Life in Second Gear – Part 1
Short Note: Life in Second Gear is about my first job which never got a place in any of my CV’s. But yet, it was beautiful and taught me some great lessons in work life. Hope you will enjoy.
This was sometime in the mid of 2004, when I was spending my last days at college. Everyone in my batch including me was anxious about our future. Our whole intent of joining NTTF, was its high reputation pertaining to job placements. The talk of the town was – “anyone graduating from NTTF, will definitely get a job in Singapore or Australia”. But then, reality bites! We soon realized the naked truth that this 50 year old institute does not carry its ancient glory anymore. Except for one interview call from “iSeva”, a call center, no other companies came by.
One day, our in-charge Murukesh sir told us about some openings for computer hardware technicians, in Benz Computers. My interest was always into programming and had never thought of starting a career in computer hardware. But with limited job opportunities coming my way, I did not want to miss on anything.
The next day, along with a few batch mates, I left for the interview. ‘Benz computers’, is a PC vendor selling branded PC’s and has branches all over Kerala. One glance at their office in Kannur and we were all beginning to think twice, thrice or may be hundred times, about giving an interview there. After all, we had carried the dreams of doing a job in Australia for a couple of years. Here, we were now standing in the scorching sun, in front of the tiny countryside office. Our iota of hope, of this company being associated with the automotive giant Mercedes, was also shattered to bits!
The next disaster struck all too soon as well. Just when we were all prepared to give a swanky and fundoo interview in English, questions came tumbling down in Malayalam. We realized, it was time to come back to reality and face the interview , no matter what.
Two-days later, I got a call from them asking me to visit the Benz head office for the final round of interview. I, along with my friend Heeraj, left for Cochin to attend the next round. This time though to our surprise, we saw a state-of-art building. It brought back smiles on our pale faces. To add to the happiness was the news of our selection. Hurray! We just nailed our first job!
But not everything was going well. “You both are good and have good knowledge of computers, but, we recruit people only as trainees and during the training period we will be giving you a salary of 1000 rupees per month”, told the manager, sounding like he was offering a lakh!
“Just 1000!!! “, we exclaimed.
“Normally companies here do not PAY the trainees, you guys are lucky to get this much. More over see the big picture, you guys will be a part of Kerala’s largest computer seller BENZ computers. “, he said.
“Yeah, righhhht!” We exclaimed again, but this time within ourselves.
To try my luck, I said, “But we are already good in troubleshooting. I am sure we will be able to do the job without any further training “.
“Well, prove that in the next 6 months and we will think about giving a hike”, he said sternly.
We were about to shake his hands and leave when then the gentleman asked: “I hope both of you have two wheelers because that is a must for all the employees here”.
“What!!, I mean what??”, this was getting funny now.
“First of all, you pay us only 1000 per month and on top of that you want us to have our own vehicles. Come on! Are we here to deliver Pizza in 20 mins?? “, I wanted to snap back, but didn’t quite have the guts to say it. I looked at Heeraj. He nodded with great strength, as his brother had recently bought a bike. The manager gazed at me, looking forward for an answer.
“I have a license… but not a bike!” The man continued to gaze. I quickly continued, “I will certainly try to buy one soon”, my best attempt to save the first job.
My father is a tough man and way too cautious. After a small accident that he had in a scooter, during his youthful days, he is convinced that the two wheelers are the most dangerous vehicles on the road. Leave alone buying one, he hasn’t travelled by bike in the last one decade. For him, bikes fall under the same category of cigarettes and alcohol, as they all are life threatening.
While travelling back to Kannur, I was a lot confused on whether or not to take this job. I tried to see the positive side - I am from Kannur and this place where I will be working is just 6 Kilometers from my house. While at NTTF, weekends was the only time I got to spend with family. The biggest and only advantage of this job was the fact that I will be able to stay with my family for sometime. I knew I would move out of Kannur sooner or later, leaving behind my birth-place and parents, as most IT companies are located in Bangalore or Cochin. If not for anything else, I accepted this job just to be at my birth place for some more time.
On my joining day, I wore my favorite formal shirt that was neatly ironed by Dad. 9 AM sharp, I was at the Benz computers showroom. Was excited, but nervous at the same time. After all I was going to switch my life to the next gear. No more books, exams, assignments, or bullying by parents for the low grades. Freedom, freedom, freedom at last, I thought.
The showroom was small with plain glass walls. Two computers were set for display and the rest where computer peripherals. As the time ticked, the office began to fill up. I met Ram, the accountant, Ajeesh the technician, Bava the sales guy, Suresh the lead technician and Jigesh, the house-keeper of the office.
“Things are going to be tough from now on. The branch manager had quit and Sreeshant who is the Calicut manager has been given the responsibility to manage this as well”, Jigesh told me while cleaning the glass walls.
Within a few minutes a car stopped before the shop and a well-built short guy got down. Suddenly all of them inside the office stood up as if a VIP had entered.
“ This is Sreeshant”, whispered Jigesh.
Apparently it was Sreeshant’s first visit to Kannur branch since he was given the charge. He addressed the staff, where he pointed out how his Calicut branch has excellent sales in the past few months and how this branch had only managed to get average sales. He spoke about customer satisfaction, sales strategies, brand value, discipline and others, which I heard with great patience.
“Unfortunately, my hands are full and I will not be able to visit Kannur often. But I will contact Ram over the phone to review the things here. And lastly, we are one family and consider me as your elder brother. Be open with me, give me a call and we can discuss any problems anytime. “, he said, ending his speech.
He was a great speaker and I had instantly become a fan of his. Before heading back to his home town, he had a short chat with me.
“This is a great opportunity to learn a lot of new things, make use of it. Do you have a vehicle? “, he asked.
“Not yet, but I will be getting one soon”, I replied.
“One more person from NTTF was supposed to join. Where is he?”, he asked.
Heeraj was joining a week later and I informed the same.
Soon he left and the rest of them inside the shop came back to normal self. The job was door-to-door customer service. Customers would call to complaint about the systems purchased from us, the technicians would go to the site and fix the problems. This first day of my work, was the longest day ever of my life. There was no newspaper to read, no internet connection, no pretty receptionist to talk to, and I kept gazing at the glass window, looking at passers by. Hours went like days and for the first time in my life I realized that a day is not as short as we think it is. At some point I even thought that my watch had stopped working. The flow of customers was very few. At four o’clock in the evening, someone came running to the shop. This was the turning point.
The person told Ram about the printer in their ice-cream shop not functioning. Unless his bills are printed, he will not be able to distribute his goods. In fact he was the biggest wholesale distributer of ice-creams in Kannur town.
“Both our technicians are outside and it will not be possible to attend to this problem today “, Ram told.
I smelled an opportunity to get out of the shop.
“Shall I go and check ?”, I asked Ram. Ram didn’t want me to attend this issue. However, we have taken up their maintenance contract and the person who came was demanding immediate service.
“Are you sure about this? “, Ram asked.
“It should be a printer driver problem and reinstalling it should fix the issue. I have done it quite a number of times in the past”, I replied. Seldom did I realize that I was digging my own grave.
Very soon I left to the site, happy that it was action time finally. I reached the spot and an old man was waiting for me.
“Why did it take so long? Don’t you know that the entire business is lost until this stupid thing works? “, he said to the boy who picked me.
“Sir, I will fix it soon”, I replied in an attempt to calm things down.
In front of me was a PC, as old as the steaming old man. It was connected to a TVS printer.
TVS??? I never knew they made printers too.
It was the Windows XP era and the antique piece had Windows 98. As I suspected, it was a printer driver issue. However unlike XP, Windows 98 came with a few set of inbuilt drivers and I couldn’t find anything with the manufacturer TVS.
“ The driver is missing “, I told the old man.
“Didn’t you bring it? The screwdriver? What technician are you? How can you come without anything to fix it? “, he erupted.
“ No, not the screw driver. For this printer to work, there is something called printer driver which we need to install. That interacts with the hardware and that is how the printer works”, I tried to explain.
“ I do not want to know, how it works. Just make it work. My business for the day is stopped. I should not have paid you guys for the maintenance. You take two-hours to come that too with empty hands”, he went on.
Things weren’t going right and this oldie was not helping either.
“Can you please give me the CD’s you got along with the printer “, I asked.
Soon the boy at the shop provided me the CD. I was happy seeing it, but my happiness didn’t last for long. There was no CD drive connected to the computer. The only thing it had was a floppy drive, which I am sure does not work.
“There is no CD drive in this computer. I would need one to install the drivers. Is there any other computers here with a CD drive?”, I asked the old man who was eagerly looking at my actions.
“ I have one more computer in my other showroom, which is about 3 KM’s from here, that has the thing to put the CD.”, he replied properly this time.
I browsed the computer to see if it had some copies of the driver installation files stored in the hard disk. I saw some files with the name TVS and installed it. In the end it asked me for a reboot. Now things were getting bad. As I began to reboot, the Windows 98 OS stopped loading. It gave me the message that the hard disk is missing. All hell was about to break loose and I was going to die of a heart-attack. The old man adjusted his spectacles and came towards the monitor.
“What happened? Why is it black and white? Where is the color picture that comes? “, he asked.
This time I didn’t have the guts to tell him the reality, instead I told: “Don’t worry, I am fixing it”.
May be some loose contact inside, I thought. To fix it, I need to open the CPU box and I didn’t have a screwdriver with me. The boring day was turning to be super exciting and I was confused how to ask for a screwdriver.
“Sir, can I have a screwdriver please “, I asked old man politely.
“Isn’t it in the CD ? “, he replied.
“No that is the driver, now I need a screw driver to open this”, I said.
“So you do not have that also ?”, came the sarcasm.
Instead of replying, I went to the nearby shop and was lucky to get a screwdriver. I opened the CPU. The view inside the CPU was very fascinating. It resembled the mummies of Egypt. Everything inside the CPU was covered with thick brown dust. Finally, I started cleaning them and also tightened the hard disk cables.
“At first it was just the printer which was not working, now this guy has screwed my computer. Don’t even have a driver “, I overheard the old man telling the nearby shopkeeper.
I put into practice everything which I knew about computers, but this old system refused to boot. For once I wished, if only I had stayed back at office. Finally, I called up Ajeesh, who was out at a different site and told him whatever happened.
“ Is there an extra CD drive at office ?”, I asked him.
“ No, we do not have. I will come there shortly, if possible get the CD drive from the other computer he has”, Ajeesh said.
I left to the other shop the old man had and brought the CD drive. I looked at the watch and was amazed to see the time; it was already past 7:00 PM. Unlike morning, my watch was running faster than usual.
Once I was back, I connected the CD drive to the old computer.
“ I lost my entire business for the day and I got a useless mechanic “, I overheard the old man.
By then Ajeesh came. His sight bought a thin smile on my face, something which I have forgotten since I entered this place. He didn’t scold me or tell anything bad. Instead did the same thing which I have being doing in the last one hour. I didn’t count the number of times he unplugged and re-plugged the hard disk cables but every time it showed the same old message. Time was 9 O’clock and suddenly on the 21’st attempt the hard disk came back to life and we saw the Windows 98 welcome screen in the monitor. For me it was like a dead man who choked back to life. Windows 98 logo never looked so beautiful. Within minutes we installed the right printer drivers and the printing also resumed. The old man thanked Ajeesh and asked me to carry a set of drivers at least next time.
“Mostly there won’t be a next time. This computer is a way too outdated and only the new computer in the other shop is included in the maintenance contract. Do visit our office, we will give you discounts for the upgrade”, Ajeesh told the old man.
We went back to the old man’s other shop to keep the CD drive back. While returning, Ajeesh told me, “You didn’t do anything wrong. Just that, you need a lot of patience while working with such old computers. Come along with me from tomorrow.”.
It was 11:30 in the night when I reached home. Dad and mom were waiting for me outside.
“Are they going to pay you for the over time? “, asked Dad.
I was too tired to reply. It was a long day and I just had a few hours to sleep before my second day. Before I dozed off, I recalled the lessons for the day. “A technician is nothing without his tools, better have them handy “.
“zzzzzzzzz, zzzzzzzzzz “, I snored.
Part 2 – Coming soon. Do add your comments.
Also check my new blog : www.shineingindia.com
Also check my new blog : www.shineingindia.com