Saturday, February 24, 2007

The story of the sacred ash

It was exactly 7 days ago that I was forcibly pulled out of my slumber at 11 in the morning by a mobile call. The caller said I had to start to the US the same night. All the airliners thought otherwise and I started two days later. What ensued were yawns. A lot of them – throughout the 30 hour journey: two long 10-hour flights with 4 hours of waiting time between them, and a flight for 3 hours, and then a taxi for an hour. To say that I was a dead-meat was an understatement. Infact, that was the word the non-stop chatter Pakistani cab driver used to describe my state. His other words of wisdom I recollect were “never listen to Indian/Pakistani parents”, “Punjabi and South Indian girls are beautiful” etc.

I’m positive I heard that right.

It was a little disturbing thought that I myself had to book the hotel room, find cabs at airport, check-in and find something to eat day-in and day-out etc in a country that I’m visiting the first time, but knowing the language (in and out) was a real morale booster.

The United States is exactly what I see in the movies. But what no one told me (or what I didn’t inquire properly) was that if you are all alone, there is absolutely nothing you can do without a car. Irrespective of where you stay, the next restaurant, or the pizzeria, or the burger king, the Wal-mart, the Pakistani owned Indian store, or the office, is miles away. With establishments spread across a very wide area, there is nothing public transport can accomplish. Taxis are not a daily option, since you have to pay a BOMB. I did try walking, but I quickly realized I was the only one on the roads and the only other people who walk are African Americans. Some rogues in a passing car also shouted "Immigrant" something at me. In short, if you are in the US, you need a car. Nothing else would come close. If anyone who’s reading this is expecting a trip to the US, get yourself an International Drivers Permit. Or be prepared to get screwed. You don't really have to know driving coz all the cars are Automatic Transmission. Driving here is a joke for Indians.

As for me, I didn’t have an International Drivers Permit. But thanks to our British cousins who invaded our country, my Indian driving license was in English and that worked in the state I visited. I rented a brand new (ok, its done 7000 miles) Automatic Chevy Cobalt. I’ve promised myself a new brand of car or SUV every fortnight. This is dream country. There are fast cars. There are big, wide roads. Fuel is cheaper than in India. They give you all sorts of cars for rental. And places are REALLY far apart. Beat the combination!

It’s time I tell the story of the sacred ash. Those who would’ve read my previous post would know my level of belief in a supreme deity. But thanks to my pious background, I have small paper packs of sacred ash in my entire luggage – including the laptop. And when I opened my laptop at a security gate in my office this fine morning, one little pack fell off. A camera stocked in some corner recorded it. A guy sitting behind a monitor got something to tell his boss after - I don’t know - may-be years. When the security guy came and told me something ‘suspicious’ fell off my laptop and it needs a little explanation, I thought it was straight from the movies. But I did go and see the pack containing God’s sacred ash and explained about India, Indians, temples, South-Indian temples, and sacred ashes.

And all of us had a good laugh.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What's your world-view?

I chanced upon this interesting quiz that positions your own world-view (regarding faith, science, evolution and human destiny) in a spectrum compared with other popular people. I liked the idea immediately and took the quiz. It was really one of those no-nonsense quizzes around, and I got the following result. [My world-view has been marked in blue]

Go ahead and take the quiz. The questions are pretty interesting themselves.

And remember that there is nothing right and nothing wrong with any our world-views as long as we aren't maleficent.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Impressive people series - #1

I don't really write about people in my blog so often, but I was so impressed about some of the things Kiruba has done and penned down that I don't want readers of this post to miss this.
2) I volunteered as a waiter for 6 months at a restaurant called 'Annalakshmi'. I also washed dishes, swabbed floors and polished cutlery. I worked for 3 hours a day, 4 days a week. I did not get paid but I earned much more. I learnt what dignity of labour meant.

5) I wanted to know what it is to live without money in the city. So, I took bath at Central station, survived on prasadam at Kapaleshwarar temple at Mylapore and slept the night on the pavement of Whites Road at Royapettah. Wanted to do this for two days but gave up after the first day.
This is from a man who gives talks in leading IT companies and contributes to the formation of amazing stuff like and WikiCamp. When I first read about the ExtraBed concept , my faith in humanity certainly got a big, big boost.

Impressed is all I can say. Guess this is the same urge that has prompted him to put down risk-free salaried jobs and take something of his own.

P.S: I hope I can continue writing about interesting people as and when I come across them.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Is Chennai the place to be in 2007?

A friend of mine quipped a couple of days ago that Chennai is expected to overtake Bangalore in terms of the IT job market in 2007 by the sheet number of jobs on offer.

On the face of it, this seems to be true. All the massive-sized-companies have a huge presence in Chennai, and are growing really really fast. While Bangalore really seems to have hit the brakes due to the infrastructural problems, things aren't so bad in Chennai. Office space doesn't seem to be problem with all the huge complexes coming in almost every corner of the city. Traffic doesn't seem to be that much of a problem since Chennai, having been a metro for a long time now, is better planned in terms of the number of arterial roads. It takes a little less than 45 minutes to travel half way through the city in car in peak time (I do this every day) - not at all a bad deal, considering Mumbai and Bangalore. And there's going to be some big respite for the entertainment starved upper class populace what with the big multiplexes that are popping up at about a half-dozen locations.

I really couldn't find any statistics or news article proving this theory, but I did come across a blog posting on this.
One just has to just travel an hour out of Chennai,in any direction-and you wd see the phenomenal growth- of the manufacturing industry-which to my mind, is a much more endearing and long lasting impact than what the service industry can boost. If Dupont has transformed Gummidipundi and the surroundings - Hyundai and Ford have created ancillaries for miles along the other important highways. And one really cant forget Volvo-in Hosur which is practically the neighbour of Bangalore in Karnataka.
I sometimes wonder if all this is true or it is just a proximity effect on me. Bangalore seemed to be the most happening place when I stayed there 4 years ago. And now Chennai seems to be. Let's wait for some real statistics to nail down on the trend.

Sorry for typos/grammatical errors if any. In a hurry to catch a train right now...

Update 1 (March 7 2007): Guess I was right. I did find a news report that pretty much confirms my claim.