Saturday, October 22, 2011

I'm Chirpy....and this is a good thing

As I am filling time, trying to write my final India installment(and writing it is killing me), I thought I'd throw this little nugget out there. I AM CHIRPY! At least that is what I've been told by an observant someone.

The word "chirpy" conjures up visions of birds and high pitched, loud, obnoxious sounds they make. Some people may like this sound, I; however, do not particularly care for birds. They are a necessary evil, destined to poop on my vehicle right after I have spent hours detailing it.

So you can see that I have some negative connotations regarding the word "chirpy."

But not to worry my friends, "chirpy" is also a good thing. According to my observant someone, "chirpy" means lively, cheerful, bubbly. These are very good adjectives! I especially appreciate "bubbly" because I relate that to champagne. If I relate it to champagne, then I am sparkly, bubbly, and intoxicating.

And who doesn't want to be intoxicating???

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Where My History Begins: Not So Final Thoughts

I've started this post on a beautiful Saturday morning in October and I have been struggling with what to write. How do I properly end my India posts? The installments were designed to capture every memory I had made; to give everyone a glimpse of the who, what, when, and where I was experiencing. Maybe foolishly, I thought I would share and move on. It was only a business trip, right? However, it quickly it became so much more than just visiting the teams.

Since these post can be read by anyone, I've kept them as innocuous as possible. All the important details are on the journal in the photo. I stumbled across it on my last day there. If you could see the pages...hand written, sometimes tear stained and always with my heart spilled across it's beautiful pages.

Re-reading my blog posts, I laughed, I cried, and I relived every moment I had there. I hope as you have read them, you enjoyed the journey. And for you my friends, this is where the written journey ends. For me, it just might be where everything begins.

Something deep within me has changed; and I cannot go back to the person I was before I left. It is a rather frightening prospect. Change is good. But change is scary, especially when you have no idea what change might bring.

It's been obvious to everyone around me that I have changed. I walked into the office the Monday following my return and three people said I was glowing and asked if I had fallen in love. What? In love? Huh? Craziness? Even if I had, I wouldn't tell. What I will say is that Bombay was exceptionally good for me. Everyone sees an outward difference and I can feel the internal change.

Can visiting a new place really cause that much change to your persona? Was it something deeper? I've questioned that so many times since coming home. Being introspective is so difficult when you can't put your finger on a specific "thing" that happened. It was everything and some things more than others. It was everyone and someone more than others. It was everywhere and some place more than others.

What I saw of Bombay was so brief. Five and half days in the office and one weekend. And yet it made a huge impact on me. How is it that I feel so connected to a place that has previously held no interest to me?

For those who have been around me forever, they know I had always been drawn to Ireland. Fascinated by it's history, captivated by it's music, intrigued by its rich Celtic mystique. I was happy to claim my "Green" card and I firmly believed that there was some Irish in me somewhere. That would explain the deep pull I had. After all, there were Irish in India in the 1700's. Surely, some pretty Indian girl fell in love with a hunky dark headed, blue-eyed Irish lad and generations later, that love of anything Celtic resurfaced in me. Turns out there are some similarites between the Celts and Hindus.

A funny thing happened though. As I left Bombay to come home, crushed in so many ways, I briefly saw the coast of Ireland, and then it was gone. Shrouded in cloud cover so thick that I never saw the island again. A friend said it was a "sign from God" and maybe he was right. While I still love the Celtic art and the music; the lure and magic it once held is greatly diminished. It has been replaced by something closer to the core of my very existance.

Since I've been home, it feels like all roads are leading back to India. I don't know why. So I've been praying daily for discernment and to understand why I feel the way I do. I need the clarity but don't have it yet.

I have been told numerous times over the last 4 weeks, "come back soon." How do I ignore such an entreaty? I have an ever growing list of things to do when I get back there: Places to go, things to do, food to eat, lessons to learn. Adventures not yet named. Going back will not be soon enough. I want to go back to Gateway of India. I want to eat great curries. I want a perfect chai tea and chococinos from Cafe Coffee Day. I want a home cooked meal. I want to learn the about the history and cultures. I want to visit Goa, Kerala, and Benares. I want to sit in the sand and daydream. I want to dip my toes in the Arabian Sea.

So much to do, so much to see...and India is so far away from me.

While I bid Bombay and those there a fond farewell, it's only for a short time. There is no doubt that I will be going back. The question is when? If not for work, then definitely on a personal vacation.

Who would have ever thought a girl, at least four generations removed from India would visit and immediately feel at home.

Bellybuttons and Big Decisions

After many years of wanting to get it done, I think I have finally decided that I am going to get my belly button pierced. Maybe because I can finally see it..haha! I have contemplated for at least the last 5-7 years, if not more. So it's been some serious thinking.

I've been looking at various types of navel adornment and stumbled upon Tummytoys. Since I am not a blingy type of girl, I wanted something that was a little different and definitely me. Here are the three belly rings that I really like. Simple, clean, fun. A plain ring with some minimal bling. A ring with a garnet (my birthstone). A ring with a flower. All in sterling silver. Of course, these rings are for use when the darn thing has healed and I can switch out the standard surgical steel ball/post ring.

Now, the kicker to all of this is the pain. I have a friend who has had hers pierced. By all indications, it can be painful for a while. I guess I have a decent pain tolerance. I suppose that I will find out just how decent that tolerance really is.

Not sure when this magnitudinous event will take place. In the mean time, any volunteers to hold my hand?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Where My History Begins: The Great Mumbai Adventure Day 1 9/21/11

Flight just landed in Mumbai. Its some ridiculous hour in the morning and I am in friggin' India. Someone shoot me now. Loved Etihad but don't want so many connections ever again. Wait a dang minute, I am at an international airport and I have to take a bus from the tarmac to the terminal? Lovely! Let me express my joy!

Going through immigration. Yes, I am here for business purposes. What a bunch of churlish folks. Of course, its typical of some government employees. Then again, I am not Miss Happy Pants either; having been on a plane since Monday afternoon. Nice! I am cleared. Welcome to India. Whoofreakinhooo!

Now to get my luggage, hoping it has arrived. Losing luggage is one of my biggest fears. I'm standing at the carousel next to a skinny Indian guy who is wearing his jeans too tight. Poor guy is really uncomfortable and um...itchy...for lack of a better term and really needs to...oh heck just made eye contact with Karen and nearly bust out laughing. She has seen him doing his scratchy dance. Oh! There is my suitcase.

Get me outta here!

Now all the bags have to go through xray. I am directed to put mine on a belt and guess what? No one is manning the unit. Seriously!? Can I just go home now? Don't want to be here in the first place.

We are all dragging our stuff down the longest corridor every constructed. The thing goes on for days. Think I just moved into another time zone. Oh wait there is the exit. Gaaaaacccckkkk! Humidity!!! Can I go back inside? Throngs of people...oh the humanity. A jacked up looking military style vehicle is parked near the exit. We have to stop for a picture. Someone tell me how we find our ride in this mad crush. Oh, there they are. Another long walk to the car park.

And we're off. Are you kidding me??? Driving like maniacs around here. But I'm observing everything. Galvanized shacks against buildings, storefronts. It reminds me of Trinidad. People hanging out in front of little stores. Dogs wandering the streets. We finally arrive at the hotel. But wait, we have to go through vehicle security. Since we are in the Renaissance van, it was quick. We get to the hotel and head through more security. And yes, I set off the metal detector. A quick step into the "private" room so the lovely lady can verify that I have nothing on my person whichcould be dangerous. A 2 second hand wand swipe that beeps at my bra...what do the magnatometers have against my chest?? Sheesh.

To the front desk and hello! The most beautiful Indian man I have ever laid my eyes upon is smiling at me and asking how he may assist. He is...I have never...he... deep sigh...and I lose all powers of speech. Tall, probably 6'3" and G O R G E O U S!!! Thick, jet black hair, deep brown eyes, a killer smile. Here I am, feeling and looking like a frazzled, worn out traveler. I got no game! Regardless, I can't help but stare and smile and nod when he asks a question. And the accent? Deliciously toe curling in the best possible way. Would it be wrong to stand here drooling over him for a bit? He gets me signed up for Marriott Rewards so I can have free internet while I'm here and he asks if there is anything else that I need? You know, when you aren't at your mental best, the witty retorts just don't come. Even so, I don't think he could have come to my room so I could stare at him for the rest of the night. This whole India thing might be starting to shape up.

The room is amazing. I have a king size bed, which makes up for the hillside view. The picture with all the shanties, yes, folks, thats my view. Granted there is a hillside too. I snap my pictures of the hotel room and start unpacking. The shower beckons me. Oh my gosh, a large stand up, marble shower with STEAMING HOT water. I stand under the shower, letting it wash 30+ hours of travel away. Unfortunately, I start to fall asleep standing up. Before I collapse into a heap on the floor, I get out, slather on my cucumber melon lotion, throw on a t-shirt and dive into the amazing bed. Sleep. It's 6:30 in the morning and for some ridiculous reason the driver is coming to get us at 2:00??? WHY? But it doesn't matter, my alarm is set and I'm very nearly asleep.

Are you kidding me, why is someone knocking on my door at 8:30? Yikes! It is housekeeping. Heart racing, I leap out of bed and race to the door, I tell them I'm sorry, that I had just checked in and to come back later. Privacy tag goes on door. I go back to bed and as soon as my head hits the pillow, I'm gone.

UGH, even in India, my alarm is annoying. I'm sooo tired. I grab another shower and get ready to go to the office. We meet downstairs to grab what would technically be breakfast, but I don't think a burger is really breakfast fare. We wait in front of the hotel for the driver pick us up. After some confusion, he shows up. What a nice looking man.

Ok, what's the deal? I've seen more good looking men in less than 24 hours in country that I have seen at home. What the what? Not that I am here to look at men, but I'm not blind and they are so damn cute! I need to find a nice Indian guy for my very own...The eye candy factor alone has this horrid trip looking up!

We head for the office taking a route that is narrow, winding, and the traffic is unbelieveable. There are small shops along the side of the road and holy cow, there is a man peeing...look away, look away...and now there is a dog taking a eyes, my eyes! A most interesting journey to the office. And we are there!

I am an absolute bundle of nerves. I am about to walk into an office full of people that I don't know..well except for one, sort of...and it's really stressing me out. I keep telling myself not to get shy and quiet. I just have to be me. I have a plan in my head and that's to really get to know everyone and look at the processes. We enter the building and it's show time!

I am face to face with the management team. Everyone knows everyone and I'm there like the odd duck. That's not to say that I don't get introduced, but you can tell there is a working relationship that I don't have and will have to start building. Smiles, handshakes, hello's, nice to meet you, all the standard stuff. I'm really struck by someone because strangely enough I feel as though I've already met him. It is way beyond odd as I haven't met anyone before. I can't shake the feeling but I have to put it aside. Weird. Here is the conference room, get settled in. Teams will be here at 5:30.

Knees knocking. Yes, in spite of the outward portrayal of confidence, I am nervous. We go out to the floor to get introduced. Every single head turns in our direction as we walk through. Deep breaths, it's only my teams. No one bites!

Collections: Great team. Prashant, my friend...charming, quick to smile, great booming laugh, gregarious. He would be fun to hang out with. Rajeev - determined, stoic, keeps you at arms length. Asif - charming, willing to talk, eager to listen and learn. Shilpa - sweet, quiet. Farida - strong, capable. Chirag - smiles all the time, can sense he wants to do well. Lester & Samantha - both new to the process and in learning mode. It was so great to meet them all finally! There is so much potential with this team. They have a difficult job, but I firmly believe in all of them.

PI: Kalicharan - amazingly hard worker, dedicated, thoughtful, smart, knows his process. Amita -smart, eager to learn, also knows her process. Aparna - sweet, quiet. Matuilla - young, stylish. Hanoz - teddy bear :), shy. Khozema - all smiles. Small group of dedicated folks. Working hard to meet the demands that have increased.

Recon: Vijayenda - wow, reminds me of my dad when he was younger, smart, willing to take on more difficult tasks. Sneha - fiesty, sharp, knows what she's doing, willing to speak. Amit - the newbie, sweet, learning. Kiran B - quiet, hard working. Kiran P - pays attention to everything, smart, willing to engage in conversation. Wahida - super sweet. And for the life of me, I struggle to remember their names. Maybe it's the two Kiran's. I feel really bad about that.

WCT: Only two folks on this team. Roopali - sharp. Tirth - did not get to meet him :(

I look at the sea of faces and I wonder how the heck am I going to be able to sit with each of them. I want to see everything they do, to understand the process. I want to know that they are handling it in the best way possible. How do I do that with less than a week in the office? I am daunted by the tasks which lay ahead of me. I have no idea how I am going to accomplish any of it. All of this on top of tearing apart some of the processes. Anyone have a brick wall handy so I can go smack my head against it?

Maybe being here won't be as bad as I have thought. All I can hope is that if I give them my best, I'll get the same in return. Day One, 4.5 left to go and it just won't be enough. It is evident that I need to be here longer than I am. Sure doesn't mean that I want stay though.

Where My History Begins: The Office Day 2 9/22/11

Traffic on the way towards Day Two in the office. It's a quick drive from the hotel to the complex. I've been riding shotgun and I can tell you, I've squealed a number of times. Our driver, Sharad, is da bomb and just as cute as he can be. But that's beside the point. We get to the office, grab our ID badges and off to the conference room.

We talk about keeping US hours, but arriving at the office at 4:30PM is 6:00AM our time. Not to mention, I am generally up around 1:30PM (3:00AM at home) to get ready then make our way downstairs for a bite to eat. Don't care what you say, these aren't US Hours. Teams usually don't get here until 5:30, so we have an hour to download email and attempt some semblance of normalcy with our "regular" job.

I'm still tired, but have a lot to do with my teams; who I met yesterday. I don't even know where to start with this. It's my first trip and I'm a bit overwhelmed. I'm already being pulled into meetings and that's so much fun. Just trying to figure my way around here and to be honest, I'm totally scared to walk back to the floor on my own. I know it's silly but this isn't my office.

Dangit all! Stupid adapter won't stay in the wall and my laptop battery keeps dying. Connections in this place are HORRIBLE. Ok, that's a bit harsh. I'll say it's less than stellar. And if I hear one more person complain about something, I will lose my mind. Seriously, team, SUCK IT UP. We only have 3.5 days left in the office. Yes, it's cold in the conference room, wear a jacket. At least we have AC, a supply of water, and diet cokes. I'm happy and will survive without incessantly complaining.

Oh good, I can tag along with someone going to the floor. I'll have the hang of this tomorrow. Ok, it's kinda unnerving to walk through the first bullpen and have every head turn and stare. I'm sure by the time we leave, we will no longer be a novelty. Right now, I want to smile, wave and say "Hi y'all, how ya doing and please quit staring."

And it's really no different on the floor with my teams. You can see every pair of eyes focus on the door when we walk in. Again, unnerving, but since it's my first time there and having the client visiting only happens once a year, I can see why it happens.

So my teams, wow, my head is swirling; but it has been really wonderful to place names and faces. I know all of collection and PI, but Recon is still a mystery, even though I met all of them yesterday. I've left them alone to focus on the processes with the most challenges, i.e. collections.

Oh collections, the source of much anxiety for me. I really want to sit down with Dipesh and tear apart the process, hopefully we'll have time. I'm going to sit with Asif. He's a young gun and is showing a great deal of promise. If he was to shave his head, he'd look like my cousins Ed and Bill. I kid you not, I see my family wandering around Mumbai, so weird to actually kinda fit in. Have a chat with Asif for a couple of hours. I like what I hear from him.

Need to have a chat with my brother from another mother, Prashant. What a gem!!! Every one thinks so highly of him, including me. Great attitude, very intelligent, willing to express his opinions. I've been lucky to have established a relationship with him via IM so I don't feel so alone on the sea of new faces. I mean, I know names, but haven't really had conversations of a non-work nature with anyone else. Good to have a "friend" in the mix.

Now I'm off to meet with Kali on the PI team. He's a gem too! We have much to discuss, the PI team and myself. There are a few things that need fixing but we're getting there.

I'm here, there, and everywhere! By the time I get settled down it will be time to leave and I'll have barely scratched the surface. I can tell I needed a minimum of 3 weeks if not 4. I've warmed up to being here. Everyone has made it impossible do dislike it.

It's so different being in the office with everyone. So much easier than managing at a distance. I can build on a relationship with a person, not just a disembodied voice on the phone. I can see the reactions when I say something and not just hear "Yes" on the phone. I can guage if there is real understanding or if there is simply agreement for the sake of agreement.

Yay, I've been invited to see the cafeteria and to have a cup of coffee! Someone on my team says I am brave to drink the coffee. Seriously, I am already annoyed by some of the attitudes. I'm going to drink the coffee. The water has been boiled. I am not going to get sick and I am damn sure not going to disrespect our hosts. Ugh, I totally get why Americans have such an awful reputation.

Avinash shows up with a "sambar" I think...looks like doughnuts in a tomato sauce with a piece of "drumstick" on it. He offers to let me try but I decline. It looks interesting. So we have discussion about "drumsticks" which is apparently a vegetable. Maybe I'll get lucky and see one while we are out and about over the weekend.

I get back to the conference room, download a ton of email and the next thing I know it's time to go. We have got to quit leaving at 1:00-1:30...really there isn't enough time!!

Wonder if I can get Karen to buy off on me staying a bit longer. I don't mind traveling by myself and I have the feeling I'm really, really going to enjoy it here.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Where My History Begins: A Happy Day (or night) at Cafe Coffee Day 9/23/11

TGIF! I've been jonesing for a tall, hot, dark ......

Cup of coffee....Really, people; what did you think I was going to say? The last cup I had was on the plane from Abu Dhabi to Bombay, and I can't really say it was the best cup of joe that I have had.

We leave the building through employee entrance/exit and run the gauntlet under the trees. Gauntlet you might ask? Why yes, there are birds in the trees. What kind of birds? The pooping on your head kind. They are an ancient species, found world wide. After carefully avoiding being targeted for strategic poop bombing, we move up the sidewalk and what to my wandering eyes do appear? The cutest tannish/yellowish colored dog. Debbie goes into full "Awww" mode. This is Mango, the office dog...Kim had warned me about all the stray dogs and had asked about Mango. He wants some love, but I'm playing coy and we are on a time schedule. Mango stays and we continue to make our way to the road.

To get a more well rounded India experience, we are taking the rickshaws to the coffee shop. Ummm, I've see the way these folks drive. Mental checklist: Will and Beneficiaries set, check. Life insurance policy and beneficiaries set, check. Everything right with the Lord, check. Ok, I'll take a quick trip because it's good to experience new things.

Oh yay! A snap to commemorate my potential final day, er, night in India. Dipesh, me, Palak in a rickshaw and off we go. Dipesh quips something along the lines that I can use the seat belt, but there is no belt. Nice! But hey I am not worried. I've got Dipesh on the right and Palak on the's like having side impact airbag protection, but way better looking! :)

A 60 second ride and we're there! No mishaps...all is good.

Cafe Coffee Day is the Indian version of Starbucks, but 1000 times better. Better coffee, brightly lit, cheerful, cool music playing, less expensive. And a menu...a really large menu with too many selections of hot and cold drinks.

After much agonizing as to what I would like to have: hot? cold? hot? cold? I opt for a hot drink, a Chochino. Little did I realize I'd have have a lovely work of art before me. I could have stared at my drink for much longer than I did, such a pretty flower created with the chocolate sauce which had been placed on the foam. It was nearly too pretty to drink. But I took a picture for posterity's sake, added a packet of sugar and brought the cup of art to my lips.

Foam, chocolate, coffee, sugar. Did I mention chocolate? Sweet, wonderful, hot coffee. A jolt of java pleasure skittering down my spine. Caffeine withdrawals averted. But wait, a whisper in my head. My dad's caution to avoid all milk products while in India. Well blankety blank blank! Thanks, dad's voice in my head. But sometimes, it's good to be disobedient. Sometimes a girl has to be a little naughty and borrow a little trouble. Throwing caution to the wind (and knowing I had more pills to cure the ill than was probably needed)I had my Chochino.

Maybe my toes curling because I am drinking coffee is a tad much, but the slow slide of delicious coffee was really that good. Smooth, warm, tasty, satisfying. Everything that Starbucks could only hope to be. I can have coffee there every day/evening/whatever time it is that we actually work. And the group is having a great time! Coffee, laughter, and lessons on money and language. I learn what a Paise is and how to say "how much?" in Hindi (a valuable lesson since it is a shopping day on Saturday). And then it's time to go back to work...killjoy! Braving oncoming traffic, night time, and scads of people, we walk back to the office. A pleasant albeit humid return.

We make our way back towards the "gauntlet" and what do I see but the cutest white and black, chubby, dog curled in a ball on the sidewalk. Hmm, Mango has been replaced by another. And what does Debbie do? "Awww look at that baby!" Of course, I'm thinking about my Finn-boy and Mollie-girl who have now been kenneled for 5 days. I know they are missing I walk up to the dog, named Vanilla.

Vanilla and Mango, I sense a trend. I ask where Chocolate and Banana are (yes I was a smarta$$) and am skooled on the fact that the dogs are named for their colors. Reeeallly? Are you sure? I mean a tannish yellowish dog named Mango and a white dog named Vanilla? Again, everyone makes me laugh. Personally, I've seen several Chocolates and Bananas and I've only been here since Wednesday.

So sweet Vanilla uncurls itself (I have no idea for gender) and walks right up to me. I am apprehensive to pet because I'm thinking about mange, fleas, infectious animal to human diseases...but since I am being adventurous, I decide to give into temptation. I could love on that dog for hours. What would the gang think if I follow my instincts and sit down on the pavement to play with Vanilla? Its tail and hind end are in full wag as I am scratching under its chin. When I decide to walk off, Dipesh says "It's going to follow". Sure enough, my new friend is trotting after me. Knowing that the relationship could never last, I say, in my alpha dog voice, "stay" and I'm promptly told that saying "stay" isn't going to work...hmmm that is a good point. What if the dog only understands Hindi or Marathi? However, since tone and posture are everything, I think I'll be successful.

Ha! The darnedest thing happens. Vanilla stays. Oh yeah, who is the Dog Whisperer now, baybee?!

Once we get back into the office, all laughs and smiles, I beeline to the restroom to wash my hands. Dog germs successfully averted. It is another good day at the office, made better with coffee, puppies, and great people.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Where My History Begins: The Weekend 9/24-25/11

It is very nearly impossible to put into words the extraordinary day I had on Saturday with everyone who joined us at Leopold's Cafe. What started out with shopping turned into the best day I've ever really had. Laughter, beer, shopping, a carriage ride, an amazing dinner, being chased by a man wielding a pornographic balloon...the laughter and joy of that evening will be a cherished memory for a long time. That is, until I can make some more.

I think about the day, driving to downtown, stopping at Dhobi Ghat to see the laundry. Which by the way, is really amazing. I've never see whites get that white. The kids trying to sell you trinkets. The constant horn honking, the traffic. The scent of exhaust. The crush of people. The rise of new buildings. Chowpatty Beach and Marine Drive during the day. Again the people. A woman walking down the street with a basket balanced on her head. The architecture of old buildings, reminders of bygone days under British rule. The swirl of traffic circles. Kids in school uniforms. People doing life.

And then there was Leopold's. A cafe and bar which one of the first places struck during the 2008 terror attacks. Staring me in the face were two large bullet holes in glass. Reminders of what happens when people who hate for no reason decide to kill for no reason. A 3 litre column of ice cold Kingfisher beer and a lot of laughter. Everyone just made me smile.

A chance to show the group what we wanted to buy and everyone else haggled for us. Now mind you, I did learn "Kitna Houa" and I could have said it, but once a conversation would have been started, I would have been up the proverbial creek. I bought some beautiful green and silver tea light holders and carved elephants at Colaba Causeway. What a great crush of people and vendors selling their wares. It was fun listening to our friends go back and forth trying to get the best price.

Wandering around, making our way to the carriages near Gateway to India. A quick negotiation and we have three carriages to take us on the ride. So much fun. A walk over to Gateway and instead of going to see the darn thing, we are striking Bollywood poses and doing the silliest things while photos are being snapped. I can't help but imagine the locals were thinking "stupid tourists" but who was just soooooooooooooo much fun! But it wasn't all silliness.

I can close my eyes and see the families spending their evening milling about. A lot of people everywhere. I can remember the smell of roasting corn, that acrid, almost choking scent of char and smoke. I could see the wood coals glowing fiery red and see the sparks float upward as the vendor shook the can holding the embers. I can hear the sharp pop as fire consumed wood. I watched the vendors roll paper to hold the peanuts that were also being roasted. I could hear the hum of foreign languages being spoken. I could have stood in the center of all of that for a while, just observing. I felt like the centerpoint of a kaleidescope with everything swirling around me. As if I could take a deep breath and drink it all in.

The evening was capped off with an excellent dinner at Koyla's. The only word that comes to mind is WOW...and yes, I realize I have said that a lot over these posts. Koyla's is a roof top restaurant. You take the smallest elevator ever with an old fashioned metal sliding door, then a winding spiral staircase which freaked me out, and when you open the door, you have stepped back in time.

It was a dimmly lit and for me, full of a sensuality that was palpable. The scent of spices: rich, warm, inviting. Hushed conversations floating through the air. Nothing spoken above a whisper. Staff moving silently to see to their patrons needs. The thought that this would be a great place to make out for hours flickered briefly through my mind. Such an irreverent thought, but if you could see it and you knew me, you'd get why I probably had it :)

It was a feast for my senses. Visually stunning, with fabric draped pergolas under which was a low table surround by a concrete platform with a red velvet covered cushion. Once you left the path to make your way to the table, you met sand. Taking off your shoes you stepped over the low concrete bench to sit at your table. For any girl who has ever read a romance novel and the eventual object of her desire is a tall, dark, and handsome sheikh, prince, sultan, man who is set on making her succumb to his will (and not in that domineering, overbearing, I am lord of all way but the I love you and will not rest until you love me too way) and she eventually falls hopelessly in love with him only after he's taken her from everything she knows and keep her in a fantasy suite some where in the desert...this is that place.

Did I say it would be a great place to make out for hours at a darkened table for two? Now I need to figure out how to get back there with a handsome man to have dinner and entertain thoughts of making out...although reading a really good romance novel would be less expensive.

But I digress...The atmosphere, the food, the friends. The fact that I FINALLY got to have some curry...YUM! Now, part of the reason we were even there is the fact that out of everyone on this trip, I wanted curry. Hello! I'm in India. I am Indian. My middle name is Indira. Are you seeing a pattern? The curry in India is different that the curry my mom fixes...and I really wanted to experience it.

I tried a paneer dish and a chicken dish. I had mayti (fenugreek) roti, plain naan, cheese naan. Eating with my hands, just like I do at mom's, felt right and I fit in as that how we Indian like to eat our curry. Would it be impolite to surreptitiously lick my fingers?? I was going to say I had to smile, but I did that nearly every day there...I found it curious that my friends were always watching me while I tried new dishes. Almost felt like I was being tested. If so, I hope I passed with flying colors. Everything was delicious!

The evening ended much too soon. Some of our friends had to catch trains to get back to their homes. How incredibly generous of them to make the trip to downtown to spend it with us.

The weekend was just smashing. I smiled so much my face hurt. I got to be silly and have ridiculous pictures taken. One of my new friends said I was fun to be around since I was always joking and enjoying life. You know what, I was enjoying life, in a way that I haven't done in a long time. This weekend made me feel good to be alive and to be in a place where I could feel my own history singing through my veins.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Where My History Begins: I Feel Pretty Oh So Pretty 9/26/11

Maybe I should say pretty pudgy...haha! Ok this is the sum total of my clothes shopping in India and I can tell you I want more. The blue churidar kameez is the most comfortable clothing I've ever worn. Aside from that here is the story.

Over the weekend, we went shopping. I especially wanted a shalwar kameez until I discovered these. I slipped into the blue and knew it was mine immediately. Love the color and unfortunately you cannot see the embroidered detail, but it's cream and silver. LOVE IT.

So those of us who had purchased clothing decided to wear it all to the office on Monday. I'm not sure what reaction everyone else got, but for me it was very similar to the mehendi. If nothing else, being in India sure made me feel good about myself. Any time a guy utters the word "beautiful" you can't help but feel kinda special.

As strange as it may sound, I really felt at home in the clothes. It was nice enough for the office, could wear it out, but it was still girlie and it made me want to twirl around in a circle. This is the only Indian clothing that I own so it's all very special to me.

The red...what can I say about the red, but WOW! Cannot wait to wear it at Christmas. I might even get some portraits made in it.

Every time I wear these, I'll feel pretty, oh so pretty!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Where My History Begins: Of Mehendi and Elephants 9/27/11

On Saturday or Sunday I asked wonderful Charlotte if she knew a place where I could get mehendi. She actually arranged to have someone come into the office and do it for us there. Sadly, the pictures of my arms with the henna on are on someone else's camera and I'll have to ask for them, but what no picture can convey is how truly stunning it is.

All the work was free hand, no tracing, no stickers. Henna tubes and a steady hand. I was the first to go, told her not to do my finger tips as I had to type, not that i would have been able because my palms were decorated as well...oh well tips go done. We set the henna with lime juice and sugar and off I went to do stuff on the floor while everyone else took their turn.

I'm trying to type with my fingernails...not easy let me tell you. Then it's my turn for the backs of my hand/arms. 25 minutes is all it took...stunning...and I'm so enthralled with it. But now I am a wet mehendi mess who's stinking up the place with the smell of henna and eucalyptus...I love the scent but you can smell it all over.

I've got a meeting with Dipesh and bless him, I turn my computer over to him so he can do the typing. It really was all sorts of adorable. He graciously toted my laptop from the conference room to the floor, opening doors (which he did even when I didn't have mehendi), and being a really great guy. American men, please take note...women love it when you treat them like this!

We have a call in meeting with the recon team and the SME back here...good meeting...I'm getting high on the fumes. I apologize profusely. And all they can say is it's ok, the mehendi is beautiful. And you wonder why I love them all?

He's toting the laptop back and my eyelid starts itching...great! Wet hands, can't do anything...Dipesh to the rescue...he took my glasses off so I could itch. And if it wasn't just the nicest thing, it would be super funny...ok it is now...but in the midst of this all I could think was "wow!" yep that was it because my words just failed me.

Lots of nice compliments from everyone on my mehendi. The ladies from my teams kept coming to the conference room to see how it was turning out. They knew you had to set it with lime and sugar so they went to get that. I was limed and sugared and then spent the rest of the time on the floor.

Based on all the comments, everyone was waiting on the great reveal. I'll come back to that after the elephant story.

Harish (our 2nd driver) picks us up and off we go. Roads are pretty deserted at 2:30AM. We're driving along when my boss and I both spot the elephant walking down the street. The driver pulls over and I left Shawna out of the far back seat because she has her camera in hand. Driver stays back and she is in the middle of the road snapping pictures. At one point she has to jump on the top of the median wall so a truck doesn't take her out.

The car lights are not allowing her to get good shots, so he pulls ahead and she jumps out and snap. She's jumped back in and with her came the elephant's snotty trunk. We all screamed...yes five grown women screaming...and Shawna ended up in Carrie's lap in the next seat. Hysterically funny! The driver gives the elephant and it's keeper money. Elephant takes it into its trunk and lifts it to the dude on top. So Shawna gives it more money. The dude (ok it's really an old man with someone behind him sleeping) give the elephant a command, it lifts its trunk and the trunk is coming down, he snots the back window of the car. EWWWW!

Ok back to the mehendi...we are at the office on Wednesday (the last day), my mehendi is stunning even to me. The palms are nice and dark, think dark chocolate, and the arms are a rich cocoa brown. If I had known the reaction I'd get from everyone in the office, especially the men, I would have covered my entire body in mehendi, not that they would have been able to see any of it, but you get the idea.

Let's see, I got: "Wow!", a jaw drop and what appeared to be a nearly swallowed tongue, "beautiful", "the color came out amazing on you", "you carry it really well" and a lot of other really nice compliments.

I have to say it made me feel, I don't know, kinda sexy. It's so exotic and beautiful and the color is so complimentary with my skin. And while I really usually want to blend into the shadows, right now I'm strutting my stuff with my mehendi proudly on display.

Seriously though, I am considering having it done over my shoulders and across my collar bones. It's just exquisite.

Sunrise 10/5/11

Night swiftly flees from dawn's glorious rising. Deep blue melding with pale orange held together with strands of gold. It was a perfect morning.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Where My History Begins: Last Day at the Office 9/28/11

Taking full advantage of a deliciously comfortable king size bed and a cold room, I was cocooned under the fluffy white duvet with the best pillows ever cradling my head. Clean white sheets, soft against my warm skin. Bliss!

Then the blasted phone rings. It's the front desk at 12:30PM asking if I was checking out. After a few choice words ran through my sleep logged brain, I told him that I informed the front desk at 3:00AM that I would be checking out late. "When, madam?" I'm thinking when I'm darned well good and ready. By 2:30!

I dragged myself out of the bed (with much regret because it was the most comfortable bed that I've ever slept in) and started getting ready for the last day at the office with the teams. I had too much to squeeze into a much compressed schedule. So like the proverbial chicken, I'm showering, changing, packing, repacking, wondering how my backpack was 3 times heavier than when I arrived. Shoving more stuff into the suitcase and praying that it wasn't overweight.

A coworker calls to say that there are some cool shops by the ATM. Great, I need to find some postcards and maybe a t-shirt or two for the nephews because incredibly carved elephants just aren't enough. I'm such a teriffic aunt, if I do say so myself. But I digress. Have to move the suitcase and bags to another room that we're keeping an extra day. This way when we get back from the office we can eat dinner, change, freshen up and leave for the airport at 1:00AM. Oh happy joy joy!

The driver picks us up at 4:00 and we get to the office by 4:30. This is crazy, I have to meet with everyone. I have too much to do. Dipesh and I have barely cracked the surface of refining the collection processes, but I've tossed something out there for him to think about and he has. Go Debbie! Improving processes one step at a time. Needed to have this conversation with him all week but the other processes captured his time. I feel like throwing a temper tantrum because I need to talk about the processes with him. Needless to say, my processes got hosed in the time department.

The teams get there at 5:30, I have to upload some recons. Blankety blank slow blank connection! Have to go sit with the teams. For the entire week, I have felt like the rope in a tug of war game. I have to sit with PI, then I'm pulled to sit with Recons then I'm yanked to sit with collections...oh goodness it's not enough time!!! and it's ticking FAST!

I'm like a jack in the box, bouncing from person to person. Finally, I get some much needed time with Dipesh. He's run numbers, made a pretty chart and we start to talk about what we think this can bring to the table for the team. I want to test with a couple people. Would love to be there when it's implemented. Hey boss, I want to come back for at least 3 weeks!

Somehow we drift into a personal conversation about cars and motorcycles and history and culture. We really could go on for hours, but I'm getting ready to leave. Here comes some folks to usher me into a conference room. Um, ok. I've already met the teams a week ago.

If I had only known or been prepared for this...anyone who really knows me knows that despite of the "I'm tough, no one can hurt me, whatever, it ain't nothing but a thing" persona that I generally show to the world, I truly wear my heart on my sleeve. I'm easily touched and really can be very emotional.

So the teams gather to present us with gifts. Yep gifts! I'm standing there looking at all these smiling faces being handed a package wrapped in hot pink paper and...a hard swallow past the lump in my throat. I can't do this. I turn around and will the tears not to fall. I am so completely overwhelmed by their generosity and spirit. My boss, all calm and cool, gives her speech and I can barely get two words out. A beautiful purse and bracelet in a turquoise blue to match the churidar kameez that I had worn on Monday. My heart crumbles. I just want to hug them all.

But wait there's more...that's just one of the 4 teams I have. Here comes the other two in a joint effort to push me over the emotional cliff. But hey, I know what's coming and I've got this. Right. I open my mouth and nothing. I cannot get anything past the lump that is now twice the size it was. So completely choked up, tears welling in my eyes. The only thing I'm thinking is please, Lord, don't let the tears run down my face. This is so embarassing. Dipesh is standing to my left but I can't even look at him. Avinash is standing to my right watching intently. I really want to find an empty room, put my head down and cry.

I really was humbled to be there with them. Always a kind word and a smile for me. They are generous of spirit and heart. I can't tell you what that kind of outpouring does to me. I really was emotionally crushed by all of it. As the visiting client, I know it wasn't a good business practice, but before I'm a supervisor, I am a human...and on this day, this human was emotionally undone.

We have a quick moment to snap pictures because it's so dang important that we leave on time. Whatever! I don't want to go back. I still have too much to do here. I was asked if I could stay and I wished I could. It really was the beginning of something good happening, I could feel it.

Then chaos, it's time. I'm shaking hands with everyone when all I really want to do is hug, but that probably isn't appropriate...but sometimes you have to say appropriate be damned. I threw a few hugs out there. Take that business etiquette! If I can cry, I can hug.

I have three amazing teams and cannot wait to see them again! Missed getting a photo of one, but the manager for that team is working on it for me!

Monday, October 03, 2011

Where My History Begins: I'm Leaving On A Jet Plane 9/29/11

Arrived at Bombay's international airport about 1:40AM so we could get to our gate in time with all the enhanced security measures. Having to zigzag past armed guards and barricades wasn't necessarily the enhanced security measures I was expecting, but hey, you do what you have to do. Don't I feel safer?

The airport was crowded, people lining the drive waiting, apparently. And there we were, 5 women sticking out like sore thumbs with no idea where to go. Finally, we found a nicely suited woman who told us to roll past the people standing and head to the security guards to gain entrance into the airport.

I handed my passport and itinerary to a tall Sikh guard, who checked out my documents, mumbled something to me, which I didn't understand then let me go through. off to find the Etihad gate. Suitcase check through to DFW, backpack and personal bag to immigration.

Didn't really want to leave but can't really stay. The immigration folks aren't particularly pleasant. Even a thank you and a smile only received the head nod. Don't worry, it's all good. Waiting for the rest of the group because the Indians have never seen a Mexican traveling there before.

Traipsing to the gate...whoohoo 2 hour wait until boarding time. Oh look, security. Men to the left, ladies to the right. 4 magnetometers for the men, maybe 2 for the women. One of the men has me put my bags on his conveyor and tells me to go around...dang shoes set the mag off again. Whoohoo another wand search and pat down.

Make it through, but tags on the handcarry bags have to be stamped. Two guards, five feet away from where they were just stamped are checking to see if they are really stamped before letting you down the escalators to the gates and a very stylishly expensive duty free. Hey folks, I may be American but I still can't afford Coach and if I could I won't pay that kind of money for a bag.

The Etihad folks come gather all of us to take us to the business class lounge. Only after schlepping our bags there and taking a tip, do they say only the two with business class sticker can stay and the rest of us have to pay. Whatever, off we go to the not so pleasant restaurant. We took it for about an hour then moved to look at the gift shops and head for our gate. It's all a blur...I'm so tired..I have been up since 12:30 Wednesday afternoon.

We board the plane. I'm at the window, the middle is empty and there is a woman sitting aisle. I'm staring at the airport and thinking about the week. For reasons unknown to me, my heart is just hurting. Ok, so maybe I know but it's nothing I want to face. We take off and I get a blur shot of the Bombay coast line and in a blink it's gone. Like I had never been there.

And I cried. I stared out the window into the inky black as we fled the rising sun, tears slipping silently down my face. Did I remember to put tissue in my carryon bag? No. Ugh, I'm such a moron.

I'm just sniffling now. Maybe I can watch a movie. I don't recommend the last installment of Pirate of the Caribbean. As much as I love Johnny Depp, horrible movie. Then again, I just wasn't in the mood...I'm staring out the window again, crying.

A three hour flight to Abu Dhabi spent crying intermittently, staring out at the blackness of early morning...I can almost see the clock spinning backwards as we lose time. There has been a star following the plane. "When You Wish Upon A Star" begins rolling through my brain. Really, Disney music?

I'm watching amber lights below as we fly over cities and countries, which ones? I don't know...Places I've never been. Maybe someplace I would like to go.

And the sun is slowly creeping up. I can see a brilliant orange slash across the horizon behind me. My star is going to disappear, but I already made my wish. Maybe when I get to Abu Dhabi, I'll be less sad.

It's surprisingly a very gray dawn rising in the U.A.E. I can't tell if that's the sand blowing or it's a misty morning. Wait, we're in a desert, does it get misty? I don't know.

Apparently, I don't know a lot right now. Too tired to care. My eyes are burning. Not enough sleep and too many tears. Betcha I'm not so beautiful now.

The terminal in Abu is gorgeous with a huge mosaic ceiling in blues and greens. Stunning work. Please just let me get to the gate or get something to eat. Oh great security again. Shoes set it off..yay me. I get a full chest grope. Lady, I promise these are real, contain no liquids or gels and they aren't a bomb making component. But thanks for playing with my boobs, somehow that just makes me feel so much safer...not.

Ohhh the food court..hello remember me, I was here a week ago or so. Yay, wireless! Facebook to update my friends. We eat and play Mexican Train. I'm so tired I'm bordering on babbling. Please time, move. I've left Bombay, just get me home now.

Time to make our way to the gate. Well hello! Mister tall Arab man with your white robes, head dress thing and stylish glasses. You're hot and I'm a hot mess. Why yes, you may look at my boarding pass and passport. Do you happen to have an Arabian stallion and sword parked near by...perhaps a lavishly appointed tent in the desert. Feel free to take me as your willing captive. I promise I clean up nice. Uh oh, channeling way too many romance novels...oh well a girl can fantasize. I do like tall, dark, and handsome men.

Yay, I have a row to myself on the big plane...hey, why is that guy on the other side of the plane staring at me. Yes I know my eyes are red. Yes I know both my arms have mehendi on them. Hey, who is poking my back. are just the cutest little boy I've seen. This should be a nice flight as long as my cutie bug doesn't scream the entire time.

I sleep for a bit, take pictures for a while. Plug in my earphones and listen to tunes. I fall asleep listening to Keith Urban and wake up to "Making Memories of Us" now why the heck is that making me cry?? Maybe I should play some Demon Hunter, that really won't make me cry. Ahh much better. Hey the guy across the plane is staring at me again. Seriously, if he keeps it up, I am going to go over and introduce myself.

15 a plane for more than half a day...that clock in my head continues to spin backwards. I just want to be home. Ohhh look the coast of England, the coast of Ireland, the Atlantic. Newfoundland, Montreal....holy moly, Lake Michigan is HUGE. Chicago! Yes, US soil!! Dinner at Chili's and an ice cold beer.

Board the flight for home...what a miserable experience. American Airlines I HATE YOU!!!! I have a seat and yet some one's bag is in my overhead and you want me to put my backpack with my laptop and other expensive items in the cargo hold? What a stupid airline. And you stupid stupid flight attendant guy...shut up no one thinks you're funny.

I'm lucky enough to be seated in front of a family with a small kid who is continually kicking the back of my seat. I would have thought the glare I gave the dad would have given him the message. Aside from it being a night flight and they don't have the courtesy to lower their voices, and the brat kicking my seat; I'm having a lovely time.

What do you mean there are storms at DFW??? It hasn't rained for months and when I come home we are now in a holding pattern. What do you mean we may have to divert to refuel? Tulsa or Alliance in Fort Worth...hey that's not far from the house. I'm gonna cry...and I do...I put my face in my lap and bawl like a baby. I just want this to be over and I want to be home. I miss Bombay, I'm nearly home...please just let me go home.

Control tower allows us to land priority because of the fuel situation. Yay! Crazy at the airport with all the late flights. My luggage gets there pretty fast. Everything in the backpack is intact. Call my sister to come get me. She's there quickly. I get to mom's do a quick show and tell, take a shower and crash. feels good but I'm not the same girl who left.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Where My History Begins: The End is the Beginning - 9/30/11

Because the creative side of my brain is abuzz, I am going to try something different with these posts. I'm starting at the end and will work back through the journey. Maybe putting it all down in print will help me understand the who, what, when, and where that occurred while I was there; and why I feel the way I do. In a strange way, I feel I am going back to the future.

I had to pick up the dogs today. They spent 11 days at the kennel while I was on the trip. I missed my babies after seeing all the stray dogs in India. I also missed my vehicle. For 10 days I had been chauffeured around so I was looking forward to being behind the wheel of my own car. As soon as my sister dropped me off at the house, I jumped in the Xterra and headed north on 35 to Argyle. I had the windows down enjoying the cool weather and the warmth of the sun as it beamed down on my left arm. And as is my habit, the radio was blaring some rock as I hit a nice speed. As I turned off the interstate to take FM407, I looked down at the mehendi adorning my hands and arms.

So began the flood of thoughts about this trip I had taken. Driving down 407, looking at the horses and cattle in the pastures, the wide open spaces; I thought about everything I had seen in Bombay. The clean, the dirty, the beautiful, the not so pretty. The decay, the life. The poverty, the wealth. Then it hit me, for a much as life here in Texas is so very different than Bombay, it is exactly the same.

Take the photo of the beautiful cup of coffee, carefully crafted by a barrista at Cafe Coffee Day. A great coffee shop, with cups and mugs for purchase. Sandwiches, sweet treats, great tunes playing. They are open until midnight. It's their version of our Starbucks at a much better price with much better coffee. My coffee at SB has never been so pretty. Not different from here at all. Yes, the first time we caught an autorickshaw to take us down...more for the experience than the necessity. In the coffee shop, you found the hip and trendy, the worker, the student...everyone you would find in our SB.

During the day, there were people going to the shopping malls. Malls that would rival ours; sleek, modern, beautiful. I didn't make it into one, but drove past and could see it filled with shoppers. Not so different from our trip to the mall if you ignore the traffic and congestion.

Petrol stations dotting the corners of intersections. Just like here. What I would have given for a QT and 52oz cup of unsweetened iced tea.

Barber shops busy on a Sunday night with men of all ages getting their hair cut. People strolling streets stopping in local food stalls for some street food. Slightly different from here, but to me not unlike zipping into a fast food joint for something to eat.

I visited a KFC and a McDonald' beef products (not that what McDonald's serves can really be called beef anyway) but still full of people...vegetarian and chicken selections. At Mickey D's you could have a Chicken Maharaja Mac or a McSpicy Paneer. Needless to say I had fries and a diet Coke.

Being back home and having settled into the daily routine of my life, I can appreciate the similarities I found in Bombay. But, there is a part of me that misses the differences....the incessant honking of horns as drivers warn each other; the high pitch whine of an auto rickshaw motor. I miss the crazy traffic that caused me to screech in fear, knowing that my untimely death was imminent. I no longer get to wonder in amazement how you can fit a family on a motorcycle; how a saree or shalwar kameez doesn't go up in flames as the women ride sidesaddle on the back of a motorcycle. I miss the challenge of crossing a street with oncoming traffic. I miss the curious stares of people as we pass by and me looking them with the same curiosity.

I miss smiling at anyone who was helping me and receiving a warm smile in return. I think I miss that the most. A smile that lit up the face and reached the eyes. I have photos of my new friends, each one of them smiling at some point...and every time I look at the pictures, I can't help but smile myself.

So you see, we aren't so different though 9,000 miles separate us. We all want love, happiness, security, comfort, peace, joy, and so much more.

While this trip had ended, I think the journey is only now beginning.

Where My History Begins - Intro

How does one begin pouring out her heart, thoughts, and memories of a business trip that she never wanted to take? How do you admit to being captivated by a country you had no desire to visit? How do you talk about a team of people who brought you to an emotional precipice with their compliments, kindness, and affection after knowing you 8 days?

This post and those that follow will attempt to share the most amazing time spent in a country where my history begins.

I have never really given much thought to my ancestral country. It has always been a distant place....a "third world country" full of abject poverty, hopelessness and no where I would want to be. I am and always have been an American of Indian descent with no connection to my Indian heritage. Until this trip, I could have cared less. I've always been very grateful that the British took my great grandparents, on both sides, out of India and plunked them in the Caribbean, regardless of the circumstance of that departure.

Now I think of it a little differently. I can only imagine the journey from India to the Caribbean on a ship; and quite frankly, I can't bear to think about how hard that must have been. Family, village, friends, left behind to go to a distant land to work. Did they leave to give themselves a better life or were they unceremoniously removed by the Brits against their will and forced into work bondage?

I'll never know, but I can only be thankful that God had a plan for them. If they had never left India, my grandparents, my parents, my extended family, and my sister and I would never exist. Until this trip, I had never really contemplated that point. When I think of everything that had to occur for me to even exist, I know how blessed I am. God, who knew my name before I was conceived, allowed these events to occur so that I may have the life I have today.

Who would have thought that I would travel back to India with my company to work there for a short time? I've come full circle.