The Archived Archives.

posted by on 2007.09.28, under Shameless Plug, Travel

Today I remembered this blog while telling someone about the wedding crashing story in Bombay back in 2005. I have been unable to access this blog, as Google took over and it was a bit of a challenge to find my old account info to transfer. (I forgot my password) Having recently been much more focused and dedicated to my latest writing project, “A Hyderabadass,” I have decided to resurrect this tale of my early 20’s, when I first started my adventure of traveling the world and learning about international business.

Nostalgically,

Jason

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Three Conclusions

posted by on 2007.09.27, under India, Travel


Today I spent some time gathering my thoughts on my time so far in India, glanced over the +10,000 words I have written about this trip so far, and came to a few conclusions.

1) I have spent too much time worrying/writing about my driver, Satyam.
2) I have not spent enough time talking about the good people I have met here in Hyderabad.
3) I have spent just enough time talking about cricket.

Though you may disagree with the third conclusion, I will not budge, I love the game. Out of fairness to #2, that is all I will mention about it in this post however.

#1
About Satyam. He left me when I needed him the most. He saw my vulnerability, my dependence on him, and I have a deep suspicion that he tried to take advantage of my generosity and gullibility. We had a good run, him and I, but I have moved on to a new driver, one who speaks no English, bangs on my door half an hour earlier than our scheduled pick up time, mysteriously takes off during lunch leaving me stranded, and up until today had no number for me to reach him at. I haven’t learned his name, and I am ok with it. I am still recovering from the trauma with Satyam.

The story in a nutshell is that Satyam possibly doesn’t even have any kids, or a wife in the hospital, or the history of hardships I patiently listened to during our 3 hours/day. My suspicion for this deception was caused by events that took place last week, when he told me that a new driver would be filling in for a few days, because he had a family emergency. His first explanation was that his wife’s sister had some problems with her scholarship money not going through at her college, she needed him to talk to the head master of the school. The next day, when my friend was in the car, he told some story about a bomb threat at the school, and having to go and help his sister in law. A few days later, after the new driver started, I received a call from Satyam, telling me he was not coming back. His story was that the owner of the car payed him less than what was promised, and since the new driver is able to work for less, he refused to pay Satyam what was originally promised.

Now, I don’t know the truth of this story. It has taken a toll on me this week. I did have compassion for Satyam’s situation, and wanted to find a way to help him out. I’m extremely suspicious that he is lying to me though, as his story doesn’t add up, for why he took those few days off. I overlooked him being late 2-3 times a week, causing me to be late for meetings at my job. I overlooked him asking me for undeserving tips after I had been tipping him above normal expectation, he did buy me motivational posters for my office. But one thing I can’t overlook is dishonesty. Therefore, if I get confirmation that his payment was fair, and he was not promised anything more, I will bid farewell to my first friend in Hyderabad. If his story checks out, I’m prepared to assist in helping him retain his promised salary, out of goodwill. I just don’t know what to believe out here, since discovering how the Chicken 65 fellow had been ripping me off this whole time.

#2
Outside the streets and traffic of the city, and inside the homes of the Hyderabadi’s you will find some of the warmest people on the planet. From reading this blog so far you might think otherwise, but I tell you now that i have only told a part of the story out here. There have been few places in the world I have been in my many travels that had such people, who truly define the word host. I found families that took me in in as a stranger in New Zealand, London, San Francisco, being the wanderer that I am, and today have ended up being people I now consider family. The family in Hyderabad is looking to follow similar suite.

I am staying with a family that is polar opposites of mine, even here in India, but still shares the qualities which make my visits here so memorable. They talk about their family with such pride, share pictures and memories of loved ones no longer around, and have done things to imply that I too, am now part of their family.

After spending much time to myself over the holiday, reading my design books and playing my guitar, I decided to come down to warm up some left over Biryani, since I haven’t bought a microwave yet. (Haven’t needed to with all the amazing meals being shared with me by this family) Rather than just an express microwave session, I was urged to sit down for dinner at their table, eat the leftovers after insisting I didn’t want Aunty to take any trouble, but then being served some of the best tasting French Toast that she had waited since morning to give me. She told me how much her sons loved this meal, and told me that she considered me like a son, and I was deeply touched, while at the same time regretful for not coming down earlier. It is a weird dynamic for me, after having lived alone so long. I try to get by on my own, and avoid having other people fuss over me, but in this case, I am starting to realize that my attitude needs to change. Although I might feel bad about how much trouble Aunty takes over me, perhaps she feels bad when I don’t let her take the trouble, the times I insist I can’t have breakfast because I am late for work, or come home having already eaten dinner. The other day, she asked me if she could mix my rice with the pickle, a south Indian delicacy. First reaction might have been to refuse, as it is a bit uncomfortable, but feeling her warmth, I said OK. With a big smile, she mixed the food with her hands for me, explaining how this kind of food can only be enjoyed when mixed like this. It was true, the food tasted much better after she mixed it.

Yesterday, after my meal, I hooked up this family’s new DVD player for them, as they wanted to show me a DVD of a recent family wedding. My 5 minute microwave voyage soon turned into a 3 hour evening, sharing memories and laughs with both Uncle and Aunty. The neighbors, who are renting a house from them have 2 young boys, same age difference as my brother and me. Out of coincidence, they have also moved here from the US, but their family is originally from Hyderabad. The older boy has taken a liking to me, and was very proud to help me with the DVD installation project. The younger boy, who is full of mischief but very fond of both Uncle and Aunty was also fascinated with what was going on. Perhaps my American accent reminded them of their home in California. Their mother told me that they admire me, and wonder where I am all day while I am in the office. Really nice family. Uncle’s commentary on the little mischievous one is very amusing, and they both light up when around each other.

After the evening, Uncle asked me if I could come home early the next day (today) to go out to eat. I soon came to know that the occasion was Aunty’s birthday. I left the office earlier than usual today, picked up some flowers, and fought traffic to make it home by 7. Soon after, the energy in the room became kinetic, as 2 new faces entered, with a camera, excitement, and bubbly personalities. They were the parents of Aunty’s daughter in law. Both Aunty’s were like sisters, and throughout the new found chaos, I was grouped in the pictures just like family. It meant alot to me, and I enjoyed being around these people on a Thursday night, which in the past has been a prime bar night. A lot of the conversation that goes on is beyond me as Telugu and I are in a fierce battle right now. Every so often someone will repeat what is said in English. Sometimes I wish that I could have this ability in normal conversations back in the US, where I can just screen 90% of talk out, and have someone just repeat the most important/entertaining bits to me. At dinner, there was a young boy running around in a Kulta Pajama outfit, traditional indian clothes worn at weddings and other proper events. Being a stranger, and coming to our table, one of the Auntys picked him and embraced him, as family. I was astonished how this was completely acceptable over here, but in the US might have been cause for a lawsuit. The warmth here extends beyond the climate and the food. Non stop smiles, and humor that even my ignorant ears can pick up from the tone and friendliness coming from the speaker.

Today was a great day, and I have chosen not to comment on some of the political problems going on here, or the interesting news I have gathered that I want to share with you guys. I will save it for another day, as I am content with where I am right now,

-Jason

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Bhangra Pictures

posted by on 2007.09.26, under India, Shameless Plug, Travel

A few pictures from the post game celebration….GO INDIA!




Australia is coming to play India next month in Hyderabad. I am trying to get tickets, but have heard its nearly impossible. Will keep you posted. Promise to write about other things instead of cricket coming this week…

-Jason

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Preparing for War

posted by on 2007.09.24, under India, Travel


Today this country went to war, and after a nail biting finish, came out victors of the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup of Cricket. An emotional day, the city nearly shut down for it, and only 2 places in town were showing the game. I had the opportunity to watch the game with a great group of guys from Habsiguda, the area which I am staying. Tensions were felt early on, as the pub we chose by default only had one working tv and the only table we could sit at had a horrible view of the screen. The first play of a game was nearly a run out, India barely saved the wicket, and from then on I knew my blood pressure would be at risk for the next 4 hours. India batted in a modest 157 runs, which made my relatives in 3 different continents whom I spoke with at the break extremely nervous. Pakistan showed signs of early domination, but India stayed a threat by taking key wickets early on. The game came down to the last over, like most of these 20 over matches. Pakistan had only 10 runs to win off 6 balls, and hammered a six run boundary shot.

I made a mental note at that point that I would keep my cool if India lost, and started preparing myself for the disappointment, which seems to be ever present in the teams I choose to be a fan of. This was a bit different than my failing Cleveland Browns, or Chicago Cubs…This was my home. India doesn’t have the reputation of being competitive athletes back in the US, so naturally to see them in the finals of a world cup tournament took pride to a new level. Just moments earlier, the place had been shaking with Bhangra music, chants in the native language for India to win, and the hardest high fives I have been associated with. The disappointed I have usually experienced in my days as a sports fan lingered in the back of my mind during all this, as it seemed to good to be true when India took the 9th wicket after slowing Pakistan’s run rate to nearly 6 runs per over.

As it turns out, the very next ball, after my spirits had been weakened, India took the final wicket, catching a flyball. The place I was in, “On The Rocks” nearly crumbled, men continued to celebrate for an hour more, dancing Bhangra together and partying. The bar offered to buy everyone a round of drinks on the house, just as long as they closed out their bar tabs. My uncles who told me earlier they were preparing for war, celebrated in their respective locations. I danced with men I did not know, and felt no insecurity about it, as it was pure celebration, and something I needed after years of my teams letting me down. India was the last team anyone picked to win this tournament, and I hope that their success in South Africa, along with the reactions of the new style of the game will give cricket the support it needs to continue to grow.

I recently watched a Hindi movie called Lagaan, which was recommended to me by some relatives in Bombay. The movie is about a farming community in India 100’s of years ago that were ruled under the British. After having their tax (lagaan) doubled by a corrupt British ruler, who was insulted by the refusal of his Indian subordinate to eat chicken (a vegetarian), a group of the Indian farmers were talked into playing the British army in a cricket match. If they won, they would be exempt of any taxes for 3 years, if they lost they would have to pay 3x the normal tax. The movie is an entertaining story about how these farmers learned the game, overcame adversary, and battled their abusive imperialist rulers. It had a “Mighty Ducks” feel to it at times, but there were moments where the filmmaker was able to brilliantly get an emotional response out of the viewer, such as a scene involving an “untouchable” being allowed to play with the rest, as his crippled arm became an asset in the form of a leg spin.

I thought about this movie many times during the match tonight. My recent focus on cricket in this blog is not because of the game itself, most of my fascination is with the fans. The national sport of India is actually field hockey, but cricket is what holds this country together. With corruption abound, misfortune in many aspects of life, exploitation, religious conflicts, and natural disasters, cricket allows for anyone to escape for a few hours, and put all thoughts aside and support your country. The streets were packed tonight with people cheering, riding on motorcycles waving the Indian flag, which I hear is the only time the flag ever comes out in the city. The mood will likely carry over to tomorrow’s Ganesh Festival…The final day of the celebration where all the statues of the Elephant god will be immersed in the water.

I have heard of a place called Old City, which I have been cautioned to keep a safe distance from. Someone told me that it is rumored that Osama Bin Laden might hiding there, amid the 25% of the city living in poverty in narrow alley ways. Apparently tomorrow the crowds of people will pass through this heavily Muslim populated area, with the Ganesh statues, their drums, and red dye participating in the celebration. There has been a public warning of terrorism tomorrow, as a letter was delivered to the Chief of Police in Andra Pradesh. I am hoping that the day passes by without any disturbance or violence, and that all people here can enjoy their festivals, whether it is for Ganesh, Ramadan, or the celebration of cricketism, India’s other religion.

The one disturbing part of the match for me was the post game interview. Pakistan’s captain thanked the fans in Pakistan for their support, as well as all the Muslims around the world. I hope more people like me did not see this match as a religious battle. I am curious if people in India were cheering Pakistan on in this match. I know that I would never tolerate a fellow MSU spartan who was publicly a U of M fan during the epic college battles on the football field and basketball court. But, I don’t really know much about or understand a lot of the conflict here, hopefully will gain more insight during the 4 months while keeping an open mind in the process.

Politics and religion aside on this one I hope, Lagaan was just a movie afterall. This game had 10,000 crores at stake though, and I heard something about gambling on sports here being illegal. I wonder if there was an Lagaan (tax) on any of those profits made.

Victoriously,

Jason

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Monkey Noises

posted by on 2007.09.23, under Humor, India, Travel

Its 6am Sunday morning, and all I wanted to say is that I was woken up, from a chaotic cluster of sounds from monkey’s in the back yard jungle. Where am I?

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Saturday night in Hyderabad

posted by on 2007.09.22, under India, Travel

Picture this. It is Saturday evening and you are out. You are seated at a table with fine white table cloth with 2 red fancy clothes covering it. The place is surrounded with men in bow ties, mustaches, and with a genuine interest in serving you, so that you may enjoy your evening. They care not whether your tip is 15% or 20%, because in reality, they know it will likely be less than even 5% your expenditure at their place of employment this night. You take a sip of your Antiquity whiskey, take a bite of your deep fried vegetarian appetizer, and take a deep breath. Look around the room, you see nothing close to a resemblance of a woman, similar to the audience in a San Francisco Gentleman’s club minus the staff. A man to the right of you is repeating an obnoxious phrase, over and over again. You look at him, and realize he is directing his words to you, the only fair skinned man in the room. You become tense, understanding that you could wipe the floor with this fellow if you so choose to, but the consequence of such actions might involve a mob of 30 or more men chasing you, some who might decide to use a sword in their favor. This man continues to taunt you. You’ve been a guest in his city for over month now, and even share the same ethnicity as him, but yet he is adamant to let you know that you are different. You look at him with more intensity, violence has not left the back of you mind, but courage has now entered. You spend an extra minute staring at him while he is potentially abusing in a foreign language. It is neither Hindi or Telugu, as you have become aware when you are being insulted in these languages after a months worth of clumsy encounters. It is actually an ancient Indian Language called Sanskrit that this man has decided to use to speak his mind to you. After a minute of reading him and his crew, you decide to wink at him, and crack a smile to ease the tension. More words are spoken. You just listen, not understanding, but not diverting attention. The man and his crew start to move, and get out of their chairs. It is on. Three men walk behind you, and this guy gets up. You realize that he is wearing no pants, but a cloth around his waist, similar to a Lungi, an outfit worn by just a few men you have known, but deeply respected. Nonetheless, this man is a stranger and you have been insulted, you are ready. The man approaches, just a few feet away from you. Just then the place erupts with a volume of noise you recall from your college days in the Breslin Center at MSU. Forgetting your current situation you jump out of your chair, your tensed muscles flex, veins popping out of the side of you neck as you add your foreign accent to the chaos. Exchange high fives with your present company and much to your surprise, this man embraces you as an Uncle would embrace a nephew. Today India has defeated Australia in a cricket match for the twenty20 tournament in South Africa, and will be advancing to play Pakistan once again, but this time for the championship. The man who had a conflict with you earlier had been drunk and repeating “India always wins” with the tone to imply that you were not Indian. Your immediate reaction to India’s Shanthakumaran
Sreesanth bowling Australian expert batsmen Matthew Hayden to take a crucial wicket from the Aussies was enough evidence needed to convince this drunken man not to hate you, but to take you in as his own countryman. His choice of using a language that even most locals wouldn’t understand remained peculiar, but his embrace made your decision to make a night out of this cricket match worth it. You finally start to feel like you belong to this city, and wait in anticipation for Monday’s finale. Your Uncle in Dubai calls you, your father back in the US calls you, men are hugging each other, screaming, showing the middle finger to Australian players on TV, and in the most emotional state any of these stoic characters have shown you so far. The world’s number one rivalry in sports, India vs Pakistan will go down one more time, this time to decide the champion of the most exciting form that the game of cricket has allowed in its history. Americans back home, the time to adopt this game is now – I urge you all to watch this game on Monday. Goodlands is the place to watch it if you are in Hyderabad, the city will certainly shut down for this one, as it is not just cricket, or one of the biggest religious festivals in India’s yearly calendar, this is India vs Pakistan. (U of M vs Ohio State is not even close in comparison).

That was my Saturday night after a morning of haggling with my bank to take my money without a 10% commission, finding out that the restaurant I had been going to had been ripping me off by only serving me 1/2 the quantity of Chicken 65 in my orders because I had an American Accent, my driver Satyam informing me that a substitute who neither spoke English or had a phone would be taking over next week just before I spent the Saturday afternoon in the office getting ready for my site to go to development. Only one thing on my mind right now, though, and that is victory. I just hope my new friend is in the bar Monday to celebrate our mutual teams success.

Intensely,
-Jason

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Bombay Meri Hai

posted by on 2007.09.18, under India, Travel


Had a great weekend in Bombay (Mumbai) this past weekend. Total change of scenery, active nightlife, and a warm welcome from family. A place I have been to over a dozen of times, each new visit is truly a learning experience. This time, my new experience involved visiting a fishing village called Versova Beach.

I witnessed the source of a majority of the food supply for the over populated city, and witnessed commerce at its best. The place is very primitive, with old huts and no resemblance of modern technology, garbage removal, or plumbing. (The smell upon arriving is something I wish not describe in words) Walking through a few alley ways with my uncle Ozzie, an experienced sailor and a hard ass, I was led to the beach, which was in low tide, therefore packed with buyers and sellers, nets from the freshest catch of the fishing boats that were anchored just off shore.

I have never seen so much seafood in my life, but the thing that fascinated me was the amount of business going on, by the most unassuming people. I came to learn that the fishing boats go out, have no idea of their catch, but through recent cell phone technology start taking bids for the catch before reaching shore. They don’t want to bother with sorting out their catch, so sell the entire lot in bulk, unload it to shore, and get back to their specialized task of fishing, and let everyone else worry about the wholesale and retail. The buyer will take the supply a few feet from the shore, and will start putting it in baskets, still not separating the different types of seafood from each other, and sell it by weight to local fish mongers. These women will carry the baskets on their heads, walk across the beach, and start organizing their new purchase, which was marked up 200% from the original cost, and set up shop on the beach. Their only overhead is the ice they buy from the ice factory 1 km away to keep the food fresh. Now they start sorting out the catch, cleaning the prawns, and preparing for battle, as the negotiations with the buyers soon begin.

In Mumbai, there is a guilty pleasure that might be misunderstood as folks being cheap. People just love the thrill of a bargain, and I have been told people will go to these markets just for that itself, not really that concerned about the money saved in the process, or particularily that fond of seafood. It is a theatrical production, this bargaining process. I know of a man that goes to the market every Sunday morning, buys more fish than he requires, because of this thrill, and has been able to convince the beach vendors that by selling to him early in the morning at a slight margin, they can pack up and leave the beach and enjoy their Sunday without worrying about having to keep the fish fresh all dayor the extra inventory at the end of the evening which must be cleared, as they don’t have the means to store the food for the next day.

Most of the customers at this beach are not like this man however, as in Bombay people are for the most part surviving. A person who is willing to transport the fish from the beach, just a few km into the city can earn quite a profit (in most cases marking up prices over 300-400%) on a daily basis, and that is how this city gets fed and how thousands of people earn their living. As a seafood lover myself, I am 100% satisfied with this service, the food is incredibly fresh, and prices are very reasonable. This form of business is one of the reasons that organized retail is still under 5% of the entire retail market in India.

Outside of the International Food Marketing crash course, I started my weekend joining in the humble lifestyles of my family in Andheri. It is here that I really look forward to my grandmother’s cooking of fresh fish fry, chili prawns, mango pickle, and other dishes she is world famous for. There are also the old fashioned baths that require me to heat water on a stove, and mix with cold water before hand. Finally, I got to be part of another one of the Jones’ house parties. These are amazing occasions that bring both family and friends together in a celebration of song and dance and delicious food.

This time the celebration was for my cousin’s 23rd birthday, as she is off to Chicago to become a nurse. The true allure of a Jones house party is the immediate integration of new friends, in this case young, disco tech-going 20 year-olds with a traditional Anglo-Indian family full of conservative values but the ability to lose all shame and shake what their momma gave them on the dance floor. Without a fail, these parties will turn into dance parties, even if the electricity goes out for 30 minutes, and a 30 year age divide encourages otherwise. It is a beautiful thing.

One new observation I made this time, was that although 20 some years have gone by since I have been a part of this custom, the music selection has remained quite constant, and for these occasions it works. The pubs…now that is an entirely different story. They are still playing hit songs from 1990 -1997 at the pubs here, including Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic,” The Goo Goo Dolls “Iris,” Tracy Chapman, Bon Jovi’s “Bed of Roses,” and that silly song “Im too sexy.”


The second night in the city I visited my family in Bandra, completely different lifestyles but still carrying huge hearts, like the Jones’. Knowing how I fancy a Kingfisher and a pub scene, they took me out Sunday night to the Hawaiian Shack. (where the songs above were played) A happening place for a Sunday night, we were all soon out of our chairs and dancing, though most of the people in the club was still sedentary. Being a particular adept dancer, I was not concerned, I have picked up parts of the Bhangra style of dance, and can release the moves when most appropriate. My family out in this side of town are extremely fun people, who never lost their family values while modernizing to the hip culture of Bombay. My uncle out here told me once about the difference of doing business with the heart and doing business with the soul. There is a lot of soul in Bombay, that is for sure.
Below is lyrics to the song that this post was named after….A Masala song that is played in all the weddings and dance parties. “Come to Bombay Meri Hai

Verse
Come from England, come from Scotland, come from Ireland
Come from Holland, come from Poland, come from any land,
If you’re looking out for a pleasant holiday,
Come to Bombay, come to Bombay, Bombay meri hai.

Chorus
Bom bom bom bom
Bombay meri hai
Born bom bom bom
Bombay meri hai

Our ladies are nice, they are so full of spice
Come to Bombay, come to Bombay Bombay meri hai.

Wear a dhoti, put a topi and a small coatie
Mini or bikini is so good for you honey
If you ain’t so gay then you can live the sadhu way
Come to Bombay, come to Bombay Bombay meri hai.

Verse
Puri bhaji, bhelpuri you can try and tell
Idli dosa, hot samosa you will like it well
Once you come to stay then you won’t like to go away
Come to Bombay, come to Bombay Bombay meri hai.



-Jason

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jiminy cricket

posted by on 2007.09.14, under India, Travel


My dad, Jim, raised me up to love cricket. I never understood cricket, much like a child does not understand the religion that he/she is brought up in, but it was part of who I was growing up, watching the matches in the late hours of the night, or the excitement of having my first real cricket bat that I could play with in the basement of my house, or joining my first real cricket team for my school in New Zealand, though my form resembled a baseball player much more than an orthodox cricketer. There are many things to be proud of, having an Indian heritage, but the site of the Indian national cricket team going toe to toe with the best in the world, and prevailing surely tops the list for me. I have taken much pride in seeing the country beat teams like England, Australia, South Africa and especially their rivals Pakistan. It has been my impression that Indian Cricket is not a sport, it is a religion. That is based on what I saw tonight, and how light the traffic was for my drive home during the game.

Tonight I experienced a match that will go down in history. It was the first International Twenty 20 match that India played in. The new set up, which basically took 1 day cricket, a shortened version of the 5 day test matches, and made it even shorter by removing 30 overs from each side’s batting turn. (1 over = 6 balls being bowled) This made the game as short as an American Baseball game, and encouraged the players to take more chances while batting, rather than the usual defensive strategy used in the game.

India played none other than Pakistan tonight, in a heated match that really proved that this new format of the game will be widely accepted. India batted first, and batted in an impressive 141 runs in 120 balls being bowled. (each time a batter runs from one wicket to the other, it counts as a run. If the ball crosses a boundary on the ground, it is 4 runs, if it crosses the boundary in the air, it counts as 6 runs)

Pakistan batted well, but slow at first. Towards the end of their turn, they unleashed a series of sixers and four run shots, raising tension in the already nervous restaurant I was dining in. If you could believe it, the match came down to just 1 ball, as Pakistan managed to tie India in the 19th over.

The room I was in was depressed, drunk, and quiet, after the constant yelling, swearing, and other emotional outbreaks that were noticed just moment earlier. The final play of the game was brilliant, India managed to field the ball and throw the batsmen out, in a fashion that I have never seen in a match before. The game went to an unprecedented overtime, which took shootout scenarios in hockey and soccer, and attempted to incorporate them into Cricket. It was a sad attempt, as it was just a bowler aiming for the wickets with no opposition. Best out of 5. India made the first 3 wickets, Pakistan missed all 3. India won. It was some match, and will likely encourage this new style of cricket to continue, hopefully raising interest with the Americans, as its the only mainstream game I can think of that our countrymen back west will be reluctant to adopt.

Other commentary on my first real night drinking here….I got kicked out of my first bar. Not because of my deliberate breaking of the rules, but I tried to walk in to this place tonight without a girl and without nice shoes, instead wearing my Brazilian sandals. 2 minutes later I entered the same bar, wearing my crummy gym shoes, and a smile to let the silly bouncer wearing the beret and ridiculous looking red cowboy like shirt on know that I had gotten the better out of him. I was shocked to see that the place was empty with customers, yet filled with more of this silly outfit wearing employees, who seemed to be doing nothing useful but making me laugh. I met a friend there, who I shared a few drinks with. It was our first time meeting, as I had been put in touch with a former colleague who did their MBA with this fellow, but nonetheless, it was a great time getting to know someone new in the area. The most awkward part of the encounter, which was immediate, and tempting me to start laughing, was the music selection of the venue we were in. The couple only, yet 90% male bar chose to blast the song “my endless love” when I first started talking to my new friend in the city. I have been told that my poker face is discredited because of my uncontrollable dimpled smile, and I was really concerned that the song would be a distraction from my ability to make friends at this particular place. Well, I overcame an obstacle today, I am making slow but steady progress, and can hang with the best of them, even when tempted to lose it with such a song selection in such a venue. (You have seen Happy Gilmore I hope – “friends listen to my endless love in the dark….) I think it is rediculous that there are so many people at bars like this who aren’t drinking, but supposedly working, and there are such formalities – such as couples entry only, while the majority of the people inside are still men..

Anyway, I am never bored here ,with all these new sensations being exposed to me. I am really excited for Bombay this weekend. (I prefer Bombay to Mumbai), the festival is supposed to be huge there. One last commentary on the cricket match….I observed an Australian fellow who was the team doctor for the Indian team. For my readers in the US, have you not been under the impression that the majority of doctors in the US, and probably the world are Indian. I just found this very ironic while watching the game tonight….

Patriotically,

-Jason

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Biryani Nation

posted by on 2007.09.13, under Humor, India, Travel


I have a confession to make. Today, for the first time in 18 months I ate a meal at McDonald’s. A last minute decision, after finding out that the only Mexican restaurant in town was closed, I chose the golden arches. Call it homesickness, wanting to see a familiar face, or logo for that matter, or the country music lovin‘ cowboy hat wearin’ Midwest side of me coming out, demanding to be a part of some form of globalization that I had not intentionally created, I dined with Ronald this afternoon. Truth be told, it was the only place I knew that I could grab a bite in 10 minutes.

It was splendid meal, to my surprise the service was unlike any Mcdonald’s I have been to. The meal came out to only $1.50 USD. I was shocked to see a woman in the restaurant requesting that an employee charge her cell phone while she ate her Chicken Maharaja Mac. They had no problem serving her request.

My meal consisted of a McAloo Tikka burger (Fried breaded potato & peas patty that is flavoured with a special spice mix,) , coca-cola (which is far inferior to the local Thumbs Up beverage), and french fries. When I finished, my table was cleared for me, and I left content, yet guilty of replacing my usual Biryani meal, a rice dish Hyderabad is world famous for. Biryani was also a product of globalization centuries ago, but instead of being from the Americans, it was the Iranians who gifted this meal to the folks in Hyderabad, and the rest of India for that matter.

With all the changes that the corporation decided to implement into their menu here in Hyderabad, they struck a right balance of incorporating the multinational brand here, with the charm that McDonald’s is famous for, while catering to the local taste of the people in India. An advertising agency, who’s name escapes me, recently coined the word “glocal” in their campaigns. (global + local)

McDonald’s even have created a different menu for locations in North India vs West India. My aunt’s husband, a successful businessman in Mumbai told me that McDonald’s success in the city, apparent by their many locations around the city, home delivery, and veg menu was contrasted completely by KFC. They are apparently perceived as being just another American company trying to exploit the exploding population with an American product, without changing it to fit the people here. They are not glocal. Driving home today, I saw a billboard saying that KFC was the best Chicken dinner meal in the World. They have failed to realize that they face a tougher competitor, Tandoori Chicken. If you have ever tasted yourself will understand that KFC stands no chance to becoming a widely adopted meal over here. There are just like Hollywood, who have failed at trying to promote their films in India for many years. , India, unlike other countries around, has not really adopted American movies into their lives, as Bollywood is far too popular over here, producing 3x as many films as the people in LA. Tollywood, slightly smaller but with just as loyal of a fan base, has also shown a strong presence, with actors that can split bullets in half in mid air, and other action-related phenomenons. In fact, 99% of revenue made in the film industry in India has been from Indian productions. The guys at Sony are finally taking a smart approach, by starting to fund movies made here, written for and produced by Indians. Can we expect to see KFC Tandoori chicken on the menu soon?

McDonald’s here is actually what seems to be a classy restaurant, in the most expensive part of town, offering something that the locals appreciate, and enjoy. The crowd was upper class, dressed well, enjoying the social gathering of the establishment. The only hassle with the experience was having to go through security to get in the place, due to terrorist threats at this time because of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival this weekend, and recent bombings in the city.

Many of you have seen me in my red Ganesh t-shirt – I will have the chance to wear this shirt while celebrating this festival in Mumbai with my family this weekend. I read articles today, saying how the idols were going to be bigger than last year, up to 15 meters in height, while the mayor of Mumbai request to keep the size of the idols under 8 meters, to try to prevent pollution in the Arabian sea. Speaking of which, the Tsunami warning was called off this morning, after the Earthquake in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, topped 8 on the Richter scale. I had an aqaintance in college that had the last name Richter, and used to tell women that they topped 8 on his Richter scale, in hopes to charm them. That line can’t possibly have any success in either Hyderabad or East Lansing, that one thing I am sure of.

My driver Satyam told me his wife is expecting a child in 8 months. There will be exactly the same number of years in age between his children as there are between my younger brother and I. I have decided to explore the possibility of writing a story about this experience with Satyam, and the conversations we try to have in our 3 hours together. He has told me about all the opportunities he has missed in his life which he wishes he would have taken, told me about how 15 years working a government job resulted in the branch just one day closing and him being out of work, after only taking the job because his mother was a servant for a government officer, and that seemed to be the best career path.
Perhaps it will be tale along the lines of “The Pursuit of Happiness,” and Satyam can come out ahead in the end. Maybe even I can have Will Smith play the role, filmed here in Hyderabad…..

Just this Monday , Satyam gave me a gift, motivational posters on success to put in my office. He told me he believed in the words on them, and that he wants me to do well.If you have any ideas or suggestions for a kind gesture I can offer him especially with news of a new child on the way, please post a comment. I finally realized this blog required registering to post such things. Really annoying, I have since changed that setting so you won’t have to deal with any hassles with such things going forward. (This is stuff I am working to keep off the site I am building)

Mcglobally,
Jason

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Roads Collapsing

posted by on 2007.09.09, under India, Travel

This evening, a flyover (expressway) collapsed in Hyderabad in Punjagutta, which connects to Banjara Hills, where my office is located. An estimated 20 people so far have been declared dead from the incident, however many people are trapped under the road, and the area is under turmoil. I received news from my driver, Satyam, who called to make sure I was alright. Luckily I gave him the day off today, so I did not go into the office or gym on that side of town, otherwise I could have potentially been involved in the disaster. Neighbors have told me they expect a strike or riot of some sort to come out of this. Still not too sure how this happened, as the news is only in Telugu, but it was raining pretty hard today and I believe that to be related to the cause.

This is the fourth time I have just missed a disaster in my travels. The first was being in India during the famous Tsunami years ago, which had friends in Kalamazoo, MI worried about my well being. Luckily I was in Goa, just north of the disaster. The second escape was in London, where I studied abroad, and just 2 weeks after moving out of Russell Square, a terrorist attack on the subway and bus system occurred on the very route and same time I took to get to my job at the Hammersmith Walt Disney Internet Group office. The third was 2 weeks back, days before coming to Hyderabad, the terrorist bombing that happened in a public park. And now, this flyover collapse. I am extremely thankful for my luck, and feel sorrow for the families involved, hopefully this matter is handled quickly by the government.

Shooken up at the moment,

Jason

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