MTV India Vs. MTV US

I present the current slutty show in India, Splitsvilla:

vs. MTV US's slutty show, Tila Tequila's Shot At Love:


No, not the Rhianna song... But a good way to describe Gurgaon. Not really suburbia - but disturbia. I have written a lot about this boomtown over the last month, so I finally had a chance to document a few of the finer parts of it.

First, Gurgaon is all about modern gleaming office buildings, and slums co-existing. Today, I walked down the road to the closest mall for lunch. It was relatively cool, so we decided to get outside and soak up the fresh air... and the symphony of car horns.

Almost all malls follow the same pattern in Gurgaon. 3 floors of shopping, with a movie theater / entertainment zone & food court on the 4th floor. Alfred Almeida (from the former Portugese colony of Goa - and therefore of Indian/European descent, Catholic, and a good Portugese name) and I headed up the escalators to grab lunch. On the first floor, we passed a McDonald's. It was tempting not to grab a fry - but I resisted. Thankfully, had I changed my mind, I'd encounter another McDonald's on the fourth floor... I didn't and instead we went to Subway.

I grabbed a Subway Melt... which curiously wasn't melted... and we sat down next to Hog Dog, a common food stall in malls. It serves the worlds only vegan hotdog.... YUMMY! Also available in the foodcourt, a place called Street Foods of India - I think I need to check it out when I have nothing in the afternoon.

Also up here, the happening bar. It's name? Suburbia, The Urban Lounge. Nothing particularly Urban about Suburbia... But I digress. All this suburban wonderfulness inspired me to record some footage of Gurgaon for you. Look for some video soon!

Hey Ladies! Yeah? Hey Ladies! Yeah? Do you want to save guys from Hades?!

In researching that last post - I couldn't remember how Sir Mixalot was spelled....

I found this... I'd heard of GodTube, but didn't realize this religious version of YouTube was for real....... Until now. Enjoy:

'Cause it's worn, and it's torn, and I know that girls reborn!

Greased Lightning!

So, after a few weeks of silence in my car - I've decided to have the driver put the radio on for me. There is a mostly english radio station here called Hit 95, or Jammin' 97, or Hot 93... you know - some random radio name.

The stations big thing is their promise of 10 hits in a row between commercials. This is pretty nice, as you usually can get all the way to Gurgaon and only have to listen to one set of commercials.

Editors note - it is always the same three commercials:
1) We learn how Mr. Gupta went to Thigh-land & lost his wallet... ohh how he should have purchased AMEX travellers checks
2) We learn how a young boy has given his girl a ride..... at the funland amusement park in Noida
3) Tiger Beer - Party - Tiger Beer - Party

Now, the promise of 10 hits in a row is usually only partially delivered upon. Today, on the way back home - I heard the following songs:
  1. 50 cent & JTimbelake - Ayo Technology
  2. Sean Kingston - Take You There
  3. Maroon 5 - Won't Go Home Without You
  4. John Travolta - The Grease Medly
  5. Nicole Scherzinger - Baby Love
  6. Sir-MixALot - Baby Got Back
You get the idea - time after time - I'm shocked by the random tune snuck into a playlist....

Despite all the distance, I still require my fathers name to get a cell phone....

As odd as it sounds, getting a cell phone in India is a bit of an ordeal. At least the first time round. Today, I went to buy a new SIM card so that Sally has a phone number she can use when she comes to visit this month. It was easier this time, only because I was prepared! I went back to the store where I bought my SIM card, and went through the application process. Here are the steps to set up a PREPAID account:

  1. Choose a phone number:
    1. The store will have a stack of packets with phone numbers on them
    2. They will had you the packets to find a suitable number
      1. I usually take ones with lots of repeating numbers
      2. Like 995399925 - so that I can use the Indian form of Double 9, 53 Triple 9..
  2. Produce the following forms of documentation
    1. Copy of US Passport
    2. Copy of Indian Visa
    3. A Passport sized photo
  3. Fill out the application - interesting questions include:
    1. Fathers Name or Husbands Name.....
  4. Finally, Signatures!
    1. Sign both contract forms
    2. Sign your photocopy of your passport
    3. Sign your photocopy of the visa
    4. Sign the passport photo - over your chest
After all this, you are given a SIM card to put in a phone for 200 rupees. You still need to buy minutes, and get both activated. The store owner, will actually activate your phone on the spot - usually using the OLDEST CELL PHONE IN THE WORLD to do so. This is also true when topping up (adding credit). Today, I went to a vodafone store over lunch, and they still had to pull out an old brick of a cell phone.

Other interesting cell phone fact - Nobody has voicemail on their cell phone here & often - it is not available or set up on work lines... Who knew?!

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil:

I came across a news story today about Prince Mavendra Singh Gohil. As I came to know, Prince MSG is the only member of royal lineage in the world to have openly come out as a homosexual - according to wikipedia. He must have caused quite a stir in India when he announced this as he is said to have been disowned by his family - but later re-accepted in. All of this would have been good background information for the article I stumbled upon.

I present - The Times of India Crazy article of the week.

Old & Helpless in Hetro India:
It could be called the WHW factor. It comes up when gay men or lesbian woman in India announce their intention of leading their lives on their own terms. Which may or may not mean being open about their sexuality, but usually does mean not doing the heterosexual-marriage-and-kids thing. Such a declaration to friends and family is met with a deep sigh and the question: "Well, maybe that's OK now, but What Happens When you grow old, fall sick, don't have family to take care of you?"

What Happens When (WHW) applies, of course, to all those who choose not to marry and have kids. But it's never invoked as strongly for straight people probably because friends and family always retain a residual shred of hope that they will someday find the right person, and perhaps even have kids. But saying you're gay or lesbian seems to close that door (not quite fairly, given the many gays and lesbians who want to adopt and raise kids) and condemn you to a bleak, lonely old age. "The middle age of buggers is not to be contemplated without horror," wrote Virginia Woolf (a married bisexual herself).

In less lurid terms, that sentiment is repeated at forums like the support meetings for the parents of gay people organised by the Gaybombay group. Parents say they can accept their children's sexuality, but worry what will happen when they are no longer around since their children won't have families of their own to take care of them. Their children counter that many straight people also end up single, which is correct, but shifts the problem rather than solves it. Shyam, who's 33, admits he often discusses it with gay friends: "Most have a great career and are earning well. I suggest that we pool funds and design a building where each member gets an apartment. So we live together but not in each other's face."

Something on those lines is now being proposed by Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of Rajpipla. Gohil's open admission some time back that he was gay caused a huge controversy in Gujarat and even made news around the world. But this did not deter him from working with his Lakshya trust to support sexual minorities in Gujarat, and it was in this connection that the idea of an old age home came about. "Old age is a fact of life," says Gohil. "Those of us likely to be single need to plan for it."

The actual impetus for the home, though, came not from a gay man, but a straight one. He goes by the name Trijayananad, an NRI, originally from Gujarat, who had gone to Canada to make his fortune but decided to retire back home. He always intended to start an old-age home, but after speaking with Gohil decided to make it a gay one. "He was influenced by his time in Canada," says Gohil. "He saw the freedom homosexuals have over there and the problems we have here."

So, now tell me - did any of you see the gay old folks home coming?

Netflix Desi Style

I'm considering joining BigFlix, the Indian version of netflix. This site is run by Reliance, no surprise is you read my last post. The thing that amazes me about this business model, is how cheap it is - given that here it is run on home delivery (as in someone brings you your movies).

The company is running in 40 cities, and the premise is the same. You manage a queue of films you would like to see & then select a date to get them. The nearest store then sends out a delivery boy to bring you your movies. You can call him to pick them up, or swing them by the store.

The cost? about 10 bucks a month. Cheaper than netflix - but this firm is maintaining stores, delivery drivers, etc.... Pretty impressive.

The Richest Men in The Room

A lot of folks have asked me, why on earth I moved to Delhi!

I think this is a fair question - it is after all, a second world country (which basically means everywhere you go is either firmly in first world, or definitely in third world), it is ALL the way on the other side of the world, and I have a pretty good life back in the states (if I do say so myself).

I was reading Forbes today online, doing some research for some high level meetings I have with Reliance Industries & Reliance AMR. These are two HUGE companies in India - frankly in the world. In fact, this week the press is abuzz with reports of Reliance financing the buyout of Dreamworks. In doing my research, I came across the Forbes list of 'The Worlds Billionaires' & this list does a better job explaining why India, than any answer I could give you. Take a look:

  • Warren Buffett
  • US Based Investment GURU!
  • Carlos Slim Helu
  • Mexican Communications Barron
  • William Gates III
  • Bill Gates - No need explaining
  • Lakshmi Mittal
  • Heads worlds largest steel manufacturer - Indian
  • Mukesh Ambani
  • Asia's richest resident heads petrochemicals giant Reliance Industries, India's most valuable company by market cap. His fortune is up $22.9 billion since last year, making him the world's second biggest gainer in terms of dollars.
  • Anil Ambani
  • The year's biggest gainer, Anil Ambani, is up $23.8 billion in the past year, and is closing gap with estranged brother, Mukesh, who ranks one spot ahead of him in the world at number five.
  • Ingvar Kamprad
  • IKEA founder
  • KP Singh
  • Singh is now the world's richest real estate baron after listing his real estate development company DLF in 2007. The offering helped triple his fortune to $30 billion this year, up from $10 billion. (DLF developed Gurgaon... not parts of it... ALL of it)
  • Oleg Deripaska
  • Russian Aluminum Barron
  • Karl Albrecht
  • German Retail Giant (Aldi)

  • So, there you have it, 4 of the 10 richest men in the world, all have roots in the Indian Market. All four are doubling & tripling their wealth and their countries wealth. The growth of this market is dramatically outpacing growth rates in the US (admittedly a larger economy). It is boomtown here, and I'm along for the ride.

    Guest Blogger: Kelly M (update - put the maiden name!)

    Apparently encouraged by my random pics of the day, Kelly M, our guest blogger for the day - sent me this beauty. I guess sometimes you just need to be on the lookout for crazy sights & you can find them. I guess being out of my element has made me more aware of my surroundings... and that must have rubbed off on Kelly!

    Lovingly captured on the streets of Chicago - we present - Log on a Van:

    Comfort Food

    Ok, I broke down on Friday - and picked up Papa John's pizza. Ironically, you can't even get Papa John's in Chicago - so it was nice to be able to order it at all! If you listen, you can hear a really annoying commercial in the background... My power lies over the ocean...... That ad runs non-stop & I think it is making me insane!

    Papa John's - Straight From Louisville KY --> New Delhi, India.

    Conan & Jane

    After the last video, I thought I would show a funny video addressing the same subject.

    This one is courtesy of the Conan O'Brien Show. It always makes me laugh - while long - worth watching!

    John & Jane

    One of the things we hear about back in the states, are the huge call centers in India answering our every call. I drive by some of the large call centers in Gurgaon on a daily basis, and I've always wondered - what sort of life does one live on the inside? The 10.5 hour time difference between EST & Indian Standard Time means that these call centers are essentially all night jobs.

    In the press, I read article about the lengths these call centers go through to recruit candidates to work for them. You hear of firms having family night - for curious and concerned parents to come check out the firm. They offer shuttles to and from the central districts to the offices in far flung corners.

    Last night, a documentary aired here called John and Jane. This documentary chronicled a year in the lives of 6 call center agents. It was a depressing & intriguing at the same time. Is it a white collar sweatshop? Or is it a step up for otherwise unqualified kids? Do the companies keep unrealistic expectations of their employees? Or, are they simply running volume based sales organizations.... You be the judge:

    TV Commercial of the Week

    This time, the commercial comes courtesy of Bingo Chips.

    This ad only features people speaking in Japanese, so naturally - I love it.

    Enjoy the Ad:


    As you can imagine, Delhi is full of expats. I see Australians, Germans, French, Brits you name it. Around this large group of expats, specialty food stores have sprung up to offer international staples for hungry expatriates.

    On my first visit to one of these stores, I stocked up on the staples I require. Mayo for sandwiches, Tortillas, canned tomatoes. I left feeling satisfied that I would have no issues gaining access to my familiar favorites.

    On my second visit to one of these stores, I suddenly became aware of the German, British and Aussie exports. And frankly, I'm more impressed with these! Tonight for dinner, I had great imported German sausages - the kind I've not found in the states, but love to eat when in Germany! For dessert, I nibbled on a few hob nobs from UK.... I'm excited to go back and stock up on all the other interesting international foods.

    Strangers in the night...

    When I was a child, we had good friends who had a family compound on the northern shores of the lower peninsula of Michigan. In summers, the family would all spend time removed from Chicago - instead focusing on campfires, bike rides & trips to the bustling metropolis of Rogers City.

    Once a year, my family would pack our stuff up and join them for a week. First, my mom, sister & I would go, and later, my father would join for the weekend. On one visit, our friends had brought along an adopted rabbit. It seems the local school needed someone to care for it over the summer, and our friends obliged. Unfortunately for us, this meant we spent the better part of the week tiptoeing around little pellets of rabbit poop. It was claimed that this rabbit was litter box trained, but I can assure you - this rabbit pooed wherever it wanted to.

    To this day, my family still talks about how gross the poo everywhere was. I never thought I would have to spend a day again tiptoeing around... until I moved to India. At about 10 pm each night, after I shut my lights off, several visitors join me in my apartment. Thankfully, they are not rodents, but rather chameleon's.

    At first, I thought this was kind of cute, after all - chameleons do their part as my house guest & eat the few bugs that make it inside. But lately, I've started finding little poo pellets around the house in odd places. I know, I have a maid, so I'm not picking it up.... but still - it is a little weird.

    I've been told to consider myself lucky, as many other folks complain of cockroach problems., something that is common in 90+ degree heat. So far (touch wood - the Indian version of Knock on wood), I haven't seen anything larger than an ant in the house....

    Come to think of it... maybe I'll keep the chameleons. Could they be natures exterminator?
    Big Ted:

    Little Fred

    Vonage Phone is Up!

    I finally found a cordless phone at the local market & have installed it. After visiting 5 electronics shops, I found one who sold phones. As with most things in India, the imported goods are much more expensive than the local ones. I settled on a beetel cordelss model which was quite affordable, but a bit like going back in time.

    The phone quality is generally pretty good, but I find myself changing the channel quite frequently. That said, I'm not available on a US number when at home. If you want my number to call, please email @ (I don't want to post it out here to the masses). I will warn you, I'm 11.5 hours ahead - so PLEASE don't call in the middle of the night. Always thing after 9:00 pm CST is good, or 7am - noon is ok CST as well.

    Hope to hear from some of you!

    What a difference a week makes!

    Today I've had a lot of free time to relax & enjoy being still for a while. I took advantage of the time to check out a nearby hotel for possible membership of pool/gym facilities. It seems the pricing structure is all over the place on these, so I honed in on one nearby to test out for the day.

    Now, I mention gym facilities - and they were very nice - but I really had no intention of getting on a machine today, I was all about the pool. So, after a quick tour of the gym, sauna, salon, I paid my 700 rs (15 bucks) and headed for the pool. I had the place essentially to myself all day long as the worst of the heat seems to have receded.

    From what I can tell, this hotel used to be a part of the Inter-Continental chain, and seems to be reveling in it's faded glory. The hotels location is in Vasant Vihar (about 15 minutes away) near Priya market. At one time, this neighborhood was known for its diplomats, and this place must have been a favorite of visiting foreign diplomats. As it is, the hotel is a bit of a ghost town, at least on a Saturday.

    That said, the pool area was clean, nice and quiet - and provided a great break from the usually crowded, dirty & loud surroundings of Delhi.

    Blue Skies! Smiling at me! Nothing but Blue skies, do I see!

    As fast as the monsoon came, it seems to have left. Today, for the first time since I've arrived, I'm looking out my window at blue skies. REAL blue skies. Not that hazy, cloudy white sky that I got used to, but pure blue.

    I think the rain cleaned the air up a bit, so I'm going to run outside and soak in the clear skies for the next hour, until they fog over again! For you folks in the States, have a nice weekend! I'm signing off.

    Candy Gram

    Today was a pretty normal day as they come around here. I have become pretty comfortable in my surroundings and life has returned to normal. And then, just when you think nothing will stand out to you, you see something crazy.

    Usually it is a shot of color in another wise khaki landscape. Earlier this week it was a familiar site contrasted against an unfamiliar background. Here are two examples.

    Just this week, I headed into Delhi for a night out with some UN employees. The bar of choice was in Connaught Place in central Delhi. I went to meet Arti & Craig at the Sheraton for a drink before Craig and I headed over. On the way, I spotted a man riding a bicycle with about 15 fake deer on it. These things were on his arms, his bike, his neck... everywhere. I know, you are thinking to yourself - Scott has to be making some of these things up, right?

    Well, it is precisely for this reason that I try to document wherever possible. I present for you, the deer man:

    I had assumed that the deer man was about as weird as I could find. I mean, how often do you see people with weird goods for sale all over themselves? But, today, I saw Balloon man:

    Yes, there is ALWAYS something to surprise you here. But, that is half the fun!

    Lawn Mower

    This morning, I got to work from home a bit. Well, I intended to work from home, but then my power went out... I could have had the house boy run the generator, but it seemed like an admission that I wasn't capable of roughing India to have someone go turn on the Cummins brand generator (yay Columbus, Indiana).

    Anyhow, I finally headed out at about 8:45 for a meeting with a business publisher in south Delhi. As I climbed down my stairs, I noticed the house boy was on the lawn. After a closer look I realized he was mowing the lawn... Well that might be a bit of a stretch. He was squatting on the lawn with some garden shears and inch by inch trimming it.

    Litigation Station

    Today's random event was the arrival of the window cleaners at our building. I'm on the 6th floor of an office building & we are the first floor that is set back off the footprint of the building. I've become accustomed to visits from maintenance men, and the odd employee of the building wandering outside our window.

    Today, as I'm working on my computer, a fellow in a bright orange prison jumpsuit paid us a visit. He stopped in front of the glass a mere 2 feet from me and worked on his hair for about 5 minutes much to amusement of those of us in the office. After a few moments had passed, his friend wheeled over the window washers boom arm. This connected to a wire from which they can hang over the building and clean windows.

    So far, nothing was out of ordinary here. However, I suddenly saw a man pick up a boulder & place it on top of the iron weights that they were using to act as a counter weight to the men over the building. Then 2 or three smaller boulders were added to the pile & held in place by some tape, string, a few plastic poles and a brick.

    Within moments, both men were over the side of the building placing trust in their bizarre rigging. For those of you shaking your head in disbelief... here you go:

    Double Click for Full Size Image

    Delhi has become most crass and show-offish, says Dikshit

    I logged onto Yahoo! messenger today at the start of my day & the daily news feed popped up. There are four tabs of news offered here, and they differ from the variety I am used to in the States. Back home, News, Politics, Technology & Entertainment are your four options.

    Here, it is News, Business, Cricket (ok sports... but it is always cricket), and Bollywood. The lead article on the News page, and therefore the first thing I saw after sitting down today was the subject of this post. "Delhi has become most crass and show-offish, says DIKSHIT"

    Now, I'm sure this subject line on was not intended to be as funny as it is. Dikshit, pronounced (dickshit... no actually dickshhhhhhhhhhhhhit) is a pretty common name. I've spent the last five minutes trying to pronounce this name with out it sounding crass, but no matter how my colleagues try to make me emphasize the shhhhhhhhh sound, it still sounds like.... well you get the idea.

    The Godfathers of Rock

    Today for lunch Arti & I went to the Chinese & Thai Cafe. This place is located on the second floor of our building, so it was the perfect spot for a quick lunch. The restaurant itself is centered around a dance floor in the middle of the room, with dining tables surrounding.

    At night I'm told, the place becomes a happening Disc (discotheque), specializing in rock music. In fact, the restaurants website promises the place becomes a "scintillating bar & pub each evening". In keeping with the club decor, the restaurant has a relief sculpture on the main wall of the kings of rock. What is unclear however, is who these kings are. Certainly Elvis, Mick Jagger & Bob Marley can be identified. But that leaves two mystery men. I'm pretty sure from left to right, the first face is Dizzie Gillespie, but the middle face is a big question mark.

    Arti has decided the face looks like Martha Stewart, but none of us can figure out who exactly this mystery king of rock is. Any ideas from the crowd?

    STDs - They are everywhere....

    Here in India, calls out of state are called STD. I'm not sure what exactly this abbreviation means, but I will tell you that it takes me about 20 attempts to dial a number. The STD code refers to the equivalent of an Area code in the US. From what I can tell, there really is no standard telephone numbering from one area to another, at least not one I standard. So, whenever I sit down to make a phone call, I need to give myself 2-4 attempts to get through.

    I have been able to find some patterns around the telephone system. Here are my initial learnings:
    1. All phone numbers are 10 digits long, and made up of three parts
      1. Cell phones: STD code, Provider code, and subscriber number
      2. Landline: STD code & subscriber number
    2. When in the Delhi Metro, and dialing a land line, I do not need to use the 'STD' code. I can make a normal 7 digit call
    3. When dialing a cell phone in Delhi Metro, I need to use an STD code & start the number with a zero
    4. Dialing a land line in India outside of Delhi Metro, I need to use a zero & an STD code followed by the 7 digits
    5. All phone numbers are not 7 digits. It is possible to have 6,7 or 8 digit phone number
    6. STD codes can be 2, 3 or 4 digits
    Further confusing things is the fact that the grouping of numbers is done differently.

    In the states, we typically do a 3,3,4 grouping. As in: 555-555-5555. In India, I've seen many groupings, but typically it looks something like: 66000666 (number for McDonalds delivery), +91-11-41414141 (Mega Cabs radio taxi).

    This just goes to show that something as simple as making a phone call can be much more difficult than you expect it to be. Not that it is a big deal per se, just that it is one of those little hurdles you can't anticipate.

    I'm working on my backhand....

    Bug season is upon us here in Delhi. Thankfully, it is not to bad in my house, but every morning when I get to my car, there are flies & mosquitoes. It is a bit annoying, as you never quite get rid of all the flies. Usually, one or two linger until you finally push them out a window, or squash them in your paper.

    A few days back, Arti pointed out this awesome invention that all the shopkeepers in Priya had. It looks like a badminton racket, but has a wire screen in place of the traditional string. Here is a photo:

    Craig went to their local market & ordered 2 of these tools. Arti has lent one to me, and I am now the proud owner of my own bug zapper. The racket is powered by batteries & the center mesh screen is electrified. When it comes in contact with flies, or other flying insects, a sharp crackle sounds, and the bugs fall to the floor.

    Those of you who know me, will find it no surprise that within 30 seconds of me handling my new toy, I managed to shock myself. I must say, it delivers a sharp little kick. The sizzle is similar to a shock you might get from an electric socket.

    As shocking as it may sound (yeah, good pun, right?) this tool has revolutionized my day. I now look forward to my car being filled with little flies each morning. I have even asked my driver to park especially close to the cow pies so that I can do my part to bringing the North India fly population under control.

    MORE ROBOTS! & Why Michael Jackson will live forever!

    So, I couldn't resist sharing one more robot photo from the paper. I think there must be some major robot convention going on in Asia, because every day we learn about a new random robot. This time, we learn about the RoboKisser.

    Perhaps most disturbing about this particular article is the mention of the robo kissers feminine appearance. The only thing I don't quite get, is how this robot is supposed to be kissing the guy? It just sort of looks like he pulled his Comcast remote control to his face & then told the waiting reporters that it was a humanoid robot... I guess he figured the Indian press would eat it up... and it did.

    In a related story.... I enjoyed learning that a fearful face can keep me alive.

    UPS Desi Style

    It's a Privelage to Pee!

    A few years back, there was a hit Broadway play called Urinetown. The show was centered around the premise that in the not so distant future, a drought would hit us all & it would become a privelage to pee. See, as the drought increased, the government rationed water & began enforcing with rigor, anti public peeing laws. So, the rich peed in luxury, while the poor begged for coins to use the public toilet - lest they be sent to Urinetown (or as it was, killed by the police). The premise is ridiculous, and clearly a metaphor against global warming, government taxation of the poor and a whole host of other issues.

    Lately, I've found myself asking - just how ridiculous is this? Here in India, "Is it a privelage to pee?".

    It would certainly appear for some, is a privelage to pee in private. On most days, I see between 10-20 men publicly urinating on the side of the road. This is very typical near the labor camps that sit in the shadows of new construction here in Gurgaon. It seems when nature calls, nature calls. Interestingly you will never see a woman pee in public, I've been told they must rise before sunrise in some of these camps so that they can relieve themselves in public.

    Now, the laborers I understand. What is perhaps more shocking is the sight of professional men standing on the side of the road relieving themselves. For these folks, it is clearly not an issue of access to toilets, but rather a culturally accepted, albeit not enthusiastically, practice.

    French Name, Chinese Food, NYC Decor

    So, just got back from lunch at the local French, Indo-Chinese, NYC restaurant. You know, there is one on every corner.... I kid. I ate lunch at this place called Moet today, because the restaurant in my building called "Thai & Chinese Cafe" was not yet open. I bet you can't guess what they serve...
    So, we walked next door to Moet. After sitting down, I picked out my meal (American Chop Suey), and settled into conversation with my coworker Alfred. About 5 minutes in, I suddenly realize that I was staring at a wall sized mural of the original cast of Saturday Night Live. Now, this place was going for a lounge feel, so it is possible they just thought this was a cool urban photo. Of course, I immediately started laughing and took a picture.

    I hope you get as big a kick out of seeing my Wheaton Homeboy John Belushi as I do!

    Coolest Guy Ever

    Matt is a 30-year-old deadbeat from Connecticut who used to think that all he ever wanted to do in life was make and play videogames. He achieved this goal pretty early and enjoyed it for a while, but eventually realized there might be other stuff he was missing out on. In February of 2003, he quit his job in Brisbane, Australia and used the money he'd saved to wander around the planet until it ran out. He made this site so he could keep his family and friends updated about where he is.

    A few months into his trip, a travel buddy gave Matt the idea of dancing everywhere he went and recording it on his camera. This turned out to be a very good idea. Now Matt is quasi-famous as "That guy who dances on the internet. No, not that guy. The other one. No, not him either. I'll send you the link. It's funny."

    If you liked this video, the 2008 version will launch in 3 days. This guys was picked up by stride gum & they now finance his travel & video shoot.

    Pomi The Robot Penguin

    In an earlier post, I mentioned Pomi in a newspaper headline. For those of you who wanted more information, here you go:

    Pomi (Penguin Robot for Multimodal Interaction) can see, hear, touch and emit smells as well as making faces, Friday's Korea Times reported.

    The robot can move its lips, eyebrows and even pupils freely to make faces and can emit two kinds of fragrances to match its emotions. A "heart box" on the chest will feature different kinds of heartbeats depending on its mood when it is touched, the paper reported.

    Pomi is programmed to answer users through voice-recognition technology and various sensors allow it to recognise and locate humans. It was developed by the state-run Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) which plans to put Pomi to commercial use.

    Blame it on the Rain!

    So, day 2 of the monsoons, and the first day I've had to commute with them. As I've said before, the rains aren't really the issue here. It is the roads. Today, I had a meeting in Gurgaon with a major German sports retail brand. The companies headquarters were in a part of Gurgaon that is a little less high rise, and more low slung buildings in the Indian equivilant of an industrial park. Their neighbors were The Future Group (Big Bazaar) & McKinsey.

    I tell you this to stress how the offices are clearly in a good section of Gurgaon. However, the roads today were so bad in this area that I thought my driver was going to flood the engine driving through 6 inches of standing water. Aside from the water issue, there was a serious mud issue on this side of town. I saw folks standing ankle deep in clay mud trying to push cars out of their parking spots.

    After the meeting, I had my driver take me back home. The ride is normally about 30 minutes, but today took about 1.5 hours. To illustrate the increasingly dire nature of my drive, I've put together some video clips:

    1) Part One: Traffic crawls to a stop:

    2) Part Two: Motorcycles seem to be the only things making progress

    3) Part Three: Damn, maybe I should just use a bike! That must be the fast way home!

    4) Part Four: Screw any sort of wheeled transport. The only folks making progress are on foot!

    5) Finale! What has been holding traffic up for an hour? This hole in the road.....

    New Weekly Feature: Featured Articles in Times of India

    Last week Sally asked me a question I hadn't really given much thought to. "How is the news media in India?" This seemed a logical question, but I suddenly came to the realization... I had been reading, but not really thinking about the content.

    This evening, on the drive home from work I took some time to read the Times of India. This gave me a great idea for a recurring segment on funny article titles. Keep in mind, these titles are much funnier out of context, so I've left the body copy out. I'm also sure, I could do the same exercises with the Chicago Tribune, and in fact - I encourage someone to do so & leave their findings in the comments section!

    Featured Articles from the Times of India:
    Issue: Monday, June 15 2008

    Page 17: Times Trends
    • In 2050, your lover may be a... robot
    • Pomi the robot penguin has hidden depths
    • Monkey uses garden hose to flee zoo
    • To keep up with women, even young men popping Viagra
    Page 10: Times Nation:
    • 29% desi scientists believe in karma
    Page 19: Times Global
    • Horse beats man to win race, but just by half a minute
    • New bride walks down the aisle with a black eye
    • Egypt bans 92 year-old from marrying teen bride
    And the winner for craziest title & complete article this week:

    Alleged rapist married victim in Giridih jail
    Unheard perhaps in the annals of India's prison history, Giridih Central Jail was turned into a marriage hall with authorities presiding over the wedding between an alleged rapist and his so-called victim on Sunday morning. Since the groom was an accused undergoing trial for rape, the jail authorities had obtained permission of the sessions court here to facilitate the marriage between the victim and the accused.

    Rinku Ansari of Kesra Bahiyar village, five km from Giridih, who has been in jail since March 31, promised a mehar of Rs. 5,000 to the bride, Nesrata Parween of Azadnagar area here in presence of the additional district and sessions judge Radhamohan Tiwari and the jail superintendent....

    ...Jail personnel distributed sweets among the prisoners at the end of the ceremony and joined in the celebrations... The boy will have to remain in prison and the legal process for his release on bail would have to be followed up by his relatives and the bride... The blushing girl says she has withdrawn the complaint lodged against her husband, and that she hopes they can start a new life once he is out of jail.

    One in EVERY country

    A most of you know, my father spent a few years in Japan. My recent post on Big Bazaar prompted him to send me his comments on a Japanese institution "Don Quixote". Here are his comments:

    I never could figure out why they selected the name. It has ever piece of junk you ever
    wanted to see. But useful for basics. Usually cheap, but not as cheap as
    your finds in India.

    Taken from TokyoQool:
    ...the goods displayed on the street offer a taste of the eclectic choice within - from brooms, fluffy toys and foot-baths to plastic flowers, waffle irons and disco lights.

    In case you are ever in Tokyo, and need a disco ball, be sure to visit. More, after the Jump.
    If you are sure you can handle Don Quixote in it's full splendor, here is the official site.

    SRK - Shah Rukh Khan

    Last week, I posted about the Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader show staring Shah Rukh Khan.

    Today, I came across this on CNN:

    Shah Rukh Khan, one of the few people in the world also known by his initials, has every reason to keep his own chin up. Twenty years after his first onscreen role in the Indian television series "Fauji," SRK -- the man and the brand -- is more popular than ever.

    On Sunday night, he won the Best Actor award in Bollywood's version of the Oscars -- the International Indian Film Academy Awards -- for his role as coach of the Indian national women's field hockey team in "Chak De! India." The film took nine awards in all, including Best Film and Best Director.

    Discount Retailing in India

    This weekend I ran a few errands and stocked up on some missing house supplies. I was especially keen on finding hangers, an electric kettle (to boil drinking water in case I run out of bottled water) and a coffee maker.

    I had heard that Big Bazaar might be a good place to check out as it is a discount store. It was described to me as a Walmart, Indian style. I asked my driver to take me to Ambience Mall area, where I believed there to be a nearby Big Bazaar. Big Bazaar is on the low end of the shopping, and Ambience Mall is decidedly on the high end w/ stores like Nine West, Calvin Klein, and The Body Shop. So, when my driver insisted that Big Bazaar was located within the mall, I objected. Surely, you wouldn't find high end shopping and Walmart style retailing coexisting in the same mall. The sheer economics of it make no sense. All things aside, I'd been to this mall just last week, and didn't see the Big Bazaar anywhere in the mall.

    Rather confidently, I walked into Ambience expecting to call my driver in 5 minutes to tell him we needed to go next door, or down the street. However, after a little snooping, and the help of a Reliance (think Best Buy) sales clerk, I found the Big Bazaar. Buried in the basement of the mall, down two levels of escalators I found Indian Xanadu.

    Describing this place as Wal-mart doesn't give the store enough credit. Big Bazaar has everything from clothes, electronics, housewares, groceries, jewelery, books, refrigerators... You name it, they sell it. It is a cross between Wal-mart, Chinatown & Ikea.

    All around the store were bins of odds and ends that looked like they fell off a shipping boat in the south china sea. I found more odd pieces of molded hyper-color plastic thing-a-ma-jigs here than on Canal Street NYC. On top of the guady & overwhelming display of items, the PA system was in a permanent state of frenzy with voices yelling out the special of the hour. For the next 60 minutes, purchase one do-it-yourself home fumagation kit (don't laugh, I found one), get one free! Every once in a while, you would get an announcement for a lost child, or stranded grandmother looking for help.

    After over an hour I went to check out. My bag was overflowing with my purchases. I bought 25 red hangers, a can opener, two bath towels, face wash cloths, aluminum foil, and a fruit & vegatable peeler. My total? about 5 USD dollars. Nearly every item I purchased was buy one, get one free. While the store is hardly posh, the staff was surprisingly helpful. I'd definitely go back again, just for the experience.


    Today, it finally started to rain. REALLY rain. This is the first time in over 100 years that the monsoon has hit Delhi this early in the summer. It really poured today, and the roads were definitely worse for it.

    The roads leading to my colony are all paved, yet the road outside my gate, to the main guard is gravel. With the hot summer, this gravel & clay seems unable to absorb the rain as it comes down. On my way out to lunch, we drove through several inches of standing water for several hundred feet. The main road wasn't much better, with some hefty puddles.

    Check out this video to see the rain in action:

    Now, the rain itself isn't so bad, you really can just retreat inside and wait it out. Unfortunately, it has stirred up the insects a bit, and the mosquitos are out in full force. Arti & Craig received a care package from home w/ several cans of Off Deep Woods and were kind enough to donate one to me.

    It is funny the things viewed as a commodity here, bug spray being one of them. The local bug lotion just doesn't seem to do the job. Or maybe it does. As I sprayed myself down last night, I couldn't help but wonder. Is it possible, that the familiar scent alone of off makes me think this stuff is working? I can't say I noticed any fewer bites today than yesterday. Maybe it is all a marketing ploy.

    For those of you who don't know what the Gotti Boy's look like *i make reference to my haircut looking like theirs when the stylist finishes cutting it*, here you go:

    Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain?

    Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? (Indian Version)

    No different than the rest of the world, game shows get syndicated & franchises develop in other countries. Here in India, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? is running non-stop. Unlike the US, where C or D list starts typically host television game shows, the shows here are hosted by top Bollywood stars. This show's star, is HUGE in Asia & the world. Last year, he earned about 35 million USD or 1.5 trillion rupees. This is an insane amount anywhere, let alone in a country where the equivalent of a Starbucks Grande Cappuccino costs 90 cents. Shahrukh Khan also hosts the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, taking this over from an even more famous star, Amitabh Bachchan.

    Keep Delhi Clean & Beautiful

    Growing up in the states, you get used to civic signs boasting of the clean & green efforts that cities undergo. Delhi is no different, it is one of the greenest cities in all of Asia, with trees everywhere and many untouched natural zones. However, the polution in residential zones & along major highways is pretty dramatic. It is not uncommon to find roadside dumps, or so it would appear to the uneducated. As you'll see below, it is possible for an entire economy to be flourishing near, in or on top of these dumps.

    At a stoplight near the Indian Institute of Technology, I came upon an illegal slum wedged between University structures and the posh residential zone. The sight of a slum is not new, although I had never seen one that seemed to be built with mounds of trash on top of every home.

    To open this picture in another, larger, window simply double click. Surrounding these homes are functioning businesses. A tire repair shop, an STD (phone booth), a market.

    Why is this post titled Keep Delhi Clean & Beautiful?

    Good Question! Look again at the image. Do you a man with a rolling cart. This man, is employed by the city of Delhi to clean the streets. He and his colleague are sweeping the streets of Delhi by hand. He is busy making sure the gutter of this main road is clean. Yes, civic dollars at work, cleaning the street surrounding the trash ghetto.

    This contrast of modernity & old ways is present all over Delhi. The amount of change this country has undergone in the last 10 years is amazing, but the amount left to go is still quite staggering. It is clearly not enough for India to create white collar service jobs, they need a plan for the inner city poor, and the agricultural societies in the rural areas. Without getting too political, I think it is important to note that the US & EU play a critical role in blocking the agricultural development in India by levying import taxes, leaving a country capable of crop exports with nowhere to sell them. The solution to India's problems is not one dimensional, and will take years to enact. It is exciting to see the change here, but there are always reminders of how far we all have to go.

    Time For A Haircut

    My haircut was one of the things that didn't get done before leaving Chicago. Along with selling my car, finding an hour to lop off my hair just didn't make it into my schedule. Today, I have an appointment in Gurgaon at Bella Madonna to get my hair cleaned up before I go out to dinner with some Expats in the area.

    Craig has already had his hair cut here a few times, so I'm pretty confident it will be nice. However, I have hair that is so thick, that stylist don't normally know what to do with it.

    I'm hoping that I don't come out with either a buzz cut, or a big old mess on top of my head!

    At first glance, the hair place looks great, and they clearly cater to expats. I already knew of the place, but turned over the flyer in my bag from Le Marche' and Bella Madonna had a full page flyer for themselves attached.

    So, this little experiment in hair cutting should be interesting. I've posted a before photo here, so you can see just how crazy my hair is right now. I'll definitely keep you posted on progress & will try to update you tomorrow with the after photo.

    Le Marche of the Expat Penguin

    I'd heard about this place in Priya, Le Marche'. It is an imported food store, like a small grocer on 4 small floors in the market. They are known in expat & local circles as a place to find more rare imported foods. I decided to check it out today after lunch as it is nearby.

    The first thing I immediately liked about this place, is that they sell lunch meat. On the fourth floor, there is a meat section with seafood, Ham, Lamb & poultry. Of the lunch meat choices, it is mostly ham varieties, but they had imported soppraseta & other italian salted meat. Another perk, several varieties of bacon. Today I limited myself to some minced chicken & decided I was going to cook in this week a real meal, instead of the easy stuff I've been buying to date.

    Also on the fourth floor is their small produce section. The produce section at Spencer's Hypermarket is more complete, but I was able to score some fresh green beans & new potatoes. After browsing the produce, I headed to the second floor & picked up some bug lotion. I glanced through the toiletries on display, but did not make any purchases. I was impressed with the size of the selection including my favorite shampoo from H20 on Michigan Ave.

    In the basement, I picked up most of my dry goods. I did most of my damage here as I was happy to find Old El Paso, Betty Crocker, Doritos and many canned goods. I use canned tomatoes frequently to make sauces, and was pleased to find whole roma, diced, & tomato sauce on display. However, the big find on this floor was the coffee. I picked up some espresso roast & this afternoon am heading out to buy a coffee maker. I've been drinking instant nescafe' at home, and I'm missing a good strong brew.

    Before checking out, I browsed the first floor & was able to find all the good cheeses you could reasonably need & a great bakery with Black Forest Cake, Donuts, and Croissants. Check out my purchases below:

    Instructional Videos - Desi Style

    I thought I would try to find some good video of Delhi traffic on you tube in response to my earlier post on accidents. Instead, I found this AMAZING instructional video on driving in India.

    It offers such good driving tricks such as the 2 second rule. In fact, I now know I should say, only a fool breaks the two second rule (1:40 in the video). He also encourages Indian drivers to try one of their sutras - a hindi chant (2:00).

    I found another wonderful educational video. I've posted the refrain translation. Can you guess what this is for?

    I am good natured and provide satisfaction...
    I am for you, do not neglect me
    I help in stopping unwanted childbirth
    I save you and increase your longevity

    Never forget me I am Nirodh!

    On The Line

    Friday Night, and I decided to stay in. Thankfully I grabbed a DVD on my way home, because man the friday night english movie selection sucks. Although shot in Chicago, this movie has to be among the worst... alas - I still watched about 30 minutes of it out of necessity.

    Who is she... Where is she... What will it take.
    Lance Bass, Joey Fatone... On the line.
    ohh yeah! my life is glamorous.

    Traffic Accidents

    I've just arrived in the office & today was the first day I saw a few fender benders along the way. It must be a Friday thing, but I came across a motorcyle colision w/ a bicycle & another with several cars & a bike. The road situation here can be a bit scary, particularly due to the lack of traffic law enforcement.

    The first crash occured at the intersection of Vasant Kunj Marg & Meharuli Gurgaon Road.

    View Larger Map

    I've noticed over the last few days that while there is a stop light at this intersection. Almost no one pays it any attention. Yesterday, my driver was the first in a line of cars at the red light. When it turned Green, we had to jump into the cross traffic in order to get folk on MG road to stop. Until you exhibit aggressive driving, it seems you will be sitting waiting to drive.

    Back to the bike collision. First off, everyone involved appeared to be perfectly fine. There were no injuries & I suspect it probably occured at relatively low speeds. However, the motorcylist was understandably upset that he had dropped his bike and was intent to take it out on the barefoot bicyclist. After some shoving & grabbing by the back of the neck, the bicyclist was able to leave the scene, but you could see how this sort of thing could get ugly quickly.

    Now, I've been advised that if you are in an accident, often the best thing to do may be to keep moving. It certainly isn't the most ethical thing in the world, but I'm warned it may pose more problems to stop. I'm not sure I buy this theory, so I'm looking for the Indian Posse to help me out here. Knock on Wood (or as the Indian's say - Touch Wood), I never have to deal with this situation, but say my driver does strike another vehicle. Should we stop, should we keep moving? IP - help me out here in the comments.

    For those of you concerned I'm living in BFE

    This is opening in my neighborhood.

    Yes, I may back up to open land, but India's first luxury brand mall is opening in my hood.
    Luxury mall, DLF Emporio, coming up in 2008 in South Delhi’s Vasant Kunj area will house high-profile brands such as Armani, Versace, Hugo Boss, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Escada and Cartier. At a rental of Rs 900-Rs 1,000 per sq ft per month, this will clearly be the most expensive mall in the country!

    My favorite commercial of the moment:

    UPDATE: If the video link is dead, click here: Commercial

    The odd thing about Indian television, is that even the all english channels still have mostly Hindi Ads. Since my knowledge of Hindi is about 5 words, I find myself looking forward to catching the few ads that make sense to me despite my language barrier. This Surf Excel (Tide-esque brand) still makes me laugh.

    I've looked up the dialogue for translation & basically the whole family is giving the man different tips on ridding himself of hiccups. For example, "hold your breath", "drink water without breathing", etc.. Like most good advertising, this one is short & sweet. It has become an advert I look forward to seeing & it even influenced me to buy their product.

    I'm Punjabi by Nature, Not 'cause I hate 'cha

    I found my new favorite restaurant today. Now, I haven't eaten there yet - but it was written up in the NY Times & has the best name EVER! Punjabi by Nature is a restaurant in the Basant Lok / Priya market. I just keep singing the Naughty by Nature - Hip Hop Hooray, Ohh, Hey, Oh....

    In any case, here is what they NY Times had to say:
    Everything about this place is loud and large, including the food. Try the vodka gol gappa aperitif: crispy shells filled with a spiced vodka shot and popped into the mouth whole for a hot, boozy explosion. Carnivores: Try the tandoor-roasted lamb or the fish tikka. Vegetarians must make do with overspiced, tandoor roasted broccoli.

    Necessity is the mother of Invention

    After dining at home alone for a week, Arti & Craig decided to put me out of my misery and took me out for dinner at Priya/Basant Lok (a place I naively called Vasant Vihar market until someone told me it had another name).

    Arti & Craig live in Gurgaon near our office & were kind enough to pay me a visit in Delhi. Priya is only a short 15 minute drive from my house & Craig has been telling me about a great international food store in the market. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to visit as it was closed when we arrived.

    We settled on Italian and hit up a place Arti had received a received a recommendation on called Sartoria. Honestly, the food was pretty good. We started with bread served with tapenade & oil/vinegar. Craig spotted Spinach Artichoke dip which we devoured & then I settled on my main course.

    Now, I'm not a "beef" fan - I certainly don't eat it at every meal. But with Italian, it is sometimes hard to create dishes properly without a bit of beef. In India, the menu is always full of odd substitutions. For instance, at the Trident Gurgaon, I had a merlot sauce w/ lamb served on a bed of fresh pasta. Today, my Spaghetti Bolognese, a dish normally full of Beef & Pancetta, was instead full of ground chicken. These slight changes are present in all continental food options. In fact, instead of a Chicago Steak, TGIF is serving Chicago Style Braised Lamb.

    I don't intend this to be a complaint, my pasta dishes were both quite tasty - but certainly not the Italian I'm used to. I guess as they say, Necessity is the Mother of Invention.

    Mourning Commuting:

    UPDATE: Reloading w/ sound shortly!

    In the grand scheme of things, I have it pretty easy. Many of my local hire coworkers commute from Noida and spend 2 hours on the road on some days. My commute is a little over 30 minutes, a relative breeze - even in Chicago.

    Thankfully, I'm not spending this time driving. Durgesh was sent over by the car rental agency, and we got off to a bit of a bad start. On my second day in office, I used him to drive a colleague and I to Noida for a client call. Along the way we hit a traffic jam & so Durgesh looked for an alternative route. Unfortunately for me, this involved jumping a curb into the Public Bus lane.

    Now I'll admit, we did move pretty quickly, but after about .5 miles, we had to wait for all the busses to go through the main bus station. In this particular route, all the busses board & disembark in the center of the road onto a raised platform. It looks essentially like a train station - except busses replace the train. After waiting out turn, we rather embarrassingly drove through the station ourselves.

    After that particular incident, and my stern comment, he's been pretty good. So, this morning, I thought I'd film bits of my drive to work for you all to enjoy. The video condenses my 30 minutes into about 3 minutes & gives you a good feel of my daily sights & sounds. I hope you enjoy!


    Coffee & Ketchup?

    So, Cafe Coffee Day is one of India's coffee shop brands. In what must be one of the only remaining countries w/out a Starbucks, Coffee Day & Barista flourish. In the lobby of our building we have a Cafe Coffee Day Express. Basically, it is a prefab booth that sits in the middle of the lobby surrounded by banks.

    The express serves coffee and cappuccino for 20-40 rupees, about .50-1 dollar US. Today, I decided to try their lunch sandwiches. I had heard they had a chicken tikka sandwich that was pretty good, so I headed down at 2 pm to grab one. Since it was late, they only had a bunch of vegetarian options left. Apparently, even in India where 80% of the populating is Hindu & therfore more likely to be vegetarian, the lousy vegetable sandwiches were all left.

    I decided to get the paneer tikka which is essentially: curry, paneer (like a firm cottage cheese) & bread. Now, the sandwich was pretty good - but I'm not sure what I was supposed to do with the two ketchup packets I was handed.

    Ketchup is even more popular in India than the US. I know this because even my Indian friends back home put ketchup on their pizza - a practice that disturbs me on so many levels.

    However, I never would have expected this love of ketchup to extend to paneer tikka! Needless to say, I did not use the ketchup, I've added it to the pile of things on my desk - maybe I'll order McDelivery tomorrow and use it on some fries.

    Update On Whistlegate!

    Ask, and the Indian Posse delivers!

    Thanks to my friend Tripti, a Delhi native I should add, I got the following answer:

    About the whistle u heard thats the night duty watchman (in hindi he is called a "chowkidar" I guess they whistle when they start their rounds to let residents (and also the potential thieves) know they are there so they can sleep well!!!!

    Have a blast in Delhi


    The Great VOIP Experiment

    When you take a post overseas, it is amazing all the little tricks people begin to tell you about. For instance, when my Dad was posted overseas for a bit, he became a fan of slingbox. Slingbox is a piece of hardware that you run your television and DVR/Tivo through & then connect to the Internet. Then from a computer (or handheld) anywhere in the world, you can connect into your home TV/DVR & watch your favorite programs.

    The other great technological tool for overseas folks is Vonage. As soon as I decided to move to India, folks began telling me to use the tool. Essentially, you buy a piece of hardware from (or bestbuy) and install it anywhere in the world on a high speed connection. Then, through the vonage site, you sign up for a telephone number in the US. Once you've signed up and paid your 20-40 bucks a month, you can plug any normal phone into the vonage box & folks back home can call you as if it were a local number. The same is true in reverse. It is a huge budget saver for anyone who is outside of the US.

    Now, Vonage is truly great, but I found one huge drawback in India. While it is helpful for folks to be able to call my house line here for free, it is still insanely expensive to call me on my cell. And since the time zones are 11.5 hours off from CST, this means either I have to talk to folks in the US before leaving for work in the morning (9:30 pm cst), or I can call folks after work in the middle of US work hours (it is 8 pm here it is 9:30 am in Chicago).

    This evening, I set out to figure out the best way to allow folks at home to call me on my cell phone. After a few hours of tinkering, I think I've found one. My first thought was to set up vonage to forward all calls to my cell. Unfortunately, they charge near 20 cents a minute to Indian cell phones. This clearly won't do as it would be as cheap for me to call directly. Now, I've always been a skype user, so I turned to them next. While their service has been great when travelling, I've always felt tethered to my laptop in order to make a call. Their service can provide you a local number, but you have to have a laptop up and running in order for it to ring. However, they also have a call forward feature & only charge 6 cents a minute to Indian cell phones!

    So, using my local number with I've now tethered the two systems together. Now, any incoming call to my vonage immediately rings to both the vonage number, and simultaneously to the skype number using their simulring feature. After 1 second, skype then forwards it to my Indian cell phone. I'll let you know how this works out, after a few weeks I'm sure I'll see a hidden charge somewhere on my bill!

    Indian Web Landscape

    So an interesting development in my work life, I'm beginning to lay groundwork for our web partnerships in India. I'm obviously new to the India media landscape & I'm finding the most trafficked sites in India are one of three things....

    1) message boards - (people are messaging looking for unsavory things here)
    2) file sharing sites - (people are finding unsavory things here)
    3) International or US media sites - (bbcnews, youtube, facebook....)

    So, I'm calling the Indian Posse to give me some good local Indian sites - what Indian sites are you guys continuing to visit to get news, articles, sports etc? Post ideas and suggestions in the comments area.

    Some comments on "western touches"

    You may have noticed my comments on Western Touches in the below video. If you talked with me before my departure, you know I kept hearing this phrase from Expats. Here is some background on this phenomenon.

    Before I left for Delhi, I spent a lot of time researching the housing market here. One of my major concerns has been finding a nice home, that isn't outrageously expensive. When I boarded my plane in Chicago, I had only lined up housing for 4 nights.

    In my pre-move research, I kept coming across people in expat blogs who bragged that their homes had "western touches". I could never quite put my finger on what exactly a western touch was. However, I'm pretty sure they weren't referring to the priest scandal of the early 00's - or "To Catch a Predator".

    As I thought about coming, I envisioned apartments without "western touches" as having "eastern cesspools". I remember on a visit to Tokyo being surprised at the number of Asian style toilets in high end markets & malls. Even the Bullet Train, the very heart of Modern Asia, had these hole in the floor style toilets.

    After a few days, I realize how laughable the concern many expats have about coming here. Maybe my relative wealth in this country has shielded me from average accommodations, but every apartment I saw in my search had quite modern facilities. I certainly have seen some palatial homes around town (from the outside)- but even the smaller apartments I've visited have been clean, neat and organized. In fact, I was able to settle into a place *albeit temporarily* within 2 days.

    Home Sweet Home

    Well, I finally settled on a 1 bedroom apartment on a farmhouse outside of Vasant Kunj. After looking in Gurgaon & South Delhi, I couldn't resit the location and peace this home offered. Gurgaon is about 30 minutes from the outskirts of Delhi, from closer to city center, the time can double to nearly an hour. Both cities have a lot to offer and I considered both seriously.

    First, Gurgaon:

    Gurgaon is a relatively new town to India. It is just across the state border of Haryana, about 30 minutes from the Delhi Airport. The town itself developed as a result of a luxury home development for wealthy Delhi residents & careful economic planning on the part of the state. The city has developed into one of the most prominent outsourcing centers in South East Asia. The market is skewed Non-IT & really took off when GE launched a major call center here in 1997.

    The city has 200,000 residents and is almost all less than 10 years old. Gurgaon is the home to what feels like 90% of India's Malls & is a decidedly suburban city. However, the city is also home to a fairly large population of slum dwellers who have settled between the golf courses, private clubs, housing estates & office buildings. That said, there are MANY western comfort in town with stores like the Body Shop, Benneton, Marks & Spencer, Calvin Klien, and even a Ruby Tuesdays to dine at.

    South Delhi:

    Delhi on the other hand is an old city, seemingly full of Old Money. The communities are lush, and the city is known as one of the greenest in Asia. On the outskirts, you will find many farm houses tucked away with large yards, pools & doting staff. Deeper in Delhi, communities center around the markets. I've had a chance to visit a few of the more common including Vasant Vihar, Defence Colony Market & Khan Market.

    After looking in both locations, I've decided to take an apartment on the outskirts of town near to the Vasant Vihar market. In Vasant Kunj, I'm less than 30 minutes to work & less than 30 minutes to all the markets in South Delhi. Additionally, the house I've settled on is very quiet, with a large green grass lawn out front, and rolling natural land over the back wall.

    In the two nights I've spent at the house, I've awoken early to the sounds of a partridge nesting in the yard.... Who knew I'd find such a peaceful home in a country of 1 billion people! Enjoy the tour & I apologize for my rambling. I hadn't held a conversation in nearly 3 days at the point of filming!

    More Questions than Answers!

    Well, here is a call for comments and help from my Indian Posse out there!

    About 2 or 3 times a night at my house, I hear someone blow a whistle. I'm talking like a sports whistle. It isn't repeated, just like a quick trill or two or three & then nothing for a while. At first, I thought it was just a one time thing, but I'm noticing a trend.

    Anyone have any idea why someone might be blowing a whistle? Here are my early theories:

    1) Late Night Soccer match in the yard..... Low Probability of being true, but fun to think about
    2) Someone approaching my guard house on a bike or foot - the cars all honk to get the guards attention, maybe these guys whistle?

    Anyhow - if you have an idea - or even a theory, let me know!


    You say Gora, I say Gringo

    Ok, so for those of you wondering quietly to yourself, Why is this blog called the Desi Gora, I have an answer. No, this is not an obscure reference to the Italian Actor Claudio Gora... (I have no idea)... Nor is it the Japanese spa town, or the town in Poland.. (Thanks Wikipedia).

    Simply put, Gora refers to the following:

    Gora, or Fair-skinned in Hindustani and Punjabi, whether Indian or from other regions. It was earlier, used to describe Britishers in India, hence gave rise to names like Gora Padao, a British post, near Haldwani, Nainital district.

    It is my Gora-ness that attracts the stares. I've decided to embrace my gora-ness in a sort of Gora Pride moment. So, there you have it, Gora - Gringo - it is all the same....

    Is it possible to escape America?

    I don't want to pretend that escaping Americans, American foods, Customs or it's TV shows was ever my intent in taking this post in Delhi. It would be absurd of my to pretend I had some sort of higher - find oneself - ideas about this adventure. My goals for coming were pretty clear, 1) Gain an incredibly unique career experience by working in the second fastest growing major market in the world. 2) Take in a new set of cultural & social experiences by absorbing a culture far removed from the life I lead in the states.

    It has surprised me however to realize just how difficult that second idea can be. You see, the American culture has so permeated itself into the rest of the world, that you literally can spend an entire day (with the proper access to cash) without eating, drinking or driving in anything unfamiliar. I think today, it really stood out to me - just how strong the American commercial and cultural engine is.

    For a variety of reasons, I took it pretty easy today. It was my first day back in an apartment after a week of living in Hotels & showering in Airport lounges. I was excited about spending my downtime relaxing & recharging my engine.

    Unfortunately, my body was in now mood to relax. I rose this morning about 5 am as I'm still a bit off. I made myself a cup of coffee in my new apartment, and then settled in to watch CNN. After about an hour, I made a call back home & decided to get a move on things. I've hired a temporary car & driver for the month, and at 7:45 I got a knock on the door - it seems my Ford was waiting out front. After heading downstairs, I jumped in the car for my 30 minute commute from extreme South Delhi to Gurgaon.

    Along the way, I passed the offices of some of America's most famous employers. A short list of firms Gurgaon included: Google, Hewitt, Jones Lang Lasalle, KPMG, Deloitte, Adobe, GE, ESPN, Baxter Healthcare - I could go on and on.

    About 9, I headed across town to Noida, another booming BPO / Textile district. If there were any familiar US firms I didn't name already, the rest of them have headquarters here. It should be noted, that this trip across town took about 2 hours & took me through 3 separate Indian States - just a fun factoid for you!

    At 4 pm, and back in the office, a delivery crew showed up to drop off 9 new Dell Laptops for our office - I watched the workmen deliver while i noshed on Lays Sour Cream and Onion potato chips from the cafeteria.

    Before moving into the apartment, I stopped at Spencers Hypermarket. I'll try to grab some video of this place for you in a future post as the store is pretty impressive. I needed to grab a few things so that I would have food for dinner. As I was in a rush - I grabbed some familiar staples and headed out the door. After I got home, I made myself a nice bowl of spaghetti with Prego sauce & popped a small bag of Pop Secret popcorn for a snack.

    Now, is every day like this here? Certainly not - Along the way there are PLENTY of foreign sights and sounds & many exciting, fun & uniquely Indian aspects to this culture - but I'm beginning to really understand just how far the American Culture will reach.

    I've made a promise to myself to try to limit my "American" days - but it won't be easy. There is simply such easy access to all your familiar staples here that it is almost extra effort to NOT buy the familiar US brand. In any case - 1 day in my life - many more to come.