My India Chronicles: Day 3-6 Hyderabad to Bangalor to Pune to Mumbai

  

Where Am I Now?  Great question.  I think Mumbai, the Financial Capital of India located on the West Coast on the Arabian Sea.  At time of my last post I was in Hyderabad, then we moved on to Bangalore for Wednesday, Pune for Thursday and Mumbai today, Friday.   

Where Have I Been?  Lots of cooler (think temperature) places.  Bangalore and Pune were actually mild in temperature.  Low 80s with a breeze.  Mumbai…not so much.  Back to reality.  Hyderabad ended with a quick visit to a vendor.  20 kilometers or roughly 1 hour away.  Some light shopping and then off to the airport where we flew to Bangalore – another very new and modern airport.  Even quiet.  Think college library.  Air travel in India is still a bit of a luxury reserved for business people and the wealthy. 

It was clear upon driving into Bangalore that we likely weren’t going to be exercising outdoors like we did on the Mindspring Campus in Hyderabad as we were staying right in the middle of the city.  When we landed there were snipers on the runway which we found a bit odd (more on this later).  We proceeded to dinner at an Afghani Restaurant at the ITC Bangalore with a key sourcing partner.  The dinner was fantastic – highlight:  head-sized naan (soft great bread).

 After a nice dinner we made our way to our hotel The Leela Palace.  Once there we hopped out of the car (after the requisite car and security check at the guarded gate – yep standard at almost all hotels) and were greeted by a red carpet.  They shouldn’t have.  Ok, they didn’t.  It was for the British Prime Minister, David Cameron who was visiting and staying at the same hotel.  Fun to see him arrive a bit later – much more modest travel entourage than our Commander in Chief. 

Wednesday, after a morning jog on the treadmill we headed to the Bangalore location at our vendor Infosys.  Ridiculous is the only way to describe the location.  That and heavily armed for this day as the British Prime minister was apparently following our itinerary.  He arrived on the Infosys campus a few short minutes after we did.  Note, the sign makes no mention of HIS arrival and I’m pretty sure he didn’t get flowers…

After work in Bangalore was complete it was back to the library, uh I mean, airport and off to Pune.  A short 2 hour stinky airline ride later with much napping (still not sleeping well) and we emerge from an older, not so quiet Pune airport.  Much horn honking with stop/go traffic and we arrive at the Westin Pune.  This hotel was new and the service showed.  Sure, you were still nearly tackled by bellhops trying to take the luggage and after 5 “no, I’m ok without helps” I arrived at the check-in desk.  This seems to be standard in India.  On one hand you will be run over by people queueing  to get on planes, off planes, etc (and queueing is being quite kind) yet on the other hand it is difficult to walk around in hotels, restaurants, etc. without people asking if you need help with anything.  A good problem to have I suppose.  Pune offered an equally nice day with our vendor partners who were above and beyond hospitable to us. 

At the end of our day in Pune we headed off in the monsoons to transit the 120 kilometers to Mumbai.  1.5 hours later we arrived at the outskirts of Mumbai.  4.5 hours later we arrived at the hotel.  We managed 20 METERS an hour during one of the 3 hours it took us to cross Mumbai.  The traffic is so difficult to describe and do it any form of justice.  I do know that if I reached my arm out of the car window (not advised, half of the arm out of the window would be in the car, motorized rickshaw, or bus that was driving next to you.  This is the case on all four sides of the car.  No joke.  We made it 5-6 days without seeing any car accidents – so long as you don’t count the time when our driver on the way to Agra bumped into a moped (details).  Well, today we saw 2.  One was a wreck involving a chicken truck.  Many dead chickens on the road.  Many people running off with dead chickens from the road.  No other injuries.  This nice part about this wreck was it didn’t slow down traffic at all.  The other wreck was unspeakable.  I will leave it at the fact that it occurred within 1-2 minutes of our arrival and there were visible fatalities.  Very sad.  Very scary.  Very haunting. 

Here are some of the thoughts I remember:

  • I would pay large sums for a good piece of pizza.  Love the indian food but 6 days in a row???
  • TOMORROW = HOME!  I can’t wait to get back to Cindy and the kids!
  • I have had no less than 30 cups of tea on this trip. 
  • Rasmalai (aka “sugar bombs”)  are good but impossible to each a full one.  Think wheat donut holes with heavy, heavy, heavy syrup/sugar all over them and inside of them.  Stewart would love these.  I actually find them TOO SWEET!?!?
  • Egg-shaped buildings are cool and fun.
  • India fascinates me.  True dichotomy at every corner.  This country will look nothing like it does 20 years from now.  If Infosys has their way it might look like this:

 

Click here for the slideshow of Days 3-6. 

Tomorrow’s Destinations:  HOME!!!!

My India Chronicles: Day 3 A Work-day in Hyderabad

 

Where Am I Now?  Again in Hyderabad, Madhapur India aka Hi-Tec City (South-southeast side of India closer to the Bay of Bengal than the Arabian Sea. 

Where Have I Been?  Nice to actually unpack a bit – back to the daily hotel bender tomorrow (Tues).  Sleeping still isn’t great – getting about 4 hours a night.  I am crazy tired each night only to get back to the hotel room and get a second wind or insomnia.  Slept about 4 hours before giving up at 5am (7-ish pm ET) and getting up.  Yesterday I met my peer Tracy for a run at 6am…an outdoor run.  I definitely got the impression folks in India don’t see this much.  Nor do the stray/wild dogs as they enjoyed chasing us but never seemed to get to close.  Might be different if I rubbed down with bacon prior as these dogs look hungry.  Of course, we aren’t running outside of the protected confines of the Mindspace facility here. 

Mindspace is a corporate park with every known company imaginable located here.  Not quite gated, it definitely isn’t what I would consider public domain either.  All of the corporate buildings are heavily secured starting at the street and then it seems to get heavier as you move into the buildings.  “Tailgating” into doors once in buildings is strictly prohibited.  Unlike in the US, when you do it you will be chased down by one of the guards.  Crazy. 

Anyways – after what is now becoming a normal brunch-like buffet breakfast of every food imaginable, we wandered over to the office for a 12 hour day of meetings, meet and greets, presentations, etc.  The folks here are very hospitable.  After the day it was back to the hotel for another brunch-like buffet and then back to the room with a touch of a funny stomach.  Not quite bad, but definitely not great.  Oh yeah, and Champagne and Chocolates which is usually how I roll anyways.  No idea why it arrived here but not complaining about chocolates showing up randomly in my room.

Here are some of the thoughts I remember:

  • Running outdoors for fun/sport in India is not common…it might not even be good for you as the smog/exhaust is pretty heavy.
  • Monday mornings in the corporate workplace are the quietest of the week…24×7 work here takes a pause on Sunday nights.
  • Workers walk, ride bikes, have drivers drive them but few actually drive themselves.  Busing is popular as well.  Most walkers/bikers carry a plastic shopping bag full of stuff.  I am tempted to ask what is in it…
  • Stray dogs/wild dogs are pretty tame but abundant.  You would almost think like the cow, they too are sacred in India.  That is until you see the utter disrespect drivers have for them as they zoom by.  For that matter it isn’t like the dogs are in a rush to get out of the way.  Most lounge carelessly in the middle of the road.
  • During our meetings a “tea butler” (think white gloves, bow tie, jacket) delivers tea in cups with milk and sugar to your liking about every 1-2 hours.  Not a bad feature.  I wonder how the folks in the US would take to me recommending this practice?
  • Bottled water in the corporate-park-land is everywhere.  This makes sense since the local water is something we are instructed NEVER to drink without boiling, but still isn’t your greenest practice ever.  Don’t ask me where these bottles end up – you won’t like the answer. 

Today’s Food Intake: I got a bit aggressive with the food today and may pay for this move later.  I will be pulling back a bit tomorrow to more of the bread diet from days prior.  I sampled and definitely enjoyed the local Indian vegetarian cuisine at every meal today.  Lunch onsite was likely the best Indian I have ever eaten.  We are still avoiding any raw fruits and vegetables but the spice may be getting me a bit more than I would like.  

No pictures today – no cameras allowed in the facility.  Stay tuned. 

Tomorrow’s Destinations:  NCR Facility in Hyderabad and then off to Bangalore tonight

Namaste.

My India Chronicles: Day 2 Agra-New Dehli-Hyderabad

 

Where Am I Now?  Hyderabad, Madhapur India aka Hi-Tec City (South-southeast side of India closer to the Bay of Bengal than the Arabian Sea. 

Where Have I Been?  This morning I awoke several times in Agra. Once at 2am local time, then again at 4am and finally at 5:15 I gave in and got up.  The electricity promptly went out for 2-3 minutes which I have come to find is a common occurrence.  The people in India seem to do breakfast right.  2nd full day in India and 2nd full breakfast buffet – think brunch-like…too bad the rules of eating prohibit us from enjoying most of it.  From Agra we took the 6 hour drive back to New Delhi via a “shortcut”.  We have come to find out that “shortcut” is another name for 2-lane road with heavy construction traffic (think trucks hauling huge rocks going slowly especially up hills) which means our little car had about 2 hours of passing to do on this windy 2-lane road.  Passing in India could be regulated a bit more tightly.  We passed 3-wide in the same direction heading into oncoming traffic.  We passed with lights flashing, horns honking as cars in the oncoming lane approached.  Trucks too.  We passed and then decided passing wouldn’t work.  We passed on the left.  On the right.  Going up hills.  Around corners.  The secret seemed to be Karma…I guess.  As I have no other rational explanation how we avoided all of those head on crashes.

Once in New Delhi it was to the airport where we paid our driver 16000 Rupees for the 2 days  of very good service and stewardship.  The airport was filled with porters following our every move to help move our bags move very small distances.  I have decided this will be my last porter usage of the trip.  The flight from New Delhi was roughly 2 hours.  A full meal and beverage service was provided for the entire plane of which my 3-6 pm local time crash prevented me from partaking.  The jet lag for me seems to be the worst at this time…this time corresponds with the wee am hours in Eastern Time.  Small spaces like planes don’t smell like the same small places at home.

Hyderabad is super modern starting with their state-of-the-art airport.  It was also nearly 15 degrees celsius cooler outside – almost spring-like but with a touch of monsoons.  We are staying at the Westin Hyderabad Mindspace which is one of the most modern hotels I have stayed in (it is super fancy Stewart!).

Here are some of the thoughts I remember (today was a slower day of travel):

  • Honking is viewed as a polite courtesy here.  It tells a slower vehicle you are going to overtake.  Even still, it is still a bit too loud for my taste. 
  • No elephant sightings today but several camels, cows, goats and monkeys on the road (literally) on the way out of Agra. 
  • Breakfast consisted of mainly bread again today (we have been asked to avoid any uncooked foods, foods in unboiled water and any liquids that don’t start out as a sealed bottle of water.  The hot tea gets better each day!
  • Yesterday’s monkey on a leash experience has helped us coin a new phase:  “Monkey on a Leash” to describe someone who is about to or already has lost their mind with anger.  In a sentence:  “That guy went ‘Monkey on a Leash’ when the car accidentally hit him while walking”. 
  • 2-lane roads are to be avoided at all costs.  The difference in speed from one kind of vehicle is too great and life is too precious to play chicken during transport.
  • Queueing is not something people care to do much of in India.  This is a difficult concept for a guy from Charlotte.  It means I could be holding the door for a very long time unless I take on the less courteous “when in Rome” philosophy.

The next few days will be spent in Hyderabad largely on the campuses of Bank of America and a few select vendor clients.  We have been told running outdoors in Hyderabad is safe and not worse for your health than not running (apparently in the other cities you would be doing more harm than good to your lungs due to the smog).  I’ll report back how it goes so long as the monsoon has subsided. 

Today’s Food Intake: Breakfast buffet of mostly bread products with a variety of honey.  I did eat some cheese, hash brown potatoes an Indian curry dish and tea.  1 Kashi bar to help wash down my daily malaria pill (preventative).  Some trail mix.  For dinner it was a glass of red wine, 4 calamari pieces (no sauces) and sea bass with cooked broccoli and potatoes.

No pictures today.  Stay tuned. 

Tomorrow’s Destinations:  The BAC Continuum facility in Hyderabad (across the street from the hotel).

Namaste.

My India Chronicles: Day 0 and 1

 

Where Am I Now?  Right now about 2k (a little over a mile) from this place.  In a hotel named The ITC Mughal. It smells like incense. 

Where Have I Been?  2 days ago I was in Charlotte.  Then Newark.  Then I boarded a plane and flew for 13.5 hours (or 7784 miles) and arrived a full day later (nearly 24 hours later) in New Dehli.  Once in New Dehli my work compadres and I headed to our hotel (the Imperial) via driver and security escort.  The security escort lasted until we reached the driver’s car at the airport parking lot where the driver politely requested he find his own way.  Something about no space which is ironic given how many people I have seen in cars since that time.  The Imperial was, well, imperial.  15-20 foot ceilings in the rooms, gardens, many restaurants, more incense, flowers everywhere and light switches so complicated that I gave up trying to figure out and slept with the lights on. 

This morning I awoke about 3 hours after going to bed, had a bread breakfast (more on this in a later post) and jumped in our chartered car for the 4-5 (more like 6) hour drive to Agra.  What I saw on this drive is utterly indescribable.  Here are some of the thoughts I remember:

  • Cars follow few laws – best I can tell the law is don’t hit anything and don’t drive on the wrong side of the road without beeping frequently. 
  • Cars are full.  Seriously full.  5 on a motorcycle leaves room for at least one more. 
  • Horns aren’t optional but rather encouraged.  They state: “I am driving on a road with you and I might either a) pass you, b) gently nudge you, c) remind you I am approaching, turning, stopping or requesting you stop.  Honestly, the trucks have “Please Honk” painted on the back.
  • Oddly, with all of this honking there is nearly zero road rage.
  • Poverty sounds too nice, too easy and too much like a temporary state to be what I saw today. 
  • Don’t take pictures of any animals on a leash.  This will require payment. Payment is not optional. Monkey owners seem particularly serious about this unwritten rule.
  • Camel cart drivers (yes, drivers of carts pulled by camels) still get distracted while driving and talking on the cell phones.
  • Rags to wipe the sweat are less optional than shoes.  It seems to be a best practice to hold these rags with your mouth.
  • People in India are far more flexible than Americans.  Full squatting is common for eating, washing, repairing, restrooming and many other uses.
  • Elephants, monkeys and camels are not just zoo animals.  They are forms of income and transport.

The 13.5 hour plane ride honestly “flew” by.  4 movies (Date Night – funny; Bounty Hunter – not very funny; She’s Out of my League – cute and funny; Ghostwriter – decent despite it’s sleazy director), some light reading, some moderately tasteless and rubbery food (although the ice cream sundaes were a nice touch) and some sleep in a nearly fully reclining chair/footrest combo didn’t hurt to pass the time.

Last tidbit before hitting the hay.  Rupees.  500 Rupees = about 10 dollars.  After 2 unsuccessful attempts to get ATMs to dispense money we successfully got to an ATM that would give us some cash.  In a fatigued stupor we agree 400 Rupees sounded like plenty of cash.  Upon arrival at the hotel we quickly realized that we had collectively taken out about the equivalent of $24 dollars.  Best to learn this stuff ahead of entering a new country.  Needless to say I am the proud holder of 5000 rupees (sounds dreamier than it is) and a wallet that is suddenly too small to be useful.

Click here for more pictures in slide show format.  Stay tuned. 

Tomorrow’s Destinations:  New Dehli and then Hyderabad.

Namaste.

July 2010 – Beach Trip #2: Kiawah!

I promise I am not sharing pictures of our 2nd beach trip in a little over a month to rub it in – I can hardly believe we are this fortunate.  This trip we spent 7 days with our good friends the Seiberts down on Kiawah Island in South Carolina.  From the beach it is a near twin of Hilton Head Island.  From the inland it has many of the same amenities except maybe even more golf courses in a compressed space.  Some unbelievably good golf courses too, namely the Ocean Course where the 2012 PGA Championship will be held.  With a 7, 5, and 17 month old I was able to watch them from afar.  Fitting a round of golf in between beach, pool, kayak, bike and ice cream outings would have been a test of time management. This was the first year in vacationing with the Seiberts that we were not oceanfront staring at the beach from our back porch.  Likely our last too.  The beachfront at Folly is too nice and too reasonably priced not to be a strong contender.  Find a Folly place with a pool and we are in business.  Coming back from several hours at the beach to relax with some time at the pool is pretty nice.  We know this from our time at Hilton Head.  Hilton Head may warrant a closer look too as the ability to bike throughout and access to non-beach amenities is far easier than Kiawah was.  The biking at Kiawah was excellent with bike trails leading to all sides of the island.  Will and I went kayaking off of the Kiawah River and loved it again!  I can see a kayak in our future…maybe two.  While paddling we ran across 2 porpoises swimming next to us – very cool.  Three other highlights of our trip: Beach Charlie, Dinner in the Atlantic Room at the Ocean Course and Baby sea turtles.

  1. Charlie is an incredible beach baby.  Put him down in the sand and let him loose.  Pick him back up when it is time to go.  No complaints.  All happiness.  Build a sand mound and he’s all the happier.
  2. The Atlantic Room is a special place to watch the sun go away while sitting out back looking out at the ocean.  Their bread pudding is likely the best I’ve ever had.  Souffle-like consistency on the inside.  Mmm. Mmm.
  3. Watching baby sea turtles hatch from their nest and and helping them walk out to sea was a great experience for the kids to share on their last morning on the island.
42 Muirfield Drive in Turtle Cove left something to be desired.  While highly serviceable for the 9 of us it desperately needed better lighting/seating and a screened in back porch.  The home’s rating was not pushed upward when the upstairs A/C died on Thursday making for a work-like afternoon negotiating a same-day fix.  Thankfully it was fixed that day otherwise we would have been in for a much tougher night at 91 degrees inside upstairs at 6pm.  Having the pool next door and a short, nature-filled walk was a nice feature.
Click here for a slide show of our Kiawah Island beach vacation.
Click here for a slide show of our 4th of July activities.

Click here to see all of our pictures a la flickr.

June 2010 – Beach Trip #1: Hilton Head

This year, like last we are fortunate enough to be able to go on not one, but TWO beach trips!  Just like last year we zoomed out of town within a day or two of the kids last day of school and headed for what is becoming one of our favorite beach spots:  Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island (HHI).  Here we were joined again by my parents, my brother Tim and my niece Emma.  The house was pretty great with plenty of room for the 9 of us, the pool/hot tub out back was pretty great and our proximity to the beach was also pretty great.  This house (41 Wagon Lane?) was about a 1/4 mile from the beach, 1.5 miles from both Harbor Town and the South Beach Marina area which made for some nice bike rides with the kids…with the exception of the ONE bike ride where Stewart crashed TWO times.  The first she was plowed into by an out of control 10 year old (literally out of control – he was a new bike rider) and the second was her attempt to block her brother’s passing move with her arm and leg while riding…not the move a 5 year old with less than 6 months of riding experience has in her bag of tricks (yet).  Cindy and I can definitely see HHI as a place where we spend more beach time.  At minimum an annual beach trip here with the family is in order.  Check out some of our pics of the trip below as well as a few shots of my Father’s Day festivities!
Click here for the slide show of our time at Hilton Head and the kid’s end of school celebration.
Click here for the slide show of Father’s Day 2010.

Click here to see all of our pictures a la flickr.