October 28, 2007

Calicut and Coimbatore

The Indian calendar reflects the richness and variety of the culture appropriately. Festive holidays are sprinkled throughout the year at regular intervals. Whenever one of these holidays came along, I pounced upon them as an opportunity to see more of the country. Everyone usually hurried of to their home towns during these dates, with most of Bangalore at a train or bus station on a Friday night of a long weekend. It was very difficult to find tickets for travel to the large cities or main tourist attractions during these times if I had not planned two or three months in advance. Thus, I would have to go off the beaten path to places such as Calicut and Coimbatore.

An intense 45 minute long flight from Bangalore to Calicut on a small aircraft that carried 40 souls on board was all it took before I was back in "God's Own Country" - Kerala. Calicut's airport was located on rocky highlands a distance away from the actual city which lined a
sandy coastal belt. Outside the airport there were only taxis waiting, so I loitered around until my favourite mode of motorized transport made itself present. After depositing a family of nine at the terminal, an auto rickshaw pulled a quick U-turn and was about to exit the airfield when the driver spotted me. The 19 year old at the wheel of the rickshaw, Kabir, was an amiable fellow. He did not speak English or Bengali, and I did not speak Malaylam or Hindi, but we were still able to communicate somehow.

Once we reached the city I instructed him to take me to a beach front hotel. Unfortunately, it was already fully booked. At each successive property on Calicut's Marine Drive I was rebuffed. Apart from the long weekend crowds there was also a conference being held, so rooms were hard to come by. I was then referred to the finest hotel in town, the Malabar Palace. Although not by the beach, it was centrally located and near the rail station so I decided to stay. After dropping off my travel bag there, Kabir took me back to the beach. We agreed to meet early the next morning, so that he could take me to all the sights in and around Calicut. The rest of day was spent meandering on the beach and soaking up the sun in the gentle company of several Calicuties. The Malabar Festival was in full swing, with many revelers on the beach enjoying the carnival atmosphere late into the night.

When I made my way to the lobby the next morning, Kabir was already there waiting for me. We headed for Beypore, a town 10km south of Calicut. Known for its wooden ships, I visited the port and the ship building yards. There I rented out a motor boat and was given a high speed tour of the port and its surroundings before heading out into the open ocean. After the conclusion of the nautical expedition, we passed through Calicut again, halting shortly at the aquarium, before continuing on to Kappad to the north. The gateway to the Malabar coast, Kappad Beach was the site where Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama landed when he stumbled upon India in search of unimaginable riches and untasted spices. I spent a few hours at the unspoilt beach before being dropped back at the hotel and saying farewell to my local guide.

Calicut to Coimbatore is a short distance with a travel time of only 4 hours by train between them. After my hotel graciously allowed me to stay a couple of hours past my midnight checkout time, I headed to the Calicut train station and caught a sleepy 2:30 am train to Coimbatore. The "Manchester of South India", Coimbatore is a textile town and does not have any must see attractions for a traveler to visit, so I just relaxed and observed daily life in Tamil Nadu's second largest city. I walked around the marketplaces of Kovai, ate a hearty and very spicy meal at a popular eatery, and enjoyed some pongalicious sweets from some Coimbatories before heading back to Bangalore.

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 17, 2007

Blog Action Day

It was Blog Action Day on October 15, 2007 - a day on which over 20,0000 bloggers from around the world would unite to write on a single topic of global interest and personal relevance - the environment. I had signed up to participate in this event but after reaching home using public transportation to minimize my usage of fossil fuels, I discovered my computer was turned off to save electricity so I could not post an entry that day.

"And the honor and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world's multitudes should become a source of social good." -- `Abdu'l-Bahá

Future Me

Today I received another interesting email from Arnab Sen. Apparently on Friday, October 17, 2003 past me sent current me a message through FutureMe to be delivered to my inbox in four years time:


Dear FutureMe,

Have I graduated yet?

Love Arnab


My reply on on Wednesday, October 17, 2007:

Dear PastMe,

How were you? You will be delighted to know that I have graduated! I can only assume you meant Simon Fraser University, and not the International Institute of Heartthrobs, but either way I passed with flying colours.

Love Arnab

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.