This is a story, maybe it is not, maybe it is a work of fiction. Or it is a true story embellished with incidents that might or might not have happened sometimetime in the past or bits from other stories that have been internalised by me. Anyway, I have seen a downturn before, many, many years ago and I've survived lay-offs before. This story is from that distant past, a time before the 'War on Terror' and when everybody was more innocent. Again, to send tales of virtue and vice over to the debauch writer of this blog you can either leave a comment (not everything will pass through the filter) or email to presstalk (at) gmail (dot) com. By the way before that, please take some time to appreciate this picture, I'm still ROFL.
In 2000 after graduating from college, my mother who was genuinely sick and tired of finding my stash every second day insisted I get a job. I ended up at a large dot-com that for reasons best understood to me must remain un-named (they still survive and still are run by a bunch of idjits). It was a job. A good job at that! I was a twenty-year old who although he had been using the internet for four years only understood the true meaning of high-speed internet at my place of employment. This was 2000, well before Torrents but we had Napster, and my god, after the sex and the drugs, Napster gave me all the Rock n’ Roll (and weird Japanese porn/anime) I could ever want.
The pity was that the HP CD-R’s (the old 16x blue and white ones, remember those young ‘uns?) cost Rs 40 a piece and when you earned Rs 5K a month, and even accounting for the fact that Malana cost a hell of a lot less those days, that very fact meant that even buying a few blanks every month was a strain on my resources. Anyway, I won’t carry on about how I got addicted to internet porn and every evening after 6, we used to plan eight player racing on NFS: Porsche Unlimited. That remains the only NFS I have ever finished.
Anyway, the afore-mentioned dot-com had an insane hiring policy. They hired and hired madly. New project needing a new engineer, so what if we have one lying around doing nothing, we’ll hire a new one. Better still, the place had a legion of vapid pretty girls entering data, maybe once a week. Not that it mattered, lots of cute girls are better than none. And they had me who understood just about passable amounts of code and could bedazzle most people with stoned philosophy. In an aside, the recent events surrounding Michael Phelps prove that potheads can do whatever they want to – from extreme athletic achievement to becoming President of the US. I get the munchies just saying that!
Anyway, to repeat this was 2000, well it was 2001 by then. There must have been around one million internet subscribers in India and my organisation had over 500 employees or one for every 2000 internet users in India and trust me that job made me an aggressive, rather a maniacal internet user, which I am to this date.
Anyway back to the story, dang, I can’t maintain a straight thread. Suddenly in the middle of the year, just as summer started, a rumour about layoffs began to spread. The dot-com bust had happened in the US and its effects were being felt in India. The Internet was not this magic rainbow with a pot of gold at the end of it and well, the price had to be paid. We were all summoned in batches where the girls got really teary eyed on being told that there would be layoffs. The guys were not stoic at all there was all-round panic, especially the potheads worried about how the next run to Kasaul would get funded. We were told to wait for emails announcing the cuts.
I began burning tons of CD’s, started to wipe the servers clean where I had hosted random stuff and in the process I wiped out the homepage for one hour or something – no access logs were kept those days, but not out of malice. Unlike one guy who removed all the RAM modules from about 50 computers. Someone else put a logic bomb in the server which disabled the site for a day, other guys defaced the home page. I said something about panic and anger earlier, methinks?
I didn’t get an email. Many people I know did. I am not saying I deserved one, I did do my job well and was definitely more productive than 90 per cent of the office, and I’m pretty sure I was smarter than 99 per cent of the office, but still… I mean I didn’t exactly hide and smoke, heck I didn’t hide and roll. Then again, despite my abysmal attendance in third year I never got held back. I just rode my luck very well, but what do they say of making your own luck.
Anyway, over half the people were laid off. It was very awkward being a survivor. I’m not saying (well I just did but, you know what I mean) that I was much better than the rest, but the guys who were laid off felt a resentment. Upset that most potheads had retained their jobs (again refer above to M.Phelps and B.H.Obama) while the good boys and girls had been asked to move on. It was an Internet company after all – there is no place for ‘clean’ people but many of the cute girls also lost their jobs. That was quite sad, really sad.
I don’t think there are any lessons to be learnt in this tale. Well, other than the fact that potheads are achievers, but that is a moot point in Indian journalism. At least in some of the more responsible parts of the English media in India today. Anyway, jobs are being cut, protests are happening screens are being smashed – though LCD’s don’t exactly smash as well as good ol’ CRT’s. There is no proper way to fire people but rational hiring practices could help. By the way, the organisation I spoke of laid off people again! So much for learning about layoffs.
Anyway, the organisation I work for currently has been shedding ad-sales strength rapidly. Mind you, these were the ad-sales people going for south-east Asian tours every few months when the times were good. There have been a lot of tears shed, but the end result is that there is a lot of space that has suddenly opened up in the parking lot. How much longer before editorial gets hit?