It was 6 pm and I was all set for yet another onsite trip to US. As time passes, these trips don’t excite me as they used to. Perhaps you can get bored with anything in life. Nothing can sustain. The most boring part of this US trip was going to be the journey. You sleep, you read, you check for some entertainment, you sleep, you sleep and you sleep again.
I reached the airport on time which is 2 hours before the flight. After completing the formalities, I reached my port of departure. Previously I used to talk to people on the way but I have started ignoring everything around me at the airport. Why will anyone be interested in knowing about me, my trip and reason of my travel? May be I have lost the excitement myself. After reaching my port – I began to wonder, why do some men wear suits while travelling? Are they directly going to jump in the meeting on landing or are they planning to have a meeting in the flight?
For a while such silly questions came to my mind. Why do people occupy alternate chairs? Strange but true. I got busy with my blackberry not because I had something interesting to do on it but because I saw everyone else was busy with their phones. I wasn't carrying a book this time; it was that time spent with blackberry made me realize that my phone is going to RIP soon.
Slowly passengers started coming and all alternative seats were getting full. I had kept my bag on the next chair. Blame my mom for this habit of mine. While I was still trying to find out why exactly I was busy with blackberry, I heard a strong voice.
'It that your bag?' – A strongly built man in suit asked me. He must be in his late 40's
'Yes, wait I will take it. Please sit' – I took my bag in my lap and offered him a seat.
I got busy with the blackberry again while he took out his Ipad. I might have deep admiration for Steve jobs but as a consumer apple products never attract me. For me it’s all about worth. If you are not worthy, you are not worthy.
It took me 30 minutes to realize that there was actually nothing I can do on blackberry to kill my time. While this proud man was reading something on his Ipad. I thought breaking the silence would be a better option. The only risk was an embarrassment of getting ignored to an Ipad.
'Hey, is that an Ipad?' – I asked a lame question even after noticing a bitten fruit on it.
'Yes' – He replied in a serious tone. This man was one of those serious types. He was not worth having any further discussion. He must be reading some important official documents and was not interested in getting disturbed. I judged him with his 1 word reply. We all do that all the time. Passing judgments is our favorite pastime.
I thought listening to some music is the only option left now. I had listened to music on my way to the airport. I was going to listen to music in the flight. Now I had to listen to it even at the airport when I have 100s of strangers to talk to. As I opened my bag to get my earphones, he asked – 'Where are you heading?'
‘Douglas, Texas. And you?’ – I asked.
'California' – He replied.
'Nice. How much did you get this Ipad for?' – I asked a cheap question. It’s not actually cheap but it depends on the person you ask, depends on his perception. I decided to correct it immediately.
'I am planning to buy an Ipad. I was thinking buying from US would be better. Wanted to know, for how much can I get it from there?' - I reframed it well.
'I did not buy it' – He replied in a low tone.
'Then?' – I asked thinking if there were any offers of getting free Ipads J
'I work for Apple' – He replied.
Wow! I have read a lot about Apple, they have come out with revolutionary products. Working for apple is every IT employees dream. We always wonder – how it will be to work for Apple. When he told me that he works for Apple, I was awestruck.
'What do you do?' – He asked.
I work for Amdocs. I work as a consultant-cum programmer.
'So you get to travel and consult people. Nice job. Must be fun and interesting'
'It is, it is!! But I am sure it’s not as fun and interesting as working for Apple'
'What makes you feel so?'
'I don’t know. I always feel working for Apple is the best thing that can happen to you. It’s a huge brand. It’s such a well-known brand.'
'Not really' – He had a dull smile. I got a feeling that something was bothering him.
Before I could ask him why did he say so? There was a special pre-boarding announcement for him.
‘This is a announcement for Mr Shekhar Bansal….’
So Mr Bansal has left to board the flight with a big question in my mind. Why did he say that working for Apple is not really the best thing? Why was he not satisfied? He must be a rich man who was travelling by business class. Why will he not be satisfied? After all money plays a big role in life and working for apple earns you respect. His parents, relatives must all be happy with him. What can be the reason?
Lost in my world of questions, I heard an announcement for economy class passengers. I headed to my flight. On my way to my seat, I saw Mr Bansal in the business class. He gave me a dull smile, which made me feel that he was actually unhappy. Something is bothering him. It is very difficult to get the truth out of professionals. They will never speak their heart. Everything is judged & calculated by their brain before they speak. So I sat on my seat giving up on the hope that he will speak his heart. I was going to land in Newark, before I catch my flight to Texas. There were slim chances that I will meet him at the Newark Airport. However to a large extent, I had given up on getting to talk to him and getting answers from him.
The journey was as boring as it can get. I had a child crying not very far from me, not allowing me to sleep. I would prefer being hijacked by terrorist than a child not allowing me to sleep. I got asked again about all the silly questions which I have been asked in the past on every flight journey.
Is India as poor as they have shown it in Slumdog millionare?
Is india safe for women?
Do you guys actually marry a girl just cause your parents want you to marry her?
I always answer to all these questions, I have to clarify the wrong image people have about my country. When the journey is above 15 hours, it was obvious to expect these questions. Getting bored, trying to sleep, listening to some music, trying to sleep, answering repetitive questions, trying to sleep again & again, we reached Newark.
The business class exits first. So I had to rush a bit in order to get to meet Mr Bansal again. Luckily I noticed him in the immigration queue. I din’t call him but I tried all the weird ways so that he notices me. After failing at the immigration queue, i was disappointed, I headed towards the port of my flight to Texas
I walked towards my port and I was left with questions which will never get answers. This can get frustrating. As I took steps , my curiosity increased. I had a lot of time for my next flight. I can go back and find Mr Bansal in the time I have. I have to get the answers. I have to clear my mind. If I don’t get them today, I will never get them. I decided to walk back. I checked the flight details on the screen. I checked all the flights to California & noted their port numbers. I headed towards the port of flights to California and started looking for him. After a lot of struggle, eventually I found him.
'Hey , Mr Bansal' - I said
'What are you doing here?' – He asked surprised.
'I was just passing by and I noticed you. I thought of completing the unfinished conversation which we had at the Mumbai airport.'
'Unfinished conversation?' – He had a confused look
'Yes. I told you that working for apple is the best thing that can happen but you said its not necessarily true' – I reminded him.
'Everything in life is situational' – He gave a general reply and tried to dodge my specific question. As I said – we software professionals never speak our heart. We will never express ourselves.
'I know that, but I am referring to your specific reply. What makes you feel that working for Apple is not the best thing. I mean you have everything you want'. – I pushed him for a reply.
'What will you do with my reply. I mean we don’t know each other. We might not meet again'.
'I actually want a reply now as I know that we will never meet. Not getting a reply will mean, not getting a reply forever. Please sir' – I pushed him again. I can be very pushy. I push people to an extent of pissing them off.
'Whats your name?' – He asked
'Preetam. But that’s not the subject here. Let’s stick to our subject' – I was pushing a big Apple employee now. But I had to. No options. Max, he will get pissed off and I will be satisfied that I tried.
'You know Preetam, I have a strange feeling. This trip of my home town in India has made me wonder, it has made me question my entire life' – He sounded extremely serious. Finally I could sense that it was his heart which was speaking out. There was something inside him which wanted to come out and I guess I succeeded in getting it out.
'Why, what happened?' – My curiosity of 20 hours was craving for answers.
He started narrating his story.
'I came to India to visit my home town Pali in Rajasthan. When I was a child, I had a friend called Rajesh. We used to stay far but we had the same school & college. We were always competing. I used to always be ahead of him. I was blinding competing with him on every subject. I was judging myself everyday on how could I be better than him. I use to work hard and win every battle. My parents, my relatives were all happy. We completed our Engineering and started working. I got better offers than him. When we started working, we lost touch as we dint have all the latest social networks and cell phones then. Last I heard about Rajesh was that he joined a small local company'.
'When I was in India, I was driving to a relatives place. My car gave me a minor issue on the way, so I decided to get out to find someone who can help me. I noticed a painting store while I was walking to find help. I noticed a painting of a bitten apple hanging outside with the title ‘The Crazy ones’. I walked towards the shop and I was shocked to find Rajesh there'.
'He was lost in his happy world, the smoothness with which he painted colors, the smile he has on his face, the flow, the brightness etc. I met him, told him proudly that I was in Apple, discussed with him about life and how he has been and since then I have this strange feeling inside me'.
'Rajesh got jobs from various companies, but after working for 3-4 years, he realized that he was not made for it. Although he was doing well, but he was not happy with what he was working on. He decided to quit everything and started to paint. He started a painting store and sells his paintings to different part of the country. He may not have the same money that I have, but he was extremely happy. He has lead his life of a painter. Every day he paints. He loves it. He is doing it from 20 years and even today he is excited when he does it. I found him much more happy than i have ever been.
What’s the point? I mean even you must be proud. You have everything. You have money, respect etc. – I questioned.
'That’s the point. Everyone around thinks the same about me. You know I have 2 houses, expensive cars. Throughout my life, my parents have been proud of me. They are very happy. The complication is that parents want you to be happy and have a relaxing life, therefore they don’t encourage you to try anything new. In return , you want your parents to be happy too so you do what they want you to. In this process, you end up making your parents happy. You are happy because they are happy while they are happy because they THINK you are happy. The bottom line is I have satisfied my parents, their relatives, I have the money, houses and cars but I have NOT LIVED MY LIFE. I have lived a life what my parents wanted me to and I can’t get my life back. I had one life, just one life and I spent it satisfying others. People who work for apple are not the crazy ones. Crazy ones are the one who listen to their heart, take risks and live their own life. I wake up every day to go to office. I don’t do what I wanted to do, but I do what my boss expects me to. I get frustrated often because I don’t love my work. Every month I decide that I am done, and I will quit but I never did. I have lived this way for fucking over 20 years. I got so much money and I used it well but I just got one life, and I couldn’t…'
With this he headed to board his flight. I tried to stop him but i couldn't. I was shocked. I thought working in Apple is the best thing but I guess painting in a small store is better if you love it more. I saw a very rich man, walking with his head down questioning everything he has done in life. He was sad, extremely sad and therefore he spoke his heart out. The world thinks of Mr Bansal as a big success but he doesn’t. Today probably he hates all that he has earned his life. He had too many regrets. The saddest part is that he can’t change anything.
As I walked towards my port, I was still lost in the words on Mr Bansal which had immense value. Words which can change anyone’s life. I also wondered what was he going to do now? Was he going to quit his job now or was he going to continue working and doing what people want him to do? Was he going to listen to his heart and take a risk now or was he going to live a safe dull life?
If YOU were Mr Bansal, what would you do?