Why should a tale of someone's life, or even just a period of it, be of any interest to others? Perhaps if the life is so singular, or could we say, so singularly wrought, that it takes a direction we do not expect. The person himself makes his choices because according to him, there are none other. He hears a different drummer altogether.
He believes that within all circumstances lie their reasons, you reach through them, only to pass through... like doorways.
He saw this in the opportunity that came to his spouse when she sought admission into a university abroad, leaving the country with one of their young children. Later, he did not resist when she asked him to join her there, leaving his employment.
Other things which followed were not in themselves remarkable, till perhaps when he too sought and was admitted into the same university for a one-semester course. He wished to learn more of how programming works. He was a programmer but from practice alone.
This situation is again similar to the one we began this tale with, where he finds himself amongst students younger than himself.
We won't make too much of the difference in the accents he found the other students spoke in, as native speakers of the language. He notices though, a slight sharpness in the teacher's eye as he sees him, because he stands out, being older than the others. Maybe there's something else about him too. He's a little uneasy, and feels so are the others.
The main lecture has nearly a hundred students in the hall. Next, is a smaller class with a teaching assistant, a younger person who was introduced earlier. He notices a person from his own country, and senses him making an effort to fit. He can see the others are easier with him, with what he is trying to be.
'The runtime Organization of Programming languages' -- it really is such an interesting sounding course. Parse it slowly, and it's not hard to see that for a home-grown programmer, who for years has only written programs following rules of the languages in manuals, this is nothing short of the 'key' to understanding what lies beneath the code.
So everything is present, the interest, the setting - all of which could not have been better.
As in every class, there is some earlier work you've only partly done. You are wondering how the others have succeeded and are better tuned to the material of the lecture. The TA makes references to the assignment, giving hints on how to approach it, but you are distracted by the newness of the surroundings, and tell yourself that you need only to put more effort, and can solve the problems on your own.
The class is finally over and you come out in the sunshine. People are in pairs, and threes, heads bowed, some glance towards you. You don't want to appear purposeless, or even looking too hard for companionship. You move out with the bunch, find the path leading back, and reach home slightly disheveled inside, wondering what happened exactly.
It isn't different in the classes which follow. The main lecture is too crowded to articulate your difficulty, it would be embarrassing and awkward. Then wondering how it would be in the tutorial class with the TA, you think you will muster the courage and say ' I just don't understand anything at all. Can you please help me. I notice others form groups and manage to turn in assignments, but I do not know where to begin.' But, you cannot even say this. You want the TA to notice your difficulty and address you directly himself in some way, but for some reason, he does not.
In a fortunate turn of events, a programming job turns up through a person from your own country.
Back home there are these exclusive places, owned by the very wealthy. We looked upon that kind of solid, elaborate construction as meaning - lots of money. Here, everything was as that. You felt like you walked into a designer shop and were only a dumpy tramp.
What would you think of a software organization only miles from the Washington monument, employing 20 people of which all but 3 are Asians. The founder and president of the company, an American ex-professor built up his team as this, picking the brightest of his Asian students, but wisely chose to have the public face of his company represented by three pleasant American women, at the reception, managing the administration and as the financial controller.
I am sure they developed good skills for dealing in the right way with intelligent Asians, given the close contact necessary in the working of this high technology company.
There are custom built cars, custom tailored clothes and there is custom designed software. The makers of these are on the high end of their market and competing fiercely with the mass produced, lesser priced versions of the product. In the end they are driven to such a small niche that they find it harder to keep their specialty exclusive so that customers are still willing to pay for it.
This organization after ten years of fairly successful existence was now in this struggle. Their specialty had become a common enough work space, and other companies were making products that were easy to configure with only little tweaking.
Those which mass produce have a different business model and when they acquire other companies, seek to expand their product range by bringing in technologies, people, products and all, perhaps even the customer base, calling it all a merger. The acquired company is restructured and whimsically, some weight is shed in terms of the employees.
All this happened in a period of three years, so it was a learning of a different kind afforded in these circumstances, if one was inclined to learn from it.
The acquiring Atlanta based company was 400 employee strong and had much less international orientation. Those interacting with us faced difficulties they were hardly expecting or prepared to tackle. Some chose to take a 'nerdy' stance, sticking with only the technicalities of the software, others came across somewhat to their own discomfiture, as conquerors of sorts, not knowing how to converse with us. Often, just being able to articulate well puts one at a disadvantage. The rapid expression dislodges the other's footing whose command of the language is less. But only in their confidence to express themselves, and their reply is coarser than they intend. They hear themselves, the hearer might considerately repeat what he heard, as if to ask, is that what you wished to say, and our non-native speaker unsure he'll get it better the next time mutely acquiesces, accepting reluctantly.
It's obvious that whatever sense holds out, is due to such factors as, which side wields more power in that situation. For from an imagined fear, one may not wish to cause more to be pitted against oneself. But the person is unhappy with the outcome, and with himself, for losing his confidence. It's no surprise he will cast elsewhere to go.
You are in a foreign land, jobless, feeling slightly unwanted, confused and bewildered. You ask your spouse if it isn't a good time to just head back home. She has finished graduating and found a beginning job. Her prospects appear quite different. Maybe it is not fair to ask her to give it all up now. You have instead to make what you can with whatever you have..
It begins to appear not the best solution to find fulltime employment. The children are at that endearing age where, they ask for your love, you don't want not to be there when they do. You take stock and in the back of your mind, you see that however strange your course of action, it's something you really wish to do.
You have time and again felt yourself, your belief in yourself, challenged. Challenged in a fundamental way. However things work out, you have done no wrong, can you not hope for them to work out right. It is hard to see past the bend, there isn't any thing similar that you know of. Yet you strongly feel a call to hold fast to the path opening here. What it will do for you more than anything else is make firm the foundling stone, the one on which rest your other beliefs. Isn't it worth the while for everyone to put their beliefs to this test.
It is more challenging in a way to test beliefs you built in another culture, amongst other people and under different conditions altogether. You will have to let go all you have, assuming great responsibility, and let it ride on your conviction.
At the same time you are drawn to what works here in place of belief. Each step is clearly delineated. The progression of ideas logical. Beyond that nothing is acceptable. Don't talk of your beliefs to people here, they will laugh indulgently. They ask what can you do instead. That is the challenge you cannot pass. You remember your personal experience, of when the world stood still for you and you saw how things just follow a pattern, even your own actions outside your ability to withhold, and everything else of the same nature.
You can listen to the logic screaming outside, or to the drummer within.