The End of Schweaty…but still sweatin’

•June 24, 2010 • 2 Comments

As every loyal and recent reader of this blog knows, I’ve made a triumphal return back to the US and thus, this final Schweaty post is ludicrously overdue.

The last month in India was pretty hectic with goodbyes to friends, transferring responsibilities at work, a trip to Bombay and then of course, a 2-week trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal.

Saying Goodbye to Delhi

Despite the frustrations this city caused me, I did appreciate and enjoy the experience of living in Delhi. More than that though, I met some really amazing people along the way. I didn’t live with Pam and Sampath during my stay in Delhi however they were essentially a second family to me over the past year. Having dinner at their place or joining them for a holiday like Diwali was always an escape from the complete and utter chaos that I experienced daily. I knew that every time I walked in their front door, within minutes, I would be drinking an ice-cold Kingfisher and smelling the amazingness that emanated from Pam’s kitchen.

Pam and Sampath

There were others too: Tyler, Ashima, Anvesha, Imran, Sadaf, Amit, Kartik, etc. who really shaped my the type of experience I was able to have in India. In fact it really wasn’t a goodbye at all as every one of these people is bound to have an international career which means our paths will definitely overlap.

Leaving Work at Satin

My coworkers Ashish and Radha

I left Satin Creditcare knowing that I had a measurable impact on the organization. That was a very gratifying realization and one that has definitely left an indelible mark on me professionally. I had daily discussions with the CEO and CFO, got involved in everything from Operations to Audit and Business Development to Website Maintenance, and had great relationships with many of our field staff even though we could barely speak full sentences to each other.

That being said, I was more than ready to leave Satin. It was a challenging work environment physically, emotionally, psychologically, and culturally. The area in which I worked, Azadpur, has to be one of the most disgusting places I’ve ever been. And anyone who has visited that part of the city can attest to it. Extreme heat combined with high levels of pollution, smells of the trash adjacent to the building, and swarming flies made for a pretty nasty surrounding environment. Psychologically and emotionally, I consistently struggled to understand how some of my coworkers were thinking or acting based on words and expressions alone. The language barrier was a main cause of that struggle. Culturally, there is just so much different both from an Indian culture perspective and from an organizational culture perspective. From both intra-office politics to eating lunch at 2pm (I’m starving by that point) it was definitely tough to adjust to, to understand and often, to disagree with the culture.

Overall, it’s an experience that will definitely have an impact on my future career. I may not have always enjoyed it. In fact I may have hated working at Satin at times. However, it was absolutely critical to my own personal and professional development. And I doubt I’ll complain about a work environment like that every again.

Bombay

Gateway to India (Bombay)

Taj Hotel (Bombay)

Marine Drive in Bombay. Finally a city on the water.

I decided a few months ago that I could not leave India without seeing Bombay. Though Bombay had it’s critics from people I met in Delhi, it received more praise than criticism, and at times was hyped enough where I felt like my trip to India would not be complete without a visit to the entertainment and financial capital of India. Further, my visit also allowed me to see an old coworker (and somewhat of a mentor in India), TM Viswanathan, once again.

“Oooooh that sticky feeling” – Upon landing in Bombay (and according to people I met living there, don’t use “Mumbai”), you immediately feel the insane humidity, particularly in the pre-monsoon season. Whereas in Delhi the mercury reaches 110 degrees regularly in the summer, in Bombay it can be 90 degrees and feel like 110 with the humidity.

Despite the humidity, it was amazing to finally visit a city on the water. Bombay juts out like Manhattan with spectacular coastal views along Marine Drive. I rode in a taxi from the Southern tip of the city all the way across the Bandra Worli Sealink (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandra-Worli_Sea_Link). Bombay has beautiful neighborhoods like Bandra with a great Bar and Restaurant scene, abundant auto drivers who you DON’T have to negotiate with, and awesome seafood. The South of the city, Colaba, has a more European feel to it and some really interesting English Architecture. Since Delhi really has no area to walk around, it was so enjoyable to walk along sidewalks, in and out of cafes, and of course along the water. I visited the Taj and the Oberoi, the hotels where the terrorist activities took place and then had a highly refreshing pitcher of beer in the much recommended Cafe Mondegar. At night I went with my friend Rakesh to a classic rock bar in Bandra and then got some late night Pav Bhaji (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pav_Bhaji) along the beach. I’m positive there was enough butter in there that should be consumed over a month’s time span. One of the more unique experiences was riding the train from North to South Bombay. Yeah, think Slumdog Millionaire. The crazy thing about the train, beyond how crowded it is and how many train deaths occur every year, is that the different “classes” are essentially identical. People pay more to ride in first class for the same conditions. It’s more of a social status thing to be able to pay for a first class ticket. Needless to say, I didn’t really have space to take a picture while riding but you can imagine limbs hanging out the door of the train.

My last minute visit was well worth it. Similar to my experience in Bangalore, I walked away from Bombay wishing I had lived in a city outside of Delhi.

Nepal

The culmination of my year abroad could not have been more perfect than actually seeing the “roof of the world.” I went to Nepal with two friends (and former Coworkers), Geoff and Michelle, to trek to the Everest Base Camp and see the highest mountain range in the world. Most of you have heard about the trek already so here’s a link to Geoff and Michelle’s pictures which are much more condensed than my several hundred photos.

http://picasaweb.google.com/geoffreyjacobson/BestOfNepal#

http://www.facebook.com/#!/album.php?aid=2732564&id=8601800

Do You Miss India?

Most everyone has asked me “Do you miss India?” since my return. After much pondering, cogitating, and deliberation, I have realized that I don’t really miss India per se. I miss friends I made at Lok, Satin, and around Delhi; I miss traveling and exploring the country, particularly the South (Kerala, Goa, Bangalore, Mysore, etc.); I miss working for an organization where I knew I had a measurable impact; I miss the chicken malai tikka rolls with spicy chutney; I miss Lodhi Gardens which was my refuge from the pollution and chaos; I miss the second family I had, Sampath and Pam.

There are obviously particular things I miss. On May 1st, however, I was ready to go. I was ready to leave behind the pollution, the overpopulation, the clogged roads, the smells of burning trash, sewage and ubiquitous defecation, breathing in fumes everyday in an autorickshaw, the endless negotiation, people staring at me every time I got off the metro, working in a decrepit building abutting a community trash dump, power outages in the middle of the summer. ET CETERA. I realized that their was essentially no aspect of my daily life in India that is more convenient than my life in the US. Granted, I had a unique experience relative to some other expats: I worked in an area of Delhi that was devoid of foreigners for miles; I commuted on a metro where I might see a foreigner once or twice per week; I spent significant time in rural areas, delving deep into villages. In fact, sometimes I think I might have enjoyed the work experience more if I worked for a more innovative microfinance institution in Bangalore. I might have enjoyed city living more if it had been Bombay or Bangalore. In the end though it’s all theoretical because Delhi was my benchmark. I made the most out of my surroundings there and any other city would always have positives and negatives relative to the nation’s captial.

Some people might say that there is something mysteriously exhilarating about the chaos of Delhi (and India in general); that it’s part of the soul of the country. I anticipated having this feeling given how excited I was about the experience in India before I arrived last June. The truth is that I never had this feeling. I didn’t love this chaos. Further, this chaos was exacerbated by things that make everyday life uncomfortable: extreme pollution, extreme temperatures, extreme crowding, and extreme poverty. India has indeed tempered my adventurous spirit a bit. Keep in mind that “tempered” is clearly a relevant term considering I am going to Israel and Norway later this summer.

My year in India was a remarkable. It’s one that I will always be grateful for and never regret. It was filled with peaks and troughs. Extreme frustration and surprising bliss (look back at my Mussoorie post). Sadness from so much poverty and happiness from so welcoming a people. Suffocating smoke in Delhi and crisp mountain air in the tea plantations of Munnar.

My travels took me to Agra, Alleppy, Amritsar, Bangalore, Bombay, Cochin, Mussoorie, Mysore, and of course the beautiful beaches of Goa. If I wasn’t able to share these travels in person, I hope I conveyed how amazing these cities and sites were through my words.

And now, with this post, I conclude Schweaty’s adventure in India. But don’t worry, there’s no way I’ll stop sweatin’… even in Ann Arbor!

Greenberg, May I have another

•April 12, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So this post is much too delayed but my sister visited me in India a few weeks ago for a brief but satisfying journey to three Indian cities. See Picasa link for pics.

picasaweb.google.com/SethIGreenberg/JessSVisit

The itinerary started in Delhi including a trip through the old streets of Chandni Chowk on a cycle Rickshaw and to Raj Ghat (Gandhi’s burial place) which I hadn’t visited before but which has some of the most beautiful grounds in the city. The next stop was Agra and my 3rd trip to the Taj. Just to clarify, I was still awestruck walking through the archway. Next time I should undoubtedly be able to give the tour like the kid in Slumdog.

The third stop Amritsar was by far the most exciting for me, selfishly because I have never been there, but I think for Jess as well. Amritsar is in the North Indian State of Punjab, historically known to be a prosperous region and the source of much conflict at the time of partition with Pakistan (the state originally included much of what is now Pakistan. In fact Amristar is only 25-30 km from the Wagah Border Crossing and Lahore in Pakistan is only another 30 km beyond that. The Wagah Border is currently the only road route for commercial traffic between India and Pakistan. The border is supposedly only open from 9am to 3am each day at which point all commercial loads must wait until the subsequent day. However, each day at Sunset, there is a ceremonial border closing ceremony which is basically just an overwhelming outflowing of national pride. Well on the Indian side at least. When we visited, there were probably a few thousand Indian spectators and probably a few hundred, if that, Pakistani spectators. The other noticeable difference? Women and men have different seating on the Pakistani side. So based on the pure theatrics of the event, it’s appropriate to do a scoring of each side:

More National Pride – 1 point India.

More Progress towards gender equality – 1 point India.

Stealing Bollywood tunes to use at your border crossing ceremony – negative 1 point Pakistan.

Though the proximity to the border and the border crossing ceremony have helped to make Amritsar a more sought after tourist destination, the city is originally famous as the holy place for Sikhs – think turbans and men who can’t shave or cut their hair. The holy site for Sikhs is the Golden Temple which was probably the most mesmerizing, clean, and welcoming religious site I’ve visited in India. It’s honestly refreshing to see people treat their religious sites with so much respect after seeing rivers like the Ganges and the Yamuna which are polluted to an absurd degree yet thoroughly revered.

The temple has a Kitchen which feeds (the free food is called Langar) people of all ages, riches, social statuses, etc. and is run completely by volunteers. This spirit of volunteerism is omnipresent and it’s really inspiring to so many people work together to serve the common purpose of feeding the masses. In fact, Sikhs believe that people should have their hunger satiated first and then begin prayer versus many other religions. People are also permitted to stay in the housing facilities for 3 days at a time. With regards to my “welcoming” comment earlier, Jess and I were even able to go back into the kitchen to see how all of the food is prepared in such mass quantities…. and participate as well….

rollin’ dem chipatis

stirrin’ dem vegetables

And to top it off, I ate the Langar with everyone else. Probably some of the best free food I’ve ever tasted. It was this remarkable experience at the Golden Temple that makes it a must-see for visitors to India.

Holi Sh**, what a holiday.

•March 11, 2010 • 1 Comment

Where do I even start? Indian wedding party, Avatar, the colorful holiday of Holi, company celebration for reaching 100,000 clients, a resurgence in learning Hindi, making Dunkin Donuts coffee on the weekends, relishing the US $1 haircuts, still disgusted by the smell when I get off the metro every morning…….. Oh yeah and the weather has been phenomenal the past few weeks during what I would deem Delhi’s ephemeral Spring season; defined as the month or so between the frustration-inducing winter and the imminent, blistering summer heat.

The month of February absolutely flew by and realized I essentially hadn’t given an update since my trip to Bangalore. So here goes:

1) Indian wedding party – It was a pretty spontaneous move but on a Friday night a few weeks ago, my friend Amit mentioned around 10pm that we should hit up a wedding party in one of the farmhouses in the south of Delhi. (Sidenote – these farmhouses are basically ginormous, extravagant mansions with lavish grounds and high walls for privacy on land that was once extremely cheap but is now unbelievably valuable). The wedding was for a friend of a friend of a friend so clearly I received a special invitation to attend. Regardless, it was amazing how people did not even mind other people showing up and joining in the celebration. At one point, the brother of the groom even came up to me and asked if I was having a good time and mentioned I should participate in the remaining nights of the “wedding fest” which are apparently 4-5 extravaganzas of rituals, celebration and partying. We reached the place around midnight and it seemed as though the party was at just beginning. Upon entering the gate, I was amazed at 1) the size of the house 2) the grounds and decorations, 3) the food tent which had about 30 different stations and waiters getting you anything you could possibly want 4) absolutely stunning saris 5) the DJ, dance floor, and open bar in the back – hello Johnnie Walker Black.  What a night… followed by 3 hours of sleep and the perfunctory full Saturday workday. It was painful.

2)  Avatar – After 9 months, I’ve come to learn that if one wants to escape the dust, dirt, and pollution of India, look no further than the shopping malls; they are seemingly alternate Universes amidst the chaos. In fact, I find it amusing how much I look forward to going to shopping malls here whereas the thought would rarely cross my mind in the US. A few weeks ago, I went to the Ambience Mall (which at 1KM several stories tall is the largest in India) to see the much hyped and anticipated Avatar in 3-D. I would have obviously preferred to see it on IMAX but with no such venues in Delhi, the 3-D sufficed and the movie was well worth the wait.  Further, it helped evened out my Hollywood vs Bollywood movie watching in India of which Bollywood still has a 4-3 edge.

3) HoliI should probably dedicate an entire post to this colorful Indian holiday but just going to roll with it. Holi or the “Festival of Colors” is one of two major holidays (the other being Diwali) particular to North Indian states. In fact, most of South India does not even observe the holiday. I observed Holi to be more of a joyous occasion spent with family and friends rather than anything truly religious or spiritual. Though Holi was actually on a Monday, people were beginning to celebrate at least 3-4 days in advance with smalls stands selling colored powders, water balloons, and waterguns including Super Soakers which I haven’t seen for years. I’m convinced that more Super Soakers are purchased in India during Holi than the entire summer in the US.

My coworkers had the decency to warn me not to wear anything nice in the office on the Saturday before Holi, knowing full well that the “foreigner” would be the #1 target of a barrage of color and water. Evidenced by the pictures above, they got me pretty good. Further, since the actual Holiday didn’t occur until Monday, I was the only person on the metro and walking around Central Delhi smothered in color. As if my white face doesn’t attract enough attention and staring already…

Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures from the day of Holi itself because my hands were covered in colored powders, water, ink, etc. all day however you can be assured it was an awesome time.

Pause… you are asking yourself ink? Yes, ink.

I heard stories about people using terrible substances on Holi such as grease but didn’t anticipate that someone would unload an entire bottle of ink on my friend Amit and me. Now seeing as Holi somewhat encourages childish behavior through water balloons and waterguns, we decided what better idea than to load up a bucket of water, buy some squirt guns, hop in an autorickshaw on the way to a Holi party. The 8-year old inside of me was thriving that morning as we nailed people on bikes, pedestrians, and occasional open window. Apparently two guys on a motorcycle were expecting such tactics and decided it would be strategic to carry a bottle of green ink with them to unload at an appropriate time. It just so happened that we fit into that slot. Pardon my French, but what a bunch of @$$holes. It’s supposed to be a fun occasion and it’s difficult enough to wash out all the watery powders at the end of the day. I guess there are pricks everywhere.

Despite “ink episode” the day was a blast and it was just awesome to be outside in mid 80′s, sunny weather in a backyard totally removed from city. I sampled Bhang http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhang which is supposedly legal and unique to Holi. Most people have it mixed in a drink like a milkshake however I tried the basic form which was a chewy tablet and kind of disgusting. Needless to say, it didn’t have much of an effect.

The day ended with an hour and a half process of color removal which was about 80% successful; it would have been 95% however I don’t have a high pressure shower with constant access to hot water. Instead I turn on the geezer for 15 minutes of hot water, then filled up 2 buckets of water and then finished with another use of the geezer.  I guess that’s being resourceful but at 10pm, my affinity for resourcefulness is usually at an all-time low. Ahhhhhhhhh how I look forward to real showers with good water pressure and no concern about the availability of hot water.

4) 100,000 Borrowers –  My microfinance institution reached 100,000 Borrowers as of January 30th so the management decided it was time to have a company-wide celebration full of cultural programs, speeches and awards to recognize individuals and the organization as a whole.

Check out some pics http://picasaweb.google.com/SethIGreenberg/1LakhCelebration#

Upon entering the Ashram (basically a place for cultural activities) where the celebration was held, I was immediately struck by the number of staff present. Since I’ve started, the company has more than tripled in size in terms of both personnel and clients (30,000 back in June) so it’s incredible to see the growth firsthand. Since I’m now the Head of the Internal Audit Department, I was brought up on stage and asked to sit with the rest of the management team which was a huge honor. What I also didn’t expect was to be asked to give a speech in front of everyone, however it really wasn’t too bad considering how welcoming the entire field staff has been to me throughout my time at Satin. I basically just congratulated everyone on their achievements, thanked them for their hospitality whenever I make field visits, and wished them the best of luck in the future. Who needs a public speaking class anyway? I’m beginning to learn that the unexpected and unconventional are only going to benefit me in the future.

After some staff speeches, singing, and showing off their musical abilities, one of the loan officer’s cultural program was a dance to a Punjabi song on stage. Undoubtedly this led to mad, uncontrollable rush to the stage which led me to ask one question: how many Indian guys can you fit dancing together? This video may shock you…

I was thoroughly amused until I was suddenly being pulled by 5 coworkers on stage so that everyone could derive personal enjoyment from seeing the foreigner dancing to Bollywood tunes. Yeah that happened. It was funny once but I think that I’d prefer a middle school slow dance to that next time…

Overall, I think it was a great celebration and truly motivational experience for the field staff. It helped bring together the Head Office and the field staff which often seem like two different entities. However it is the coordination and smooth functioning between by the Head Office and field operation which are critical to the company’s success. Given the company’s ambitious growth plans, it helped them to realize that Satin’s management especially values the hard work that has brought the company to this point.

So these were the highlights of the past few weeks. I’m still experiencing all the peaks and troughs of my Indian life but new holidays, celebrations and adventures always keep it interesting.

Now I’m pumped for my sister, Jess’s, visit this weekend. Til next time, enjoy some Devo.

80′s Music Video Section:

You know you’re living in Delhi when…

•February 19, 2010 • 1 Comment
  1. You blow your nose and the tissue has black residue
  2. You’re trying to board the Metro and a 70 year-old, 4ft 6 woman is digging her elbow into your spine
  3. You’re eating finger-lickin good chicken malai tikka kebabs in Khan Market
  4. The Ambience shopping mall (1KM long) feels like a different country. Where was the passport check?
  5. The passenger capacity in a car (or on a bike) equals 2 times the number of seats plus one. Ex. Baby, Husband, 3- year old, Wife and 7-year old on a bike (in that order).
  6. Your heart sinks because a homeless guy with no legs comes up to your auto at an intersection and asks for “khana” (food) but you can’t give it to him because it only feeds the system (see Slumdog)
  7. You can drive by hundreds of people living in shacks and then have a cocktail at the luxurious Imperial hotel.
  8. Seeing a cow on a main thoroughfare like Ring Road or a market like Sorajini becomes the rule rather than the exception
  9. The power goes out in the middle of taking a shower. F*&%.
  10. The highlight of your day is eating Non-Veg at Moet’s  in Defense Colony Market
  11. A cup of chai tea only costs 10 cents
  12. “Not spicy” from a waiter or Indian friend means you should definitely have a glass of water, juice or a cold beer nearby
  13. The ratio of men:women anywhere outside is at least 7:1, but prob 10:1
  14. Traffic is held up by:  a) a Cow crossing the road b) the simultaneous interweaving of trucks, cycle rickshaws, cars, vans, bikes, and autorickshaws c) random piles of bricks, dirt, and stones on the side or middle of the road d) a wedding procession on the side of the road e) beggars knocking on car windows f)all of the above
  15. You can go an entire day without seeing a white person. Don’t worry it’s not lonely, everyone is staring at you
  16. The nicest bathroom you’ve seen all day is in the movie theater
  17. Fresh air, wait, what is that?
  18. You can do all your vegetable shopping from the cart that comes through the neighborhood
  19. Negotiating is as much of a necessity as breathing
  20. Lodhi Gardens is the Garden of Eden. Seriously. (See pics below)

To be continued…

Bangalore Trip Part II: And then there was the time when I went to a city with friendly people, great weather and sidewalks

•February 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

After a trip to Bangalore and Mysore last weekend with my friend Nina, I’ve spent the past week or so thinking about how my “India experience” would have been different if I had lived outside of Delhi. Just to review, my excursions thus far have consisted of mostly tourist destinations: Mussoorie (a hill station), Kerala (“God’s Own Country”), Goa (ahhhhhhhh the beach), the Taj, and of course the rural villages when I go on field visits for work.

The Bangalore trip however was partly touristy with some city exploration (and of course the overnight excursion to Mysore in Part I) and partly just hanging out in a city similar to a weekend trip from Chicago to New York to visit friends back in the US. My goal was always to convince the New Yorkers (namely the trio of Stein, Lipton and Fernandes) to come to Chicago and vice versa.

I can say hands-down, undoubtedly, absolutely no question, I would have loved to live in Bangalore as part of my time in India. Not only is Bangalore a cleaner, more livable city than Delhi but the people are just generally more friendly. In terms of friendliness and levels of greenery, it’s kind of like Chicago vs. NYC; sorry homies but no question it’s true. Now, let’s be clear: Bangalore still suffers from paralyzing traffic, seemingly ubiquitous road construction and some level of pollution. However, you don’t walk outside every day and feel like your surrendering your lungs to the devil. And another thing, Bangalore has SIDEWALKS. Yes I know, it’s truly a novel concept. Unobstructed walkways that allow you to get safely from place to place without using any form of transportation. These so called “sidewalks” are actually present in neighborhoods as well. Sure Delhi has many beautiful, tree-lined colonies including New Friends Colony, Defense Colony, Jor Bagh, GK, etc. but ultimately, they don’t compare to what I experienced in Bangalore.

Then there is the moderate climate. Temperatures range from lows in the 60′s to high’s in the low 90′s. I compare this climate to Delhi’s winter with 40 degree temps and no legitimate forms of heating and Delhi’s summer with ludicrous temperatures consistently between 105-110 degrees. Bangalore also has a waste management system whereby trucks stop by people’s homes everyday to pick up trash. This compares to the burning of waste everywhere and anywhere in Delhi.

Basically, I could go on and on glorifying Bangalore in comparison to Delhi. Maybe I’ve just become too cynical and/or maybe with Delhi as a benchmark, all other places in India must be placed in comparison. Yet without a doubt, spending a weekend in Bangalore has more or less confirmed what I kind of city I prefer: one with green spaces, fresh air, friendly people, abundant food options, and culture. Ideal climate and waste management systems are nice too.

80′s Music Video Section:

Bangalore Trip Part I: NINA’S VISIT!

•February 16, 2010 • 1 Comment

I’ve been MIA for the past two weeks for two primary reasons: work has been insanely busy since I’ve taken over as the Head of Internal Audit and also Nina came to visit! Thus, a post on the adventure to Bangalore…

But first, I just want to make sure most of the blog audience knows my friend Nina. If you don’t , say hello:

Okay now she’s going to kill me for those. I was given strict orders not to include the pictures in traditional Indian garb.

…. So I’ll make it up with a “Sunglasses at Night” pose.

All joking aside, Nina both directly and indirectly has had a huge impact on my experience in India. She has family in essentially every part of the country including an Aunt and Uncle in Delhi (featured on previous posts) who have truly become a second family for me here. She’s been the link to incredible people who have significantly influenced my views of the country, who have provided the most generous hospitality, and who will ultimately leave an indelible mark on my feelings toward India and it’s people. For that Nina, you deserve a HUGE shout out.

In early January when Nina was planning her trip to India, we were deciding where to travel to for a long weekend. Would it be Mumbai, that sprawling metropolis on the water? Kerala, where her parents grew up? a Hill Station up in the mountains? At last, we decided on a city neither of us had been to and where she had family we could stay with: Bangalore. Known mostly as the Tech and Outsourcing hub of India, we figured it would provide numerous options for exploration and especially given the number of excursions within a few hour’s drive from the city. The fact that her cousin Neil, our gracious host for the weekend, lives there was an additional bonus.

The 3 day weekend began like this:

Thursday

Thursday 3:30Pm – Arrive at Delhi’s really modern domestic airport. Knock back an Indian flavor inspired pizza at the Airport Pizza Hut, board the plane for my 5:30 flight, and then do my habitual “pass out” upon getting my window seat.

Thursday 6:30 – “This is the captain speaking, we have some technical difficulties and need to reboard all passengers on a different plane” – Okay not a huge deal. I had 2 positive experiences flying Spicejet before so I understand not everything can be perfect. In addition they provided all passengers with a gourmet meal, Cup o’ Noodles, Masala Style.

Thursday 7:30 – Some technical difficulties on the 2nd plane so were waiting and waiting. Finally the plane is cleared and we push away from the terminal. “Flight Attendants, please prepare for takeoff.” Accelerating, accelerating… decelerating, decelerating… back to the terminal. Technical difficulties weren’t fixed. Now were off onto the third plane.

Thursday 9:00 – Holy shit. I don’t know if I’ll make it to Bangalore tonight. And then at last we take off. at 9:30. So 4 hours and 3 planes later, I was airborne for the South and eventually reached Neil’s apartment at 2am. So much for enjoying a Thursday night in a new city.

Friday and Saturday

Nina and I decided a few weeks back to do an overnigtht excursion to Mysore, known for it’s Maharaja’s Palace and also ironically voted one of the NYTimes top 31 places to travel in 2010. (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/travel/10places.html?em). We took an auto to the chaotic bus station and boarded an AC bus to Mysore which was about 3 hours ride. Buses run almost every half an hour so it’s pretty convenient and easy to get around.

Since we didn’t necessarily generate lots of hype for Mysore, we were pleasantly surprised by the amazing time we had there. Mysore felt more like a small town that wasn’t overrun with tourists and lacked pollution. Moreover, were extraordinarily lucky enough to find an auto driver, Babu, who turned into a most gracious guide and chauffeur around the city. Anyone going to Mysore must get in touch with Babu.

“Babu, we’d like to see the Palace?” Done. “Babu any other landmarks we should see?” St. Philomena’s Church (see Picassa Album below) Done. “Babu, we’d really like to find a bar to have a drink” Done. :Babu do you know of any sweet shops?” Done. Oh and you’ll take us around all day tomorrow to the Bird Sanctuary and back for Rs. 400? Babu, my friend, you put all auto drivers to shame.

Between the Maharaja’s Palace, having beers outside on the Patio, a beautiful hotel, the best auto driver so far in India, and sunny, warm weather, Mysore was instantly one of my favorite places in India.

Here are the Pics – http://picasaweb.google.co.in/SethIGreenberg/TravelsWithNinaToBangaloreAndMysore# - The bird sanctuary was particularly beautiful and we even saw a crocodile on the surface at one point.

After a solid 24 hours in Mysore, we returned to Bangalore in time to have dinner with Neil and enjoy a brief night (Bars close at 11pm due to draconian laws) on the town. Dinner consisted of some prawn, chicken and fish curries served with rice at small but delicious restaurant call Kubays. From there we walked to a bar called Jimi’s with a big picture of Jimi Hendrix on the front. Libations and classic rock ensued, albeit in very chill environment.

Along the walk to Jimi’s, I felt compelled to take a picture of this blatant and disappointing false advertising. How can you honestly call yourself a Burger joint display a fake looking hotdog. Just terrible.

Sunday

For only the second time in India, the Sunday in Bangalore featured a morning Brunch. The three of us shared a Cheese Omelet, Bacon Omelet (yes I said Bacon, Bacon, Bacon, Bacon), Appams (typical South Indian dish like a really thin pancake and served with a vegetarian or non vegetarian stew), toast, milkshakes, and coffee. It was a perfect meal to start the day. After walking in and out of some book stores, we took an auto to Lal Bagh, a park in the center of Bangalore which certainly gave my Lodi Gardens in Delhi, a run for its money (I’m still partial to Lodi though). Then, of course, the afternoon was capped at a local ice cream joint with a cashew and fudge sundae.

And so the weekend in Bangalore and my travels with Nina came to an end. A big shout out to Nina’s cousin Neil for hosting us and touring us around his city.

Stay tuned for part II as I’m not done talking about Bangalore yet.

Winter is over… well for me at least.

•February 2, 2010 • 1 Comment

Yeah I know it’s been too long since the last post, maybe over two weeks but who’s counting?

Anyway, the great news is that Delhi’s winter is over (sorry for my sister in Pittsburgh, the Chicago crowd and everyone else in the Midwest/Mid-Atlantic/Northeast regions but at least you’ve got fresh air going for you, which is nice). Multiple sources had told me that Delhi’s temperatures would increase after Republic Day on Jan. 26th. Although I was incredulous, sure enough, day time temperatures went from averaging low 50′s to the mid 70′s in a one-day span. Goodbye fleece, goodbye 3 blankets and goodbye space heater. For those seeking a better understanding of the Delhi Winter, check out this NYTimes article – http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/15/world/asia/15delhi.html

For those sick of hearing complaints about Delhi winter because you’re trudging through snow, here’s some updates on food, work and life in Episode 2.

FoodIt is unfortunate that I haven’t been cooking as much recently but instead I’ve firmly established two staples in my diet here: Masala Dosas and Kebabs. They are not related and in fact you would probably never want to eat them in the same meal but Dosas and Kebabs are highly satisfying in their own way. Masala Dosas are typical South Indian fare. They are essentially crepes stuffed with spiced potatoes (and if you want lots of coconut, onions, etc.) and served with a sambar (orange) which is like a spicy vegetable stew and coconut chutney (white). They are cooked with coconut oil and are a simple, healthy dish. Traditionally they are served on banana leafs which can then be disposed of easily. The picture on the right is of a Paper Masala Dosa which can be almost two feet in length but seems like more than what is actually contained inside.

I eat dosas at least once per week because the restaurant outside of my gym, called Banana Leaf, prepares a delicious one in what is basically fast-food service. Ironically, I’ve noticed that in the Subway two doors down, you can usually find 20-25 Indians diving into a footlong sub while I’m the only one savoring the light fare offered by Banana Leaf. Indian’s eating a footlong. American eating the dosa. Fantastic picture of mingling cultures.

Kebabs are also AMAZING. Chicken Malai Tikka. Mutton Seekh Kebab, etc. Indian kebabs are spicy, tasty and overall the perfect combination with cold beer. Often the best kebabs are sold at hole-in-the-wall places with a few Muslim guys grilling up a storm. Picture to come. I promise.

Gym - I mentioned back in November that I joined a gym called Fitness First in Delhi. It’s pretty expensive by Indian standards but I decided that I needed a way to better release frustrations and stress as well as satisfy my desire to stay in shape over here (running outside is not really an option in the winter because of the air quality). I always despised treadmills but when it becomes a matter of necessity, I was forced to acquiesce. Three interesting things about Fitness First:

  1. The Lockers use electric key cards
  2. I’m still top 10 sweatiest people there and that’s with 95% Indians. I know. Shocking. In fact somebody came up to me as I was getting water and said, “Wow you’re sweaty.” Thanks.
  3. Drink Machines – The gym has two machines. One is for Lime Soda, Orange Soda, and Pepsi. The other dispenses hot tea, coffee, and tomato soup. Is it possible to strike out six times? Which is the least worst to drink during a workout?

Movies - So it’s official. I’ve now seen more Bollywood than Hollywood Movies in the past year. Thanks to my friend Ashima, I’ve seen the Hindi movie of the year “Three Idiots” as well as the classic “Sholay” and the popular “Jab We Met.” Three Idiots (playing in the US by the way – http://r.zapak.com/mc/3idiots/data/cinemalist.html),  was all about the pressure on Indians to focus their education without much deviation and the results of youths who can’t live up to the expectations (prevalence of suicides). It was like a Dead Poet’s Society with a very different Bollywood Twist. Highly enjoyable even though I struggled at times with the language barrier and no subtitles. Sholay is a movie people have insisted that I see for a while. It’s known as the quintessential Bollywood film that has spanned generations in popularity and mass appeal. It’s long, nearly 3.5 hours but definitely worth a watch. Jab We Met was basically a romantic comedy which I could never admit to seeing in the US but because it was in Hindi, I think I’ve maintained my virility.

Also, I should note that I FINALLY saw Gandhi this past week, a movie that everyone must see. I’m somewhat embarrassed that I hadn’t seen it until this past week but as I embark on my India history reading in the next few months, it was certainly the inspirational start I needed.

Work – In order to further blur my technical job description and position within Satin, I’m now the… wait for it…. temporary Head of Internal Audit. Based on my years of experience, I was the natural choice for the position. Yeah, right. It was somewhat shocking especially since our most recent head of Audit, Mr. Viswanathan is a friend of mine but I obviously embraced the opportunity. I’ve been spending the past two weeks redeveloping audit plans, formats, & reports, and figuring out how to effective manage a team of 16 auditors throughout the microfinance field operation. Will definitely have more stories on my new role in my next post.

Oh yeah and I worked to launch a new website for my Microfinance Institution so definitely check it out. http://satincreditcare.com/

Travel Plans - My next post will feature travels from an upcoming weekend trip with my friend Nina to Bangalore. Stay tuned for updates next week. Also, it’s confirmed. I’m leaving India on May 1st to trek to the Everest Base Camp in Nepal with my old LIM friends Geoff and Michelle. If anyone else is interested, it’s May 1-18 so holler at me soon. The three of us are already gearing up for the adventure.

Finally, India Runs on Dunkin – I brought back two bags of Dunkin Donuts Coffee and have introduced it’s amazingness to Nanda and soon to my Landlord and others. Nothing says Sunday morning like Dunkin baby.

The next post will come soon. I promise.

80′s Music Video Section: DOUBLE FEATURE

Well actually this is from the 90′s but deal with it.

Check out the double high-five about 50 seconds in

 
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