One modest expectation that you have during an air trip is that the security officer sitting at the bags scanner should continue to have a poker face when your bag passes through the scanner. I wasn’t lucky that day. I was on an official trip during my tenure at the Department of Space, Government of India, sometime in the early 90s.
I was watching from the distance when my bag entered the X-ray chamber. I saw the officer moving in his chair and sitting upright. He was curiously looking at his monitor. Soon some of his colleagues also gathered around. Needless to say, I was summoned.
The bag was still in. When I looked at the terminal it really looked scary. This bag of mine had some electronic stuff that was part of a camera that takes pictures from the sky. They were struggling to figure out what that beast could be. I explained to them what that is. The discussion led me to mention that I work for the Department of Space. I even showed my badge, which cleared the air.
He said, “Sir, you should have shown your badge straight. We would have not even bothered you with all these questions. Perhaps you underestimate the power of these three lion heads (the Indian emblem). I smiled at them and then moved ahead, feeling proud about my job.
Thus, when I had decided to move out of the Department of Space job, it wasn’t an easy decision. One job had what society respects and the other job had what society cares, even if it respects or not – the money. The rest of the things were pretty much the same at both jobs, i.e. software development, creative work, etc.
It was the late nineties and India had started attracting several multinational software companies. I had decided to join one of them. One solace was that this American company served the Indian defence. So in a way, I had not distanced myself from the lofty cause.
Being a development organization and that too offshore, we never had any idea about who is the end-user of our solutions. And then I heard this once that even the Pakistan military uses our company’s software. The thought that whatever effort we were putting in might even be helping to strengthen the unfriendly forces, was unnerving. But then I realised that this is how things work in the modern economy. Probably that was my first lesson of The Flat World.
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(featured image: By Ministry of Home Affairs – www.mha.nic.in, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=665228)