Last Days In Bangalore

I slept late on Sunday, the first day on the trip that I had the sense to get a full night's sleep.  One nice feature of the hotel where I stayed is the dual-layer shades on the windows which, when shut, produce a nearly pitch black sleeping chamber.  That so works for me.

After noon, Roy Cecil and a friend of his met me to help me learn how to shop in Bangalore.  My goals were simple: find a few gifts, see what shopping areas were like, and enjoy the day.  We focused on MG Road; there was a place there with some gifty items and afterward we strolled into a book store (what you've heard is true: book prices there are amazingly cheap a lot of the time).  I bought a book teaching people how Americans speak; I'll keep it in my office if you want to drop by and brush up on your American.  It actually looks like a pretty useful book, although I think I know most of the tips in there.

Anyway, MG Road is a pretty busy place; I think that every twenty something and teenager in Bangalore is legally obligated to congregate on that road on weekends and if so, then Bangalorean youth are pretty darned obedient.  I had been telling people, including Srini-the-driver that I hadn't seen so much of the crowding that I heard I would experience in India.  Well, when we got to MG Road to shop, Srini was laughing and saying "Mr. George!  Now only you see the crowds in Bangalore!"

The Amazing Srinivas

Speaking of Srini, here's another moment that illustrates how eerily good he is at his job.  Roy, Kiran (Roy's buddy) and I were dropped off at a busy intersection on MG Road (for those of you familiar with the area, we were dropped off at the Cauvery) and as usual Srini told me simply to call him when we wanted to be picked up.  Fair enough; we walked down the road some, and later called Srini to come and get us.

(here's how a typical conversation with Srini goes whenever I need to be picked up from anywhere:

George: <dials Srini's mobile number...ring-ring>
Srini: Hello Mr. George; I'm coming, sir!
George: Thank you.  <hangs up>

Alternative typical Srini lines include "Yes Mr. George, I'm on my way, I'll be right there, sir!" and "I'm right here, sir."
I just never need to ask him to do anything; I barely get the chance to say "Thank you" before the conversation is over.)

Anyway, so this time I call Srini and when he answers he says "Yes Mr.George, I'm coming...please just give the phone to Mr. Roy."  I do that, and Roy and Srini attempt to negotiate where Srini will pick us up.  It's difficult because the road is so busy, and when Roy hangs up the phone it's not clear to me that we've figured out how to get picked up.  So Kiran gives Srini a call and tells Srini a different place to get us.  I then ask both Roy and Kiran what Srini recommended; neither of them knew.  So I called Srini back and he said "Hello Mr. George, please stay right there."  I look around, and Srini is about 5 meters away from us, walking right toward us.  The guy appeared out of nowhere, I tell you, and Kiran would agree with me.  We had no idea where he came from, but he knew exactly where to find us.  He led us to the car, which was parked about 5 minutes away.  It's as if the guy had a personal transporter device or something.  That's great service, that's for damned sure.


I resisted the deep temptation to buy about thirty books, and we visited a new mall called the Forum.  For Americans, you'll feel right at home.  It's like Valley Fair or Bellevue Square or a slimmed down Beverly Center, that kind of thing.  It's got a cineplex coming in soon.  It's got all the kinds of shops you'd expect in a modern mall.  We went into a shop called Landmark to look at books and music.  I spent the equivalent of about twelve bucks and got four Indian pop music CD's.  (American popular music could be had for about the same price)  I'm pretty sure all of the CDs were legal, but there's no way I was about to ask.

After that, we tried to go bowling at a place called Amoeba but the wait was well over an hour.  We stood around a bit, listening to the house music and watching the Asia Cup final cricket match (doesn't everybody watch cricket while listening to dance music?), then went across the street to a pretty hoity-toity bar called "The 13th Floor" (guess how high it was?).  We enjoyed a drink on the outside balcony in room temperature weather and a slight breeze while getting a great night view of the city.  I definitely recommend the place.  Plus, we saw fireworks!  Maybe because it was Friendship Day.

Passing The Food Test

We finished our drinks and headed downstairs to a place called Coconut Grove.  By that time, I believe I had proved myself by eating reasonably spicy food at lunch, so we treated ourselves to food from far southern India, which was milder but still quite tasty.  I tell ya, folks: I didn't have a bad meal the whole time here.  Plenty of good food and good company was the order of the week.  So I never did reach my limit of spiciness in food.  I'm sure it gets hotter, but for everyday Indian food, I think I'm good-to-go.  Happy me.

Final Day In Bangalore

It's Monday night as I write this entry.  It's after midnight (so strictly speaking, it's Tuesday now) and I'm in the Bangalore airport awaiting my flight on Lufthansa to Frankfurt, then from there to SFO.  The flight takes off from Gate 1 (all flights leave Bangalore from Gate 1).  There's s a pretty sizable lounge with about 200 seats and the TVs are tuned to a movie channel called "Star Movies".  "Face Off" just finished; "Cyborg" (starring that epic Shakespearean actor Jean-Claude Van Dam) is now playing.  The crowd here is pretty docile, reading books in English and German, typing on computers, or watching the TV movie.  I enjoyed a coffee and brownie at the lounge's "Cafe Coffee Day" (the Indian version of Starbucks) and am leisurely awaiting my flight to board.  It's about 21 hours of flying time plus a 2 1/2 hour layover in Frankfurt for those of you scoring at home.

I was sad to leave the MDE-India gang today.  We went to a cool place for lunch that served a buffet and had Indian kitsch on the walls.  As with many places I've seen, the restaurant was covered but had open-air walls, allowing a nice breeze to come into the place.  The food, of course, was tasty, and the company as usual was fun.  Plus, Prashant Srinivasan from MDE-US arrived at work today (Mehdi, you can rest easy; he really did show up for work) so we did a sort of changing of the guard: he'll be sitting in the cubicle that I was occupying, and he'll use the mobile phone I was renting.

This is a good group of people.  They clearly are motivated to do some serious good.  I'm going to enjoy working with them, especially after having spent a week with them in person.  And I've said this before but it's worth re-stating: we need to be careful not to think of Sun India as an outsourced unit; the MDE-India folks want primary contact with our partners, they want to build relationships with our partners at their Bangalore engineering sites, and I think we should do all we can to make that happen as soon as possible.  The competition is already geared up and doing it; we need to be in there, giving love to our partners in Bangalore and winning their hearts, minds, and development environments.  Anything we can do to develop geo-local relationships, we should support.  That's my take, anyway.

And The Moment You've All Been Waiting For...

And for those of you who like to put faces to names, here's a photo of Srini (click it for a larger image).  The photo doesn't catch the charisma of his smile, or his ebullient spirit.  I'll miss him.

Srinivas Reddy, chauffeur extraordinaire

Letting the MDE-India folks create and own relationships with SUNW partners who are also in BLore make's total sense to me. You cannot outsure just coding, you have to outsource ownership, responsibility, and accountability as well. Treat them like children, and you'll get terrible results. Treat them like peers and partners and watch them blossom. Doing this comes with the feeling like your own employment is at risk - but isn't that the reality anyway? Embrace the global economic change - equilbrium in programmer rates will not return for another 20 years. Longer than anyone reading this in the US will be a programmer anyway...

Posted by Stergios on August 04, 2004 at 08:42 AM PDT #

Stumbled on your blog. And found your views on Bangalore rather interesting. Sometimes its hard to figure out what the "outsiders" have to say about us.( It follows that I am from Bangalore).And I agree that giving ownership is best mode to work with folks out here. Hope you enjoyed your visit

Posted by AD on September 15, 2004 at 11:48 PM PDT #

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