Arpit Jalan

24th Birthday

December 15, 2013

What it’s like to be 24 for an Electrical Engineer turned Software Engineer (aspiring Entrepreneur).

It’s 13th December 2013 21:00 IST. I am drinking tea and pretending to read Hacker News, but the fear is crawling in my mind. I am going to be 24 years old on 15th December 2013.

I don’t want to be 24. 23 is complex enough for me and I can’t lift the burden of being 24. I know, I can’t help it, it’s just the inner child in me that’s trying to play tricks with my mind, thinking of some mojo.

So what’s bad about being 24?

Well for starters, the fact that I live in India is enough to make my life complex. Here in India, being 24 and bachelor means a perfect candidate for groom. All the relatives (especially aunties), keeps asking the same three questions:

Where do you work?

What’s your salary?

Have you thought about marriage?

I mean, literally, give me some personal space. I am just (about to be) 24. I have to achieve some things in my life first. I have set some goals. I am just not ready for commitments yet.

In India, it’s hard for people to believe that a person can be successful by bootstrapping his own business. The term “Entrepreneur” here in India is a synonym for “Jobless”. If you are not employed, then be ready to hear some harsh comments from your relatives (though you don’t even know their first name, but their comments do matter to your parents; it’s still a mystery for me).

Nobody here cares about your open source contributions on GitHub (98% of Indian population have not even heard the word “GitHub” in their entire life, yet everyone acts like they know this stuff), or how good your code quality is (IMHO work quality is severely underrated in India, everything just needs to be done, the end quality does not matter, it should just work, that’s enough), the only two things that matters here are:

  • From where you have done your Engineering (IIT, NIT, BITS, {insert random name of known college in India}).
  • The brand name of the company you work for (Infosys, Accenture, TCS, {insert random name of known company in India}).

If you don’t fulfill any one of the above criteria, you are worthless (or go do an MBA, maybe then society will respect you), this may sound amusing, but it’s the bitter truth about Indian mentality.

Luckily for me, my parents were supportive to let me switch from Electrical stream to Software stream, and motivated me to pursue my dreams. And here I am, happily trying my hands on Software (and loving every moment of it).

But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Until the age of 18, birthday used to be the best day of year. Lots of gift, cake, celebration. But after 18, a sense of responsibility dawned on me. Each birthday after 18 felt like a reminder, that there are still many goals which needs to be achieved. There are still many things left, which needs to be done, and time felt like slipping out of my hand.

After 18, birthday became like an analysis day. I used to think how far I have come. Am I satisfied with where I am, is this what I expected out of my life? Have I done justice with myself and my parents (because they trust me and believe in my decisions)?

Until last three years (three birthdays), the answer to above question used to be “No”. I didn’t felt satisfied with where I was and what I was doing, because I was not following my intuition.

But this birthday, I have a sense of satisfaction. I can feel that I am going in right direction. I can connect the dots, finally I am doing what I believe in, and this is the most important thing for me, I am doing what I love to do (making Software, R&D in new technology, bootstrapping Mac/Linux, setting up servers). I can’t ask for anything more.

At this point, I would like to quote the most inspirational shloka from Steve’s Stanford commencement address:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

The clock shows that it’s 15th December 2013 00:05 IST. I am finally 24. With a frenzy expression on my face, I typed this command in terminal:

git push origin master

This post is finally published online, sigh.