Date archives "September 2009"

Weekends in Chennai

Like the vast majority of the salaried world, I tend to look forward to the weekends and believe that they end far too soon. In the last few months most of my expat network have left, so there have been no more trips outside the city, crazy house parties or even nights out in the clubs.

However, that’s not to say I’m not enjoying myself, I seem to have got myself in to a bit of a weekend routine, and yep, it keeps me happy 🙂

Since I don’t rise till about 10ish on weekdays, if I took any more of a lie in at the weekends I’d miss it altogether! The first thing I have to take care of is my laundry. I recently found out that there is no hot cycle on my washing machine, which would explain why my t-shirts would come out just as funky as they went in. With that in mind, I now soak all my clothes in very hot water before putting them in the washing machine.

I will have to take a photo of the colour of the water after soaking my clothes for 15 minutes, it’s like they become a magnet for all the pollution and dust in this city.

Once the laundry is complete I head over to a nice little coffee shop, imaginatively named Coffee World. Think Starbucks without the hefty prices – though the prices are pretty steep for Chennai. I then have my weekly bitch / moan session with a fellow expat where we get everything off our chest that’s annoyed us or wound us up in the last seven days 😀 It’s remarkably therapeutic!

Once the counselling catch up is over I go back and do the weekly grocery shopping in the supermarket at the end of the road. I say supermarket but the trollies are the size of ‘kid’ trollies in some of the supermarkets in England!

Incredibly I bumped in to another foreigner this weekend. I don’t know what it is, but whenever I see other foreigners walking around I feel compelled to ignore them on the basis that “you’re foreign, what’s so special about that”. It’s hard to explain why. One reason I guess is that because everyone is always moving on, it becomes tiresome making friendships that are going to last months.

So as I was saying, I bumped in to a foreigner this weekend. For reasons unknown, the Gods of Fate, Justice and Give a Guy a Break were not smiling upon me and instead of a cute girl next door type, the foreigner was a strapping great big Norwegian viking guy. The aisles are barely big enough for one person to squeeze down, so to ignore another white person when you are in such close proximity would just be rude 🙂

I said hello, introduced myself and went through the usual motions when you talk to a new foreigner, how long have you been here, what are you doing, where are you staying, how long are you planning to stay for etc.

So once again in Chennai, I end up with another guys number. It’s very tiresome you know!

In the absence of any parties at the moment, it’s usually a case of a cold beer, pizza and something on TV for my Saturday nights. It’s not so bad though as I get all the Premiership matches, even the 3pm ones which you don’t get in England.

This weekend, my local wine shop (ironically named because it doesn’t sell wine) didn’t have any ‘normal’ beer, instead they had concocted something distilled from a fine blend of paint stripper and gasoline. You know something is astray when it says on the label that the beer is “not less than 6%”! After half a glass of the stuff I was hammered. Ouch!

A quick word about the wine shops though. They are truly desperate places frequented by the fringes of society and whose sole service is to provide liquor with the highest alcohol content possible. Just like in England when you walk past a club at chucking out time and you’ll see women falling out of tops and guys rolling around the floor together, India has old men lying on the roadside passed out in the vicinity of the wine shop. If you are particularly unfortunate you will catch an eyeful of far more than you want to see of an old man! They don’t seem to wear underwear here!

Sundays in Chennai is my favourite. There is a noticeable reduction in the number of people and traffic and a kind of eerie calm falls over the city, especially in the non-commercial areas. Even the dogs seem to understand that it’s a Sunday and they keep quiet.

Sundays can be spent relaxing, reading, watching football, playing computer games or going to the shopping malls. This Sunday I went to the beach with a friend, but that didn’t last long as the thunderclouds descended and the heavens opened. Fortunately there is a big shopping mall nearby which on the outside is modeled on a 19th century French chateaux…I guess you really need to see it to believe it.

When you go to a shopping mall the peacefulness of the lazy Sunday afternoon is broken. India has a new consumer driven middle class and they are making the most of it by buying branded goods, designer clothes and generally propping up the economy during the global slowdown.

One of my favourite shops in India is Landmark, which is kind of a cross between a Virgin Megastore (or whatever they are called now) and a Waterstones. I have an inability to go in to a Landmark shop and come out empty handed.

To start off with, they have more books than Amazon and at prices that make second hand book shops look pricey. A normal novel will cost anything from £2 to £5 which is ridiculously cheap. I’ve also got hooked on VCD’s, which are like DVD’s but they come on two discs and at a fraction of the price, I can pick up the latest Hollywood films for about £3 for three movies! As such, my library and movie collection is rapidly expanding 🙂

This weekend I bought a couple of classics, Gullivar’s Travels and Robinson Crusoe (which claims to be the first ever novel). I’ve been reading some novels by Jasper Fforde (which I’ll probably talk about in another post), but it’s really piqued my interest in older novels – I might even have to tackle Jane Eyre and Great Expectations (joke: what are you reading? oh, great expectations. Is it any good? It’s not what I was hoping for) next!

Well, that pretty much sums up a typical weekend at the moment. It’s all very lazy and I really should do some more work on the sites that earn me money, maybe I’ll get some motivation to do that some day.

Yearbook Pete

As we know, there is a whole load of crap on the Internet, but there is also a whole load of crap that is actually mildly entertaining for 10 minutes before you get bored and move on to the next shiny object. YearbookYourself.com is one of those utterly useless sites that provides you with 10 minutes of low level entertainment before you click away and never visit it again. However, as with all good viral sites, you just have to tell other people about it before you move on 🙂

The concept is simple, upload a photo, or use your webcam to take a photo and the software digitally inserts your image to a whole range of profile pics from the 1950’s onwards. See how you would have looked through the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Obviously a whole load of time and effort has been put in to this site, but I just can’t see how it will be anything more than a novelty toy.

Anyway, I wasted 10 minutes of my time to create a “Peter Through The Years Yearbook”. Have a look how the pics turned out below:

Picture of me in 1952 Picture of me in 1954
Picture of me in 1956 Picture of me in 1958
Picture of me in 1960 Picture of me in 1962
Picture of me in 1964 Picture of me in 1966
Picture of me in 1968 Picture of me in 1970
Picture of me in 1972 Picture of me in 1976
Picture of me in 1978 Picture of me in 1980
Picture of me in 1982 Picture of me in 1986
Picture of me in 1988 Picture of me in 1990
Picture of me in 1992 Picture of me in 1996
Picture of me in 2000  

And finally, here are some vintage pics of me from my college days:

Playing basketball in 1968

Being nerdy in 1976

In a rock band in 1986

All these photos were generated on the YearbookYourself.com website, if you have a few minutes to kill the time or are curious as to what you would have looked like in 1960 then head on over, it takes about 10 minutes.

Do you want any coffee with that sugar?

India is well known for its love of food and variety of dishes, both veg and non-veg (as I now call it). They certainly don’t do anything by halves, “more of everything please, waiter”.

India currently has the worlds largest consumption of sugar, not difficult when you have 1/6th of the worlds population, but some what surprising when you keep hearing how obese North Americans and Western Europeans are getting.

But if you spend some time in india, you soon realise why they are the largest consumers; sugar is used in everything. I know people who berate me for drinking the occasion diet coke but then go on to put two or three sugars in their coffee!

sugar poured into coffee

Another example is fruit juice. Fruit juices are healthy, right? Err, not so much in India. When you go in to a restaurant and ask for a fresh fruit juice, you have to be very clear and very specific that there should be absolutely no sugar in the juice. And when it arrives, you usually have to send it back because they put sugar in it any way. TII 🙂

I mean seriously, sugar in fruit juice! It probably makes it worse that soft drinks in terms of calories. OK, not as bad as Irn Bru which breaks all known mathematic and physical laws by being made up of 200% sugar.

The same goes for coffee and tea, unless you specify, your mug will be heaped with sugar with some coffee splashed over it to turn it in to some syrupy goo.

Then you have indian sweets. Now I have a very big sweet tooth, if I didn’t blow up like a balloon, I’d happily munch on chocolate, sweets and soft drinks all day. But indian sweets are just too much for most western taste buds.

To start with they are made of sugar and they have a soft sugary centre and are coated on the outside with a sugar glaze. I think the main ingredient (after sugar) is butter, so the sweets are soft and very sticky!

So they eat all this sugar and waist lines amongst the middle classes are rapidly expanding. To top it off though, the asian genotype is particularly susceptible to type 2 diabetes, so not only is India heading towards an obesity crises on a scale similar to North America, it has the added problem of diabetes, which is already referred to as a pandemic by the WHO. Even people in their early twenties (usually from the middle classes) are being diagnosed with the problem.

And all this is hardly surprising when you consider the sedentary life styles many middle class Indian people lead. It’s often a case of if you can afford to pay someone else to a job for you, then do it – and when having a maid to come to your house daily who sweeps, washes and cleans for just £10 a month, it’s not hard to see why so many do it! Even things like ironing and laundry are given to someone else to do. I know people who are 25 years old and have never cooked, cleaned, ironed or washed up in their life! (And I’m not just talking about my sister 😉 )

When it comes to physical exercise, it also highlights why India could be on a collision course for a major health crisis. My 2nd floor apartment is a perfect example to show the differences between many Indians and Westerners. Myself and all the expats who visit take the stairs, regardless of what we’re carrying. Indian people who visit always take the lift, both up and down for what is literally two flights of stairs! It actually takes longer to use the lift than to use the stairs!

And it’s just now that I think I’ve discovered the root cause behind it all. Said one of my local friends after reading this post “what, so sugar can make you fat?”

But there may be some hope for obese India yet. Sugar prices are skyrocketing due to a poor harvest and if there is one thing the average Indian is particularly sensitive too it’s food prices.

Note: Sorry for the crappiness of the flow and readability of this post, it was written on my awesome Nokia E75 phone and transferred to my blog.

Real Beauty

I came across this video during my many travels around the Internet and I think it’s an excellent example of how much Photoshop is used to edit and enhance the photos we see in advertisements. However, I must admit, as an Internet / design kind of guy, I have to also appreciate the talent the Photoshop artist has for being able to manipulate the photos!