October 31, 2007


Shopping in India is a very interesting experience. Unless you are in a big mall or a chain store, you are EXPECTED to haggle. Pricing of any product factors in this haggling that all buyers do. So really, there is no face value to anything. Always a hidden cost.

The Seasoned Haggler
This is the one that all sellers beware of. They can sense them from a mile away. They know that on this particular sale, they are not going to make much of a profit. The buy/sell process goes something like this. (Comments in italics are my thoughts as I see this happen).
Buyer: How much?
Seller: 100 rupees.
Buyer: I'll give you nothing more than 20. (HUH!!)
Seller: No way, that doesn't even cover my cost.
Buyer: Yeah, I know how much this costs. These are made in my hometown. (Then why don't you buy them there??) Nothing more than 25, thats my final offer.
Seller: (Sensing no possibility and wanting to end conversation to proceed to next unsuspecting customer agrees) OK, thirty. But I am really making a zero profit on this. (Lies, of course)

The one that thinks he/she is a seasoned haggler
This kind is even more interesting. This sort of thing tends to happen more when people are out in groups and one thinks they can get a good deal for another. I've come across an incident where the buyer ended up paying more than the seller asked for simply due to linguistic issues. They were trying to bargain in a language they were not so familiar with. Numbers are especially hard to remember! And in Hindi, a couple of numbers sound so similar but one is 25 and the other 50. Needless to say, the seller made out on that sale.

The Sitting Duck
This is the kind that I classify myself under. Very bad at haggling, usually pays whatever is asked, might ask for 20 rupees less at best! This kind also, the seller can sense from miles away and will do anything possible to get that customer. I had an interesting experience a long time ago. I was in Chinatown in New York City. There was a street store selling bracelets, very ordinary but it caught my fancy. The guy told me they were 5 for $10. I didn't think they were worth it but wanted it anyway. So with great difficulty I forced myself to ask for half the price. Surprisingly the guy readily agreed and I was quite pleased with my bargaining skills! A few yards down the street, there were many more stores selling the same thing and one of the guys asked me how much I had paid for them ( I liked them so much that I wore them on my hands immediately) and I said a dollar apiece. He actually laughed out loud and said that they sell them for 25 cents a piece! I was so angry, annoyed and most of all terribly embarassed and quickly walked away from there.

I'd like to believe that I've gotten a little better at it now. Especially over the last couple of months since I've had to deal with sellers of various products for our home. There is a thirll that you get when you've got a reduced rate for something. But wouldn't it be easier if people just sold it at the right price in the first place?

Easier for sure, but not as much fun say the seasoned ones.

October 27, 2007

Zoomed in, crawled out

The flyover at Panjagutta circle (yes, the one that broke, fell and injured many people) is operational. I didn't realize that it was open actually. We were going that side and I suddenly realized that we were on top of it. Bit of a weird feeling....bit scary too. In any event, the ride over it was smooth. Newly laid roads, lane markings all clear, very unusual as the ride was not bumpy like always. It's definitely helped relieve traffic going toward the airport (Begumpet). The join at the end of the flyover, however, is a nightmare. So many lanes merging into one and complete chaos all around. Still, we must have saved a good 10 minutes or more on the way up.

That made the ride back seem all the more terrible. The other side of the flyover isn't operational yet. That side has a couple of big malls and the weekend crowds were already there by the time we got back. We just crawled all the way back. Very irritating. Wonder how long it will take for the flyover to be completed.

Although traffic will ease out a bit, there is so much lacking as regards road planning, traffic regulating etc here in Hyderabad (and most other cities in India). It seems silly that there are billions of dollars invested in the city but there is hardly any invested in developing the infrastructure. One 15-minute downpour is enough to flood the main roads leading up to Hi-Tech City, completely erode the tar coating on top and make it seem like a dirt track. People say its the current government that is responsible but everyone only passes the buck when it comes to this issue. Will someone take ownership and fix this? I hope I get to see it in my lifetime.

October 23, 2007

I 'ate fresh' today!

I never ever thought that I would crave a Subway sandwich in my life, ever! Not after all the subs I've eaten while in the States due to lack of any other decent veggie fast food. But oh, how things change! It's been 2 years since I moved back, never tried the subs here and finally, this evening, i just had to get one! Au contraire to what most people had told me, the sandwich was actually very good. The bread and veggies were fresh, the sandwich artist did a good job and overall, everything was fine. The only missing thing was the Doritos (Nachos cheesier (YUM!)) to add to the meal.

What is it that makes a plain old sandwich taste so much better outside in a shop? It's just bread, veggies, cheese and maybe some fancy sauce you throw on there. Why doesn't it taste half as good when you make it yourself at home?

October 22, 2007


It's funny how the mind associates things. You listen to something and it takes you back many years...to a time and place when things were different, you were different.

I woke up this past weekend, it was a really still morning. After ages, I heard the sound of an engine pulling into the station. My immediate thoughts were of those mad days where I used to rush to catch the train on the way back from work (on the way up was easy, train station was in front of home). "Noroton Heights, Darien, Rowayton, South Norwalk, East Norwalk, Westport, Greensfarms, Southport, Fairfield, Bridgeport, Stratford, Milford and New Haven - make sure you're on the right train" said the conductor as I dozed off to the best naps I have ever had.

In between the shows my daughter was watching, I flipped to some music channel and it was playing 80's dance music. As soon as I heard Funkytown, I was transported back into those fun days of non-stop shots, crazy dance moves integrating bhangra, dandia, theru koothu and more into one continuous motion; laughter - mad, giggly, silly laughter; friends - the kind that cannot be made ever again. "Gotta make a move to a town thats right for me pa pa pa pam pa pam pa pa pa pam".

Saraswathi pooja was this past weekend. Although not very religious by nature, I still do a few things to mark these occassions primarily for my daughter. As I lit the lamp in front of the deity and started to say the relevant shloka, I was taken back to a time when I was little and excited to be a part of the celebrations at my grandparents house. My grandfather used to do the pooja and have us repeat the shlokas. Such an innocent time...one never to be experienced again. "Saraswathi namasthubyam varaday kamarupini vidyarambham karishyami siddhir bhavatumay sada", he said. "Tell me the meaning, thatha". "It means that you should pray well to the Goddess Saraswathi before you begin your daily studies so that you will be successful", he said.

However much I change from my newer experiences, there are certain memories that will remain etched in my mind forever. Friends, family and fun...always for keeps.

October 18, 2007

Double, triple, why not quadruple?

Cell phone numbers in India are 10 digits long, as in the States. Difference is that the first 3 digits don't correspond to any area code. They are just numbers beginning with 9. I like the way people give out numbers in the US... --- --- ---- 3, 3, 4...10 digits. Easy to write down because you know what to expect.

Its very funny here in India. Different people have different ways of splitting them up. Like here, I do 5,5. Some do 4,4,2 or 3,2,4,1! There really is no logic to it. What annoys me is the way people say the numbers though. If you have repetitive numbers, then you have to say double or triple, if not people seem not to understand. For instance, here's a number 98000 33445. I would say nine eight zero zero zero, three three four four five. BUT NO! When its being repeated for confirmation, the person will most definitely say nine eight triple zero double three double four five! Why? Is it that much of an effort to say the numbers out individually? And the tone in which it will be repeated will suggest something to the effect of them wondering why I didn't use the double and triple in the first place. How strange! These same people though would never dare to go over triple. 98000 03333 would not be nine eight quadruple zero quadruple three! More like nine eight triple zero zero triple three three. Wonder if its because they're not familiar with the word quadruple? Or maybe it just doesn't sound right when they say it out.

Bottom line is I need to get a new number...one that has no doubles or triples.

October 8, 2007

In absentia

It's funny how one gets addicted to writing a blog (or is it writing in a blog?). The mind goes crazy with all these thoughts without having a place to express them. Especially when there are situations that are irritating, stressful, mind-boggling, just truly unbelievable and the like...all one goes through when moving houses, especially here in India. The funniest part of this move is that it was just from 302 to 301! I'm not going to elaborate on it but maybe just some highlights...

Phone line is disconnected on Friday to be reconnected 4 days later. (Disconnection and reconnection are done at the same spot by the same people).
Broadband connection still not moved thirteen days after request has been initiated. (Call center says they need to determine feasibility and also asked for a landmark to techie can come to right address). It's NEXT DOOR for God's sakes!
Duplicate key for apartment looks nothing like the original but surprisingly opens the door, after which the original stops working! (HUH??!!)

I think that's enough said. Moving is a nightmare anywhere in the world. When you add to it service providers that don't care and domestic help that's a little lacking, its enough to make you want to never ever move again. In today's world, a seemingly impossible task.

Mind off to sleep...tired from the drama of the last few days. More thoughts later.