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Computing to consciousness
AC Narendran was the kind of student who makes up for the pain and frustration that are a teacher's lot. Quiet, soft spoken and with a consistent record of academic excellence, he was the boy his classmates' parents would point to and say, "Why can't you be more like him?"
He secured admission to IIT Madras's mechanical engineering programme in 1987 with an all-India rank of 211. His performance in the first year enabled him change his degree to computer science. He completed his masters in computer science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, USA.
The first signs of dissatisfaction with the conventional trajectory appeared six months into his job with Intel. He returned to India in 1994, and became a teacher at a school for the physically disabled. It was here that he met Neeraja, who would later become his wife. He stayed in India for three years, but returned to the US in 1998 to take up a job with Microsoft.
"To some extent, it was because I got married, " he explains. "The opportunity that I was offered was exciting, and that had a lot to do with it as well. " He worked on Microsoft's popular Office Suite and later moved on to working on the Windows operating system. It was while he was working as part of the Windows Vista team that he received an offer for something more interesting from a company that had been making a name for itself on the Internet. The year was 2004 and the company was Google. The offer was to helm Google Finance. When Google set up shop in India, Narendran was one of its first employees.
"The work was fun. I was in Google for six years, " he says. But there was something missing. Around 2004, Narendran became fascinated with teachings of U G Krishnamurti, the Indian thinker who famously said, "I have no teaching. " He met Krishnamurti four times before the latter's death in 2007.
In 2008, Narendran spent a weekend attending a course offered by the Nityananda Dhyanapeetam. "That was when I realised that I had found what I was looking for. " Narendran quit Google in 2010 to devote himself full time to the ashram. "It's not really retirement, " he says. "When I joined Microsoft, I was doing something exciting. And when Google came along, they were changing the world. What I am doing now, is just an extension of that, a paradigm shift in the way that people think about the mind and consciousness. "
"Most of the time, what you do is the result of how you're brought up, how your parents condition you to think in certain ways, in certain patterns. They - your parents and society - place expectations on you and as you grow older, you fall in line. You start comparing yourself with those around you. And that was what I changed in myself, " he says. "We think change is painful because we don't know how to change. And we stress about things that we think we should change but are unable to."
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