Monday, March 24, 2008

Life's a Beach

The nicest part of Chennai is the beach. A mini-getaway. A break from the hustle and bustle of the city. And this weekend, the storm clouds provided a great backdrop!

It also happened to be Holi weekend. And Good Friday. And Navroz. There were tons of people on the beach playing Holi.

Its sad to see the condition of the beach though. Please do your part and don't litter!

Let's keep the beaches lovely!

Monday, March 17, 2008

What doesn't work

After working here for a year or so, I have come to find such glaring differences in the work cultures between the US and India. I never noticed it when I first worked here some 10-15 years ago. But after having worked in the US, I notice it more.

I don't write about the IT/Software/Call Center culture (which is still new to India) or the Advertising firms (that are and always will be "cool" places to work). I refer only to the traditional industries. And to my experience. In this non-confrontational Indian environment, its a little difficult for women (especially since there are 3 women and 102 men in my company) to say something to their bosses or colleagues without them taking offense. So I'm using this blog to tell anyone who works:

1. Hey Mr. General Manager - Everyone prefers to be addressed by their title rather than their names. They are, without blinking, called MD and CMD and President and etc. After always using first names at work in the US, its really strange. There, the CEO down to the coffee guy is on a first name basis. Here, I was first called Madam. Then when I asked them to call me Arundathi, I am now Arundathi Madam!

2. I'll give you time to think of a decent excuse - I sit down for a meeting and decide on a game plan for an upcoming project. We chart out responsibilities, deliverables. We review it in detail, what kind of information we need, how to get the information, how to present it. When the time comes to present, Mr. X's information is not there. I just don't understand. Has he forgotten? Has his dog eaten his homework? Who knows? Those are things that are just not asked or answered here! Its almost impolite to ask people why they didn't meet their deadlines! And they just don't bother with excuses.

3. For God's sake, Turn OFF the Cell Phones!! Its unbelievable that even if you tell people politely at the beginning of the meeting, they won't do it. And they will answer calls in the middle of the meeting. Just to whisper that "I'm in a meeting, I'll call you back"!? What the heck? Maybe when you say no cellphones, you have to specify no talking, no whispering and no texting either. And no, we don't care that you have the entire movie's soundtrack as your ring tone.

4. Leave the Toiletries at home. In the middle of a meeting today, this woman opened her handbag, pulled out her nail clippers, kept her hands under the table, and went click, click, click. Did she really think no one could hear her or see her cutting her nails? And in the middle of a presentation with 8 other people in the room?! What are you thinking? Be a little professional, people.

5. Don't wipe the drool off your face in public! How about one guy who was in a meeting with me and we were going through a proposal in detail. I look up after about 20 minutes of studying the figures, and this guy is fast asleep! In his chair. Snoring. He wakes up when I scrape my chair and wipes the drool off his face and continues with the meeting.

6. Use Deodorant. Its available everywhere in India now. Use it. Don't lean over people to explain graphs/ figures or even to hand them cups of coffee if you haven't used deodorant.

If anyone has any funny stories from work, do share. It might make mine seem a little less weird!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ahh Rains!

Thank God for the rains in Chennai! Beautiful, dark, thundery pouring rain to take away the heat!! Thank you!!

BBQ Nation

There's been a lot of press lately about a new restaurant in town called BBQ Nation at a little hotel called Sri Devi Park in T Nagar. We simply had to try it out and we went last night.

The hotel is in some remote little corner of T Nagar, but once you get into the restaurant, its a pleasant surprise. Very tastefully done up and efficient, polite staff. We had kids with us and they even brought little toys for the kids to play with! The appetizer portion is served at the table - its almost dim sum style where the waitstaff walk around with different skewers of BBQed food. You choose what you want and then heat it up for a minute or two on the grill in the middle of your table.

There were skewers of baby potatoes, peppers, mushrooms, shrimp, chicken and fish. I personally loved the baby potatoes - they had a whole mustard dressing which was really great. They also had various dipping sauces at the table which looked very interesting.

After the appetizer portion of the meal, we were all ready to leave. But you can also have the usual fare of biryani, fish, chicken curry etc at an enormous buffet that is set up at the corner of the restaurant. Overall this is great and much needed in Chennai!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

California, Baby!

Sigh. I miss California.

Here's one of my favorite Crepe places, Crepevine in Burlingame. My friend and I had a scrumptious (and way too filling) lunch there. We started with Cornbread and Jalapeno
Jelly. Followed by a Meditteranean crepe (filled with spinach, goat cheese and almond slivers). The crepes were accompanied by great house potatoes and a salad that was so fresh. I miss eating salads in India! It was a lovely sunny Californian day and it was perfect to eat crepes and drink fizzy orange drinks!

We went to a nice Dim Sum place. My favorite is Ton Kiang in the city. I wonder why they don't have Dim Sum in Chennai?? Man, I love the pea shoot leaves and Sesame balls...mmmmm...

And my personal favorite, Noah's Everything Bagels with Jalapeno Salsa. I miss them the most in Chennai. With Pete's coffee.

And Auntie Anne's jalapeno pretzel...

But most of all I miss my friends, the great times we have hanging out, driving around the beautiful countryside, Californian wine, endless chats over "tea", the BBQs in the great Californian weather. I miss'll always be home.

Surprisingly United!

In continuation of the airline comparison, I found that United Air's Business Class is fabulous! The seats were ultra comfortable, the food was quite good and the service was very efficient. The movies they showed were also fantastic and there was a great selection, almost all were 2008 Oscar movies and lots of great TV too.

Because I flew Lufthansa before United, I compared the two directly. Lufthansa's Business Class seats are uncomfortable, to say the least. Its strangely downward sloping which makes for a weird sleeping position. The food, on the other hand, was very good. I had one of my best airline meals - spinach and cheese agnolotti with a morrel sauce, accompanied by some wine and cheese (a great selection of manchego, gorgonzola and a fantastic Cheddar).