First day of work commute

July 19, 2010

(this mail exposes some of my narrow minded prejudices about some of the things. yes, i am your standard-model shitty person.)

I am writing this mail in a semi-conscious state. my orientation at microsoft was at 8 am in the morning and the office is about 20 miles away from where i reside. thus, i needed to leave home by 6:30 in the morning, given that I had to catch 2 buses to get there on time. But, I had come back home the day before only at 1 a.m, after attending a birthday party with Kunal. That gave me only about 5 hours of possible sleep time. Given that the water was already way over my head, I decided to do the impending chore of backing up my external drive and reformatting it to make my mac happy and I slept very late.

But, I need to write this mail when things are fresh on my head. What is lost in sentence formation (due to sleeplessness) might be gained with attention to detail.

I reached the place on time. There was no place to sit. The place was swarming with people. 106 people, to be exact. 106 people joining microsoft on the same day! that was more than twice the people I worked with at Veveo. And I expect similar numbers attend orientation every week. talk about being a cog in the wheel :) 10% of current global employee strength at microsoft were hired over the last year. that is insane!

The orientation was basically about some minimal paperwork, making the access card and someone lecturing corporate/hr blah for hours. there was some useful portion explaining the benefits and internal web tools and such. they also played a video clip of steve ballmer (in closeup) on huge screen. he has green eyes and a big head. it was scary. i also helped myself to all the muffins i can possibly eat. i stuffed cereal bars in my pocket.

The person sitting next to me at the orientation was a tamil guy named venkatesh. what are the odds? actually, pretty high it seems. he even knew where madipakkam was. that was something. we checked out bicycles at the on campus store after lunch. there were some going for $3000 or so. We imagined how we could buy an auto in chennai for that money and make a good sum renting it to drivers. That thought made me very happy. It showed me that I still had my head screwed right.

the return bus journey to seattle was interesting. at the start of the bus ride, a guy who reminded me of my dad, got in and started inquiring the driver why he was being charged 50 cents more for the ticket than what he thought he ought to be paying. the driver kept repeating his stock answer. something was lost in translation. finally, the guy gave up and started walking towards the seating area. I warmly smiled at him and he sat next to me and started talking in tamil. i was enthused to strike up a conversation. it was a long bus ride. it turned out, all he wanted was to convince me about the glory of kalki bhagavan. he was fascinated with bhagavan and was sincerely and naively interested in convincing me of his mightiness. i did not want to get in the way of his excitement and let him blather on for the rest of my journey. i tried to get him talk about himself but he got back to his favorite topic with keen focus. I was irritable due to my sleep depravation but he was not irritating enough. compared to the smart, bigoted, sly, diabolic propaganda machines i have met or heard about, he was innocuous. he just found something that made him happy (thought the source of his happiness is a dumb, bigoted, sly, diabolic married couple known as kalki and amma bhagavan) and truly believed that it will make others happy too. i could not contest him on that point but I did not have the heart to crush his fantasy. in a way, it was just like the kind of thing that I can see myself doing. so, how can i fault when i see such behavior in someone else?

Here is what I learnt. He is a telugu naidu who was working in india cements in chennai and moved to US 4 years ago with a green card! (or so he says). He is currently a waiter in a indian restaurant here. his wife works at a bakery in Redmond. his kids go to school/college. he goes to seattle once every week to attend kalki bhagavan cult meetings at church of unity, Seattle, where they give timeslots for all kinds of cults/believers. he gets his weekly fix of deeksha and vibrations there. he claims they even have a Nataraja idol in that chruch. Kalki bhagavan appears in webcast once in a while. obviously, the meeting is chock full of white hippies and yuppies. he gave me his name, number and a photo of kalki/amma bhagavan. he briefly mentioned the impending calamities expected in 2012 (since the kalki dude said so) and chuckled at the society being oblivious to this unquestionable premonition. only 8000 people attaining moksha can save the world (his words).

i asked Kunal about what connecting bus I should take and where to catch it but not where to get down. As the driver of the bus remarked, “a vital piece of information”. he let me stay on the bus when it reached the last stop, since it was making a u-turn back for its next round in 5 minutes. he started searching the bus to see if someone left any valuables. With nothing to do, I “gave talk to him” (literal translation of a tamil phrase :).

Here is what I learnt. He finds cameras regularly and lots and lots of phones. he gives them back to lost and found dept. at the “base” so people can collect it. if they don’t get collected, after sometime, the driver has the option to collect it (at least they used to. now it is revoked). if the driver does not collect it, it goes to good will. now why did the revoke the driver’s option of collecting unclaimed items? Well, it had something to do with politics and union and such. basically, the management tries to screw the union with a rule or law and the union tries to screw them back with lawsuits and this boxing match continues eternally with both parties winning and losing some rounds.

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by Venkat Mahalingam

Always be coding.