Posts in "Personal"

Crows Feet

Just had a shave (shave yourself, in India? No way!) and noticed that when I smile (which is apparently all the time), I have big lines extending from the corners of my eyes.

I’m getting old! Or, my preferred reason, the humidity and pollution in Chennai is sucking my skin dry of moisture, causing these laughter lines.

Either way. Feeling so sad 🙁

Ear Wax…

Yes, I know it’s not something that is generally discussed at posh cocktail parties, but I think the problem of ear wax has been overlooked on many travel related websites, so I’ve taken it upon myself to issue a public service announcement about ear wax and high humidity locations. Think of it as one of the little benefits of reading this site 😀

I noticed that I seemed to have way more ear wax since coming to India, so I did some research and read through some medical journals and found that there is a scientific link between high humidity conditions and an increase in the production of ear wax. No one quite seems to know why though.

So there you have it, if you are coming to India (or maybe you are already here and wondering why you have more ear wax than usual), make sure you pack cotton wool ear buds to keep your ear channels squeaky clean.

As I said, I know no one wants to read about this stuff, but if I don’t tell you, who else will?!

Outsourcing Interview

The other week I saw an email in my inbox (and to be honest, it was one of my mailing list addresses that I use for all internet marketing stuff, and I only saw it as I was scanning through the subject titles to see if there was anything of interest) when I saw one about a new outsourcing project from Chris Crompton called Outsource Mastermind.

Being in the subject matter of the new product (I’m working for a company to whom people outsource to), I was very interested and opened up the site. Chris was asking for feedback and suggestions on what he should include in the product (great way to create the perfect product btw, ask the people what they want and then fill that need).

I filled out the form and basically said, ‘hey, I’m from the UK but I’ve moved to India to work for an outsourcing company, plus I have loads of experience in outsourcing, get in contact’…which he did.

The end result was a 30 minute long telephone interview which he recorded and will (hopefully!) be adding to his product.

You can check out Chris’s blog and get some great FREE outsourcing tips by text and video. There’s one tip about a sneaky way to choose the programmer that’s just brilliant, and I’d never have thought of it before. Go check it out here.

Outsourcing Mastermind should be ready for release in April.

Studying English While Learning Tamil

One of the great things about living in India is the opportunity to learn a new language. In India you have over 14 different languages to choose from, but it makes sense to learn the local one 😀

I’m living in the state of Tamil Nadu, in the main city called Chennai (it used to be called Madras before they decided to get rid of the connection with their colonial past). The city is fast filling up with British expats like myself and international students from organisations like AISEC.

One of my main goals while living out here is to learn the local Tamil language.  However, the interesting thing is, that as I’m learning Tamil, I’m studying English more and more.

For example, until recently I didn’t even know what the origins of the English language were. A quick bit of research and I’m able to give you a condensed history of the English language…

English is based on the Germanic language brought to the UK by the Saxons of what is now North-West Germany. However, even this Germanic language is a sub-category of the Indo-European language which can be traced to Northern India. When the Normans invaded the country in 1066, Old French was the language of the law, courts and administration. Even when it was changed to English, many words and phrases remained.

In the 16th and 17th century, many words were borrowed from Latin. Modern English that is spoken today can be traced back to the Elizabethan era.

There is a very interesting diagram showing the classification and evolution of languages here: History of Language Diagram

Where English is quite a modern language, Tamil is credited as being one of the oldest languages, that is still widely spoken, in the world, with a heritage that can be dated back over 2,200 years – this makes it one hell of a difficult language to learn! Take the letter ‘L’. There are three ways of pronouncing it!

Back to English.

Even though many educated people in Chennai can speak English (well, I like to call it Indo-English because the sentence structures and word usage are different), I’m able to understand them quite well, but often they are unable to understand me.

This is because I would use slang, abbreviate (don’t, do not) words, and more significantly use idioms, metaphors and similies when I’m speaking.

Time and again I would have to go back and explain a slang word or saying, and in the true Indian fashion of wanting to learn and understand, they would ask why we use such words, what the orgins are etc. Since we don’t pay much attention to what we’re saying in the UK, we never really get a chance to study our own language or the origins of words and sayings.

Take this saying:

Straight from the horses mouth

A bit of research tells you that the origin of this saying comes from horse racing and the only way to accurately tell the age of a horse is to look at it’s teeth and mouth. Hence, “this horse is 3 years old, I got it from the horses mouth” ie. the information came direct from the source.

Other sayings and slang that I’ve been asked to explain include…

  1. Raining cats and dogs
  2. Come down on you like a ton of bricks
  3. Went down like a lead balloon
  4. Stuck between a rock and a hard place
  5. Chavs
  6. If you can’t beat em, join em
  7. Hard as nails
  8. Sweet FA
  9. Scot free
  10. Cushty
  11. This time next year…
  12. Bent as a nine bob note
  13. Cool beans

And many more sayings besides. There are also some sayings that don’t seem to have any origin, they are either a play on words which have different meanings or slang meanings, it can confuse the hell out of my Indian friends…

  1. Let’s make like a tree, and leave
  2. Let’s make like a banana, and split
  3. Let’s make like a donkey’s d***, and hit the road

There are also occasions where I have to give someone a better way of saying something. For example, on our help desk, a phrase that was often used was:

  • Please be in patience

I explained to them that although any English speaking person would understand exactly what they meant, the accepted way of politely asking someone to wait would be:

  • Please be patient

This was taken with a certain amount of skeptism, because “everyone knows that patient means someone who’s undergoing healthcare, like a Doctors Patient.

I think that’s long enough for my musings on the English language. It’s an interesting subject for me and it’s a shame we don’t learn more about the history of our own language in school history lessons.

For further reading on the history of English, Tamil and words and phrases in English, check these sources:

A Typical Day In India…

Thought I might write about a typical day for me in India. Could be incredibly boring for some, could provide useful information for others…who knows?!

My day usually starts around 9:30 – 10am when the maid comes in and starts cleaning the apartment. You don’t have hot water on demand, so you have to turn the heater on and wait 15 minutes or so before it’s hot enough to have a shower.

When I was in India last time, breakfast consisted of rice and curry (the sauce is called ‘gravy’ in India). But now I have my own place, I’m embracing traditional Western values by having muesli or cereal with fresh orange juice for breakfast 🙂 I plan to start making tea in the morning too, but I haven’t gotten around to buying a kettle yet…

I get to work between 11am and 12 noon, getting there either by car if Aravind stayed over or tuk-tuk if I’m on my own. Trying to get a tuk-tuk is always an experience. The office is located in an area called Nungumbakkam, but thanks to my wonderful British accent, the tuk-tuk drivers simply can’t understand me when I tell them where I want to go.

Getting a tuk-tuk would cost a local about 70-80 rupees, being white, it’s extremely rare for me to get 80 rupees, it’s usually 80-100. For reference, 100 rupees is about £1.25 or $2.50.

I take lunch around 3pm. Sometimes I bring a packed lunch with cheese sandwiches and an apple, or I’ll go down to the sandwich shop below our office (think: Greggs, if anyone is reading this in the UK). If I buy lunch it’s around 60 rupees (£0.75).

Work generally finishes around 8pm and depending on the plan, I’ll either go out to a nice restaurant for dinner or go home and cook some pasta. Going out to a restaurant at a 4/5 star hotel costs about £15 for three people – not too bad!

If I have to make my own way home then the fun and games start all over again with the tuk-tuk drivers. I live in an area called Mandavelli, but once again, I say this word and a look of confused incohesion crosses the drivers face. It’s always an adventure to find out where you’ll wind up at the end of the journey…

…Since I live near Mandavelli station I use that as a local landmark when explaining where I want to get to, but it’s still incredible how many drivers have no idea where it is. This evening for example, I was taken to Mandavelli bus station.

I’ve also just discovered that apparently the way I pronounce ‘Mandavelli’, it sounds like I’m saying ‘head hurting’ in Tamil. That caused a lot of amusement in the office…grrr.

Anyhow, back to dinner and food…

Pasta is rediculously cheap, this evening I went and bought 2 packets of pasta, 2L bottle of coke, some milk and some juice and it came to 110 rupees – about £1.30.

Since they also have Pizza Hut and Dominos Pizza here, we’ll occasionally order a pizza, this is a bit more expensive, costing around £4.50 ($9.00) for a medium pizza, 4 slices garlic bread and a bottle of Pepsi. The pizza’s are all made from the same ingredients, so they taste exactly the same over here as they do in England (surprise?!).

In the evenings I’ll kick back and watch TV, I’ve got a nice 32″ widescreen flatscreen TV mounted on the wall with cinema surround sound – it’s all good 😀

Umm, so there you have it, a short ‘day in the life of’ someone living in Chennai. Not all that exciting really, except maybe second guessing where you’ll end up when you climb in to a tuk-tuk!

Playing The Matchmaker

I was inadvertantly playing Cilla Black the other day at the office, let me set the background if I may…

Anand, the CEO of Agriya, the company that I work for has decided that it’s time to get married. Or rather, his parents have decided that it’s time for him to get married – this being India afterall. A hunt up and down the state of Tamil Nadu has uncovered several likely candidates for the marriage.

One of the candidates parents were not keen on the proposed marriage because Anand was the CEO of a ‘small’ company, and to them that meant high risk. They wanted someone who worked for a ‘big’ company like Infosys for their daughter, under the belief that this would provide a more ‘secure’ income.

Keen to prove the daughters parents wrong, Anands parents asked them to come and visit the office and see for themselves that this was a medium sized business that was going strong. They agreed and visited the office the other day.

Unfortunately for Anand, the initial impressions were not good, they saw the downstairs office and were not completely impressed. Then they came upstairs to my office and they did a complete U-turn in their opinion.

The reason?

Agriya has two Westerners working at the office 😀

As soon as they saw me and one other European guy in the office, they changed their mind and said “Agriya must be a big company if white people are working for them”. So after that, it was Game On for the marriage!

See, not only am I doing a wonderful job, I’m also helping office staff to get hitched. I think that deserves a payrise…

Update: Game Off! Cancel everything, the sky is falling, the marriage has been cancelled! 😮 Rumours, hearsay and theories abound.

Can You Read My Mind?

Anyone that knows me will probably know my opinions on spiritual and alternative therapy stuff quite well. Suffice to say that I’m a complete non-believer in that sort of thing.

So when I had the chance to have my palm read on Saturday, I jumped at the chance 😀

The entire conversation took place in Tamil, but I’ve got the translated version here…

You have a nice hand, you will get lots of money, but you will spend lavishly – but you have a good chance to have more wealth than you can spend. You are very intelligent, you look timid, but deep down you are not. When it comes to work, and you know you are very correct, you will not let it go.

You have a lucky hand, whatever you start, you will do well.

You are coming to India with a mission, you rely on your friends from other countries to help you. You have the opportunity to marry only one girl and she will probably be from another country. You have the opportunity to have five children.

Nice and vauge, I hope you will agree. It could probably be applied to any foreigner coming to India 🙂

Life After Freelancing

So I have decided to give up freelancing and forge a career in a ‘proper’ job where one works 9 till 5 (or to 6 in some of the meaner companies). One of the first questions potential employers ask (well, ok, the 4 billion or so recruitment agencies) is…WHY?!

Incase any potential employers are reading this, let me take a moment to explain why I want to move from freelancing to a ‘proper’ job. The answer is quite simple: financial stability.

Freelancing is fun, setting your own hours, working to your own rules, but at the end of the day, you still have no idea how much you are going to earn from one month to the next, you might go a couple of months with very little and the following month take a large order.

Sales was never my strongest point, I prefered to be given the work, beaver away on it and return a new shiney website that exceeded the clients’ expectations.

When you have a fixed income, it helps you to budget and plan ahead a lot better and removes a lot of the stress and worry on where the next paycheck is going to come from.

It’s a very simple reason to be honest with you, but there have been a few problems with making the transistion from freelancing to getting a full time job which I’ll talk about some other time.

The Running Man

I just wanted to share with you some results that I’m getting by going for a run fairly regularly around a local park. I started off really badly and was out of breathe but now I’ve done it nearly a dozen times I’m pretty shocked at the results I’m seeing. In just over a month I’ve managed to knock off over a minute from my original time.

The course that I run around is shown below. Thanks to Google Maps for the image (not entirely sure if I’m allowed to post such an image). The red sections are the parts I run and the blue section is the part I (currently) have to walk. The blue part is actually up a small hill 🙂 The starting point is in the bottom right hand corner where the red lines meet to a ‘V’ shape.

Route of my running course

I’ve taken a rough measurement based on the scale in the bottom left hand corner and it seems to be about 1.1 miles all the way around. If I include the route to and from my house then the entire course is about 1.6 miles.

The bit I actually time myself around is the course shown in red though.

The time it takes me to get around this course is still quite shameful, but it’s getting better as time goes on as this graph below shows…

My Running Times Graph

For some reason I seem to be getting my best times on Mondays, then throughout the week the times creep back up again. My most recent run (today) gave a time of 11 minutes dead on, but on Monday I did it in 10 minutes 53 seconds, so I was 7 seconds slower. I wonder what it will be like on Friday?

One theory I have that I get better results on Monday is because I’ve had a couple of days rest and my body is better prepared. But it’s just a shot in the dark theory, so who knows!?

Summer Holidays

Just returned from a fantastic week long break in Crete – home of the first advanced civilisation in Europe, the Minoans. Greek Myth also says it’s the place where Zeus was born and where the Labyrinth is located.

It wasn’t all culture though…infact it was mostly not culture and consisted of relaxing in the sun by the pool, chilling by the pool bar and enjoying the nights out in places like Piskopiano, Hersonissos and of course Malia.

On one of the days we hired out a quad bike and let me tell you now, hiring a quad bike is like hiring some instant death. The things are lethal – with no differential on the axels, when you take a corner on the road the bike kicks out or wants to roll over – if you ever drive one just be careful!

Malia was the place to go for a good night out though with all the drink offers you can’t help but wonder just how watered down the alcohol is. As I found with Ibiza, hangovers simply do not happen in Crete and most days after a heavy night out I could wake up with a clear head.

I will be uploading some photos soon, so stay tuned!