Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Unity in the diversity vol.2

Although so diverse, Indians are also among most proud and patriotic nations I have ever interacted with. They keep talking about how great India is, how wonderful their nature and cuisine are, how the most entrepreneurial and smartest people in the world are from India. And they truly manifest it, people have small flags in each car and house, they play national anthem before a movie starts in the cinema… and my favorite: they write “India is great on everything”. The picture you can see is an authentic picture of a truck I have taken. Apart from a typical: “Horn OK please” and “Stop Signal” you will also see Indian flag and “India is great” sign. Seriously, think about it - isn’t India great?!

Unity in the diversity!

India is diversity. 14 official languages spoken, 8 main religions being largely represented, food and weather change from state to state, people wear different clothes and have different lifestyles in different parts of the country. This diversity is very much noticeable in Mumbai, since it is the melting pot, the city where people from all the corners of the country come to look for jobs, to look for better future. Walking around you will see restaurants like: “South Indian treat”, “Punjabi dream” or “Goa Cafe”. You will see people celebrating all the possible festivals of all the religions, starting in August with Ganesha Festival (Hindu), Dassera (Hindu), Ramadan (Muslim), Diwali (Hindu) and concluding with Christmas (for all the different types! of catholics). I was seriously wondering how these all different religions can coexist here and I still don’t have a rational explanation for that, however it somehow works! What is even more interesting, whatever your religion is you tend to celebrate all these festivals! All of us were participating in the Diwali pooja (kind of a prayer organized in my office during Diwali) and now everyone is just crazy about Christmas, decorating the office, sending Christmas wishes, etc. Check out the clip I have just received today from one of my colleagues! It fully represents what exactly I am talking about! Jingle bells – Punjabi style!

video

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Environment!

Being in India, specifically in Mumbai while the talks on climate changes are being held in Copenhagen makes you reflect on the environment on a different level of consciousness. I was just discussing with some of my friends the other day, that although it’s China and the USA which are the biggest producers of CO2, in India you can actually feel how the polluted environment influences your life, everyday life.
Some of the phenomena I found quite interesting and alarming:

• The air has color – it is grey! You can especially see it in the morning, it looks a bit like a fog but it is actually smog. I have seen many pictures of smog in my life and I have learnt about it on my geography lessons but have never seen it in real. It is much more visible now, in the dry season. This is also why everyone blesses monsoon season – it seems to be washing away all the dirt of the city, all the dirt in the air.

• The air has taste! If you want to take a deep breath of a fresh air you will quickly realize you don’t want to do this again because the air is never fresh. Of course I talk about Mumbai, remote, green places and smaller cities are different but breathing deeply in Mumbai can actually cost you a serve headache.

• Temperature is increasing year by year! Imagine this – it is mid December now and the average temperature is still about 300 C! In the afternoon it is reaching even 350, becoming a bit cooler (250) in the evenings. If you talk to Mumbaikers most of them will tell you that they haven’t seen such a December yet! Obviously it is never cold in Mumbai but they would expect at least 150 -200. Nothing like this seems to be happening here this year. Let’s wait for January; hopefully it will bring some relief.

• Dust! The city is extremely dusty! Coming back from work the first thing I do every day is shower. After spending some 2 hours outside you can literally feel how dirty you are and how much dust is there on your body! No wonder the air is so dirty if there is just so much pollution and dust around!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Food - driven culture!

This is how I call India! Everything is around the food here! You don’t know what to talk about – you can just start with “the best biryani I have ever had was at Hyderabad” and then it just goes on and on and on…! The first question I am being asked when someone meets me and realizes I stay here on my own is: “How do you manage with food? Do you cook or order? What do you eat?” Also, if you schedule a meeting with someone at 2 p.m. it is bound they will start the conversation with: “So, did you have your lunch already?” For me food has never been so important, I treated it more as “something that keeps me going” but after spending almost 6 months in India (!!) I have to admit I am becoming a bit of a foody! Luckily, we have a very nice canteen at the office, so I can easily have here my breakfast, lunch and even dinner if I stay longer at work!

Sometimes, when bored with canteen food we go out for lunch and during one of these lunches out I discovered a form of a very interesting “restaurants”. These are the places located at private houses, looking a bit dirty and not maintained properly, where you go and get the best home – made food ever! There is one of these places located very close to our office, the auntie (this is how we call the lady who owns the place and cooks there) always welcomes us with the smile, giving the full list of “day’s specials”. Great food, wonderful fish, prawns and chicken! If we feel like having lots of meat, this is where we go :) (At the canteen you will usually get only one non- vegetarian meal with some 2 sad pieces of chicken!) The food at auntie’s is obviously the cheapest ever! For Rs 100 (around 6 PLN) you can eat and eat and eat and eat…and she will keep bringing more! Yummy

Monday, November 2, 2009

Shame on me!

Yes, yes, shame on me! Just realized I haven't posted anything for 2 months! 2 months! Can you imagine?! I feel like I have just arrived in Mumbai... but actually it has been already 4 months of my stay here... and 4 more to go!

So now time for some lame excuses - why haven't I been posting? I remember when I first arrived and everything was just sooooo shocking, soooo new, sooooo different... and I just had to share all these soooo things with someone...obviously Indians wouldn't understand, so blogging was a good way of expressing myself...

And then I haven't even realized when from the first stage of the cultural shock (being super excited and super happy) I slowly moved to the next ones - initially complaining about every single matter to finally settle down and start calling Andheri flat "a home"... or doing other things Indians do - saying "I am from Mumbai", bargaining with rikshawallas, recognizing different Indian dishes and passing comments on them like: "I love punjabi food" or "Can we have aloo paratha for lunch?"

I guess this is when things around me stopped being shocking and when me seeing an elephant on the street (yes, it really happened, he was just walking next to my riksha!) was not anymore exciting enough to blog about it:P In such moments I would just think to myself: "It's India" and it would be a good enough excuse for all the weird and random situations.

Well, last 4 months of my life have definitely been the months of some biggest challenges, craziest things I have ever done, most scary moments, sweetest people and the most surprising events!

Good 4 months of my life!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Plastic and newspapers!

I have already shared the story about Indians keeping everything in plastic; however packing everything in newspapers is actually even more exciting!

Surprise number 14

When you buy anything on the street you have 80% of chances you will get it packed with newspaper. Bread, fruit, vegetables, pastries… Even when they deliver snacks to the office they usually bring them in big boxes, so that whoever wants to eat can come, take some, pack in their piece of a newspaper and have it. First days I was really disgusted and I was just not eating...but you cant keep avoiding… it’s India, what to do? ;)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Appreciating small things

When your every day is a constant hustle, when you have to struggle to have running water at home, when you have to figure out every day how to get to the office, when you sweat like nothing after having a 5 – minutes walk… you really start looking at the world around you from a different perspective. I didn’t even notice when I started appreciating small things in the way Indians do. Now you can often find me saying: “What a nice weather!” or “The food was amazing!” or “There was almost no traffic on my way to the office” or “I caught a rick immediately after I got out of the house!”
Interesting! I really don’t know what is happening to me in this country!!! ;)

Excuse me Madam!

“Excuse me madam, come here madam, have a look madam, only 50 rupees madam, madam… madam… madam!” This is what I remember from the first shopping adventure on my own! I was so proud of myself: I went to Bandra by train and found a proper shopping street (Linking Road). And then I went mad! These crazy people started with “Madams”, were dragging me into their stalls, wanted to show me everything, wanted me to buy anything from them! I even had to have a look at men’s underwear! Shopping which is supposed to be a pleasant activity (especially for me!) was like a nightmare, after 1 hour I was so tired that I decided to go home :)

However, I have quite an impressive list of achievements in terms of what I bought and for how much ;) My bargaining skills are improving every day, I can easily name negotiating techniques which are working best with these people!

Sandals
Initial price: Rs 495
Actual price: Rs 270 (15.80)

Kurta
Initial price: Rs 450
Actual price: Rs 250 (14.60)

Earrings
Initial price: Rs 100
Actual price: Rs 40 (2.30 PLN)

Obviously, if I were there with an Indian I would get these things for lower prices as well but as for a gori I managed pretty well ;)

And now – the most annoying thing! I almost wanted to shout when it happened for the first time! As I wanted to buy shoes I had to try different types and sizes… and I forgot customers’ servicing is taken very seriously in this country… not only will they make sure they have a proper size and color but they will be themselves putting shoes on your feet in case you want to try them! I was honestly feeling very awkward – having someone to put my shoes on…. Guess I am still not used to Indian standards!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Such moments...

There are some moments in your life that opens a new chapter, like 18th birthday, your wedding, moving out from your parents’ house, etc. In India you tend to celebrate much smaller events which somehow bring you one step forward. You can’t imagine how happy I was after getting my SIM card (2 weeks of waiting!). You can get one of these within 5 minutes, paying some 5 PLN in Poland but getting one here was like a huge thing, I had to submit a few different documents, my pictures, etc… together with this SIM card however I got my safety, independence and freedom. I could start traveling on my own, not being worried about what will happen if the driver doesn’t know the way. I could just easily call someone then and ask them to explain the way in Hindi. Also, I could finally set meetings, go out on my own, being in touch with my friends all the time! Big thing! And now, after almost 2 months in India I got my bank account opened! Another operation that took me maximum 20 minutes in Alior Bank in Warsaw was being processed here for so long! And I can’t even name all the documents they needed me to submit. When I finally got my ATM card and all the documentation my bank assistant came to congratulate me on the same!!! Can you imagine?! Again, this account and this card mean so much, they again mean independence and freedom to manage your own expenses on your own! Good feeling, finally I will go and do some shopping!!


Monday, August 24, 2009

Found online!

I have just found this list online and was laughing trying to check whether I have become Mumbaiker already ;) My YES/NO below!

In reference to Gigis you know you are becoming a Parisian when.. here comes the How do you recognize becoming a Mumbaiker. The idea behind is that you certainly recognize that you adapt some habits and mindsets. If you live and work India and especially Mumbai this happens really fast, once you are over the culture shock you get used to certain things. If not you will leave the country soon.
So here is my list of how to recognize becoming a Mumbaiker


- everything beyond 30km/h is speeding NO

- 0.1m² is lot of space in a train
YES
- you bargain everywhere
YES
- if you sneeze, don't expect somebody to say "Gesundheit, bless you.." instead you say sorry YES
- you start liking Kinfisher YES (Kingfisher is my favourite brand now!!!)
- there is no need to use a blinker/ indicator/ side mirror, just horn
LOL YES!
- you get new a perspective towards waste and pollution
YES
- you are shaking your head like an Indian
YES
- you start your sentence with "Hey Boss.." so much YES!!
- you can squeeze your lips to call a waiter etc. NO (will never do that! yaak!)
- 100 Rupies (2EUR) is expensive for one meal
YES
- you don't consider guys holding hands and hugging as gay LOL YES
- you jump off the train while it is still running YES (really!)
- you can recognise stations by the smell (e.g Bandra) YES
- you finally pay the prize for an auto,taxi shown on the meter without discussion
YES
- you have a bit of orientation in the city YES (still a bit though!)

I guess I am almost there!!!

Human dignity

How can you talk about human dignity when your restroom is just next to your bed and your bed is just next to your kitchen and all these is actually placed on the street, where thousands of people are driving their cars every day, traveling with rikshaws, walking by. How can you talk about having basic privacy when you brush your teeth, comb your hair, eat your dinner, sleep, feed your babies being watched by random pedestrians or travelers, when “your bed” is just there, just on the street but you only lie down after 9 pm, when the traffic is less and you will have to collect your stuff before 7 am when it starts getting crowded again.

Coming to India I was told I should expect poverty and a gap between the rich and the poor. I was thinking, I am not from the richest country in the world either, so shouldn’t be that shocked. However, things you can see here are really scary and you can’t by any chance prepare yourself for what you will see here. No one can really say how many people are living on the streets (especially in Mumbai this number will be huuuuge!) because no one is even able to track how many people are there in the country. Not everyone was born in hospital, not everyone is officially registered, not everyone officially works. Therefore if Indian government gives statistics about the size of the population they can never be accurate… neither they are able to say how many people are homeless. Most of the Indians I was discussing economic situation with said that the biggest issue hindering this country from growing even faster is its population. No matter how much effort you put into providing social services you can’t really feed everyone, educate everyone, and give work to everyone.

Visa issue!

OK, I didn’t want to write about it as I was not really sure how the whole thing will finish, also I was laughing so much at these poor Indians coming to Europe, having their visa issues… until I ended up having my own, personal, exclusive visa issue and being scared I would be deported from the country!!!

Applying for visa I knew I was supposed to obtain a business visa in order to be officially registered and employed by the company in India. I submitted all the required documents and was more than happy getting my visa, being sure that if you apply for the business type, you get business type and you don’t need to check it again… Well, never assume!!! Only after landing in India I was told that “V type” is not a business visa and it won’t allow me to get registered at FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration Office). Calling different people, looking for some help I was only told by the Indian embassy in Poland that they are very sorry and only thing they can do is to assure me that if I come to their office in Warsaw again, they can issue a new, proper visa for me! Wow! What a relief!! I knew I couldn’t go back home so I started searching for other options. Luckily Mahindra is a big and old company and if you tell them who they are supposed to know they for sure know them and can talk to them about your issue ;) So was it in my case. After days of struggling with the Indian embassy they finally sent me the letter saying that it’s not my fault but their mistake that I got the wrong visa, requesting FRRO to read it as business visa! I was very stressed ending up in FRRO with all the documents, later than I was supposed to. Luckily they accepted all my explanations and finally I heared the magic sentence: “I allow you to register in India”! I wanted to start jumping but these people in the office looked very seriously so just smiled at the lady who was sitting behind the desk, took my registration book and walked out! Officially, legally in India, after 3 weeks since arrival!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Working in a car manufacturing company

Hehe, this is actually a good fun! So as I mentioned the sector of Mahindra I am working for is a car manufacturing company and so far they have been doing a good job in making me a true fan of their Scorpio! Traveling around different locations I will always manage to find some good people who will send a company's vehicle to pick me up or drop me home! The managers I was interviewing used to call their drivers to drive me in the plant itself, from one office to another! My colleagues say it is not like this when they need a car... but I can always make one of my lost (white!) faces saying "I am not sure where I am supposed to go" so they will offer me a lift before I really ask for it:)

Surprise number 13

If you have reach a certain level of the hierarchy in the company you are usually given a company car.Well, even in Poland managers are getting one but somehow in India you will usually get it together with a driver! So you don't really have to bother about driving, getting stressed about traffic, etc. Actually, the concept of drivers is pretty popular here. Some of my friends will just call a driver once we are going out clubbing & partying. So that everyone can just enjoy and have a good time:)

Nice places, wonderful views, perfect weather, amazing food, good people!

This is how I would put it if I were to cut a long story short. Working on my project's assignmets I have been sent by the company to its other locations. I was traveling to Nashik and Igatpuri - places located 4 hours away from Mumbai (don't ask how many kilometers - I really don't know;)
My journey started at 6 in the morning, I took the company bus which left my Kandivili office at 6 am sharp! Sharp, really! I was impressed too! :) I was extremely sleepy (like only I can be at 6 am) so was hoping to get some sleep on the way.

Surprise number 12
Sleep?! No way! I know I used to complain about Polish roads but you can't really compare our Polish highways to what you can experience here!
Well, I wanted to sleep but I just kept jumping up and down! Before coming to India I had heard many stories about Indian infrastructure... After experiencing local trains, water issues, elecricity problems, lack of proper public transportation I can only add the quality of roads to the list of infrastructure surprises.

Not being able to sleep I was just observing the views outside. As we kept moving towards our destination the views around became nicer and nicer. Green hills, small rivers, almost clean (!!) roads, untouched nature. I was so sorry I didn't have my camera :( You can't really see such places in Europe, looking as if time stopped there some 50 years ago.

Nashik, the city of my destination was unfortunatelly again reminding me of Mumbai. Of course it was smaller and less crowded but still dirty, with many homeless people (unless you can say a carton box is a house) and the same crazy traffic.
It must be one of the industrial centres near Mumbai as Mahindras' plant was not the only one there.
As I went there to interview the top 20 Gallup scorers I spent two days running and driving around the plant in order to talk to them. Getting to know their practices, their opinions, getting familarized with an Indian working style was a very interesting experience.
In the night I was accomodated in one of the M&M guest houses. Nice, decent place, wonderful service and food! Amazing! As I informed them well in advance that I can't have spicy Indian food they prepared something special for me!
It wasn't spicy at but still prepared in an Indian way! Luckily I met two other trainees there, guys from Singapore who took me for a short walk. Weather was just great, a bit cooler than in Mumbai and not humid at all! The place was very quite and peacful - good change after the noise of Bombay.

On my way back I spent another day in Igatpuri, at another plant of Mahindras.
I came back to Mumbai on Friday night, relaxed and relieved, with batteries charged for the upcoming weekend!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

My favourite word in hindi!

What is my favourite word in Hindi? "HA" which means YES! Can you imagine people talking on the phone saying "Ha, ha, ha, ha" when they actually ensure they will do something! Maybe it's only me as I am quite sarcastic but every time somebody says: "Ha, ha, I will do it" I feel that in their minds they think: "haha, you naive, you really believe I will do it!" LOL!

Indian working style

Spending a month in the Indian company, talking to many people, attending several meetings and being involved in different activities I have made some observations concerning Indian working style.

Role of relationships.
As Indians in general like to know what is happening in other people's lives they keep the same habit in the workplace too. There is no real border between personal and professional life, all the family issues are discussed with colleagues which slowly leads to them becoming your best friends. Apart from that they celebrate all the possible occasions - birthdays, the birth of a child, wedding, purchase of a new car, graduation, one's first date, new girlfriend, etc. One of the managers told me that even if his reportee doesn't want to tell him what is bothering him he will anyway find out as their wives are best friends too! Can you imagine?

Hierarchy and titles
When at work, especially in big companies people do pay attention to hierarchy. If your boss introduces you to a senior means he treats you seriously. If your boss speaks nobody else has the right to say a word unlsesss asked to. Moreover, Indians like making their work sound more important by adding a sophisticated name of the position/title.
Below the real conversation that happened during one of the meetings I attended.
Participants: A (boss), B, C, D, E, F - team members, G - team leader.
A: here is the list of our assignments. Now we have to decide who will execute them.
G: I suggest B, C and D should get involved in them, they seem to understand the topic.
A: B, C, D, is it O.K. for you?
B,C,D: (nods they heads in whatever directions)
A: Fine, I will call you "core team".
G: Sir, I think E will also take part in this project, he is very interested in the area.
A: E, what do you say?
E: Well, Sir, I studied this a lot, have worked in this area for some time, so I guess I might be helpful.
A: Perfect, how will we call you then?
B: Team leader?
A: No, G is a team leader.Let's call him a champion.

This discussion last for at least 15 minutes and I found it really amusing, was trying my best not to start laughing!

Communication
Not direct at all! Instead of saying: "X, can you do this?" they go with long explanation why and what for, analyze who are the people who might get involved, discussing over their possible titles and only after 30 minutes finishing up with the question: "X, is it fine if we assign you to do this?"
Sometimes I just miss some direct statements, clear plan, flow of the action, structure! Instead I can count on the IT support guys who type slower than me, hours spent on pointless discussions and hours wasted re-doing things that have been already done... just in a different way.. because nobody had stated earlier which is the proper and expected way :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Different assumptions

Spending your entire life in one particular environment you don’t even realize how often you assume that people will behave in the certain way or things will be done in the certain way. It is only because you have always seen them happening in this particular way.

Talking about some simple, every day situations there are 3 very small things which made me come to this conclusion: food, tea and alcohol.

Food – being a vegetarian in Poland you can always expect not getting proper food if you don’t inform about it earlier. Everyone assumes that an average person is a non-vegetarian. Here, it’s opposite, even going to KFC or Mc Donald’s you have to indicate you want a non-vegetarian food.

Tea – if you ask for chai in India you will get a tea with milk and sugar. It is just assumed everybody drinks tea with milk! So every time I am ordering a tea I have to point out that I want a black tea. (kali chai)

Alcohol – this is the funniest thing which I realized some 2-3 days ago. I have very cool colleagues at my office, young and funny people. Many times I have heared them talking about going out, agreeing where they want to go, etc. However, they have never asked if I want to join. I was thinking – I am new, maybe they think I am boring, that you can’t have fun with me, etc. But this time I decided to ask where they are actually going and what for. They were very confused at the beginning but finally said they are going out to eat and drink and asked if I want to join. Of course I wanted to join! You should have seen how surprised they were! They said they didn’t ask me earlier because they thought I didn’t drink alcohol! Poor people, forgot I am from Poland? ;) Anyways, I was really surprised – imagine this happening in Poland. In Poland you just assume everybody drinks, so you invite them for a beer, etc. not even thinking that they might say no… Drinking alcohol is just there in the European culture. In hindi the word: “cheers” doesn’t exist!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Clubbing in Bombay!

I have been clubbing a lot recently! I was trying to count how many clubs I have seen so far and I think there must have been at least 6-7 I have been to already. Not bad, taking into account I only arrived in Bombay 19 days ago!

Surprise number 10

Clubs shut down at 2 am latest. You hardly reach and you have to go out already! And apparently in other places in India they are open till midnight only. Luckily, there are a lot of these after party places where you can go once a regular club closes. I loved the one we went to yesterday, not sure about the name but it was a club in a hotel and was still opened when we left at 3.30.

Surprise number 11

Drink and drive? Why not? In Europe you can say: because it is dangerous and you can be caught by the Police. What to be scared of here in India? Traffic is crazy even if drivers are sober and the Police have better things to do than running after drunk drivers. So people drink and drive…experienced it once myself.

Yes, happened to me!

Since everybody is asking about it, I guess I have to share :P So my stomach is finally screwed up. Anything I eat just goes through me in 30 minutes and gets out still in the same shape, meaning in the shape of food! So yes, I am eating all the time and I am constantly hungry. What to do?

I'm so proud of myself!

So today Tulsi, my colleague was not there to pick me up and go with me to the office, she has fallen sick. Such situations happened before already and I was always taking a rick then to drive directly from my flat to the office. Today however I decided to taste a real Mumbai and took one of the shared cabs! First success was actually to recognize the cab because they don’t have the typical “taxi” sign on it. The second challenge was to explain to the driver where exactly I wanted to go and thirdly, most importantly – he wanted to charge me 20 rupees for the trip but I negotiated and paid 15 rupees only!

Talking about bargaining that was my secons success this week as yesterday I was asked to pay 60 rupees for fruits but I finally paid 35! It was easy!

Fruit seller: 60 rupees (with a huuuuuge smile)

Me: 30 rupees

Fruit seller: 50 rupees (smile remains on his face)

Me: 35 rupees

Fruit seller: O.K. (smile becomes smaller)

Me: Thank you! (Huge smile appears on my face)

Ah, ah, I am so proud of myself, surviving in Bombay like a regular Indian! :D

Monday, July 20, 2009

Local trains part 2!

I have just experienced my second travel by the local train and I enjoyed it soooo much!! Honnestly!
I went to the final station, Churchgate. As we were leaving Andherii at about 9 we took the first class and travelled in the ladies' compartment not to suffer so much due to the rush hours:)

On the way back, when I was travelling on my own (really!) and the traffic was not that bad I took the 2nd class. And so it started! This compartment was like heaven for ladies there! Once the train started the party began!

All the women travelling in this compartment were accompanied by several traders who were selling practically anything a woman might need. I am not even mentioning regular things you can get in trains like food or water. One could honnestly dress up for a party there! So there were nail polishes - different colors and brands, the whole choice of jewellery - earings, bangles, bracelets, necklaces, rings, even clothes and removable tatoos! It was really difficult not to buy anything and even by looking at all these things I was enjoying myself very much. Obviously most of them were so kitschy that I would never wear them ;) But all in all it was a good fun and I didn't even notice when I reached my station and was smoothly pushed out from the train by the crowd behind me :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

So much true!

Indians in 90 seconds!
I say "yes" in the same way already!!!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Excitement!

My boss asked me today: “Is it making you excited at all?” Haha, as if she knew I need this bit of excitement to progress with whatever I am doing!! So my reply was: yes, it is making me really excited! ;) Excitement was caused by the plan of our project for the upcoming weeks. What is the project about? There has been recently the Gallup satisfaction survey run in the company among all the employees. Now the results have come and it is time to proceed with analyses and further steps. All managers from all the levels of the organization got their scorecards assessing how their team members are satisfied with their performance towards creation of a great place to work which enhances motivation, engagement, commitment and higher productivity. Together with a colleague of mine, Ashruti we will be handling the part of it which includes interviews with TOP 20 managers who got the highest scores and their teams to itentify the key factors which lead to such results and use them later on while planning actions to improve the performance of all the managers in the company. This has obviously made me excited! I will get to travel around different locations of the company (means see some other parts of India!) and talk to the smartest managers in the whole company, checking out what actually makes them the best managers!

Also, I will be working very closely with Ashruti, an Indian girl, with a working style much different than mine, less structured, less planned, etc. This is making me double excited! The mixture of us both might bring some cool end result! Chalo!

Am I getting over them?

It has already been more than 10 days since I arrived in Bombay (time flies!) I’m sure some of you must be curious about how I have been finding Indians as men, especially knowing my life - long dilemma (Greeks or Indians?;) Believe it or not, today I met the second Indian here who I can without hesitation call “hadsome”. It took me 10 days in a 19 – milion people city! Am I getting over them? LOL!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Animals

Everybody knows I am not a big fan of them. Everybody is surprised: “you come from a village and you don’t like animals?” but that’s the truth. However I don’t mind it when people have one of these sweet puppies or cute kittens – I don’t want to hug them or kiss them but I don’t mind. Animals I am meeting here have however nothing in common with the above mentioned.

Frequently Met Animals (FMA)

  • Dogs: There are so many of them in this city. Most of them are homeless, dirty and hungry. They just walk on the streets, looking for some garbagge left so as they can eat something. They look scary sometimes, so I avoid standing on their way.
  • Rats: Well, yes. Before coming here I haven’t seen a rat on the street for my entire life. Really, I just realized it. Bombay has already noticed this lack in my education concerning animals and decided to show me some of these. As a result I am meeting them on my way quite often, dead or alive.
  • Lizzards: Believe it or not I have just found out there are 2 or 3 of them living in our flat. They are good neighbours, don’t make much noise, can be however annoying when they start running in your room :)
  • Cows: I am mentioning them as the last ones on my list as surprisingly I haven’t seen so many of them yet. I was told they are walking everywhere, I have met a few so far, only in certain areas of the city so I don’t think they cause a big problem.

Games Indians play. Why we are the way we are?

As I really took some time to prepare for my arrival to Bombay, “Shantaram” was not the only book I read. Another one, written by an indian author, V. Raghuntathan is called: “Games Indians play. Why we are the way we are?”. The author describs the Indian way of life using game theory and related concepts such us prisoner’s dilemma. (a very good book, thank you for it Ewa!) Why am I referring to it? It just perfectly explains the Indian understanding of freedom and democracy.

It is simply something unbelieveble how people can so much NOT care for the environment they are living in! I am not even mentioning being eco-friendly, it is about keeping some basic rules! Indian streets are extremely dirty. You see trash left everywhere, food waste on the tracks, construction materials on the sidewalks or even roads, buildings with unmatched balconies and awings, houses which nobody is taking care of, looking just ugly, public toiletes which you can smell from the distance of meters, people actually urinating and spiting on the streets!

V. Raghuntathan explains this in an interesting way. First of all, the law and regulations in India are so bad that nobody is even scared of being punished. What can the police do if you drive on the red light? Even if they catch you you can always try and bribe the policeman, paying a funnily small sum of money. Second of all, Indians share this common belief that if one person as an individual does something wrong then it won’t do much harm to the entire society. That might be true but if multiplying this belief by 19 milion of Bomby inhabitants you will get an enormous mess! You live in mess but then you think: “if it is messy already one bag of trash which I throw on the street won’t make any difference…” Unfortunately, the other 18999999 people think the same.

Well, personally, I don’t know if there is any logic in this thinking – maybe you find some but no matter if it is there it still makes Indian cities look horrible. What can I do? I am just a random foreigner, staying here for some time only, my behavior won’t change anything…

Food related post :)

Surprise number 9

A grilled vegetarian sandwich. As simple as that. When you order one of these in Poland what do you expect to get inside? Tomato, cuccumber, cheese, lettuce, that’s all. Here you will get: carrot, potato, beet, cabbage,cuccumber, of course a lot of masala, cheese – on request only :) I like them :D

Food that had the taste of food part 2

I went to an Italian restaurant on Sunday night and I finally got some food that had the taste of food! Yeah! I liked the Cesar Salad and Cheescake and wine like never before! And guys who I went with took me for a nice walk around Bandra, showing good places to eat or have a coffee. Exploring the city – in progress!


Indian wedding!

Some people say I am lucky as I went for a typical Indian wedding during my first week of stay in Bombay… maybe ;) It wasn’t a typical wedding though. My boss who has just turned 60 comes from south India and there is this old tradition in his family that if you still have a wife at the age of 60 you should re-marry her. This means you go through the same ceremony that you participated in during your first wedding.

The wedding functions started at 7 in the morning, all the guests were welcomed with a breakfast! Together with my colleagues we joined some time after 1 p.m. when the whole ceremony was still going on. I can’t describe really what was happening as during Indian weddings you don’t really participate in the functions. Guests just sit in the room, chat, drink, walk out, do whatever they want to while the couple is going through different rituals. Frankly speaking it looks as if everybody is bored and just waits for the lunch to come!

Talking about lunch it was undoubtedly one of the most interesting food related experiences in my life! Food was served on huge banana leaves, all the meals were prepared with the usage of cocconut and we were eating only with hands! Obviously everybody was staring at me with curiosity if I can handle it but I think I managed quite well not even using a spoon though I was given one by the weitress who apparently didn’t believe in my skills ;) The food was very good, finally something tasted like food, not like masala! It was not spicy and some of the things were even sweet. I liked it a lot!

This picture was't taken by me, I found it online but this is exactly how the food looked like!

Saturday night

If you look seek for extreme experiences – come to India. You will see people who are awfully rich and the ones who are extremely poor. You will see the ugliest places in the world and enjoy wonderful views. You will see the newest technology inventions and meet people who don’t have access to running water or electricity. All these in one country, in one city, often on the same street, within 5 minutes.

This kind of thoughts were with me when I entered the flat of a friend of a friend who was giving a party on Saturday night in his flat on the 20th flor of a new block. This kind of thoughts were in my head when I got into one of the posh clubs in Mumbai, Blue Frog. I had good fun there, enjoyed myself a lot... as long as I was inside.

Indian ways of decreasing the unemployment rate

Surprise number 8

There are jobs in this country which I would have never considered relevant enough to actually call them proper jobs. Two examples I want to mention are: “a door-opener” and “a tea-bringer” (chai wala?) - names created by me. Going to all the public places in Bombay you will always meet these people who are standing in front of the door just to open it for you. I know we also have them in some more expensive hotels in Europe but I haven’t expected to meet any of these at KFC or at supermarket!

Talking about “tea – bringers” they are among my favourites. There are 3 or 4 of them at our office so I managed to observe some of their behaviours already. They are all very nice and extremely shy, so when I smile at them or say hello they will be all blushing, not even daring to look into my eyes. But they really want to make you feel good and comfortable at the office and know already that I drink tea without milk so bring me a cup of it every morning :)

Friday, July 10, 2009

New strategy!

Today I travelled to the office on my own for the first time. Obviously these rick drivers didn't want to take me because the distance was too short. After asking 3 of them whether they can take me I tried "a big blue eyes - sad face" strategy. So once the fourth guy told me he was not taking me I made one of my famous sad faces, looking at him with my big blue eyes and saying in the sweetest way possible: pleeease:)
He has given up:) I like these rick drivers, I trust them somehow...:)

Am I becoming an Indian?

I was talking to Venky yesterday and he was laughing at me all the time. Dude, is this possible I already got this Indian accent??!! I have also started using some hindi words, yaar and I am nodding my head in an Indian way!! AAAAAAAAAA! What did they do to me?!

Indian food

Surprise number 7
My stomach is still fine! O.K., maybe I am digesting everything a bit quicker than usually (hope to lose some Kgs soon;) but I am fine although I have tried so many different things already and I have even eaten some street food!! We have a very nice canteen here at work so every day I am trying something different. Some of these things are too spicy for me so my colleagues are laughing all the time asking what’s wrong with me ;) I enjoy juices from fresh fruit and eating with hands though! And I am cooking at home sometimes! (When there is water :P)

Surviving in Bombay

Living in such a mess and chaos, where people simply don’t have any boundaries and like treating everyone as their family members, trying to find out what is happening in other’s life you can either go mad trying to fight it or let it go. There have been many situations when I simply wanted to shout: “Stop, that’s not the way to do things” but I quickly realized it won’t make much sense. Therefore I have decided to go with the flow and accept the way things are! I have to admit it makes one’s life much easier! I kind of started enjoying it!

Bombay is the city where…

I have recently found it somewhere in the Internet, in most cases I agree with these statements!

  • Like a mother whose heart always has space for any number of children, Mumbai has crossed all limits & adjusted herself to accommodate all those who beseeched her
  • A confluence of many varied cultures of the country – a mini India in the true sense
  • Where two natives (Maharashtrians) tend to speak Mumbaiyya with each other, instead of Marathi
  • Which does not rest for a moment even after being hit by worst disasters – riots, bomb-blasts, floods, strikes, accidents, terror-attacks
  • Where there is always scope for adjusting one more commuter continuously even in a jam-packed local, defying the laws of Mass & Volume
  • Where distance is measured in minutes/hours or in rupees
  • Where your driving skill ought to achieve a precision of 0.5mm (bumper-to-bumper) with 0% tolerance, even while manouvering around a pothole
  • Where you need to be skilled in jumping off/on a bus/train few secs before it stops, if you happen to be in the first row near the door while alighting/boarding a bus/train
  • Where 8 people can share a 6ftx6ft kholi & can still make space for more
  • Where you don’t need a reason to play/talk cricket
  • Where you don’t need your own vehicle to commute from one end of the city to another at any time (thanks to the nearly 24hr coverage of BEST buses, Locals, black-n-yellow metered rides)
  • Where the cheapest, quickest & most exciting shopping of varied items can be done in the train itself

Travelling in Bombay

Traveling in Bombay is an adventure itself. First of all you have to think about the means of transportation you are going to use. You can always try a public transportation which consists of buses and local trains.They are extremely cheap! For 30 – minutes ride by bus or train you pay not more than 10 Indian Rupees which is like 0,7 PLN. I traveled by bus once, it’s a nice experience, you always get in by the back door and get down by the front door. While inside you buy a ticket from a guy who sells them.Obviously buses are very crowded and many people simply don’t get in plus they travel mostly only on the main streets, having no time schedule so you never know what and when you can expect. Trains are a bit better but still the route they go is limited. As the result there are many people who decide to travel by taxi or auto (rickshaw). Ricks are my personal favourites, try one of them when it rains! You get all wet! Therefore following Meenal’s advice I take clothes for change when going to the office in rain.

Another funny thing about rick is how much you pay for them. So basically, the meter has 4 digets. You have to ignore the last one and then substract 1. If it shows 0120 it means you are paying 11 rupees, when it shows 0290 you pay 28 rupees:)

Apart from that there are also so-called shared taxis. Basically, these are not regularly marked taxis which travel along main streets and pick up people standing there. They take as many people as fit in, therefore they charge you the minimum fee. Very smart concept!

Surprise number 6

Distance is never measured in km. It is always measured either in minutes/hours or in rupees! For eg. the distance between work-place & home is in my case 15 rupees by the shared taxi. The distance from our flat to the airport is 20 rupees. The distance to town is 1 hour.

Wednesday at Hard Rock Cafe

It is so good to live with a VH1 employee (thank you Meenal!!) as you can get free tickets for some nice events like the concert we went to yesterday. It was the concert of Outlandish, the Danish band I think which was playing in Hard Rock. Obviously we didn’t know any of their songs apart from Aicha but it was worth going there just to listen to this one last song. I really liked the place, it is a nice club with good music and good people. You can meet a lot of Europeans there too.

Monday, the 1st day at work

I woke up very excited , awaiting my first day at work. For these of you who didn’t know I got an MT internship in HR at Mahindra&Mahindra Ltd. Automotive Sector. The company which is among top companies in India is not known that well on the European market so if you want to know more about it, visit www.mahindra.com. Their core activity is cars’ production, especially Jeeps and pick ups.

Anyways, they are just amazing! They welcomed me with a flower, I have my personal buddy, Nirmala who is just the most supportive and sweet person I have ever met in my life, helping me out with everything, introducing to everybody, taking care of me like an older sister! Everyone is really nice to me, wants to meet me and asks if I need anything. Really, a great place. Rarely can you meet people who are so devoted to what they are doing, trully loving their company and aligning their personal values with the corporate ones. They even have their “Promise 2010” which is hanging everywhere in the offie and making me feel like in AIESEC with its 2010 visionJ They are simply proud to be the part of Mahindra family! The company is on one hand very traditional, people wear traditional Indian clothes, they value relationships but on the other hand are very innovative in their approach towards what they are doing!

I was not expecting myself to pay this big attention to the corporate culture but I am starting to think now that after spending 4 years in a volountary organization I will not be able to work with people who are not sharing a passion towards what they are doing…Interesting discovery…

Sunday, the 2nd day in Bombay

Sunday morning Jacqso woke me up at 9 a.m. as one of the trainees was having birthday and we were supposed to meet her and the rest of the people and go bowling. Of course when we reached the place nobody was there, we waited for another hour to find out that the bowling place was closedJ when people finally came we went to a nice sheesha place. Trainees’ community in Mumbai is pretty big (there must be some 30-40 people) and most of them came, so it was good to meet them all on my 2nd day.

Afterwards I went to the MC house and met the MC guys! It was good to see Kamal again!!! We went together to the town (this is how they call one of the districts here). In order to get there we had to take a local train which was actually a good adventure! These of you who know me a bit better know that I don’t mind being in the centre of attention and I generally seek for it in most of the cases (is it ‘cause I’m cool?;) but I am still laughing when I see small kids asking their mothers whether they can touch me :) Good fun, I’m feeling like a pop star or at least like “Idol” winner ;)

After spending some 40 minutes in the train, being touched by some 10 kids and being stared at by some hundreds of people we got down on the station in the town! If you know the Pussycats dolls’ song “Jai Ho” and you have seen the clip at least once you will recognize the place ;)


During my preparation for India trip I was reading different books about the country and Mumbai itself. One of them was a super cool book Gregory David Roberts, ”Shantaram (I strongly recommend the book btw!) It is the story of an Australian who comes to Bombay and gets involved in local mafia’s activities. Imagine how happy I was getting to see the places he describes in details in the book like: Leopld cafĂ© or Taj Mahal hotel. Taj Mahal is btw the one which experienced the famous bomb - blast some time ago.

Taking a taxi back home from there was again an adventure as neither a driver nor me knew the place I was staying! Good fun!!

Travel and first impressions!

The choice to fly with an Indian company was absolutely the best choice possible.

Kingfisher which I was taking from London to Mumbai makes its passengers think that if they could afford flying to Europe and coming back to India they are rich, important and deserve extraordinary conditions.

Besides, I was one of the very few Europeans taking this flight so already in the plane I could feel like in IndiaJ

While landing I couldn't really see the city as due to the monsoon it was very cloudy but the feeling when I stepped out of the plane was just amazing. It is said if you really want something it will happen...and it happened!!!

Obviously nobody from AIESEC Mumbai was there to pick me up from the airport; luckily I could count on my Polish friend, Maria. (Thank you again btw!!!)

And here comes surprise number 1:

- Taxi drivers/rick drivers don't know the city. If you tell them address it doesn’t mean they will take you there, in most cases you have to explain how to reach the place!

This is still causing many problems to me! I am finally trying to travel on my own but then explaining the way is a bit too much still. Plus - they don't speak English! So I really need to pick up some basic Hindi words very quickly!

Surprise number 2:

Actually, it was not a surprise. Traffic. If you have seen one of these youtube movies in which they show Indian roads and you didn't know if this is really possible to drive like this - believe me, it's possible.

Also, if you have seen me going crazy while crossing the street in Italy or Greece as there was no order on streets (!!!) you must be laughing your ass off now trying to imagine how I am crossing the streets of Mumbai:) It is driving me nuts! I was once trying to discuss this with one of my colleagues asking why there are no rules on the street but when he told me that Indians value democracy therefore they walk or drive however and wherever they want, I have given up.

Surprise number 3:

Being a white person in India means people will try to charge you extra for everything. Example: once we finally found a taxi driver who agreed to take us to the flat (some of them didn't want to go as the flat was located not far away from the airport!!!) he wanted an extra tip for putting my luggage into the car and then taking it out. As we didn't want to pay extra we had to do it on our own:)

But finally we reached the flat. It is a very nice department, though the surroundings might seem a bit scary at the beginning. So seeing kids brushing their teeth on the streets or a “hairdresser” cutting sb’s hair on the street is a common view. One of my friends has lately told me that when in Europe he misses Indian streets, sitting and watching them is simply a good entertainment. In this sense, European streets are dead… well, he was right! Looking out the windows in my room you can see the whole street. I really enjoy sitting at the window and watching people doing their daily activities. Good entertainment!

My flat mates are sooo cool, very supportive, and helpful, and they are good fun too! Although I spent almost whole Saturday sleeping we managed to chat for a while and watch a movie in the evening. I am so glad I am living with them! They answer all my stupid questions, calm me down when needed and drop me to workJ Thanks girls :D

Surprise number 4:

As monsoons started a bit late this year (it should have started around 6th of June and started after the 20th) the whole city is experiencing the issue of water shortage. That’s why I took my first shower in India with water stored in the bucket, not having running water. Even now water is running only at certain times, so when we see there is water we do two things: shower! and fill in the bucket J Good fun :D

Surprise number 5:

Rains! If you thought that June rains in Poland must have prepared me for a monsoon season in Mumbai you were wrong! Nothing can prepare you for that. The first day I came to India it was raining so heavily that our street flooded in some 2 hours! In general it is not like this all the time, so there are some days when it is not raining at all but people say that the peak of the monsoon rains is still ahead. Let’s see!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Here I go!

Yeap, so here I am. Sitting in my new room in my new flat in Mumbai! Shit, I guess I still can't believe this is really happening!
But, let me start from the beginning!