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


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


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 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!