In the prior episode, Accounting App Ashram VI & VII: Development Rose Pedals, the journey continues in India, where we just met the team creating the AccountingPlay.com membership website and Tax Fight app.
Fatigued beyond belief after a weeklong development marathon in Chandigarh, I had little left in my mental, let alone spiritual gas tank. Here,now, I am in a ten hour car ride, weaving between every lifeform known to man, heading north to Rishikesh, located on the banks of the silty sacred Ganges River. I chose this city to walk in the steps of other creatives, such as the Beatles and undoubtedly Steve Jobs on his India quest. I naively thought the city would provide a sanctuary to relax, cleanse, write, and create. Maybe I would try something realllly crazy, like take a yoga class. The driver and I start to sway up the road, away from the place I coined in my head, “Mini-Merica.’” The strip malls and wide organized streets faded into the background. Not much to look at now, focus turns to my iPhone notepad to capture this journey within the journey.
My ears and head are still ringing slightly from the prior night app development festivities. Owner of the team 34 Interactive, Sunil had graciously taken me and the team to a thumping night club where we solidified our bonds over electronic dance music. I did not expect to attend a Vegas-like club in what seemed like a random city, to a dude born in Missouri, – Chandīgarh – but there I was, last night.
Why do contradictions make so much sense?
Where I expected poverty, I found riches and when expecting local music, I was blown away with thick bass-heavy speakers. My mind wanders with the road that begins to do the same and I seek to somehow connect the dots – make sense of it all – using a left to right notepad that has a top and a bottom – But India. INDIA app development or LIFE knows no such linear organization or progression. Maybe it is more of a cycle of birth and re-birth, rise and fall – rather than western notions of progression and ascension to heavenly products or death.
Seeking to understand the business framework in India, I ponder in the back seat of this vehicle, sticking to the vinyl. I wonder and wander on the road that no longer goes straight. What does this do with accounting or making technology products? “Not even apps last forever” hmmm... deep stuff. And perhaps an ancient culture knows this best. Pursuit of technology or accounting perfection that is, but another stage in such a cycle – well, maybe could be a waste of time. Even the best code becomes deprecated and superseded, OLD and DEAD. Accounting recognizes this cycle, during the accounting cycle where depreciation is recorded – representing the eroding of asset value over the passage of time. We use numbers and concepts to capture the very notion of business birth, growth, and death. Financial statements capture the cycle, pursuit of possible numeric perfection – a balancing innate in the double entry system - a balance that I was perhaps looking for.
A musical horn blast from a juggernaut of a truck jars me into the present. Where do these trucks come from? From the front they look animated and smiling, decorated and displaying various symbolism – the most recognizable of which is Om… Ommmmm… Ommmmmmmmm….
I am in the back seat cross legged, with only my sticking skin to the seat holding me down. When there is a bounce in the road, I levitate slightly, unstick then re-adhere. I relish in the feeling of being stuck and unstuck as it relieves some itchiness earned by strange, kinda-healing, bug bites earned in New Delhi. The driver casually turns on the radio with a surprisingly interesting beat in the background.
My Indian homeostasis is generally one of dehydration, itchiness, tummy rumblings, mental exhaustion, and INSPIRATION. I don’t write here, the place writes for me. As the little car consumes the road and fuel and the dusty air consumes me – words flow into the car and onto the phone. Through the dirty windows pours in light that comes into me, registering deep inside – like a camera captures and transmits digital code into a machine – so do my eyes consume and transmit and words spill out.
The car makes a melodic sway and background music inspires a most random flow:
"We Made It" ... On the edge - India risk reward til' up with the pres' – Modi - when and where in it, Hittin' it in the back seat, my turn wan’ meet, Livin' rich N' we made it
The flow was fraught with nonsensical contradictions, perhaps a product of it’s own environment. Living rich while passing by countryside poverty? Maybe at TWO dollars a day “they” are rich. I was not “Hittin’” anything these days, or even “Huggin’” for that matter. How I “made it” while in the process of driving to a destination is physically impossible. Beads of sweat form on my brow as we sail on, in a melodic bounce of the small vehicle, accomplished by worn shocks and tire connection with the road.
The driver selected music starts to grind in my head and my internal dialogue broads on this annoyance and all the other little things that drove me bat’ shiz crazy on this journey… I wonder. “I am paying for this ride, he should turn it off or – ahhh, I need to get over this sort of thing, ummmmm, no I need to stand up for what I want. Dang.” I tell the driver to please turn off the music so I can say my goodbyes over WhatsApp to my wonderful hosts in Chandigarh. Now the car quiet, I fear that the driver might turn on the “music” again… fearing something that should not be feared and could, maybe, happen? That for me is a crazy and unpleasant, thought, I THINK – dang – I am in my head too deep again – trapped with no one to communicate with. All I have to calm myself is my technology. I write. I snap pictures of what inspires me – PILES OF BRICKS.
“Your Mind IS Your First Enemy”
I make a game of it – just as prisoners in lightless solitary confinement make games to keep a grip on whatever semblance of reality one can make when trapped… I see and seek bricks. I too had recently been trapped in trains, fancy hotels, terrible hotels, and on a random side note – a culture – the people I was with at least… did not hug. Isolated, in my mind, sick… I pursue another type of sickness – trying to MAKE SENSE OF THIS MADNESS. Brick pile on the horizon, I aim and snap a pic.
We are so removed from it, but carnivores are killers.
The countryside cows inspire an odd thought. It’s like I am getting all spiritual when still hundreds of kilometers from the vegan and booze free Rishikesh. I feel bad for the driver again, but if I can’t tell someone to turn off the music when I am already being ripped off on the fare… I mean, how else is Accounting Play gonna ever get stuff done. Tying potential future business success to hoping a driver does not turn off the music is madness, but the connection calms my mind, which was already better now that I was taking pictures of bricks and now STEEL piles. I see straw piles too.
Driving through the countryside... Ducking brick factories with adjacent homes, made of bricks. Color garments adorn the village. Vibrant green outfits pop against the deep warm red colors being baked by the sun. Marriages all arranged I wonder? Cows in the street. Horses of courses. Earlier we passed a mega mc-mansion. Now I see trash. Dogs. I think THIS is "real" India. A few hours from Pakistan. I ask to take a pee wee stop road side. That worked. I got a chance to unstick my legs from the seat and relieve myself. I keep an eye on my backpack.
Noticed some locals watching this tractor pulling competition, Punjab… HERE on You Tube
(India’s answer to USA’s Monster Truck Rally)
What is IN these brick bunkers we keep passing, that seem to manufacture bricks... If the brick career doesn't work for these locals, there is a cement factory on the other side of town. Maybe better than the Indonesian paint factory I saw in Java last month. Who knows of these working conditions and employee satisfaction “ratings,” likely higher than your average USA corporation? I wonder if these workers ever do overtime so they can afford a slightly bigger brick home. <CILOK MATCH EXACT FORMAT> I can’t publish this I wonder… Are there more questions than conclusions? Dang. Another question added. I write aloud, driver looking in the mirror. He needs to look at the road. My eyes say… bro… watch the road, please.
Do WE want to know what lies behind these factory gates that are now fleeting images in the rearview? Maybe what is behind the gates of that mansion? Now passing "The villages." Wow. We ALL can't live hood rich I think, excusing the massive disparity of wealth in my face. Gini coefficient, right… which boils inequality down to a number and metric - which I tend to discuss - because it makes me look smart just saying it, “Gini Coefficient.” But inequality is NOT just a number - it is humans behind windowless houses, illiterate, and in sometimes poor health due to pretty F’ed working conditions – but, who knows, maybe happier than your average Californian. China and India both at 1 bill + people ... Moving fast... Economy... And in this TATA vehicle… The Indian car manufacturer competing with all the global brands. The little vehicle levitating on worn shocks on the road to Rishikesh, is actually a Toyota, but the oncoming trucks, stacked like bricks, carrying bricks are the real TATA deal. “Sound Horn” is written on the bumpers.
Little pig, little pig, let me in. We pass a settlement of straw houses and then stick houses... All upgrades over the street or ground I guess. Who IS the WOLF that lurks around these structures? Is it me coming to plunder young development minds? Or is it the costly cell phones and knowledge, of an unattainable life that keeps the straw dwellers up at night?
My princely journey continues, sitting cross legged in the AC back seat. We pass the slower vehicles to face oncoming animal and human traffic of motorcycles, horse and carriage, cows, and full on semi-trucks with an ungodly mass of BRICKS. E = MC Squared - could you imagine the energy release in a head-on collision? The vision of this "backseat Brahmin" – me - turned into an American curry mush… "non-veg" passenger, is a frightening possibility. There are seatbelts in the back, but nowhere plug them into. We swerve and miss a cow. My cross-legged pose is disturbed. Balanced in the middle seat and writing, I have a perfect view. I hope I don’t get to levitate through the front windshield. The music managed to sneak on again. Electronic beat keeps me focused and mixes in with the horns.
BRICS is an acronym covering major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Yup. One bric at a time this area is being built and there are brick piles in even odd and overgrown places, perhaps aspirational purchases. There are more piles of construction materials and half-finished buildings than finished structures. The beat crescendos, as the road starts to climb and the clouds and light shift through my legit Raybands and see my drivers' Faux-bands. The light is beautiful and casts poetic shadows in the oddest corners of my optic, straining to register everything at fairly high speeds. The beat drops. Car swerves, yoga position disturbed, we steady ourselves. Welcome to Himachal Padash. Bricks everywhere. Downshifting, driver takes a call, JAY WALKING everywhere. Beep beep. Journey continues. Another 5 hours of this and we make it to Rishikesh…
The arrival to what I planned to be my peaceful yoga town, was punctuated with a massive fight with the driver. A typical story of quoting a price and then trying to charge more upon arrival – this time the dude claiming that Google maps mileage was incorrect, while pointing to the odometer. The scuffle for me, becomes one of pride – I don’t like bad business ethics – and practicality – I LIKE to get my bag out of the eeeeFFFing trunk. The city is extremely crowded, and HOT and not, like, yoga-pants hot – but like sweltering madness – of which – the driver and I were contributors. Now the driver is screaming over the phone to his boss who calls me repeatedly, telling me to pay more, and we are not even at the right hotel. Welcome to the city of Rishikesh, on the holy Ganga. Spiritual home to many ashrams and gurus and now the host to an unlikely entrepreneurial enlightenment seeker: Accounting Play.
John Gillingham, CPA is the founder of Accounting Play and the author of the ten part blog series “Accounting App Ashram” where he details his entrepreneurial journeys in India and the islands of Java in search of entrepreneurial enlightenment. The series chronicles the surprises and struggles of meeting remote teams and conducting business abroad.
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