Month: August 2009

Back To Inja

Here I am, back in the subcontinent.  And – writing that, I realised for the first time how amusing it is that they call it that.  Because – when you visit here, you’re not necessary incontinent – but usually somewhere close.

Anyway – I realised when I visited family, that when people asked me about India – I didn’t have much to say.  I’d got so used to some of the weirdness, that I couldn’t think of anything interesting.  So – this time, I’m going to try and describe some of the weird and wacky things that go on around here – while I’m still getting reaccustomed to it.  Before seeing a family of 5 travelling on a motorbike becomes ho-hum.

So – the trip here was as usual.  Get to the airport, eat some horrible airport food (I’m sure airport food is worse than airplane food – and you have to pay for it), buy some duty-free – and get on a plane.  Well – in mighty Terminal 5, one of the most modern terminals in the world – get onto a bus, drive across the tarmac, and get onto a plane.  Watched some terrible movies, drank some average wine – and only managed to fall asleep during take-off and landing.   7 hours later, or so – get toNew Delhi, and start to remember the oppressive heat, the pseudo-english on all signs and official paperwork, and filing cabinets packed full of paper, falling apart, in the middle of the luggage pick-up hall.  People wandering around in uniform – presumably doing their job.  Which seems to be wandering around wearing a uniform.  All with a kind of “Oh – what was I going to do?  Hmmm… maybe wipe down some 10-foot high invisible surface for dust.  Now… where did I leave my cloth?”

Got to the hotel, and immediately remembered how mixed one’s feelings are when hotel staff – who haven’t seen you for months, welcome you back with a “Welcome back sir”.  It’s nice to be recognised – but then you think about the reason they actually recognise you.  You’ve 10% of the year staying in a hotel in an industrial city in India.  And about to double that percentage.  And that was before I even got to the bar.  Before I’d come, my workmates had joked that the bar staff would have a ‘Kruse-beer’ waiting for me when I arrived.  I walked in – the barman had just poured what did indeed look to be a ‘Kruse-beer’.  It was obvious he’d poured it for somebody else – but when he saw me he really did exclaim out rather loudly “Mr Kruse!  Would you like a Mr-Kruse-beer Mr Kruse?”.  And handed me the beer.  And thence ensued much shaking of hands with all the bar-staff on that night – welcoming me back and asking how long I was here for this time, etc.  Its depressingly nice to be appreciated.  And – of course, this pattern has continued since I’ve been here, as I continue to see staff for the first time – at the bar, restaurant, exec lounge, drivers, etc.  I think I’ve nearly convinced myself I’m some kind of travelling businessman.

And then – then, I came to work.  Not quite the same reception here.  Well – a  pretence of it, but fairly easily seen through.  Much like my own statements that it was good to be back, I guess.  But – my first day was cheered up a lot when the following happened.  I’d spent most of the morning doing absolutely nothing – waiting for the guy to arrive who was bringing me my laptop.  Turns out he doesn’t start until noon – so I could have had the sleep-in that I desperately needed.  He eventually arrived – and I set myself up in a meeting room which had been turned into a cramped little office with about 8 desktops.  A small group of people turn up at the door – and ask me if we’re using the projector.  Yep – that one, attached to the ceiling.  “No” – I say, because I wasn’t.  They look at each other, and nod that it would suffice.  I didn’t think too much about it – but assumed they’d come in soon and ask if they could borrow the room.  But no – two chaps walk in 10 minutes later – climb on the desk, and start unplugging the cords that go into it.  At which point – my interest is definitely piqued.  This projector is mounted onto the roof.  With a steel bracket.  It also has one of those steel cords used to secure laptops, and projectors.  And – all the cords are wired into the ceiling.  But – they set about their work.  They unplug all the cords – assuming, I guess, that they can find replacement cords somewhere else where they want to plug it in.  They succeed at unplugging the cords – but then, suddenly, look at the next bridge to cross.  Hmmm…. screwed onto a steel bracket which looks to extend well into the ceiling.  And a security cable which is designed to stop this very thing happening.  But – at least that has a key to open it.  So – they do some thinking, and then disappear.  One guy returns 20 minutes later with a pair of pliers, and a loose hacksaw blade.  And sets about it.  At this point, I really was a happy chap again.  I sat there working, stifling laughter, watching this guy attack a top-brand laptop security cable with a hacksaw blade.  No hacksaw – just the blade.  And – full credit to the guy – he stayed there until he did it.  I’ve just had to look the product up – and he sawed through a “Super-strong, steel composite cable with carbon tempered steel core” with a hacksaw blade.  After that – it was a simple matter to unscrew the project from it’s mounting – and off they go.

But, of course, there is also the irritating stuff to go with the comedy.  Walk outside at anytime there are a lot of people leaving work (which seems to be every half-hour) – and the little dirt-road outside is packed full of cars and people-movers – all waiting for people, or full of people and trying to leave – honking their horns at each other.  Absolute chaos.  But – I’m not sure if making this loud obnoxious noise is actually trying to let one of the 12 cars in front of them know that they’re trying to get through.  Because – nearly every truck you see is painted in bright colours – with “Horn Please” painted on the back.  Maybe truck-drivers here are just all gay?

Other things are just different.  I was here at 3am last night – and discovered that one guy’s job is to walk around the building at 3am – giving out snacks to everybody working at that hour, and getting them to write their name in the accompanying book.  I guess this is fair – because the daystaff get free lunch and/or dinner at the cafeteria (which seems to have completely stopped serving food I recognise.  I used to be able to at least hope I could recognise some chicken or lamb… not thus far this time).  And I don’t know how many security guards the office building employs – but it would easily be enough to stand shoulder-to-shoulder around the external perimeter.  And the one time I saw one seem to actually try to secure something – was my first morning.  There is a little card reader which you’re supposed to swipe your card past when you enter.  And – another one when you leave, for some reason.  All this reader seems to do is beep – and flash green if you’re a good guy.  It still beeps if you swipe an expired card, or a cellphone, or anything.  But – it doesn’t flash green.  The guys sitting at this desk can’t actually see the light.  But – my first morning – one of the guards was standing up in the passageway.  And – he seemed to actually lean around to see what colour the light went for my card.  Probably new on the job.  In any case – my card was expired, the light didn’t go green, and I walked on in.  He’d already gone beyond the call of duty, I guess.  Oh – to be fair – there is another of these machines which is treated much more seriously.  In the cafeteria – you have to swipe your card before getting your food.  And if you don’t have a card – you have to sign the book, and then get your food.  There are two stations – with one security guard each – and these guys take their job seriously.  Governments of the world – take note… unemployment could be a thing of the past.

And… the hotel.  I have a King room this time.  Which has an extra metre of space than the Superior.  Exactly the same in all other respects.  Including as to ‘which way around’ it is.  ie: some rooms are mirror images of others.  I have had the same orientation every time now.  I wonder if it’s in their records – they don’t want to confuse me.  And I haev discovered the wonders of a long-handled shoehorn.  I never respected shoehorns until last year – when I decided to buy one, with the intention of it being the first of a collection.  But it was a short-handled one.  Never again.  Not after tasting the delights of the long-handle.

There have been a few changes around the hotel since I’ve been away – not sure I agree with them all.  I now need to insert my keycard in the lift to get to my floor.  They’ve removed the tables and chairs from the grassy plaza – which means no place to sit, but now there is actually healthy grass across the entire thing.  The cigar case has been replaced with a champagne case.  Mixed feelings about that one.  The security guards have been expanding their borders – and now stop cars 50 metres further away from the hotel – to check for bombs and what-not in the boot or engine compartment.  And apparently there’s some awful musician who plays in the bar on Fridays&Saturdays.

Unfortunately – neither the movies nor menu have changed.

But – all-in-all, I’m back in India.  It’s pretty hot.  There’s only one other work guy here at the moment, and I haven’t seen him since my first night.  At least I’ve got my work to keep me company – otherwise I’d be one of those sad guys who drinks alone.  So – I’m about to have a meeting, and then see if I can sneak off back to the hotel before the restaurant closes.

Back To Work, sort of

Once again, I’ve neglected to write anything for some time – meaning I’m in danger of writing another lengthy boring blow-by-blow – rather than one of the rants I’ve got simmering.

But – I’ll try to keep it short.

Got back to London on the Sunday, and back to work on Monday.  Struggled to deal with the crazy fact that it is a different time here than in NZ – and turned up to work early every day that week.  But then I had a weekend of work to do.  And belatedly invited to a barbecue at Caro’n’Dom’s place.  Annoyed everbody by turning up with my laptop and spending most of my time doing work.  But – got myself so tired one way or the other that I was back to normal sleeping habits.  ie: late to work on Monday.  And with a noticable limp.

Next day – didn’t turn up at all.  My feet had turned all nasty.  Too painful to put shoes on, so I worked from home for the week.  Stayed home all weekend.  Finally went to the doctor the next Monday – and the nice lady had one look, and called for help.  The doctor had a look, diagnosed a bacterial infection, and quizzed me on whether I’d been to any tropical countries recently.  I’ve just checked – and Brisbane isn’t tropical, though it’s pretty close.  The doctor got pretty excited when I mentioned India, but admitted it was too long ago to be responsible.  Anyway – I blame Arsetralia. But – the doctor prescribed some antibiotics (an extremely heavy course, as somebody later pointed out) – and sent me down to a nurse to clean/bandage up my feet.  Or to just get the disgusting things out of his sight, probably.  The nurse did a lovely job, and I got myself a taxi to my local pub – so that I could eat a decent meal for the first time in quite some time.  And drink a beer.  Then – pick up my drugs on the way home, and spent the rest of the week working from home with my feet up – as told to by a medical professional.  Antibiotics worked wonders – and I went back in for a re-bandaging on Wednesday, and then self-diagnosed myself as cured, and didn’t show up to further appointments like I was supposed to.  I did, however, complete the course of antibiotics right through to the end, which I think is a first for me.

So – back to work the next week, albeit with sneakers on – tied very loosely, as I still couldn’t put on proper shiny pointy shoes.  Nobody seemed to mind too much, and I think it was helpful in showing people I hadn’t just been lazing around for the sake of it.

Ben turned up at some point also.  And some drunk was got on.  There has been walking through pouring rain, going into nice expensive restaurants dripping wet (me in suit, Ben in shorts/jandals), drinking champagne.  And then as we try to leave, the slovakian waitress asks if I’m leaving.  “Oh, really?  You’re really leaving?  You’re not going to have just one or two more drinks?  Oh.  That’s a shame.”  Ben walks up and asks me “What just happened?”  I couldn’t answer immediately.  I think, for the first time, I can use the word flabbergasted.  We just looked at each other, and then admitted “Ohhh… she’s good.”  Then I think I called her a nasty word (out of earshot) – and we went and asked to be seated, so that we may have some more drinks.  And therefore more champagne was drunk.

I think that was a Thursday.  On the Friday – I had lots of work to do.  But – there is a bar right next to my building.  So – 3 Osbornes & a Chook came to this bar, and we sat and drank and chatted for a while, with me popping back into the office every once in a while.  Caitlin headed off to wear glowsticks and ‘rave’ it up.  Ben, John, Chook & I stayed around, continued drinking – went to another bar, bought some champagne.  And then – back to Chooks, to continue with this theme.  1 billion beers, bottle of champagne, and a couple of bottles of cidar as back-up.

Saturday – barbecue at Caitlin’s.  Long time since I spent time around lots and lots of 23-year olds.  But – I was working, so had an excuse to not drink much.  Ben & I did, however, buy quite a lot of champagne.  And some food.  Anyway – spend the next 24 hours or so alternately drinking champagne, sneaking old-man naps, and working.  Finally got home on Sunday night – realising I was still wearing the same clothes I’d put on Friday morning.

And then – another week of work.  This time, I could put on my shiny pointy shoes – and look all professional, and what-not.  Except for the unkempt tired facet.  And what a week of work it was.  Absolutely nothing went right.  The first couple of days were spent doing things which I later found out were completely useless, and had to be redone.  And then somebody goes and tells somebody fairly high up that something is going to take 2 hours.  Now – I know I’m going to be the person doing this thing, and that it is certainly not going to take 2 hours.  More like 10.  So – 2 hours later, people start asking me about the progress.  And, of course, blaming me for the fact that it’s taking much much longer than they were told.  Not important – except several high-level managers had been actually told that their jobs depended on this.  When I think about it, I could have done it wrong on purpose, and emptied the company of about 3 or 4 managers.  Doing the company a favour, really.

But – enough of work.  Also had a couple of quiet drinks on Wednesday night with a few people.  Ben was also there, but he wasn’t doing quiet drinks.  He already had his big grin on when I arrived.  Got forced into staying around for dinner too.  Thursday night – drinks with my project manager/boss and workmate.  Got talking champagne.  And once one starts talking about champagne, one knows it’s only a matter of time until actions speak louder than words.  Also – boss was trying to get me to go along to U2 with him the following night.  No deal.

And now it’s Saturday.  And maybe a barbecue at Chooks.  Hopefully – only a barbecue.  None of this binge-drinking nonsense.  I am really hoping for a relaxing weekend.  And then – off to India on Monday.  Yep – back to India.  I’m scheduled to go there for four weeks this time.  Which might be just a little bit too long for me to cope with.  But – I was given the option of coming back to London for an extended weekend halfway through.  So – I’ve taken them up on that offer – except flying to Paris instead of London.  Will meet Ben in Paris, and then probably drive to Champagne.  And then fly back to India – nice and refreshed, of course.