Travelling the IT Highway from the Gemm Inn to HCL

I figured I must have recovered from jetlag as my biological clock kicked in and I awoke in my Gem Inn room in Navallur, Chennai in time for breakfast at 07h40, after a shower, though this was abruptly and unnecessarily curtailed after a call announcing the arrival of my taxi. It turned out that I was being joined by five colleagues from Monroe County, who happened to be at the same hotel and were still otherwise engaged at breakfast. In the daylight I observed rush hour in Chennai. All modes of transport comprising cars, motorized rickshaws (a three-wheeler, canopied, yellow scooter), buses jam-packed with people, some desperately running alongside, eventually jumping onto the step whilst hanging on for dear life and scooters carrying at least one passenger, vied for space on the dual lane road heading along the outskirts of the city.

Turning off the main road at a major rather busy junction, the crescendo of noise rose noticably, as the bold and the brave barged and hooted their way assertively through the traffic. The HCL building complex rises amidst a waterlogged landscape of open fields. A posse of security guards jumped to life as we approached the main entrance. An electronic boom, a row of pre-fabricated portable barriers and finally, a speed bump, lay between us and our drop-off point at Block 2.

Boarding the bus along the IT Highway

As if this isn’t enough, building security itself assumes a level of virtual paranoia, with guards on every level. Whilst the exterior between buildings is neatly paved and adorned with water and garden features, the office areas are somewhat more sterile, consisting of a matrix of desks that merely fill the void. The marble tiled entrance hall leads to a beautifully designed spiral stairway, at its base a bed of white pebbles. Jeff Chester kindly took me up to their offices and assisted me with connecting my laptop to HCL’s LAN.  Around 10, Sabu escorted me over to Block 1, where I was introduced to the team of young developers. Ilangovan, with whom I had forged a close working relationship over a 6-month period in Welwyn Garden City, was late to arrive, having been off the previous week during which Diwali had been celebrated. I was introduced to his boss Prasad, who was keen to set an agenda for my 5-week stint. I met Charlie Gardiner, who had served as Executive Officer at Xerox in Welwyn Garden City for a spell.

Lunch was indeed an experience in the large canteen with as much of a buzz as a bazaar in the paw paw season. It had the feel of a market place, with a variety of spicey foods on offer. Indians are always elegantly dressed. Whilst the women wear brightly-coloured salwar suites, some with a saree draped across the shoulders (traditionally worn by married women or at festivals, though this is no longer the case), the men are neatly attired in cotton shirts and trousers. Few seem to wear jeans. Later during the course of the afternoon, we returned for tea, which, along with coffee, is provided free of charge to employees.

Motorbikes, buses and auto-rickshaws clamour for space during the morning traffic

The American contingent called me around 19h30 for a 20h00 return to the Gem Inn. We found ourselves seated outdoors under a gazebo at an adjacent restaurant within the hotel complex. Large rotating fans hanging beneath the roof covered in coconut tree leaves, ensured that we remained oblivious of the heat and humidity, as we ordered dinner and sipped our beers. My first day at HCL drew to a close.