At the start of my second week in India, health issues with some members of the American contingent set in. I jokingly remarked that they were dropping like flies and expressed surprise that they were not made of sterner stuff! Stomach problems emerged, possibly due to the food, climate or fatigue. Monday 7th November, my friend and colleague, Ilangovan, had invited UK colleague Robin, his (Ilango’s) boss Prasad and I for lunch at his apartment, some 20 minutes from the HCL offices. Ilango’s wife and mother had prepared the sumptuous meal. It is customary in Indian culture for the women to serve the men before partaking of the meal themselves. Two generous helpings of Biriyani had filled me up, whereupon I realised that this was the starter only!
Ilango married only some 6 months ago and recently purchased the neat apartment we found ourselves in. It was no surprise that he positively beamed with pride. Whereas the Chinese have Feng Shui, in India, their love for their homes is reflected in the ancient belief of Vestu Shastra. This incorporates the five elements: fire, earth, water, air and space with the influence of the planets. The aim of Vastu Shastra is to create harmony and balance between man, his environment and his home to attract happiness and good fortune. Customs within the household include people removing footwear at the entrance. Rice flour is sprinkled on the floor on which is drawn lucky symbols. A bride, on first entering a new home should turn over a cup of rice as a symbol of the luck she brings with her.
We had an unfortunate brush with HCL security towards the end of the week, when Robin left to return to the UK. A group photograph outdoors in the HCL gardens had been planned with the offshore development team however as we walked outside from Block 1, cameras in hand, a posse of zealous, uniformed security officials descended upon us, to stop the shoot! It’s one thing to want to protect your company’s development activities from outside scrutiny, but this seemed a bit over the top. The problem was that, although permission had been requested by the onshore guys based in Block 2, it did not apply to the rest of us. An ‘official’ camera was radioed for and the shoot concluded, the image files being forwarded to us a day or so later.
On the Sunday evening after our return from Puducherry, Robin suggested that we try out the Japanese restaurant within the Gem Inn Resort complex. It’s a rather small, uninspiring, box-like building, without any ambience to speak of. A flat-screen TV in the corner of the room beamed out images from Japanese TV. The inexperienced and somewhat disinterested waitresses, who had oriental features but spoke no Japanese whatsoever, faired no better. Robin had spent some years in Japan and spoke fluent Japanese. Soon he was engaging fellow Japanese clientele present, in conversation. The food was good however it was quite expensive. The evening also dragged on too long and after the day’s activities, I was glad to retire to the confines of my room.
At dinner one evening at the Gem Inn Resort we decided to order some wine, which, for some inexplicable reason, had to be paid for in cash. The going price of 2500 rupees amounted to gross extortion, to say the least, when we got to pay for it at the end of the meal. The hotel’s wi-fi connection proved somewhat erratic and so Bob Kane sent an e-mail to someone in HCL in order to put pressure on the Gem Inn Resort management. It was only a week later that it was finally sorted out. Over the course of the next week or so, all of the American contingent based at the Gem Inn Resort, with whom we had forged a good friendship, would also be heading to home turf, Chris Daughton being the first in line. A number had been missing their families and their general frustration was beginning to show.
An 11-hour a day working week had caught up with me by the time Friday had arrived and I felt the need for some chill-out time, which I used to catch up on my blog Saturday, in the confines of my air-conditioned room. Pleased that I was finally able to Skype with my brother in Cape Town, I ventured outdoors in the late afternoon, for a jog, despite the heat. I headed down a dirt road running adjacent to the Gem Inn Resort complex across the sparse, flat landscape which, in years to come would, in all probability, be fully developed. I considered the main road devoid of a sidewalk of any description a potential risk. If I thought I would be clear of traffic of any description, I was mistaken, as I found myself dodging truck after truck fetching building material from a nearby construction business. I made it back to the Gem Inn Resort an hour and a half later.
In the course of the week, Ilango and I had been planning an impending weekend excursion. He was of the opinion that I needed to move beyond my comfort zone and the hotel boundary and experience a bit of the real India! We were set for an early start Sunday.
HCL team photo, with names:-
1. Jeevitha Nandagopal 2. Geetha Raja 3. Dhanalakshmi Rajendhiran 4. Ilangovan Srinivasan 5. Morgan, Robin 6. Groves, Peter 7. Vimalathithan Balasubramanian 8. Sarala Perumal 9. Kalpana Ramaswamy 10. Abilash Karuvelam 11. Subramanian Venkatramani 12. Rengaraaj Rajendran 13. Ganesh Pandian Sankara Pandian 14. Manohar Durbhakula 15. Srinivasan Pakkirisamy 16. Thiyagarajan Paramasivam 17. Saurabh Anand 18. Sandeep Kumar Rout 19. Vijaya Sekar Boka Kuppswamy 20. Sandeep Kumar Rout.