Jesse’s Blog

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Off To Shanghai

Finally. So it turns out my flight yesterday was cancelled without my knowledge. And I don’t mean simply cancelled at the last minute; I mean HELLA cancelled like 2 weeks ago. I found this out at the airport at 2AM, of course. TII.

So I rushed home and booked another ticket on Air India/Dragonair for the evening so I wouldn’t miss our Shanghai office grand opening party on Sunday afternoon. I promptly slept all day long, went to the gym, and then headed to the airport.

Everything was going smoothly until I got to security check and realized I had my nice black Swiss Army Knife with me. I’m not checking any bags so this was a problem; fortunately the security personnel worked with me to get the airline to check it for me, receipt slip and all. Score one for improved service at IGI Airport.

Every time I come to IGI things are getting nicer and running more smoothly. They’re even covering up a lot of the garish marble with nice faux wood flooring. Oddly, however, for the first time ever at IGI I had to ride a bus out to the tarmac to board the plane.

Speaking of which, I feel like I’m flying straight back in to the 1970′s, here. This Air India plane is VINTAGE, complete with gaudy color scheme and ash trays in the arm rests, presumably unused for decades. Will report back on the service later. Zai4 jian4!!

UPDATE: My Air India flight was late, so I missed my connecting flight. Fortunately the next flight is only 1.5 hours later. Any more set-backs and I’m going to miss our company celebration!

posted by admin at 11:05 pm  

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Shanghai has “Mo fo da money!” – but what’s wrong with India?

Hotel Near Shanghai OfficeSo… I didn’t leave. We had a bit of a network disaster on Friday and I didn’t get enough time to finish everything so I extended my stay through the weekend. I moved to a cheap hotel right across from the office which is only $23 per night instead of $145. It’s convenient, clean, and nice with free internet and breakfast. Takes two minutes to walk from the lobby to our office, and one more minute to get to the cafe in our software park. I will go so far as to say it’s badass. (I really need to learn how to say that in Chinese.)

Shanghai-153 The down side is that I’m working most of the weekend, but we’re still managing to squeeze in some good stuff! Tonight we went to Japanese and got an amazing deal: all you can eat of anything on the menu (sushi, nigiri, sashimi, tempura, soup, beef, cooked fish, chicken, noodles, rice) and all you can drink including beer and sake. Each of us for the same price as a single plate of sashimi in Delhi (about $22). Which brings me to my main point today:

What the heck is wrong with India??

Lately I have been noticing that living a cosmopolitan lifestyle in India’s capital city is increasingly ridiculously expensive. Drinks at clubs are pricier than they are in New York City. Memberships to gyms cost three times as much as gyms in the U.S. that are three times as nice. Eating out regularly sets me back more than it ever did in the States.

It doesn’t end with daily cost-of-living, either. Our office space in Noida is as much as our office space in San Diego. My taxes in India are higher than my taxes in the U.S. My apartment is 1/2 the price of my Westwood apartment in Los Angeles and 1/3 the price of my beach-front apartment in San Diego. In fact, if I had to pay for my own rent, utilities and vehicle, I’d be living paycheck-to-paycheck right now. The kicker? My salary is the same as it was when I first moved to Los Angeles.

My question above was rhetorical. I know what’s wrong with Delhi, and what’s wrong with India. It’s fucked up. The rich are exclusive, and they want to stay that way. They got rich by exploiting their own countrymen, and they’ll stay rich by fighting to keep them down. Here’s an IM convo I just had with my friend:

(12:50:46 AM) Jesse: something is wrong with India
(12:51:42 AM) Laura: there is alot wrong with india!
(12:52:56 AM) Laura: what exactly are you talking about?
(12:53:39 AM) Jesse: cost of living
(12:53:53 AM) Jesse: general social welfare
(12:54:29 AM) Jesse: classism and racism making things generally shitty.
(12:56:12 AM) Jesse: for the majority, while keeping the rich and the luxurious lifestyle (I’m sorry middle class lifestyle anywhere else in the world) out of reach of the common man in India.
(12:56:47 AM) Jesse: I just realized that if I had to pay for my own rent, utilities and vehicle, I’d be broke or living paycheck to paycheck at best
(12:57:57 AM) Laura: yeah i know but china is far more advanced than india…india is developing at a far slower pace…in a few decades though india could be more like china..
(12:58:15 AM) Jesse: china is one thing but I’m comparing directly to the U.S.
(12:58:45 AM) Jesse: My salary right now is about what I was making when I first moved to San Diego.
(1:02:20 AM) Laura: you are right but it is only the rich people in india that can afford eating out and drinking….if you look at the places we eat and drink in in india …they are all in 5 stars hotels…no bar I go to in ireland is equivalent… they only cater for the super rich …so charge super high prices
(1:02:44 AM) Jesse: yep, supply and demand I guess…
(1:04:08 AM) Laura: exactly..there is such a small portion of india that can afford alcohal…they have to charge those prices…if you look at the price of everyday stuff like fruit and veg , water etc. it’s far cheaper than home
(1:04:29 AM) Jesse: they don’t have to charge those prices though
(1:04:34 AM) Jesse: In fact
(1:04:42 AM) Jesse: did you know that 5 stars get alcohol tax-free
(1:04:50 AM) Jesse: it is CHEAPER for them to buy alcohol
(1:04:56 AM) Jesse: than the average establishment in India
(1:05:12 AM) Jesse: they are taking advantage of the few people who are really rich and charging ridiculous prices.
(1:05:43 AM) Laura: I know they don’t but they can so will….it makes it more exclusive …
(1:06:07 AM) Laura: the rich can well afford it and prob makes them feel wealthier
(1:06:19 AM) Jesse: which is fucked up.
(1:06:35 AM) Jesse: Do you know I saw a Lamborghini Murcielago outside of The Park hotel the other night?
(1:06:39 AM) Jesse: FUCKING. RIDICULOUS.
(1:07:07 AM) Jesse: all the problems that country has, and people are wasting money paying 3 times the normal cost for a 1/4 million dollar car.
(1:08:30 AM) Laura: I know…but it’s like a status symbol to them…do you ever see the cars that pull up outside agni ..they are all mercs and bmw’s …hanging out there and buying drinks is like telling everyone hey look at me i’m rich and if you manage to be rich in india …it’s a big thing …if it was ireland or Us it wouldn’t be as big a deal
(1:08:49 AM) Jesse: yeah but look how they got rich
(1:08:57 AM) Jesse: exploiting their own people
(1:09:03 AM) Jesse: It’s borderline slavery
(1:09:14 AM) Jesse: Mumbai is the largest slum in Asia
(1:09:16 AM) Jesse: ASIA
(1:09:22 AM) Jesse: not India
(1:10:24 AM) Laura: I know…I am not justifying it…in fact I can’t stand it…I dated a mega wealthy indian guy for like 2 weeks and couldn’t deal with all the cars, servants, expensive dinners etc……
(1:11:30 AM) Laura: I think I am the only person to dump a guy because he is too rich…and has an attitude
(1:12:05 AM) Jesse: lol
(1:13:52 AM) Jesse: Lately I am just really grumpy about India, and I’m getting really antsy about being there and I think this is why. Everything is so pompous and superficial, and nobody with money seems to care about making anything better.
(1:14:12 AM) Laura: i’d hate to grow up in india…if you are poor…you are screwed and if you are rich you have such a screwed up image of reality …you should hear their opinions….they are obssessed with money and image
(1:15:32 AM) Jesse: God forbid there are more of *them* running around. More people with money. That would be the worst thing for the rich peeps. They wouldn’t be exclusive any more! Keep the peasants from rising up from the slums to a better existence. Where is India’s Robin Hood when you need him!
(1:16:45 AM) Laura: Give me time! It’s funny you should mention robin hood! I just got accepted into nottingham uni…I am doing my masters in human rights law there in september
(1:17:58 AM) Jesse: I’d like to take that guy’s Lamborghini and use it to buy houses, livestock, extra farmland, and a few dowries for a couple villages.
(1:18:49 AM) Jesse: Badass, you can move back to India and steal from the rich and give to the poor – and defend yourself in court!
(1:20:28 AM) Laura: I know…I remember one morning I went for break fast in the taj with this guy and it cost ridiculous money for pancakes..then an hour later i was teaching my class in the slums and just felt so guilty ..they could have so much stuff for that…
(1:20:05 AM) Jesse: Do you mind if I just copy paste this convo into my blog – I don’t feel like formatting my thoughts into something more readable. It’s late. :)
(1:21:03 AM) Laura: no i don’t mind at all…as long as i get some royalties if it’s ever published!
(1:21:08 AM) Jesse: hahah
(1:21:09 AM) Jesse: deal
(1:21:24 AM) Jesse: I’ll paste this part too, so it’s published on record. ;)

Perhaps I’m just a bit biased and bitter. After all, I have been a victim of racism and discrimination by the upper class during my time in India… So what do you think?

posted by Jesse at 11:36 pm  

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Indian Culture… or Racism?

It may surprise you to learn that a good friend of mine was recently fired from her job for being friends with me. Pretty crazy, right? What if I told you this is the second time this has happened since I have been in India? That’s right, folks. I’m white, and some power-players here in India don’t like me socializing with the local female population.

We rent office space from a larger company that has a minority interest in our business. Over the past year I have become friends with several people that work at this other company, because we all share community facilities and general working schedules. One of these people is a female who we’ll call “Sally”. Sally and I frequently engage in social activites outside of work with and without other people (movies, shopping, sight-seeing, food, etc). We have observed that this makes Indian males at her office extremely (and unprofessionally) jealous.

Before I go too far, let’s back up and talk about another girl we’ll call “Amy”. Amy was the executive assistant to the managing director of the other company. Let’s call him “Adolf”. Amy was one of the first people we met when we arrived in India in June of 2006. Her office was right next to ours and we often chatted online and in the hallways. One day, I invited her and her friends to go to a movie with us. All was well.

Ok, let’s move on to a “timeline” format.

  1. Adolf observes me talking to Amy and gets wind of our movie invitation by scanning MSN chat logs on her computer. Amy suddenly turns cold to us, and doesn’t even look us in the eye.
  2. Adolf has a meeting with our managing director and says I was acting inappropriately towards Amy in chat. He then goes on to explain how he doesn’t want us getting involved with Indian women because someone might mistake them for a prostitute and we could get arrested. Or worse, they could cry “rape” and we’d all be thrown in jail, including Adolf.
  3. About a month goes by, and Amy is fired or resigns (I’m not sure). She had been with the company for two years. We have never heard from her again. At this point I am not quite sure if this has anything to do with me, but I am very suspicious.
  4. Fast-forward a few months. Sally and I went to the hottest night club in Delhi with a few of her friends. The next day at work her male managers were giving her a hard time about hanging out with me. Were we being followed??
  5. Sally and I went with some other friends to a lounge in Noida. We bumped into some of her co-workers there. The next day her managers were interrogating her about why she was with me.
  6. Sally’s managers scold her for “acting inappropriately” with me in the cafeteria. By “innappropriate” they must have meant “sitting next to each other”. I have a word with the head of HR at the other company (who I am friends with). He supposedly tells her managers to cool it because they are being ridiculous.
  7. Several months go by without incident. Sally and I meet often at work and outside of work. It seems people have finally started minding their own business.
  8. I invite Sally to our office to watch a movie at the end of her 7:30 shift. We leave the studio at about 11:00pm so I can give her a ride home. Her managers immediately start calling her without letting up. She finally answers the phone and they begin interrogating her about why she is with me and why she is still at the office. They tell her to “bring her parents” to the office the following day to discuss the issue (as if she is in grade school). She refuses. They tell her not to come to work until they figure out what to do about this.
  9. The following day, her managers call her parents. OK. We are talking about a 21 year old woman. The problem is, I know Sally’s mom – and she likes me. She doesn’t understand what the big deal is. Sally’s managers are frustrated.
  10. A few days go by and Sally is waiting for word that she should return to the office. Instead, she gets a message saying she is being let go.
  11. As she arrives at the office on Friday to meet with HR, she discovers the truth: Adolf saw us leaving the office the other night and initiated the whole thing. She is being fired for hanging out with me. Yes, they actually told her this.

So, Adolf is basically a racist pig who despises white people even though his business (a call center and product testing center) thrives on western money. He has fired two of his female employees for “fratenizing” with westerners. Even so, I’m not really that upset with the situation, because we are above Adolf. His day will come.

More examples of racism

Every time I go to the pool at my apartment, I am hounded by the guards. I pay careful attention to the posted rules, but they are always making up new ones that apply only to whites.

  1. I have been asked to move to another chair because I’m not allowed to sit in a certain spot in a certain chair. There are only two types of chairs at the pool. I have been asked to move to the “other” type on two seperate occassions, for no reason.
  2. Last weekend, Albert, Lara and I went to the pool. The guard did not allow Lara (a white girl) to enter the pool because she didn’t have a swimming cap. He would not even allow her to sit on the edge of the pool with her feet in the water. He said this to her while there was an Indian woman in the pool with no swimming cap. He then walked over to his buddy and gave him a high-five, apparently for accomplishing an amazing act of racial discrimination.
  3. Just today I went down to the pool, dressed in my swimming trunks and a sleeveless shirt. The guard intercepted me at my chair as I was putting my stuff down. He told me in broken english and arm gestures that I must go into the changing room if I was going to remove my shirt. Just to remove my shirt. I’m not kidding about this. After a brief argument I complied with his ridiculous request. Not long after that, two Indian females came down to the pool and completely disrobed right on the pool deck all the way down to their bathing suits. They then proceeded to enter the pool without taking a shower (a posted rule) and without swimming caps (another posted rule). The guard said nothing.

I’m so fed up with how racist this country is starting to seem to me. It’s really unfortunate. I’ll keep posting examples like this from now on so the rest of you can experience the frustration I feel on a frequent basis. I can only hope this will change someday.

One final note: I don’t want to hear anyone complaining about racism and inequality in the United States. After traveling and living abroad I think the U.S. is one of the most accepting and culturally diverse societies in the world.

posted by Jesse at 1:12 am  

Sunday, December 10, 2006

So-called "food"

Ok. The morning cafeteria food here at the office sucks. I don’t mean sucks like, “I’d really rather have something else, because this is bland.” I mean, it’s so bad – I have to wonder if somebody is doing it on purpose. You really have to try to create food this crappy. I can tolerate the lunch and the dinner (virtually identical), but I can’t take this breakfast any more. From this day forth, I will no longer subject myself to the torture.

I don’t think I could ever stay happy here. I love food so much, and this country is just completely opposite of my tastes. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE some Indian food – once in a while. I just can’t eat it on a daily basis. That also goes for “Indianized” ethnic food, i.e. “Mexican” (hahaha – show me one Mexican in this country), “Italian” (lamb meat-sauce instead of beef!!), and “American” (lamburgers). The “Sushi” takes the cake, though. How does a tuna roll sound? No really, I mean canned tuna rolled up in some rice. I’m not kidding! And this was a 5-star hotel, mind you. The Chinese is OK.

And another thing. What’s with all the carbs? Seriously. More than 80% of what they serve at the cafeteria is carbs. Bread this, potatoes that, and rice aplenty. It’s really hard not to get fat here. REALLY hard. I know, because it’s easy for me to get fat. And this kind of food makes me fat. Fast.

I also don’t like how the main goal when cooking meat is to make it taste completely unlike the meat it really is. In fact, half the time you can’t even tell the difference between chicken and lamb save for the texture of the meat. What’s the point? We were really relieved and amazed when we found a place that served a huge leg of lamb, dry (no curry), that tasted quite like a southern smoked piece of meat when consumed with good ole’ American style BBQ sauce.

Before you get all up in arms and tell me I can cook my own food and eat what I want, here’s why I can’t: I’m too busy (I spend about 15 minutes a day or less eating), and I suck at cooking. Usually I have to grab something on the “go” or just eat at the cafe. Cooking my food would be counter-productive, so I don’t even consider it as an option.

I can’t wait to eat some steak and some prime rib. And some good Mexican good. And some real Sushi. Only a few more weeks…

posted by Jesse at 6:02 pm  

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