My task over the five weeks at HCL in Chennai, India, is to interact with the young engineers and use whatever experience I have to allow them to progress up the learning curve faster. Since my arrival here, I have become aware of the pressure being exerted from the upper echelons of Xerox in ensuring that the transition of knowledge to HCL offshore is accelerated. From my perspective, I’m finding my engagement with the engineers an exhilarating yet challenging experience. Pretty well switched-on to technology, I have found them to be bright, confident of their abilities and eager to learn, a sentiment echoed by my American compatriots.

The HCL American contingent in the grounds of the Gem Inn Resort, Chennai, India.

Ilango brought in some Diwali treats for the group after returning from leave. I chose to up the ante the following day by sharing a jumbo-sized Cadburys chocolate bar I had purchased at the airport, as a gesture of goodwill. Chris Daughton, with whom I had worked at Welwyn Garden City shortly after arriving there, flew in from Monroe County, presenting a lecture on ‘The Story of a Copy Job’. I have drafted a list of topics I shall be covering over the next 5 weeks. The days are long. Fetched by taxi each morning around 08h30, we return at night around 11 hours later.

I have bonded with the American contingent also based at the Gem Inn Resort and found myself pleasantly surprised, almost moved, by the irrepressible Jayson “my father has a back like a hairy buffalo” Richardson’s assertion at dinner, in reference to me personally, that “I enjoy the conversation that you bring to the table”. A round the table exercise, where each person provided details of their ancestry, proved enlightening and fascinating. Product Manager Robin Morgan, tasked with getting the HCL test facility up and running, also joined us from the UK. Sadly, Jeff Chester, whom I had grown to like and develop a respect for, returned to the USA.

Midweek we switched to eating in the Gem Inn’s air-conditioned dining room. We were so impressed with the chef’s chicken stroganoff that we asked him to come out for an appreciative round of applause. The hotel staff have taken to the group and Jason in particular. They will stop at nothing to serve and attend to our needs, often with an delightful sense of humour. A number of waitresses I believe to be of Nepalese origin, are employed by the hotel. Short in stature and blessed with the most delicate of features and gentle nature, I find a number of them rather appealing.
Travelling to and from the Gem Inn resort as as entertaining and bewildering as ever. Herds of cows occupy the road virtually every few hundred metres, even in peak hour traffic.  The term “organised chaos” comes to mind, yet it is too random for that to be the case. What amazes me is that the total lack of road-rage, given the potential for it to evolve to that level. There is an almost resigned acceptance that it’s all quite normal. The sight of a calf  lying dead in the road having been struck by a motor vehicle, was a rare yet unpleasant sight one morning. I wondered why it wasn’t a more regular occurence. The protruding rib cages of these somewhat emaciated beasts, regarded as sacred by Hindus, may suggest that they are underfed however this a relative perception. The counter argument suggests that livestock in the West are overfed and pumped up to the eyeballs with drugs and hormones.

Cows on the roadside en route to HCL offices

Politics is a subject I never shy away from and India is certainly not short of suitable material forming a basis for lively discussion. Tamils form the dominant ethnic group in the state of Tamil Nadu and are of the same ethnic group as the one involved in the civil war in Sri Lanka over several decades until 2009. The  Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or Tamil Tigers was a separatist militant organization founded in May 1976 by Vellupillai Prabhakaran and supported by Tamils in India. It waged a violent secessionist and nationalist campaign to create an independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka for Tamil people and was responsible for the assasination of Rajiv Gandhi at a public meeting at Sriperumbudur on 21 May 1991, in a village approximately 30 miles from Chennai, where he was campaigning for the local party candidate. The atrocities alleged to have been committed by the Sri Lankan army to end the war were covered extensively by Channel 4 news broadcasts in the UK in 2009.

I am keen to explore the origins of India’s class structure and caste system, to which, it has been alleged, a reluctance has prevailed among more privileged elements of Indian society to discuss the topic openly, though I have managed broach the subject with a collegue at HCL with relative ease. But more of that for a later blog.