Monday, 14 December 2009

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

I've been under pressure from my manager to write something more 'positive' about India. She masquerades as the communications manager but I'm pretty sure she's really a censor for the Indian Ministry of Tourism. I'm constantly being told that my blog will not entice people to come to India and visit. We also disagreed on the museums charging extra for people who don't look like they're Indian (around ten times the price!). I said it was discrimination, she said that they've got to make money from tourism some way. I think we've agreed to disagree.

Today, at any rate, I've decided to talk about how exciting it is here, especially getting to work. I know that the traffic has been mentioned quite a lot, but with a commute each day of over four hours it does form a large part of what I do.

So, without further ado, leaping onto moving trains and buses is great, great fun. I'm serious. Only this morning I travelled several hundred yards down the road literally hanging out of a bus. No-one can say that the journey to work is boring. And journey it is. Expedition even. You've got to have your wits about you or it could all go pear-shaped. At any rate it makes travelling in the U.K. positively pedestrian. One thing I shall take back with me is how sterile and dull day-to-day life can be in Britain. Maybe it's the rise of blame culture and suing, but the infamous Nanny State does seem very restrictive. Sure, some 10 people a day die on the trains, but considering they carry six million passengers a day (and we are just talking about Bombay) that's quite reasonable surely? I couldn't find any similar statistics for the U.K., although I did see a link saying that 30 people a day die in the U.K. from passive smoking (link).

So there we go, I'm safer travelling on the trains here than I am breathing in Britain. Now that, surely, is a reason to visit India if there ever was one. Come to think of it, what's the air like over here...

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Andrew Goes to Bollywood

When I came to India I had a modest number of things that I particularly wanted to see or try. The first two were dal and chapattis. I have tried them both now; they're certainly edible but not that exciting. The third was Kerala; I've yet to go. And my fourth and final ambition was accomplished last night; I watched a Hindi language film. Good old Bollywood, enjoyed by 14 million Indians daily according to this website.

The film in question was called De Dana Dan. My limited prior knowledge of Bollywood films led me to believe that there was to be much singing and dancing involved; I was not disappointed. At the drop of a hat the cast would break into a spontaneous dance routine with much fun had by all. Not really understanding Hindi I am afraid to say that most of the film went over my head. The guy sitting next to me told me that it was a comedy; however I found that I did not laugh when everyone else did, and I laughed heavily when no-one else did. Maybe it's just our different senses of humour but there is something to be said when you are laughing at odds with an entire cinema.

The other Bollywood film that I have seen was called Tum Mile. It was a love story of some sorts and was set in a bizarre location. The couple met in Cape Town. This was, however, a Cape Town where the only inhabitants were either Indians or white, blonde-haired people with British accents. I let this peculiarity slip in the name of artistic licence. The worst part of Tum Mile was actually at the end. Having escaped about 10 disasters within the space of five minutes or so, the couple announce their rekindled love to the lead’s best friend. In his excitement he slips and falls into some flood-water where he is elaborately electrocuted. The film then ends. What, I asked myself, was the point of this man's death? How did it further the plot in any way? The answer: it didn't.

I mentioned at the start that my ambition to see a Bollywood film is now complete (I'm not sure that I'd rank Tum Mile as a Bollywood film as there was a distinct lack of singing and dancing). It is, but I have a new ambition that has developed out of it. Bollywood films have a liberal sprinkling of white people that the film-makers pick up, generally in Colaba – in the south of the city. At weekends I can now be found skulking around the Gate of India waiting for my chance of fame (but not fortune)!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Your Number is Up

On Thursday evening as I came home from work I saw the bus just driving past and so ran to catch up with it. It turned out to be the wrong bus. Ah well. It was the 247, when in fact I was looking to catch the 240. The reason for said mistake was due to the way numbers are written in the local script. Almost every Indian here speaks Hindi which is written in Devanagari and looks like this: मैं ठीक हूँ (mai thik hu – I am okay). Now whilst there is no chance of mistaking any Hindi letters for English, the numbers are not so accommodating. It starts simply enough: 1 is , 2 is , and 3 is . ‘What’s the issue?’ I hear you ask, ‘There is none!’ I reply. They look pretty much the same as English. Excellent. And therein lies the problem for the later numbers: is 4, not 8, is 6, not 3 again, and is, of course, 7, not 6, whilst 5 is also suspiciously six-like: . Well, why wouldn’t it be? So when I saw the २४७ drive past, I saw the २४०. Alas, it was not. Silly me.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Horn OK Please

I thought it was about time to comment on the traffic in Bombay. Chaotic isn't the word. If anyone asks what side of the road they drive on here I believe that an appropriate response would be a hearty laugh at the naivety of the question followed by the word: any. Technically it's the left, but that seems to make a relatively minor impact on day-to-day driving experience. The last minute swerves by rickshaw drivers, the liberal (read excessive) use of the horn and sheer number of passengers makes even the most simple trip down the road a Herculean adventure of epic proportions. I do, however, love it. I have embraced the Indian way. No longer do I waste time by looking when crossing the road or waiting for a break (hah!) in the stream of oncoming vehicles. Walking down the streets here is not quite taking your life in your hands, it is so much more than that. It is assuming that your life is represented by a slippery plastic ball that you are attempted to carry down the street with extremely greasing hands, whilst at the same time not really making much of a concerted effort to hang on to this strange thing called 'life'. It definitely makes the one-and-a-half hour morning commute that bit more exciting, and that's before you even get on the train.

Monday, 16 November 2009

November Rain

Some say that Swansea is the wettest city in the U.K. In fact Wikipedia tells me that the Met Office says so, so it must be true. It does rain an awful lot in Swansea, perhaps too much. Recently whenever I crossed into Wales or got off the train at Swansea station the clouds would decide that it was rightly time for them to empty their loads. How annoying. No fear, I thought, when heading off to India, Mumbai may experience the monsoon, but that's only from May till October right?


Despite every climate graph I have seen showing the most minimal amount of rain in November, somehow throughout the last week we have experienced what was reported to be a cyclone (please observe the links below).

One local told me that: "It never rains in November." Instead most of last week was spent dripping wet from rainwater (as opposed to sweat, so there is an upside). It would seem I take the weather with me everywhere I go.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

And Now We Play the Waiting Game...

Time. What a concept. It's certainly inspired much debate. A cursory look at Wikipedia highlights the debates that have occurred between philosophers and scientists with regards to time.

In India time is more of a...fluid concept. I was told to expect a lot of time just waiting. Oh indeed, how true. Maybe it's all an ironic ploy to mock my own poor time keeping skills, but while waiting for the bus earlier even the Indians were starting to look agitated. A bus that says it should be every five to ten minutes took 40. In the midday sun, this was not so nice. You live and learn though. Next time I shall bring a towel to wipe down the copious amounts of sweat. Lovely.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Smoking is Injurious to Your Health

Indeed it is, and so is the smog of Mumbai. The Time Out guide to Mumbai and Goa claims that just breathing the air is equivalent to smoking two packets of cigarettes a day. I believe it. When I arrived on Tuesday morning I was awaiting the smell of India, as it were. I had been told that it would be the first thing to strike me, there is a 'smell of spice' one person told me. I was, therefore, somewhat disappointed to be met by what I can only describe as a urinal-type smell when I arrived which no less pleasantly transformed into traffic fumes. I think I am losing a day of life expectancy with each passing breath.

I have arrived by the way. It has happened. I am really here.

To return to my previous point, that little diatribe on the air is not actually why I chose the title of this post. The title in fact is an oh so amusing notice that I saw at a western-style supermarket. It made me chuckle but not quite as much as this quote: "All of this means that if you drive out into the desert to quench your thirst for adventure, there's no chance of you ending up as a bleached white skeleton, half-buried in the desert sand." Quite. It's from an advertisement for, yes, you guessed it, Tyres of course!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Vague Job Descriptions

Okay, so I was just checking through the options for this blog to change my location from Swansea to Tewkesbury and I saw a section listing Work. It had a section for industry so I scrolled down it and found absolutely nothing that was appropriate for my job. Religion and Non-Profit being the closest two descriptions. Now, I can understand this situation for this sort of role, after all professional historian is not a job you come across very often outside of academia. It is, however, quite frustrating when the previous job I had as well had an equally vague niche in terms of industry description. Maybe I've just gone for unusual jobs but I have noticed how the actual responsibilities of a particular job often have very tenuous links to the title. At BackCheck there was someone called the First Impressions Co-ordinator. They were a receptionist. True, they did provide the first impression for many a visiting client, but what an overly convoluted title for such a position. At BackCheck I was an Human Resources Interviewer. From the title you would assume, as I did, that you would be working in the HR department conducting interviews for people wanting to work at the company. Now, to an extent that was true. I did "interview" people to some degree. But Call-Centre Operator, Customer Service Assistant, and International Investigator could all have been equally accurate descriptions of what I was doing. The crazy modern world of business eh. Where a lack of clarity fools people into assumptions that are not true. No wonder so many people dislike corporatism.

(Almost) Exodus

So the time is drawing near to when I should be departing and a few people have been clamouring for an update. When I say few I mean two. And when I say clamouring I mean casually inquired. The reason I gave them for silence on the blog front is on account of the fact that nothing has really happened yet. I am, after all, still here in the U.K.

I have, however, starting the role! It's very exciting. I have so far travelled to the exotic Tonbridge in Kent and Manchester on "business". Four interviews, as such, have been conducted and I am starting to flesh out a picture of Oasis India's history. For a sad history geek like me it is very exciting to watch history happening before my eyes!

In theory I should be flying out on Monday, October 12th. Though that is depending on raising all the finance in time and so may be subject to change. Until then I shall continue to sort out the mundane, but important, tasks. Little things such as visa's and packing. Like I said, trivial matters.

Until then, well, this blog shall remain as it is. (Hopefully) informative, but not overly interesting.

Thursday, 23 July 2009


So here it goes: I have joined the crazy world of blogging in preparation for The Great Indian Adventure! I can't say that I'm familiar with how these work, having never actually read a blog, so this will be very much a learning experience. From what I understood of the tutorial though there are all sorts of possibilities at my fingertips now. I can inflict my essays upon people gullible enough to read them, ha ha!