Friday, 1 December 2006

Back in rainy Bognor...

The journey back to the hotel was the worst ever - it took an hour and a half!! Laxman used a different route, and the traffic was terrible. When we got back I was totally shattered so we met the boys in the bar and headed for the Japanese restaurant. We didn't really know what to order so the waiter took charge, which was probably a mistake. The starters came out separately, rather than all at once. Danny repulsed veggie Pete with his sushi eating and the "medium" sized prawns were in fact little lobsters and a pain to eat. We took control of the main courses, but my rice was really hot and the others weren't that keen on theirs either. Except Pete, who was happy with his tofu and vegetable noodles. By then they'd downed two bottles of saki (at 16% vol alcohol) so Pete H was a bit rosy, Pete P was getting slushy and wanting to ring his kids, Donna was tipsy and Danny treated us to explanations of the difference between fascism, communism, plutocracy, democracy and meritocracy. Surprisingly, it was both fascinating and hilarious as it turned out!! We did have a laugh and despite the iffy meal it had turned into a fab end to the Indian experience.

At 11 o'clock Donna and I had to dash back to our rooms and pack, ready for the midnight taxi to the airport. It was a really posh car, for India, something like a Rover with leather interior not a scratch on it. It only took us 10 minutes at that time of night to get to the airport so that was good. There was a massive queue for the check-in, but we had loads of time so it didn't matter. We bought a few pressies in the tat shop and the duty free and then went through to departures where we waited on uncomfortable plastic seating for our flight, which was late and we didn't take off until about 3.45am. I couldn't get comfy on the plane so hardly slept at all. After a couple of hours I looked out of a window behind me and could see a mountain! I knew we went over the Himalayas but thought that we'd gone too far for it to be Everest, as we were somewhere over Russia according to the flight plan on the tv. After ten minutes I looked again and it was still there - we didn't seem to have gone past it at all. I tried to get to sleep again and after an hour or so I check the mountain situation as it was getting lighter and it was still there. When I looked out of my own window, now it was light I could see it properly. It was the triangular flap at the end of the wing which was sticking up, and not a mountain at all! Doh!

After a horrible breakfast at 5am (UK time) we prepared for landing, and finally touched down at 7 o'clock. We had to wait for ages for our suitcases; apparantly too many planes had landed at once for them to cope. My taxi was waiting (in the rain!) and we made very good time on the way home and picked Sam up at 9.45. Then it was on to Bognor, and home where a nice warm bath was waiting for me, plus loads of washing :-(

I'm now absolutely knackered, having had less than 2 hours sleep, to top off a week of insomnia, and can't imagine how I'm going to last at the scooter Christmas Do tonight!

It was a great trip, I'm so glad I went. The Sapient staff were very friendly and welcoming and it was a pleasure to work there. Delhi was different and exciting and although I didn't see much of the 'real' India, it gave me a taste, albeit in a very 5-star, insulated way.

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Last day in Delhi

Well, I spoke too soon about the lack of car crashes. We went to a shopping mall after work on the way back to the hotel. Spent half an hour buying exciting things (bangles, Adidas stuff, little shiny bags etc) and then waited for Laxman (our driver) to pick us up again. Whilst we were waiting a bus crashed into the back of a car in front of us. They moved to the side of the road, and the bus driver seemed more perturbed than the car driver, which was weird as it was his fault! We finally found Laxman and then carried on home. He's the least mad driver here, and we had stopped in a traffic jam when we were suddenly shunted forward when the car behind us crashed into us. As I was in the front I had the benefit of the head rest, but Danny and Donna were in the back but seemed OK. It was like when you get hit by a bumper car so not too bad. Laxman got out to inspect the damage but luckily there wasn't any!

Back at the hotel we all went to Brix for dinner. It was very nice in there and the waiters greeted me like a regular, and seemed surprised that I'd got 'friends'. They clearly thought I was a serial-lone-diner. After dinner I paid a late-night visit to the gym and then went to bed. Didn't get much sleep though, and when I woke at 4am I'd got a few texts. The best one was from my sister who reported a 0-0 draw away at Liverpool! I'm a bit gutted that I dropped David James from my fantasy team, but we've gone 3rd, leapfrogging Bolton and Villa. I eventually got back to sleep at about 6.30, so feel totally shattered today, in a Danny-ish-zombie-like-state.

We've had some new arrivals today, with the two Petes arriving (Horsler and Parker). It's nice to see some more familiar faces.

As I didn't want to leave without doing some sightseeing, I arranged for Laxman to take me to some temples at lunchtime. We went to Chattarpur Mandir (suggested by Anup) which is about 25 minutes from the office. There are loads of temples clustered either side of the road there. I left my shoes in the car and took a walk around the large site. I didn't venture into any temples where people were praying - it seemed inappropriate. But it was very peaceful and chilled. I was taking a photo of one temple, and a couple of old guys asked me to take their photo. One was a kind of security guard and insisted on putting his official cap on first. I was only there for half an hour but so glad I went.

When I got back to the office, everyone was heading for the first floor, so I followed. It turned out that each team had a chance to get their own back on their managers, for all the tight deadlines, late nights and scope creeps that are forced upon them. The Lamda team was chosen as one of the three finalists, and their challenge for Manu, Vikram & co was for them to perform a fashion show. We arranged the seats on either side of the 'catwalk' and eventually the 'models' appeared, in various outfits, culminating in Manu and Saurabh who wore some pretty saris! I think this should be repeated in Cheltenham, with Andrew, Nick and Danny dressing up for us!!

Anyway, that is it for now. I think we're going to try the Japanese restaurant tonight, before we then head for the airport. Danny, Pete and Pete will be here for another week but the girls are going back home to their families.

Day 2 in Delhi

I left work at 7.30 and took a taxi home. There are a whole new set of rules for driving/riding in the dark. If you're in a car then it seems to be mandatory for your headlights to be on full beam, until you're 50 yards from home. And the police don't care either, if you're blinding them. Pushbikes don't even have lights. For scooters and motorbikes, lights are optional. As is driving on the correct side of the road. It's perfectly acceptable to be going the wrong way down a dual carriageway. And I'm getting the whole 'horn' issue too. It's mainly used to say 'get out of my way'. Even if there's a whole queue of traffic, and if the vehicle in front actual DOES get out of your way then you won't be much better off. And the drivers aren't particularly angry when they beep, unlike at home where your blood pressure is usually boiling over when you honk your horn. I love it! You'd pay good money in the UK to go to a theme park for a scary ride, but over here it's just a normal part of life. And there are no accidents (so far) either, so the driving system TOTALLY works here. Especially as there aren't the rust issues that we associate with minor prangs that go untreated...

Anyway, when I finally got to the hotel I did a quick change and went for some food as I was starving. I went to Brix, the European restaurant. They sat me at a counter which goes around the kitchen area, probably for saddos like me that eat alone. It was great, I wrote in my travel journal and read a magazine whilst watching the chefs chop and cook and grill and fry. I ordered a pizza and when it came it was the thinnest pizza ever, in the world. But it was nice too. (Lee would have hated it as its resemblance to a Pizza Hut deep pan pizza was minimal). Anyway, then it was time for the gym which was quite good. Better equipped than the Cheltenham Park Hotel and fairly empty at that time of night. I stayed there til 10 and then returned to my room.

Today, our driver picked us up from the hotel at 8.30 and we got to work about half an hour later. It's been another busy day. From my seat I can see a family of 6 cows in the car park! We had a sweet treat this afternoon, courtesay of Priya who's got engaged. They're called kaju barfi, which are made from cashew nuts and are very nice. Priya's hands have been painted with henna, very intricately, to celebrate, and look very pretty.

Again, can't add photos here (grrr...) so have put them on the flickr account.

We're hopefully going to finish by 6pm so that we can go shopping in a mall on the way back to the hotel.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Day 1 in Delhi

Well, what an exciting 24+ hours it's been! Flight from Heathrow was good, I had a nice 'neighbour' - an Irish man who goes to Delhi a lot on business so gave me lots of top tips. Seats were good - the 'World Traveller Plus' gives you an extra 7" apparantly, which makes a huge difference :-) The Stugeron worked and I didn't feel queasy at all. Didn't get to see the Himalayas because it was dark. Food was OK-ish, nothing to write home about. We got there at about 1.30 local time. Got my bag quickly then had to wait ages for Danny's to come through. He and Donna were desperate for a fag so lit up as soon as they got outside. Saw loads of Bajaj scooters in the airport car park and one of them had 3 on board as we drove past on our way to the Grand. Our driver drove us very nicely, although went through loads of red lights, but that's normal apparantly (compulsory even!). Lots of scrawny dogs running around; apparantly they make the most of the lack of traffic to run free. Took forever to check into the hotel, but eventually got to bed about 3.30am, which felt like 10pm so not mega tired.

Alarm went off at 8am and feel slightly tired but not too bad. Nice view of the gardens from the window. Cleaned my teeth and then remembered I was meant to use bottled water - DOH! Down to breakfast of Rice Krispies and rolls, nothing dodgy. Danny is like a zombie and couldn't get hold of our driver so had to ring Aashish who saved the day and ordered us a taxi. Donna only got an hour's sleep, poor thing, but I feel normal probably because I wake up at 4am at home!

Then came the exciting bit - the drive into work. It has to be experienced to be believed. The driver used his horn indiscriminately, for no reason mainly. All cars are fairly dented, and a scooter we went past had half the front brake lever missing. Traffic lights don't mean much, they're just a chance to squeeze through a tiny gap to jostle for pole position. Scooters and motorbikes go on the pavement (or what would normally be a pavement) to get to the front of the queue. We nearly had a couple of accidents, which our driver clearly thought were other peoples' faults, even though he nearly went into the back of them! Driving through the local roads was an eye-opener. Cows roaming the streets. A guy in a tin bath having a good soapy wash. Two guys smoking a huge pipe-thing.

And finally we got to the Sapient offices, in the business district. They're a modern building, attached to others which are home to the likes of Microsoft, IBM etc. Up to the 8th floor and there's a great, if smoggy, view across the city and beyond. Lots of building work going on, preparing for the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Vikram introduced me to the (large!) team and then I told them about myself and then they did the same. He's given up his corner desk for me and it's got an amazing view - kind of like Ashley had in the Brighton office except that I can't see the sea... or the Palace Pier...

Spent all day reviewing stuff - screens, specs etc. Gaurav showed me where the food mall is - serving things from Subway, MacDonalds plus other Indian food. Even has a pick 'n' mix but I resisted. I had a chicken burger and chips, to be on the safe side. The day has gone by so quickly because I've been mega busy. It's 715pm already and I'm going to get a taxi home as soon as I've posted this. I've tried to add the photos but keep getting an error so they are here

Got to go now - looking forward to some food, then gym, then BBC News 24, then bed!

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Welcome to my blog!

This is my first ever posting.... I'm just testing it out, ready for my trip to India on Monday. I'm hoping to post bits and pieces and photos etc.

I need to go shopping tomorrow, I've got a long list of medication to buy 'just in case'. Like Immodium, rehydration tablets, mozzie spray, paracetamol, brufen and a first aid kit. And then I'm loading tons of stuff on my iPod. I downloaded Amy Winehouse's album today, and I've got loads of podcasts ready to load up, including Ricky Gervais, Russell Brand, Mark Kermode's movie reviews and Chris Moyles. And a Little Britain one too.

And I'm about 1/3 of the way through Deception Point by Dan Brown. It's so good but I'm trying to save it for the trip. Which is hard, because it's a major struggle to put it down every time I pick it up.

I'm taking some snacks too, just in case they don't do Gillian McKeith's 'fruit, nuts & seeds' there. And some californian raisins. And some 'sucky sweets' for when we take off so I don't get earache. I've gone for some glacier mints and fruit drops.

I don't know how best to use my 100ml liquid allowance. My sister took hand cream to the Gambia last weekend. I'm tempted to take a drink, but suppose I can buy one in the departure lounge, so is there something else I should take? Is toothpaste a liquid? It fills its container doesn't it, and isn't that the definition of a liquid?

I'm going for 3 days - to work at Sapient, which is in Gurgaon, Delhi - so it's a flying visit. But very exciting! I'm staying in the Grand hotel, which seems to do what it says on the tin. It's got loads of restaurants, a gym, shops and a spa. Very posh....