Apple Redeems Itself!

You may remember this post, where I complained at length about my iphone screen dying on me - several days after the expiration. Well, after returning to Chicago, I immediately headed to the apple store to see if they would help.

Unfortunately for me, there is only 1 apple store in all of downtown Chicago, so the lines are LONG. I set an appointment for 4 hours later, and went shopping. After finally being seen at the ipod bar, I was pleasantly surprised. They agreed to order me a brand new phone (or maybe it is refurbed?) as a replacement. The best news - free!

So, yesterday, I went back to the store & picked up a new phone. I guess some firms still believe in great customer service.

One Small Way You Can Help!

Two of my friends in Delhi just started an effort to raise funds for a project at the Pardada Pardadi Girls School.

The idea is to help raise funds for this school to develop a business selling affordable menstrual pads to low income girls & women in India. Unfortunately, the cost of these goods in India is so high, that some women may not have access to clean & sterile pads, and so there are high rates of infections leading to infertility.

If you feel so inclined to find out more, click here to donate:

Pardada Pardadi is registered as a non-profit organization under Society's Registration Act and FCRA for Foreign Contributions. It is registered in the US under 501(c)(3) for tax exemption there.

According to Pardada Pardadi, most rural Indian women and girls catch numerous vaginal infections after attaining puberty. The reason is because they use dirty or unsanitized cloth during menstruation -- because they cannot afford hygienically-prepared sanitary pads.

This project has four goals:
  1. To train students about health and hygiene issues related to menstruation.
  2. To provide hygienic sanitary pads
  3. To create income-generating activity for two Pardada Pardadi graduates.
  4. To minimize the incidence of vaginal infections.

cruel twist of fate...

I'm in Kohler Wisconsin now. There is a big resort here called The American Club. It is the Midwest's only AAA 5 Diamond Award Winner. Needless to say, the place is pretty posh. The hotel is in the town where Kohler has been manufacturing toilets and bathroom fixtures for years. There is even a museum here - dedicated to the toilet.

It is of course only fitting that it is here, that my body decides to reject all food in a spectacular bout of Delhi Belly.... Yep, I'm stuck with Delhi Belly in the home of Toilets.

Back In The Saddle Again

Just settled into the patio of the Starbucks at Diversey & Sheffield. Enjoying mild summer weather. For once, I've not sweat through all layers of clothing & am remembering what a cool breeze feels like.

Around Chicago all week - hope to catch up with some of you.


Negotiation Station

Russel Peters is a popular Indian/Canadian comedian. He had a sketch in which he would describe why he believed it was tough to do business with Indians. Specifically - he stated that they would never buy anything, unless they got a deal.

I always assumed this was one of those bad cultural stereotypes that were largely untrue. However, I've noticed that this is certainly a trend. For instance, today my colleague offered to buy me lunch as I've bought the team lunch on a few occasions. We settled on a local restaurant and I gave him my order. As he placed the order for delivery, I realized he was haggling over the price. He insisted that in order for us to place the order, that a discount must be extended.

After several minutes, a price was settled upon & my colleague hung up the phone. I asked him if he indeed was able to negotiate a new price. Of course he was, eventually 20% was knocked off the bill. As impressed as I was, he reamained upset as he failed to score the free dessert course he really wanted.

Honda City it is!

After renting a car/drive for the last 6 weeks, I finally settled into a long term rental situation - where I will retain the car 7 days a week. Plus, I'll be able to drive it on Sundays... I settled on a Honda City ZX in a crisp champagne color - I think I'll name the car Cristal.

Unfortunately, though I have a car - I now need to find a driver. As is the case with most things in India - the very fact that I'm white - or rather a foreigner - means that all drivers believe they can get twice as much as they should from me. So - as much as I've enjoyed my driver Durgesh - I had to tell him I wouldn't be ponying up his desired rate. So, when I arrive back, I'll be searching for a new driver.

It is a bit like dating really - I will have several come over and visit with me. I'll be comparing them and perhaps asking them to try out for a week. If they aren't to fast - or to slow, I'll keep them longer. If they talk to much - or to little, I'll probably keep looking.

With that in mind - after 6 weeks of being driven, I think I've figured out the ideal candidate profile.

1) 28-35 year old (I can't have a cougar of a driver... but seriously, young is probably better)
2) Speaks English - or Hinglish will do fine
3) Owns a motorbike - harder than you would think!
4) Willing to keep my hours - late night Friday, Saturday
5) Available for the occasional weekend trip out of town

Quiet Riot

I've been quiet again - sorry.

A lot has been going on since Sunday. For starters, I'm sitting in the executive lounge at Indira Gandhi International Airport. I'm heading home for a week. I present in the final round of a business plan competition at CareerBuilder this week - so details to come on how that goes. If I were to win, you'll be pleased to know that my idea is India centric - so the blog isn't going anywhere.

In other news, a few key partners at work were finalized this week & two key customers came on for a trial. So those 4 things have kept me very busy. Not that it is any excuse - but I guess when you are working late - it is hard to find new pieces of observational humor to share. I guess it really is a sign that I'm settling in nicely here, I'm reclaimed my work-a-holic roots.

I'll likely be quiet for a bit in the states - but will try to use that time to catch up on missed posting opportunitites. Look forward to re-entry in Gotham.


Stovetop Pizza

One of the things I miss here, is an oven. Since electricity is expensive & unreliable - most folks cook with propane. They have it delivered in tanks like you would use back home for a grill & it is connected to the range top in their kitchen. Most kitchens are not equipped with a stove, probably as a result of the propane tank situation & the fact that most Indian dishes can be prepared over an open flame.

Of all the things I don't have access to, the Oven is one I notice most often. I guess I never realized how useful it is to have one. After all, if you want to bake cookies, a pizza, lasagna, enchiladas.... you really need an oven to do it right.

I was telling Sally about how much I miss having one - especially since I would love to make homemade pizza or calzones like I would at home. Sally recommended I try augmenting a recipe for a grilled pizza and attempt to make it on the range top. I decided to go for a simple cheese pizza, before going through the hassle of caramelizing onions & warming prosciutto. After 2 attempts, I think I actually managed to get a workable pizza. Here are the steps to making it work.

First, make your pizza dough as you normally would. I used quick rising yeast - so it is pretty easy whip up a batch of dough. Just be sure you let it rise as long as possible - you'll notice in my first attempt I tried to cut corners.

Next, add some olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Roll the dough out & place the crust in the pan over open flame. Do not cover, simply cook for 4-5 minutes - or until the dough is golden on the down side.

Now flip the dough like you would a pancake & quickly add sauce, toppings & cheese to the pizza before covering. After another 4-5 minutes, you should have a pizza that has melted cheese & a crispy crust. It might take a few attempts to get the timing right - you really need to time the crust browning & cheese melting perfectly - or else you end up with a crispy crust & cool cheese.

Here are some photos of the process:

Attempt # 1 (too thin)

Attempt #2 - Proper Crust - too light on cheese
I put it back on w/ more cheese to even it out
Finally - it is JUST right!

Batman was great - So was Intermission

Yep, Intermissions are big here. Even in the hollywood films.

Seriously though, I enjoyed the movie. Much lighter than some of the other Batman films - well not in storyline - but it was nice to see Chicago in daylight for a change. I felt like I was on a tour of my old stomping grounds. I'm sure I saw Gene & Georgetti's, Plenty of River North, LaSalle & our Chicago Office were all over it. Plus - I think they used Union Station for at least 5 sequences.

Perhaps my favorite scene was the supposed Hong Kong meeting, which from what I can tell was actually shot at McCormick Place overlooking the Hyatt & the new exposition hall. I guess all those random nights of closed roads, floodlights & crew trucks parked all over the neighborhood were worth it. Chicago looked great!

Since I'm required to comment on Heath Ledger, I will say I found him pretty good in the film! I don't think he'll get an Oscar or anything, but I legitimately can say I believe he would have had a long strong career had he not died this year.

Delhi's Water Problem

Delhi has a water problem. Mainly, lack of clean water & an ever shrinking supply of underground water. And yet, water features prominently at upscale malls in the form of outdoor fountains, reflecting pools etc.
After the movie today, my friend Sam pointed out this contradiction to me. I hadn't noticed all the fountains outside the mall - but had just seen an public service ad about water conservation a few hours earlier on the road. We discussed the India class divide situation, a frequent topic here in India. And after watching her go of in an Auto rickshaw, I headed back up to the mall to wait for my cab.
As I walked up, 3 tankers pulled in. At first, I thought nothing of it, until I realized these tankers were there to replenish the water in the fountains outside. Yep, in a city where folks living in slums have little to no access to clean water, here were 3 tankers out to keep the water level high in reflecting pools. There is a certain irony in it all, isn't there.


Building Code Violation

My office is in a respectable office building in Gurgaon. We are on one of the most expensive roads in the heart of the town. Like most new office buildings here in India, you find there is a big difference between the glossy exterior, and the functioning interior.

A few weeks back I posted some photos of the window cleaners using boulders to anchor the boom that held the ropes they hung off of. Well, this week, I decided to see what was behind a little cabinet in the bathroom at the office & found a deathtrap. In fact, if you leaned over a bit further, you would see that this is an open shaft to the ground floor that runs the entire length of the building. The shaft is guarded by this unlocked white wood door & after discovering this door in the bathroom, I've found the same door in other areas of our floor.

Needless to say, despite all the new construction - building codes aren't exactly what we are used to in the States:

Need a car? Call us at one of 18 phone numbers:

Do Not Fear the Animals!

"Mickey Mouse" @ Bata Shoes.
Little Kids were screaming at the sight!

LA Woman

After dinner last night, we headed to Cafe Morrison - a sort of Indian version of Hard Rock Cafe. After the margarita's at Sancho's - I needed a pick me up & so I had a vodka redbull (yeahRedbull is here too now - I've even seen those ridiculous redbull cars here).

Not to be outdone - Dave tried one of the signature drinks on the menu. LA Woman.

Now if I were you, I'd be wondering what traits the Indian bar tenders would think an LA woman embodied. You know - is she sweet, light & carefree? If so - they'd probably mix pineapple juice, soda water & flavoured vodka. Let's say they thought she was sassy & perhaps a bit sour - they'd probably put southern comfort in fresh sweet lime juice.

Well- I think it is safe to say - they must think LA women are sophisticated & yet a little bit raw. At least that is my guess. You see, the LA Woman is white wine & whiskey. Yep - you heard me right. White wine & Whiskey.....

Here's Dave's reaction shot:

Parking in Delhi

Delhi is a very car friendly city. Much more so than Mumbai, Gujurat or other cities/states in India. Here, with the wide boulevards (We can thank the Brits for that) & quiet enclaves (housing colonies) w/ ample parking space - upwardly mobile delhites can boast of at least one car.

It turns out, that driving is therefore not the problem. It is actually parking that is difficult. These great old colony markets are dotted around town - but feature little to no parking. Therefore an entire parking business has sprouted around the lots.

Now, I don't park - my driver does. But still - at every market, cars are parked 2, 3 deep w/ hardly an inch to move. Usually there is some sort of parking attendant with all the Keys, who manages move 1 or two to let you out. Sometimes, this takes 2-3 minutes, sometimes 15. Usually there is a sign nearby asking you not to tip these folks - but clearly - if you don't tip - you won't get out!

I haven't had a chance to document in video this scene myself, but I found this clip that shows what you can expect to see at any of these markets. Personally, I've never seen folks push a car in neutral as is shown, but I wouldn't be shocked to learn it is pretty common. Check out this scene of parking here in Delhi:

Mega Cabs

Since I'm renting my car/driver - I don't have a vehicle on Sunday. It is the official day off of drivers all over Delhi.

Since I'm no longer content to sit inside all day - and do to my off the beaten path home location - I have to book radio taxis to take me places. If I lived in a more central zone, I could simply hail an auto rickshaw - but unless I want to walk a mile back to the nearest colony, I have to call a radio cab.

MegaCabs is my provider of choice. They allow you to book via phone or web & always arrive promptly. All their cars are AC - although - they usually don't have seat belts (ok - all those PSAs have me buckling up). The cost is quite good for a radio cab 15 rps per kilometer, & you pay only for the time you are in the car. As an added bonus - the drivers are available to be booked by the day. For instance, a full day rental on Sunday would run me about 1850 rps (12 hours) 43.00 USD. In comparison - a cab in Chicago from my house in River North --> Lakeview (about 15 minute drive) is at least 20 bucks.

I've only needed to book this all day option once, usually - I just book from my house to a point & then call again for a return. The fact that this service is available is a godsend. It is precisely this type of service that no travel book or tourism board is eager to promote. They'd much rather you book the luxurious car from the hotel conceirge. Now, admittedly, you likely wont get an english speaking driver with Megacabs, but with a map, list of sights & 2000 rupees - you can see the town & save some money.

So, if you ever find yourself in Delhi - do yourself a favor. Skip the hotel offered drivers & instead call up megacabs. It will save you a ton of money.

Off to See Batman!

In the spirit of the new film - I've been reviewing some earlier batman stuff - including this gem.

I sure hope Robin & Catwoman are brought back!

Delhi Driving:

Since I've been spending so much time in the car lately (45 minutes each way to work...), I've started re-discovering some old music of mine (and adding some new stuff to the mix). With that in mind, I've posted my playlist of the week:

Scott's Playlist On Itunes:
1) California - Rufus Wainwright
2) Lovers Without Love - Joshua James
3) Toxic (Version Revisited) - Mark Ronson - Feat Ol' Dirty Bastard & Tigger
4) I Decided - Solange Knowles
5) You Are - Estelle - Feat John Legend
6) Shake It - Metro Station
7) Cobrastyle - Robyn
8) Longest Days - John Mellencamp
9) Oh My God - Mark Ronson - feat Lily Allen
10) Thunder - Boys Like Girls
11) Two for My Seconds - Operator Please
12) Lover, You Should've Come Over - Jeff Buckley


2 Thumbs Up for New Mexican Joint!

Ok, so it is hardly Pilsen (Chicago's Mexican Quarter), or Mexico City. But, the new joint is pretty good. Aside from the ENORMOUS menus (photos to come), Check delivered in a sombrero, and slightly gray guacamole (someone needs to teach them the art of the lime juice to stop oxidization) - this place served a pretty tasty mexican meal.

I had the Burrito - and it was great! The Fajitas looked delicious - and the bit I had of enchiladas was really tasty. They looked a little like a taco in enchilada sauce - but the taste was spot on.

So, there you have it - my one gripe has been silenced - I now have mexican food available in India.

Update: Giant Menu

Mexican Food in Delhi?

I read a review of this new joint in South Extension called Sancho's. I normally would write off any place serving mexican food in Delhi. I mean, let's face it - if you do a search for mexican food delhi on google, Bennigans & TGIFridays come up in the results screen.

However, this place is headed by a Mexican, who is coming off 4 years in Texas with his family. So, tonight - we are heading out to try the mexican food.

If it is good, I will have a new favorite restaurant for sure!

Hell's Ground ( Zibahkhana )

I just got back from a screening at the Osian's Cinefan film festival. This is a roughly week long film festival in Delhi that highlights only films with Asian and Arab Influence. I went early this week to a dour and drab film adaptation of Anna Karenina. Having already purchased a ticket for tonights show, I decided to head anyway - although I was a bit skeptical after suffering through 2 hours of Khasackstani actors choosing not to emote, rather than act.

Thankfully, tonights show did not disappoint. It honestly, was quite possibly the most enjoyable movie going experience all year for me. I arrived to the Siri Fort Auditorium complex late, although my new friends were holding me a seat. Unfortunately, they wouldn't let me in, so I climbed into the last row of the balcony. It was a sold out spot and I found one of the few remaining seats.
As you can see, the film is all camp. It is a horror flick that roughly follows the typical horror genre. 5 kids lie to their parents, sneak out to go camping against their will, and get stuck in a bad situation where they get picked off one-bone in reverse order of their morality. I won't give away the ending, but we all know it!

This movie has it all, gore, mutants, zombies, backwoods family, and campy dialogue. The best part of this film? The "killer" is a man, wearing a white burka! In the Muslim/Pakistani context, if someone to mask themselves, what better option. After all, a hockey mask would seem terribly out of place. As for the crowd, during the showing the crowd riotous with laughter - as the gore came out - folks would scream in fits of laughter.

Ok, so if you can get your hands on this movie - please do so. The fact that this perfect pitch homage to American gore films came out of Pakistan... YEAH Pakistan! is shocking.

To read an article about the film *and an interview with the director* click here:

Fox International Cuisine - The "epitome" of class.

This restaurant is across the street from my office, and I've never been. Today, I was in the office building across the way & came across an advert for the Fox Restaurant.

One interesting thing you will note, is that the waffle in the center is displayed as desert. In fact, at one of the major coffee chains, you can order one off the desert menu and it will come exactly the way I would eat a waffle at home for breakfast.

The second thing that caught my eye was the obvious typo in the middle text. If you pay just JUSY 50 rps, you get a foster beer. Yep. Jusy rupees. Ironically Just is spelled correctly *jusy* above the spelling error.

But my favorite random typo in this ad, is at the bottom. It is a little hard to see, but the ad reads:
Come Togethers come alive at the Fox Amphitheater

Receptions, Corporate Dos, Cocktail Parties,
Kitty Parties, Birthday or Anniversary bashes,
Theme Parties or an impromptu Beat-it-up session.

Does anyone have any idea what a Beat-it-up session is?

Man, if this is plus sized clothing... I need to find the big and tall store!

Side Car!

Sleep Tight, Don’t Let The Bed Bugs Bite…

Yeah, I bet you always thought that was a cute little saying, right?

Well, this week I had a little bed bugs scare. After spending a week in Mumbai, and leaving my apartment largely unattended & un air-conditioned, I returned back exhausted! Putting my things away, I curled up under the covers of my bed and promptly passed out. After one night, I woke up feeling largely un-refreshed. As I thought back through the night, I realized I was tossing and turning a lot. In fact, I seemed to recall being a bit itchy. I wrote it off to dehydration & headed off to work.

Now, the next night, I woke up scratching my arm at about 3 am. Realizing that maybe something else was going on, I ripped the top cover off, crawled out of bed and scoured the bed sheets. At first, everything seemed normal – but then I realized there were maybe 50 or so tiny black bugs in the sheet. Now fully awake, I rushed to remove the sheet & found even more in the pillowcase. At the base of the bed, in a folded flat sheet I hadn't bothered to put on the bed, I found even more bugs.

Needless to say – I was a little grossed out… well – more than a little! I spent the rest of my night doing laundry and throwing sheets out. Finally around 6 am, I drifted back to sleep (ON THE COUCH!) and woke later in the morning.

Now for the good news, I'm fairly certain (90%) that these are not bed bugs. I'm also fairly certain that whatever they are, they haven't made their way into the mattress either – relief! I put some new sheets on the bed last night & slept like a baby. I'll keep you posted, but I want each and every one of you sleeping in your luxurious pillow top mattresses in the States to think of me being eaten alive by little tiny black bugs.

Oh, and for the record – I'm always accepting donations of DEET powered bug spray.

Chase Bank & Miley Cyrus's "The 7 Things I Hate About You" Mashup

Ohh Miley Cyrus, how I want to hate you - but yet get those catchy songs of yours get caught in my head. First it was the resurrection of the 80s classic "I wear my Sunglasses as Night" hook & now, the 7 things I hate about you song.

Well, rather than fight it, I think I'll just embrace it & work it into my post about how much I HATE Chase Bank right now. So folks, today - you get a two for one post!

On the Fourth of July, I visited an ABN Amro ATM on my way to the US Embassy to engage in the Americanization of India - otherwise known as the day the US introduced India to the Corn Dog. After entering my card, and pin number, I waited patiently for the machine to dispense the cash. After a few minutes, I got an error message from the monitor & then the machine informed me it was detaining my debit card.

I quickly rushed home to call Chase Bank to get a replacement visa sent my way. Now, to be fair, I have credit cards - but India is not exactly a credit friendly economy for a lot of things. Plus, there are a lot of places I'm simply not comfortable paying with a credit card - Identify Theft anyone?

So, while trying to replace my debit card, I discovered the 7 things I hate about Chase Bank:

Little Asian Presence!
Chase has ZERO commercial banking locations in India, no Bank Partners in India, and yet has more than 4,000 employees here If you have any issue with your card or account while in India - better be ready to call the US

Confusing Fees
Chase will charge you fees on each transaction, fees I'm not able to decipher. Try this transaction for example:

Rupees 887 * 0.02331454 (EXCHG RTE) + 0.62 (EXCHG RTE ADJ)

No International Debit Card Replacement

Ever have your wallet stolen while overseas? Don't count on a debit card replacement. Chase (unlike HSBC) will only provide you a replacement ATM card. So, be prepared to pay for cash for everything you buy for the rest of your trip!

Low Daily Withdrawal limit:
$300 on my account. I've tried & tried to increase my daily withdrawal limit & was even told twice it was 500 bucks (by a banker in person), unfortunately, I've never been able to get more than 400 out.

So, if you ever do lose that card abroad, I hope you are comfortable charging everything all day long - because 300 USD sure doesn't go a long way in many countries!

Your Replacement ATM will come on the SLOW BOAT TO CHINA! (or India as the case may be)
Lost your card, no problem - we'll mail your replacement to you. Yes, you heard me right - Mail - no DHL or Fedex here. Expect your new card in 3-4 weeks

Non-Chase ATM Fee: $3.00
Yep, even in India - where I have no other choice. So, if you plan on traveling - open your account with these banks with local branches & ATMs:
      1. HSBC
      2. Citibank
      3. Bank of America
      4. ABN Amro / LaSalle Bank
And finally: Helen D., Manager at the Texas Call Center
In speaking with Helen, I was told there was now way to get a card sent priority. I insisted that surely there must be some way... I mean - people can't always wait 3-4 weeks to get a replacement. What about people who travel all over the world for work - are none of them Chase customers?

I asked Helen if there was someone else I could speak with. She obliged and put me through to a new menu. After going through the various prompts, I got connected to a new agent - whom I explained I needed to speak with a manager to get a card sent DHL.

So, Guess who picked up the phone next.... Yep - Helen D!

You know what gets me? I asked Helen why she put me back to the main center when I asked to speak with someone else who could help me - Obviously implying a superior. Her response?

You weren't specific. I did give you someone else to speak to.

So there you go. Chase Bank, these are the 7 Things I Hate About You!

In case you have no idea how Miley Cyrus is involved in this post, enjoy:

Blogging Thanks

Well, I've seen a spike in traffic on the blog lately. I want to send a thanks out to two folks driving traffic my way.

My new friend Jenny & Dave have their own blog chronicling their life here:

And of course my college friend Kasey - who's posted a link from her blog.

Thanks guys!

Del·hi bel·ly

Delhi belly
–noun Slang.
diarrhea experienced by travelers in a foreign country, who are not accustomed to the local food and water.

[Origin: 1960–65; after Delhi, India]

Hey - it happens. I've been pretty lucky so far, but you never can be sure exactly when the Delhi Belly will strike. Before leaving the states, I visited a travel clinic at Northwestern Hospital. After meeting with the RN, I left to fill my prescriptions. After hearing how long I would be in India, the RN had prescribed enough prescription anti-diarrheal antibiotics to stop up a small army.

I dutifully took the prescription to the counter, along with a prescription for a unique anti-malarial (used only in India where the local strain of malaria is uncommon) & an oral vaccine. Before handing over my prescriptions, the pharmacist, who clearly did not realize I was filling an order of travel meds, felt the need to consult with me about my possible drug interactions.

You see, the oral vaccine (which I was to take right away) might interfere with the anti-diarrheal medicines. Suddenly in the middle of a CVS in River North, I'm having a loud conversation with a pharmacist who thinks I have a geyser ready to explode at a moments notice. After a few moments of conversation, I convinced her that i still had control over my bowels... for the time being.

Thankfully, I have not had to dip into my medical reserves yet. Hopefully, I can keep the streak alive.... In the meantime...


I think there is something in the water here. The ants are enormous. I think it is safe to say that they are about as long as your last knuckle to the tip of your finger & nearly as fat as a pea.

While at Humayun's tomb last week with Sally, we got caught in a rain storm. As the water hit the ground, the ants came marching out. Before long, the stone ground of the tomb was literally alive with ants. They were everywhere, crawling up walls & scurrying to avoid the humans.

It certainly was not for the faint of heart. Take a look at the size of these guys (I took this photo before they really came out):

Reliance Metro

Mumbai is a very, very crowded city. The main section of town is surrounded on 3 sides by water, features next to no "cross town" public transport, and routinely floods during monsoon. For this reason, there is an ambitious public works project underway to build a crosstown metro system.

While on my way to a meeting last week, we sat in traffic along a section of road that was being torn up for the Metro to go in. The metro is a joint venture between public & private firms - and not surprisingly the Reliance ADA group is a part of the construction. This stood out to me as the construction barricades make it appear the metro is a purely private enterprise.

In fact, the metro will be built under a build, operate, transfer program. In this program, private investment in used to construct the metro system. After the company has recouped their investment from operations (& presumably turned a hefty profit), they then transfer operations back to the government.

Need to make some extra money?

This Bombay company is willing to pay for your trash. They promise Cold Hard Rupees..... Unless you happen to have a collection of old perfume bottles.

Don't get me wrong, they will take them off your hands... But don't expect any money for it.


Man, the cricket grounds crew in Calcutta is serious about getting a raise. While flipping through the Times of India (what else), I came across this notice of strike. As the copy is a bit hard to read, here is the first part of the text transposed:

Bowling to the pressure from the Eden's Garden 20 member groundstaff who threatened to commit suicide if their demands were not met.......

ps: in case you missed the humor in that last post, in Cricket - what we call pitching in baseball, is called bowling.

One day next week, I will post all the puns I can find in one issue of the newspaper. The journalists love a good pun. Of course, they also love a typo here. I've found more layout errors in the newspaper here than I ever found in my university paper.

Back from Mumbai

I spent the last week in Mumbai. I had several meetings in all corners of town. I had a chance to meet with the CEO of an insurance company with 20,000+ employees , the Chief People officer of an 18,000 person insurance company, visited the office campus of two of India's largest companies & met many other interesting firms / people.

In between all my meetings, I had a chance to see Mumbai as I drove from one corner to another. Since I know most of you don't want to hear about business, I thought I would instead regale you with my observations of Mumbai.

First off, I am a HUGE fan of Bombay. Yes, it is has issues. It is crowded, loud, busy, traffic clogged, and frankly a whole host of other issues make you want to hate it. And yet, it is the only city I've visited in India that has the same energy I've come to know and love in New York & Chicago. In sections, it is incredibly walkable - encouraging you to explore it's worn down British East Indies style architecture.

Here are some high level observations.

BEEF! After a month in Delhi, where the cow is sacred.... I was delighted to find beef readily available and frankly tasty. At Cafe' Mondegar - a laid back crowd of backpackers & hip locals seemed eager to wolf down the beef chili dry - a chinese style beef dish served in the cozy, if not loud, bar. I was more than sceptical of the beef at this place... maybe it was the Def Leopard & Bryan Adams "summer of '69" blasting that made me think... perhaps I should stick to chicken. However, after being talked into it, it was quite tasty.

New Taxis!
Delhi is a town full of auto-rickshaws (or tuk-tuks as some of you may know them), so it came as quite a delight to see taxi's on the street. The taxis are easy to hail, and full of personality. In the states, you consider yourself lucky if you get the one or two crazy cab drivers who have decorated their cab. I'm sure at least some of you have ridden in either a "santa" cab or one covered w/ business cards....

In Mumbai, it seems downright odd if you end up in a cab with no personality. The cabs are all the same model, a fiat I think. One of my business meetings was with a man who's grandfather-in-law began manufacturing this model in India. In anycase, it was a treat to hail a cab with 4 doors & windows that close. If only the roof wasn't quite so low....

An Outside View of The Presidential Election

I picked up the Times of India today & found this cartoon was on the front page.

This is the best / worst television night ever!

Ok, I promise, no more bad screen recordings of television programs or commercials.

It is just that they are too good! I put the show on mute while posting on the blog - I looked up and this is what I found!

Lucky Appendage

This is the Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan. I saw him in a big movie release a few months back in the states. About halfway through the movie - I decided there was something different about him... I just couldn't figure out what it was.

Lucky for me, the movie was about 3.5 hours long, so I had plenty of time to do my slueth work. Finally, I realize what had been staring me in the face all along. It was his 6th finger - a thumb - growing out of a thumb.

An extra appendage is considered lucky in a way here. Hrithik is a major star despite this birth defect, something I'm not convinced would be a possibility in the image obsessed United States.

Still, lucky or not, I always assumed this was a trait that would be treated with a certain amount of care in the media. After all, you wouldn't expect to see a television commercial mocking Oprah Winfrey's weight, or Paris Hilton's lazy eye.... well maybe Paris Hilton.

Anyway, this evening I caught a McDonald's commercial that is running here. Enjoy - and try not to miss the joke!

Well, it isn't exactly Little People Big World....

I turned on the television this evening. After watching CNN for an hour, I decided to surf the TV. I came upon this - at 9 pm... So I think this might be a family show - but I'm not sure. It has normal commercials - usually a sign it is not a kids program.

Either way - I had to post!

Cincinnati Customs

Growing up in Chicago, my mother (from Cincinnati) always told me it wasn't polite to say "What?" when you didn't catch what someone was saying. Instead, it was polite to say "Pardon me", "Sorry?" or "Please?."

Somehow, Please stuck. And To this day, my auto response is Please?

This afternoon I went to visit the HR Head at a HUGE engineering & construction firm in Mumbai. The global HQ is in the suburbs and is somewhat like a film studio. In other words, there are 6 gates, behind which large manufacturing / assembly plants coexists with corporate offices. There is even a bus service emblazoned with the corporations name ferrying employees from one gate to the next.

At the main security gate, I waited in line with the delivery men & cab drivers for a gate pass until the guard felt sorry for this pale skinned foreigner & pushed me to the front of the line. The woman behind the counter asked for my name, I handed my card to her. She replied with what I now assume was "Your name is Mr. Scott Helmes?"

Unable to hear her clearly, I responded "please?".

2 minutes later, I was handed a temporary ID card for:
Mr Scott Helmesplease

Time To Play: Guess What Product this Advert is Pushing!

Let's see how many of you think you have what it takes to figure out the product in this advert!

Theme Park Rash Medicine Advert

Earlier, I posted on "rashguard". Within minutes, Rohan posted this beauty of a commercial for all to see. As I watched it, I realized I have seen this ad myself - and always laughed at the bad animation they show late in the ad:

Before stepping on the escalator - please view the instructions

In my lobby, there is an escalator that links the main lobby floor with a few banks & a restaurant. The escalator is seldom used, as most people choose to walk the stairs. Apparently, when many of the escalators were going in the government or building owners were worried that people might injure themselves. As a result, at many malls & buildings I've seen instructions on using the escalator posted nearby.

Here are the eight rules to using the escalator at my building:
1) While boarding, gently grasp the handle for comfort & safety
2) Do not attempt to climb up or down the escalators
3) Children must not be left alone on the escalator
4) Do not sit or climb on the main handrail
5) Keep your clothes out of contact with moving parts
6) In case of fire or mishap, do not use the escalator
7) In case of emergency, press the RED stop button
8) The management is not responsible for injury.

Riding in Style!

On my way to work last week, I spotted this man. He is truly riding in style. At first, I didn't notice anything different about this car. It looks like your typical SUV. As we cruised along, I started to notice that there wasn't a middle row. Then I noticed the flat screen - bigger than mine @ home, and the man in the back seat reading his paper & chatting on the phone.

Now, this is the way to enjoy a bad commute. Maybe I'll pimp out my car soon!

If Maya Angelou failed as a poet, what would she do with her life?

Ohh, obviously.
She would change her name to Mehra Bandhu, join the other expoeters and manufacture high fashion garmets.

Things I need to buy.... Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent

I've been washing my clothes in a generally available detergent. It has been no issue for me to date, but about Thursday of this week, we discovered that Sally is allergic to the detergent. After washing her clothes and drying them, she suddenly began to break out in a rash.

At first, the rash was isolated, but it soon spread. Her hands started to get puffy & so we headed to the pharmacy to find some cortisone. Unfortunately, we struggled to communicate with the pharmacist & instead bought some ointment that is marketed locally for what I delicately refer to as theme park rash.

In fact, it is marketed to folks who develop rashes after walking in the humid Indian air... usually these rashes appear in... well you get the idea. Anyhow, I thought you would get a kick out of the packaging of this product.

Effective in rashes caused by nappy/diaper & tight clothing.

Can You See It?

One of the funnier things about being in India, has been being asked to pose for photographs. This typically occurs at the largest tourist destinations. In the last week, at spots across the city, Sally and I were asked to pose for many... many photos.

But perhaps my favorite moment was when Sally was told she looks like one of the Friends... and when I was asked if I had been in any movies. Because I look like Harry Potter... Specifically in the 5th film (I've never seen it).

So, what do you think? Is it accurate?

Kingfisher Babe

My posts are going to be a bit out of order for the next few days. I have some catching up to do! Thankfully, I just arrived in Mumbai (Bombay) for the week. I'm meeting with clients over the next few days & will return to Delhi in time for the weekend.

Many things in India are run by a few GIANT firms. Why then should the airline industry be any different? Today I flew on Kingfisher Airlines. This airline is part of the bigger Kingfisher brand which includes a hugely popular beer. Even the motto of the airline seems stolen from a rejected beer advert "fly the good times".

The roughly 2 hour flight down was on a new A320 airplane with in seat televisions & satellite TV. I spent most of the flight watching CNN & sleeping. The service was honestly pretty good. I'd heard STELLAR things about the service - but mostly from my single guy friends. I think they were more impressed with the flight attendants than the service itself.

Being a flight attendant or air hostess in India seems to hark back to the early days of aviation in the states. It hasn't yet become a commoditized industry, and the key requirements to be a member of flight crew seem to be that you are a female of a certain age, with a certain look & a certain amount of money in your family. Even popular news media seems to glamorize the position still - it will be interesting to see if it ever loses it's luster.

For me, the highlight of the flight was the frequent appearance of the Kingfisher babe on my seat monitor. I found it very funny that she showed up something like 9 times during my 1.5 hour flight! Be it takeoff, landing, beginning & end of inflight service & each time the captain put on the seatbelt sign, the Kingfisher babe would appear to calmly give us our instructions. I think the casting director on this one wanted the most pan-ethnic female possible & he found her. I think you will enjoy the slew of photos I took of her over the course of my flight.


iphone problems

Ohh the iphone. i love this thing, but then this weekend - 5 days after the warranty expired... it stopped working. I went to research my problem, and while not widespread, it sounds at least not uncommon. Basically, the middle third of my screen no longer works. HELP - Apple, if you are reading this - I'd love a new one shipped to me!

Ironically, this is the second apple device to crap out on me about 1 year in. My eMac did the same thing.


Well folks, I broke the cardinal rule in blogging. I let the blog go silent for more than 2 days. I appologize, but life happens sometimes. This week was great, Sally came for a visit & we had a chance to check out Delhi, visited the Taj, got stuck in a monsoon, and generally had a great time.

My only complaint? Well, as all visits must come to an end - so did hers, and so today - it is back to normal life. I'm off to Mumbai tonight for the week, so I should have good blogging content for a few days. In the meantime, here are some photos from the Taj: (ps. check out the view from our hotel room - I think it is page 5 of the show.)

To view full photos, click here: