Monday, December 14, 2015

(Business) Trip To India - November 2015

If you'd rather just view the pictures from India rather than just the few shown on this page (or rather than trawl through the text below) you can do so by clicking here.

In November I was able to get across to Gurgaon, which is just south of Delhi in India.  The main objective of the trip was to meet our off-shore development and support teams who we have worked (very) well with over the last few years.  I don't get to travel much (work or otherwise) so I jumped at the chance, not least because India is high on the list of places I have always wanted to go.  The big shame though was that Tamsyn couldn't come with me and see her own country before I did!

So the trip started well, helped of course by travelling Business class, which is just amazing - I'm really not sure what first class gives you over and above that but I really doubt you need it whatever it is.  The flight was smooth (good for my "love" of flying) and we landed in Delhi at 08:55 in the morning having flown through night (08:55 is 03:25 in the morning UK time).

As expected the heat hit us as soon as we stepped off the plane. At 28C in November it was nothing short of beautiful, but the biggest shock was the traffic! Oh my, I have never experienced anything like it; everybody uses their horn but not in anger like in the UK but rather to tell other road users they are there.  Bearing in mind there is no concept of lanes (or even direction) and that other road users could be lorries, cars, bikes, scooters, cows, horses, pigs and people crossing the road (and even, if it's night, an entire wedding party singing and dancing down the road) it seems to work well and it certainly makes every trip to the office an adventure.  It's the one thing I didn't get used to the whole week.

The hotel, The Westin, is beautiful (and 5 star) and proved to be pretty much perfect as it was 20 minutes form the office, which added to the adventure of getting there and back every day...

After a bit of a sleep and a wander around the hotel we got to the office at about 4.30pm India time, got our security passes, shown an office we can use, logged in and answered a few emails before being taken out at 5pm to go to a place called Cyber Hub which is basically a "mall" of restaurants and bars in the middle of an office complex where you have the likes of Google and Microsoft.  We ended up in Soi 7 or rather outside it as it has a roof terrace that, once dark, you wouldn't know you were outside (as it was about 25C) having various platters of food and sampling their own brewed beers.  You will see from the pictures what happened next but we were all somewhat more subdued come Saturday morning! :)

Saturday we got the cab (at our disposal 24 hours a day until Thursday) and went out to a plant nursery/farm in between Gurgaon (where we are staying) and Delhi, where Prisihita and Prerna (two of the girls from the office) translated for me to ask loads of questions. The nursery was both flowers (many the same as we get here such as Dahlia's, Chrysanthemums, Marigold's and Petunia's etc but also palms of all types as well as weeping figs (Ficus) in pots but about 6 foot tall). The farming side was more like a nursery/large allotment for vegetables as well - a couple of large fields split into beds growing various things; cabbages, mustards, radishes (different to ours - long white things) and so on. They don't mono-crop like we do but split everything into large beds and companion plant.

Apparently butterflies and pigeons (there were plenty of both about) are not a problem but peacocks drive them mad!

Both the girls asked about them supplying their local market - most of this stuff goes to Delhi (which is huge) so fresh herbs are harder to come by in Gurgaon. The whole issue of getting people to buy (and sell) local appears to apply here just as much as it does in the UK.

On a composting side it was harder to describe so I didn't push it. I also didn't want to bore everybody too much as they had given up their Saturday to show us around. I think they do compost as they rotate crops but the soil was parched and had to be watered regularly so, to me, it looked like it needed a good 2 inches of organic matter. It might get it for all I know but it was very red clay type soil and needs watering daily.

The biggest shock for me was finding out that one of the girls husbands had been impressed with how I wasn't embarrassed to say my family were farmers! Apparently, in India, farming is classed as one of the lowest forms of work because you are working in the dirt. Quite the contrast to the UK where everybody expects you to be landed gentry if you own a farm...

Once done there the driver drove us past quite a few similar set-ups causing lots of honking of horns and people swerving around us before taking us into Delhi to The Red Fort, which was quite stunning and an experience getting in what with beggars, the crowds and having to check your pockets every time somebody bumped into you! The girls managed to get us a Guide for 100 Rupees (£1) - he had started at 500 Rupees (£5) which I thought fairly cheap but watching them in action was amazing. He turned out to be fairly terrible but I learned quite a bit about the place so it was certainly worth it and I got some great pictures. The big eye opener for me was not necessarily the number of birds (pigeons mostly - they're the same the world over) but the quantity of Eagles flying around. Also parrots and Indian magpies (which were more like prettier Starling's and sang beautifully).

From there we stopped off at a small restaurant the girls knew that was lovely; hidden, small, and won loads of awards apparently. I've no idea what I ate as I told them I like sweet over hot but I tried everything. The one dish I did recognise was Biriyani. What we've noticed here is that everything is smaller portions, brought out regularly rather than all at once and a lot less oily. So you have a great meal and walk away sated rather than bloated and stuffed. It really felt like my taste buds had been awakened for the first time and I think Indian food in the UK will now be a bit of a let down...

Sunday we started off taking it easy; trip to the gym, sitting in the sun by the pool and enjoying the sunshine and hotel facilities before picking up Prishita (who had thankfully volunteered to take us shopping) to take me shopping for gifts and clothes for Tamsyn and the children. I hate shopping and don't think she quite realised what she was letting herself in for but I think it went OK. Except for Christopher that is - I wanted to get him an Indian cricket top but you couldn't find one anywhere. if you want a fecking Manchester United top they were everywhere but nothing for India (we ended up getting it mail order and delivered to the office in the end).

Proof I went shopping (can you spot the tourists?)

The rest of the week unfortunately involved working but it went well I think and we came back with loads of ideas on how we can improve things at work. Blah blah blah.

One thing that I really got from the office was the tea! They brew it differently to the UK by putting all the ingredients in together and bringing the lot to the boil and it was truly amazing! Luckily, Prishita shared my love of tea and we would grab a cup whenever we could. It was divine and again, cheap at 7 Rupees (7p) per cup!!! Imagining the same thing from somewhere like Costa and I reckon it would be nearer 300 Rupees (£3) and not taste anything like as nice.

We did get out a few more times and have a great time with the guys; once to a place called The Kingdom Of Dreams where we saw a live show of a Bollywood film called Zangoora, which was absolutely amazing; a live show with the most energetic dancing and music I have ever seen. It was basically The Lion King set in India with more magic and no animals (OK it was nothing like The Lion King) but it absolutely blew me away (and I felt really bad that Tamsyn wasn't there to enjoy it as this really is more her thing).

Outside of the theatre is a street with buildings from every state in India and live shows of various cultural music and dancing just going on as and when. You can get food specific to the state as well as buy gifts from there as well. In the UK you would expect the food to be rubbish and any gifts to be over priced tat, but here the food was amazing, dirt cheap and the gifts weren't bad either (so I stocked up on some more for the family).

Having shown us some culture the next night was a trip to Smaash, again at Cyber Hub, where we did bowling and had food.  And there's another difference between India and the UK - in somewhere you would do bowling the food would be disgusting and over priced. Not in India - we had an array of dishes bought out to us and they were all amazing.  I was starting to get a cold and this Paneer Chili (basically cottage cheese but nicer) enabled me to not only breath through my nose again but also my ears!

From there we went back to Soi 7 for more (much more) brewed on site beer...

I was a little depressed to leave to be honest - we achieved a lot work-wise, definitely cemented the working relationship and generally had a ball while doing so.

However, I was also made up on the way home to capture this picture while flying over the mountains of Afghanistan.


niveditaindiancooking said...

I truly enjoyed every bit of it!! Worth a read!!

Simon Sherlock said...

Thank you Nivedita, I really enjoyed writing it (but not as much as living it) :)

niveditaindiancooking said...

HaHa!! I totally understand and am glad you had a lovely time :-)