(In 2011, i was a Computer Engineer who walked out on a secure, well-paying, conventionally ‘successful’ career in an IT company to be a journalist. I get asked the obvious question very often. So i thought i’ll post some of my thoughts from that time: a forgotten page out of a diary [It’s in its original form, so please bear with the verbosity and naivety of a past me]. It’s not the only reason i chose journalism of course, but it does sum up why i felt so out-of-place in what now feels like a past life. For the record, I respect all those engineers working their butts off out there to enable every little function in our lives; it’s a job to be proud of. I just felt i was not a piece of that puzzle; that i belonged out here, doing what i loved)
March 14, 2011
My 23rd birthday was knocking on the door. Needless to say, the constant rant in my head was getting louder every passing day. I was working at a place which hardly made any sense to me. As if I wasn’t convinced enough of being a misfit, the Universe was rubbing its hands in smug anticipation of what it had in store for me that day.
Japan had been struck by a devastating earthquake, followed by an enormous tsunami two days ago. What had followed were horrifying stories of whole towns and cities getting wiped out. If this wasn’t enough to shatter man’s illusion of having tamed nature for his own exploits, the tsunami had pushed one of Japan’s nuclear plants on the verge of a catastrophe. I spent the first hour in office reading about the disaster, the relief work being carried out and the nuclear threat looming over the country. I couldn’t get my mind to think of anything other than the imaginative sketches it drew of the people trapped in a disaster of that scale. The pictures of a prosperous country torn to shreds within minutes and the number of casualties predicted gave me goosebumps, the bad kind.
While I was busy trying to swallow the magnitude of destruction, and thinking about how it would change the world; my manager suddenly got all frantic and started screaming orders like a General on a battlefield. “Major Incident!” she yelled. I had seen this before. A tired sigh later, I braced myself for yet another hour of meaningless exaggeration. But this time, the ironical juxtaposition of the real world and the ‘IT Bubble’ hit me like a speeding truck.
There it was, on my computer screen, a country torn apart by nature’s unrelenting force. People all over the world prayed, donated, spread the word, and did everything they could, to help. The world had come to a standstill helplessly spectating the sheer scale of disaster nature could conceive. All that people at my job saw was a server which had misbehaved. That was the Major Incident to them. Nothing had changed at this godforsaken isle of cold, calculating humans. They chose to brush aside reality every day and look at their own little patch of sky from the bottom of the well. It’s a very convenient thing to do.
But the day was far from over. A while later, when the ‘Major Incident’ had been dealt with, my manager came up to us with a tensed expression, and talked about Japan. No, she wasn’t talking about the disaster, the victims, or the gloom the whole world found itself in. She explained how we, in India, had to be extra vigilant at work since the servers in Japan were down. ‘Major Incidents’ like misbehaving servers had to be expected and we could not afford to let our money-making corporate sites down. That is all it meant to her. An event that had changed the face of the earth, literally. That is all it meant to the people who existed in that IT bubble. I walked out in utter disgust and disbelief.
Maybe they needed that pigeonhole perspective of the world to be able to do their jobs – jobs which revolved around maintaining web servers, which hosted websites, which made money. But I could not ignore the obvious reality and live in a make-believe world. I could not let the IT bubble consume me. I could not work on a server while the world groped in darkness. I had to do my bit. I needed a more meaningful job; a career with a purpose.
It was time for coffee, and some introspection.
Four months after this post was written, i found myself sitting in a class, pursuing a post-graduate diploma in Journalism.