One of the EY team members I met in India is named Chethan. Chethan is a typical EY employee, mid to late 20’s with a college degree and full of ideas about making work processes better, more efficient. He is also very friendly and willing to respond to any question I might throw out about what life is like living in India.
One day, he was talking about his commute to work. I had been in India only one week, but had already experienced the chaos of travel in the city. The roads are not wide, so many folks ride motorcycles rather than cars, since the motorcycles can zip around cars that may be not moving very quickly. Motorcycles are clearly a faster method of transportation when traffic is heavy. I could see why so many of the EY employees ride motorcycles into work, to cut down on a long commute. Chethan said that for many years, he drove a motorcycle to and from work. However, for the past year, he has been driving a car into work. I asked him why – was it because he did not like driving in bad weather? No, that was not it – in fact there are really only 2 months out of the year that experience recurring rain. That was true, during the 17 days I was there, it never rained once. It was mid 50s in the morning and low 80s during the day. Weather definitely was not the reason not to ride a motorcycle.
His answer surprised me – he said there was a lot of construction along his route to work. My next thought is that construction meant that the roads were somehow blocked too, but if that was true, wouldn’t a motorcycle be better at navigating more narrow driving areas? No, there was not any construction on the roads, it was building construction. The construction simply meant that he wanted to make sure he avoided things falling down onto his head. If you live in America, you might think that remark is odd. However, I’ve seen the scaffolding along buildings in India – nothing like what you see in the U.S. It is easy to imagine that yes, things might actually fall down and could hit something below.
Chethan made the comment very casually, showing something that is typical of the way they live. If things aren’t exactly the way they need to be, all you do is adapt to the environment. Complaining won’t do anything when the situation isn’t ideal. The best answer is to adapt to whatever you are experiencing and move on.
I’ve become a big fan of that mindset – so much that this phrase is now going to be a quote I throw out in conversation. When things aren’t going exactly right, I’m just going to get off the motorcycle and get in the car.
I’m wrapping up my last day in the EY RMZ office. We had fun for the last day of the team of 4 US trainers working together – we all wore traditional India attire. The joke was on us, as most of the India EY personnel wore western wear 🙂
Here are pictures from our group:
Adding a few pictures around the office:
The teams we’ve been working with are:
I’ve noticed many ways that India cuts down on energy usage that I’d love to see back in the U.S.
Here’s a good one – related to escalators. Whenever you are in a U.S. shopping mall, take a look at the escalators. They are always moving when the mall is open, regardless of how busy the mall is. Here is what I saw in a mall in India – the escalators might appear still when you approach one (I was afraid it was broken), but as soon as you step on it, a sensor detects someone is on it and it immediately starts to move. It continues to move as long as someone is on it, then it stops after everyone on it steps off. Seems logical when you think about it!
Next up – power outlets. In the U.S., we are told a way to save energy is to remember to unplug things like computers, etc., when not in use because apparently they drain energy from our outlets even when not in use. If you are like me, you probably don’t want to unplug all those things each night and plug back in, so you end up wasting energy. The solution here is to have wall switches to turn on and off outlets. Some U.S. homes have this for one outlet in a room (usually only when there is not a lighting fixture in the room, the outlet is meant to power a light), but certainly not for every outlet. There are also switches to turn off power for everything in a room (light and outlets).
Finally, I saw something cool last weekend about how many Indian folks recycle things that we’d probably just throw in a trash dump in the U.S. Rather than do that, items that seem to still have some use are taken to some type of shop/repair facility. The people at the repair facility fix whatever was gathered and sell it back to others. This is especially prevalent for things related to automobiles/motorcycles. There are lots of shops like this, selling recycled items that were likely just gathered after someone discarded them.
Before this trip, all I know about cricket is that it was sort of like baseball. Since baseball is my favorite sport, I figured it might be fun too. My plans for learning about cricket during my trip were simple – go watch a match or two. Little did I know that not only would I watch several matches, I would end up participating in one. The rules of the tournament required 2 women on each team, one of the teams with my India colleagues only had one woman show up. That meant I was drafted. Despite my protests that I had terrible coordination and did not know the rules, I was part of the team.
My worries were unfounded, it was a great time and even though the only run that I contributed to was one when Annapoorna hit the ball and we had to run to each other’s side of the pitch (the crease). My swings were mostly air, but a few practice swings did connect. As far as my fielding contributions, well, we won’t go there. This trip is turning out to be full of unexpected things – today’s match was definitely a high point. I did something that I never imagined I would do and had fun despite having very little idea what I was doing. Sometimes knowing nothing (but trying anyway) is when you have the most fun and end up making good friends.
I’ll add a final note that I learned that Stan the Man Musial died shortly before Sunday’s game – can’t leave that out since he is one of the legends of the Cardinals baseball history. I wore my Cardinal shirt today at the game, luckily I had packed it for the trip.
The city I am in, Bengaluru, is known as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of India. It is obvious why it has that name when you drive through the city and see the many, many Technoparks that exist here. I may not be using that term exactly right, but what it means as a first time visitor to Bengaluru is that there are groups of very modern office buildings that house mostly IT companies from around the world. I can’t think of a single large technology company that I have not seen represented here….Cisco, HP, Dell, even saw a company name that used to be well known in St. Louis, Savvis.
My firm has its offices in three different Technoparks in the city. A Technopark building is similar to many US office buildings, with a slight difference. Most of the Technoparks are gated, when your driver pulls in, the gate opens, a guard may or may not look in the trunk of your car, then they let you in. Once in the Technopark grounds, you have pretty much everything you need to work the day. Besides the office building itself, there is usually a common cafeteria in the main building and there are small shops outside the office building to do minor shopping during lunch / breaks. There is a small pharmacy, coffee shop with free wi fi and a couple restaurants. Both Technoparks I’ve been to have US pizza chains, Domino’s and Pizza Hut. I’ll write more about their pizza later – funny stuff!
Because of the design of the parks and the fact that traffic is very, very heavy, most workers do not leave their respective Technopark during the workday.Similar to tax folks in the US, teams work late in the day. To balance their work life with fun, there is a cricket league that many companies in Technoparks participate in. Here is a link to information about the league: http://technopark.crickees.com/
I will have the opportunity to see some of the EY teams in this league play cricket this upcoming weekend. I am really looking forward to it — an American colleague of mine told me that she thought cricket was like baseball, except when you hit a foul ball, you get to run anyway. Funny statement, maybe I will understand it more when I see them in action.
I am learning that it is important not to assume another culture interprets something the same way I do. This insight hit me after seeing this building along the road in India: At first glance, my reaction was negative – why in the world was someone displaying a symbol of the Nazi party so blatently on a building? After a couple of minutes of thinking, I hoped there was a reason other than someone supporting Nazi views. Thankfully, when I returned to my room, with the help of a quick Google search, I realized it was a Hindu religious symbol – quite a positive one, at that. I learned the name comes the Sanskrit word svasti (sv = well; asti = is), meaning good fortune, luck and well-being. Here is a link if you want to learn more about the positive meanings of this old symbol: http://www.religionfacts.com/hinduism/symbols/swastika.htm
I also did a closer look at the Hindu symbol versus the Nazi symbol, and noted something kind of interesting – compare these two photos: Looks like Hitler twisted the symbol to go along with his twisted views – certainly not what the symbol was intended to represent. I’m just glad that I learned about a good interpretation of a symbol that I had always thought of as bad.
When I arrived in Bangalore and took a drive through the city, I definitely felt like I was in a different world than the U.S. This picture shows a street with several shops and a group of young folks – I’m guessing pre-teen and teenagers, all carrying backpacks. Although it was a Saturday, seeing the backpacks made me wonder if they were going to school that day.
There are many reasons why I felt like I was in a different world — cars driving on the left side of the street, the temperature was 82 degrees in January (well, not that off from St. Louis that day, which was oddly in the 60’s). More likely, however, it was the fact that I felt like the odd man out. The obvious reason for that is that I don’t look like anyone in the area – which is something I am not terribly comfortable with. I usually like feeling like a part of the crowd, blending in with everyone around me. My mom suggested I darken my hair before the trip, which I balked at, of course. But hair color isn’t the only thing different – it is skin color, clothes and of course my American accent.
This realization reminded me of another article I read on the plane trip over here (I had a lot of free time to read with about 26 hours total spent in the air). The article was in the London times about the fact that as of right now, white Brits are the minority in London: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article3628405.ece That trend is affecting the U.S. also, not sure when it will affect the Midwest where I live. It is going to be an interesting change and it will probably occur faster than any of us realize!
Morning fog in Bengaluru disappears in a 30 minute time span (13 Jan 2013)
Day 3 – 12 January 2013
Did not sleep too much on the flight from London to India, as I was too excited. My excitement was tempered when our landing was delayed about 3 1/2 hours (with a side detour to Hyderabad for re-fueling the plane) and then finding out my large suitcase which was checked did not make it with me to India. The British Airways staff were able to locate it, still sitting in London. I left the airport with the promise that the bag would be delivered to me the next day at my hotel. So much for my original thought about having more clothes than I need (see Day 1 post). The biggest disappointment about it is that I don’t have my workout clothes with me, so I can’t get in a run today. I feel stir crazy after all the flights, so if the luggage does not arrive by noon tomorrow, I will get a car to take me to a shopping area here.
Instead of running, I decided to create this blog and exercise my fingers for a bit. Not sure if this will have any future life after my trip ends, but it sure is a nice writing space for me to log my thoughts and post various pictures to share with family if they are interested (those who choose not to use Facebook, where I’ve posted plenty of photos already!).