An Evening at Bangalore’s Madiwala Gave Me Some Heavy IT Flashbacks

Madiwala, for the uninitiated, is the mallu central of Bangalore.

Madiwala - the starting point of every middle-class Malayali who moves to Bangalore alone. In a couple of years, you are supposed to move out of mini-Kerala to somewhere nicer, and never look back. Unless it’s to have some beef biryani or pazham pori (banana fritters) from one of the million mallu restaurants there. Or, in my case, to catch the Kallada bus to Kattappana, Idukki, where I’m from. Because Idukki doesn’t have easy access to an airport or a railway station…yet. So every time I plan to visit my parents, I have to go back to the starting point and the few minutes I spend there give me a shitload of flashbacks.

This time it was a bulky fella who was having a really loud conversation on the phone in true Idukki fashion. I saw him, well more like heard him, walking towards the Kallada bus stop. He was in his `formals’ - baggy pants, semi-untucked button-down shirt, black shoes polished a month ago (which also tells me that the last client visit at his office was a month ago). So evidently he’s a techie. A true Bangalore techie of the male kind. Probably here straight from work to catch the bus to Kerala, and judging by his accent, to Idukki.

Temple for techie blessings! Image source: medium.com

I saw him walk into the Kallada office to get his ticket, walk towards the nearest bakery to get a bottle of water and some chips, run behind a bus thinking it was his, realising it wasn’t and walking back, pulling his trousers up, all the while talking loudly on the phone to someone (most likely his colleague) diagnosing an issue with an apache server. I’m not kidding. He diagnosed an issue with a server, possibly somewhere abroad, while getting ready for a 12-hour journey. The ease with which he was doing this tells me that he’s done this a million times.

How do I know? Well, I was once a Bangalore techie of the male kind myself thank you very much. Though I was more of a don’t-pick-calls-while-not-at-work kinda guy. Mostly because I hated my job. I hated my workplace. I hated the people there. I hated IT. I wish I could blame it on my parents like everyone else for making me get into IT in the first place. But the truth is, they never did. I was free to decide my career myself and I still chose IT, because I really enjoyed watching all 10 seasons of F.R.I.E.N.D.S on my home computer when I was in high school. I was really good at double-clicking on that MP4 file if I wanted to watch a single episode and I was outstanding when it came to queuing up episodes in VLC if I was on a binge mood. So I knew IT was my calling, but it was when I upgraded my home PC from Windows XP to Windows Vista that I knew - IT was in my blood! So when I was scrolling through the Christ University website to find a course - like every mallu does after high school - I saw that BCA  Bachelor of Computer Applications, required the student to have a laptop and since I was really addicted to F.R.I.E.N.D.S back then, I thought if I chose BCA, I would be able to continue my passion of watching it again and again.

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Now, if you think I regret any of these, well, you are right. I do. Every single bit. From being obsessed with a mediocre white American TV show to choosing IT as a career - I regret everything.

Workers or machines? Image source: thehrmonks.com

But a part of me is thankful that I experienced the world of Bangalore tech industry. It sort of prepped me for life. If you can survive it, especially when you loathe it, you can survive anything. If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.

Maybe it’s because of the post-colonial hangover, most people working in the IT industry in India are terrified of the white clients. It’s not even like they run a tight ship. At my workplace, the ship was only moderately tight.

But there were always these condescending and patronizing demands. Like being asked to come to work at 3 in the morning with just an hour’s notice. And when you tell them it’s not possible, they tell you to just “catch a tuk-tuk and won’t you be at work in a few minutes, mate?”. Not kidding! This is something one of my white clients have actually said to me.

A server goes down? Whether or not you spend the night at the office until it’s back online, depends on the color of your skin(if you are onshore) or the thickness of your accent (if you are offshore). Going home at a reasonable hour, a right to take a vacation every year and a right to not be disturbed while on that vacation are solely for the white folks. That’s why Indians are value for money. But are we?

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The only tech schools in the country worth graduating from are the IITs. And rarely do IIT graduates settle for peanut-paying jobs in India. While they move on to the highest paying jobs at Google or Amazon or Facebook, the rest of us (read millions), with our substandard education, are here to eat the peanuts. And we aren’t exactly the most talented people you could find in the tech industry.

We are the kind of people if asked what server to purchase for the client’s new web service, say, ‘let’s get the shiny blue one that really compliments the color of the server room walls’. Or maybe that’s just me. Yeah, that most definitely is just me.

Either way, most of us do get hired because of the extremely low bar set by the Bangalore IT companies. Their criteria begins and ends with ‘can talk, can understand what a computer is, and desperate’.

That’s what makes tech companies in Bangalore different from other companies. You find more Jon Snows here than anywhere else. We are all just getting through the week, not really knowing what’s going on, but taking all the blame no questions asked, so that on the weekend we can finally take that early morning trip to Nandi hills with our friends. Only to cancel it at the last minute because it’s Saturday afternoon and you are still at work.

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All of this taught me a lot of things. I learned to bullshit my way through the industry tricking people into thinking I was good at my job while relying heavily on lord and savior Google for solving the simplest IT issues, to life-and-death ones (trust me, I can Google my way out of jail by this point!).

I learned how to deal with condescending clients, which is very useful in my current world of advertising and marketing. I learned to make peace with getting paid actual peanuts, which, again, is highly useful at my current writing job. Also, I got two “business trips” to the UK during my time in IT.

This bullshitting tactic or the sorrows of underpayment aren’t the only things that make up being a Bangalore techie. There is: being witness to rampant sexism on a daily basis, the mind-numbingly unfunny homophobic, sexist, and racist dad jokes cracked by the senior teammates who you are forced to laugh with rather than laugh at, team lunches and dinners that give a new meaning to the word ‘awkward’, the never-ending counterproductive conference calls. The world of desi IT has it all! But all that for another article, maybe, which I’ll probably write after another trip to Madiwala.

By the way, turns out that loud IT dude and I had adjacent seats. He was still diagnosing that server. Until around midnight. On a completely unrelated note, anybody knows where I can purchase a pair of truly noise-canceling earphones that don’t cost a kidney?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.

By Arjun Raj
Cover Photo Credit: aanavandi.com