(Warning: Lotsa brackets, like this one.)
Back in 2001-02 (ah, the good ol’ days), when the stock markets recoiled after the dotcom bust and thousands of people found themselves out of a job in Silicon Valley, thousands of miles across the face of the earth, the impact was felt in Chennai. The great Indian IT boom 1.0 had ended, and this was the period before v2.0 commenced (the period when folks were recruited in hordes; the “Trespassers will be recruited” days).
At the turn of the century millennium, every Ram, Shyam and Hari was enrolled in a computer-training course. It didn’t matter what you did, what degree you were pursuing, what your life’s ambitions were etc. All that mattered was to enroll in the nearest NIIT or SSI centre (or something not that far off, if there were “incentives”).
These institutes were unbelievably good at marketing. They tapped into the general “Whatever you learn today is going to worthless tomorrow” belief. And added, “… but you must learn it from us nevertheless.” The ads in newspapers, and there were more ads than news content on most pages, teemed with TLAs and FLAs. TLA stands for Three Letter Acronym (which incidentally is a three letter abbreviation). So, if COM was the hot topic in 1999, it was DCOM in 2000, CORBA in 2001 and Coldfusion in 2002.
It didn’t matter what these meant; the rule was to be abstruse, condescending and inviting all at the same time.
But Java changed all that. Everyone’s son and daughter and neigbhor was learning Java. Soon, however, Java, as it was used in conversations, did not directly refer to the programming language that Sun Microsystems came out with. It morphed into more of a folk term.
People felt comfortable using the term Java. (Like you bring a girl home, and your mom frowns; but you tell her that her name is Gayatri, and frown turns to contented smile.) I guess the Tamil mind felt that C was too small a name for a serious programming language. C++ should have fit the bill, but for some reason, it escaped them. Maybe the additional “+” was off-putting. But somehow Java became the chosen term. It was what people on the street threw in the midst of a conversation to prove that they were also buzzword-compliant.
(Perhaps the crowing glory of the language came when the comedian Vivek included the language in his now-famous ettu pulli kolam dialogue – remember “atomic energy coupled with cosmic energy”?)
So, in 2002, I walk into the neighborhood saloon. (Didn’t I say, good ol’ days?) It is Sunday morning, so there is a crowd, so I’m forced to wait in line and read Dhina Thanthi.
(Have you seen the folks reading Dhina Thanthi in a saloon? They are the unluckiest of the most unfortunate. They cannot get to lay their hands on the magazines; those are all taken; nobody is interested in the papers, and those with the papers are doing their best to peer into the magazine in the hands of the person sitting next to them, while actually giving an impression of reading the paper. They should be extra careful not to be caught in the act. Yenda indha maanamketta pozhappu?)
The person sitting next to me is an elderly gentleman. He also has a paper in hand, and is evidently not interested in it. So he turns to me and asks, “So what do you do?”
I tell him I study engineering. Like everyone else does, I don’t add.
He: “Computer engineering?”
I: “No, electronics.”
He: “Nalladhu dhaan. Java down aayiduchunga!” (literally “That’s good. Java is down”; what he meant was “Java is out of demand.”)
I: “Oh!” (I’m thinking if he understands fully what he is saying.)
He: “Yes, my daughter studied Java. She is unable to find a job now.”
I: “Sorry to hear that”, and the conversation peters out.
Friends, Chennai-vasis, now that we are in another downturn, do you hear stuff like this these days on the road, in the bus, in the saloon?
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