Showing posts with label mumbai. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mumbai. Show all posts

March 26, 2013

Dome Time

On a large parcel of land in a peninsula situated between Mumbai's Gorai Creek and the Arabian Sea, a gigantic dome rises into the sky. Sunlight shimmers off its golden exterior. I wear a long sleeved shirt to avoid any confusion. In 2009, the Global Vipassana Pagoda opened here. The monument to peace and harmony is not yet complete, with the final touches still being applied during my visit.

South Korea may be well known for its hollow plastic treasures, but the Vipassana Pagoda's claim to fame is that it is the largest hollow stone structure in the world. The largest stone dome without supporting pillars ever constructed, the impressive monument rises to an height of almost 100 meters. The exterior design is based on a Buddhist structure in Myanmar, and the pagoda has an expected lifespan of a thousand years.

The centre offers free ten day courses to everyone, and only asks for complete isolation from the pulls of modern day society during that time span in return. Oddly enough, India's largest amusement park is located adjacent to the meditative retreat. I had to share a crowded ferry with hundreds of families headed towards Essel World before I could experience the relative solitude of the monument.

There was a viewing hall inside the great dome, so we could witness the meditation sessions taking place within. Meditation centres always make me a bit uneasy, as I am never completely sure which of its inhabitants are actually sincere about their beliefs, which ones are faking it, and which ones are crazy.


"White, black, or brown, a man is still a man. Whoever defiles his mind becomes miserable." - inscription found on the wall of the pagoda

December 09, 2012

Dhobi Ghat

Multiply the number of people living in a city as populous as Mumbai by the number of their clothes that need to be washed every day. The amount is staggeringly high, like the percentage of women in South Korea who have had plastic surgery. An elaborate system has evolved over the years to handle the needs of masses to have their garments washed efficiently and economically. 

Delivery boys pick up clothes from homes and stores across town and bring them to dhobis to be washed. Dhobis wash clothes for a living, often manually. Once the clothes have been washed, dried, and ironed they make their way back into the hands of their respective owners. Rarely does a garment end up in the wrong hands.

In the apartment I shared with at least 13 other men, there was always a heap of clothing in the living room. Whenever anyone wanted something washed, they could add their clothes to the pile. A few days later the clothes would be washed and pressed. I would pay a few rupees to the landlord or one of his many acolytes, and would collect my clothes.

The largest concentration of clothes washers in Mumbai is found at Dhobi Ghat, located beside the Mahalaxmi railway station. The world's largest open air laundromat is quite popular with tourists and filmmakers alike, providing an unforgettable glimpse into what makes India a place like no other. The dhobis start their work early in the morning, following the daily rhythms of washing, drying, and ironing with orchestral precision. 

September 23, 2012

Haji Ali

I moved to Mumbai to help work towards eliminating educational inequity in India. Five hundred years ago, Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari left behind his worldly possessions here before setting off on a pilgrimage to Mecca. He perished on the journey, with the casket carrying his body cast into the Arabian Sea.

His coffin miraculously found its way back to the shores of Mumbai, lodging itself in an islet by Worli. On this site, the dargah (shrine) of Haji Ali was built. Nowadays tens of thousands of pilgrims from all faiths and walks of life visit the well known landmark. It is only accessible from the mainland via a half kilometer long path during low tide.

Sitting on each side of the path are lepers, begging mothers with their children, the blind, and others cast an unfair lot in life. Walking through this Noah's Ark for the disenfranchised is not a pleasant experience, but a necessary one. The shrine itself may provide relief to some, while others relax on one of the many boulders behind the dargah.


"There is only one way in which one can endure man's inhumanity to man and that is to try, in one's own life, to exemplify man's humanity to man." - Alan Stewart Paton

July 11, 2012


The Elephanta Caves are the first underwhelming world heritage site that I have seen in India, having seen much better days. Although the island location of Elephanta adds some intrigue, they do not compare in any way to the diversity and scale of the sculpted caves found in Ajanta and Ellora. Nevertheless, the opportunity cost to visit it was low as it was a short boat ride away from my Bombay abode. I caught a ferry from near the Gateway of India, accompanied by a colleague from Teach For India who had recently relocated to Mumbai for the cause.

The most memorable structure is the great cave of Shiva, sprinkled with large pillars and sculptures of divine figures. There is no great buildup to the grand reveal. Visitors see the main cave as soon as they climb the staircases from the entrance and past the vendors peddling kitsch. The caves following it taper off in magnificence drastically, with many suffering from water damage. The six meter high Trimurti, a three headed figure set against the back wall of the cave, represents creation, preservation, and destruction.

The Portuguese gave the island the name of Elephanta in the 16th century, after finding a mammoth statue carved out of black stone. The complex was created well over a millennium ago, although it is hard to pinpoint the exact time period within which it was constructed. Much damage was done under Portuguese rule, which brought about an end to centuries of usage of the caves as a place of worship for the Hindu inhabitants of the island. The origins of the cave creators remain shrouded in mystery.


"Man is a creature who walks in two worlds and traces upon the walls of his cave the wonders and the nightmare experiences of his spiritual pilgrimage." ~ Morris West

November 16, 2011

Mr. Tea

Strolling through the dark alleys of the Fort district of Mumbai towards my flat, I deftly sidestepped a taxi, two scooters, a man balancing a marble slab on his head, and several slow walkers before stopping at a mobile phone stall to top up my prepaid account. Suddenly, I felt a strange splotch on my neck. Not again! I thought, recalling my prior experiences in the turd world.

I took a sample of the ooze slowly tracing itself down my spine with my fingers. I was surprised to find out it was not poo, and a little worried that it might be something even more nefarious than bird droppings. The grime turned out to be the harmless contents of a tea cup that someone had emptied from the window of his or her second or third floor apartment. After my roommate studied the stains, he confirmed my findings and all was well on Modi Street once more.


"Tea, though ridiculed by those who are naturally coarse in their nervous sensibilities will always be the favorite beverage of the intellectual." ~ Thomas de Quincey

November 03, 2011

Nightmare on Modi Street

I have moved into a flat in the Fort area of Mumbai. It is a short walk from Victoria Terminus, the main train station in town. Up three stories of rickety stairs is my claustrophobic domicile. The stairwell is so dark that a flashlight is required even in the daytime to see the steps clearly. There are no windows in some rooms, although there is air conditioning.

Since the cost of the electricity consumed by the AC is included in the rent, which is apparently a rarity in Bombay, the tenants take full advantage of it. The average temperature inside is more akin to Canada than India. While I lay curled up and shivering at night, that is not what keeps me awake. Perhaps it is the bedbugs or perhaps it is the landlord, his brothers, and other lackeys who stay up all night watching TV at maximum volume. Tamil movies and the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire" garner the highest ratings.

The apartment has two bathrooms, one of which has a shower and one a sink without a faucet. Unluckily, I share it with 13 other men. There is another sink outside, which is used for washing vegetables and brushing teeth. One guy uses so much Axe body spray that it burns my eyes. Another gripes continuously about a long list of problems that life has thrown at him in a thick accent. His roommates listen on silently, either because they are captivated by the minutiae of his life or because they can sleep with their eyes open. I later realized he was talking on the phone to his girlfriend or fiance, whom he may or may not have met in real life.

So far I have stayed in three rooms. I was shuttled from one room to another, when the guy whose bed I had been sleeping in initially arrived back at the apartment at dawn one day. He had gone back home to visit his family. I was relocated to the bed of another resident who was away on a business trip. Upon his return, I shifted to the room of the only guy who cooks in the apartment. Since there are no tables in the flat, he eats on his bed. He cannot eat out since he is recovering from jaundice.


Me: They also smoke, fart, and ball scratch.
Friend: Looks like you've found your tribe...well done!

October 28, 2011

Blowing In The Wind

How many roads must a man walk down,
before you call him a man?

My career as a public servant lasted through university. I quickly transitioned to the private sector after graduation, whereupon I allowed notorious companies such as Satyam to profit from my talents. Endowed with responsibility and managerial powers from a young age, I never maximized the amount of rent that I could extract from my employers as long as I enjoyed my work. When the excitement cooled and the learning peaked, it was an automatic trigger to explore new opportunities.

And how many times can a man turn his head,
and pretend that he just doesn't see?

Having spent two and a half unforgettable years in China, it was time to shift gears. After completing a circuit of Southeast Asia, I came to Mumbai. In a country where 58% of children do not complete primary school and only 6% of the population make it to university, I entered the non profit space for the first time. I joined Teach For India, a movement of young leaders intent on ending educational inequity in the nation.

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind,
the answer is blowing in the wind.
- Bob Dylan

October 23, 2011

Humble Beginnings

After I started working in Mumbai, an HR lady gathered some information on me so that she could share my profile information with the rest of the staff.

HR: So what are your strengths?
Me: Smart, handsome, responsible, versatile, hard working, well traveled, ...
HR: Are these your strengths or your praises?
Me: Is there a difference?
HR: ... And why aren't you smiling in your photo?
Me: I usually don't smile in my pictures.
HR: Why? Are you afraid you won't look good when you are smiling?
Me: No, I look good either way.
HR: Aren't you modest!
Me: Oh yes, add humility to my list of strengths.
HR: ...


"In reality there is perhaps not one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself...For even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility." - Benjamin Franklin

March 03, 2008

To and FRO

If you are a foreigner planning to work, study, or travel within India for more than 180 consecutive days without leaving the country, then you are required to register your details with the closest Foreigner's Regional Registration Office (FRRO) or Foreigner's Registration Office (FRO) within two weeks of your arrival. Five other law abiding non-citizens and I decided to fulfill our legal duty soon after our arrival in Hyderabad. Our first stop was Satyam City Center in Begumpet (across the street from popular department store Shopper's Stop). One of the better furnished Satyam office's, here we picked up letters attesting to our proof of employment and other required documentation.

A foreigner is required to submit the following (from the Indian Bureau of Immigration):
  • 4 recent passport size photographs (the remaining 16-20 photos in the set became valuable collectors items among the female interns)
  • Photocopy of passport photo page and a valid Indian Visa page
  • Proof of residential address in India (electricity bill from the landlord and a letter stating that we lived there)
  • Documents of identification
  • In case of Employment Visa, request letter, undertaking, contract agreement from employer
With documents in hand, we arrived at the police headquarters. We were promptly directed towards the authorities responsible for foreigner registration. Initially reluctant to process our documents since we had arrived after lunchtime, after some light persuasion they agreed to do what they could. We were herded into a crowded room with boxes full of overflowing stacks of paper and rows of men with stamps. They inspected our documents, frowned, and approved them with authority. We were then told to wait outside. Several hours later a kindly clerk gave each of us slips containing an identification number and a date when a letter stating that we had registered with the FRO would be ready for pickup. This letter is collected by Indian authorities when you are leaving the country. If you do not have this document then, you may be deported from the country as punishment. Unfortunately before my letter was ready, I had been transferred to Bangalore and did not get the chance to pick it up.

After I had alerted Satyam's foreign affairs department that I had not transferred my registration from Hyderabad to Bangalore, they directed me to do so post haste. I made my way back to Hyderabad for 5 days, spending a few extra days reuniting with old friends, eating biryani, and inspecting pearls. The FRO had relocated from the old police headquarters to an even older one so the surroundings were once again unfamiliar. The officers in charge were disgruntled at first since I did not have my identification slip and gave me a lecture about irresponsible foreigners thinking they can come to India and do whatever they want. They saw my passport and then lightened up when they realized I was a Bengali. After explaining the Satyam diet and why I looked different from my picture, they allowed me to bypass the long lineup so that I could immediately finish my paperwork. The staff were friendly and helpful, especially the ones that were not snoozing or reading the newspaper. They passed around my picture and chuckled. First I retrieved my letter stating I was registered as a foreigner in Hyderabad. Then I applied for deregistration from Hyderabad. After I was granted this, I requested that my information be forwarded to Bangalore so that I could register there. I did not want to further increase India's population count by being registered at more than one place at a time.

Back in Bangalore, I went to the FRO and let them know that I had given them permission to receive my original paperwork from Hyderabad. They stamped my documents and told me to write a letter to the Hyderabad FRO stating that the Bangalore FRO had noted my arrival and were ready to receive any documentation that they may have concerning me. I followed instructions, but several more trips to the FRO were in vain as the documents never arrived from Hyderabad. The on duty clerk finished his crossword puzzle and informed me that there was no problem and whatever documentation I had collected over the year would be enough to ensure my departure from India.

January 27, 2008

The Satyam Diet

I lost weight during the year I spent working in India. Most of it can be attributed to the Satyam Diet plan that I followed in Bangalore. My eating habits changed to accommodate my work schedule. My hours spent in the office were from around 10 in the morning to 7 at night. One hour on each side could be added as traveling time. Since my carefree existence allowed me to indulge in at least nine hours of sleep a night, by the time I woke up and got ready, there was no time for breakfast apart from some fruit or juice picked up on the way to work. The office gruel served at lunchtime was so consistent in its putridity that eating even a tiny portion of the fare tormented my taste buds and stripped me of my beloved appetite. Apart from the tasty morsels provided by office belles the amount of food I consumed during the midday meal was severely diminished. With two of the days three meals much smaller than I regularly had, dinner became a meal of meals. I would visit the finest establishments around the city, having food of singularly high quality but with a diversity of flavour, ingredients, and preparation.

No diet can be successful unless it combines both food intake and physical exertion. The exercise portion of the diet was provided by the 8 floors I had to climb every time I took a break (a surprisingly large number of times) with my colleagues or went to lunch. There was only one elevator for the many hundreds of employees, and with a significant proportion of these taking a break at any one moment in time, the elevator was always stuffed to overcapacity. The dozens of Satyamites left behind on each trip eagerly hoped that the next time the elevator opened its doors, they would find themselves within its friendly womb. Unable to bear the thought of lost productivity due to waiting for the lift, I resorted to using the stairwells to physically transport myself from the bottom of the building to the top and vice versa. During these breaks, often times I would partake in strenuous games of table tennis. My innate talent was not enough against my experienced opponents, so I had to work on my conditioning and reflexes. Other times I played carrom, a game similar to billiards or pool but played with bare hands.

Combined with the occasional escape from a wild mob or leap from a bus, the Satyam Diet worked wonders. Not only can a job provide opportunities for career development and financial stability, but it can also have a profound impact on other facets of life.

October 24, 2007

Arnab Appreciation Days

My contract with Satyam expired on June 13, 2007, a date that marked my one year tenure at the company. Satyam admired my strong work ethic and love for the company and its associates. With glorious joy, my departure from Satyam was celebrated through a series of Arnab Appreciation Days. My humble and approachable nature had made me a popular figure to the employees of the organization, and the endearment was mutual. Tears were shed and fond memories recollected. Goodbyes were said and best wishes exchanged. After serving the company with passion and earnestness, it was time to go our separate ways.

At the farewell ceremonies my new logo was revealed to the public. The stylish "Arnab" word mark with a Bengal tiger proudly perched atop drew rave reviews from the audience at hand during the daring debut. The symbiosis of light and dark, and of man and nature, used the traditional "Arnab" colours of red, black, and white.

October 03, 2007

Canteen Angst

In the 8th floor of the Hebbal office of Satyam Computer Services Ltd lies the canteen. Affording stunning vistas of Bangalore, much time is spent on this floor by employees. In particular the view of Hebbal Kere (lake) is fantastic. During the course of my 8 month stay at this office, the lake was systematically drained until it was converted into a puddle. Hundreds of workers were then sent out to clear the lake bed of all the rubbish that had been deposited throughout the ages. Once the trash was removed the lake was to be refilled with clean water, allowing it to regain its original luster.

Apart from enjoying the view, a host of other activities take place here - playing table tennis or carrom, listening to Kannada songs on the radio, watching live cricket matches on television (or old games which India won), socializing with colleagues, and the most dreaded of all - eating the food provided by the caterers. A consistently putrid combination of rice, spice, and assorted gravies is offered to the masses who line up with trays in hand for their daily subsistence. The portions are great in size, but minimal in taste. More enterprising associates try to escape this facility in search of tastier dishes, but do so in vain. Encircled in barb wire fencing and high walls, the office is situated in a secluded business park. A shortcut to Hebbal village through military dairy testing facilities has also been blocked by the authorities. The sole remaining option is a hospital cafeteria located within the same complex. This is not a very palatable option either, although its business has boomed due to the influx of Satyam canteen refugees.

Taking a keen interest in the culinary welfare of my colleagues, I arrived at work earlier than usual one morning so I could attend a food meeting held by the building's corporate services staff at 10 am. They explained that the food was carted in during the morning from outside caterers as government bylaws prevented them from cooking fresh food anywhere but on the ground floor. The point that was driven home to attendees of the meeting was that although the quantity of food provided could be changed, the quality could not. One person mentioned that the food was "C/O the Dustbin" to much applause and synchronized head nodding. Another complained that the canteen teaman had laughed at him when he had pointed out severe deficiencies in the tea making process and had told him that he expected an improved product the next time. He was assured by the corporate services staff that next time there would be no such outburst of laughter.

June 03, 2007

Decision Time

With only a few weeks left on my current contract with Satyam, I now have to decide what to do next. Options include extending with Satyam, searching for a different job here in India, back in Canada, or somewhere else altogether, traveling, or pursuing further studies. No clear favourite has emerged as yet, although I am willing to continue my stay in India.

There is something special about this land and its people, that even with an exceptionally long list of interrelated problems and challenges to face, both man made (overpopulation, poverty, corruption, lack of infrastructure, communal violence, …) and otherwise (monsoon, heat waves, mosquitoes, …), I still have a desire to remain for some more time.


Some nice sayings I have stumbled upon while pondering my future:

“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”
- W.H. Davies, from "Leisure"

"The true tragedy of a routinely spent life is that its wastefulness does not become apparent till it is too late." - Amitav Ghosh

“The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as long as we live.” - Mortimer Adler

“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”- Eric Hoffer

“80 percent of the problems in your life come from wanting what you don’t have. The other 20 percent come from getting it.” - Unknown

“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A child leaves the womb, his hometown, his country, each time gaining greater understanding, altering his actions to some degree based on these new experiences and insights, and perhaps becoming a transforming element of society around him.” - Dan Glass

April 30, 2007

The Bus Jump

At 7pm sharp each working day I leave my office and head towards the area where the Satyam busses are parked. This location changes occasionally to add an element of surprise. None of the company buses have dropping points near my residence, so I have resorted to taking the bus whose route comes nearest to the venue for my fine dining or other entertainment that I have planned for that night. As these are not on the official list of drop points, the bus drivers are reluctant to stop. Sometimes they slow down enough for me to elegantly leap of the bus and make a graceful landing on the surface of the road. Sometimes they only appear to be decelerating, before picking up the pace.

Such was the case, when I departed a bus in a section of town known as RT Nagar (named after the brilliant Rabindranath Tagore) to play a friendly game of pool with my eager colleague Kartik. Misjudging my angle and time of departure from the bus, I landed on the street knees first, lost my balance, fell, then revolved three times on the ground, before springing back up and striking a heroic pose to placate the souls of my female fans who were seated at the front of the bus and witnessed the whole spectacle with eyes wide and mouths open, concern for my well being clearly etched across their demure faces. Meters away the bus came to a halt and out jumped my coworker. Heroically, he came to my rescue, cleaning my wounds and nursing me back to health over the course of the next few hours.

“You’re a puff.” – British roommate upon examining the extent and severity of my injuries.

April 28, 2007

Too Much SAX

Usually a taboo subject, this was the first time SAX was discussed in my presence at the office. Needless to say, my tender sensibilities were not spared.


The Setting: Conference room, Satyam office

The Actors: Arnab, Reporting Manager (RM), Software Engineering Trainees #s 1-12 (SE)

The Script:

RM: Hello, today we will discuss SAX. Does everyone understand what SAX is?
SE 1-12 (in unison): Yes, sir.
RM (to Arnab): Do you know SAX?
Arnab: No. I have never studied SAX.
RM (to SE 3): Send Arnab documentation about SAX.
SE 3: Yes, sir.
RM: Explain what is SAX.
SE 9: SAX can be used to send data in a unidirectional stream.
RM: What are the benefits of SAX?
SE 4: SAX is fast and efficient.
RM: From now on, SAX will be our first priority.
SE 1-12 (in unison): Yes, sir.
RM: Practice with SAX whenever you have some available time.
SE 1-12 (in unison): Yes, sir.
RM: Dismissed.

The End


Technical Information (from Wikipedia): SAX is a serial access parser API for XML and its name is acronymically derived from "Simple API for XML". A SAX Parser handles XML information as a stream and is unidirectional, i.e. it cannot renegotiate a node without first having to establish a new handle to the document and reparse. With that proviso in mind, however, the SAX parser, since it works in stream mode, is unquestionably faster than its sibling the DOM parser.

April 26, 2007

ARNABabe: Definition Clarification

Some loyal readers pondered as to whether there was a distinction between the terms ARNABombshell, ARNABabe, and ARNABride, as traditionally they have been used interchangeably in both literature and spoken word. Linguistically there is a distinction between these expressions that may not be readily apparent.

ARNABombshell is an umbrella term that can be used to refer to either the rare ARNABride or to any potential candidates I encounter on my quest for this eternal beauty. ARNABride is the title of my yet to be discovered wife. A high percentage of willing candidates will not be able to attain the coveted designation of ARNABride (aka Mrs. Arnab). These ladies of gentle birth and considerable dignity comprise the ARNABabes. In mathematical terms the union of ARNABride and ARNABabes comprise the set of ARNABombshells.

In related news, former leading ARNABride contender Aishwarya Rai was taken off the market after her marriage to actor Abhishek Bachchan. On the bright side I am now the undisputed most eligible bachelor in India.


“One man's folly is another man's wife.” - Helen Rowland

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

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.

November 09, 2006

Bangalore Bound

For my transfer to Bangalore from Hyderabad, Satyam generously provided me with two weeks of hotel stay. The hotel was located in a central part of Bangalore called Austin Town. To be more precise, it was officially in Austin Town Extension, or “Echechu” as the rickshaw drivers preferred to call it. My first impressions of Bangalore were below expectations. When coming to Hyderabad I had no expectations, and they were greatly exceeded. For Bangalore, on the other hand, I was expecting a shining IT hub. What I saw resembled more of a petting zoo than the “Silicon Valley of India”. Apart from the generic cows and dogs encountered on many Indian streets, there were also chickens, goats, boars, rodents, and horses roaming around. The sewers are covered by a series of imaginatively shaped concrete slabs which combine to form the sidewalks. Frequently they are missing, leaving holes of varying sizes for the inattentive passerby to trip on or fall into. What Bangalore does have in common with North American metropolises is the congested traffic and heavy pollution, which causes me great discomfort.


To my added disappointment, mixed accommodation, even for foreigners, (i.e. Males and females living in the same apartment) was a taboo. This was unlike Hyderabad or Chennai, two places considered to be much more conservative in their outlook. Thus my options were reduced to (1) living with non-Indian males or (2) living with Indian males. The decision between these two undesirable options came down to one thing – bathrooms. Option (1) would have involved sharing 3 bathrooms between 14 people, and option (2), 3 bathrooms between 8 people. Option (2) prevailed due to its superior 14:3 male:bathroom ratio. Incidentally, that is also the male:female coworker ratio at Satyam, which is still preferable to the 9:1 ratio encountered in the Computer Science department at university. I moved into a flat in a residential area of Bangalore called Cooke Town by some and Cox Town by others. Cockroaches have an affinity to my room in this flat, particularly to my bed sheet and towel. Being a noble and glorious soul, I bought a canister containing some form of poison gas and went on a cockroach crusade.


ARNABombshell Update: Cold (or 25 degrees for Indians). The absence of female flatmates, an average 9pm curfew for girls staying in hostels, paying guests, or with their parents, and vegetarian dietary habits severely restricts my access to or interest in the Bangalore bombshells.

September 10, 2006

Satyam: Cyberspace

After two and a half months, the powers that be at Satyam decided that I should undergo training in Hyderabad, before being shipped off to Bangalore. Thus I made my way to Satyam Cyberspace, an office located in Hitec City in the heart of Cyberabad! Here is a brief timeline of my first day at work:

10:00 am - Arrive at workplace.
10:15 am - My reporting manager (boss) gave me detailed instructions to locate the offices of my unit (Consulting and Enterprise Solutions). Following his advice I reached a door with a sign taped on it - "Use other door".
10:20 am - Reporting manager tells me to wait in front of the door. Contact person will come to meet me.
10:50 am - No one has come to meet me.
11:05 am - Stumble upon alternate entrance. I ask for the whereabouts of the contact person I am supposed to meet. One helpful Satyamite responds "He is out for lunch. Come back in a few hours".
1:30 pm - Return to office after a refreshing buffet meal at the cafeteria. I ask for the whereabouts of the contact person I am supposed to meet. One helpful Satyamite responds "He is out for lunch. Come back in a few hours".
4:00 pm - Return to office after a refreshing sleep in the sofa located in front of the women's washroom. I ask for the whereabouts of the contact person I am supposed to meet. One helpful Satyamite responds "I'll let him know you are here". I find an empty workstation and sit in front of it.
6:00 pm - Contact person arrives and informs me that the training session has been postponed for two weeks as an empty conference room in which to give the lessons was not available during this period. I will have to train myself until that time.
6:30 pm - Leave office.

For the following two weeks I spent my time going over documentation related to Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and the particular software I would be working with (Agile PLM).

One fine Tuesday morning, I was strolling down the street looking for an auto rickshaw to take to work. Suddenly, an unidentified flying object deposited its droppings on my shoulder. Due to the harsh climate, my excrement detection and avoidance system was malfunctioning. Without adequate warning, I was unable to react to the incoming aerial bombardment. My shirt was left with a greenish stain resembling the gravy of the mint alu (potato) found in the Satyam cafeteria lunch buffet. I had to quickly return to my abode and change garments, before continuing on my journey. Apparently, this auspicious event is a sign of good luck in several cultures.