In India: Transportation: Yikes, how do they do it?

Things to note:

1. They drive on the left, like the British!  Note that much of the world still does.  In fact, North Americans drove on the left for the first years of the car’s introduction.  Why did we change?  Who knows.

2. They beep constantly.  Like a pack of geese, signalling to each other.  They beep when they come up on somebody, they beep when they pass, they beep when they complete the pass and pull back in.  They beep when someone else passes them.  They beep to acknowledge other peoples’ beeps.  Wow, traffic is quite… musical here… yeah, that’s it…  musical.

3. Lane markings are merely a suggestion.  Where there are two lanes marked, there will be three or four vehicles side by side – more, if motorbikes and bikes.

4. Almost all cars have standard transmissions.  I’m told that it could be more than 99%.  There is a lot of shifting gears going on here.

5. Many more diesel cars here.  Not sure why this is, but it is.

6. There are many, many more motorbikes than cars.  

On the Way to India: 19 to 21 April: Getting There: Oh, the joys of transportation in the modern age!

Really, the trip to Bangalore was uneventful, just… long.  We arrived in Bangalore about 26 hours after we left Winnipeg.  Of course, we had layovers in Toronto and in Frankfurt.  I think I caught an hours’ sleep, total, over the whole stretch.  I watched Casablanca (I cried, again) and I don’t know what all else; I tried to watch Skyfall on the airplane system but had trouble making any sense of it, as it was either drowned out by noise, muffled, or public address announcements pre-empted it.  I read.  I relaxed.  I shifted from side to side.  I took a walk… or two.

A bit punch drunk, I sit in a restaurant at Frankfurt International Airport after we had breakfast… for the third time

My colleague Norbert looks more relaxed than I do, in that restaurant in the Frankfurt International Airport.  He has a German background and he understands the language!

So, after this long, gruelling, but largely uneventful journey, we land in Bangalore at 1:10 AM.  It’s hot, even in the middle of the night.  Customs was easy, we picked up our luggage, and went outside.

Well it’s just like in the movies.  Hundreds of guys waiting to pick up fares.  They all want to be helpful, they all want to know if you need a ride.  We finally found one fellow holding a sign with Norbert’s name on it, and we were off to the hotel.

OK, so the first ride in a car in India.  More on the general experience of driving in India later… or rather, riding in a car – you won’t catch me trying to drive here!

We got to our hotel at about 3 AM, checked in, and promptly zonked out.  I can’t imagine why – something about being on the go for, um, 35 hours straight? 

Preparing for Trip to India: Before 19 April: Just getting started: Preparing for the trip… or not!

If you know me, then you know that getting ready for a trip is a bit of an ordeal.  I have so much to do, things to take (think: CPAP machine, prescription drugs, must-have computer and accessories), and plans to make.  But, you also know that I keep busy doing all kinds of other things, and never leave enough time to actually do the packing.  So it was on this trip.

I found myself at 10 PM on Thursday evening the 18th of April, putting my carefully crafted packing plan into action – in other words, blitz!  Yikes, realized that I needed a few things, but fortunately Safeway is only 2 blocks away and I zipped over there before it closed, got everything I needed… or so I thought.   I got the laundry going, and it ran until something like 12:30 in the night… and did the actual packing… wasn’t done until after 2 AM.

Oh yes, somewhere in there I had to prepare my tax “story” for my accountant, along with all my supporting documentation – and it was important this year, having relocated back from Markham last June.  Another long story for another time 🙂

Then, up at 6 AM, more preparations, tear down the computer stuff and pack it away,   Oops, in spite of my list, two more things to get!  I raced off to Safeway to get them, thought I could make it back just before my mother came to pick me up at 9:30.  On the way back, just as I reached my apartment block, I badly sprained my ankle – ouch!  Oh well, pushed through, packed, and my mother came on by.

I needed to deliver my documents to the accountant, pick up a money belt, and finally got to the airport, whew!  Another adventure begins.  Or rather, continues – it was an adventure from when I decided to go on this trip.  I finally got to catch my breath in the departure lounge – erk.  And work out the kinks in my ankle.  Norbert appeared, looking cool as a cucumber.  I need to cultivate that ability.  We hopped an Air Canada plane, and off to Toronto we went.

Prologue to the Trip to India: The Odyssey Begins

After a period of unemployment for me, a former employer, ERLphase Power Technologies, contacted me and said they were looking for someone to assist the product development team at their parent company, Easun Reyrolle Limited of Bangalore, in the development of a new protective relay.  This work is right up my alley, as I’ve done this type of work for most of the past twenty years (wow has it been that long? ).  So, I signed on for the job.

Bangalore time is 10-1/2 hours ahead of Winnipeg time.  This means that in order for the team in Bangalore to “meet” with me (using Skype), I zip to the office early for 7 AM, while for the Bangalore team it’s the end of their day at 5:30 PM, and they stay into the evening to talk to me.  Amazing.

We were having these meetings pretty consistently on Tuesdays and Fridays, and often other days too, trying to get me to understand the work that has been done, the requirements of the product, the decisions that have been made.

Language was a bit of an issue – or rather, English accents.  My accent is more gibberish to the Indian team, and I struggle sometimes to understand what they say.  The occasional burp of Skype didn’t help matters.

Some days, the Bangalore team could not make the connection – due to power outages, or Internet problems.  This, combined with the language issue and the plain difficulty of communicating over so great a distance with people you hardly know, made progress slow.

Originally, we planned to have key members of the Bangalore team come to Winnipeg to work with me and others.  Unfortunately, visa restrictions made an extended trip impossible – and an extended trip was the right thing, just not going to happen right now.

So, it was planned that I would travel to Bangalore for a couple of weeks and assist in person.  Now, I had nothing against India, but I really didn’t have much interest in going there.   But, my frustration at slow progress made me lobby to make the trip.

Norbert Wegner, Hardware Development Manager, was to accompany me on the trip.  We booked the flights, booked the hotel… and prepared to jet away!