New Delhi

February 1st, 2008

I had a few spare hours in New Delhi while traveling to Chandigarh. To kill the time, I paid a taxi driver to take me around Delhi’s sightseeing highlights. Here are some pics:

Qutb Minar
Qutb Minar. Built in 1193 AD
which announcedthe advent
of Muslim sultans.

Qutb Pillars
Me near some carved pillars
at the Qutb complex.

Rajpath
Driving down the famous Rajpath
used for the annual republic day
parade. The India gate is in
the distance.

Lahore Gate
Lahore Gate. This is the
entrance to the Red Fort.

marble throne
A white marble throne-balcony
at Red Fort.

Peackock Throne
The Diwani-i-Khas Peackock Throne.
A past Shah used to be housed
here with his nobles.

Gilded ceilings
Gilded ceilings at the Diwani-i-Khas.
The Mughals lavishly decorated
the fort  with marble and gold.

Jami Masjid
Jami Masjid, India’s
largest Mosque.

Best and Worst Transportation

January 30th, 2008

J2EE training has finally drawn to a close. The last few sessions included some soft skill training and observing Infoscions in production. I think the 7.30pm teleconference I shadowed with a US client on a Friday evening shows how hard people work here.

Jason and Andrew have been placed in Chennai. Too late to book a flight on Friday evening, I caught an overnight train to Chennai (460 Km away) to see them. I originally wanted to buy an overnight sleeper seat, but since the train was fully booked, I ended up traveling third class all the way for £1.45! This included sleeping on the floor for a few hours. I really didn’t mind it; I predicated it would happen. I got to experience what it is like to travel third class: a lot of poor people crammed into a fully booked train; the angry ticket officer checking for tickets; the poorest people without tickets crying and pleading for forgiveness; poor people sleeping rough and utalising newspaper as bed sheets; the scenic misty morning view of the country and finally the slums next to the railway as we entered the heart of Chennai.

Train
Typical express trains that run
between Mysore and Chennai

Chennai itself was a good city. The development centre (DC) was quite pretty like in Mysore but appeared tiny, though it wasn’t tiny, the Mysore campus is just a monster in comparison. The food court was air conditioned and the rooms were just like those in Mysore except they included wireless internet and a small fridge. In the evening we went out to an excellent Thai restaurant, easily £50 a head in London. There are also many bakeries, with deserts just like in Germany. They were surprisingly cheap too, without compromising on quality. We also went to Marina Beach. It was nice to have a stroll down the beach, but unfortunately the sand was heavily polluted with plastics and paper ice-cream wrappers.

ChennaiDC
Basketball & Volley Ball
courts at Chennai DC

AfternoonSun
Afternoon sun barely visible due
to the pollution in Chennai

RepublicDay
It was republic day, hence
the artwork at the entrance

I took a flight back to Bangalore for £36.77 and experienced the best flight available, and it truly is the best flight I’ve taken. Firstly, the bus carrying us to the aircraft had leather seats and flat TV screens for advertisement. At 55min, I didn’t expect any food on board, but they served up a really nice ‘Singapore stir fried chicken with black bean & celery’ with a chocolate truffle cake as desert. It was immaculately presented with metal cutlery. They played Tom & Jerry on TV. The air hostesses were pretty attractive too! The flight safety, take-off and landing instructions were given through the TV screens by this model looking presenter (link).

In Bangalore I got to catch up with a few friends. I met a friend of a friend who is currently working night shifts for a US accountancy firm, from 7pm till 4am in the morning. Real-time communication is so imperative that work has to be conducted live. Even with all the western negative press of ‘back office operations’ in Bangalore, he really enjoys the job and the experience in the finance sector. I don’t think it’s that bad either: young Indians gaining knowledge in western white collar jobs and working with colleagues half a world away. I recently said goodbye to a friend working for a major client in Seattle. He worked for them off-shore for a while and is now over there working on-site. That is great to see, that today, young bright open minded people here have opportunities to earn jobs, live in enticing Western cities and become professionals just like aspiring yuppies back home.

Mangalore Prawns
Sambu and some delicious
‘Mangalore Prawns’

Hemant in Bagalore
Hemant in Bangalore

Xmas & New Year’s

January 3rd, 2008

Happy new year everyone! Hope you are having a great start to 2008!

Due to exams it wasn’t possible to go anywhere far for Xmas or New Year’s, but I definitely enjoyed them both in Bangalore. We stayed at the dazzling Leela Palace both times. For Xmas I took a bog-standard 75 Rs. (£1) 3.5 hour bus from Mysore to Bangalore. It was fine really, just a bit noisy. Once meeting up with Andrew, Jason, Sambu and Hemant we toured around Bangalore in a nice chauffer driven Leela owned saloon. We also went to a packed Forum mall and had nice Thai massages too.

Xmas Forum Mall
Shambu & Jason at
the Forum Mall

Our chauffeur
Our chauffeur

For New Year’s we arrived by train and there was plenty going on at the Leela again. On New Year’s day we went paintballing which was great fun but exhausting due to the heat. It was an hour out of the city in where we saw plenty of software company buildings such as those of IBM, Accenture, Oracle and Intel. Accenture’s building actually has a helicopter landing!

Andrew on the train to Bangalore
Andrew on the
train to Bangalore

Overstaffed?
Overstaffed?

Topless Lamborghini
Another nice car at the Leela Palace.
This time a topless Lamborghini.

Paintballing
Paintballing

Johnny gets serious
Johnny getting serious

Training Update

January 3rd, 2008

Due to training winding up in the J2EE stream we’ve not really had a chance to go traveling anywhere far. We’ve been learning about threads, RMI, JSP, advance JDBC and more. During weekends we’ve had time to enjoy Mysore. There are good places to eat, nice scenic hills to motorbike up, play Virtual Tennis on the PlayStation 3 on big LCD screens for 50 Rs. an hour, get clothes tailor made and make most of the facilities on campus.

Origami Building
A groovy software development building on campus,
known as the “Origami Building”. Click to Enlarge.

Local Dam

January 3rd, 2008

Thanks to Google maps, Jason found this dam nearby that was completely deserted. The route to the dam was really scenic, especially with the green/golden/sun burnt rice fields. Once arriving there I was a bit apprehensive to swim. Eventually I did, it was fresh water after all, and the massage from the waterfall was quite refreshing.

The Dam
The Dam

Enjoying a good water pounding shoulder massage!
Enjoying a good water pounding
shoulder massage!

Local Kids

December 6th, 2007

Jason, Andrew and Johnny came across some kids playing cricket near the Infosys campus. I went over to visit them one afternoon. It was surprising to see how happy they were at the sight of foreigners.  It was too hot to play cricket though, it is around 28 C and the sun still beats down hard this side of the world in December. We played ‘it’/‘tag’ a bit … later they played ‘capture the flag’ but I was way too knackered.

Happy Indian Kids
Some happy local kids

Motorcycle Trip to Wayanad

December 3rd, 2007

Three weekends ago Jason, Andrew, Jimmy (Andrew’s dad) and I went to Wayanad, a district in the southern state of Kerala. All the pictures we took are available here, courtesy of Andrew.

Knowing the roads will by bumpy, I hired out a Hero Honda CBZ (which has a funny TV advert, like many adverts here in India). Andrew and Jason hired Jimmy a Royal Enfield Bullet which looked like it was from the 1940s (there is a reason for this, the old Royal Enfield company dissolved in the UK but continued production in India, even today). Here is Andrew filming us during our three hour ride to Wayanad, the sound has been muted because it was just wind noise.

The roads when entering Kerala were in excellent condition: no potholes, no bumps, just nice long winding roads through the forest. That was fun to ride through. We stayed at a tree house villa that overlooked a jungle.

Front of the tree house
Jason entering the
the tree house

Inside the tree house
Inside the tree house

Branch going through the bathroom
A tree branch going through
the shower section!

The balcony
The balcony

It was at an extremely welcoming home-stay called Tranquil and the hosts where very lovely people. At one point they called in a Royal Enfield specialist to fix Jimmy’s bike which in the end was fixed without too much inconvenience. Their home has so much attention to detail the place could honestly qualify to be in a Bollywood movie.

The bar area
The bar area

Swimming pool
Swimming pool

Next day we climbed up a hill, went for a swim in the pool and on a safari in the afternoon. We were false charged by an elephant which was pretty scary!

All on a rock
All on a rock

Jimmy & Andrew. There was a 20 feet steep drop to their right.
Jimmy & Andrew

Me on the edge
Me on the edge

This elephant that charged at us!
This elephant charged at us!

On the ride back we went through some scenic country routes and also some of the worst roads I’ve experienced in India so far that had huge potholes. It was actually still possible to go 15-20kph by standing on the motorcycle.

Jason taking the side of a pothole-ridden road
Jason taking the side of a
pothole-ridden road

We also spotted elephant on the way back
We also spotted elephant
on the way back

It was the most adventurous weekend so far, had a great time with the guys and was a good crash course in handling a motorcycle over tough terrains.

Amphitheatre

December 2nd, 2007

The amphitheatre was used a few weeks ago to celebrate the town we are currently living in, Mysore. There were some folk performances amongst other things, I didn’t stay that long. The whole of food court one was light up like Christmas lights.

A few days ago our current chief mentor and former CEO Narayan Murthy (or ‘NRN’ as he is known here) made a speech here too. I noticed a large proportion of his speech was emotional. I remember he talked about courage, persistence, working well in a team, working across cultures, dealing with people smarter than you and not as smart as you. We later saw NRN at a table a feet away from us at the floating restaurant for dinner.

Amphitheatre during Myforia evening
Amphitheatre during the
Myforia evening

The audience and lights during the Myforia evening
The audience and lights during
the Myforia evening

Mumbai

December 2nd, 2007

About a month ago we went to Mumbai over the Diwali weekend. Formerly known as Bombay, it is the commercial and entertainment capital of India.

A few hours before our flight in Bangalore, we went to the Leela palace and saw this brand new Ferrari F430. The son of the owner of the Leela Palace was driving it. It was a little bizarre to see such a new Ferrari amongst the auto-rickshaws and bustling streets of Bangalore!

Side View of the Ferrari
Side view of the Ferrari

Rear view of the Ferrari
Rear view of the Ferrari

Our hotel in Mumbai was just by the Gateway of India. We visited the Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay Stock Exchange, Marine drive and a few other sights of the city on the first day.

Fu-Wing and me at the Gateway of India
Fu-Wing and me at the Gateway of India.
Photo courtesy of Jeetandra.

Typical taxis we rode on
Typical taxis we rode on

Bombay Stock Exchange
Bombay Stock Exchange

A random flock of birds
A random flock of birds

The Victoria Terminus railway station
The Victoria Terminus railway station

Sunset at Marine Drive
Sunset at Marine Drive

We had dinner at “Tendulkar’s Restaurant”, a restaurant bowled up by India’s famous cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. As expected, the decor was heavily based around cricket and Mr Tendulkar. Even the menu had labels such as ‘Sachin’s favorite’. I had a delicious crab masala and Bombay duck, although it was not really a duck.

Tendulkar’s Restaruant
Tendulkar’s Restaruant

Next day we met up with my cousin Jamil and his work mates (all from the UK) who are currently working on an engineering project in Mumbai. Their client is Reliance Industries, India’s largest private sector company.

Infy group meeting up with Bechtel group
Infy group meeting up with
the Bechtel group

The Mumbai museum was interesting. I learnt a alot about India’s past. It was very hot though and water was prohibited.

Prince of Wales Museum
Prince of Wales Museum

Jamil and his workmates actually live in North Mumbai. It takes so long to get down to Colaba, South Mumbai, they actually stayed over at the Oberoi hotel. The promotional channel had this memorizing song by FC Kahuna – Hayling. Have a listen at exactly 2 minutes into the song.

View from the room with Jamil and Gary
View from the room with Jamil and Gary.
The curve of the street lamps is known
as the ‘Queen’s Necklace’

We later went to a beach bar/restaurant and then a jazz club called “Not just jazz by the bay”. The theme of the night was classic rock. The signer and guitarist were pretty good. I left early and missed out on a cover of ‘Black is Back’ by ACDC, nevermind!

Beach bar/restaurant
Beach bar/restaurant

The band at ‘Not Just Jazz by the Bay’
The band at ‘Not Just
Jazz by the Bay’

Next morning Marco dragged me out of bed (I promised to wake up!) to join in with the laughter yoga clubs around Mumbai that start around 7am, but we failed miserably. Instead we took photos with the golden morning sunlight.

Marco with the Gateway of India in the background
Marco with the Gateway of India
in the background

On the way to the airport to catch our flight back to Bangalore, I saw this taxi on the highway:

Maximising the load
Maximising the load

One more thing, being the Diwali weekend there were a lot of fireworks being set off that lit up the city at night. Some were set off right in the middle of roads! All in all Mumbai was a nice big city break.

More Country Riding

November 6th, 2007

We had our first comprehensive test last Friday. We had to write a C program, SQL tables and queries which lasted 3.5 hours. After the test Jason, Andrew and I headed into the country on our two wheelers. Jason was determined to get to this big hill that can be seen from campus. After a few wrong turns and dead ends we made it there. We climbed the steps that were available half way up. The rest of the climbing was all up natural rocks, grass and dodging a beehive. I didn’t see the beehive, but Jason and Andrew did and said it was freakishly big, about 1m x 0.5m big! At the top of the mountain there were two large boulders with a gap in between. Andrew was the first to have the bottle to climb it. Jason and I followed. It was a fairly easy for what looked pretty tough. Photos courtesy of Jason. They can be enlarged if you click on them.

Preparing for another ride in the country
Preparing for another ride in the country

View from the top
View from the top

Andrew climbing
Andrew climbing

Andrew reaching the summit
Andrew reaching the summit

Jason on his way down
Jason on his way down