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Forty seven and successful, Ajay Goel leads a very hectic life, travelling out of town 12 times a month and abroad 15 times a year.
"Life in Bangalore is definitely hectic. It is strenuous, but it is a different kind of challenge," says the IT professional who works in a senior position at a leading international computer networking company.
It has definitely not been an easy ride for the Nagpur boy whose father was a government official. But by ability and hard work, he has successfully ridden the wave of the IT boom.
"It is hard work. You either make it or you break completely in Bangalore. It is a city of opportunities and with the right kind of approach and a lot of hard work, one can make it big," says the friendly and humble man.
On a Monday evening, sitting with his wife over a Coke, he sat down to give us a slice of his life as an IT professional.
"Leading a life here is an art. I hear of so many people complaining of failed marriages and not having enough time for the family. I agree that the challenges in this profession are huge and demanding. The expectations rise every day. I must admit it is the carrot that keeps us motivated. What is most important is that we must ensure that things back home are fine. There is a great balancing act which is required."
Ajay came to Bangalore in 1983 and married Era a couple of years later. She decided to look after the home and raise their two children.
Era says for Ajay the entire week is about work, but the weekends are reserved for the family. "He does make it a point to spend a lot of time with the children. They do not miss him as he has managed his time very well."
Ajay's friends say he has worked hard to reach this position, but the beauty of it is that he still remains as humble as he used to be when he first came to Bangalore. They also admire his sense of time. "There is no way he will ever be late and once a time is given, one can be rest assured that there will be no delays whatsoever," says a friend.
Ajay agrees that IT professionals need to make a choice because their profession consumes a lot of time and energy. Since he makes it a point to keep the weekends for the family alone, both Era and he have compromised on their social lives, which normally used to be reserved for the weekends.
"We hardly get to meet our friends, go to the club, or play golf which used to act as an unwinding mechanism for us. We have decided that the best way to unwind is to be with the kids."
Ajay wakes up by 5.30 am, does some light exercises, checks his Blackberry for e-mail, reads the newspaper and leaves for office by 8 am. From that point onwards, it is a packed schedule till he returns home by 9 pm.
Era has learnt to cope with her husband's hectic travel and work schedules. "Fortunately, I have always been independent," she says.
A plush apartment, a Mercedes Benz and no worries monetarily, the Goels are one of the many Indian families who have transformed their lives in the economic boom. Ajay says he grew up in a middle class family and has come up the hard way. "With the right attitude and a lot of hard work anyone could make it big in Bangalore which currently is the best place to be in," he says.
Though Era and Ajay have the money and can give their children anything they want, the parents want to ensure that the kids have a middle class ethos while growing up.
Esha, 17, and Abhinav, 13 have been the reasons the family has resisted moving to a more upscale neighbourhood. "We are scared for the children as we feel they may not be able to cope with the pressures after being inculcated with a different set of values," says Ajay.
"We felt that in this sort of set-up, they would have more friends and learn the values of life better. However, there are certain things we did not want to compromise on. We send them to the best school in Bangalore, take them on holidays frequently and they get to drive in the best cars."
Ajay Goel represents India's elite IT workforce -- professionals who have built successful lives through merit and hard work. "I am not content," he says, "but yes, I am satisfied. In this demanding profession I have learnt that one can do well only if the family is managed well. Since that front is covered, I do not have much to worry about. I have a lot of energy left in me still."
Photograph: Vicky Nanjappa
How India Lives
Earlier in the series:
For the love of Billo
Why K R Babu is happy with inflation
No electricity, phone or TV and lions as neighbours
The exorcism of Nandai
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