Friday, October 07, 2016

US and us

For most Indians, a vacation to the United States of America is still an incredibly monumental feat. Of course, there are exceptions - folks who stay the same 'before and after' - but they only prove the rule at best.

Once 'back', the majority turn into a different species altogether. Their social status (measured primarily in terms of LinkedIn contacts, FB friends and Twitter followers) soars sky-high, with 'deprived' natives offering glowing tributes in the form of overtly appreciative glances every time the 'chosen ones' step out of their homes. Given an obliging audience willing to proclaim them experts on Indo-US relations without the slightest reservation, their US-stamped sermons become a routine fixture in the community.

They tell you, with carefully rehearsed, animated gestures and a discernibly put-on US accent (they are no longer shocked, they are 'shaaaacked') how our people lack civic sense (Why should this obvious realization only dawn post the US visit is a mystery more terrifying than the Riemann hypothesis), how we are a spoilt lot, what's the inside story on the US presidential elections, why Hillary should fear Trump, how Obama would spend his retirement years, what would be Apple's next strategy, how Irrfan managed to bag the prized Inferno role and so on and so forth. And the best part is the mandatory preface prefixed to every conversation: "While I was there"

Most interestingly, even within the privileged lot with the 'US-returned' tag, there's not a semblance of solidarity. In fact, the rat race here is brutally intense - it's about being the first among equals. So if they learn you were there before them, they have a tough time coming to terms with the disturbing fact.

It's incredible how they don't pick up any of the traits that make America a one-of-a-kind microcosm of heterogeneity: holistic approach, congenial environment, freedom of expression, social equality, culture of innovation, emphasis on experiential learning and seamless academia-industry interaction. Instead, they fall for or are impressed by all that Uncle Sam is infamous for - demonic consumerism, dangerous diets,rampant tablet popping, nauseatingly patronizing attitude towards the 'developing' tribe (impose sanctions, provide aid, have fun), culture rooted in quick disposal of everything, technology abuse, superficial and superfluous exchange of pleasantries, the Mayonnaise-smeared liberalism diarrhea...

The US-educated (or employed) Indian software pros (the label of 'pro' is magnanimously generic) suffer from a different set of fundamental deformities. Once back, they claim to have ready-to-deploy offerings - based on their home-spun versions of object oriented thinking - to solve just about anything in life. OOPS in their case, is the exclamation to describe the blunders that follow, not the awesome programming paradigm.

A host of globe-trotting "onsite" folks are faking work, day in and day out, on their smart phones, tablets, excel sheets and word documents even as the bulk of the inarticulate programming tribe back home goes through the grind, inevitably falling prey to Machiavellian tactics and the bell curve nonsense at the workplace. (God save the world from those scary Quality folks who pester you with a bagful of templates without having the slightest idea of the essence of Six Sigma and ISO)

The US tag earns the blessed ones the coveted positions of project managers and lot of spare time for US-style splurging and living beyond their means, strictly by choice. Peep inside most code labs and you’ll find the same old hierarchies of power distances, ruthless ambition and narcissism at play, where a handful of smart and wily operators merrily rule over a veritable but vulnerable majority. Who’s going to reduce the besmirching carbon footprints of the IT industry that pollute the social fabric in elusive ways – where hyped on-site-off-site-offshore models don’t necessarily mean better working conditions, where key performance appraisals are invariably unscientific, where egos are sky-high and tempers fly high, thanks to the variety and vanity of designations: the perfunctory coder is keen to call himself a developer, the developer genuinely believes he’s an architect and the architect is thoroughly convinced he’s God’s gift to mankind,a true-blue American in body, soul and spirit.

Given our faith in information technology, laced with fairy-tale beliefs, we reserve the loudest applause for the 'programmed' nomads traveling from coast to coast in the US of A but conveniently ignore the non-conformists who seed green-house IT ventures in their hometowns and choose to hone talent from within the grassroots. Clearly, the pompous vacation abroad is more important than the purposeful vocation at home.