ot to go into details, but someone loosely tied to my team is getting rotated out. In the area I manage, it’s getting more and more obvious that this person can’t produce. So they are going into some sort of remedial track and rotating off to a slower-paced team.
And that got me to thinking.
On the train ride in, I began to empathize with that person. I know that in our remote location (half a world away) our culture and their culture sometimes clash. Things that are understood here aren’t there. Expectations, as foreign as they are, must be met. Or else.
And so that led to a short story idea. As the train rocked and the Brompton bike rubbed my leg in faithful devotion, I began to consider a story. Imagine a young Indian girl from a small village who wants to be successful and Western. Turning against family and culture, with disapproval ringing in her ears, she works her way through university and eventually lands a job in an offshore programming house. She’s on her way.
But what if she was no good at coding? University is one thing, Agile development under a tight cycle is something else. The classroom isn’t the meeting room. The world is not what you expect.
And what would this girl think, feel, and suffer as she sees her dreams implode, the reprimands come in, her termination looming. Would she have to return to her village to suffer the chagrin of failure to everyone, parents, neighbors, suitors, everyone.
Everyone thinks that there is no cost to failing at dreams. But there is. Public dreams and public failures can be terrible. People suicide over less.
Off the train, onto the bus, back onto the bike, and at the desk, this image formed of this quite village girl so doomed in her pursuits. I could almost see her. I could picture the world she lives in (from my own trip to India and my own talks with coworkers). There she was, a character I my mind’s eye, an interesting protagonist for a short story. But who was she?
Since I was going to write at lunch, I needed a name to work off of (my tinytop doesn’t have internet access much these days). So I hopped about my work computer for names, saw one or two interesting Bengal names (you couldn’t be from a more remote region in India than West Bengal), and typed “Bengal female names” in the search engine. Found a couple of good ones and transferred them to the tinytop (i.e. I stuck a postit note to the case for later). Now the workday was beginning. I jumped into prepping for my meetings, pulling capacities and tasks and performance, everything I’d need for my fifteen minute standup. Took the room about ten minutes early, fired the wall monitor, brought up my displays in correct order (so we could work down through them in orderly fashion), connected to the skype call. The wall screen showed my laptop view. Now the team was coming in the room and I launched into the meeting – rapid fire, keep it moving, keep people sharp. If I can accelerate them, we’ll get more done over the long work day.
We were largely done – the teammembers had all given status, we’d looked over the two efforts, we had everything rolling. Two or three people were tussling in a code fuss, arguing finer points but since the meeting was just about over I let it pass. I was just standing there looking at the wall screen when I realized, in the upper corner, was the search: Bengal female names.
Remember those dreams about being in school in your underwear? This was kinda like that. Grimacing, I quickly highlighted the search and cleared it. Thought I’d pulled it off but then one of the arguers, an Indian mom, half-turned to me. “You trying to date Indian women now?”
Yeah, that feeling.
So yes, there is a danger to being a writer. Do they believe my explanation about story research? Don’t know. About the only way I could justify this now is to win a Noble in publishing for my short story (and frankly, they wouldn’t read it even then). At this point I’m pretty much down to smiling greasily when people joke about it.
Like in today’s meeting, when one of the Indians asked, “So, you go on a date last night?”
Ha ha. Very funny.