Why (the hell) did I choose this path?

SUCCESSFUL…. yes that’s what I am.  It should have been anyone’s dream job to be where I am today. My friends back there in India are envious of me, and the rate at which I became successful. My work involves assisting Dr. Coleman in developing new software tools that would help us in analyzing the tremendous amount of data generated out of our biological research.  I cannot tell you in details but it’s related to developing and testing a new model folding of Protein molecules. I am part of a team of highly talented and motivated scholars, who were born to spend their nights at Computer Lab. We do not discuss movies. We discuss stochastic models, we discuss polypeptides, we discuss Combinatorial algorithms, and we also discuss Markov state model. It instantaneously generates a Wow whenever I tell others what I do. I had always wanted to be a part of something BIG. I wanted to make a name for myself. The only problem is – well I am not happy. Life sucks.

I started off well when I joined this institute. In fact I used to finish the projects before time. I surprised everyone with my pace and my grasping power. They were so sure that I am going to make it big. Long working hours never bothered me. In fact it was the one thing that kept me above the crowd of mediocre.  Their only dream was to get any job, marry any girl of their parents’ choice, and produce children of God’s choice. (I wanted to scream in their ears that it’s simple genetics, God does not have time to get involved in 4.17 births every second).  I was a superstar in my circle of friends, I still am.

And then One night I saw her status changed. We haven’t talked since 2 years (26 months, 14 days and 17 hours to be precise). But that doesn’t necessarily meant she had to get married to some bloody MBA working in some bloody MNC. But why would she wait for me? Why would anyone for that matter. I saw life passing by me. Everyone was getting married, moving to new towns, falling in love, getting married, getting promoted, participating in Marathons, visiting Eiffel tower and statue of liberty and Vaishnodevi. Everyone was happy, rather content. And here I was getting late for the lab. Tonight my fingers dint want to enter a single character on the command console. I felt like running back to my city, to my family and mediocre friends. I wanted to run back to my childhood.

And since then I was a sulking child who did not want to complete his homework. Why has life taken a sudden turn? Why do I work twice as my friends and yet get paid 1/3rd of them? Why is being successful not synonymous with being happy? Or success has been just a delusion – a false image? Everything and everyone started looking boring. Life felt like a punishment. Lab felt like a prison. I started remaining absent from my work, watching rental movies, and in particular doing nothing. Why dint I go for an MBA? Or forget money, why dint I choose something easy, something interesting?

My boss had emailed me. He wanted to discuss something “important”. It would be embarrassing to go back to India now. It was impossible to go back to my parents and tell them that all their efforts in giving me the best…have been wasted by their son. That their successful son has failed miserable, failed big time in life.

I switched off the lights. I railed back in my chair, closed my eyes, thinking about nothing in particular. My left brain has gone on a strike. I sort of knew I was not made to handle deadlines. I sort of knew that this was coming. Why dint I choose and easy and well paid job somewhere? After all job is just a part of your life, and not your entire life.Did I choose this field just to dazzle others?  Had I been living in fool’s paradise? After my first job as Research assistant at my college, I had vowed to lead an easy, laid back life. Then why did I commit this grave mistake of living for a false image, and getting seduced by sexy Sci-fi wallpapers? I should have chosen something simpler- something that interests me.

My thoughts started drifting down the memory lanes. Today I dint stop them, rather dint have energy to control them. I followed them blindly. I saw my childhood, my brother, my mom, dad, Moti, my dog, and her puppies. I remember the big banyan tree in our school ground. I remember playing foot ball with my school friends. I remember watching movies in the vacations. I remembered reading stories on weekends. I remember finishing my history textbook on the day my dad used to buy them from the store. And then suddenly it striked me. I loved stories. How could I not notice that?

Suddenly I found a new source of energy in me. I opened my laptop. Searched for the “from old PC” folder in E drive. There I found them. Gosh there were so many of them, I I had completely forgotten. I opened Michael Crichton folder. I opened readme notepad file. I had mentioned the page number and the name of the novel. I suddenly remembered it all. I started reading the novel.  In fact I vaguely remembered programming something related in my PC. These Sci-fi novels I tell you are just impossible to resist. They make you do crazy things.And suddenly one day I got a call from Dr. Coleman’s assistant asking if I would be interested in joining them? Are you kidding? Only a bozo will say no to such offer. But before that I had to complete a lot of formalities…a hell lot of them. I dint have much time left. There was hardly anything to remember other than rushing to all sorts of different places I had never gone before. Then I boarded Lufthansa and then the rest is history.

I started reading “Prey” from the very beginning.

Suddenly I got hooked to the novel. Unfortunately could not go beyond a few pages. I was dog-tired . (Who makes such words by the way. I have seen dogs sleeping most of the time in the day). I went to bed. When I got up early, although it was a lazy Sunday morning, I was a man on the mission. I started typing all sorts of keywords in google: careers in writing, careers in travel writing, a day in the life of a documentary film maker, careers involving stories, how to become a Sci-fi writer…and so on. I kept searching. The more I read the more disappointed I got. Yes I had won some prizes in my school and college days in writing. But picking it up as a career dint seem that encouraging. I mean apart form the low income and a lot of struggle early on, I hated the idea of writing compulsorily everyday. Then I read some more experiences of people in the field.  Most of them had the same viewpoint. The picture looks rosier from outside. they told how they had to work as a ghost writer to pay the bills till his novel gets published. There was a fierce competition to  tell you the truth. And everyone of them seemed so good with words, so much better than me. Then why were they struggling?

Disappointed I closed my lappy. Shit.. I was supposed to attend a meeting at 11. It’s already a quarter past 2. I decided to have an afternoon nap, something I haven’t done ever since I left India.

I felt much better when I got up. I saw couple of new mails in my mailbox asking me to update them on the status of my work. The lab, the work seemed like a past life, a distant land, rather a detour in my life. I concentrated on the next page of Prey.

Yes the story was interesting. Life is good as a writer if you are at the top. People love you and idealize you. I kept reading. It was a deja vu feeling. Those words stood out: Multi-Agent models. the rest of the page has faded. Those words got back my old memories. Multi agent models are used to simulate the behavior of systems such as markets, flocks of birds, swarms etc. I remembered how I was naturally attracted towards them. I read everything about them. How I wanted to explore Evolution of cultures using them. How I wanted to simulate rise and fall of empires and businesses and religions simultaneously with these models. We usually study them in isolation, reliogion separate from politics separate from trade and technology.  It was a awe-inspiring idea to study history from the lenses of Science. In fact I consider History a sub-set of Science. As far I remembered Science appeared to my an ancient palace lost in the jungles. Every path was worth exploring. Science felt like a huge library full of stories written in a language that is difficult to read unless you are curious and patient.  I remembered everything. I wrote to my boss, I knew what I was doing.

then I phoned my brother. After a little hello-hi I told him the exact location of the file in my home PC. I asked him to email it to me. Gee, I dint know you did such things too. After a few minutes, it was there right in front of me. My dream project which I left unfinished. 2 years back I chose this job over my dream project. Today I am choosing you over my job.

But unlike every time I dint hang up. I wanted to talk to my brother, my best buddy since my child hood. “So… How is life? ….yes yes I have a lot of time today….we can talk……”

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