the system architecture from the day he started working in our team. I started spending more and more time with him, since he worked more efficiently than my whole team put together. Once Mehul sat for a couple of hours on the code, my team had nothing left to do for the whole week. He had an air of pride around him, and did not let anyone come close to him for any reason whatsoever. But he was comfortable with me since I never restrained his thought process or his experiments. I got to learn more from him in a couple of weeks than I had learnt in the last few years maybe. Such was his addiction to learning and exploring new ideas and the zeal with which he worked was almost infectious. Every day, I got to know new traits and achievements of this young fellow. Once, there was a short article on the Times, which talked about how he challenged the most intelligent minds in a World Symposium held in New Delhi, where he solved the Einstein’s Zebra Riddle in under 3 minutes, at the age of 15. He even worked on subjects beyond his curriculum. India’s largest nano-technology organization rewarded him nearly half a million dollars for conceptualizing a path breaking solution to one of the most difficult problems involving nano-fluids.
Meanwhile, Avi and Vik decided to resign. They planned to start off on their own. Both Anuj and I knew that this would mean an end to our group of four, especially since they even lived at a different part of the city, and working in a startup isn’t really the easiest thing to do. But we were very happy for them. Finally, they would be doing something meaningful with a clear vision which they always seemed to lack earlier. They had a month before getting the relieving letter, and we planned a farewell party to set their spirits high. It was a small party involving few close friends apart from the four of us. Anuj got down to finalise the venue, while Rita and Pooja were responsible for the food and drinks. We even involved an Event Manager to ensure that the party would be a grand one. The Dream Arcadia was decided upon as venue for the party. They have a popular weekend bash every Saturday, and on 19th June 2004, we would be there to make the evening a memorable one. A large party hall with an overlooking mezzanine floor, flaunted by rooms on both floors, at the extreme end of the mezzanine floor was the DJ stand with buffet dinner being served on the 1st floor, and with this all our party plans got in motion.
On 14th June, something unexpected happened. My grandfather passed away due to a long standing heart disease. All through my childhood, I was very close to my grandparents. My dad used to be out at sea most of the times, being a marine engineer, and my mom had to take care of the household. It was my grandfather who took care of me. From reading fables to buying toys for me, all my needs found a resolution with my grandpa. Now that he was no more, I had to be there to pay respect and bid adeiu to the great man who held our family together all these years. I took leave from office, offered best wishes to Vik and Avi for their new venture and started off for home. Anuj was disappointed that I would not be there to attend the party, but he was equally sad at my grandpa’s demise and even offered to accompany me home. But I requested him to stay back and ensure that our buddies get a befitting farewell. I left everyone in high spirits, but never did I think that it was the last time I was seeing smiles on their faces. In a matter of 8 days, my whole world had turned upside down, and life was never going to be same again for me. Destiny had a very different plan for me.