March 29, 2007

Travel Yup

After filling in a short questionnaire on the travel website World66, I was provided with an automatically generated travel type. I am a “Travel Yup”, which has the following definition:

"The Travel Yup likes exotic and adventurous travel, but prefers big cities with fast paced life. He has a keen interest in other cultures and always brings home a few souvenirs. Shopping in Bangkok, getting a tailor made suite in Kuala Lumpur, that's the kind of thing the Travel Yup is into. Even though he likes to get away, he prefers his travels to be comfortable."

All in all, quite an accurate overview of the Indo-Canadian Temptation.

March 23, 2007

The Office

The Work

I work in the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) unit of the mighty Consulting and Enterprise Solutions (CES) department. It is the pride and joy of Satyam Computer Services Ltd. Whenever a client, whether local or international, has some business requirement for Satyam to implement, a project team is formed to devise and deliver the finished product. Based on the stage of the development lifecycle the project team grows and shrinks. Some associates work on more than one project concurrently. Some do not work on any, much to their delight or chagrin. In Hyderabad, I received training on a PLM product known as Agile, while in Bangalore I was expected to first shadow the team to see how they work on a real project and then be gradually phased in to actually performing the development tasks myself. So far I have worked on one project for an aerospace company. I also attend team meetings and lunchs with astonishing regularity. As a highly motivated individual, the remaining time I have been increasing my knowledge base by studying the Indian business, cultural, and natural landscape, as well as improving my technical competencies in areas such as Java Server Pages (JSP) and Extensible Markup Language (XML).

The Environment

A clinical grey and white atmosphere with rows and rows of cubicles and diligent workers focused on completing the task assigned to them by their reporting manager (RM). Based on the client and technology that is the focal point of the work, the cubicles are further separated by dividers. Each of these cubicle clusters is then known lovingly as an Offshore Development Centre (ODC).

The Cast & Crew

A team of "freshers" or new recruits with 0-2 years of experience do most of software development, with more experienced experts offering advice and guidance when needed. Always busy, these meek young fellows rarely interact with me. A group of mid level associates are responsible for tasks such as writing proposals, design documents, and estimation. Busy only occasionally, these older gentlemen are friendlier towards me, taking great interest in my tales of travel and daily survival. The RM is primarily responsible for coordinating the efforts of the team and assigning work, as well as being a contact point for the client for whom Satyam is working on a project for. My RM is a fatherly figure who sees his task as not only involving managing the day to day activities of the team, but in nurturing the careers of the younger employees.
Security guards man each entrance point into the office complex, ensuring that unsavory characters are not able to enter or leave Satyam premises. Meanwhile a brigade of blue shirt wearing office boys perform their daily duties admirably. The elevator button pushers though are not nearly as impressive, and are often found sleeping on the job.

The Motivation

Almost universal is the desire to be sent overseas or "onsite", particularily to the United States of America, as this is seen as the ultimate career enhancing move. The motivation is primarily financial as being remunerated in dollars, pounds, or Euros provides a significant increase in the pay scale of the regular rupee collecting associate. Where previous generations who moved from India in search of greener pastures were quite likely to settle overseas, the new generation still visualizes themselves as going overseas to make a living, not a life. Almost all the youth I have spoken to say they will work overseas for a few years accumulating enough wealth to comfortably live in India for the rest of their days, and then return to the mother land.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Where Did All the Autos Go?

One sunny Bangalore morn I dressed up smartly in my carefully selected business casual outfit and proceeded for work. Having exited my flat and reaching the main street upon which I hail auto rickshaws with only the use of my intense gaze, I noticed a strange occurrence – the complete absence of these three wheeled vehicles on the road. Dazed and confused, I waited half an hour to no avail. The rickshaws were nowhere to be seen. Otherwise daily life was unfolding regularly, so I deduced the rickshaws must be on strike. To confirm my educated guess I returned home and checked the news on the television. Sure enough, the rickshaw drivers were on strike in protest of police cruelty or some other preposterous claim. Now my only remaining option to get to work was to use the public transportation system. Changing into some unwashed and decidedly less glamorous clothes, I waddled towards the bus station. Three buses and an hour and a half later I arrived at my work place, only a little worse for wear.

Satyam Crossover Party

Reeling from the phenomenal success of the Crossover internship program, Satyam decided to host a Christmas party for all its international trainees. The event was held in Hyderabad where Satyam is headquartered and the bulk of the trainees (around 60) are located. Those in Chennai (around 10) and in Bangalore (around 5) were offered train or bus fare to and from the party destination. I gallantly accepted the offer and attended the event.

As the national highway between Bangalore and Hyderabad was purported to be a smooth ride, I chose to take a sleeper bus. The interior of the bus was a direct replica of a second class air conditioned (2AC) compartment of a regular train, with one notable exception – the lack of a toilet. An overnight journey on well paved roads and the lack of urine aroma allowed me to sleep in peace. Half an hour before my arrival in Hyderabad, I was awoken by my bowels. In urgent need to empty my digestive tracts, I elegantly slid of my bunk, loosened my belt buckles, looked uncomfortable, unsuccessfully searched for the aforementioned onboard facilities, and then approached the bus driver. A follower of the Vulcan maxim “"the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one", the bus driver rejected my appeal for a bathroom break as we had almost arrived at our destination. The first stop could not come soon enough. As I leaped out of the bus a horde of awaiting rickshaw drivers curiously inquired as to where I wanted to go. “Public toilet!”, I said. Soon I felt relief, regained my stoic composure, and headed to my old flat in Banjara Hills.

Sporting the newest incarnation of the ARNABeard – a French cut with the sideburns smoothly connecting with the main facial hair segment (also known as a short box beard) – and a stylish velvet jacket borrowed from a Belgian friend, the city was abuzz with the return of the Hyderabadi Heartthrob. Having wined, dined, and reclined with a bevy of international beauties over the weekend, it was soon time for me to return to Bangalore. The journey in this direction was not as tumultuous.

Mosquito Bites

On my first day in India I was attacked by a squadron of bloodsucking mosquitoes. Left in an almost comatose state, each bite zone swelled up to the size of a ripe mango. Mosquitoes have a propensity for my sweet untainted blood. It is a savory delight which they feast upon with increasing frequency. At first I thought I was the meal of choice because I was the new treat in town, but eight months later the mosquitoes remain just as fond of my succulent blood as ever. My recovery time from the bites has drastically increased though. The initial agony from the bite is just as intensely painful as before, but within 12-24 hours I no longer notice any itchiness in the affected region. Legend has it that mosquitoes are universally attracted to a rare collection of individuals who possess a divine love scent. To counteract this effect, some victims have taken up smoking or prescribing to medications that make them smell like cabbage. As a man with considerable self respect, I have taken neither of these precautionary measures.

On a related note, the company bus arrives at the office half an hour before the departure time. During this period it keeps its doors wide open. By the time it is ready to leave a squad of bloodsuckers has positioned itself inside. During the journey home, my head is surrounded by a cluster of mosquitoes while the rest of the occupants merrily listen to their MP3 players, chat with their colleagues, or pretend to sleep. I have yet to determine if locals have been bitten so much that they instantaneously heal from the bites or if the mosquitoes have no interest in them when I am available.


On a Friday night I met up with a group of 13 Europeans. The approximate breakdown was 6 Dutch, 1 German, 1 Italian, 2 English, 1 Belgian, 1 French, and 1 Hungarian. Together we departed for north Goa on a two story bus, where the top deck consisted of mattresses and the bottom one of reclining seats. Always a gentleman, I took one of the less comfortable seats with my head grazing the bottom of the bunk positioned above me. 14 hours later we arrived in Panjim, Goa. From there the group split into two, with some settling down in Calangute and some in Vagator, but then meeting later on for joint escapades. The first of these locations, Calangute, offers a long stretch of sandy beach with overpriced activities on offer such as parasailing and jet skiing, while the other, Vagator, is known more for parties but has a rockier beach.

The first day was spent learning how to ride a motorized bike. The Europeans looked down at me as I can only drive an automatic vehicle and have no experience with gears. I rented a scooter, a Honda Activa, and after a few practice rounds and one close encounter with physical disfigurement, was soon off and running. At high speeds (30kph) I was comfortable, but I was very bad at maintaining balance and maneuvering through high traffic areas. Due to my minimal velocity and lack of driving skills, at one point I was leading a caravan of around 70 cars, trucks, bullock carts, etc down the main street linking the two beach destinations. I pulled over and went inside a street side restaurant. After watching India’s cricket team play miserably against Bangladesh for one hour, I noticed that the traffic had subsided and thus continued on my journey. At night we proceeded to Club Cabana, where the young, rich, and beautiful gathered for a night of fun and frolic. The theme was “Model’s Night”. I spotted two scantily dressed ones (or was it 4?). Apparently India’s most legendary superstar Amitabh Bachchan was present for all of 35 seconds at this fancy establishment, situated on a hilltop overlooking the Goan countryside.

Day 2 was a continuation of the first night’s party. Thoroughly inebriated and unable to drive my scooter back to my hotel, I shared a cab back to my place with the French lady and a middle aged couple who were still young at heart. Around noon, I awoke, had lunch, and picked up my scooter, before heading off for the beach. A hearty game of beach soccer was played and I put on a dazzling display of my defensive skills, stripping the opposition of the ball and blocking shots with equal vigor. While the others were sunbathing, I proceeded to climb up a nearby hill. The ruins of a fort and a magnificent view awaited me. Apparently this was also the location of a famous scene from the Hindi movie Dil Chahta Hai. A 65 year old Bob Marley fan offered me a strawberry, clasped my hand and pounded it against his chest, and advised me to “Live free”. The second night ended with a trek down the hillside to the beach, only to discover that it was almost entirely gone due to the high tide. We retreated and after considerable effort and teamwork, created a beachside bonfire. Soon everyone fell quiet and underneath the starry sky contemplated their place in the annals of history. Meals consisted of hearty amounts of seafood and liquid intake was primarily alcoholic. Before heading back to Bangalore, I sampled the Goan poison known as feni in two distinct flavors – coconut and cashew, with coconut winning the taste sweepstakes. All in all, a most wondrous experience!