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Day 5 – Kaladkarin Invades India

 

It was bittersweet – I was taking my time rolling in the covers that morning, as I knew it would be the last day that I’ll be hugging these ultra-soft linens. Even harder to swallow was that we were about to take our last breakfast buffet in the hotel (pun intended). How would breakfast be without the most perfect muffins I’ve ever tasted? As if by fate, a man approached me and asked how my meal was. He turned out to be the hotel chef and like a starstruck teen, I gushed about how divine every meal was. He promised to whip up something extra special if ever we came back for another visit. Of course, I couldn’t let him go without a picture. =) Continue reading Day 5 – Kaladkarin Invades India

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Day 4 – Kaladkarin Invades India

You could tell our instructor was in a hurry — we finished our class by noon. Of course, Lorena & I didn’t let him go without bombarding him with questions — and taking some pics, of course. We also took pictures of the whole class. Afterwards, we swung by the HP Main Office and we got to see Ajith’s workstation at the River block. The HP main office was divided into several blocks — Earth, River, Ocean, Time, Space. As I saw Ajith joke around with his teammates, I reminded of how light it was to be in an HP office. I mean, the work pinned you to your seat, but the crowd made it all worth it.

During the afternoon, we had a quick peek over at MG Road & Brigade Road. Shops lined the street, neons lit the place and pedestrians were everywhere, making the place resemble an Indian Hong Kong. We ended up only buying groceries & dinner instead, since the lines were so long everywhere. We retired to the hotel soon after.

Since it was our last night in the hotel, Lorena & I decided to make the most of our stay. As any tourist, we hoarded the shampoo bottles and what-nots, and asked the housekeeping guy for more of the sewing kits. He came back with six; he even brought along more stuff and insisted we keep everything! I asked him if they had a first aid kit. Some minutes later, another guy comes knocking at the door with a huge toolbox in hand. He said he came as soon as possible and asked if we were fine. They thought we had an emergency! The cut Lorena got the other day when she bumped her foot at the table turned out to be a lifesaver; our official excuse was we just needed band-aids. =p

A few moments later, Lorena & I went out to explore the facilities. I got decked in my shirt & shorts, looking forward to finally check out the gym. The first place we checked out was the hotel shop. Surprise, surprise — we always seem to gravitate towards saris, carpets, shawls! We instantly forged a friendship with the shop-owner Ali from Kashmir, who also exports textiles to Singapore and Delhi. I got to learn so much about quality & history of pashminas and carpets. Ali was such a character — just looking at person, he knew what that person fancied. He almost converted a non-shawl person like me! Ali also showed us another ‘magic carpet’, similar to the one we saw the other day. However, this one by was far STUNNING, and it was handwoven silk on silk. Silk on Silk = way expensive, but as something that qualifies as a work of art, I think it’s worth the price. By the end of the night, Lorena hauled away a treasure for her soon-to-own condo, plus 2 new gorgeous pashminas.

We checked out the business center next for a bit of emailing and Googling. It was getting late, so Lorena went ahead and got back to our room. I was in my shorts anyway, so I swung by the fitness center for a quick run. I finally retired to the room soon after, took a shower and after a lame attempt to get some packing done, called it a night.

Kaladkarin in India – Prologue

“You have less fear of strangers than most people and today brings you even farther out into the world! It’s a great day to strike up random conversations with strangers and see where they lead.” — My horoscope for the day. it wasn’t kidding.

It was Wednesday afternoon when they told me I was going to India for training. India. This coming Sunday. Eeep. My kalakadkarin-ness rose to another level. Before I knew it, Lorena and I were shuttling to and fro the HP offices & the Indian embassy, trying to pull up everything we need for the trip. Don’t even get me started on how hard it was to get to the embassy — whose brilliant idea was it anyway to put a government office right smack in the middle of Dasmarinas village, a.k.a. land of the ultra-paranoid security guards?

Somehow, everything fell into place (except maybe for my AMEX application) and we found ourselves in NAIA on Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t even sinking in yet that I was to go on my first trip outside Philippine soil. As if that wasn’t surreal enough, Jericho Rosales stepped out of the plane we were about to get on. Sweet!

We landed in the Kuala Lumpur airport for our connecting trip to Bangalore. Awesome, simply awesome. We even got on a train to get to the other side of the airport. I wish NAIA at least had a train that connected it to the rest of civilization. While waiting for the flight to board, Lorena and I spotted several people with HP backpacks – a dead giveaway for HP employees. Once we boarded the plane, we were right next to the HP backpack guys and it happened that they indeed were based in one of the HP India offices. Our new friends Sunil & Santosh gave us a lot of tips to prepare us for the city. A nifty treat was that the new India airport was just opened 2 days ago and we were all to see it for the first time.

During the trip, we also got a preview of the cuisine we were about to brace for the next few days — lamb curry & chutney were being served for dinner. I counted the hours, knowing that the next few days would bring about something even more interesting.

Day 3 – Kaladkarin Invades India

This day in one-word: trigger-happy. On the way to the office, Lorena and I already had our cameras at hand, hungry to finally get some snapshots of India. The Parliament! Click. Rickshaws! Click. Temples! Click. Cows! Click. Click. Click.

Lorena actually had to go to a meeting in the HP Main Office, so I was by myself at the training for the morning. Anirudha was still the best seatmate — he troubleshooted my configurations when the labs don’t work and he lent me the LAN port so that I could catch up with the SWAT news. Whee! It took me the whole afternoon to realize that nothing was seeping through my mind; I was too excited thinking about visiting this mall we always pass by on our way back to the hotel. Our view of India was still too microscopic (i.e. Airport + Hotel + Office), so we asked Dinesh to drive and wait for us at the mall, where we could at least peek at the normal Indian way of urban life. And surprise, surprise, left and right were saris and scarves, that we just had to have our fill. We also got to see India’s version of McDonald’s (I wish they’d serve McVeggie and wraps in Manila!). The big burgers were just for 60 bucks each! Sheesh. Lorena bought herself some shoes, while I finally bought my dad the belt he was asking for. As the hunger pangs kicked in, Lorena & I grabbed some dinner. As if tempting fate, I just HAD to grab a Zinger meal from India’s KFC. Haha, death wish.

And of course, Dinesh never failed us. He took us to this fancy-looking crafts place named Asian Arts Emporium over at Cunningham Road, saying that we should check out the sandlewood crafts there. As if we knew what sandalwood was, we got down and got greeted by more than just wood carvings. Delicate figurines, carpets, pashminas and vases lined the store’s walls from floor to ceiling. Carvings of elephants, camels and turtles looked up from the shelves. Famous Indian jewelry were showcased in a separate room. The store owners were also very eager to fill us in on the history and background about the crafts, and were very helpful to help you spot which stuff suits you. We even got treated to a ‘magic’ show, with the ‘magic box’ and of course, the ‘magic carpet’ (long amusing story). For all those going to Bangalore, you MUST check this shop out. 🙂

After yet another unplanned spree, we finally retired to our hotel. After dinner, Lorena & I decided to try on the saris we bought earlier. After one pathetic attempt after another, we must have come up with 100 ways of how to NOT wear your sari. We still had lots of fun trying to wear/wrap/pleat/tuck the gorgeous cloths. When we finally came up with something decent enough to pass off as wearable, of course, we had our mini-pictorial. Click. Click. Click.

To cap the day off, I had another pleasant surprise: I got to talk with the GWeb guys over the phone. God, I wish everyone could come over here — I’ve been sober for a week now! Haha. GWeb, enjoy the offsite!

Day 2 – Kaladkarin Invades India

Time for breakfast heaven again! After all the spicy stuff, I almost fell to my knees when I spotted some Chinese dumpling in the buffet table. God, I swear, it was the best chicken dumpling EVER. After a few minutes, we braced the traffic again to the Surya Park office. Erwin So would have fit right in with the drivers in India; the buses were the ones being bullied in the road.

At the training room, my connection was still crappy and I couldn’t get emails or access anything online. I never thought I would be one for homesickness; I must admit I miss my teammates, my sister, my niece, our dance classes, the office pantry, everything. I even stopped to watch our SWAT video just to crack a smile. :p

The pace of our lecture was actually too fast, I found myself grasping with concepts flying over my head. From what I got from my seatmate Anirudha, I realized I was in the midst of experienced developers. After our class, we chatted with one of our classmates and found out that she was a solution architect. An actual solution architect (i.e. a myth in the Manila office)! She has 11 years of industry experience — I have a lot of catching up to do.

Definitely the highlight of our day was when Dinesh, our cab driver, took us to a shop named Silk Udyog tucked away in one of the streets of S.R. Nagar (or as we fondly refer to it, the ‘sari-sari’ store). Shelves decked with colorful saris bidded us in. Woven saris. Painted saris. Saris with elaborate embroidery. Saris with shiny stones. The store-owners made us sit in front of a platform and even offered us coffeee & tea, as they laid out silks one by one in front of us. To say that they have a wide range of selection is an understatement; you just have to tell your price range, and they’ll show you the best value for your money. We saw saris from 300-5000 and there’s really one to suit each fashionista out there. To cap it all off, they were selling the saris, clothes and scarves in factory prices. I was in clothes shopping heaven!

After spending a full hour in the shop, we got back to the hotel with our loot. The shopping nirvana set us into such a high, that we didn’t mind that we had to spend the whole night catching up in the lab work for the training. After the Nth lab exercise was completed, I finally realized that my mind was just a huge lumped mess and it was time to call it a day.

Day 1 – Kaladkarin Invades India

This was it, there’s no turning back — we landed in Bangalore a few minutes after midnight. It still wasn’t sinking in; I still felt that a few minutes from now, they would eventually find out something wrong with my visa or ticket and they’ll have to send me back. But by some miracle, I got through and was allowed to roam Bangalore for the next 6 days. It was official — the Indian adventure was to begin.

Sunil & Santosh were nice enough to wait for us to find our cab going to the hotel and we exchanged cards before leaving. The right-hand drive cars were at first disorienting. The trip going out of the airport parking lot alone gave us our first taste of Indian traffic. It turned out that the new airport was VERY far away from our hotel — 33 kilometers in fact. It felt like we landed in Subic and had to go back to the metro. We finally arrived, and Sunil was right; the Windsor hotel treat us like royalty. Once we got to our room, it only took a few minutes for me to (literally) sink into the soft linens and doze off to sleep.

We woke up just a few hours later, bathed, dressed up and hurried off to the buffet breakfast downstairs. It was sheer heaven — Danish pastries, lassi, fresh fruits, omelets — it could seriously turn me into a breakfast person! Alas, we only had a few minutes for breakfast since we had to hurry off to the office, which was another 40+ km away! I now know how Alwin feels when he shuttles back and forth from Batangas and Ortigas. There was also construction going on on the main highway, so traffic was really bad. But I almost didn’t notice, as I tried to take in the sights of this totally awesome and distinct culture. The majestic Parliament building, the High Court & Cuppan Park were the first landmarks to greet these thirsty tourists. I gaped as girls in colorful and elaborate saris braved the streets in ease as if wearing jeans. I also got to see my first cow and eagle(!) in the middle of the city.

Finally, we reached the HP Surya Park Labs in Electronic City. Apparently, in the Electronic City alone, there were 3 HP offices. HP has 18,000 employees in Bangalore in total… and I thought we were packed in Manila. I felt as if I’ve left my senses somewhere else — I didn’t know how to open their doors, we couldn’t find our contact, we had to ask everyone for access, and I struggled to get my laptop’s internet to work. To cap that off, Lorena & I didn’t have any rupees with us yet, since Lorena’s AMEX card only works with selected banks, banks of which we have no idea where to find. The first hours of that day was just so damn frustrating — utter bewilderment, I tell you — that I was really beginning to miss our Ortigas office. I now felt how it was to be at the other side — I thought of all those visitors from Warsaw, China & India who flew in to our Manila office.

Fortunately, things looked up at the latter part of the day. Lorena & I finally got to spot an HDFC bank after a long walk. Ajith, one of our training classmates, was also nice enough to give us a ride to the HP Main Office after class; he also worked with the Travel Desk to arrange a cab service to shuttle us to and fro our hotel for the next 5 days. What can I say, some of God’s angels must be in HP. =) At the end of the day, when we got back to the hotel, we had leftover pizza for dinner (yeah, we played safe). The day must have been more draining than I thought — I just laid for a few minutes in bed and dozed off in my work clothes.

Prologue – Kaladkarin Invades India

“You have less fear of strangers than most people and today brings you even farther out into the world! It’s a great day to strike up random conversations with strangers and see where they lead. ” — my horoscope for the day. it wasn’t kidding.

It was Wednesday afternoon when they told me I was going to India for training. India. This coming Sunday. Eeep. My kalakadkarin-ness rose to another level. Before I knew it, Lorena and I were shuttling to and fro the HP offices & the Indian embassy, trying to pull up everything we need for the trip. Don’t even get me started on how hard it was to get to the embassy — whose brilliant idea was it anyway to put a government office right smack in the middle of Dasmarinas village, a.k.a. land of the ultra-paranoid security guards?

Somehow, everything fell into place (except maybe for my AMEX application) and we found ourselves in NAIA on Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t even sinking in yet that I was to go on my first trip outside Philippine soil. As if that wasn’t surreal enough, Jericho Rosales stepped out of the plane we were about to get on. Sweet!

We landed in the Kuala Lumpur airport for our connecting trip to Bangalore. Awesome, simply awesome. We even got on a train to get to the other side of the airport. I wish NAIA at least had a train that connected it to the rest of civilization. While waiting for the flight to board, Lorena and I spotted several people with HP backpacks – a dead giveaway for HP employees. Once we boarded the plane, we were right next to the HP backpack guys and it happened that they indeed were based in one of the HP India offices. Our new friends Sunil & Santosh gave us a lot of tips to prepare us for the city. A nifty treat was that the new India airport was just opened 2 days ago (as Sunil put it, the old airport was ‘pathetic’), and we were all seeing it for the first time.

During the trip, we also got a preview of the cuisine we were about to brace for the next few days — lamb curry & chutney were being served for dinner. I counted the hours, knowing that the next few days would bring about something even more interesting.