Ejecting from the Death Star

I was the final clearance item in The Great Indian Diwali sale. I was Cooper in Interstellar who found a Tesseract in the black hole to emerge from. I was the man who parked the car on top of the jammed Silk Board flyover and decided to walk away.

Just saying that I left Amazon end of October. 

When I told my manager I was leaving Amazon, he said “oh”. I think his only surprise was in the fact that I was leaving Amazon as opposed to just leaving the team I was part of to move onto another one in the company. My gathering discontentment had been so obvious that others in the team went, “We were expecting this.”  

So, why did I leave? I could talk about how Amazon felt like being strapped to a mildly toxic drip. Or about how people have weaponized ‘leadership principles’ or how increasingly, the customer is a pawn for internal games, but I am not going to (at least for now). It came down to the following: a) It was just too large and mammoth now that the only way to grow was to stick to the program (do your time, suck up and let the stars align), b) It was increasingly not for me and c) I was bored.

Not learning any sense 🍨

My choices in life has been a source of great bewilderment for my parents, especially my dad. So this time: “You’re leaving Amazon? Again?” I felt bad about how incredulous he sounded. “I thought you learned some sense from the last time you quit?” He doesn’t mince words and it is quite apparent that I hadn’t learnt any sense. 

Since 2010, our parents have been hoping for some version of me and N being ‘settled’. This involved being in one place for the rest of our lives, sticking to a job and doing other required ‘settling’ things like having a kid. Since shuttling between US and India for Deloitte a decade back, N and I have had a series of accidental and random career moves that’s kept our family on their toes.  

In their books, we were currently getting close to being settled (Both working for the same big brand corporate master and live close enough to walk to work). It was the recipe for rooting down and building a life for the next several decades. “Why would you go and disrupt it once again?” asked my dad. Maybe he has a point. 

My new phone purchase cycle (around 2.x years) and new experience change cycle is syncing up. My resume looks like the Falooda at Sreeraj Lassi Bar - not for everyone but definitely more interesting than a great Lassi. At some point the excitement of putting myself in a new, uncomfortable situation and trying to ‘crack’ it will wear off and I might just settle in to an ‘ideal day’ routine I’ve defined for myself. 

My ideal day doesn’t pay ✍

My ideal day begins in a location that’s either up in the mountains or by the coast. The weather is moderate and the only debates I have is whether I should jog or sleep-in every morning. If I do decide to jog, I do so to great views (of said mountains or shore line) and then maybe get a coffee. The rest of the day would involve reading, writing, meeting a few select, interesting people, watching a movie, and then just when it gets a little too comfortable, work on a project that’s high intensity for short term and involves enough of the left or right brain to give myself that high. E.g. do some consulting that involves building a business or a product (or) work with some people to write movie scripts (one can dream). Throw in some frequent travel at my discretion.

I’d like to own my own time, please. 

As you may have noticed, my quest is not so much to do something but to be able to do nothing much as soon as possible. You may have also noticed that that this ideal day really doesn’t pay all that much. So, before I settle into this, there are things that are best sponsored by an ongoing paycheck: 1) Continue traveling to more parts of the world, 2) Do more of my experience bucket list (including living in another country) and 3) Have the joy (and learning) from working across several interesting problems. I think I’ve about a decade of intense work left - a decade too many in my opinion. I am clear of one thing though. I’ve had the most value added to myself as a person whenever I’ve transitioned into something new.

Amazon has a 4 year vesting cycle for stocks. The first time I left in 2.3 years. Now in two. This meant that both times I’ve left behind a sizable chunk of unvested stocks. Could I have stayed on for 4 years, have those stocks vest and been more wealthy? Sure. Would that have been any fun? No. Am I an idiot? Maybe.

Bye bye, Bangalore 🏙

So, where next? I hear the sing-song Savadikaa floating in the air and a muggy metropolis beckoning. From Bangalore to Bangkok. One jammed-up city to another. 

I’ll miss Bangalore. Despite discovering that I have new expletives to offer the world every time I go on its roads, I’ve come to love the city as a home. Its weather is a cool and pleasant middle-finger to all the heftier metros in the country. Bangalore should be a summer destination for parched Europeans. At heart, though, Bangalore is a small-town kid pretending to have a good time at a SoBo party. Stray away from any of the five large roads and you’d end up in little gullies that are just wide enough for a car. Cow willing, of course. But, that’s also what makes this place feel homely. 

The gardens and lakes in the city (whatever’s left of it) are its ultimate treasure only narrowly beating the hundreds of its tiffin places. An ideal morning involves completely nullifying the health benefits of a pleasant jog by a lake with an ultimate carb fest at one of these breakfast places. The biggest trick kara bath pulled is to slide into your throat and into your gut before you could as much as close your jaws.   

Every once in a while, you may be sick of eating the watery, sweet and insipid sambar in Bangalore. Even here, Bangalore’s got your back. You can drive down to Chennai in just a few hours, have some great Sambar and come back. That’s just the ideal amount of time to be spending in Chennai, anyway.  You could also drive just a few hours and end up in amazing places like Coorg that almost makes you forget the horrors of Hosur Road. 

More importantly, I’ve pretty much spent a majority of this last decade here - about 10 years in total and second highest time spent in any city (apart from Coimbatore where I grew up) and this certainly feels like a place I’ve made my home. It gets me and I get it.    

But, what’s home if you didn’t leave it to come back to later. I’m kicked about Bangkok, mostly because it would be a whole new city and culture to get used to. Also, I am looking forward to all the travel we could do in South-east Asia.

I will talk more on the transition to Bangkok in the coming editions. In the meantime, here’s a fun fact to stew on:

Do you know that Bangkok’s local name is Krung Thep. But also that this itself is a shortened version of the longest city name in the world: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahinthara Yutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udom Ratchaniwet Mahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukamprasit.

This roughly translates to something like “The city of angels, the great city of immortals, the magnificent city of the nine gems, the seat of the king, the city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnated, erected by Vishvakarman* at Indra* behest.” (Source: https://chaohostel.com/fun-fact-week-bangkok-longest-city-name-world/)

Erected by Vishvakarma. Hehehe.

Life is fun,