It took an evening in Louisville, Kentucky to realize this. After 8 hours of studying theory, statistics, and banging my head against a library wall, I threw on my finest sports coat and ventured out for my first night on the town in downtown Louisville.
This weekend is Idea Festival. It has been one of the best surprises this town has afforded me in my first two months here. I was looking forward to the event after the kickoff event – Thrivals 3.0 – featuring Jackie Robinson’s son (David), Janelle Monae and her “motown meets silicon valley” label Wondaland Arts Society, Howard Bloom, who spoke passionately about public relations work with Prince and Michael Jackson and several other inspirational speakers who were handpicked by U of L’s Professor Nat Irvin.
I entered the theater with very little background information of the speaker who was scheduled to talk today. I saw something about “Gandhi” on the flyer, and made an assumption that it was an Indian, perhaps someone talking about philosophy or yoga, or something I was half interested in. Within 5 minutes I lost any buyers remorse for purchasing tickets for this event, and realized I was meant to be in this very room, in Louisville, Kentucky, at this exact moment.
Anand Giridharadas was able to articulate everything I experienced in my short tenure in Hyderabad, while enlightening hundreds of us on insightful observations he had made as a journalist in Mumbai (Bombay) India over 6 years. He spoke with charisma, poise, and conviction, and intentionally paused, keeping listeners in check with the realization that we might never get this education ever again in our midwestern/southern lives, before revealing a new idea that kept us asking for more. None of his propositions were left undefended, but there was very little that was academic about his tone.
He clearly ordered his thoughts into a presentation that alluded to things his audience could understand. It felt like I was learning with him – which is a quality I have attributed to some of my best professors and mentors.
I understand that up until this point, I haven’t said anything about his actual message. I am not sure how well I can share the perspective he donated to us tonight, but I will try to summarize what stood out to me. I urge the reader to purchase this man’s book, that will be coming out in 2011. He too has experienced the frustration of not being really an American or an Indian. Referencing a comment made by someone in the audience tonight, Indian’s don’t know whether to charge us 100 rupees for entrance (US prices) or 50 rupees (indian price) so they charge 75. Before I get to his presentation, I need to preface it with a list of the similarities between us, which is absurd.
1. We were born in Cleveland, Ohio to parents who grew up in Bombay, India and visited India every 2 years as children.
2. We attended college in Michigan.
3. Shortly after college we worked in India.
4. We are both the son of a professor
5. This year, we both started Ph.D programs.
Anand described his fears of the future in America, while optimistically proposing what we should do to avoid them. Giving examples of TATA cars that cost under $2000, he suggested we stop limiting innovation to luxury items like ipads and smartphones. He gave a staggering statistic about how there are more people in the world with access to mobile phones (mostly “dumb phones”) than toilets. (6 billion) Manufacturing jobs should be focused to serve the markets that demand products based on need instead of desire. Instead of redesigning existing products by stripping away features to lower costs, we should start from scratch, building a lower cost and useful product designed specifically for the market it is intended for. Not everyone in the US owns an iPhone. Damnit.
The US has always exported culture to the developing world, but Anand argues that the world no longer sees our way of life as an end-goal, but simply as a “means to an end.” Just like our movies, basketball shoes, and Yankees hats are knocked off, so is the culture, and Americans do not see a dime in return.
The brilliance of this speaker is exposed as he concludes his talk. By this time, I have gotten over the fact that he might be a better dresser than me, and has found a more distinguished hairstyle. I start thanking my stars that the New York Times selected him to share these pearls of wisdom with a much larger audience than the Hyderabadass could ever hope to talk to. He talks about community, about culture, and changes in geography that is impacting them. He proposes that our generation is becoming more and more ‘placeless’ transplanting to new places for work and losing identities. We have less in common with each other because technology gives more options. Tivo restricts watercooler conversation because we no longer watch the same tv shows on the same nights. For the first time in the history of the world more people live in urban cities than rural communities. We are desperately longing for communities, which is why our search tools focus on this (Yelp) but we’ve lost a connection from this old way of life, and it will be difficult to recover.
It was a great speech, and I was overall impressed that this went down in Louisville. The timing was perfect, with the controversial premier of NBC’s Outsourced, which was discussed briefly, but also a subject of Anand’s latest piece in the times. A badass, indeed.
Last month I bid farewell to the home I created in Los Angeles, packed up the Camaro, and drove cross country with my father and brother on an epic road trip. We left comfort out of the equation, yet had 4 solid days of bonding time while driving through deserts, mountains, and cornfields. I spent a weekend in Chicago and a week in Kalamazoo before arriving to Louisville, and had an opportunity to spend a weekend on a houseboat on Lake Cumberland Kentucky with my Kalamazoo buddies and watch Federer and Roddick play in Cincinnati before getting settled into my new home in the South.
Over the next four years I will be enrolled in a PhD program at U of L, specialized in Entrepreneurship. The program is designed to turn us into ‘social scientists’ that publish in top academic journals while teaching college level Entrepreneurship and Business Strategy classes. My initial research interests are in Social Entrepreneurship, however I am keeping an open mind, and will likely be influenced by mentors and the seminars throughout the program. The next time you see me, I will probably need to wear reading glasses, as my vision is fading with each empirical study I read.
Academic life has surrounded me since I was born. My father is a Professor of Finance and I developed close mentor/mentee relationships with professors at LMU. I have a new perspective on the profession, especially regarding research in Entrepreneurship. There are some interesting questions being asked by these folks. The scientific research applied to build economic theory is starting to fascinate me, which is a bit shocking if you knew me over the past 8 years. I have a long way to go out here, but I am confident that I am surrounded by the right people and resources to build this career… I just need to work hard at it.
I am still getting used to life in Louisville, but have found a strong community in Butchertown where I am considering moving to next year. Louisville is packed with interesting history, and I am just scratching the surface of it. There is an odd obsession with the movie THE BIG LEBOWSKI, which I noticed in recommendations on my Netflix account when I moved here (It was the most popular movie rented in the city) There is an annual festival to pay tribute to the movie in addition to numerous posters and books for sale throughout the town.
Also, I recently learned that the most popular song in the world GOOD MORNING TO ALL was written by Kindergarten teachers in Louisville. It later became known as the HAPPY BIRTHDAY song. So it’s not just fried chicken, baseball bats, horses…there is more…much more. The Kentucky Derby Museum is phenomenal, with a 360 degree movie theatre unlike anything I have ever seen before. IDEA FESTIVAL is coming up in a month, and will feature 5 days of talks given my global scholars and leaders to encourage innovation and creativity to an audience of hundreds of thousands of people.
There is vibrant entrepreneurial community that is closely tied into the university, and just like California, people ride bikes everywhere and love their dogs. There is a style to the city that blends a small town charm with a progressive mindset of a big city. Yet, as a custom frame store owner from New York described to me, invisible boundaries still exist here, and there are clear differences between geographical regions of the city that can be startling on first impressions. Near my apartment, boarded up buildings resemble Detroit, and kids on campus have already reported being robbed at gunpoint 1 week into the semester. Still, the art culture and local music seems to be thriving, with an art gallery open 24 hours a day. There is so more for me to see, and it will be interesting finding a balance between work and play out here.
I have an idea for a new business venture that is inspired by recent research into the field of social entrepreneurship. I hope to launch the venture within 2 years after I raise enough capital and make the necessary strategic alliances – It is a fun idea incorporating my passion for the guitar, education, and building a community to help lower the enormous high school drop out rate in Kentucky.
I am the new guy in town though, so it will take time to create synergies, I am still trying to learn the local language and suspect that the difficulty of my coursework will be slightly more challenging than the MBA program I just finished. Our cohort is comprised of 5 other folks, all highly educated with global experience in venture capital, hedge fund management, and corporate marketing. I am likely the least serious out of the group, and need to be disciplined in time management to succeed out here, the program has failed 2 students in the past 4 years.
Recently I submitted an abstract for our research in Europe this summer to a conference hosted by NYU on Social Entrepreneurship. If it is accepted, I will have an opportunity to present our findings in New York to the academic community this November. I won’t start teaching classes until my third year in the program, but will be working as a research assistant to an active researcher in the business school that may give me an opportunity to get published before starting on a dissertation. Calculus and Statistics are vital to a few of the Seminars I have this semester, so I am switching gears from what I was used to before, which is taking a toll on my social life. However, I am very optimistic about what lies ahead, the people I am going to be working with, and becoming part of the Louisville community.
It’s not quite a concrete jungle, but dreams have been made here…. just look at Tom Cruise, Muhammad Ali, Colonel Sanders, Diane Sawyer, Papa John Schnatter, Hunter S. Thompson, Phil Simms and Thomas Edison – He left Louisville after getting fired from spilling sulfuric acid on the office floor, only to have his invention of the light bulb demonstrated in Louisville 16 years later.
“I’m just an MBA living in LA” is the chorus for one of my new rap songs. This city has given me more than it has taken in the 2 years I have lived here, and I am really fascinated with the inner-city culture that I get a glimpse of when I leave my beach neighborhood and explore. Last week I taught my first high school class in a school in the Watts/Compton side of LA. I was given just a day’s notice, and really didn’t have time to worry about spending a day in an area with 49% of the people under the poverty line and recognized around the world (thanks to rap music) for their gang violence. By coincidence, I watched the movie “Dangerous Minds” the weekend before on TBS, and went into the experience with a willingness to teach a little karate or drop some Bob Dylan poetry like Ms. Pfeiffer.
As it turns out, Hollywood, the media, and Coolio had painted a picture of LA that I did not see that day. What I did see was a brand new school, well behaved 17-18 year olds who were creative, energetic, passionate, and motivated to succeed. They made the experience incredible for me, and really enlightened me on aspects of entrepreneurship that get missed in an MBA program. I am excited to work with them throughout the semester to help them win a national business plan writing competition.
Today NPR featured a story that shows entrepreneurship causing controversy in this very neighborhood. LA Gang Tours is a social enterprise that gives guided tours of the roughest parts of the city in a bus with former gang members. They charge $65 per ticket, and tourists are taken to places that they would normally not feel safe going to alone, but like me, have had a certain picture painted in their minds through the the entertainment industry. Their tours have been sold out the last 5 months, and they make several stops, including the LA County Jail, the birthplace of the Black Panthers, and the birthplace of the Crips gang. They stop at local businesses so that tourists can buy souvenirs, and supposedly donate a large portion of their profits back into the community to try to create new jobs, microfinancing loans, and other projects to help maintain a “cease-fire agreement” between the 3 major gangs in the area.
The founder, Alfred Lomas is a former gang member and has negotiated a deal with the gang leaders to keep gun free-zones for children to be safe in, and to keep the tourists safe on the trips. The goal is to inform outsiders about this culture, help the economic health of South Central Los Angeles, and strive for peace. Below is their explanation of how they keep tourists safe.
“5-10% of the gang population is responsible for 65-70% of all gang violence. LA GANG TOURS has access to the “5%,” those who have their fingers on the triggers. The participating gangs in the established gun fire free safety zones have agreed to allow LA GANG TOURS to operate in their areas, given our goals to hire their youth for employment opportunities and offer job and entrepreneurship training programs. LA GANG TOURS has predetermined routes and times that are honored by each of the participating and opposing gangs. Every effort has been made, from the time of day to departure locations, to ensure a safe, pleasant and enjoyable tour experience.”
This story fascinates me, but I am not surprised to hear that certain community members are in complete opposition to this venture. Some people view the tours as exploitation. They argue that they are reinforcing negative stereotypes of the area, and taking advantage of a group of people already going through hardships. I admit that I thought of it almost like a jungle safari tour from the marketing. However, after reading about the founder, I truly believe that this movement has positive intentions for the community, the tourists, and for peace in the area. Perhaps I will take a date on the tour in the upcoming months. Good idea?
In my last semester in the LMU MBA program, I was invited to be in an unique entrepreneurship class taught by the founder of Kinko’s, (Paul Orfalea) that is a mixture of MBA students and undergrads (including ridiculously smart freshman) – all committed to becoming entrepreneurs.
3 of the undergrads in the class are stirring up some buzz for a class project in another class, where they had to create a marketable product from an ordinary object (brown paper bag) What they’ve done is brilliant, combining social entrepreneurship, creativity, and an unusual guiness world record challenge. Basically, they are asking people to cut a brown paper bag into a paper doll (using a template from the website) that they can decorate, and mail it in with a dollar (or more) so that 20,000 paper dolls can be held together by a group of students in France. The dolls and the money will all be donated to Haiti for an orphanage.
“Donors are asked to create a paper doll, and then mail it along with a donation of $1 or more to the Lighthouse Charitable Foundation: 311 N. Robertson Blvd., Suite 151, Beverly Hills, CA 90211. www.linkedforhaiti.com”
Check out more info here – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Linked-For-Haiti/289098967272?ref=ts
Some of the best classes I have taken in business school have been entrepreneurship classes – Dr. Grossman’s Technology Commercialization, Managing New and Growing Businesses that teach comprehensive approaches to both written and “living cases.” (living cases involve working directly with a CEO or leaders with notable organizations) Next semester I will be taking a class with the CEO and Founder for Kinkos, Paul Orfalea. The course is open to a select number of students by invite only, and will be my first MBA class that is not taught by a prof with a Ph.D. Other classes I plan on taking are Social Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial Finance. I believe that there is a cycle to entrepreneurship, and the ideal cycle in my situation seems to suggest two stages take place in Academia. The first stage is my current graduate education. The second is a possible future in teaching and higher educational research . Pre-MBA, I believed there should be a experiential stage between these two, so that the second stage serves value to others, at least in Entrepreneurship. However lately I have found myself challenging this belief, and considering an immediate transition into Academia as a professional, and pursuing a Ph.D. Of course, a Ph.D is not needed to educate others, (Orfalea is an example of this) however it seems very few other approaches gain the credibility needed to be successful (outside of the irregular $200 million sale of a company). The transition from industry to a classroom had a learning curve, and I can only assume that if I delay higher educational pursuits, I will face more of these. However, I am still weighing the pros and cons of such a decision, more importantly trying to understand the value of entrepreneurial studies in an academic environment to society, and most importantly, whether my skills and passions align with it. Affiliation with a research-intensive university for 4 years also provides a wealth of resources to explore ideas, and possibly even pursue entrepreneurial ventures within the confines of the curriculum. Dr. Kiesner from LMU is considered a pioneer in building Entrepreneurship into Business School curriculum, and is known for unorthodox methods. Further, at the Social Innovation Fast Pitch event at USC, 2 of 6 judges were professors, who have been and continue to be very involved in industry. Microfinance as we love it today was developed by a professor (Muhammad Yunus), who won the Nobel Peace Prize. His career is full of entrepreneurial ventures on the side, and is certainly something to be admired. In his case, however, the majority of his contribution to the industry came after becoming a professor. These type of role models have caused me to ponder how long I should wait before becoming an educator. On one hand, I might lose the entrepreneurial spirit after 4 years of intense study, and several more of research and teaching to secure tenure and never carry out any of my ideas. On the other hand, the educational experience may be enlightening and an engine of newer, more innovative ideas that can be executed through different channels (educational grants, community involvement, published properties, or ideally for me – film). Somewhere in the middle is the concern if I will be qualified to be an educator at such a level. Certainly I am not right now, but I have to imagine that I need to plan ahead somewhat so that I am ready when the time comes – a Ph.D program takes 4 years. Perhaps the key element to all of this is timing. Business ventures can be a careful formula of a brilliant idea and exceptional management yet still result in failure, Every successful entrepreneur I have spoken with or studied credits timing – which involves a stroke of luck among other things. Perhaps a person’s decision to become a successful educator in entrepreneurship depends on how they time such a venture in the larger schedule of their life experiences. As inspirational as it is learning from a professor full amazing experiences , it is arguably more discouraging taking a class with a professor full of experience but with exhausted insights and a jaded attitude. Sometimes these professors can have the appeal of a former hometown hero quarterback that never moved on past highschool. I suspect that if timing is the critical factor for success, then it will be extremely important to surround myself with the right people and environment to be able to hear the calling and respond accordingly. Possibly I am hearing it now, and I just need to think through some of the beliefs I have established – It may be unnecessary for me to be a successful entrepreneur to be a successful entrepreneurial academic, Maybe I need to ask the following questions – Will I have time to both explore my ambitions and teach about the journey? Will higher educational studies be the only way for my mind to generate such ideas? Will higher educational studies prevent me from being able to execute any idea at all? When asked in 2003 about how he felt about a lawsuit and having ties cut with Clayton Dubilier (Kinkos buyout firm), Paul Orfalea responded – “It’s been agony, and I won’t miss the business or Clayton, Dubilier,” says Orfalea, who now devotes his time to building day care centers and teaching a course at the University of California, Santa Barbara, his alma mater. “I’m building day care centers. I like teaching school. I have a life. I’ve got better things to do.” There are other quotes that describe his pride in building the company from UCSB’s campus in an office so small “ the copy machine had to be lugged out onto the sidewalk” to nearly 1800 stores, that sold for billions to FedEx. I am extremely excited for the class on several levels, as a student, entrepreneur, and aspiring educator. -J
I think it’s in our nature to be moved after hearing the struggles, failures and successes of others entrepreneurs.
Today I listened to 30 social entrepreneurs in LA pitch their causes to a room full of us coaches and volunteers in preparation of the LA social venture’s “fastpitch” contest.
I arrived to the event about ten minutes late, not because of the reputable “Indian standard time” but instead because of traffic jams from driving across LA that reminded me if only two possible places- Bombay and the infamous Hyderabad. Nonetheless I quickly realized that I made the proper decision to involve myself with this event and gained comfort that my idea for filming a documentary around it is very possible. What I witnessed today in the USC library conference room was something magnificent. Seasoned leaders humbled themselves after years of putting their hearts and souls into a cause to convince a room in 3 minutes they were ready for funding. This was a coaching session for an event 3 weeks away – I felt like Simon from American idol a few times with my critiques however the overall vibe was extremely supportive. When a pitcher got nervous and blanked out the room did their best to help them get comfortable so that they could regain composure. It struck me as odd watching so many aspiring civil servants compete against each other. Furthermore the level of class with the people in the room is something unmatched in my limited experience in business. I am just glad that I am not the judge who has to pick one of these many passionate entrepreneurs to fund their selfless cause to make LA a better place. There are some very clever ideas in this sector and my passion for social entrepreneurship was fueled today.
I left the event to drive across town for my MBA class “managing new and growing ventures”. The class has one of my favorite professors of all time but she has absolutley no tolerence for lateness in her classes and therefore I risked several traffic violations to make it in time for class – afterall her brother did fly down from the bay area to speak at our class tonight.
I made it in time for one of the most inspiring/disturbing/strangely familiar story I have heard.
This CEO spoke about a 9 year venture that truly pushed the limits of a new entrepreneur. Mind you, two hours before 30 mother Theresa’s were pitching me on startups that were designed to save childrens lives, raise literacy rates, fund the arts, and save our beautiful oceans. Now I was in a classroom listening to a man who left a comfortable job just days before his son was born to start a company with his best friend who he later fired along with firing his father and 100 other employees months during the dotcom bust. Months before he regrettably refused a multi million dollar buyout. As cutthroat as that is, his business decisions – which we were fortunate to hear in a very detailed and logical presentation, were somehow absolutley sound. This was an entrepreneur who initially turned down half a million dollars to keep his best friend and founding partner in the company. (2 years prior to firing) Every decision he made was carefully calculated and although he admits that they are neither right or wrong- given the circumstance I agreed with each one. perhaps the most moving quote he shared was one regarding the autonomy entrepreneurs seek when they choose to start their own company. He stressed that this is a common misconception and in fact we entrepreneurs lack control of our environments and are similar to floating kayaks in a sea of large ocean liners – being pushed back and forth between their waves.
This has defintely been the hardest lesson for me over the past few years and through this mans humble account of a decade of experience, I have come to understand my own struggle in this chosen career. I got into this business thinking I could call the shots but quickly learned the power of financiers, competition, platforms like apple iTunes and other stakeholders.
He exited one venture mildly successful – diluted his and founding partners/investors shares to almost nothing. However after what seemed to be the 20th change in business models, he made a power play, against the initial opinion of the board, and directed a profitable exit for the company.
Perhaps my first venture may someday be looked as a failure. Tonight I gained a tremendous amount of inspiration that I am in the company of very intelligent and successful people who have also had years of hardships. I am comforted however that success is a lifelong challenge. These rolemodels of mine don’t define their success by any one successful venture. They in fact prefer thinking about their losses over their wins. Perhaps because they are easier to understand – many succesful entrepreneurs are quick to admit the starring role of luck in their successes I know I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes however i can look back at this early journey and stomach each loss with the assurance that “it’s not for nothing”. I don’t know if I will ever be successful enough to be able to hire and god forbid fire my own father, but it’s going take something major to extinguish the fire in my belly right now. I will continue to embrace the uncertainty of the future of my entrepreneurial pursuits knowing that as a failure I will be in the company of many legends, and by succeeding in survival i will hopefully avoid the comfort of quitters.
As previously mentioned – I lack Internet at my house, but wrote this post from my phone. Please excuse any typos.
I continued the Expat experience tonight by attending an event hosted by TEA (Twin City Expat Association) The evening was spent in a gated community, called Whisper Valley. I came to know from a friend who’s uncle built the subdivision that this was the first gated community in the entire country.
The speaker at tonight’s event, V Raghunathan gave a brilliant presentation on the Indian mentality. His book, “The Games Indians Play” appears to be an economic study of the Indian mentality, using concepts from game theory and the prisoner’s dilemma to explain why things are done the way they are here. He claims not to be a reformist, however his book is meant to inspire change of his people, so that Indian’s can be a true force internationally.
He pointed out that many of the problems India faces, including corruption, water supply, garbage removal, and a general distrust from international trade is because of short sightedness as well as not enforcing public policy. He claims that Indians in general are very intelligent, however they make decisions that will benefit them in the immediate future, versus for long term satisfaction. He used the example of game of chess, and the difference between lightning chess and the conventional form of the game. In a fast paced chess match, the players only consider a few moves ahead, while in a slow, conventional form of the game, moves are thought out several steps in advance. While this mentality is good for the individual, he claimed that it has very negative consequences for the larger population.
Without going into too much detail about the various examples he spoke of, all which I have seen here first hand, I would encourage you to read this book. He is a very intelligent, highly articulate speaker, and his words really hit home for me tonight. One of the more humorous parts of the talk was discussing an insurance company in Bombay for people who ride the train. There is an actual company that charges a small fee per customer who ride the trains in Bombay, for the unusual situation where they are caught riding the train without a ticket. This insurance company will pay the fine for the illegal rider. Since the enforcement of this policy is so poor, the insurance company makes out with a profit, as they rarely pay out, and the riders get extremely cheap transportation, as their monthly insurance fees are much less than the cost of the ride. Take that on for size State Farm.
Tonight’s talk got me really interested in Game Theory. An example was given which talked about a hypothetical case where Bill Gates decides to give away $1 billion to a lucky person. The method for giving this money away is a strange one however, and involves writing letters to 20 people around the world. The letter congratulates each recipient as being one of the only 20 people considered for this donation. The recipients are given a list of 3 steps on how they will be able to receive the $1 billion.
Step1: Write back to Mr. Bill Gates, to inform him that you would like to receive the money.
Step2: Do not attempt to contact or track down any of the other 19 recipients. If you attempt to make such efforts, Gate’s team will find out and you will be disqualified.
Step3: You must be the only person to write back to Bill Gates. If any of the other 19 people, even just 1 other person writes a response, no one will receive the prize.
This dilemma is a curious one, as it is highly unlikely that Bill Gates will have to part with the money. Human tendency suggests that each person will likely take the chance of mailing a response, as they have nothing to lose by doing so. At an individual level, they are satisfied with this, as they would rather attempt to receive the prize than to let someone else get it by deciding to not send a response. They are all equally as intelligent in this scenario, and would rather screw the entire group over, than be screwed over themselves, by letting just 1 person write a response and receive the prize. So, what to do in this situation?
V Raghunathan tonight suggested that if each of the 20 recipients put 20 numbers in a bowl, guessing a number which if picked out at random would be the only way they would write back to Mr. Gates, the entire group would have a 38% chance of getting the prize, and at the end of the day the money would be donated rather than retained by Bill Gates.
I found this very interesting. He claimed that this mentality starts to explain the Nuclear arms build up between India and Pakistan, it explains how everyone is in a hurry here, even in holy temples causing fights, the frequency of running red lights and disregarding traffic laws, the low water pressure from everyone getting water pumps, eventually bringing the water pressure back to the origin, before the first guy discovered he could use his own water pump, only to be followed by his neighbor and their neighbor and so on and so forth.
Perhaps it explains why I got in a shouting match with the owner of Paradise restaurant, coincidentally the best Biryani in town. I ordered a Mutton Biryani for my driver, and 2 naans and Chicken TikkaMasala for myself. I heard my order called out and went to claim it, but was told I was in the wrong part of the restaurant. (They called the area “parcel pick up.” Ten minutes later a Muslim man, with a cigar in his mouth came up to me and took my receipt, bringing me back just the mutton biryani. When I asked him about the rest of the order, he pointed to my receipt saying that was all I had. I told him I had certainly ordered more food, and had payed 3x what the receipt was showing. The cashier came over to see what the fuss was about, and denied that I had payed him 200 rupees, which really took the cake. The owner pulled me aside, and insulted me, accusing me of trying to cheat the restaurant, and even taking my receipt from inside the dining hall and trying to use it to get free takeaway. I was outraged, and started to lose my temper, which is not a good thing, when just then a delivery boy called out my order again, “One Chicken TikkaMasala, one Mutton Biryani, and two Naan’s. Since it was an unusual order, it was quite obvious it was mine, as I had pleaded with him the previous 10 minutes that I had ordered that very combination. He finally gave in, gave me my food, and without apologizing for insulting me, told me “Sir, this is the system here, get used to it.” I held back every inclination I had of dumping the chicken tikka on his head and knocking that god damn cigar out of his mouth, and choked out the words, “No worries, it happens.” After all, this place does make the best biryani in town.
I think this was a good case of the Indian mentality, always assuming someone is trying to screw them over. Tit for tat, V Raghunathan called it, when people only remember their last encounter with someone, and make the decision to either cooperate, or defect for future dealings. This restaurant owner probably dealt with people trying to get free food from him, the place is always packed, and they do tremendous business, likely get ripped off once and a while by receipt scams. Guilty till proven innocent in a way, was the way I was treated. No “The Customer is always right” thoughts go on in food establishment like this. Perhaps, he was trying to defect on his deal with me recognizing my foreign accent, just like the cowardly chicken 65 guy. We will see what happens next time I go to Paradise, I think I am going to start sending my driver to pick up my food, these encounters are eventually going to end in something bad.
I don’t remember if I mentioned this, but I rehired Satyam. He showed me his wife’s medical history, which couldn’t have been faked since it traced back with official stamps over 7 years, it was quite depressing to see. I trusted that his owner had screwed him over in the deal, the demand is just not high enough to pay guys like Satyam a decent salary to be a driver anymore. I am paying the difference, and even loaned him 2000 rupees so that he could buy new clothes for his family for the current festival, a 10 day celebration where there are a few days you are supposed to wear only new outfits when joining your friends and family in celebration. His wife’s hospital bills made it impossible for him to do this, and I could see the regret in his eyes when he asked me for the money. He is far too old for this life of a driver, he has shown me moments of loyalty, such as when I left my wallet in the car going to subway, and had to cross the busy street to get back to it. Within seconds, he noticed my uneasiness of crossing the street and came running out with the wallet, telling me not to move, and confidently walking across the street to get it to me. After I finished my meal of two 6inch chicken tikka subs (they don’t sell foot longs here, and have different counters for veg and non veg orders), Satyam ran out once again and cross the road with me, standing between me and the coming traffic. It was a gesture, though small, that meant a lot to me, and made me thankful I brought him back.
Now, I want to pose a question to you Americans back home. Why is our economy so bad? This was asked to me by a Belgian guy at the Expat mixer. He got very passionate about the subject matter, and American’s over consumption, spending money they don’t have, and starting wars with countries for no reason etc. He started yelling about it to me at this event, perhaps for excess alcohol consumption, and I reminded him that he was standing on a patio of a majority American population and that he might want to take it easy. It was uncomfortable for us both, I agreed with his dislike of the Bush regime, but also reminded him that he has never been the US, and shouldn’t generalize the entire population of people from the little information he has. He felt really bad about his venting, and apologized to me. I told him there was no need for an apology, I am certainly not a politically correct person, and I appreciated his honesty, though unrefined, over fakeness and insincerity. I am starting to have an identify crisis though, as I don’t want to be associated as just another American as its not the best reputation to have internationally (found that out immediately during my stay in Europe), I am not accepted yet as an Indian, and for the most part am cool with that as I feel like a jack ass for not knowing the mother tongue. On top of this I was told by my cousin in Australia that I have developed a strange Indian accent through my 2 months here so far. As my Uncle Ferdie nicknamed me 2 years ago in Middlesex, England, perhaps I am just The Wanderer.