Month November 2010

Please don’t compare New York’s cost of living with New Delhi or Mumbai

Meenal expressing herself in NYPHOTO: Meenal expressing herself in New York, November 2008.

Alright, I’m quite tipsy now. Can you repeat what you were saying. Oh yes, I remember now: the cost of living in New Delhi or Gurgaon is high and that makes sense. Something something New York something something. Your drink must be better than mine. Even in my current state of intoxication, hearing New York as justification or explanation for the cost of living in Delhi sounds like a stretch. Why?

Gross Metropolitan Product in 2008

  • New York: $1466 Billion
  • INDIA GDP in 2009: $1240 Billion*** 
  • Boston: $338 Billion
  • Mumbai (Bombay): $209 Billion
  • Phoenix, Arizona: $200 Billion
  • New Delhi:  $167 Billion

Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers list of world cities economies

*** Shockingly, New York’s metropolitan product is more than all of India’s GDP. There’s a 9 fold difference in wealth between New Delhi and New York. But 2008 is dated. New York and America have suffered an economic ‘situation’ since. New Delhi and India, on the other hand, are growing at 5-10% per year. Fair enough, let’s fast forward …

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Momos (Tibetan Dumplings) are everywhere

Aah, Momos. Brings back memories of my childhood.

Every kid was served a fixed amount of food in my boarding school in Darjeeling. If a kid didn’t want to east something, he’d trade it with another kid – I’ll give you 3 bananas if you give me a mango next week. The king of all food items were Momos – Each kid got 8 momos for dinner on Saturday night. The going rate for a single piece of Momo on Saturday night?

1 Momo = 8 bananas or equivalent!

Now Momos are everywhere in Delhi and I’m loving it! The best I’ve had so far are from the Big Bazaar (local equivalent of Wal-Mart) stall in Gurgaon.

PHOTO: Big Bazaar Momo stand
CJ's Big Bazaar Momo stand

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Nonstop repairs at home after R2I India

Things break all the time in India. Things come out of their factory boxes broken, or are found to be faulty on first use. Things break that you’ve never seen broken. Things that you couldn’t even fathom had anything to break in it will break. We Sherlock Holmed this and found 2 obvious reasons. First, the stuff itself is of a lower quality – This is understandable in a poorer country. We’ll make peace with this. Second, the workmanship is very irresponsible. I’m not sure why people don’t take pride in their work but the constant repairs are frustrating.

examples

Example 1: Faulty light wiring

The ceiling light was installed 2 weeks ago. This was the first time I tried to position it according to my taste and it short circuited blowing the main house fuse. Lesson learned: If it works in any respect, thank your stars and don’t touch it.

PHOTO: I’m up on a 30 pound workman’s ladder shit scared of getting electrocuted:Prashant fixing a new light fixture

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Delhi after the first drizzle

New Delhi 63 degrees FThe sweaters are out
The shawls draped
The fires are lit
The puddles reflect.

(real poets don’t rhyme)


Man warming his foot on fireMan warming his hands on fireHawker lady's daughterFast and dangerous way to get aroundAutos in the rainHenri Cartier Bresson?

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First day at work after R2I in Deloitte India

November 15th, 2010

My first day in the Delhi office. A little anxious, a little excited…I was ready to meet new people and begin my professional experiment in India.

7:15 am – 9:00 am: Commute

I finally understand why office hours start late in India. The typical commute to work:

  • 7:15 am – take a rickshaw to the company van service stop
  • 7:30 am – board the ‘company shuttle’
  • Snooze for 1.5 hours with head bobbing violently
  • 9:00 am – arrive at the office

The company shuttle – Most companies contract with private van services to ferry all their employees to work from most parts of the city. For some companies, this is their second biggest expense after real estate and ahead of wages. The shuttles carry 4-8 people from each area and are feared on the roads because of their rash driving – by the other not so gentle drivers of Delhi!

Thankfully, my commute is a tad better than this typical commute.

Traffic jam with a thousand company vans waiting in DLF Cyber City, Gurgaon, HaryanaPHOTO: Traffic jam with a thousand company vans waiting in DLF Cyber City, Gurgaon, Haryana

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Barbecuing UNsuccessfully after returning to India (1st try)

You suburban residents of Boston thought that you’d be the only ones to have it all – a big house, a wooden deck and a barbecue grill. You were mostly right. No big house on a cul-de-sac or the visits from deers on my deck yet. But barbecue I can!

I found something called a Gas Tandoor which seems to do the job, somewhat. It’s a metal apparatus that goes over your existing gas stove in the kitchen. Its got a base with a grill that lets the heat of the gas stove come through. The cover with the black handle keeps the heat in.

Pictures from the first test:

IMG_6813

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We painted our walls green and caffeine for $100

20101120-IMG_685718 YouTube videos later, we felt that we were ready. So off we went to the paint store. That’s when we got caught.

Shopkeeper: Which paint do you want?

Us: Umm..um..which ones do you have?

Shopkeeper: [confused look]. Asian Paints Royale, Premium and the cheapest distemper.

Us: [thinking we should come clean since the YouTube videos weren’t making us look like pros] Ok. So we’ve never painted before. Can you help us choose? What’s the difference?

Shopkeeper: [smirks that we came clean and just rewords his last comment] The luxury is the most expensive, the premium is less, the distemper is the cheapest.

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Diwali in India is a reminder to celebrate

Shweta lighting diyas in her rangoliI’m not religious and don’t celebrate religious holidays. And yet, this Diwali I’m struck by the festive mood – decorating, wrapping gifts and socializing. It is a reminder that celebration is worth the effort. Whether its doing rangoli and pujas for Diwali or a barbeque with your spouse and friends with whom you enjoy living life.

Life’s successes seem almost inevitable after the fact. In about 10 days, Meenal and I would have settled into our new place in Gurgaon. Meenal will start her new job in India on November 15th. I’ll start working full time on my business this month. And we’ll start spending more time with family, old friends and new people we meet. This is a milestone for us. Diwali has reminded me to celebrate this milestone.

Seasons greetings and Happy Life! And lookout for our party invite…

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