Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Working World in Bangalore...

For the past couple of days we have been working ten to twelve hour days so we can get everything done we need to do in the week we are here. Today we worked thirteen. It is hard work and tiring. On top of that, the physical adjustment of being here is harder than I anticipated. I’m not sure if it is the work, the being “out of my time”, the food and climate adjustment that my body is being forced to make or what but I’ve been slightly nauseous every morning and afternoon. It does not subside until around evening. It could also be the breakneck speed and constant starting and stopping my driver puts me through with Indian traffic every morning as well. My co-workers tell me they feel the same and my boss, who has been here five times now, tells me this is a natural reaction to traveling halfway around the world, working hard while you are at it, and with such a drastic culture change involved. We should get beyond it in three to four days. In other words, right about the time we are leaving. Rebecca was very sick today beyond the mild nausea as well. She thinks, perhaps, she should not have had the sherbert she tried last night. And indeed, as I finish this post on Thursday morning, I feel somewhat normal today with no ill effects for the first time.

That aside, however, I would not change the experience I’ve had for anything. I cannot say enough about the Indian people and I’ve such a different perspective on them than I had when I was in “the States”. They are the most polite people I’ve ever met; All very soft-spoken and exceptionally friendly. It was interesting to see how their corporate culture differs from ours.

For example, in the corporate environment (and in the general culture) here there is still very much a hierarchy in place. When I try to obtain answers or feedback from the entire team, they defer to their managers to speak for them. Only when their managers are out of the room do they speak up and joke with me. Unlike America where everyone has an opinion and wants to be heard.

There is also a large “service industry” in place as well inside the corporate buildings. As soon as we step in the elevator, there is a man there who sits on a stool all day and waits for us to tell him what floor.

I will say, “One please.”

And he will reply, everyday, “Yes, ma’am.” In his soft voice.

In the washroom, there is a lady there at the ready with a towel. “Do you require a towel, ma’am?” she will ask. And I will reply, “Yes, please.”

I am told this is the norm for the corporate world as are the free lunches in the cafeteria and the free cappuccino machines. That is a nice change from America.

India seems to be the world of the haves and the have-nots. There is no middle class really so far as I can see. You are either unfortunate enough to be born exceptionally poor or into a good family where you will go to the University, get your degree, and then obtain a good job either in the tech industry or beyond. My counterpart here, Harish told me, it is unthinkable in India to try to obtain a job on his team without a degree. Most people, in fact, have Masters degrees. This, I found interesting, considering two people on my team do not have college degrees and none have Masters.

Harish also told me that it is not uncommon for young Indian professionals to make job jumps for 50% to 100% raises. This is why attrition rates are so high in India at the moment for the tech industry. They move from job to job in search of higher salaries every three to four years if not sooner. Indians from the outlying villages obtain their degrees in Banglore with the intent of moving their way up through various companies with the intent of saving enough money to eventually move back to their homes and start a family. This before retirement age hopefully. “And are you all able to do this normally?” I asked him. “Yes, normally we are.” Judging by some of the conditions I’ve seen in this country, I really cannot blame him.

I asked him about the women in this country when one of Harish’s team leads, Moupiya joined us the next day (Mo-Pee-ya – Piya for short). She told me that single women often live in pairs or in what are called “Pgs”.

“What does PG stand for?” I asked.

“Paying Guest.” She told me. “I am a paying guest in someone’s home. I live in one without rules.” She smiled proudly.


“Yes. Often women have curfews if they live in Pgs. But some do not. I chose this one. I only have to pay for my room. Meals are included.”

“Is it a problem if women are unmarried here for long.”

“Oh, yes.” They both said in unison. “Some marriages are still arranged by families here. But, if a woman by 30 still has not married or had her family arrange one, that is still somewhat frowned upon.”

“But not for men.” I say.

“No.” Harish smiles. “Not for men. Especially if he is trying to further is career.”

Something I found interesting is the Indians follow American politics very closely. They have just elected their second woman leader in fact though some say the position is largely ‘ornamental. Moupiya pointed out that the US is still largely behind in that regard in that we still have not shared our highest office and, despite the fact that Hillary Clinton is seeking to make history with that, many American women do not support her in her quest to further that cause, was how it was put. I smiled. She was not far from wrong. Many women do not feel as if she represents them I told her.

And finally, one other thing I have discovered. I have tried lots of Indian dishes and several of them, I did not much care for (though a few were quite tasty). But a universal truth remains, you can’t go wrong with sugar! Every singe dessert I have tried, I liked! Even dates with syrup. YUM. On Friday, we have another day off that we plan to spend walking around town (Bangalore itself this time instead of a day trip) to do some shopping for people. I have no idea what to buy but I play to buy some stuff. I’ve hardly spent a rupee here so far because everyone insists on treating me. This is good and bad. Because now I will have to do the same for them when I take them to NYC (my boss told me they are coming in Sept. and he wants us to go to Manhattan) in two months. He recommended that I take them to see a Broadway show because that would be a treat. Hey, who am I to argue with the boss, right?


Anonymous said...

very interesting mostly. There was
a time in the States when people
were kind and well mannered. We had elevator operators and I always said please and thank you (still do)The comment about our President George Bush I found juvenile and conducive to someone who would not use please or thank you.
I did enjoy reading. Bill

Rachel said...

Cuz, you have missed your calling. I have always known you had the right "words" but this story had me hooked to the screen waiting to hear what you would say next. You need to send material to someone cause you are funny as shiznit.
Love ya,
Beware of cow dung!!