In the land of Ashoka the Great

Finally! My first blog entry after almost coming to 2 months now. I am not sure if I still know how to blog.

The internet connection in my house now is finally working. India, or at least Hyderabad, is a very weird place. It is a place where opposites exist harmoniously with each other. I have never really seen a place where extreme opposites can co-exist at the same time. Extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Extreme high-tech and extreme low-tech. Extreme intelligence and extreme low awareness. Extreme rigidity and extreme flexibility.

For example, to get a mobile telephone line, you need all sorts of documentations. Pictures, passports, etc. To get a gas regulator, you need to apply for it as if you are applying for a passport. To get money transfered out of the country is so very difficult. At the same time, bribery is everywhere. This is aptly put by the tour guide in Agra. We wanted to take a picture but there is a no entry sign. The guide just asked us to go in and wanted to take the picture for us. We pointed at the sign and he said, “This is India. Everything is possible if you have money”.

I live in an apartment that costs about RM600,000 (approx. USD160,000) but just right next to it, I see many people sleeping in self-built tents made of waste wood and plastic papers which can hardly hold water if it rains. We see people peeing at the roadside everywhere. It is not uncommon to see perfectly well dressed young professionals carrying notebook computers passing urine by the roadside. On the road, everyone is rushing for time. The drivers drive very fast and beating traffic rules all the time. I almost had a heart attack the first few days I was here. But if you think that these people are super efficient and fast workers who races against time like the Hong Kong people do, then you are wrong. In other things except driving a motorised vehicle, to get them to get something done will take ages. They promise but they never come. If you think Malaysian time is bad, then the Indian can be worse. If in Malaysia, you say 7.00pm people will turn up at 7.30pm, then here, if they say they will do something for you at 7.00pm, you can expect them to turn up no earlier than 10.00pm.

It is interesting to see what the other expats are saying about their experience, and if you are interested, here is one thread:

All these makes India a really interesting place to be but not everyone will like this place. It is either you love it or you hate it. The people are at once genuinely very nice but also at once very greedy for money. Sometimes I do not know what to make of all these but this is very good adventure.

The weather is very hot and reached about 45 degrees celsius during our trip to Delhi-Jaipur-Agra. I almost got sick on the third day after visiting the Taj Mahal. Never ever visit India during March-September. Avoid it like a plague if you cannot stand the heat and monsoon rain. November, December and January are good months to visit India.

I do miss the food back in Malaysia although the Biryani rice here is superb. Luckily our company has a restaurant here just next to the office and the chef is from Ipoh, the same town where I came from. Thanks to him, I can still manage the food here and at the same time, get adventurous and try out other restaurants.

The rule of thumb is really never to eat or drink anything from the roadside. Many people, including the locals, really got sick from it. So wherever we went to eat, we made sure that it is a proper restaurant which has a proper water filtration system. We drink from bottled water. Coca-cola and Pepsi is doing very well with their own brands, Kinley and Aquafina, respectively. I think I will take these precautions until a time when I can feel really comfortable with the food and water here. But still, I will avoid a roadside sugarcane water stall like a plague.

I am settling down well with my job although there are many things to catch up. At least right now, I know how to differentiate an Iranian marble from an Indian marble.

In terms of social life, there are no Go clubs here but I have yet to check out the film club except for a courtesy phone call. I have not been to the cinemas but the hottest show now is “Fanaa”, something not unlike “Dil Se” in theme. They banned the “Da Vinci Code” here and I thought the censors in Malaysia were terrible.

Well, so much for this first post.

The Taj Mahal: “A tear drop on the cheek of time” – Rabindranath Tagore

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Filed under India, Thoughts & Commentaries

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