Sunday, December 28, 2014

One More Maid Anecdote

Another incident with the maid.  Having a maid, who comes twice a day to clean the flat, is a new experience (luxury) for us.  Back home in USA, a Mexican maid will come once a week to clean our home. We always wanted to keep our home (be owned or rented) neat and clean.

One day last week, my wife asked the maid to clean the lower edges of the living room (hall) wall.  Daily the maid will mop the floor but never the edges of the wall.  So there gathered lot of dust.  The maid replied:

This is not your own flat.  You have only rented this.  In addition, you are going to be here only for a short duration. So why are you so particular about keeping the flat clean?

My wife gave a big lecture how she always wanted to keep her home neat and clean.  The maid reluctantly cleaned the edges.

She is also nosy.  One day a friend of mine came to see me.  Since he was in a hurry to go, I came down to the street level and talked to him for a few minutes.  The maid asked me who was that.  I just ignored her and kept walking.

Now, the watchman in the building.  He is the husband of the maid.  I don’t know what kind of a security guy he is. I have seen him sound asleep by 9 pm (near the ground floor car park area).  Since he does odd and sundry chores for the residents (like paying the electricity and television bills, getting takeout food from restaurants, etc.), he tries to boss over everyone.

Since I am not used to this, I never ask him to do any extra work.  Therefore, I always put him in his right place.  Here is an example:

One day, he came to me and asked me to shut the elevator (lift) door with an extra push. He said otherwise the elevator will not work and other tenants are inconvenienced.  I asked him how long this  problem exists.  He said for the last 3 months.  I told him that, instead of telling me how to close the elevator door, he should tell the President of the flat owners association to call the elevator company mechanic to fix the problem.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Expert Now

I have become an expert now.  In what?
I came to Chennai 3 months ago.  I was terrified of crossing the streets.  So much oncoming traffic.  Trucks, cars, buses, autos, two wheelers, regular bicycles, dogs, cattle, and what else.  They never stop or even slow down for people crossing the street – even at the designated crossing spots.
I come from a place where the (California) law says the roads belong to pedestrians.  Motor vehicles MUST stop at all times when they see a pedestrian crossing the street – even if it is not the designated crossing spot.
In Chennai, while crossing the streets, I used to hide behind little old 90 year old ladies.  I used to keep them as human shields and cross the street.  Now, after 3 months of practice/experience, I have become an expert.  I no longer hide behind 90 year ladies.  Nowadays, I am leading even college boys while crossing the streets.  What is the trick I learnt?
Be patient at all times and wait for the right time to cross.
When your brain says cross the street, then do not hesitate.  Cross the street immediately.

(Courtesy: YouTube)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gift Giving

A relative of ours had a baby born recently in Chennai.  We visited the mother and the baby yesterday.  As is the custom, we placed some money as our humble gift on the baby’s tiny pink hands.  The young parents thanked us.  We came home happily.
After coming home, we (my wife and I) reminded ourselves of an incident that happened 2 years ago in Gurgaon.  My brother-in-law (my wife’s brother) lives in Gurgaon and he is married to a Punjabi girl.  While we were in Gurgaon we happened to visit one of her relatives.  They had a baby born recently (at that time).  Those relatives are no strangers to us.  We know them very well.
As is the custom and also we wanted to, I placed some money in the baby’s hand.  The young mother refused to accept.  She kept saying “no” “no” “no”.  I insisted 2 times and she kept saying “no”.  I then gave up.
When returning home, my brother in law and his wife said I should have forced the money into the baby’s hand in spite of the mother repeatedly saying “no”.  She said it is our custom to say “no” several times before accepting the gift. 
(I did not ask her then.  Now I think I should have asked her what she meant by “our custom”. Did she mean “Punjabi custom” or “North Indian custom” or “Indian custom” or “human custom”?)
I basically trust people.  If I offer something and they say “no”, I sincerely think they mean it.  I am like that.  If my intention is to accept something, I never say “no” for a few times just for the sake of it.  I do not like the “izhupari” (rough translation: tug of war).
When I am giving a gift, please accept it graciously. I do not want to beg you to accept my gift.  I do not want to argue with you to accept my gift.  I do not want to fight with you to accept my gift.  If I end up doing that, I am exhausted.  The happiness is gone.
What do you say?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hotel Experience

Last week we visited Guruvayooor in Kerala.  This is one of the holiest places for Lord Krishna.  I have no idea which hotel to book for staying.  I surfed the web and booked a hotel through Travel Division.  I have no idea if they are affiliated with Kerala Government or a private travel consultant.  Anyhow I booked in a hotel in Guruvayoor.
We had a good darshan of Lord Guruvayoorappan.
It is time to check out.  The time was 7 PM.  It was pouring cats and dogs.  We have to catch the train at Thrissur, which is about a 35 minute drive from Guruvayoor.
We go to the reception desk and I give my Visa credit card.  He took my card and looked at it for almost 2 minutes.  (To us, it looked like 2 hours.)  Then he asked me if I can pay in cash.  I told him I don’t have that kind of cash with me.  I asked him what is the problem in accepting my credit card.  I pointed out at the big sign at the reception that says they will accept Visa and Mastercard.
He then threw me a curve ball.  He said his card swipe machine is not working.  I told him there is nothing I can do about it.  He than asked me if I have any debit card.  I asked him back: “will that “swipe machine” work on a debit card and not on my visa credit card?”  I also told him I don’t have any debit card but I have a mastercard if he wants to use that.  He never replied.
He picked up the phone, dialed someone, and had a serious conversation with someone for 5 minutes in Malayalam.  I did not understand a thing of what he was saying.  One English word I picked up was “commission”.  He used that word 3 times.
After hanging up the phone, he swiped my Visa credit card in his machine.  It was accepted.  He gave me the small print out to sign.  I did and he gave me my credit card back.
Something bizarre happened then.  I asked for a copy of the detailed statement of account for which I was charged.  Usually, in hotels, during check out time, you do not have to “ask” for it. They themselves will give you.  That will show all charges – room charges, tax, bar charges, food charges, and others in detail.
He said I have to get that from Travel Division from whom I booked my reservation.  Now I have no way to verify if those charges are correct/legit or not.  I have stayed in hundreds of hotels in many countries including India.  This is the first time a hotel will not give a statement of account and ask me to get it from the organization through which I booked my reservations.
We had to catch the train.  We did not have time.  So we left.
During our car ride from Guruvayoor to Thrissur, I was telling my wife I would like to call our Visa card company in USA and make a stop payment on this until the hotel send us the statement of account to our home.  My wife being a Goody Two-shoes convinced me not to do it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Chennai Tidbits

Couple of weeks ago, I had to print something.  Since I don’t have a printer at home, I was looking for a browsing center to print my stuff.  I asked a policeman who was standing in the street.  He pointed to me where the browsing center was and I thanked him and started to walk away.  But he wanted to prolong the conversation:
Policeman – Where do you work?
Me – I am not working now.
Policeman – Where did you work before?
Me – Telephone (It is not a lie. But wanted to give a vague answer)
Policeman – In Chennai?
Me – No
Policeman – What was your salary? (I think he assumed I worked for the Government)
Me – What can I say about my salary!  (Again wanted to give a vague answer)
Policeman – You are correct. Us government servants are paid very poorly.  You are better off. At least you work for the central government.  (I have no idea what he meant.)
Last night, midnight, I had to go to the Chennai airport to receive someone who was coming from Frankfurt.  I waited close to the door where passengers are coming out after customs.  I saw there were about 5 guys wearing suits also waiting there.  One of the guys came to me and we had the following conversation:
Suit Guy – Sir, this is a restricted area and you cannot stand here.  You have to move to a different location.
(I looked at his badge and it said “Westin”.  I immediately recognized he is a chauffeur from Westin Hotel waiting to pick up a passenger.) (I was very calm and quiet.)
Me (in a soft tone) – Are you police?
Suit Guy – No
Me (in a harsh tone) – Then you shut up and get out of my face.
The suit guy walked away.
Stay tuned for more.                                                                                         

Friday, November 7, 2014

Jaipur Travel – Photos

In my previous post, I said I am not including any photos of Jaipur.  I assumed that you all either have been to Jaipur or seen a lot of photos from that city.  However, a few blogger friends want to see, at least, a few photos that I have clicked.  So here they are:
                                                               Jaipur City Wall
                                                      Few Photos from City Palace

Ganga Jal
Birla Mandir at the base of Moti Dungari Hill
Few Photos from Hawa Mahal
Jal Mahal
Spitting Fire at Chokhi Dhani
Dinner at Chokhi Dhani
Few Photos from Amber Fort

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Jaipur Travel – Tidbits

We have never been to Jaipur before.  Therefore, we visited Jaipur last week.  Don’t worry.  I am not going to shove 50 photos in your face.  I know you all have been either to Jaipur before or have seen those photos umpteen number of times.
I want to share a few tidbits.
Some of you may remember I wrote on June 23, 2012 about our train journey from Amritsar to New Delhi.  I titled it “Best Train Ride (in India)”.  We wanted to experience the same again.  Therefore, we booked Chennai-Jaipur-Chennai by AC First Class.  VERY BIG MISTAKE.
The AC First class can accommodate 10 passengers.  4 berths in Cabin A, 4 in Cabin B, and 2 in Cabin C (Coupe).  There were a total of 7 passengers only.  We were in Cabin A (2 people), Cabin B had 3 people, and Cabin C had 2 people.  There are 2 lavatories for these 10 people only.  But only 7 passengers.  2 Hours into the journey, both bathrooms became so dirty and the whole compartment was full of bad smell that we felt like vomiting.  We asked the attendant to clean them and he took his own time.  I think people go out of the way to dirty the bathrooms.  How much wreck a few people can havoc in 2 bathrooms in the train in just 2 hours!
We were so disappointed with the train journey, we cancelled the return train tickets and flew back to Chennai.  Lesson learnt: Don’t go by trains in India unless it is a Shatabdi Express and the travel time is less than 6 hours.
This is interesting.  We were going in a taxi in Jaipur.  It was a long beautiful road. Both sides were lined with lots of trees.  The center divider had lots of plants and flowers.  The ride was very smooth and no bumps.  We were impressed.  We asked the driver (in our broken Hindi) the name of the street.  He said it is jalan road.  We did not get what he said.  We asked again.  He said it is called jalan.  We asked him to spell.  He did not know how to spell and also got a little bit irritated.  Therefore, we did not pursue further.  We were looking out and at an intersection we got the name of the street.  It is J.L.N. Marg.  Ahhh. Now we know.  We still think it stands for Jawaharlal Nehru.  Just curious.  Jawaharlal is one word and not two words (Jawahar Lal). Therefore, it should be J.N. Marg and not J.L.N. Marg – assuming it is named after Jawaharlal Nehru. What do you think?
We enjoyed so many places in Jaipur.  One of the unforgettable experience is the Rajasthani food at Chokhi Dhani.  One of the best dining experience.  Chokhi Dhani is an ethnic village resort in Jaipur. (I am about to publish this post.  Someone just told me there is a Chokhi Dhani in Chennai also.  Will try that one also soon.)
One small suggestion for those who are planning to go to Chokhi Dhani in Jaipur.  Please engage the taxi/auto for round trip.  We did not know what time we will be back.  We thought we will hire a taxi from Chokhi Dhani for our return journey to the hotel.  ANOTHER  MISTAKE.  We were ready to go back at 10:30 pm.  Hundreds of taxis and autos.  But all of them were waiting for passengers already booked the round trip.  We walked a long distance and came to the main road where there were some lights.  We just stood there for 20 minutes thinking some empty taxi/auto will stop and pick us.  Finally one auto stopped.  There were already a middle-aged couple in that auto.  The driver asked where we are going?  We told the name of the hotel.  He said he would drop us there and named his price.  We agreed.  I asked the male passenger if it is ok with them.  He said fine.   My wife sat in the back with that couple.  I sat in the front with the auto driver.  In fact, I actually enjoyed the ride.  My wife was the one worried to death throughout the ride that I may fall off the auto.
One more thing we noticed in Rajasthan (or in the whole northern part of India) that young people give lot of respect and care to elders.  We rarely see that in Chennai.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

National Integration

After coming to Chennai, one thing that surprised me is the large number of North Indians working in Chennai.  They are in the IT industry, medical profession, but majority are in the low paying jobs.  Like restaurant workers, service apartment workers, sales girls/guys in retail shops, etc.
Several years ago, the traffic movement was only one way.  Educated and uneducated laborers will migrate from South to Bombay and Delhi.  In addition, every South Indian family will go to Bombay, Delhi, and Agra for sightseeing.  But very few (very rarely) North Indians visited Chennai or any city.  One exception was older North Indians making pilgrimage visit to Sri Rangam and Rameshwaram.  Also, a few of them were brave enough to open business and settle here.
There was a general perception that North Indians never considered the 4 Southern states as part of India.  Our history books also did not do a good job.  It contained details of North Indian freedom fighters only. No mention of any South Indian freedom fighters.  In the South, many streets were named after North Indian leaders.  Not a single street was named in the North after any South Indian leaders.  Later, in New Delhi, they named one or two (due to pressure from Southern politicians.)
I am not complaining.  I am just giving the background and would like to say the current situation works great for national integration. I know a few Tamil families in New Delhi who are now 4th or 5th generation.  They carry only Tamil names but all their living style, including the language they speak at home, is that of a Delhi-wala.
In about 10 to 15 years, the same thing will happen in Chennai and other Southern cities where North Indians will settle comfortably.  Majority of North Indians in Chennai may be low paid laborers now.  But very soon their kids will become doctors, IT professionals, etc. and live here with family very happily.  Lot of their relatives will visit them here.  (Couple of guys in a restaurant told me they are from Bangladesh.  Wonder how they obtained work visa.)
I would call this true national Integration.  What do you say?
PS:  If you are going to work in a place, it is better to learn the local language and local customs.  I saw in Chennai many North Indian workers speak Tamil or trying to speak Tamil sincerely.  But a few of these workers insist on speaking Hindi only.  If this is their attitude they will not survive for a long time.  People in New Delhi do not want a Madarasi waiter in a restaurant speaking to them in Tamil.  Same situation in Chennai also.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Chennai – Few First Impressions

We have been in Chennai for almost a month.  We have never lived in Chennai, or for that matter in India, as an adult.  Visited many times and stayed at hotels and the homes of relatives.  This is our first experience of “living” here.
Since our stay here will be a short one – 6 months to a year only – we wanted to rent a fully furnished flat.  But it is very difficult.  Lot of people advertise as “furnished” and in reality it is not.  We finally found a “almost” furnished flat and rented it for 11 months.  (I don’t know why 11 months instead of a year.  But works out to our advantage.)
On the whole it is not all bad.  We do like a lot of things.  Here are some:
Milk is more tastier than USA.  I don’t know the reason.  In USA, milk is cow’s milk.  I don’t know about the Aavin milk in Chennai.  Is this also cow’s milk?  May be some Chennai friend can tell me.
Movie theaters in the malls are far superior to movie theaters in USA.  Neat, nice, and plush seats.  Great sound quality.
Vegetables are very tasty and fresh compared to USA.  The sellers even give free kariveppilai (Curry leaves).  I am amazed they give almost half of the tree.
Can rent an air conditioned Indica car for 4 hours for Rs.650.  Coming from USA, that is very cheap.  An air conditioned car with a driver and gas (petrol) for 4 hours is only around $10!
So many restaurants – we are enjoying eating out.
Of course, there are some things that we are not that much thrilled.
Too hot and air conditioners are not working due to some voltage problem.
If someone says he/she will be here in a few minutes, that means it will be a minimum of 2 hours before that person shows up.
In the stores in USA, if you do not find an item you want and it is not available, the sales person will tell you which store carries that item, even if that store is a competitor. Here the sales person’s reply is the same always in any store: I don’t know.  (I even asked a few people “you don’t even know where your competitor is located?”. “No Sir”.)
(Side bar.  Bill Gates wants all his Microsoft sales people to even know the birthdays of all their competitors and their family members.  That much thorough.)
We never had a servant maid in our home so far.  This is the first time.  Learnt a valuable lesson.  Do not have conversation with the spouse when the maid is present.  She has the habit of joining the conversation.  So we keep quite until she leaves.
I realize I am slowly becoming a rude person.  I am always polite and courteous to servants, delivery guys, sales people, taxi and auto drivers.  The problem is if you are polite and courteous, they think you can be cheated very easily.
More good things to come.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Never dreamt in a million years that my 300th post will be written from Chennai. 
My first post was on June 8, 2009 and I think this blog has come a long way since then.
The 300th post should have been written a long time ago, however I took a year off completely (in 2011) for personal reasons.
Lots of old time readers have dropped off in recent times. 
Some of the “old schoolers” still read and comment on my postings. 
Of course, also had the privilege of gaining some new readers along the way.
I would like to thank all my readers for your comments and words of encouragement. 
It’s you who give me the inspiration to keep writing posts.
My heartfelt thanks to all of you.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Airport Welcome?

Our plane was arriving in Chennai at midnight.  Also, the forecast called for rains.  I don’t know about other airports.   In Chennai, people who come to receive arriving passengers have to stand in the street.  If it is raining, they will be standing in the rain.  They should give some adequate space inside the airport for people who come to receive the passengers.  Therefore, I have told our relatives (my wife’s brothers) not to come to the airport.
I always believed in CCC. Cash in the Bank, Credit Card, Computer.  I thought, with these three,  you can do anything in the world.  Before leaving California, I looked at the website and made arrangements from a reputed tourist cab company for a car (qualis) to pick us at the airport.  I gave my flight information. I told the company my flight is arriving at midnight and I should be out of the airport anywhere from 1 am to 1:30 am. I had 4 email correspondence and 2 telephone conversation.  I told them the driver should stand outside with a sign prominently displaying my name.  Everything was set.
We came out of the airport at exactly 1 am with 4 suitcases and 2 carry-ons.  No driver with my name.  We thought he was delayed.  We waited until 2 am.  No one showed up.  Wanted to call the tourist cab company.   But I don’t have an Indian cell phone.  I sweet talked to a lady standing nearby and dialed the tourist cab office from her cell phone. It was ringing and ringing and no one answered.
Now it is almost 2:30 am.  Almost deserted outside the airport with no one.   We decided to take some other taxi and go to our service apartment.  We arranged one from the airport taxi services.
The taxi came within 5 minutes.  All our luggage and we boarded the taxi.  I told the driver to go to T.Nagar.  His first response “enga irukunga adhu” (Where is it located?).  I was shocked. What will you think if a cab driver in Mumbai asks where is Marine Drive.  What will you think if a cab driver in New Delhi asks where is Connaught Place.  He has been in Chennai for the last 4 days only.  Looks like lot of young guys from all over Tamilnadu get a driver’s license and come to Chennai to drive taxi.  No guidance or mentor for them.  No one to give them training for a few days and show them various parts of the city.
I told him I know how to go to T.Nagar and will navigate him.  But in T.Nagar, we have to ask someone where the particular street is located.  There were people walking and standing in the streets at 3 am.  We asked couple of guys for direction and finally reached our service apartment.
PS: My wife asked me to call the tourist cab company and enquire why they did not show up at the airport.  I told her it is of no use.  I have learned what they would say in Chennai in such a situation.  “My driver was waiting for you since midnight for 4 hours.  You did not show up.”

Monday, September 8, 2014

Arrived Safely

I and my wife left San Francisco on Sunday, August 31.  We had to change our plane in Hong Kong for our final destination.  The flying time was 14 hours but due to tail wind it was reduced to 13 hours.
How to spend 13 hours flying non-stop! Thank God for the business class.  The seat can slide into a flat bed at the press of a button.  Also, plenty of food and plenty of drinks.  But how many double scotch on the rocks one can drink?  How many glasses of merlot with the food.  Got to stop somewhere.  Surprised to find there were at least 10 Indian movies.  There were Briyani and Jilla from Tamil.  I do not remember about Hindi movies except Bagh Milka Bagh and Bullet Raja.
I saw 3 movies.  The Escape Plan (Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger), Briyani, and Jilla.  Both Tamil movies were boring.
It was a 2 hour wait at Hong Kong.  We boarded the plane for our final destination.  The flight was 4 hours and 40 minutes.  Lot of food and drinks.  I was not in a mood to watch any Tamil movie.  Therefore, decided to watch for the umpteenth time The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Time flew along with the plane. 
The flight manager, finally,  made the following announcement.  Ladies and Gentlemen, we will be landing in Ana (Anna) International Airport in Chenoy (Chennai) shortly.
Yes, our final destination is Chennai.  We came out of Immigration and Customs without any hassle.  Our luggage also arrived safely.
We came out of the airport.  The real fun stats now.  Stay tuned.

Friday, August 29, 2014


This weekend, we are relocating to a new country.  This relocation is temporary for a minimum of 6 months to a maximum of one year only. I and my wife are looking forward to this.  We are excited about this relo.
Where are we relocating?  Will tell you when we arrive at this new place.  (Those few friends who knew where we are relocating, please do not spill the beans. Want to keep it a little surprise.)
Therefore, I will not be writing any posts for a while.  But I will be reading your posts and commenting.
See you soon.