About Manoj Srivastava (मनोज श्रिवास्तव)

In the immortal words of Pete Townshend: Who are you?

Manoj's hackergotchi

About Me

Who am I? That is a tough metaphysical nut to crack. Like everyone else, I am many things: a son, a brother, a husband, a citizen, a human. We have many aspects, you and I, and not all of them are obvious. Not every one sees these facets; indeed, as Billy Joel so aptly said, not even ourselves. There is, however, this tendency to focus on one facet of the other (Rich man. Poor man, Tinker, Tailor), which misses out on the complexity of the human condition. Here is my attempt to show off some of the strangers within me. Thou hast been warned.

Who we are is forged in childhood, and where we come from. My family comes from northern India, from the plains of the Ganges. However, I was born and raised in Bhilai - where the summer temperatures reached 45 ℃ in the shade and the dirt was red from iron oxide [The google maps link is to the hospital where I was born]. The ground was covered several inches deep in rounded red pebbles ranging in size from marbles to ball bearings (these made sliding bicycles and cars sideways a lot of fun). I went to college at IIT Kharagpur, near Calcutta [actually, that is the dorm where I lived]. This was a time of vhanges. I grew up there, and a large part of me comes from the discussions and e debates in the corridors of KGP. After graduation I went to Mumbai and worked for the oil company for two years. Next came Grad school at UMASS Amherst. New England seemed spacious and empty after Mumbai. This was another time of changes. I was introduced to AD&D. I got married there. And then came a period where I followed Judy where her job lead us, working remotely all the time. We then moved to Mobile, Alabama, right in the heart of Dixie, where Judy taught at the University of South Alabama. This was a greater culture shock than moving from Mumbai to Amherst had been. Next step was to Murfreesboro, TN, the Middle Tennessee State University. At this point, it becames Judy's turn to follow where my job lead us; and I went from being a DoD subcontractor to working for Amazon. We are now in the land of the granola activists in Seattle. I have never been more impressed by the civility of this city [the video of the first link is something to see]. Even if a bemused world makes fun of us.

We are what we learn. Or something like that. In high school, I specialized in Mathematics and Engineering Drawing. While I wanted to be i physics, the realities of India were such that there was little future in ot, so I went (after a brief hiccup) to stufy Electronics and Electrical communications engineering at IIT Kharagput. There was no major in computer science when I went to college. My thesis was on semiconductor physics. After a short detour while I navigated exploratory drilling rigs for the oil company, I went to grad school in Amherst. After 9 years of failing to solve the mysteries of tunneling transistors, and also realizing afresh that there was no money in physics, after all, I graduated with a masters and promptly went to work as a programmer, even though I had little formal training in the field until that point. (Actually, the real reason was that behavior of the photons in the delayed Quantum eraser experiments was spooky enough to scare the prosaic engineer's soul I possess)

We are what we have done. I have been a student, an oil worker, a tug boat navigator, a drilling platform tool pusher, a teacher, a telemarketer. a software developer, a trouble shooter, a systems architect, and a keeper of server fleets. I have fought of sea sickness drinking XXX rum tied to a line at the bow of a tug boat in 10 meter seas with an English captain from WWII. I have gone to work winched down from a helicopter. I have played characters, devout, arcane artists, and even an assassin, in campaigns that ran for years. I have run my own fantasy campaign. I have seen the endless hills of the Himalayas, peacocks in the deserts of Rajasthan, spent a winter nights in the slums of Dharavi, and the swum in the clear blue oceans and white beaches of the gulf shores in America. I have seen the rivers in Chicago turn green and a rioting public dutifully wait for the traffic lights to turn.

Adversity is how the character of a man is forged. My first brush with a real setback came at the end of high school. I had been cruising along, getting gentleman's B's, and headed for what I imagined would be a mid tier engineering school and join the local workforce. I had an aptitude for math, but disaster struck in the standardized test where one or more of the additional answer books from my math final went missing, and the results were not good enough for all but on engineering school. This is perhaps for more significant in India of that era than is apparent; since opportunities diminished significantly lacking a good education, and genteel poverty is not all that genteel. I took an year off, preparing for not only the standardized tests, but for the joint entrance exam for the Indian Institutes of Technology (flying in the face of oft expressed conventional wisdom that said test results rarely improve significantly on the second try), and managed to get though to IIT Kharagpur (the acceptance rate there is lower than that of Harvard or MIT, due to the teeming masses trying to get in).

We are shaped by the major events in our lives. There are two such that stand out: getting into Kharagpur. Those were indeed "glory days"/ It was a magical place; by getting in, we had reached the promised land, and our troubles were over (heh. if only we knew ...). The world was out oyster. The other defining event of my life, and the only thing that changed me more than KGP, is meeting and falling in love with Judy. We had very different backgrounds, and it was a very unusual match. We have defied conventional wisdom now for over two decades. A large part of who I am is what our relationship has made me.

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