Epilog for Trip to India: Of Foreign Lands, Good People, Different Cultures

What an amazing time I had in India.  The people were wonderful.  Oh, it’s not all wisdom and light, but it certainly was enlightening, overall.

There are so many people, and wages are relatively low, so there are people to do everything.   You do not clear your trays in the fast food restaurant, there are people who rely on a job doing just that.  There are elevator attendants in some places.  There are often four people working a sales counter when one could likely do the job.

Yes, there are people in desperate straits, and they would no doubt like to better themselves, but as long as they aren’t in physical pain, they are relatively happy.  They are accepting of their situation, and they make the best of it.  Here in North America, people in a similar situation would generally be bitter and grumpy.  Not so here – they work hard, and accept their situation as it comes.  Wow, we could learn from that.

They drive like crazy here – cutting in and out, beep-beeping to let each other know where they are, and to warn that they are changing lanes, etc.  But, nobody gets upset!  You have an opening, you pull in, they slow down, no problem.  They are so patient!

Even at intersections – the cross traffic often starts nosing into the intersection six to ten seconds before the light turns green (often there is a countdown beside the traffic light).  When they nose in far enough that the traffic has to stop, it stops – even though they have the green!  Then the red light traffic noses further… and further… and soon they are going right through.  Folks beep-beep-beep away, but nobody gets hot under the collar.  Amazing!

Some things are inexpensive here – food from the supermarket, for example.  Some are quite expensive – electronics like televisions and computers – by my estimation, about 10% to 20% more than in Canada – but that’s just a quick estimate.  Restaurant food seems to be less, too – fast food is about two thirds the cost as in Canada, while higher end restaurants seem to be about half.

Telecommunications is very inexpensive in Bangalore.  Pay-as-you-go mobile telephone costs only a few dollars per month.  That’s right – a few dollars a month.  And satellite television is also only a few dollars per month.  You have to wonder how they do it. 

There is far more litter in India than in Canada.  Far more.  Did I say far more?  Ugh.  We would not put up with the amount of litter that I saw in India.  Unfortunately, the problem is so huge that it seems intractable – so culturally they are not driven to stop littering.  We saw a fellow on the highway toss out a pop bottle, quite intentionally, waiting and aiming for the water while driving over a river bridge.  Now, if that was someone in my family, they would be walking back to pick it up.  But nobody here seems to notice.  Too bad.

It’s hot in Bangalore.  It was 33 to 37 degrees Celsius every day that I was there.  It was dry for the first few days, but then it rained and the humidity went way up.  It’s the humidity that gets to you. 

Manikandan tells me that Chennai, where he and Srinivasan are from, is far hotter than Bangalore – about 4 degrees Celsius, on average.  Ugh. 

In spite of the heat, they do not have air conditioning in their houses.  When they built their houses in Hosur, some five to ten years ago, it was not as hot then, and they decided against putting air conditioning in. 

Did you catch that?  Their estimate is that in the past ten years, it has risen about four degrees Celsius in the past decade or so.  Chennai as well, apparently.  Ever hear of this thing they call Global Warming?  Well, let me assure you, they believe in it in Hosur.

In India: 09 and 10 May: The Longest Day, TGI Friday’s again, Cattle Cattle Everywhere, Yay Kabob, Fly Dean Fly, Sleep Dean Sleep!

I was up early (6 AM), finished my packing, checked out of the hotel and headed in to the office.  For something like 19 days, plus dinners and taxi rides, the cost was amazingly low.  They didn’t appear to have a locked concierge room at the hotel, so I took all my luggage to the office, so I could keep control of it.

Little did I know that this would be the longest day, ugh.  Long way before I sleep.

I met with ERL management in the morning, and gave my opinion of the products, the projects, and what they should be doing.

It was my last day with them, so Srini & Mani let me take them back to TGI Friday’s for lunch, at the Royal Minakshi Mall.  They were good sports!  The food was foreign to them, so they let me help them with the menus.  The mushroom soup was spicy but great, they enjoyed it too.

On the way back, just outside the mall, on the boulevard, there was a family of cows & calves just hangin’ out.  Wow.  Further down, on the back road trail, there was the bull!  It was obvious that he was the bull.  The picture doesn’t capture it, but, um, he has hangin’, yikes.  The boys walked well clear of the bull, and hastened to make me do the same.  “The bull, he is angry, he will hurt you.”  Well, I don’t know about angry, but he sure didn’t look happy.  Then again, he looked rather gaunt, and in similar conditions, I might feel the same (refer to pictures above, I’m not gaunt 🙂 ).

Oh, a cute little cattle family…  on a boulevard outside the big city mall!

…and here’s the daddy-O – the bull – leave him alone!

After lunch, I wrapped things up and got ready to head out.  Srini and Mani had insisted that I come with them down the block to Kabob Masti for a 6 PM “snack”.  Wow, was more like a meal!  What a fantastic meal, too.  Kabob pita wraps, popcorn chicken, wow.

Well, the skies were threatening to open up on us, but we made it back to the office without getting wet.  Ramu, the manager, wanted to take me to dinner, so we called a taxi, and headed out an hour or so later.  We went to a beautiful upscale vegetarian restaurant in the heart of town.  The food was wonderful, the ambiance was great.

The taxi dropped Ramu off at home at around 10 PM.  By this time, it was pouring rain.  As we made our way to the airport, the rain got heavier and heavier.  There was up to a foot of water in the street!  In some spots, the driver had to keep the car in low gear, and keep the engine revving to ensure that it didn’t stall.  And all the while, we were passing and were being passed by motorbikes – those poor folks were soaked to the bone!

After what seemed like a long, long time – about 1-1/2 hours – we made it to the airport.  A 3 hour wait with 300 of my close friends 🙂 and we were off to Frankfurt, a 9 hour flight.  The plane was nice, the service was good, but the plane was packed.  I was sooooo bored.  I watched TV, read a book, but could not, could not, sleep.  Maybe 1/2 hour, that’s all, ugh.

Then a 4-1/2 hour layover in Frankfurt.  No sleep.

Then an 8 hour flight to Montreal.  Fortunately, I had 3 seats to myself, yay!  The flight was relatively empty.  Again, very little sleep.  I don’t know why I can’t sleep on planes.  Oh well.

We were late getting in to Montreal, which put us behind on getting to our next gate.  I was supposed have a two hour layover in Montreal, but most of that was eaten up by waiting for our luggage!  My bag was tagged through to Winnipeg/YWG but I was getting stressed standing in line waiting to check it through.  When we realized that we could just dump our already tagged bags onto the belt, we did so, and ran to the gate – getting there only ten minutes before boarding.  At least we were on Canadian soil, yay!  That’s when I felt like kissing the ground 🙂

Again, no sleep, so sad.

By the time I arrived in Winnipeg, I felt completely wired.  My mother and son were waiting there for me at the airport, and I just wanted to get home.  Eric, the rat, diverted us over to a certain Tim Horton’s, and…  my brother was there, from Red Deer, to greet us!  Of course, had to sit and chat with him for a bit.  It turns out that he was in town to purchase a new Jetta TDI to replace the one that was totalled in a collision last month (not his fault).  It was really good to see him.

I finally got to bed around 11 PM.  My math might be faulty, but I think it was about 53 hours between getting up on Thursday morning in Bangalore, and finally hitting the sheets back home.  One word: ugh.

In India: 08 May: Dean Visits a Temple and One More Trip to the Lab

On Tuesday, Ramu, the Product Development Manager for ERL Relays & RTUs, asked if I had been to a temple yet.  No, I had not.  He was astounded, said that I had to go!  Why had I not gone to the one right across the street from the hotel?  I had walked past it several times.  Truthfully, I was concerned that I might, in my North American ignorance, be disrespectful of the spiritual nature of the temple.  After all, someone from a Hindu culture might not realize the rituals and customs associated with our Christian churches, and how would we like that?  Well, Ramu told Srini & Mani to take me to the temple on Wednesday morning.

So here we are, going to the Minaksha Temple, basically across the street from the Royal Minaksha Mall.  Another humbling experience.

There was a large courtyard where you had to remove your shoes and socks.  There was a “shoe check hut” staffed by a clerk, where they put your shoes into an organizer cube and gave you a chit.  Then you crossed the threshold and entered the temple, underneath the temple spire.

This particular temple spire was being renovated.  Wooden scaffolding and workers doing masonry high above your head.  You could see splats of material on the concrete & brick courtyard floor.  I worried that one of the workers could fall and go “splat” as well.  None did, as far as I know.

This temple was dedicated to a husband-and-wife pair of gods, so there were two central shrines, each tended by a holy man (not sure what to call them, monks maybe?).  Each came out from the shrine with a tray of burning incense candles, a pot of paint, and a basket of flower petals and packets of the same colour paint – you waved the smoke from the incense into your face, and the monk put a dot of paint on your forehead, then gave you select petals and a packet of the same colour paint to renew the dot later.  You optionally put a small donation in the basket.

The first monk put white paint on my forehead, but I was sweating profusely, not sure you can see it in the photos.  The second monk put red paint on my forehead, and that you can see in these photos taken after we emerged from the temple.

We were not allowed to take photos in the temple – in fact, cameras were entirely banned, so I can’t show what it looked like inside.

Srini & Mani led me around the walls of the temple, where likenesses of the other gods were placed.  We stopped at each one, and they explained the significance.  There was then a larger fenced-in area with eight gods, each looking in different directions – they were not to be able to see each other – and represented the sun, moon, and stars.  Srini & Mani walked eight times around this area, and I joined them.

We did some meditation and prayer back in the centre of the temple, at the main shrines.

Then, back to our shoes and back to work.

On the way out of the temple, there were several very elderly and very crippled women sitting, begging.  I had not brought enough money with me, had nothing to give.  But, Srini & Mani, both of whom of course knew about these things, had a little bit left, and gave some to the women.  Charity is part of the culture.

We ate in the lunchroom one more time.  Although the food is very different, I’m getting used to it.  Yes, the customs are different, but the lunchroom staff try hard to treat me very well.

In the afternoon, we went back to the lab, this time from the ERL office (other times had been VIA picking me up at the hotel), so we went on a private toll road.  Wow what a difference!  Very smooth, wide open, and empty.  Not many can afford it, I guess.  Back home in Canada, they would call this a “P3 partnership” because I think the local government participated in the toll road as well.

Contrasted with the smooth open fast toll road, back onto the city streets for the last few kilometres, ugh.  I was watching around, and looked up at the under-construction metro.  Yes, they are in the process of building a metro elevated train system all around Bangalore.  When it is completed in a few years, they will be amazing, and relieve the congestion, I’m sure.   Anyway, we drove right under one huge concrete section, probably 15 metres long by 5 metres wide and 2 or 3 metres thick, just suspended above us on some kind of a gantry crane machine machine.  Now, it was a large sturdy machine, but it still made me nervous… back to my old tricks, worrying too much?  You would never know what hit you, I guess 🙂

Anyway, our purpose in the lab this day was different, as mentioned before.  We were no longer trying to fix things, just getting a baseline.  We took the much-modified unit with us, but also a new unit, modified to (supposedly) the same level.  We did our tests, very efficiently, then bid our friends at the lab adieu, and were off again.

This being our last trip to the lab, Mani wanted to stop for a snack, so we stopped at a McDonald’s.  McDonald’s and KFC are huge over here, quite a delicacy to the Indian palate.  I think I mentioned it before, but let me reiterate – no beef.  Nada, zip, none.
The boys dropped me off at the hotel.  I did some paperwork, and zipped out to the flea market the Nobert and I had visited while he was here.  I picked up a few trinkets – the shopkeeper had already closed but opened “just” for me, nice.

Traffic in front of the hotel was, well, ridiculous.  Crazy.  At 9 o’clock at night!  I cannot describe it any other way.  I tried to capture some of it on video using my tablet.  This is me, trying to cross the street.  Sorry for the bit of bounce – I was trying to keep out of the way of the traffic!  What you do is, watch the locals – when they go, you go.  When they look nervous, you start looking around for a place of refuge!

In India: 05 May: A visit to the Science Museum, and a trip to Hosur

I started the day with breakfast in my room.  For some reason the restaurant was closed (wonder if that had anything to do with the torrential downpour last night?), so they did the room service thing.  That was nice.

I took an auto rickshaw to the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum.  I think I was overly nervous about these things.  It was fine.  Cost Rs100 (CA$2) to go some 7 km.  The inside of this fellow’s auto rickshaw was very nice, he was quite proud of it.  I got a picture of him and his vehicle.

A man and his machine…  Proud of the work he does.

I arrived just as the museum opened.  Cost of entry was Rs20 (CA$0.40).  Wow.  I gave my Rs30 change to the fellow behind me, who was coming in with his family.

It’s a great museum, with four floors of science and technology.  Each floor is split into two galleries – including one on electricity, space, electronics, biology, and a special exhibit on Srinivasa Ramanujan, “The Man Who Knew Infinity” – a fellow with humble beginnings, growing up near Chennai, who self taught himself so well that he became one of the great mathematicians of the late 19th and early 20th century.  Sadly, he suffered from ill health and died at a young age.  Fascinating.

On the roof of the building, there is a small snack stand and an open-air place to sit down and eat.  There’s a cafeteria as well, that serves hot vegetarian meals.

I bought a drink and a chocolate bar – no diet drinks here, anywhere – so ugh a real Pepsi – but made up for it by having it in a real glass bottle.  Haven’t had a real glass Pepsi bottle in my hand for perhaps 30 years!

I spent about two hours in the museum, then headed north to Cubbon Park,

Cubbon Park is the largest open air park in Bangalore.  I also checked out Queen’s Park, which is a more formal English style park that runs alongside it.

Emerging from the far end, I came back down the other side of the street, walking past a huge cricket stadium, M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, where the Bangalore Royal Challengers play.

Wandering on, I came to the M.G. Park, so named for the “Father of India”, Mahatma Ghandi.  Now this is a very nice, well kept park with a big statue of M.G. in it.  Unfortunately, the gates were closed & locked, so I could only look from the sidewalk.  I’m not sure if this, too, was related to the elections, or something else.

I continued to wander, ending up at UB City, which has to be the most upscale shopping mall that I’ve ever been in, wow.  Even a Rolex store, I’ve never seen anything like it.  It was very opulent.

From there, I took an auto rickshaw back to the hotel, had a shower, just in time for Srini to arrive – he was a bit early.  We headed out… but no motorbike, he was anticipating possible thundershowers and took the bus.  So, we took a city bus out to the highway, and waited there for an inter-city bus.  The city bus was quite modern, with air conditioning and comfortable seats.  The inter-city bus took a loooong time to arrive, and when it did, it was full to overflowing and didn’t even stop.  The next one arrived a minute later, also full, but stopped and picked up a few passengers.  Srini held back, probably wisely, as I’m not sure how well I’d do in a really really full bus here.  A few minutes later, a third one came by, and it actually had a couple of seats open, so we snagged two and were on our way.

It was quite a ride.  Yes, we were packed in pretty tightly.  this bus had no air conditioning, but there were bars on the lower part of the windows, and the doors were wide open (read: no doors).  Now, the breeze from driving at 80 km/hr was nice, but I kept looking out that open door and wondering how likely it was that someone could fall out.  I was sitting right across from the back door.  I’ve seen people in the city jump on and jump off a moving city bus through such an open door, but never rode in a bus with an open door.  Yikes.

Srini sent a text to Mani and Mani met us with his car along the road in Hosur.  His elder son was having a swimming lesson, so we went to the pool to check it out.  Wow, an open air pool at the local luxury hotel, that is used for swimming lessons during the summer holidays.  I wanted to jump right in.  Oof, it was hot, must have been 35 deg C or more.   I saw an instructor (or was it a parent) throw two children into the deep end – they were petrified of the water – I guess that is their way of acclimatizing their kids – wow.  I guess it’s kinda wussy to teach them the jellyfish float and stuff these days, huh.

We chatted about coconuts.  I looked up, ugh, look at them up there, if one dropped on my it would wipe me out!  No worry, said Mani, even when ripe you have to go up and tug on them to get them down.

So Mani, his wife and son, Srini, and I, all piled into Mani’s car, and we headed off to Mani’s home.  We passed the prestigious Titan Watch Company, the leading watch maker in India.  I visited Mani’s home and Srini’s home.  They were quite nice.   Very comfortable and clean.  Both have rooftop terraces, Mani’s has a tent covering so you can relax in the daytime, in spite of the sun (!). 

It turns out that, like I saw in Egypt, the houses have support pillars for adding floors as the family grows.  Unlike Egypt, however, there isn’t raw rebar sticking out of the rooftop, they are finished nicely, so you an actually use the rooftop.  Srini said his home is built to add four more floors for a total of five.  Wow.

Srini pointed out his UPS.  Yes, a Uninterruptable Power Supply for the house.  Everyone has them!  I asked why, and he told me that there’s a power cut every day, for up to two or three hours!  His UPS can run the entire house, full load, for about six hours, although then it takes more than 24 hours to recharge – fortunately, such a long outage rarely occurs, and they are never running full load, especially not for long.  
There was a power outage at the time we were there!  It went on right into the night.  You could tell at night in the marketplace, the entire place was dark except for businesses that were lit up (most have generators).  And of course the motorbikes and the cars, too too many motorbikes and cars.

At Mani’s place, he said that I had to try coconut water.  His wife snagged a coconut, took it outside and whacked it, and poured some into a glass.  Interesting taste, hard to describe.  It’s kind of coconut-y, sweet, a bit salty, and a bit oily.  I’ve been told that it’s good for what ails you…. maybe I should take up coconut water as a liquid refreshment, all the time!?!  This isn’t the same as coconut milk, which comes from ripe coconuts – coconut water comes from green coconuts.

I sampled some “pre-bananas”, which are immature green bananas, very different.  Mani is growing bananas at his house, they won’t bear fruit for a few years…

We went up on Srini’s rooftop.  He has a rooftop water tank.  He pumps water up to the tank, then the tank provides the water pressure for the house.  Like the old-school water towers.

They are in an area that is just starting to be developed.  This means plenty of open space for the kids to run & play.  There were two pickup games of cricket being played as we wandered around, and we saw a third family practicing cricket throws and batting in the street.  Cricket is huge here!

After visiting their homes, Srini and Mani took me to the marketplace in Hosur.  Wow, it was huge, block after block after block of small shops, grocers, and restaurants.  And, we only saw about 1/3 of it all!  We checked out a clothing store, they were harassing me about sarees 🙂   We looked at men’s clothes too, I got a new cycling shirt and a traditional long, long Indian dress shirt.  When we got to the checkout, they insisted on buying it for me.   I am humbled by their generosity.

We had supper at Mani’s favourite restaurant – of course the food was excellent – and then Mani & Srini drove me back to my hotel.  I find the traffic here rather scary during the day.  Well, let me tell you, it doesn’t get any better at night, on the highway!  Oh well, we made it safely, and from what I heard the next day, they made it safely back to Hosur as well.

In India: 07 May: Thank God it’s…. Tuesday?

Tuesday was an average day.  I worked on both projects, we made plans for tomorrow’s visit to the test lab.  We’ll be at the office Wednesday morning, then over to the lab for the afternoon.  We are planning to put together two systems that represent the setup of our best results so far, then test them as a baseline.  Then we’ll get the changes underway for the next generation of boards.  We’ll just assume that we can’t get there with these ones, and use our best information, knowledge and experience, to get close.

Today again I walked over to the Royal Minaksha Mall on my own, for lunch.  I wandered a bit, ended up at TGI Friday’s, was quite…  American.  Just what I needed.  My body’s on a bit of a revolt.  Not that Indian food is a problem, just that I need some – um – more “traditional fare”, at least traditional for me, some of the time.

On the way to the mall, I noticed a lot of styrofoam around on the back road I was taking.  I’d been down here several times, this time looked… ugly with all that styrofoam.

On the way back from the mall, I saw a woman carrying  a basket of goods on her head.  She was so graceful, it seemed effortless.  I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do that!

In India: 06 May: The Boomtown Rats didn’t like Mondays, and now I kind of see why

On Saturday, we made big plans as to how we were going to get into the test lab and stomp this problem.  I had ideas and was confident that things would go well.  I had backup ideas in case those things didn’t work.  Srini and Somiyan had done their preparations, the units were ready, we were ready to deal with it and go back to the office.

Well, it didn’t go well.  It went from mediocre to bad to worse.  By the time the day was done, we were wondering what we could do to make it work better.  We tried some novel approaches and that didn’t work either.

We had planned to come back on Tuesday to do more testing, based on the assumption that we would make headway on Monday.   We decided instead to go to the office, ponder, and regroup on Tuesday, and do further testing on Wednesday.  Thankfully!

Lunch was again at the Hotel Nandhini, and was great as it was before.  Again I left with my lips burning  🙂   The sign of good Indian food, or a tenderfoot from North America eating it?

In India: 04 May: Another working Saturday

Yes, another working Saturday.   There is a lot to do on each of these projects.  I’m working closely with the hardware engineer, Srinivasan, to make the necessary circuit changes in a hurry.

We’ve also got project management challenges.  The two projects are competing for some of the same resources, so it’s going to be tough to get everything done on time.

At lunch, I slipped away on my own to the Royal Minakshi Mall – I wanted to browse on my own.  I went up to the food court for lunch, but my choice, “US Pizza”, is closed and gone!  Oh well.  My next choice, “TGI Friday’s”, was closed due to the election.  I’m told that there was too much drunken brawling going on, so they close all liquor establishments from 5 PM on Friday through to 5 PM on Sunday, the voting day.

Liquor Stores, Bars, Restaurants that Serve Alcohol are closed on the last 2 days up to an election

In the early afternoon, Ramu stopped by and suggested that I visit the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum tomorrow, that it would be worth the trip.  I figured maybe I might.

So it was getting rather late, so at 6:15 PM, I called for a car to pick me up at 7 PM.   In the meantime, I realized that I had not done some sketches critical to board layout for the PC board that we were working on, so I took the work with me.

Srini said he would collect the sketches from me tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon, when he would pick me up on his motorbike and take me to Hosur, where he and Mani live.  We’d hang out at their homes, and check out the market.  Now, I haven’t had a ride on a motorbike since I was 18 years old.  I was a bit petrified about it, but figured that it was in keeping with my theme for the entire rest of the trip, to say, “to H with it”, and just do it.  Something to look f-f-f-forward t-t-t-to.

At about that time, the skies opened up and we had a torrential downpour.  By the time the car picked me up, there was 1/2 foot to 1 foot of water laying in the streets.  The pedestrians were picking their way through it, many in sandals.  Yuck!

The rain had stopped, but traffic was completely snarled anyway.  The trip home was excruciating – first stop and go (more stop than go), then bumping down sidestreets, smaller sidestreets, narrow alleyways, nearly getting schmucked at every corner.  Most neighbourhoods were pitch dark – a “power cut” had happened – blackouts.

When we got to the hotel, the block around it was dark as well, but the hotel was well lit, as always – its diesel generator was running.  I was told that there are a lot of “power cuts” during heavy rains.  All evening after that, the power was on and off.  In my room, the lights would go out for say 30 seconds or so, while the generator kicked in, then they would come back on.  Fortunately, the Internet stayed up the whole time 🙂

At around midnight, I remembered the sketches that I said I would do.  I took an hour and drew them up, then, exhausted, crashed out.  During the night, a “power cut” happened and my CPAP machine stopped, and I awoke, very confused.  The power came back on, and I fell asleep again.  Love that machine, but too bad that it’s reliant on electricity to do its job, ha ha.

In India: 02 and 03 May: Entranced by Sarees, One More Postcard

So, yes, I am entranced by sarees – the traditional garment that the Indian women wear.   On Thursday the 2nd, I asked a couple of the guys about them, and Darshan took me to the Royal Minakshi Mall for lunch, and we went to the Reliance store (big chain) to see some.

There are many different materials, colours, styles, and types.  Often they come with an extra yard or so of fabric, from which the wearer is to fashion their own blouse or whatever undergarment they wish under the sash.  Others have no extra material, so you are expected to just wear clothes you already have, or a ready-made blouse.

Some of the saree sashes are translucent, some are opaque.  Some are intended to wrap right around, cover he entire upper body, and some just literally as a sash.  It was quite interesting to see.

No, I didn’t buy a saree.  I didn’t see anything that would fit me 🙂

I went back to the little post office again, last postcard in hand, already with stamps, and ready to go.  The fellow scanned it closely and cancelled the stamps with his hand cancelling stamp.  Sigh.  Like being transported back in time!

On Friday the 3rd, we were working away as usual, and decided to go up to the lunchroom for lunch.  We were going to take the elevator.  We waited for about 5 minutes as the elevator went up & down, passing our floor constantly, even though the button was pressed repeatedly and was lit, saying that it knew we were waiting.  What fun!

There seemed to be a lot of power outages on Friday, not sure why.  It’s eerie seeing all the vehicles on the road with their headlights, but no streetlights, oodles of pedestrians, and the houses dark.

In India: 01 May: May Day Holiday!!! …but not for us

It turns out that the first of May is the Labour Day holiday here in India.  Everybody gets the day off, but the product development crew is here because I’m here all the way from Canada, and we want to maximize the amount we get done while I am here.  Sorry about that, folks.

The air conditioning in the office is switched off at night to save power.  Security controls the switch, and generally turn it on at 9 AM.  On this day, security staff were there, but they didn’t turn on the switch on at 9 AM as they were supposed to.  The office was stifling hot… until we realized what was going on, and harangued them into flipping the switch 🙂

I worked most of the day on my progress reports on both products, the F-PRO 2000 and F-PRO 3000.

There are three washroom facilities on our floor – men’s with stalls & urinals, ladies which I would assume has stalls, and a centre, larger one that is private and has a shower.  I decided to use the separate one, as it always seems to have toilet paper.  Well, on my way out, I went to the soap dispenser, a pump, put my hand under it, and pressed down on the pump, but instead of coming out the nozzle, it squirted sideways onto my shirt!  And ran down my shirt, ugh.  So, off with the shirt, rinsed it out in the sink.  Well, I was so sweaty that hardly anyone noticed… and I was nice and cool for a couple of hours.  It’s so hot here though that it dries out in record time, wow.  Soon my shirt was clean and dry (soap, wash, rinse, dry).

Mani ran out at lunchtime and brought back big bags of food for lunch – “veg” and “non-veg”.  There was a crew of about eight or ten of us, made our way up to the lunchroom, and we had a bit of a festive spread.  It was great!  The food was good too, although they keep giving me mystery foods and saying, “Try this.”  Then they say, “It’s hot.”  Well I still have to try it, and usually it’s wonderful, but my lips are always burning after I eat with these guys.  I’m starting to think that they get joy out of seeing me sweat!

Prabhu and Srinivasan are good friends.

Darshan arranged that a Joyson and Prabhu would take me to the Bangalore Palace early in the afternoon, but I insisted that I work later to get the job done.  By the time we went, it was crazy traffic, and the cab driver was a bit surly.  He dumped us outside the gates, we had to walk with all my crap (briefcase & bag of other goodies) in to the palace (sorry about that, guys).  It was quite interesting – this palace was used for the royal family right up into the 1950s.  This palace was more like a very large home for a very rich family, than the hugely opulent amazing palace in Mysore – although, there was the main room where the king held court – very impressive.  This palace also had the first lift (“elevator” in North American speak) in all of India, an ornate wooden structure that went from the ground floor of the main entrance to the next floor above.

Bangalore Palace

 We had a short visit the castle (because I made us late), then another taxi picked us up and zipped us by the Bangalore State Legistlative Building.  Pretty impressive, a very beautiful building.  They are in the middle of construction around it, so we couldn’t get in close for a look.

Prabhu and I in front of the State Legislature

The Central building of the State Legislature

In India: 29 and 30 April: Lab day 3 sliding backward, Meeting ERL management

Overnight on Sunday night, I had, um, gastro problems…  I was worried!  I started the Cipro that I brought from home.  Thankfully, the problems went away in about 24 hours or so, but finishing the sequence.

The boys from ERL picked me up shortly after 10 AM, and off to the lab we went.   We had had a great day on Friday, but just before the end of the day, we “went a bridge too far” and things got worse, but we couldn’t seem to backtrack and get success again.  So today, we were going to get back on track.

Alas, it was not to be.  We tried many, many things – lots of tests and experiments, but with little success.  We left at 6:20 PM after a long day.

The bright spot in the day was that we went to Gokul Krishna for lunch again.  Again, very good.

On Tuesday, we were doing strategy and planning for both the F-PRO 2000 EFT testing and F-PRO 3000 development.  I was called to a meeting with the top management of ERL where we discussed the work to be done, the progress (or lack thereof), and the schedule.  Now, for the most part, I declined comment the schedule, since I am not familiar with processes and outsource in India, and do not have deep knowledge of the resources available.  But certainly all eyes are on these two projects.

I had a couple of postcards to mail (nephews et al 🙂 ), and had tracked down a post office nearby the office – maybe 3/4 km away or so – 4 blocks east, 4 blocks north.  Late in the morning, then, I headed out to find this post office, using the GPS in my phone.

Well, I wandered a bit but I found it – literally a hole-in-the-wall with a metal frame wicket, behind which an elderly gentleman stood.  It appears to be a family operation, because when I put my postcards down, he didn’t know the postage to Canada, and bellowed to his wife to call head office and find out!

It turns out that it costs Rs15 (15 rupees) to send a postcard to Canada.  At Rs50 to the Canadian dollar, that’s about 30 cents.  What a deal!  I hope they get to their destination, and don’t end up in a dead letter office because of insufficient postage.

They put the stamps on my postcards – Rs10, Rs4, and Rs1, and cancelled them right there with a little hand cancellation stamp.  How cute!

At the last minute, I realized that I had one more to send, so I bought an extra set of stamps.

That’s either my thumb, or the helmet of a motorbike rider.  I’m thinking “thumb”.  Sorry.

There’s the Hulimavu Post Office.  Expand the image and zoom in and you will see the wicket.

When I mentioned my adventure to Ramu, he told me that this was actually a village – or what was a village, before the city engulfed it, some time ago.  So in there you will find a small market, shops of every kind, and services like a clinic, etc.  Now that he mentioned it, I did see all of the above.  How cool is that?  A village in the middle of the huge city. 

We ate in the lunchroom upstairs at the office, and to many folks’ amazement, it was fine for me.  Gerry was especially tickled at how I was able to manage most (not all!) of the Indian food set out for us, and that I actually knew what biryani was 🙂