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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Last Weekend & Conclusion about living in India

I cannot believe this is already my ultimate weekend in India... I will be flying back to fabulous Zurich next Friday to finally see my family and friends again. So I thought this is the right point in time to summarize my living experience in incredible India (After going through several culture shocks).

Coming to India from Europe you will be able to live like a king here. I have a personal driver, a luxurious apartment (finally I created a video that shows you my apartment), there is a swimming pool, maids that clean my room and do my laundry (although I still prefer to do it myself because they do not fully understand how to operate the washing machine). There are people that cook for you, people that ride the elevator with you... man power is available at such a cheap price and in abundant quantity - it is simply breathtaking and at the same time very disturbing for us who grew up in the western world. Even though you get used to have "slaves" you will not feel 100% comfortable when letting your driver sleep in the car while you attend some party until 4am in the morning. Well I guess I got used to it :)

Check out the video tour of my apartment

My major conclusion though is that if you decide to live for a longer time in India you should be absolutely sure about your decision. Make sure you know exactly what you will be working on and try coming first for a visit to check out the place. Towards the end of my internship I concluded that I definitely could not picture myself here for any longer. Indians live life completely different, they love different things and do not appreciate things I think are completely essential for good life quality.
For instance cultural events, arts and museums: Almost non-existing here. You cannot go to the theater, there is no good museum, no art galleries,  no concerts... Indians do not seem to crave for that. It is impossible to go jogging in a forest, it is under no circumstance possible to swim in a river or lake around here. There are no barbecue spots outside and I did not find a nice spot to enjoy sunset. All these magical offerings are unavailable here in Bangalore; the city that is full of roads, cars, shopping malls and concrete. Bangalore used to be called the garden city... not anymore.
On top of that Indians do not value work-life balance. They will work very long hours for 5 days a week... and then sleep the whole weekend to recover and prepare for the next week. There are usually no meet-ups with friends after work because these Indians have to be stuck in a traffic jam for two hours and then when arriving home they will just collapse in bed. I would probably burn out after a short time living life like this...

I have been drawing quite a bad picture up to now. Surely there are many things that I will miss: my awesome office mates that helped me out all the time, the tasty food, tavelling & exploring India, the beautiful women and last but not least the matrimonial section of the Sunday Times:
High status cultured Punjabi family seek alliance for their charming beautiful daughter, 5'1'', June 1983 born, educated in the US & India. Currently working with reputed Delhi-based company. Father CEO of MNC. Looking for professional, well placed boy from similar family background. Caste no bar. Please respond with biodate and recent photos to sonib683@gmail.com.
After all: I can't wait to breath western hemisphere air, re-celebrate my birthday the Zurich way and hopefully go for a dip in the lake of Zurich.

Apart from celebrating the last weekend I went for a big souvenir tour and traveled a lot the past weekends:
PS: Please do not get me wrong - India is an awesome place to travel and discover. One of the most magical places to travel actually. In this post I was focusing on life quality only.
PSS: Just attended a music festival today and slightly changed my opinion. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bombay. Maximum City.

Bombay is a bombastic, buzzing and bolorful place (colorful has been misspelled for the sake of the alliteration). For the first time in India I felt like I am in a real city, a metropolis of the world. Other cities, for instance Delhi or Bangalore, do not give you the feeling of being in a world city. Compared to Mumbai they seem like an endless sequence of malls, roads, poor areas, rich areas and malls again. It is the same "soup" repeated over and over again. It feels like variety is missing in these places and the repeating pattern cripples your lust for adventures. In Bombay there is not enough space to repeat that "soup" over and over again as the city is surrounded by water on three of five sides (if you include the vertical :D).

So Mumbai was very different. It boasts with very European neighborhoods and restaurants, has a ample marine drive along the bay and for the very first time in India I spotted tall buildings. I spent an adventurous weekend in Mumbai with my fellow interns from Accenture, Eric form Italy and Dustin from Canada. We explored many different neighborhoods, visited the national theater to see a fun show called "Get rid of my wife" and enjoyed night life in Bandra. The two days were full of fun but weatherwise they couldn't disagree more: On Saturday it was pouring rain and on Sunday I got sunburned... see yourself in the Mumbai Photo Album. Make sure you check as well the video at the end of the album.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Kerala Backwaters & Pondicherry

Today I am writing about two places that are on the opposite side of the country: First about the paradisaic Kerala Backwaters, which are on the west coast of India and then about charmingly European Pondicherry, which is on the east coast. What an awesome combination! What both places have in common is that they used to be European colonies.

Kerala Backwaters
The most relaxing trip in India so far was this one! Seven of us (Alex, Martin, Adrien, Laure, Lotti, Cyrielle and the Indian himself) rented a house boat in Alleppey to float on the Kerala Backwaters for 24 hours. Don't get me wrong if I say house boat. I am not talking about a stationary house boat or a Seattle-type of house boat. I am talking about THE house boat of all the house boats. We had a three bed room house boat with a huge open living room in the back of the boat, a kitchen in the front of the boat. Each bed room had its own bathroom. On top of that three human beings were included in the price of 220 CHF/USD (same thing). Isn't that what they mean when they talk about great value?
After and before embarking the house boat we spent some time in Fort Kochi, a former Portuguese colony. A very relaxing place with beautiful trees and the fascinating Chinese fishing nets.
Experience it yourself in the Kerala Backwaters photo album.

Pondicherry
Pondicherry is east of Bangalore directly on the sea shore. I arrived there by night train and the most fabulous memory of the night train I made at the first stop in the morning. The Indians would go out of the train and break off twigs from a tree, put these twigs in there mouth and use them to brush there teeth. Amazing!
Pondicherry used to be a French colony and the city itself has two parts: the Tamil part (Which is very noisy, dirty and vibrant) and the French part (which is boring, relaxing and asleep). As you must know by now I prefer the noisy and dirty places on my travels; in the Tamil part I walked into a beautiful fish market as you will see in the pictures. The fish market is dominated by women, I could hardly find any men there. They are the ones getting the fish I guess. In Pondicherry I ran as well into two Australian girls, Beate and Mia, that would tell me about my past and future of my life using numerology. My life number is apparently a 7 (Digit sum of my birthday = 3+8+1+9+8+5 ). What is your number? I spare you all the details of my past and future here, but just ask me if you want to know more.
After roaming around in Pondi for a while I took the bus to Mahabalipuram to meet up with Cyrielle, Laure, Lotti and Antoine (French friends). Unfortunately I didn't take any pics of them but only of fishermen doing there morning toilet on the beach. Mahabalipuram was a bit too touristy for my taste but it was wonderful to hang out with the French equip. On Sunday they even took me to an orphanage which was a special experience.
Find all the pictures in the Pondicherry photo album.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Day at the Office and Happy Temple Hunting

A Day at the Office
Please step closer and have a look at my office. I invite you to join me on a day at my office and meet my office mates. They go by beautiful names like Manjunath, Maheshwari, Keerthana, Genus, Arun, Shweta, Vyoma, Narendra, Mukesh, etc. There is a huge variety of names but at first all the faces looked pretty much the same to me and it was hard to memorize the names. But now, after almost three weeks at work, I even know the difference between Sashi and Sitendra (especially since he got his head shaved two days ago). A good way to learn the names is to read them off the badges everybody has to wear - the funny thing is just that all the difficult names get shortened. My badge says "Flavio P". The receptionist was getting a bit tired after seven letters.
A good work day usually starts out around 8:30am with an extensive breakfast. I fell in love with a dish called Aloo Paratha. It is a flat-bread stuffed with potato and is served with yogurt and pickel (spicey stuff). While eating I chat with my work colleagues about relationships, girls, wedding and travel plans - most of the time we are gossiping about other people in the meal hall. After breakfast we always have a Chai Tea (with extra ginger for me).
Later at around 12:45pm, after getting some work done, we go for lunch. The food variety is humongous and so is the crowd trying to get food. Once we sit at a table the food sharing will start. There are usually tasty and less tasty dishes on the table. So what happens is that Manjunath usually goes ahead and just picks what he likes from any plate on the table. Of course it is expected that you steal some food back from his plate. Indians are much more open about sharing the same plate with another person. One has to be especially careful about the dessert. It can be gone in less than a second... Indians do not consume any beverages during the meal. Only after washing the hands they will start drinking water.
After lunch we will head back to our office. I am usually busy emptying my mailbox which has a ridiculously small quota of 25MB. Every single day I have to take a decision to keep the humorous emails of my Indian peers or not... At around 5:30pm I will call my driver to meet me down at the reception and we would head back to the apartment...
Check out my office pictures.

Happy Temple Hunting
The first big weekend trip in Bangalore was to Mysore to see the palace there and to Belur, Halebid and Somnathpur to see Hoysala temples. Simply check out the Happy Temple Hunting pictures. There is not much to describe.

Indian Prices (40 INR = 1 CHF = 1 USD)
Now I want to give you a feeling for Indian prices. 1 kg of beef is the same price as 10 liters of water or one McChicken Meal Large. Check it out yourself.

1 kg beef = 120 INR
1 kg mango = 70 INR
1 kg watermelon = 11 INR

1 liter petroleum = 42 INR
1 liter water = 12 INR
1 liter Coca Cola = 35 INR

1 km in an auto-rickshaw = 7 INR
1 km in a Toyota Innova = 12 INR

1 vegetarian meal in my meal hall = 36 INR
1 non vegetarian meal in my meal hall = 55 INR
1 McChicken Menu Large = 109 INR

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rajasthan Part II + Arrival to Bangalore

Rajasthan Part II
Remember magical Rajasthan from my last blog post? Today I am talking about the less magical sides of it: namely spitting, burping and farting. All of these activities seem quite popular in rural areas, even among women. I already joined in on one of these habits: burping. My photos will show you a beautiful Jain temple in Ranakpur, the blue city Jodhpur, my desert safari in Jaisalmer, the fort of Bikaner and many havelis (huge private mansions with an atrium) in Mandawa. All of these places are strategically positioned along the trading route that connected India with Central Asia. Trading brought a lot of money into these cities and big forts were built to control and secure the road. The region itself does not look rich though because many of the wealthy merchants left for Europe or Overseas. Check out the pictures: Rajasthan Part II.

Arrival in Bangalore
Arriving in Bangalore was a blessing. The climate and temperature are wonderful. Big trees seam the narrow streets and the monsoon that arrived brings a bit of rain every day. I am living in a nice three room apartment in a neighborhood called Koramangala. It is a proper residence colony with walls around the colony so only authorized people can enter. The first evening I met the other three interns from Switzerland: Alex, Adrien and Martin. I share my apartment with Alex and currently there is an Indian family in another room. We share a huge living room and kitchen. Each room has its own bathroom. In my next blog post I will show you my crib in more detail.
The first weekend we had a look at Lal Bagh, a beautiful garden in Bangalore, we strolled around the city market and checked out Iskcon temple. Later we saw the parliament with a strange engraved sentence: "Government Work is God's Work". After the sightseeing weekend we started our internship at Accenture, next week I will give you more details on work and living in India. I will as well make you familiar with Indian prices. First check out the pictures: First Days in Bangalore.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rajasthan Part I

Rajasthan is the Land of the Kings, Maharadjas and Colours. It hosts some of the most beautiful forts and temples in India. It is mostly rural and half of it is desert. I rented a car and a driver (Kamal) for 12 days and saw magical villages, vast forts, beautiful havelis, incredible temples, pompous palaces and experienced the desert. Travelling from Delhi to Rajasthan felt like travelling back in time. People have to walk kilometers to get water, there is no service industry, no shopping malls. Check out my pictures to reveal the true face of India yourself. 
N
ow I want to give you some details on my itinerary. I added as well the name of the hotels in which I stayed. If you plan to do a similar trip I can recommend all of them.

Agra (Hotel Taj Home Stay)

The first stop on my trip in order to check out the magical Taj Mahal. Children living around the Taj are specialized in ripping off tourists. They were the most persistent species of rip-off people that I met. After visiting the Taj I headed on to Fatehpur Sikri which is another UNESCO world heritage site where people would be almost as persistent. They know that most foreigners travel to the Taj have no idea of the Indian prices and they ask for outrageous prices.
Jaipur (Hotel Amber View)
I met a few other travelers here: Melissa, Alex and Chloe. We spent a few days together. In Jaipur I had as well my first experiences with local people. I played cricket with children and hung out with local people that in the end only wanted to make money out of me. True friends, eh?
Pushkar (Hotel New Park)
Pushkar was quite an experience. I had the best Chai tea there, got my first Hindu mark on my forehead and drank a Special Lassi with a disastrous aftermath. Read up yourself...
Udaipur (Hotel Pichola Haveli)
Udaipur is my most favourite place in Rajasthan. It is a considerably small town with narrow streets, friendly people, a good mix of temples and palaces and has many opportunities to hike. I relaxed there for two days.

The Rajasthan tour will be continued in my next post... for now check out the first part of the pictures
here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Delhi

Welcome to Delhi. If you have a car or a motor-bike then please remove all your rear mirrors. In India people do not look back. They are only moving forward with a fast pace while furiously honking at the same time. Arriving to Delhi was "quite" an experience. I arrived at the Delhi airport past midnight and because there are not many street lights only the next morning revealed the true face of the city: Crazy. Crowded. Hot. Dirty. Chaotic. But still very fascinating. Actually, I was scared to go out and walk on the streets the first day. Luckily my friend Raman helped me out and got me started.

Currently Delhi is one big construction site because of the upcoming Commonwealth Games in October. You will see traces of the construction work in almost all my Delhi photos. The belief is that by October the city should be a world class city. So all the homeless people are moved out of the downtown area, all illegally constructed buildings are destroyed, sewers are put into place and all streets seem to be renovated. The fascinating fact is that literally every street in Delhi is under construction. Inefficient workers seem to be available abundantly. People are very optimistic that all the construction will be completed by the time the games start (although it seems almost infeasible, but apparently Indians start to work quite efficiently if you give them deadlines).

Now to a completely other thing, I started reading Indian newspapers: Honour Killing: Family tortures and kills daughter and her lover

The most definitely best thing I did in Delhi was the City Walk Tour guided by former street children. The tour is offered by the Salaam Baalak Trust and gives street children a platform to improve the English they learn in children homes and tourists have the opportunity to get to know the city from a whole new perspective.

That is it about Delhi. Stay tuned for my Rajasthan report and make sure you check out my Delhi photos.
Hotel recommendation in Delhi: Hotel Lal's Haveli.