Monday, June 30, 2008

We have left Kolkata

My family and I are moving to Gurgaon, just southwest of Delhi. I will be starting a new blog: american-in-delhi.blogspot.com. So far, there is only a preliminary post, but I hope to have a more regular series of updates. Kolkata was not very infrastructure friendly and Gurgoan, so far, is proving to be much more responsive (and cheaper) for me. Being white in Kolkata made it easily the most expensive city in India for me personally. (Your individual experiences may vary.)

I will sincerely miss my fellow Group Leaders (and then there were none). I will also miss the very best Marketing Team that Kolkata has to offer. They are the reason, more than anything else, that made leaving Kolkata a very sad thing for me.

See you in Gurgaon. :-)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Two Quick Posts With Nothing in Common

I Went To the Consulate Today.

After a number of attempts, some real, others imagined, I finally managed to find the U.S. Consulate here in Kolkata. My colleague, who assisted me, was not allowed to enter because she is not an American citizen. I went through one very heavy armored door to a small room where I was asked to empty my pockets, surrender my cellphone and state my business. I then went through a metal detector and a personnel gate before entering the compound. I was then escorted by an armed guard to the main building, where I struggled with another heavy armored door, asked to empty my pockets again and go through another metal detector. I was then patted down and asked again to state my business. I told them I wanted to register my passports so I was shown to another room, again with a heavy armored door. Seriously, they must have been a foot thick.

The air conditioning was just lovely - the air was fresh, no soot on anything, and very nice furniture. I stepped up to the window - it was heavy protected with thick bullet proof glass - about twice the defense of a bank teller window at home.

I told the gent my business and he pushed two cards at me to fill out and took my passports to make copies. After completing them I asked about absentee ballots. He gave me forms to send back to Chicago.

After completing all my tasks, he returned to the window and said, "Welcome to Kolkata, madam, and please take this with my compliments." He pushed a DVD in my direction, entitled "Being Prepared for Pandemic Influenza". Welcome indeed.

Sometime I think I'm a Walking Wallet

Every day, I argue with vendors of all kinds because as soon as they see the colour of my skin, the prices rise dramatically. I am paying the price for my lack of understanding the language. A person at my office offered to schedule bottled water delivery to my house. We received one bottle last month delivered to my flat. He tried to charge me 690 rupees for one bottle of water!!!!!! At the office, the company pays 40 rupees for the exact same bottle. He tried to convince me it was the delivery charge. I asked him, "Where is it coming from, Australia?" :-)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Video of a Paanwallah at Work

Every once in a while, some of my staff led by Abhishek, would invite me to go to Bangashree's for lunch. The food is great, especially their chicken and they have fabulous fish. The first time we went, Abhishek started wolfing down his food like he was in prison. I told him to "Slow down, you're having lunch with the GL. You can be five minutes late." After that fine meal, he suggested paan. Now I remember that stuff from Mumbai and it is a nasty, vile, disgusting habit that includes spitting red juice all over the street. It stains your teeth red.

But paan is actually just a medium for enticing juicy bits of stuff folded up in a leaf. Different parts of the country specialize in different ingredients and styles, some sour, some sweet, some bitter, some salty, some intoxicating, some that are supposed to have properties to "make better the wedding night".

Abhishek did me a solid and took this video for me on his phone. I have no idea what all of the ingredients are, but there are many. Listen for the sound of the traffic behind us. That's just typical 2PM traffic on a main street in Kolkata...

It may take a while for this file to load as I have no idea what I'm doing. Enjoy.

:-) video

Thanks, Abhishek. Good luck in your new job. We miss you. :-)

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