Many of you know, I look at a lot of resumes... Tons of them in fact.

One of the stranger things I've seen in India is the almost obsessive use of the Hobby field. I feel as if this field has fallen out of favor in the US - you seldom see it used on a resume, and if you do it is full of safety hobbies like travel, running and other impressive feats of endurance or brainpower. I once accepted a renter with a questionable credit history because he showed up to the meeting fresh from coaching Little League... As he set aside the batting order and brushed the dust from his hands I thought "How bad could he be?" Bad apparently... I'm still waiting for Octobers rent check to arrive.

But I digress. This Hobbies category confuses me. With so few acceptable answers, I wonder - are people hiding their hobbies? After all, can you really see yourself hiring someone who lists Dungeons & Dragons, Fire Breathing or Star Trek on their CV?

Suzy, you look great. You're just the sort of candidate we need to great our customers as they enter the building...

Whats that? Can you wear your foam Spock ears?

In the US, we've received the Hobby memo - hide them all. Be ashamed of anything other than 5 safety hobbies. And yet - here in India - folks continue to list their hobbies without the least bit of shame. Take these that came across my desk recently (edited & summarized)

  1. Reading newspaper, magazines.
  2. Interacting with new people.
  3. Always greedy to learn

I have a great lust for latest electronic gadgets including the mobile phones.

In my free time I like reading wikipedia encyclopedia.

Collating wares software.

Devotion to the execution of responsibilities are my hobbies

Encouraging Junior to play the Synthesizer. Initially I taught him to play the National Anthem (after an hour of effort on my part, to play it correctly). He learnt it in less than 10 minutes. Now, he tries to teach me the tunes he has learnt on his own

Applying Reverse Engineering to things around me

Being a winner in Quake III Arena in ZETA ’05

*Netsurfing is by far the number one hobby on resumes in India. Strange really - seems to me it would indicate a strong likelihood to not work once hired.

So there you have it - just one of those quirky little cross cultural differences I guess. I wonder how long it will take for India to get the memo.

I suspect by the time I leave I'll be working with a bunch of Triathlete, bookworms who are actively involved with Habitat for Humanity.

Sad - and Crazy

Today in the Times of India:
MYSORE/BANGALORE: This is a story of a teenager who was forced to undergo a sex change surgery and face a traumatic life as a girl.

Manju, (19), a native of Mysore taluk, turned a girl in a few months and wears feminine clothing. Like other children, he had dreams of pursuing higher education and leading a normal life, but his fate took a turn for the worse after an encounter with two eunuchs in Mysore city, about six months ago, when he came for admission into a PU college.

The eunuchs pounced upon him that afternoon and bundled him into a four-wheeler on Sayyaji Rao Road, before being taken to Mumbai via Chennai.

He did not know what had happened to him for nearly three months after his abduction as he was sedated continuously without being allowed to regain consciousness. Later, he realized to his shock that a forced surgery had been performed on his genitals.

“I was served only two chapattis and coffee every day. But, when I gained conscious, I was shocked to see that my genitals had been amputated,” he recalls, adding that the trauma he underwent was unimaginable. “I writhed in pain for many days.”

Manju managed to escape from the clutches of the “hijras ” in Mumbai only five days ago and reached Mysore taluk. But the incident came to light only on Sunday, after the district police visited his house to pursue the case of “missing person” his parents had filed in July, two months after he went missing.

Full Story Here:

Dharmender Kumar

Life in Delhi, originally uploaded by shelmes.

I often get questions from the states about living with drivers and maids. The idea that you can have this sort of help is overwhelming for some folks to understand. I'm told how lucky I am, how "good" I have it. And the truth is, it is a luxury - but you can never forget that they are people who go home to their families.

This is our driver / guy friday / super hero. Dharmender has been working for me since August, and I can't imagine navigating Delhi without him. He's our part-time translator, cultural advisor, driver, sometimes cook (he taught me to make a proper chai), friend and colleague.

We visited Pushkar over the weekend, and while Sally, her mother and I checked out the shops, he headed down to the ghats to pray.

Pushkar is one of the most holy cities in India. It is believed that a swan released by the gods dropped a lotus to the ground at the site of Pushkar. The city sits on the edge of a lake & has 52 ghats where devout hindu's bathe in the lakes sacred water. Pushkar also has one of the only temples (or only temple - depending on who you believe) for Brahma - the God of creation.

We ran into Kumar on the main bazaar - He was returning from the Ghats and on his way to visit the Brahma temple. He had just bought fresh bananas and offered some of them to Sally & I. We accepted, I snapped this photo of him, and he was on his way.

Kumar has a wife, and three daughters. Each of them attends private school while he works as our driver & his wife makes handicrafts with an NGO. He's teaching his children English, and brings our old magazines home as study materials. He asks me to teach him new english words & in return he corrects my broken Hindi. "As tea goes in milk, milk goes in tea" - he says.

Dharmender is one of the many people that make India special to us. People like Kumar are often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of India - but they are the ones that I'm sure I'll remember most.

Die Happy

Life in Delhi, originally uploaded by shelmes.

If you are going to go... Go with this happy poison.

Camel Safari?

Life in Delhi, originally uploaded by shelmes.

"Excuse me sir, would you like a camel safari?", asked the young boy on the side of the road.

"No thanks" I said - returning to my map. Where the hell is the Trident Hotel anyhow. It was past 2 and my hunger was growing fast.

"Maybe just a photo?", he offered instead.

"Sure thing kid" I offerred 4 rupees to the kid, raised my camera to snap a photo. As I removed the lenscap - the camel got in on the action. Welcome to Jaipur.

Driving in Delhi

About 2 weeks ago, Sally and I decided to head to the mall for a relaxing Sunday. The idea of venturing across town in an auto rickshaw didn't appeal to either of us, and my Honda City sat out front taunting us - as if to say... Drive me!!!

And so I did.

I've decided there are really three things that make driving here tough. For starters, in Delhi, lanes are little more than a suggested path for you to drive in. If there is room to the left of a tree off the road that would save you 2 seconds in total driving time on your 4 hour journey - well then - clearly you take that dirt path.

Of course, if you miss a turn, taking a u-turn and coming back around is not an option. The only sensible thing to do is to put the car in reverse and travel the 100 yards back to the spot of the missed turn.

As a driver, if you manage to not hit the cars in reverse, or the cars re-entering the roadway from the sidewalk - you still have to deal with the fact that stoplights also are little more than a suggested course of action. After all, how could you not play frogger when you spot a five foot gap in traffic.

Truth be told, navigating this mess isn't that hard. It seems understood by all drivers that it is never your responsibility to avoid an accident - it is everyone elses. In some strange way - this seems to work. I like to think of it as a flock of geese. Somehow they all fly for thousands of miles in close proximity - but never hit each other.

The second issue I face here is the fact that I've barely driven a manual car. I know... I know... so American. But it's true. I've had an automatic since I turned 16, and the only time I ever drove stick was when I got roped into being Designated Driver in college. That trip ended with my friend replacing his clutch....

Of course, the third Issue for all US drivers, is that you are on the wrong side of the road... and the wrong side of the car. I find this the most difficult part of the equation. So, as we set out on our journey to Select Citywalk in Saket - I told Sally she had one job. Make sure I don't hit anything on the left.

Unfortunately for me, Sally hasn't worked since October 2. In this time, her ability to stay on task seems to have gone out the window.... (sorry Sally)... and so midway through our journey - it happened.

It was over in a second, in fact - by the time Sally could utter - "We're too close" - I'd scraped the vehicle, corrected the path of my car and we were free from the Auto Rickshaw. No damage was visible on the steely beast (sounds more dramatic than saying the green and yellow motorized rollerskate) and so we continued on our way...

We made it to the mall, and then it struck me... This adventure wasn't relaxing at all. It took the entire lunch for me to relax. By the time I finally felt myself again, it was time to head home. I thought to myself - why bother. I'll stick to Auto Rickshaws from now on.

And then - this weekend - I snapped the below photo. If that 11 year old kid can drive a moped in these streets, then surely - I can handle Delhi Traffic... I hope.

Life in Delhi, originally uploaded by shelmes.


Life in Delhi, originally uploaded by shelmes.

Public Transport

Life in Delhi, originally uploaded by shelmes.

I'm alive - I swear. It has been a while since my last post. As winter has arrived, and with it 85 degree temps, life has been very busy. In the last month, it seems as if someone has been visiting us every week. This week, Sally's mother is here & so we went "out of station" (out of town in desi-speak).

This provided me an opportunity to dust off my camera and take some photos. This one in particular stands out to me in that it truly captures the excitement and craziness of rural India. Enjoy & hello again!