Tag Archives: india

Happy Birthday India!

Today is Independence Day in India and the start of a three day weekend. I must confess that my patriotic feels are not stirred on this day (they have it all wrong… the 4th of July is the most auspicious day of the year to become independent from Britain). 😛 In any case, we’re off to a flag raising ceremony.

Here is a photo of the kids dressed up for yesterday’s Independence Day festivities at school yesterday.

Olympic Fever

Until yesterday, the Indians did not give a hoot about the Olympics. Aside from Cricket, India is not a sporting nation and since cricket last made an appearance in the Olympics over a hundred years ago, you can put two and two together.

Then some guy won a gold medal in one of the air rifle competitions.

Winning a gold at shooting is not exactly Michael Phelps, but the important thing was that for the first time ever, an Indian won gold in the Olympics. The place went nuts. Okay, perhaps not the kind of nuts that Germany erupted into when their team made the final of the last world cup, but at least the papers had something better to talk about than the usual fare of corruption and riots. The papers all put him on the front page, with multipage spreads, over multiple days. Like the Germans in 2006, they seem to have crossed a physiological divide; only instead of deciding that it might actually be okay waving flags (a hang-up that Indians are in no danger of), they have decided that Indians can indeed be sportsmen. Expect more Indian gold in the coming decades. India has participated in the Olympics. India has now won gold in the Olympics. When will India host the Olympics?

Interestingly enough, a human interest news story about “the shooting guy” (my term. his name is Abhinav Bindra) was a real eye opener for me.

Silent killer, as described by his father, he is the one who spotted his son’s talent when Abhinav was 5 years old. “He kept a water balloon on our maid’s head and began shooting, knowing little that a slight mistake could have proved fatal. But his aim was so perfect that I couldn’t think about anything else but make him a pro,” says AS Bindra.

Anyone want a job as a maid?

Sensory Overload

That probably best describes my first full day in India.

 

We spent the day yesterday being taken around Bangalore’s Whitefield borough/district by our relocation consultant. We looked at a half dozen apartments and condos and checked out one of the local malls. That and I was in full gawk mode whenever we drove anywhere. Words can’t describe the streets here. Okay, perhaps two can, but only inadequately: chaotic and colorful. Last night, Daniela asked me what my first impressions of India were and I could not answer. “Sensory Overload” was the only answer I could come up with. I have to take pictures tomorrow, and eventually I’ll be able to better describe it. In the meantime, here are some highlights:

  • I saw a guy with three propane tanks tied to a bicycle. THREE! I’d of considered it a hassle to take one and would have gone by car instead. I assume that he did not have that option.
  • Guys with hard hats and sandals.
  • The other night while leaving the airport, there was a policeman directing traffic at an intersection. It was past midnight and he had on only a dark blue uniform in an unlit intersection. In America or Europe, he would have been wearing a reflective vest. He blew his whistle like a madman, but I’m not actually sure anyone could hear him as everyone was too busy blowing the horns of their own cars and trucks.
  • Speaking of horns. In the west, you blow your horn to signal annoyance or as a last second safety indicator. In India, it seems to play the same role as blinking lights on aircraft. Perhaps while I’m here, I’ll patent an automatic, cycling horn tooter to save the driver the effort of pointlessly tooting his horn. Perhaps there are already hundreds of patents on variants of that idea.
  • The power went out just now as I’m writing this. No biggie on the laptop is it cuts to battery. This reminds me that I need an APC for my desktop PC. “Unable to connect to wireless network”! Thank you Windows XP! I am very well aware that the router is down and so is the rest of the neighborhood.
  • Stray dogs – lots of stray dogs. Stray dogs lounging in the middle of the road as traffic whizzes around them.
  • No Stoplights! Large roads cross each other with no obvious right of way, or stoplights to control the flow of traffic. This makes for nasty, chaotic traffic jams during rush hour as you have to simply force your way through the orthoganal traffic.
  • The infrastructure sucks in general. Bangalore is a city of 13 million people and a global tech hub. It has no expressways and to get around, you have to wade through city traffic on chaotic streets with pedestrians and sleeping dogs. Water pressure is inconsistent and you can’t drink the water. The electrical grind is unreliable. All this makes me wonder why Bangalore is a global IT hub instead of Budapest. When I was in Budapest in 2000, it still has some of the trappings of its dreary communist past, but all of the above worked. The communists built dreary cities, but they also had an obsession with infrastructure; everything worked in their dreary cities. Budapest was also dirt cheap, at least at the time.
  • The power just kicked on for about three seconds and died again.
  • Grinding poverty. Take the worst neighborhood in Camden, multiply that by ten and then smear it all over the countryside. The strangest is the gated communities; Prestige Ozone, Palm Meadows and Prestige Langleogh could all be condo communities in Orlando. RIGHT outside the wall, people are living in shanty shacks. 

The power is back on, so I’ll post this now.  Today we’re off to visit the school that the kids will be in.

Landed!

The flight from Frankfurt to Bangalore was a direct one and uneventful, if a bit longish at 9 hours. I took us directly over Tehran and I naturally chose that time to drink a glass of wine 😛

We landed at the old airport. It seemed a bit of a run down institutional building and reminded me of the Port Authority bus terminal in Manhattan, or even more so the army bases of my childhood. I’ll call its architecture “Old US Army Base Rec Center”! My visa says “Wife holds employment Visa” and I thought there was going to be some drama when the immigration officer asked me “Where do you work sir?”. I answered (truthfully) “SAP” and he seemed satisfied. I work for SAP AG in Germany, not SAP Labs in India and hence that is not on my visa. I thought this was going to bring me into a long explanation. I now rather suspect that he assumed there was a typo on my visa in that it indicated that only my wife worked. To be honest, I’m not sure, but my longtime rule is NEVER give immigration officials and cops more info more info than they explicitly ask for.

My first impression of the city, after midnight only – so it was a limited impression – was busy, busy, busy, dirty, run down and did I mention busy? In from of the airport terminal, it already seemed chaotic. Today, we venture out in the daylight. I’m taking my camera.

Gandhi

Dani and I have been watching documentaries and movies about India. The list so far has been eight hours worth of BBC documentaries and Outsourced. Last night we watched the early 80’s version of Ghandhi. I really don’t have the words for it, but that man really is one of the giants of history. To struggle against a great injustice, yet not get inflamed by small injustices to the point of losing your head and turning violent; to stoically suffer until your opponent feels the shame of what they have done is amazing. It requires an almost inhuman willpower. Given its history and the kinds of rulers that it has had over the millennia – Asoka, the Murghals, etc. – if any country produced such a leader and the people willing to follow such a leader and remain disciplined, it would be India.

But still… it is simply amazing.

Catch 22

We have an interesting problem. Our employer has contracted with a moving company to ship some of our household goods to India for us. Our weight limit is about 400kg (1000 lb). We will mostly be shipping clothes, children’s’ toys and my PC.

 

Great!

 

But… India seems to have an interesting bureaucracy. We can’t actually ship our stuff from Germany to India until we have registered our presence there. It is not enough to have the visa, so we can’t pre-ship and have our stuff in transit while we are in transit. First we have to acquire lots of stamps and signatures. Only then are we allowed to ship our household items and we have a 15 day window to get it to India. This means that our thousand pounds of stuff has to go by air, rather than ship if it is going to reliably arrive during this window. I don’t think the lawmakers who came up with this regulation care about either the environment or sparing people needless costs. I’m not paying the bill, but it does seem silly to have to burn ten tons of jet fuel to get a vanload of household items to India.

Bombay Baby!

So it looks like I’ll be taking a business trip to Mumbai (Bombay) in early June to meet with some customers for a project that I have been working on. This means that I’ll need my suit. Dani’s boss is going there next week and I’ll try to get him to preposition it for me. 😛

 

And I figured out how much the temporary housing is costing our employer. They are renting a condo for 5000 rupees per day. This is about $150 a day in a country with a per capita GDP of $1000 and where the average tech worker makes ¼ of what their US counterpart makes. I’m sure it is a nice condo, but jeez! Bangalore has Manhattan real estate prices on Mississippi delta incomes. And you thought the US had a real estate bubble.