On a winter evening, a baby boy was born to the Goel family in India. He was nameless for a week, until his parents finally decided to call him 'Amit'. And so my life story began....
Well, I was born with a twin, so we were two additions to the family. I had to share my room and all my toys with him. Believe me, it wasn't a pleasant experience. But we grew up to be great pals. We were born 20 minutes apart. I came second. Dad says we are fraternal twins, which means we are unidentical. I think he understated the fact. I think we are 'super-unidentical' twins, because there is hardly anything similar in us except our last names.
I joined boarding school when I was 6 years old. From grades 1 to 4, I studied at Welham Boys' School, Dehradun; then from grades 5 to 10, I studied at Sherwood, Nainital.
Founded in 1867, Sherwood is one of the oldest boarding schools in India. It's a Christian school, so we attended chapel every day. Discipline was strict, seniority was enforced, and speaking in Hindi was discouraged. Physical training, marathons, and extra-curricular activities were a part of every student's life.
Sherwood was one of the first schools in India where computer training was introduced. That was in 1985. I enjoyed programming, but I also played a lot of computer games. We set up computer stalls during the annual fete, and wrote programs to display during the annual Founder's day exhibition. While at Sherwood, my masterpiece happened to be my carpet-designing software that I developed for the Founder's day in 1990.
Among other activities at school, I enjoyed playing a variety of Indian classical instruments. I played the tabla, dholak, khol, mridangam, matka, banjo, swarod, and harmonium, but tabla remains my favorite. Sherwood is also the place where I developed a great interest in learning the English language and improving my vocabulary.
Life at IIT began with my Yamaha RX-100. Dad had promised to buy me a motorbike if I made it into IIT. He kept his promise. I bought an RX-100 soon after I entered IIT. People called it maroon in color, but I called it the color of wine, because it had a similar effect on me!
But there were other excitements to be had too. During my second year, I took part in the inter-hostel choreography competition consisting of 6 dancers. The theme was The Emotions of Man. It was a fun-filled one month of practice and nightouts. We were all inexperienced, but enthusiasm was high. We created our own steps, compiled our own selection of music, and ended up snatching the first prize.
Then there was the annual cultural festival (Rendezvous) that drew crowds from all over India. This festival was food for the intellectual and the vellas alike. The hasya-kavi sammelan, the treasure hunt, the gunny-bag races, choregraphy show, rock show, podium, and the sprawling campus all added to the festive mood.
Time spent at IIT has been one of the best times of my life. IIT was also the place where I developed my virtual reality browser (Web3D), something I am proud of to this day.
Life after IIT was destined for the wild wild west. I was going to study my favorite subject—computer science—from a university called Virginia Tech. Located in a picturesque town called Blacksburg, Virginia Tech is the state's largest university, with the most magnificent campus I have ever seen.
While at Virginia Tech, life revolved around apartment-hunting, driving and fixing my first car, getting involved with the Indian students' association, greeting new students, driving to the Indian restaurant in Roanoke, snow fights, missing lectures, and occasionally getting involved with research. My area of interest was visualization, and the topic of my master's thesis was the multidimensional visualization of the design of NASA's unmanned supersonic aircraft. I even gave a name to the application I developed: I called it VizCraft.
Finally the day arrived that every student waits for: graduation day. During my graduation ceremony, I was greeted with a big surprise and a huge round of applause. In recognition of my research efforts, I was being honored as the best graduate student (master's) in the department of computer science. Very few moments in life offer such pleasant surprises. That day delivered one such surprise to me.
It happened. I finally fell in love! Well it was an arranged marriage, but we're allowed to fall in love in arranged marriages too, right?
We met in January, and less than three weeks later we tied the knot. What a happy beginning to the new millennium that was. Life changed. Suddenly I was responsible for somebody else—somebody who would be watching me all the time, so I couldn't behave like my stupid old bachelor self any more.
She is more outgoing than I am. She loves outdoors. Hiking, picnicking, and "small rock" climbing are among her favorite pastimes.
Four years after marriage, our first child was born. Once again, life changed. We experienced the infinite joy of holding our own baby in our arms, we learned the importance of a good night's sleep, we began to appreciate our own parents, etc. etc. On the flip side, we got so busy changing diapers and cleaning up that we didn't have time for much else.
We had just recovered when, two years later, our second child was born. Life changed gears and the brakes failed. We didn't even have time to put on our seat belts.