Three months later, I got a job offer from Citibank in Saudi Arabia in 1996 and my salary was more than Rs.100,000/month. I remember I sent the entire salary in cash through a friend back home, and father started to cry when he saw money. He had never seen so much cash at one go and, in one stroke, he cleared debts he had gathered over a lifetime. I was able to put two of my sisters through college, help in getting all three of them married and even build a house for my parents in our village.
It is around that time that my friend and I started an online used-car business. Used-car sales was flourishing in Saudi and, in those days of dotcom boom, we wanted to bring the business online. Ours was more like a listing platform where we brought the seller and buyer together, and it started to do really well. We even got offers from Avis and Budget Rent a Car (both US car rental companies), but we didn’t want to sell just yet. However, the dotcom bust happened, and our business did not survive. This cut deeply into my savings and my confidence. I had begun to fear failure.
My boss was moving to Dubai and I moved with him, with a cushy job that paid well. I had also married Sajna by then. Life was starting to look up again. Again, homesickness began to creep in. I had not really spent time with my parents since junior college and the one-month vacation we took every year, though spent entirely at the village, did not seem enough. Secondly, I had always wanted to study more but could not because of my financial responsibilities, despite having a good GATE score. I had wanted to pursue Master’s in computer science from IIT or IISc. Lastly, the techie job was getting monotonous and I wanted to try anything different. I had risen from my circumstances with help from strangers and I wanted to do something similar for the many smart kids back in my village. So, in 2003, I decided to return to India.
To say it was not easy would be an understatement. My father was flabbergasted, unable to understand why I would give up such a comfortable life I had built. But I was adamant and, thankfully, my wife and cousin supported my decision. Nasser was running a small kirana stor