India Experience #1

* Jotted down on the day we landed in India

– Looks like Electric Toothbrush is not that very common in India. When I was using that at Delhi Airport, there were quite a few onlookers watching me too closely for my comfort. I was worried that if I were to put it down for a moment, one of them is going to pick up and use it.

– At New Delhi’s swanky new Terminal 3, we were getting ready to move on after collecting our baggages. There were some helpers guiding us on our way to Customs counter / Exit etc. I was quite amused by the way they asked me about my job title, employer, pay etc. and expected me to part all of that information without any reason. Perhaps I should get used to forgetting the phrase ‘Data Privacy’.

– Wifey bought a bottle of water @ Delhi Airport and made the stupid mistake of standing in the queue to pay for it. At least, 15 other people managed to get ahead of her in paying for their stuff. Of course, there was still a queue and 2 or 3 people were still standing in the queue awaiting their turn to get near the till.

– Good to see muffins with those red and green tooti-fruity bits on it. How long it has been to see those colourful looking muffins.

– Chennai Super Kings jersey was being sold at the airport for Rs 2500. Must buy one of that and Team India one soon for a decent price.

– T3 of New Delhi airport is fabulous. Of all the things, I was very much impressed with the cleanliness of the toilets.

India Shining?

Although I have been visiting India for the last eleven years at least once every 18 months, the extent to which certain organisations provided service shocked and amazed me.

If Airtel surprised me by providing the phone connection and broadband within 48 hours, HDFC Bank even shocked me by providing me with Instant ATM card and other paraphernalia the moment I gave their representative the documents they asked for. Last Sunday afternoon, there was some issue with our landline connection and the line went dead. I called up Airtel and they promised to set it right by 10 a.m on Monday. I was very, very sceptical about the promise mainly because it was a Sunday. But to my surprise, an engineer came knocking at our doors two hours later and the line was set right.

I am well aware that I shouldn’t generalise things by the above experience, but it was a pleasant and welcoming change. Perhaps, the key lies in being mentally prepared for the worst. In any case, I am getting prepared for the law of averages to strike. 🙂

Bangalore-d!

To those of you who still visit this site, just to let you know that we have moved to Bangalore, after 11 good years in United Kingdom.

We moved here about two weeks ago and gradually settling down. Personally, this is my first visit to Bangalore and in my short experience in the city, I should say that I like the place. We should count ourselves lucky and blessed to have friends – esp. Vijay and Priya, who ensured that every little thing was taken care of, so much so that we didn’t even have to struggle for a thing. They treated us like they would do a child and ensured a super smooth landing. I owe a lot for what they did, considering that I know them only through this blog. As I pretty much know that I wouldn’t be able to repay my gratitude in any way, I am feeling like a Ravanan or Rajapakshe due to what I owe them. (கடன் பட்டார் நெஞ்சம் போல் கலங்கினான் இலங்கை வேந்தன்)

Rant

Someone whom I was following in Twitter went on like ‘At the end of the first quarter in 2010, I have completed x,y,z of what I had planned and couldn’t do a, b. Not bad. In the next three months, I am aiming to complete m, n, o etc’. In short, she seem to set herself certain goals for every quarter and yesterday being the end of Q1 2010, she was reviewing those. Some were professional goals and some of them were personal ones.

Reading that tweet made me realised what I haven’t been doing all these days. Once upon a time, I was also very organised and meticulous in doing things. I had the drive in me to complete certain things (even if it were some silly, little hobby) every month and whatever mundane job I was doing, I was enjoying myself as I had several things to look forward to, besides work. Don’t know where, but at some point in time, I think I fell by the wayside.

At the moment, although I should be able to channelise my thoughts and energy in to several productive things, I am being a lazy bum drenched in discontent about everything and knowingly wasting my potential. This is partly due to certain stumbling blocks that are way beyond my control and partly due to my laziness, which easily forms a vicious circle – causing more harm. I know that I have to push myself out of this rut and do what I enjoy and what is good for me, but they are easier said than done.

To start with, let me stop ranting and try to organise myself a little better. Let me set myself some real, purposeful goals and see if I can achieve them. Let me remind myself that I am not worse off than many people and not feel bad about what I am. Let me wish you a very happy easter, to those who celebrate.

Hospital Stay

It started with the common cold and fever for Anirud. When we took him to the doctor thinking that it could be chicken pox, he suggested that we consult the pediatrician, who sent us to a different hospital for monitoring his health, as they were not sure about the cause of fever. To cut a long story short, while the temperature graph spiked high on and off, few tests were done on Anirud and the cause of the fever was established. As I type, he is still convalescing, but a lot better than how he was.

But this post was not about Anirud’s health. It is about Stoke Mandeville hospital, where he was admitted for five days. Ever since I came to UK, I am used to people crib a lot about NHS. At times, I have been frustrated – but mostly at not getting the appointment sooner enough from the doctor’s surgery. Fortunately, we never had the necessity to use the services of NHS all these years. The past week as you know, proved to be an aberration. The way Anirud was taken care of at the hospital was really great. The staff at the hospital were really excellent. As worried parents, we had lots of questions and looking at the way they answered, it seems that they have mastered patience as an art. Although it was the toughest week for us, as a family, the hospital made it a lot easier for us. We do owe it to them.

Trip to India – Some Observations – Part 2

* All the traffic signals can be dismantled in Chennai and thrown away. No one gives a damn for the red signal.

* Why wouldn’t anyone doing anything about the unmanned level crossing at Tambaram Sanatorium. With so many tracks and thousands of people crossing without a bit of care, that is a major disaster waiting to happen.

* None of the 24-hour pharmacies in Mylapore, Mandaveli area are open at 4:30 am. I had to travel all the way up to Malar Hospitals in Adyar and wake up the pharmacist to buy some cotton wool, plasters and bandage cloth.

* No amount of people management experience can give you the experience to manage the wagging tongues of the relatives at a wedding.

* The price of Kesar Badam Milk hasn’t risen much in the last 12 years. In 1998, it was Rs.10 a bottle. Now, it is Rs.15.

* Lots of changes to the traffic system (one-way routes) in Luz Corner in Mylapore. In the absence of proper direction signs, outsiders to the city are going to be very confused.

* There is a real need for low-floor buses in Mumbai Airport to transfer the passengers between the terminals (domestic and international). I made a suggestion to the powers that be and got a quick acknowledgement saying that they will look into this.

* Lord Venkatachalapathy seems to be the most popular god in the gift shops. At least, 40% of the gifts that my sister received on her wedding were variants of the above god. When I got married in 2003, it was wall clocks all the way. I received as many as 20 of them.

* It was very different to be asked ‘Are you Anirud’s father?’.

* Apart from the wedding, meeting up with the only reader one of the regular readers of this blog was the next best part of the trip.

* Finally, felt at home when we touched down at LHR.

Trip to India – Some Observations – Part 1

Back home to UK after a super hectic 10 day trip to Chennai, India.

* ‘Dining Street’ restaurant in LHR Terminal 4 is real bad. They took us 40 minutes to get our order of baked beans on toast. Saved few more potential customers from the misery by telling them of the above.

* Jet Airways is good. Wouldn’t mind flying with them again.

* I am continued to be impressed by Mumbai Airport. I know how it was in early 2000s and how it is now. This is one of the places where one can witness the magic of privatisation.

* Lemon Tea that is being sold in Domestic Terminal @ Mumbai is obnoxiously expensive as well as pathetic.

* When we landed in Chennai airport, some people were pointing their mobile phone cameras and clicking photographs. It was then I noticed that actress Tamanna was walking right behind us. She looks pretty much like how she appears in movies.

* In this short trip, I managed to donate a unit of blood for a 12 year old girl fighting for her life. When my sister was getting married in 48 hours, spending 4 hours for anything else was out of question, but this one gave me immense satisfaction.

* I travelled in OMR for the first time and I am not at all impressed.

* Chennai weather was very, very pleasant in the one week I stayed there.

…. More later. Need to catch up on sleep.

The day when the air froze

21st December 2009 may not be a significant day to remember as 9/11 is for NY, 7/7 is for London and 26/11 is for Mumbai. But for those who were out on the roads in Southern England on that day, 21/12 will be an unforgettable day at least for a while.

Snowfall is not a regular phenomenon for London and the Home Counties. It will snow once in few years and every Tom, Dick and Harry who has a profile in Orkut or Facebook will post their pictures standing in front of their car/home covered with snow. But 2009 was very different. One fine day in February, we had lots of snow on our roads that brought the entire country to a grinding halt, as there weren’t that many snow ploughs to clear the roads. However, as the snowfall lasted only for a day and half, the damage that was noticed was not severely felt.

Come December, things were a lot different. With temperatures of more than 10 deg C in the first week of December, winter was up for a late start. Like Rajinikanth, weather gods were seem to be saying – ‘late aa vandhaalum, latest aa varuven’. Winter did start with a bang. When it snows for the first time after years, or perhaps months, people do greet it with glee coz it does presents an aesthetic appeal. Only when it starts messing up with your daily routine, does everyone realise that snow is nothing but white sh*t. Sorry about my french, flashback and the philosophy. Lets get back to the story of 21/12.

On the said day, I was busy working (really!) from home when my wife called up from work saying that she need to be picked up as the bus services are very erratic. She was in a town called Hemel Hempstead, about 8 miles away from our place and could be reached in about 15-20 minutes during a normal day. When I started around 3:30 pm, there were flakes of snow that started falling slowly. As motorists were cautious about the black ice on the roads, traffic moved along at a gentle pace of 25 mph and I managed to reach Hemel around 5:10 pm. Temperature was already -4 deg C and the snow fall was increasing every minute. However, I did think that I can manage my return journey with in the next 1.5 hours or so. Boy, how wrong I was.

The distance from the magic roundabout in Hemel to A41 should be less than a mile. On that day, the traffic was so very heavy that every 10 minutes, we inched forward by 50 metres. Even emergency vehicles could not find their way, as there was no space to move around. As the air was getting thicker and roads were becoming slippery, many a cars were finding it difficult to stay on track. Like snakes, they were going zig-zag all the way and quite a few of them hit the barriers. Snow as such is not all that bad. When the snow turns into ice, car tyres do not get the grip and start misbehaving and that was what was happening that day. Upon contacting our friends over the phone, we realised that the A41 road (we will have to travel 5 miles on this road to reach home) was heavily clogged and other roads were equally worse. We had an opportunity to make a U-turn and get back to our friend’s place in Hemel. However, it took another hour to make that U-turn. Time at that point was around 7 pm. Little did we know that we had a bigger challenge to fend of.

At the pace at which the traffic moved, we could have easily got down from the car to count all the pebbles on the way and still manage to find lot of time. Inching was too fast a word to describe the pace. There was a guy who stopped his vehicle right in the middle of the road and walked down to the footpath to relieve himself. All through the way (which was about 1.5 miles), there were so many cars that were abandoned on the sides. People were finding it very difficult to drive and they had no option but to abandon their vehicles and walk down. With dark roads, scared and sad faces, it gave a feeling that we were in a war zone of some sort. The most challenging aspect of the journey was the last half-mile, which was a reasonably steep hill. By the time, we reached that point, I had mentally prepared to park my car somewhere on the road, but there weren’t any space left to park. I asked my wife and son to get off the car and walk, so that I can find a place to park.

I was in fact, looking for a space to safely abandon my vehicle for the night when by sheer instinct I started driving on the hill. It really set butterflies in my tummy, as the road was steep, dark, icy and unsafe. My intention was to drive straight ahead in the second gear without losing the momentum, but all plans doesn’t get executed that well, right? With the way the car was going, the only question I had was if I am going to hit another car or the tree. To add to my misery, there were two idiots following me very close. If I had to stop for any reason, they would be the ones to suffer. Much like the stock markets that go on a self-correction mode, my loyal Nissan Primera decided that trees are not meant to be hit and took me to the destination safely. Time was 9:50 pm. That was an incredible and interesting six hours of our lives in the recent times. It was a night I will remember for a long, long time unless something of bigger magnitude happens.

The morning after we got to know that everyone on the road had a similar story to tell. Most of my colleagues were on the road for hours. Some were hesitant to park their cars on the road and hence chose to spend the freezing night on the road inside their cars. Though the weather has eased a bit, the traffic woes in the country still continues.

TJ

Once upon a time (this is how my son typically begins any story), I started this blog and it will really itch me if I stopped scribbling here. Any happening or thought will always be about how to present that in the blog. It is not exaggeration to say that blogging drove me and it was really good. Good in the sense, I got to know several wonderful people and managed to meet quite a few of them as well. Slowly but steadily, I came out of the blogging phase and so did many others who were actively blogging those days. Barring very few people, I am not in touch with anyone although I know very well that they are all a phone call away.

Today morning, for want of some information I was looking at my blog archives and before I realised it, I was taken down the memory lane. I stumbled upon several comments and when I came across TJ’s (T.J. Swaminathan), I know that he was just an email away. Without giving any room for procrastination, I immediately mailed him and guess what – I got a reply within minutes. We managed to talk for few minutes today and promised to talk more over the weekend as well. It was great knowing him and more than anything, it is really good to renew the friendship. Hope I continue to blog – if not for anything, at least for rediscovering my long last friends.