Wednesday, January 27, 2010


For someone like outside India and getting to visit family once in a year or two can completely appreciate the family factor in life. Its not so much when you go back on your own or with hubi, its awesome when you take the little one. The amount of love and attention they get is amazing that I sometimes feel guilty that she doesn’t get it all year. Here are some of the examples of the things that my girl experienced that overwhelming for me.

Birthday party – Like any 3 year old, baby’s favourite topic is her birthday. How she dresses up, cuts cake and everyone sings is all she talks about. Invariably her birthday is either today, yesterday or next week (the 3 time zones that exists in her world).
This time I was in the car with big bro, nephew and baby. Baby kept talking about her birthday. Bro dropped me home and took her for a drive. Guess what they came back with this massive black forest cake and candles. We all ( big bro, nephews, small bro, sisters in law, nieces, mom and dad ) gathered around the cake, lit the candle, sang the birthday song and baby got so excited. She cut the cake, took a huge piece in a plate and walked away saying “thank you friends”. We couldn’t help laughing.

Princess – Big bro did his part, now it was time for Bro number 2. So baby goes to bro 2 and said “ I am wearing a new dress” and he said “ wow you look like a princess”. That is it, each time he called her by her name she would say I am the princess. And guess what he called her princess through out our 4 week holiday

Story – This time at in-laws place. Baby wanted stories. So mother in law took her outside to the front yard. She has a bag kept in the shoe rack, filled with pebbles picked up ( and washed and sanitised…she is a doctor you see). Brought a small pot and water to demonstrate the ‘Thirsty Crow’ story. Baby’s favourite word is ‘Again!’ so she repeated the story like 5 times without even a small hesitation. Grand parents are awesome indeed.

Shopping – So here we are in yet another shoe shop and trying on shoes. Bubby wearing a red dress walks upto the kids section and picks up a red shoe. Big bro was with me, he was like helping her try few different shoes, telling me he was just entertaining her while I was choosing. But when I finished mine ( I had 2 formal black shoes in the shop and I took one of them), she was already wearing her new red shoes and packed her old shoes in a box. Her tiny little shoes were almost the same price as my shoes !!!!

Cake – So bubby this time has a craving for cakes. All she had to do was to say it out loud enough for someone to hear it. Small bro heard it and I was like she will get over it, don’t bother. But he insisted on taking her out, so I let him. He drove her to the shop and asked her to pick what she wanted and guess what she picked 1 of everything on display. So bro got like 10 pieces packed up and then she is like I need one to eat now. So he got her one in a plate so she can eat in the car. When they came back home an hour later, bro was all smiling. Wait a minute….this is not how the scene closes, I was expecting my bro to come back stressed…. then he explained to me..apparantely bubby kept saying “ thank you mama” in her baby voice through out their 15 minutes drive. He was like she is sooo cute. RIGHT !!! thinking..there is no way I can live up to this expectation.

Anyway there are heaps of examples of grandpa reading her the same story over and over again.
Brother in law taking her for a drive everyday to show her doggies ( that’s what she calls the street dogs in Chennai)
Entire family standing around and watch her dance, listening to all her babbling, watching her sleep peacefully etc.
When I left I definitely thought when you are growing up, there is nothing like grand parents, uncles, aunties and cousins. Our kids need them more than us.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Incredible India

After 4 weeks of holiday – visiting family and friends, here is my update.
I have so much to write and share. Here is my first cut, things that have changed..significantly in the last 2 years. Things that i thought was unique just to India..esp Chennai !!!!!!

Resource Allocation:
When I worked as a HR consultant, involved in restructure daddy would always say India is a country with a huge population. Automation may increase the efficiency in production but for a country like ours, It is important to provide jobs for every one and feed families. I saw this everywhere.
Example: Supermarket. You have someone responsible for each aisle -usually a young girl lets say chick 1. If she spots you standing in a place and thinking or searching, she comes to your rescue. I try to walk continuously to avoid the encounter (nothing wrong with them, but I find it extremely hard if I ask them to find something for me and then I decide not to buy it)
There is a cashier/checkout chick to bill, let’s call her chick 2. There is chick 3 standing next to the counter to take the things out of the basket and give to chick 2, as it can be a challenging task for me to clear my own basket. There is dude standing on the other side of counter to put the items into a plastic bag. This dude needs to be smart enough to put frozen items together and make sure food and laundry does not mix in the bag. Then there big dude 2 standing near the door to open and close for you!!!!

Customer Service / Shoes:
Obviously I visited more shoe shops than relatives in this trip too..hehe. I am always uncomfortable when someone tries to help me wear a shoe. There is always a Hindi speaking dude who will provide feedback on what colour would suit you, bring the right size, make you sit down and help you wear it. I run away from them so I can try them myself. After deciding what you want to buy, dude carries the shoe to the counter for you. Then while the cashier handles the bill/payment, the dude would chuck the shoes into this really thick plastic bag.
When I said I did not want a plastic bag, dude gave me the vadivelu – appadiye shock aagiten look “ How on earth can you carry shoes in the shoe box” , insisted I should take a carry bag. I had to explain to him, I am trying to avoid plastic he offered to bring the shoe box to the car. I said my car is right in front of the shop and I can carry it myself, he then ran inside and came back with a cardboard carry bag reserved for expensive men’s shoes. ' Un kadamai unarchiku oru alave illaiya'

Affection :
Indian folks are very loving people. Anywhere I took baby, she was showered with love. Not by just family and friends but by strangers. There were atleast 2 random customer service guys/gals who would pat her and speak to her in super markets. We got extra toys in McDonalds ( hehe we did get happy meals in Chennai). Cotton World was even better, twice I went there. Once they gave her a balloon and played with her until I had finished shopping. Second time she recognised them and asked for balloon and they gave her lollies instead. Again entertained her until i finished my shopping. Where else would you see this !!!

McDonalds :
On a beautiful long drive in the new tollway, I told hubi this is just like driving in Melbourne. All we are missing is Mc and that’s when bubby started.the next 20 minutes drive all we heard was “lets go to McD..grrr. So I took her to Mc. It is interesting to see they have ‘Aloo Tikki Burgers’, ‘Panneer Wraps’etc. No beef and very indianised menu. It was awesome. I ordered for the kids meal for like 100 bucks, all you get is McChicken burger and a soft drink. No fries and no other option with drinks. If you want water you pay extra. Apparently all kids drink coke from the massive cup with ice. The only option I had was hot chocolate, which you can imagine was super hot. Obviously when I ordered for the hot chocolate I got the next ‘appadiye shock aagiten’ look again. Btw there is a chick to take the order and key in, and dude peeping over her shoulders and serve you. Whats more interesting is, you can order and take a seat. Someone walks to your table to serve you. You are not expected to clear your table after you eat. There are 2 ladies standing in the middle of the small room staring at every table with “are you done yet” look ( made me very uncomfortable). The second you get up, they clean after you. Just when you think there are enough people in the room, there is a supervisor standing there and watching everyone. If the ladies delay the table cleaning by 2 seconds, he comes to rescue and give them the required instruction. The serviettes’ are just serv…….1/4 the normal size and they give u 1 for every meal.

Catering to needs:
I was winging about how expensive everything was. A pack of 10 nappies was 300 rupees, cone ice cream – 25 rupees, 2 litre coke – 54 rupees etc, Bhel poori – 85 rupees. Everyone at home were cool about it and I wondered how a middle class family could cope with this cost of living, until I visited the beach and the snake park. The entry fee to the snake park is 1 rupee. Everyone who came there had bought food from home. So they just sat in the park and ate. Beach, offcourse has free entry and the snacks are 10 rupees. Chennai does cater to the needs of all the people.

Living in Anna nagar, I visited all the awesome artefacts shops around the area. They all had sooper cool names, locations and sales people. Then I heard daddy and in laws mention poombuhar. I wondered where it was and what would be available there and how modern it would be…until I visited the awesmoest place ever.
They are located in the mount road, next to Higginbotham’s. 2 floors of nothing but artefacts. They had everything from brass to wood. Tanjore painting, glass painting, canvas painting, framed, rolled, dresses, terracotta…ok there is everything you can name, including items I bought in anna nagar without the markup by the English speaking sales 'bhaiya'. I spent 2 hours there and the staffs were friendly as well. Chennai rocks..

My only concern is that customer service has a different meaning, although i agree customer is the king, the customers do really walk around like they are the king/queen, scream out when the 'service' is not up to their expectation !!! i never heard a thank you to the chicks in supermarket, the door man, none..what so ever.