December 2nd, 2005


live from India ...

I'm writing this from India (Mumbai / Bombay)

It is all it has ever been described as. It is almost mind boggling. Poverty and luxury hotels side by side. Open sewers. People living in shanties. India makes Southern China look modern and downright civilized.

But, the traffic. Red lights are apparently advisory. Our driver regularly goes through them, almost without slowing down, when there is no one coming. Imagine a road 2-3 lanes wide in each direction with no lines painted on it. Now imagine traffic 6 across cutting in and out, blowing horns. Admittedly the biggest car I have seen is about equivalent to Toyota Corolla. They also have a lot of 3 wheel "taxis". And a lot of bicycles. The traffic here, makes Boston traffic look comatose.

The work is going well. The customer is somewhat pushy. And strangely enough it is the women, more than the men, who are pushy. I suspect you have to be pushy as a woman in India to get anywhere.

But (other than the boring, heavy, least common denominator food in the customer cafeteria), the customer has been great. (Bet you never thought you'd hear Indian food described as boring. Imagine your college cafeteria serving only Indian food. And then worse.) I'm doing better with the spices than the person I'm traveling with (who is from Stratus Hong Kong). The customer has taken to sending out for Dominos pizza mostly for him. Of course, that was the only way I could get a Diet Coke. The cafeteria regularly runs out of Coke and doesn't even stock Diet Coke. There are no vending machines. Getting a cup of coffee is a production. But, when it shows up, it shows up with a "servant" to pour it and put the sugar and / or cream in.

The hotel is very good. Hyatt Regency Mumbai. It is being direct billed to the customer. The customer said to charge whatever to the room: meals, room service, internet access (yeah!), laundry, and the like. Unfortunately the only workable choices for dinner are the two restaurants in the Hyatt or the restaurants in the Sheraton next door. So far (knock on wood), I've been lucky and haven't gotten sick. But remembering not to drink the water (especially while brushing your teeth) is hard. I probably should just hide the water glasses in the bathroom.

The customer is also providing a car and driver for us. The driver apparently just sits in the parking lot all day waiting for us to call. We are switching drivers after Friday (it is about 06:00 AM Saturday here now) to one who became available and speaks somewhat better English. So, I asked about tipping the old driver. Yes, I was told to tip him. About 500 rupees. Which is about $10. For the week. He was very happy. This might be equivalent to his salary for the week. And I couldn't really tip him more because it would screw anyone from Stratus who used him in the future who tipped him less. It almost made me want to cry.

Which leads me to Thursday. My birthday. Thanks to those of you who sent Birthday wishes. But, it was kind of depressing. Being in a foreign country, not knowing how long this gig is going to last. (The good news is that the work is going well. The bad news is that the work is going too well and will be done too soon. I'm betting 4-6 weeks total. Maybe 8.) Getting emails from people back in the states about their being turned down for full time jobs. Besides getting to talk to SMOZZ for about 10 minutes, about the best thing that happened was that the Hyatt noticed it was my birthday. When I came back to the room in the evening there was a chocolate dessert (mousse cake, not that great, but it is the thought that counts) with Happy Birthday written on it waiting for me?

I also managed to have Lobster for my birthday. Sauteed lobster in a fancy Italian restaurant was only about $20. (Did I say the prices are cheap here?)

More as time permits ...