Date archives "September 2008"

What do you want to know about India?

National Flag of IndiaI’ve been going through a bit of a dry patch recently, trying to come up with some inspiration on things to write about on my blog. Days are whizzing by, months are coming and going, pretty soon I’ll be going home for Christmas…and I’ve only been in India since last week, or at least, that’s what it feels like.

So, I’m going to open the blog to you.

What do you want to know about India?

You’ve seen it on the news, you’ve heard about all the jobs being outsourced to India, so what questions do you have?

Want to know about the food? The weather (one for the Brits!)? The lifestyle?

You can leave a comment on this blog asking your question, you can email me at peterclaridge@gmail.com or you can shoot me a message on Facebook.

We’ll see how it goes, I’m wondering if I’ll even get a single question πŸ™‚

Diamonds in the rough?

I have often posted about how bad the tuk tuk drivers are here in Chennai. They see the white skin and little dollar signs flash in their eyes. A journey that should cost Rs 80 to a local will cost Rs 150 for a foreigner – as if we’re all made of money. Yeah, right!

There are some ways of dealing with the drivers, but they will use every excuse under the sun to try and charge you more; time of day, traffic, one way system, it’s 100 metres from the landmark you said, raining, sick child, 4 kids and well, any other excuse he can think of and tell you about in English.

If you catch tuk tuks everyday like I do to get to work and back, it’s pretty tiresome as you try and explain where you want to go (MAN-DA-VELLI!) and then bring the price down to a sensible amount. My number one expense at the moment (after umm, beer) is travelling around.

Anyways, a couple of things happened to me this week that made me think, maybe not all the tuk tuk drivers are that bad.

Outside my apartment is an informal stop for autos (the local word for tuk tuks). All the drivers know me now and we’ve settled on the inflated price of Rs 90 per journey. No need to bargain or explain where to go. A win-win situation all-round.

The other day there were no tuk tuks outside so I have to walk about 300m or so to the main road and find one. 300m doesn’t sound that far, but in 35 degree heat it doesn’t take much to get the sweat pouring off you! As I was walking down, one of the regular drivers stopped and said he was picking up his children from school and that I should get in. So I did.

What came next was a little suprising, he drives down to the main road, finds another tuk tuk driver, tells him where to drop me and how much to charge – brilliant stuff!

Then today, as I was walking back down the same road carrying two bags of heavy food shopping, another one of the regular drivers pulled up along side me and ushered me to get in. I then got dropped off outside my apartment and he waved me away when I offered him some money. Amazing!

So, not all tuk tuk drivers are thieving little badgers after all πŸ™‚

Waiter, what’s this fly doing in my soup?

I think it’s doing front crawl, sir.

OK, so yesterday I had my first cockroach experience. Henceforth know as “that thing that happened and what we will never talk about again. After today”. Now I have seen plenty of cockroaches in India. Some of them are big buggers and fly (FLY! who knew?!), others are a lot smaller and look like big ants. You see them in the local supermarket a lot.

So at lunch times, I go down to the local cafeteria and buy what is known as a Bread Omlette. The place is a dive and a half, but what the hell, the sandwiches taste good.

To give an idea on the strict hygiene standards they adhere to, I once watched one of the cooks sitting on the floor surrounded by piles of onions. He was using a thin, rusty blade to peel the onions. Every now and then, he would scrape the blade along the floor, presumably to sharpen it, and carry on peeling the onions.

Despite watching the food preperation conditions, I still went ahead and bought bread omlettes daily.

Yesterday was just like any other day. Went downstairs, they know my order by now. Sat down, spoke in broken English with the owner, got asked my salary…again (he’s convinced I earn thousands each month).

Once cooked and wrapped up in the previous days’ newspaper, I asked for the usual helping of tomato ketchup. Back I went to the office, looking forward to my lunch (it was 5pm after all).

As I was pouring the sauce over one of the sandwiches, I noticed a black thing that looked like a small leaf, so I innocently fished it out.

Now I’ve heard the expression “and my stomach turned”. But I’ve never actually experienced it to that moment, and let me tell you, the expression is very fitting. You can almost feel your stomach turn over and say “dude, no f…..king way!”.

The cafeteria has lost a customer. I skip lunch now.

Smile; We’re All Doomed

Tomorrow, about lunch time, we’re all gonna be doomed.

Why?

Scientists in France and Switzland are going to switch on a $9bn experiment which contains a ‘slight’ chance of creating black holes. On Earth.

For anyone that doesn’t know what a Black Hole is, it’s one of the most destructive things in nature. Nothing can escape from it, not even light (which is why it’s called a black hole).

So, about this time tomorrow, scientists are going to switch on this machine which they are ‘reasonably’ sure won’t create a black hole. Just like they were ‘reasonably sure’ there would be no long term effects from a nuclear bomb blast.

The aim of the experiment is to recreate conditions just a billionth of a second after the big bang (you know, it all began with nothing. Which exploded). It accelerates particles to near light speed, and recklessly smashes them together “to see what happens”.

So, what’s it going to be? A black hole or a big bang?

We’ll find out tomorrow. Only, we probably won’t because we’ll never know what hit us.

If you are truly nerdy enough to want to find out more, check out what the BBC is merrily calling “Big Bang Day“.

Right, time to make a tin foil hat and retreat to my country bunker. I may be gone some time…

(for anyone nerdy enough to understand this post, we’re really not going to die in a big explosion or get sucked in to a black hole, but a little paranoia never hurt anyone πŸ™‚ )