Alexis's Ark

An Unconventional Geek

By Paresh C. Palicha, The Hindu Metro Plus (Kochi), 10th September 2001.

An avalanche of clichés like ‘Triumph of the Spirit’, ‘Against All Odds’ and ‘Victory Of Willpower’ will strike your head when you talk to Mr. Alexis Leon, the internationally acclaimed author of computer books and a software consultant of repute. But the most stunning revelation to you (when you clear your head of these clichés) will be that you are looking at the real revolution brought about by Information Technology (IT), in flesh and blood.

Alexis’ life can be termed as the best comeback story in the recent times, pushing Amitabh Bachchan’s post-KBC saga on the backburner

Alexis met with a fatal road accident on 2nd December 1993, which literally broke his spine and left him to be a wheelchair user for the rest of his life. At that time Alexis was on the threshold of hitting big time in the IT industry. Working as a Sr. System Analyst in Tata Consultancy Services, Chennai, he was about to leave for Switzerland in a month’s time on deputation, which was to be combined with his honeymoon. Alexis, the practical man that he is, took the devastating experience in his stride: “I had no other go, instead of thinking about what I had lost I thought of what was left”, he says with a saint like calmness defying any emotion from showing on his face.

Alexis continued the job with TCS for about eighteen months after going through rehabilitation, which had given him wheelchair independence. He left TCS because of the difficulties of conveyance. Even though he had a hand-controlled car, his brother Mathews had to be in tow on a bike to help Alexis get out of the car and to put him on the wheelchair. After leaving TCS Alexis set up a software consultancy firm with his brother and also started writing. He reveals that he had a flair for writing from the beginning: “I used to do technical writing for the projects I was involved in”. Alexis has made the best use of his skill and his shrewd business acumen, he realized that there was a market for cheap computer books and approached some publishers saying that he could write books which would cost very less than the imported books that are priced around Rs. 1500.00. “At that time I was working on Mainframes, there were only a few imported books available on the subject, which were priced at Rs. 1500.00 to Rs. 2000.00. I wrote to some publishers saying that there was a market opportunity for such books”, Alexis explains.

Alexis has authored thirty-two books on various subjects related to computers: from programming, Y2K and IT to E-Business in the last seven years. Twelve of these books are co-authored by his brother Mathews who has been with ever since the accident happened. He has also written a few books in partnership with US-based software consultant Richard Brooks.

Alexis has done M. Tech in Industrial Engineering with first class and Distinction from College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram.

Alexis is buoyant about the future of IT in India. He claims that there will be no future without IT and will transform everything in the near future. He also feels that IT is a boon for disabled people: “I can access any information sitting here, I have co-authored books with people around the world”, Alexis says.

Alexis is a prolific writer; he took just twenty days each to complete his last four books. “I write quite fast, I usually take only 1-2 months to complete a book”, he says with a self-assured pride.

Alexis leads a disciplined life and it is reflected in the room that he uses as his office cum study, covered with ceiling high neatly stacked bookshelves (a conspicuously placed framed notice ‘I Don’t Lend Books’ greets you as you browse the shelves) on three sides and a personal computer on the fourth. He spends around nine hours here in a day: writing and reading.

Alexis is a voracious reader and has a collection of books on wide ranging subjects from legal thrillers by John Grisham to Tom Clancy and assortment of books on other topics like management and self-improvement. He also runs Pegasus Book Club on the Internet, where he posts reviews of the latest books.

Ask him about the adjustments he had to make in terms of aspirations before and after the fateful accident, which turned his life upside down, again in his trademark saint like manner Alexis explains that career-wise he does not regret anything, if he was in software industry, his career graph would have been similar to thousands of other software professionals, he would have returned from Switzerland and would have migrated to the USA: “I would not have achieved this much if I was in the software industry, there people work for sixteen hours in a day. You would hardly find a software professional who has written more than two books in his whole life”.

Alexis plans to write a book about his eventful life, which has been tentatively titled as ‘Reinventing the Wheel’. A few chapters are already stored in the hard disk of his computer. Alexis has not yet decided whether he will write straight non-fiction autobiography or a fictionalized account of his life: “I am thinking of making it into a fictionalized story, that way I can add a little spice to it” he says, thoughtfully rubbing his chin with his left and a rare smile spreading on his lips.

Alexis’ homepage on the web is titled ‘Alexis Ark’. You instinctively question him whether the title has any metaphorical connection with the biblical Noah’s Ark, does he see himself as a survivor and saviour? He politely denies any such significance and explains that he just likes the rhyming effect it has. But for hundreds of harassed software professionals around the world who email to him for finding solutions for their problems, Alexis is certainly a saviour.