Tuesday, April 04, 2017

C - Californian Calling

Been there, Done that  


It was a trip conceived akin to a pilgrimage. 

And there was a good reason to call this a pilgrimage.

 We started our careers around the time when the Indian Information technology industry was still shaping up.

Kids of a generation before us dreamt of becoming a doctor, a pilot, a scientist, an astronaut or a police and wierd things like that.

But all that  had suddenly changed tracks.Almost every high school kid of our generation wanted to be a ‘computer engineer’ and go and work in the Silicon Valley. ( This was before jobs got Bangalored and Silicon valley itself landed at our backyards)   

Those were the decades when we believed  that a thing called computers were where the world’s future lay.

At the school many ambitious boys and some girls signed  up for C++ and COBOL programming classes at the computer institutes to get themselves job ready.  Computer academies mushroomed all over the place and before we knew it, the jobs started pouring in. 

An entire generation before ours had spent a good part of their youth clinging on to government jobs or toiling hard labour and lived in a highly regulated licence driven economy.  Education was the key to a better future , atleast that is what the baby boomers believed for their babies who would embrace the Digital generation .

By the time we were in college, every cousin or a family friend’s son who had made it to the United states of America was looked upon with awe.  Parents sent subtle and not so subtle messages to their children to emulate the career path of the successful cousin or that next door neighbour’s son.

USA was the dream destination for an entire generation of us.

Armed with a H1B visa in 2001, I was almost on the verge of taking the much dreamt flight to the Bay area to work for one of those tech companies when the dot com bubble bust. In hindsight it feels like a blessing in disguise but in those days I felt like a failure who had missed the most important bus in life. 

Many Indians in the Bay area are those who emigrated as programmers to California before or during the y2K era.  They landed the shores of  east coast and west coast on H1 and L1 visas and did jobs coding and decoding the Y2k bug. As the Year 2K passed without a hitch they stayed on and moved into other companies and built software products that shaped the digital world as we know it today. With the mushrooming and consolidation of the various technology companies across the Bay area many emerged into multinational giants that defined the digitally connected world of today.     

Whether or not they were successful or happy, as long as they had arrived  in America, their parents back in India felt like they had arrived in life. In social gatherings  like weddings and funerals Proud parents would  exchange apart from horoscopes of potential matches, notes about the cost of living in the west coast and compare it to the east coast.
We were fortunate to have grown up into the information technology era.  The world had opened up for us in the initial years of our career we did go places that were unimaginable for the generation previous to ours. We made trips on short term assignments to the USA and to many other parts of the world.

But for some reason California - the home of the original Silicon Valley – the Bay area eluded us. 

We had never had a chance to go there, although we probably knew the place like the back of our hand.

It was the Bay area where it had all begun. It was here that Google, facebook, Orkut, Intel, yahoo , Oracle, NASA , HP , and all others started up. And then they either grew up or wound up.  

We knew this was the mecca of our profession.  

So, when it was time to plan the next holiday we decided it  was going to be a pilgrimage across the Silicon valley.  It was our calling from Califonia.        

The ever so reliable Google maps and the internet helped us trace the path for our pilgrimage.  
We booked out tickets online,  we chose the brand of our car that we would rent at the San Francisco airport online, the GPS that would accompany us would lead us to the pilgrimage points of our profession.
We arrived at the San Francisco airport. After the immigration we went to the Hertz counter  where we had pre booked our car for the Road trip.

The lady at the counter took one look at the driving licence, pulled out the papers and smiled.
Our birthdays are four days apart.  As a birthday gift our car for the next four days was going to be an Impala. 

A brand  new Chevrolet Impala. We checked the odometer.  It had done only two miles !!!          
And thus pleasantly surprised and with a smile on our faces , began our Road trip across the Californian coast.
The quickest way from San Francisco to LA was the 5 freeway.  But that was not the route we decided to take.  Instead we chose the slower and scenic route along the Californian coast skirting the ocean.  The route that would take us via San Jose,  Santa Maria and Santa Barbara through small towns and neighbourhoods…

D - Drive across the Californian coast …  To be continued 

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