Requiem.

It’s been 4 long years. since I began this leg of my life journey and I am happy to see it drawing to a close.  College is finally over and the cocoon is finally coming off.   Four years in colleges was a pretty long time.  And to anyone who have been reading my blogs, you know how much I detest the college system.  Then again, the lessons learned from college are not those found in textbooks.  It’s all about life.

Four years ago I was someone else.  I was someone who buckled under societal pressures to chose a career in Engineering, just because I loved computers and thought I would always be in love with it.  I was happy about life, had a lot of aspirations on being a great programmer, probably influenced by the movies and TV shows I’ve watched in my teens.  But sadly engineering in India is a joke, to say the least.  Piles of outdated textbooks and an equally ancient faculty made it worse.  I looked for other opportunities to prove myself as a coder but with little or no support, I ended up spending a lot of time doing nothing.  I whiled away a lot of time with random projects and ideas.

I had a bunch of friends who I was pretty close to but things went bad between us in the coming years.  I found myself questioning the concept of friendships somewhere along the way.  The concept of friends whom you would die for just died its own slow painful death.  I expected too much out of those naive relationships.  Let met let you in on something about me.  I have two modes.  Either I love someone so dearly I would die for them, or I hate them enough to want to smash their head against the wall.  There has never been something somewhere in the middle.  There hasn’t been many who could see me for who or what I was.

Then comes this bit about respect.  I’ve always believed that respect should always be earned, be it  your boss, your parents or even god.  Respect should never be imposed on you. Four years in college has done a lot to reaffirm this.  I will write more on this later, because I’m sure this is a bit too controversial a subject.

In my last year I moved in with a bunch of the smartest people in the college and had a pretty great time.  I lived with my mom for the first few years and ended up missing a lot of college life.

After this started the campus placements.  Oh, what a joke!  I managed to end up with a backlog in the previous year and I wasn’t allowed for most interviews.  But I was still enrolled in the college’s so called placement preparation.  The things colleges do to get students a job is rather sad.  Classes till 6 in the evening where the students memorize every  formula to crack the quantitative examination and the technical jargon that they have never even heard of in the past three years of engineering.  Students mugging up programs, taking ADHD medication, what not.  I found it rather stupid.  Many got placed, a few deserved it, most  of them had won lotteries.  So I was there, all alone without a job having happily quit the placement circus just watching in disgust as every one looked so happy and content with what a million rupees of tuition fees had bought them.  There were some who learned how to compile a C program from me, trying to tell me how pathetic I was for not landing a job.  I just had pity on my face.

That being said, here comes the good stuff.  I had my first kiss, lost my virginity, got drunk, ran around naked after getting drunk, had my first smoke, got high, almost died, and even got busted by cops!  College Life.  DONE!

The confrontations with the infinite void goes on…

This blog has seen many bouts of frantic deletion syndromes, but yet it has survived through another great year.  Life has gone on.

This year is going to be a great year.  It’s the last semester of college for me and well there will probably no more college for me.  No MBAs, no Masters, no.  It’s time to unschool myself, to explore life in its true sense.  Let life be my teacher for the rest of the years.

My Startup Journey

My Startup Journey

I am a typical 22 year old Indian engineering student. Something I noticed over four years of engineering studies is that four years is a long time. Yeah, I have a strong feeling most engineers in India could have finished their courses in a year if they just kept exams every two days or so. Because over 80% of students study just two days before the exams. Don’t believe me? Ask any engineering student.

This being said, I too was one of these students, who deferred studies till the morning of the exams and managed to scrape through with a CGPA of 7 which by comparison wasn’t a bad score. Then about a year ago, I attended a few hackathons and I fell in love with the concept of making something from scratch. I probably learned more during these hackathons than I’ve learned during the four years of my degree. I found my passion in UX design and entrepreneurship. I found a few friends who were also interested in making things and we tried our first proper startup in my third year of college. It failed miserably owing to inexperience and ignorance on our part. But by that time, I was in love with the feeling of being a creator. I guess I felt more like a mother having a child. I tried building a few more ideas, but then these failed too but did better than the first one.

Then in early 2014, I stumbled upon another idea, and started drawing up a rough sketch of the business plan behind one of the answer sheets during an exam. By then the idea started taking shape, like a sculptor unraveling a sculpture within a piece of stone. During my fourth year, the in-campus placements had begun and like many of my friends I was last on the list of the students who were eligible to attend the placements. I dropped out of the program. That was the biggest decision I’ve taken in my life. All my life I was being groomed to sit for these MNC jobs and I threw it out the window. Not because they were bad, but I had this feeling that I needed to respect myself and my skills a little bit more. Engineers in India are traded like cattle between colleges and recruiters.

Engineers in India are traded like cattle between colleges and recruiters.

By this time, I had found my co-founder who was also pretty passionate about the idea and I started working on the MVP seriously. After about three months on the idea, we are still happy about the idea and the work we do, we are also looking looking to expand. Our beta version is just about done.

By now, I believe I have found my true calling. Be an entrepreneur for life. And here is something I would love to share with the rest of the budding entrepreneurs out there.

  • If you have a really cool idea, start working on it right now.
  • If your idea sounds impossible, all the more reason to do it.
  • Don’t lose faith in your idea. No one can really tell if it is going to be a success or failure unless you build it. (The Yo app, who saw that coming?)
  • Your CGPA doesn’t define who you are.
  • Entrepreneurship isn’t a job, it’s a religion.

The Engineer & The Entrepreneur.

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“I am an Engineer.”  What does that mean in today’s society?  When I was little,  it would evoke a sense of awe and I could see it in my  parents and I could see how they longed to see me be an engineer.  But when I finally became an engineer, the only thing I could observe on the faces of anyone whom I told about my profession was a slight nod and sometimes even a look of pity, that to my best of knowledge meant, “You too?”.  With engineering colleges, sprouting up at every nook and corner of the country, you couldn’t expect more.  The profession itself has lost its meaning.  Millions of engineers are recruited by the so called mass recruiters who are on the lookout for cheap white collar labor.  Engineers from every stream are absorbed into the black hole of Indian job market, IT.  But what awaits them at these offices are repetitive and mostly mundane code writing.  The poor standards of systems implemented by Indian Engineers are often overlooked, over a better cost-benefit ratio.  I have many a friend working in large Indian IT giants, who feel that they made a wrong decision in choosing engineering as profession.  Recently, at a startup meeting I attended, I can safely say that most of the people were disappointed engineers, who got tired of the mundane-nes of the Indian IT guy saga.

Now comes those few who realize this earlier own, mostly while in college, that Engineering is not what they thought it would be.  It isn’t filled with fun and excitement and solving practical problems using science and mathematics as what the engineering coaching centers told us it was, but rather memorizing outdated textbooks, and listening to subjects that are of no use to anyone.  The best of these lot are lazy, unmotivated and barely have a GPA above 5.  And when they feel they have had enough of the engineering nonsense, they become entrepreneurs, trying their best to beat their system.  But, this is immediately met with sarcasm and objection.  Parents who would happily spend lakhs of rupees to get children into a third rate engineering institution suddenly has no money to spent on the so called “startup idea” that their child came up with.  The children object to the parents citing stories of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  The parents would have counter arguments, even sometimes going to the extent of telling their kids that their family astrologer had predicted a government job for the kid.

Out of these, handful of wannabe entrepreneurs, most of them succumb to the pressures of countless deterrents and go back to being a miserable engineering student, their hopes and big dreams squashed, left with more self doubt than ever, ready to accept any career that is offered to them.  The few who survive, become successful entrepreneurs.  Because these few know, that there isn’t anything anything more challenging than not being an engineer in today’s world.

The quarter-life crisis and an impending new year.

2013 has probably been the toughest year of mine, and it looks like 2014 is gonna be even tougher.  Life is going to change this year, for better or worse.  A lot of decisions will have to be made, that will determine the course of my life, both in terms of relationships as well as in my career.  With Shreya finishing her course in the summer, things are gonna be different for a while.  And it is crucial that I find a way out of the idiots teach idiots scenario in college and start working my ass off towards a better career either with a good company or with my own.

On a personal note, I have decided to keep my interactions with people to a minimum, my reasons for the same is not to be divulged here, but most of you can easily guess.  People say I have a huge ego problem, but I have a strong feeling, that my observation skills are impeccable that I can measure the depth of relationships far easier than others, but my problem is that I am a nice guy most of the time and I try to not to pay attention to these voices in my head that keeps telling me, to ask them to die.  But I realized over the past few months, that it has to stop somewhere.  One of my key resolutions this year, is to perfect those relationships that needs to be perfected and prune those relationships that have just existed just because they existed.

Aside from that, my startup is beginning to take shape, and my prototype will mostly be ready by the end of this month and the betas would be deployed in a months time.  The startup has been a one-man show up till now and I am looking for a technical co-founder as of now.  I will be writing a startup related post soon enough.

On a personal note, I have been busy with the interiors of my new apartment, and realized that I would have made a kick ass architect, but drawing is not a skill that comes naturally to me.  But give me a computer, and I can show you magic.  Anyways, the apartment has a good view of the sea and the setting sun in the evenings, and in a years time, I would be moving to the new apartment and setting up base there.  Well mostly my mom would live there, as I would probably be running around with/for a job.

Another, important resolution I did take for the new year is to read and write the old fashioned way, and maybe even read a couple of Malayalam novels.  I still love Malayalam more than any other language out there.  And write, yes, you can see that from the blog.  My writing is definitely going to get more frequent now.  But I may switch platforms from wordpress for some posts as I think Medium is the next revolution in online publishing.  The interface and the the overall UX is quite refreshing.

The other things on my list of things to accomplish this year would be:

  1. Lose weight – This has been on the backburner for a couple of years, but I think with placements around the corner, I think its time, I shed a few pounds.  And then there is the fact that my girlfriend would chop me up into little pieces if I don’t lose weight.  She is my only hope, seriously.
  2. Learn a new language –  I know this is cliched, but I am not talking about language as in a foreign language.  I am a comp-sci student, language would mean C, C++, etc.  I’m thinking advanced Python, and some data analysis frameworks and tools in Python, should help me introduce more intelligent features for my startup.
  3. This is perhaps my most ambitious dream for 2014.  – 50,000 rupees in profits from my startup.  There is a long way to go before, that, but this has to be done within 2014 or else, I have vowed to myself, I will never go after a new venture ever again and would lead a normal life, working 9 to 5,6,7,8,9 in a company.  I will write a post on why I want to be an entrepreneur soon.
  4. Do an epic event, that I and a few others have been planning for months.  CodeX, that is how I will leave a mark for my college career.

That is more than enough, If I can accomplish even a few of these, I win.

A scatterbrained 21 year old Engineering Student.

Hello there.  This post is a highly speculative narrative of future events.

Me

I am currently in my third year of my Computer Science Engineering course.  The lecturers have finally started showering us with veiled threats of joblessness.  So I sat there amidst dozens of 9 pointers and thought, “What the hell am I gonna do?”.  “I’m not that bad,  I will qualify for the placements mostly and I could get through most of the interviews if I try a bit.  I can communicate well, and I have a not so bad IQ, maybe that would be enough.  Well then I realized that it was me trying to reassure myself that life hadn’t completely gone down the drain.  And then I tried to convince myself that I would do fine by calculating my expected CGPA with straight 10’s for the remaining semesters.  I am sure most of you might have done that too.

And then another train of thought happened.  What do I do when I join a company.  How long would I be stuck in a cubicle?  Wouldn’t I be brain dead zombie after a while of that?  What the heck do I do?

I am a creative person.  I always am driven by the urge to create.  And most bosses aren’t too fancy of blokes like me.  We believe there is a better way to do stuff and sometimes we believe we know that.  Is that a crime?   Maybe I should build a startup, be my own boss?  Well I could try that, but I ain’t that rich and my ideas are too grand for ordinary human beings to understand.  Ok, I was just exaggerating that.  My ideas are a bit crazy most of the time.

Well I’m a good web developer, how about that?

That thought sounded interesting.  I love the web and networking.  Something that I picked up trying to convert an electronic education center into a lan party room for me and my friends when I was 12.  And I come up with brilliant ideas for web sites and apps, which haven’t until now seen the light of the day owing to financial restrictions.  But I still code well.  I am the best web designer in my department.  (I think so, isn’t that good enough?)  And I could always get better.  I could become a ninja web developer some day and maybe I will learn networking a bit more seriously, you know find a way to make the super-grid idea of mine a reality some day.  Some day I could be Tim and Mark put together.

And then it struck.  The college bell, I mean.    Class was over for the day.  Time to go home and code.

Something to my juniors:  Colleges in India are a joke.  Most of them would do better at creating cyborgs than educated men.  Education doesn’t ever begin with school and never ends in college.  (I made that up just now, I’m pretty deep at times.  #JK)  Crack that laptop open and study something good.  Read a book or two (hundred).

Ponmudi – The Golden Peak

I am spending my semester break out here in God’s Own Country, in my native town of Thiruvananthapuram.  I finally met The Curly Haired Girl after two long months and spend some time with her.  Went to Kovalam with her a few days back and had a really fun day.  Kovalam is one of those places I go to every time I come to Thiruvananthapuram.  After she went back to Bangalore, I’ve been left with nothing much to do.  Except for Ram, my usual gang of friends are busy with their exams.  So yesterday, I decided that I would go on a long overdue trip to Ponmudi.  Ram had been talking about that trip for ages.  So I rang him up early in the morning and made plans.

I was to meet him around 10 in the morning at his place, but the rains delayed the plans and I met him at 11.  After a quick stop at the petrol pump we rode on to Nedumangad.  The last time I’ve been to Nedumangad was almost 5 years ago.  We had a bit of traffic till Nedumangad, but it cleared up after that.  Our next checkpoint was Vithura a small town where we had our lunch.  After some ‘Avial’ and ‘Netholi Porichathu’, we were back on wheels driving through the country side.  Once you leave the city, all of Kerala feels the same.  It was a nostalgic ride as the countryside reminded me of my hometown in Adoor.   It reminded me of how I used to travel with my grandfather standing in front of his Chetak scooter to school.  Ah, memories!

We were soon driving parallel to the Kallar river.  We stopped after a while and climbed down to the river.  The river looked pristine, sparkling cold water flowing through a thousand boulders.  We had a small photo session climbing on those boulders.  Soon my phone’s battery died and we decided to get back on the road.  We drove non stop through rubber plantations and banana cultivation, soaking up the beauty of the villages.

We reached the bottom of the hills at around 1.  We could see our destinations towering over the clouds beckoning us with it’s misty mountain tops.  We slowed down and rode at a leisurely pace and soon we got to the first hairpin curve.  I guess I should have serviced my bike before I got on the trip, I had a bit of trouble climbing the first few hairpins before I got the knack of things.  The ride to Ponmudi has 22 hairpin curves.  After the first few, we were riding through thick forest.  Spotted a couple of monkeys on the trees and some very long centipedes.  The forests clear up towards the top and the landscape was now dotted by tea plants.  After the curves there was a check post were we had to pay a small entry fee to get to the top.  Another kilometer from the check post, we parked our bikes in the parking area and continued on foot to the top of the hills.  By the time we got to the top dense fog had covered the hills, we were a bit disappointed.  But thankfully the skies cleared up for a bit and we were mesmerized by the beauty of the green hills touched by clouds.  We had some snacks and took a dozen photos.  It was around 3 we started our descent.  A little down the road we stopped at the Amenity Center where we had a cup off bad coffee and continued on.  As soon as we entered the thick forests, it started pouring down heavily and we had no choice but to keep driving.  After wrapping up our electronics in plastic covers, we drove through the rain.  The rain kept pouring down relentlessly for about 10 kilometers of the ride.

We finally managed to find a small tea shop somewhere near Kallar.  We waited out the rain and drove home after a cup of (again) terrible tea.  Before long we were in the city and I had another 5 kilometers to go before I reached home and it had begun raining again.  I was almost frozen to my bike when I got home!

Anyways if you live in Trivandrum, you must definitely visit Ponmudi at least once.  It’s Trivandrum’s very own hill station!

Anyways there goes my travelogue! Arrivederci!