In a parallel universe, Mark Z, as in Jay Z, is a Senior Software Engineer in one of those India. IT companies. Would he have made it big had he been one in a sea of software engineers? Excerpts from his diary the day he received the coveted appraisal letter.
It has been eight years since I joined this company. It was not a dream company, as you would know. You know me too well, like that dorm room project that I had worked on, in the good old days. Things were going my way. The dream to build a start-up from scratch, a start-up that would knock the socks off not only my girlfriend, but the entire connected population. It was a good dream. A product that would enable people to connect with each other, irrespective of their geographical location, a product to share pics and videos, a product to build conversations, a product to connect. It was all so believable and all so possible.
I still remember the day that I introduced my dad to the product, I have named you after it, Markbook. The traditional employee of Government of India, that my dad was, showed more than a little remorse of the crime that I had committed. “Start-up, you say!,” he said. “The pain of seeing you not getting into an IIT when every other kid that we know of, had got into the coveted institution, has just subsided. And you come up with this crazy idea of your start-up!” “The next-door grocery shop is a start-up. Why do you want to sully our name by getting into business? Is this what I spent my hard earned money for, to get you educated from a non-IIT institution?,” he thundered. “Stop all this nonsense or this will be the last time that you will set your foot into this house!”
I went back to college and asked my friends who had worked on the product with me, to take it forward and that I would not be a part of it any more. That was the end of it. And that was the beginning of my miserable days. They are valued at billions, is what I hear. I have practiced the art of selective information processing. Any mention of Markbook, it isn’t known by that name any more, triggers an internal repulsion within me and I stop processing information. I can do it for hours now. The days when they acquire a company that was started by a failure (my dad has come to teach me, over time, that it is only failures who get into business), are the toughest, but I stay strong.
I have not had a bad life, after all; you know it. I have progressed in my career. Passing the training at my company after joining as a fresher, I got to test code for one of the biggest companies in the world. I used to write code in my dorm room but that was not right for me. This is what my calling was. I got promoted after three years and got married within that year.
“You make us proud, son. I shudder at the thought of what would have happened had you got into business. Look at Mr. Bhalla’s daughter, she is a perfect match for you. No one would have married you if you had started that business of yours, start-up, was it? They are gifting a long car just for you, too!”
We went to Munnar for our honeymoon. I heard the twins who own the erstwhile Markbook are doing well too. That’s the thought that kept ringing in my mind each time my wife asked if I was thinking about my earlier girlfriends, when I would be silent. Oh the girlfriend! No, it was all about Markbook.
Work turned out to be tougher in ensuing days. I had completed three years in my company and now I was just waiting for my H1B to be stamped. I would be on my way to America! I could get more time to travel, to spend more time with my wife and experience the multitude of cuisines. Thank god I did not have to code, testing is great. That’s what most of my peers do any way. But that was not to be. A pandit ji told my father-in-law that if I travelled abroad, bad times would fall upon both the families. That was the end of it.
I worked hard and got promoted to a Senior Software Engineer. Seven years of hard work paid off!
You know, I had told myself that I would not flip back to the pages that I had written during my time at college. I did. I was drunk, excuse me for that. It was insane! There were wireframes, workflows, user journeys, font-faces and what not, that the four of us had sketched out on your pages. I am sorry to say this, but I was flummoxed. I felt as if I was gazing through a crystal ball. I felt joy for the first time in eight-and-a-half years. I was looking at my progeny that I had abandoned. I had abandoned it under pressure from the society, under pressure of following the norm and running away from the ‘alleged’ notion of infamy. What have I been doing all these years? Would the twins, who run the erstwhile Markbook now, have been yet another ones in the sea of software engineers? If I have become a part of the sea, they would have too. But they took the plunge and I did not.
Photo credit: wikipedia.org