Journey to center of the world

Well, this is not a trilogy’s sequel by Brad Peyton or a novel by Jules Verne. Its the story of how an ordinary wanna-be-geek travelled halfway across the world with just an idea flavoured by passion.

I've always advised people to follow their dreams with passion, always wondered whether as a personality, would I be a role model or an example of the life I provoke within everyone. Today, I can say it with pride that it was worth the efforts I had put in my desire to spread Digital Literacy. It just doesn't stop here, lets say it was a pitstop for my long run in a ferrari track.

The story begins by late February 2014, where I got a text from Gauri Arora, lead of Corporate Citizenship at Microsoft India, that a new campaign is announced in the name of “Microsoft YouthSpark Challenge for Change”. Its she who accompanied me at #Innovate4Good at Singapore back in 2012. I was really not into applying as I was with my semester exams on schedule. But the fact that they contributed $10 for every application to an NGO supported by Microsoft Citizenship & we get to choose, whom they shall fund, was really cool. Just spent 30 minutes applying for it and long forgot.

The invitation poster for Challenge for Change 2014 circulated around social media.

It was late march, I was clearing my junk folder and saw a mail from DocuSign, stating “As the Official Judging Organization for the Microsoft YouthSpark Challenge for Change Contest, we are pleased to inform you your entry has been deemed a Potential Finalist or Alternate pending receipt and verification of the requested documents. ”, I was under the impression that its another spam mail and did not really give it a consideration until, I got the second mail with a deadline. Technically, spammers don’t send deadline warnings, hence viewed it and hell yhea. I was one of the top twenty finalists across the globe.

Post that we had a task to explain more about our project in a two minute video. Although, we have been doing the project offline for more than three years, we couldn't get anything innovative out of the box for the video. Everyone in the team were busy with their semesters and exam schedule. I had a gem with me, Mr.Prabhu Extreme. He came to my house and sat down and said me lets work on it. I tried for few moments, then went on a live recording right away, couldn't delay any further, I had an exam the next day.

Bloopers of the Video shoot, helped by Mr.Extreme. It indeed was a great piece of help from him. Warning: Language !
I’m sure that this would have been one of the worst explainer videos the team would have ever received. Given the time, this was the best I could make. And for sure, I’m not proud of it. I could have obviously done better.

After a long struggle, we managed to make a ‘not-even-close to a amature video’ and submitted it along with our other docs regarding the projects we've been doing for so long.

Post that, we were given the final list of twenty people and a option to vote. The twist was not to get a single vote for the contest, but to get one vote everyday from everyone. Which means, if i've already asked you for the favor of voting, I’ll need to bug you in another 24 hours, and will happen until the voting is closed. Now, bugging becomes spamming. I was no way into campaigning and, totally forgot the fact that I'm still a part of the contest.

Three months passed by, and I was at Chennai at my cousin’s house celebrating a peaceful vacation, spending the time speeding their unused new car. Did not check mails for the next three days, and on the day before I departed towards Coimbatore, a mail, again in junk folder, from DocuSign. I was dumbfounded and decided not to open the mail until I get back home. Came home the next day, plugged myself to the PC and saw the mail. I had no reaction, went straight to my mom and said, “Ma, Start packing ! Its showtime.”, not sure whether she did not understand the underlying statement, or she was mocking me. She replied, “Whatever ! Go and get me two KGs of tomato, I’ve to cook.”, I’m way too baffled on her response. The hardest part of the next whole week was the fact that I had to keep my mouth shut, and I shall not share this information to anyone but close family members. The most surprising thing was people calling me and asking me about the results, they were way too supportive and cheered me up saying that I’ll win for sure. I wish I told them that I knew that I won, but rules are rules, isn’t it ? ;) Winning the contest wasn’t a big thing for me either, but the post activities really were heart stunning.

YouthSpark Winners featured in the Microsoft News Center.
A tweet by nadella, mentioning the winners and congratulating them . Wait, Don’t judge me. I followed him the very next moment on twitter.

It became a trend, when people stopped introducing me to their mates as Microsoft Guy and started saying, “This is the guy, Nadella tweeted about.”, that was mind blowing and should say I was on #Cloud9. There were Skype interviews, telephonic interviews, media crew and all such fancy stuffs at my word. I felt like a celebrity. But, took a pause and thought for myself, Was it just me who is worth all the pride ? There were many more people who contributed for the project, there were so many man hours being spent on this activity by so many MSPs and members of Coimbatore User Group. I wanted to give due credits to them at my every move. But, you know the media flare, they want to show things as if, a banian tree came up from the ground out of nowhere, and its they who discovered it. I’m not blaming them, its their job, I should have insisted them to give due credits, its my fault and I accept it. “thanks to every microsoft peeps & UG backbones, you all have been the roots of that banian tree!”

It was within a week I received a Acer Iconia W4, a handy tablet instead of aMicrosoft Surface Pro, as it wasn’t available in India. It was a cherishing moment, as its my first tab at the same time was let down that I couldn’t brag that it was a Microsoft product. Weeks later, I got a mail that I’ll be receiving the Xbox post september, as its not available in India either, that was again a mess. No hurry, I’m not into gaming, anyway, its going to be a takeaway for my sister.

Several weeks passed and towards June, I got a mail from Mrs.Lura of MetoWe, It was my flight tickets and custom itinerary for the two week program. that’s probably the first time I’m hearing about MetoWe. I did not give much attention about MetoWe at that point of time, because it was the e ticket, the golden egg at that point of time, post that came formal documents and other stuffs that are needed for the amazon trip. I had no idea where to buy them. (Should admit the fact that 70% of the money given by Microsoft for the project was spent on shopping the required things for the trip.)

It was almost just 30 days away from the trip and every time,I post in the group, I got no response from the other attendees. There was another asian, who responded at times, and he would post back something. That’s it. No other participants talked much, I was destroyed. Thought that its going to be one jerk filled trip where i’ll have no one to socialize, left alone when are others were so mean & frowny faced.

I packed my bags just a day before the departure, I had my flight from CJB — MAA — BOM — AMS — UIO. Had my brother’s car, come with my family to drop me at the airport(the Indian way of sending off). Had some(loud)conversations outside the airport as if we were sitting in our own houses, post that I was sent off inside. Was surprised to see the airport was deserted, hardly I saw 15 people waiting for flights, was wondering whether an evacuation alarm was turned on, apparently not. It was just those 15 of us waiting to board two flights. Now, no wonder why Coimbatore International Airport wasn't extended on a large scale. Within minutes, the flight to MAA came, within few hours, I was at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport T1. I was then transferred to T2, and wasn't sure if I landed in an airport within India, such a piece of beauty. Took me almost an hour to reach the boarding gateway. Checked in my luggage, and was awaiting Emigration formalities. I was proper at all my documents, except for the fact that they were all safely secured in my bag, which was by then on a conveyer belt towards the airplain. I was with the take that, an e-copy of the docs was always on my tablet and that would suffice.

I was wrong, the Emigration Officer was very keen in seeing the documents in a printed format and I had to argue with him to convey the motto “Save Paper”, He was pissed off at me and wanted to find a way to make me run for mercy(the Indian mentality), He then said that I do not have a visa and so, he’ll not allow me to get through. I told him that I’m going to Ecuador and not to US, so I do not need a visa, its an on-arrival visa. It was a fact that was too obvious and he did not really accept it. Instead, he wanted me to go back to the flight’s booking counter and get a seal from them for no reason. The counter guys gave me a not my job response(Again, the Indian way).Then I came back to Emigration and stood in a different line, and that lady did not even ask me for how long I was going to stay there. I was post the Emigration and started to board my flight, and to my dismay, the flight was delayed by three hours. Then logged into the Clipper Lounge and had a little nap, post which I came back to the boarding gate and it was like fish market, just that everyone were well dressed(Money?). Boarded the flight and I was all excited for the trip, as I always loved flying, but was never really expecting a disastrous long haul. Couldn’t sit for more than an hour, I was so restless kept walking cross and forth, and realised that I've more than 22 hours of flight.

Let me take some break here. I've got loads to write, i’m just 10% through. ;)

I’ve available on ping me for a live conversation, just in case you can’t wait for me to complete my blog.

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