Thursday, June 17, 2010


I’m surrounded by mustaches! Many manly mustachioed men merrily march… morosely? Madly? Can’t think how to continue the alliteration…

Anyway, seems as though half or more of all men capable of growing a mustaches (read: nearly the entire male population above the age of 16-18 or so) sport them. Good old fashioned handlebars in their full lip-caterpillar glory seem to be the preferred facial hair to sport. I’m definitely joining in with my own pencil ‘stache as soon as I can. Two of my younger cousins already proudly boast ones of their own- I can’t be shown up by them!

It’s probably not significant, but there’s even a line of clothing named “Mustache.” Unfortunately, their marketing folks missed a golden opportunity to have the most epic logo ever—a pair of golden swooping arcs (bit like an inverted McDonald’s logo) would have been great.

Incidentally, I went and got a combination hair cut/shave (with a straight razor! Best shave I’ve ever had, although I definitely was scared the guy might cut my throat accidentally or otherwise… shouldn’t have seen Sweeny Todd so recently)/massage (the barber/masseur decided to crack my neck without telling me at one point) for 35 Rupees- less than $1 US (Exchange rate tends to be something like Rs. 40-50 per $1 US)! TII, my friends- the cost of services, such as domestic help or hair cutting, is literally orders of magnitude lower than in the States. ^_^


The sun rises far too early for my liking here—around 4-5AM! It sets early too by my standards at around 7PM. Ah well… it’s probably due to India not having Daylight Savings Time, in addition to it simply being too big for the 1 time zone that encompasses all of it. Funnily enough, the time zone maps are nearly horizontal at the India-Nepal border because Nepal wanted to have its own time zone.

This slightly skewed schedule, along with the ~10 hour time zone difference from the US is what let India’s IT/Telecom sector prosper so much recently. Just as American workers are leaving the office at 5PM US Time, Indian workers are coming into the office to continue projects and maintain services while their American counterparts sleep. In theory, anyway…

My cousins who work in the IT sector (seems like pretty much everybody about to go into college earlier this decade was studying computer science or information systems or something of the sort—4 of my cousins work in the industry, along with the 2 spouses that exist so far and 2 of the spouses’ siblings in that age group!) say it’s a pretty grueling lifestyle, but at the time was one of the best areas to go into for jobs at the time. Apparently, the IT sector already has peaked; now people are starting to shun it studying it for electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering and communications technology. I wouldn’t start short selling the IT firms anytime soon, but it might be a good idea to diversify your Indian Foreign Investment, folks.

Weather Woes

Two words sum up West Bengal weather at the moment: hot and humid. Chalk it up to being smack-dab in the middle of the tropics.

Temperature reaches into the mid forties degrees Celcius (90-100+ degrees Farenheit) and stay there like unpleasant houseguests you just can’t get rid off. What makes things truly stifling is the alarmingly high humidity, which routinely creeps above 50%. Unfortunately, aside from rare cases, air conditioning is non-existent. You simply cope with a combination of ceiling and hand fans and not venturing out during peak heat hours (around 2PM). In fact, the majority of people take a midday siesta around lunch time at that time, with businesses closing down until about 5PM. To compensate, people tend to keep their shops open rather late to about 9PM and sometimes afterwards, when they eat an exceptionally late dinner by American standards. I’m rather fond of this schedule, as it gives plenty of opportunities for napping. TII, my friends. Perhaps I should simply go nocturnal…


Have any of you ever seen the movie “Blood Diamond?” It’s rather good.

At one point of the movie, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character brings up the letters “TIA” – standing for “This is Africa”—as a catch-all term for all of the things wrong with the continent and how it differs from its more “civilized” neighbors to the north.

I’m going to use “T.I.I” for “This is India” and use it in a more general way. Not just negatively, but also positively for things that I prefer over here in India. With any luck, I’ll be using TII fondly far more often than not.


The local language in West Bengal is Bengali, and it comes in a gazillion different dialects and forms across the Indian province of West Bengal and the neighboring Bangladesh. It’s perfectly possible for people to grow up within 25 miles of each other and have a slightly hard time understanding each other. As a result, I only blend into the crowd as long as I keep my mouth shut (unfortunately, something that I’ve definitely had problems with in the past ^_^). You’ll find somebody almost everywhere who speaks English (though sometimes for a given value of English), so don’t let not knowing an Indian language stop you from visiting!

I should mention that India has something like 20 officially recognized languages and 900 local dialects—the only places on the planet that can compete in terms of diversity are Africa, parts of South America, and Oceania. Not to worry—English should get you by the majority of India, and with some supplemental Hindi you shouldn’t run into any insurmountable obstacles.

While I’m on the subject, I seriously need to do some studying. At my nebulous grasp of somewhere between 1 and 3 languages, I’m the dumbest of my relatives! Seriously- not a single cousin speaks fewer than 4 languages well enough to get by, and one uncle knows no fewer than 8! At 5 languages each, my parents are in the middle of the pack, despite how well educated they both are.

Agia! (“I arrived!”)

For future reference: This blog’s update rate will be sporadic, paralleling my internet access.

Well, I’m here in West Bengal—right at the Eastern corner of India, where Calcutta/Kolkata (where Mother Teresa had her base of operations) is located. Minor delays in Germany due to that unpronounceable Icelandic volcano acting up again, but no real issues—well, aside from a scary mustachioed AK47-toting security guard temporarily stopping me at the Delhi airport and demanding to see the stamped tags on my luggage certifying I had nothing suspicious in my baggage. These khaki sporting policemen armed with rather heavy weaponry for a civilian force seem to be the norm in India, and run the gamut from benevolent protectors to corrupt “baksheesh” seekers (“Gift” in Farsi, now having spread to Hindi, meaning tip/bribe). Thankfully, they tend towards the former. India has an issue with violent Maoist revolutionaries (Naxals) periodically committing acts of terrorism—planting bombs, killing policemen. A few weeks ago, they even managed to either derail or bomb a train somewhere. Hence, policemen tend to be very heavily armed here in Central and Eastern India—not sure about the rest.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Hello World!

Set up this blog for my publicly viewable summer reports, for all those who wish to virtually stalk me. Follow it at your own peril!

Anyway, I will be in Mumbai, India this summer- where the wonderful movie Slumdog Millionaire was set. I plan to post translated non-personal snippets of my private journal entries here.