Chennai Journal
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Homeward Bound
This will be my last post for a while until I return from home leave in July. I'm very excited about the trip. It has been over a year since I have been back, and am looking forward to seeing family and friends as well as driving on the right side of the road again (: (:. Not to mention just driving, period.

If there is time, I will post while on home leave, to give impressions of how the U.S. has changed. We plan spend one week in Detroit, and then the remainder of the time in our vacation/retirement home in Keene, New Hampshire. There is also the wedding of the son of family friends, not to mention Marty's 60th birthday on 3 July---so lots of celebrations, too. And I have a couple of days of at the office in there, to catch up on some things (and to be sure I'm not forgotten!)

After returning to India it will be a busy month of travel, with a trip to North India (Delhi and Agra) on business, and then Marty will be coming back in August.

In the meantime, I've added some links of some other Indian/expat blogs of note. Desipundit is a compendium of entries from lots of blogs ("desi" is a Hindi word equivalent to the Yiddish "landsman"--from my country or homeland) that has sometimes picked up posts of mine, and the other two are by people who have also linked my blog to theirs. Now if only I could figure out how to get Blogger to right justify, so the titles of my posts don't get increasingly separated from the body.....

Sunday, June 11, 2006
Finding a Partner
I don't pretend to understand all the ins and outs of finding a marriage partner here, and within the country the practices and customs vary widely---weddings in Tamil Nadu, for example, are usually very early in the morning whereas in North India they would be in the evening---so that even those who come here from other parts of the country have to learn new ways.

But every Sunday I find myself drawn to the matrimonial ads in the Hindu, which never fail to be a source of learning, and sometimes, of bemusement as well. Here's a typical one from today's paper:

"Vadamal Srivatsa Vishakam alliance invited for boy (27 yrs) B.Com, CA employed in a Finance BPO drawing Rs. 15000 pm and pursuing CA final, seeking a good looking girl pursuing any post graduate course in Science age between 23 to 25."

Translation? This is Brahmin family whose son is working on his chartered accountant qualification (roughly equivalent to a CPA in the U.S.) and is employed in a business process outsourcing concern making about $350 per month. This family has probably consulted their astrologist who has pinpointed the most eligible match to be a girl interested in science. (Vishakam is one of the positions of the moon as it passes through the sky---similar to the zodiac, but more detailed because of the numerous phases of the moon.)


Hindu MBBS, 30/154 Good looking Wheatish from well educated family. Seeks good looking Doctor (MD/MS) or Engineer. Caste no bar. Send bio data, photo, horoscope.

This is for a 30 year old woman, 154 centimeters tall (weight is usually not included, but sometimes there are descriptions like "slim" or "lean" ), with a fair complexion. (Fair skin is an advertising point for many, and there are lots of skin care products on the market promoting "fairness." ).

For girls, it is common to find ads placed by brothers and/or parents. And for those who are educated or working abroad and who come back to India to find a bride or groom, the parents often take matters into their own hands and advertise proudly that their son (or sometimes daughter) is working for a well known MNC and has a green card (or more commonly, an H1-B or employment visa). When responses are received, astrologers are consulted and those with the best qualifications and horoscopes are contacted. Both families, as well as the potential bride and groom, will help decide if there will be a marriage. One of my employees who went through this process came in excited to announce that she and her would - be (as fiances are called) astrologically matched on 8 of 9 different factors, which is considered very good indeed. (The number of factors may vary depending on beliefs.).

But my favorite ad from today was this one:

Vanniya Chettiyar 27, B.A.C.S., Well settled Business man having own company good looking, seeks homely looking girl.

Here the meaning of "homely" is closer to the Yiddish, "haimish" , or "warm and comfortable". Do hope this guy--and the others listed above--find their beshert (soulmate) soon!

Sunday, June 04, 2006
Getting Around

There are so many ways of getting around in India, in contrast to the U.S. where we are pretty much limited to cars and airplanes, with trains, subways, and buses limited to the major metro areas. Here, count the ways:

1. walking
2. bicycle --the supervisor of my apartment complex comes this way!
3. motorbike---may be a family outing!

4. Manual rickshaw--you still see these in Kolkata (Calcutta) but I haven't been there yet...
5. Autorickshaw---how many people can you stuff in one? (Í've seen up to nine in an ordinary sized one) ---the yellow and black vehicle next to the green bus in the right hand picture
6. Mini-bus

7. Ambassador taxi---I took one from Bangalore to Kabini in style! (white old looking vehicle in the lower right hand photo)
8. City bus

9. Train
10. Truck
11. Car--not many have one of these but we're certainly working on it!

Please do note the Ford Ikon in the top picture--there are over 1 lakh (100,000) of these on Indian roads and they really are workhorses! They can wade through anything...

Buses are very basic for most people and an important way to get around. In Chennai, the buses are pretty pathetic and look as if they have seen better days (picture on bottom right). In some of the other cities we have been, the buses are in much better shape. The main aspiration is, you want to be able to move up to a 2 - wheeler, which might be a scooter or something bigger, but gives you independence. Bajaj and Honda are the key players in this space. You can get a motorbike (scooter) for under $1000 USD here.

My favorite, though, is the auto-rickshaw, which Marty and I first took in Ooty. Marty became quite a veteran of these in Chennai when our Endeavour wasn't available. Found throughout Asia, and known in Thailand as "tuk-tuks" , the auto is really just a glorified motorcyle. The whole deal is --- you negotiate the fare upfront, because none of the meters seem to work! A trip to one of the major hotels here runs about $1. I would love to import one back to the U.S. but with no seatbelts etc. I think I have a fat chance.....

Most of our workers take a company- run bus to work. This is common, and you see buses from most of the Indian majors---Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services, Cognizant etc. plying the roads. Then, from wherever the drop point is, people get an auto or walk.

As for cars, the market is just booming. The so-called B or mid-sized segment is rapidly growing. Diesels are very big here due to the cost of fuel. Although the small car market is the largest, many are looking to trade up to a larger car where they can take the whole family.

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