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Feeling Really Ucky

And for any purists out there…yes, on peterclaridge.com, ucky is a real word!

After reporting having a cold a few days ago, I thought I had gone into remission and by Wednesday was feeling not too bad. But on Thursday I felt worse than ever and was confined to bed for two days. I think India colds are bigger and better than UK colds. It’s a proper head cold causing my eyes, ears, nose and throat to really hurt along with a really painful headache. Infact, after some consideration, I established that the only part of me that didn’t hurt or ache was my back.

So now it’s Sunday evening and I’ve finally been able to eat something after a few days. The cold is showing signs of abating, but it’s had the side affect of whenever I cough, sneeze or breath (which is approximately once every 30 seconds at the moment), it brings up lots of yucky phlegm.

Since I’m always one to find out more about stuff (and probably highlighted by the fact that I’m bored stupid as I’m unable to concentrate on work for more than 5 minutes), I decided to find out more about the stuff being coughed and sneezed out of my body.

Yes, I know it’s a pretty disgusting subject, but let’s face it, everyone suffers from colds at least once or twice a year and everyone has experienced the discomfort it brings. So here are some trivial facts that you can use to amaze your friends when they are next suffering from a cold…

  • Phlegm is a type of mucus which is basically a water-based gel consisting in glycoproteins, immunoglobulins, lipids, etc
  • In medieval times, phlegm was said to be responsible for apathetic and sluggish behavior. Hence the word phlegmatic to describe a lazy and apathetic person
  • Healthy phlegm is normally clear or white
  • Yellow phlegm is normally a sign of an infection, or a case of the common cold. The initial state of the common flu when the phlegm is yet clear, is the most infectious period. When the phlegm turns into yellow, the body is already taking care of the infection.

See, reading this blog is an education. Now you can analyze your friends phlegm and accurately determine if they are in the middle of the infection or at the end. Just another public service announcement brought to you by me.

It’s strange how when things are going really well the last thing on your mind is going home, but lying in bed, feeling like crap, the urge to pack your bags and catch the next flight back to the UK is very powerful! Hopefully I’ll continue to get better over the week and this feeling will receed 🙂

Bangalore Trip Part 2

Oh man, I hate tying myself down to posting on a particular day like I did yesterday. I have no inspiration to write. But I said I would, so here goes…deep breath…

So after Anand’s humiliating put down by the beggar girl (literally a case of “drink up, Trigger, we’re leaving”) we went off to the Agriya Bangalore office (Photos – opens in a new page).

After disturbing the workers we headed on out to find a hotel where this birthday party was taking place.

Originally we meant to stay only until about 8pm, but they hadn’t served the food by this time, and there was no way Aravind was leaving without some free food! (just kidding mate!).

For any of you Western Infidels out there reading this blog, I thought I’d mention that birthday parties are celebrated just the same way as back home in the UK. Even the Happy Birthday song is sung in English.

After eating far too much good food we eventually left just after nine to start the long journey back.

Eventually got back to Chennai around 3.30, Aravind had a little run in with the curb while doing a u-turn in the SUV. He says that the curb lept out of nowhere and no one saw him do in and infact the curb hit him. That’s his story. And he’s sticking to it.

Since I’m totally hardcore and just like the duracell bunny, I decided to take the Wednesday off work due to fatigue :~)

OK, so in other cool news and totally unrelated to Bangalore: I’ve been invited to my first wedding! One of my freshers, her brother (whom I’ve never met) is getting married next week and I got an invitation! I felt so…hmm, I don’t know what I felt, but it was one of those emotion things.

So yeah, I think that’s all I have to report for today. Another week is over. Tomorrow I should have been flying up to Orissa, but torrential monsoon rain has pretty much flooded Eastern India, so that’s been called off until a later date. Instead I will be in the office doing some interviews for data collectors as part of my new joint venture with Agriya Infoway.

Goodbye 🙂

Bangalore Trip Part 1

On the 23rd October, myself, Aravind and Anand took a little road trip to Bangalore – India’s tech capital.

If you’ve ever phoned up customer support for a company and someone with an Indian accent answered, then chances are the person on the other end of the line was sitting in a call centre in Bangalore.

Bangalore is also home to some of India’s biggest home grown corporations, including Infosys and Wipro. It is also the Indian headquarters for many international corporations such as Oracle, IBM and HSBC.

The trip to Bangalore takes about 6 hours by car, so we arranged to leave by about 4pm on the Monday, but since Indian’s seem to be even more laid back than American’s, it was more like 6.30pm by the time we left.

The journey was pretty uneventful, except maybe the ‘hotel’ where we stopped to eat. Not your typical 5 star hotel!

When we got to Bangalore, it was about 1am and we were dropping off Aparnaa’s father when a police patrol decided to come and see why 2 Indians and an Englishman were hanging around a street corner at 1 o clock in the morning. They didn’t seem to want to leave us alone – but eventually they got bored and left us.

On the Tuesday we went into Bangalore and to a shopping centre called The Forum. It was absolutely heaving: think Bluewater the weekend before Christmas. At the shopping centre it was all Western chain shops and designer stores. There was even a Lush store!

So after a traditional Indian lunch of a McChicken with fries (they don’t eat beef, so I had to be a little bit crazy and not have my usual quarter pounder but try something new), we spent the afternoon wondering through the designer stores and electrical stores.

In the afternoon, one of the funniest things happened, although as with everything that is hilarious, you probably had to be there to find it funny.

Basically, Aravind, Anand and I were walking down a brand infested street in Bangalore when a begger girl (probably around 20) came up to me and started pestering me.

I couldn’t shake her off, Anand came to try and rescue me but she wouldn’t stop following, bending down infront of me grabbing my trousers. Eventually Anand took out his wallet and held out his hand with some money. She looked him up and down before completely blanking him and coming back to me!

Apparently Englishman’s rupees are better than India man’s rupees.

Naturally we came up with all the ladish jokes about Anand’s way with the women, but I couldn’t possibly print them here (my mother reads this blog you know!).

I guess I’ll finish the next part of the Bangalore trip tomorrow. Too tired to keep on writing.

Good night 😀

Happy Diwali Boys and Girls!

And in other news. Welcome to World War III. Or at least that’s what it feels like with fire crackers and bangers going off all over the city – 24/7

You may have thought that by 3am they’d be getting bored of a few bangs, but oh no. They can, and will, keep going all night.

They line up row upon row of crackers, set a fuse and one end and the whole line of crackers goes off one after another. Sometimes it’s like a minute of continuous cracking.

Diwali, incase you didn’t know, is the Hindu equivalent to the Christian’s Christmas. Diwali means Festival of Light and the fire crackers are set off in celebration of this.

The family tried to get me into a traditional Indian dress (no, not the saree!), but I cited religious grounds for not going ahead with it 🙂

Last night, Aravind was entertaining two other clients from France at the family home – a father and son. The father originally came from the Chennai area, but left when he was about 10, and now he’s looking to come back and get his son Indian Citizen status.

People seem to be returning to India more and more nowadays, where once you had the “brain drain” where the brightest people went off to Europe and America, the younger generation is going off to these countries to get the education and returning to India to work for the Indian corporations or set up their own businesses. Given the cheaper cost of everything here, you can certainly enjoy a better standard of living that you could do on an equivalent income in Europe or America – and that’s probably the attraction for most people to return to India.

Getting back to Diwali, it’s a day of family and celebration, and what better way than to go to the cinema and sit in silence with your family for 2 hours. It avoids all the customary family arguements that go hand in hand with family gatherings 🙂

What Do I NOT Miss About The UK?

OK, so the other day I listed some of the things that I missed about the UK, today, I thought I’d list some of the things I’m not missing about the UK (just so that we can have a balanced discussion, you know?).

Right, then…

  • My House Mates!
    After the shocking and slanderous and above all, utterly baseless accusations that were levied at myself by my lovely housemates, they have earned themselves my number one spot of things (or people) I don’t miss about the UK!
  • The Crappy English Weather
    Is it going to be hot? Is it going to be cold? Is it going to rain? Who knows?! In India you have one option: Frickin’ hot. It makes life so much simpler.
  • Food
    Indian food is wonderful. I now say most of the dishes in Tamil. I can’t speak a word of anything else in Tamil, but at least I’ll never go hungry. I can ask for Idly (kinda like a rice cake), Dosai (like a fried pancake thing), Chappati (err, like a flat bread), Sambar (a yellow sauce), Puri (no idea. It’s fried), Saadam (rice) and my favourite, Chai (tea!).
  • How bloody expensive London is
    I love how cheap it is to live out here compared to London. You can go to a really nice 5 star hotel restaurant and get a great meal for about a fiver. That includes starter, main, dessert and tea. Clothes are comparable in price, so I bought a pair of Levi jeans for about £30. Is that cheap? I don’t know I’ve never bought Levi jeans before. Answers on a postcard please. The only exception is land and property prices which in the city is comparable to European cities
  • The solitude of working at home alone
    Ok, all together now, “awwww….”. Yeah, whatever. Seriously, I’m a sociable guy, and I love working and interacting with other people. Working in an office with loads of other people is great for me.
  • A Couch!
    How cool is this? The day after I post that I really missed having a couch to lounge upon, Aravind’s parents take delivery of a brand new 3 piece suite! Check it out…

Today I booked my ticket home (so sad). After being absolutely specifc to the travel agent that I wanted a ticket I could change, British Airways told me that there was absolutely no way I could change it. BA blamed travel agents. Travel agents blamed BA. I got the good old fashioned British runaround where companies blame each other.

Fortunately the nice girl at the travel agents was really really helpful and got it sorted for me. BA were just being really anal for some reason. So I’m booked to come home. When will it be? I’ll keep you guessing.

Oh, I also need to tell my most avid reader (my mother) all about my new War on Mosquito’s (you should see Aravind’s feet, eww! He doesn’t make fun of me taking my malaria tablets any more!) and the new love in my life. Stay tuned!

What Do I Miss About The UK?

So what do I miss about the UK, someone asked me the other day.

Rather surprisingly, I had to stop and think for a few minutes before I had any answers. The real answer to this question is: not much!

Aside from the obvious family and friends, it got me thinking about what I really missed the most, and for your enjoyment and to satisfy your curiosity (don’t forget, curiosity killed the cat, so if you read on, don’t say I didn’t warn you), I have listed here what I miss most about the UK.

  • A Couch
    Yep, a simple couch that you can sit on, lie on and lounge on. There are not any comfy sofa’s or chairs in this house, just desk chairs and kitchen chairs. I miss not being able to lie on a comfy couch and watch TV
  • Personal Space
    There’s 5 people living in this 3 bedroom flat so you don’t really get any of your own space – there’s always people around.
  • Being able to do what I want, when I want
    Because I’m having to rely on other people to transport me around, translate, cook and do other things, I’ve lost some of the independence that you have from living alone – where you make the rules. On the flip side, it means I never have to worry about cooking, cleaning, washing up, ironing or any other housework! Every cloud… 🙂
  • The convenience of London
    I like being able to pop round the corner in London and know that there is a shop that sells what ever I want. I don’t have that in India at the moment, because if I’m hungry, I have to consider if the place is going to serve food I like , the hygiene of the place and other things
  • Good old Euro-fizz beer
    The beer choices in India are Kingfisher or Sandpiper. Kingfisher is quite nice, but it’s not quite Kronenbourg!
  • Someone to talk to about football
    Outrageously, football is not considered important enough to discuss over here 🙁 So no one to talk to about England’s latest abysmal performance, what the likelihood is of having two keepers knocked unconcious in one match, how on Earth Bolton Wanderers are so high up in the league etc.

I guess that’s all I can think of right now. I know I’ve probably left out some glaringly obvious things, but I can’t think of them at the moment. Maybe I’ll come back and update this list in a month or so.

Tomorrow I might make a list of things that I don’t miss.

Oh, I’ve also declared a new War on Mosquito’s. Currently the battle figures stand at 23 dead mosquito’s against 32,832 bites. Yeah, I’m losing but there’s only one of me and I have to sleep. I need to form a new coalition of the willing to join me in my fight. More news on this later.

One Month In India…

…and I’m still not dead. Although having been out on the back of the motorbike several times since I got here there has been an element of luck involved.

Nor have I succumb the to the traditional Delhi belly that travellers to India are welcomed with. Obviously everyone else who came to India and suffered was just rubbish.

Even though the temperatures are in the 30’s most days, I’m still as white as I was when I left London. This is simply because I haven’t been out and about much except for travelling between the office and home. (you guys didn’t think I was coming here for a holiday did you?!)

I’m doing so many cool things in India that the past month has just flown by.

I’ve been working with Agriya Infoway to streamline and systemize their business a whole lot more. Since they were formed in 2002, they’ve seen near 100% growth year on year and haven’t had time to really systemize their business.

Some of the things I’m helping to sort out include the project process from the time a client approaches Agriya, through development and to the final delivery.

The next thing I’ve been working on is a training plan and conducting interviews for a group of university graduates which comprises designers, programmers and software testers. This group of graduates have had no exposure to business or the internet, but within three months I’m hoping to get them all up to speed and fingers crossed, Agriya will hire most, if not all of them at the end of the training. My main goal is to have them all offered permanent jobs at Agriya.

I’m really looking forward to the training because I get to impose my way of thinking and design tastes on them 🙂

As if all this isn’t enough, I’m going into a 50/50 partnership with Agriya to develop some real online/offline businesses targeted at the mass markets. Unfortunately I can’t elaborate too much on everything at the moment, but there are 3 very different businesses and work should be starting on the first one early next week. If they really take off, they’ll be registered as seperate companies.

And finally…one of the biggest reasons for me coming out here, to avoid my parents project rescue, seems to be drawing to a close as it is due for completion tomorrow. A 4 month project has been ongoing for nearly 8 months now…yeah, my project management skills rock :-/

So everything is good. Everything is cool. Tomorrow we go to Bangalore to explore a new city.

PS. Lots of blog readers…no comments 🙁 take the hint people, post comments!

Interview Advice…by me

So if anyone out there has been keeping up with my blog, this week and last week I’ve been conducting interviews with ‘freshers’ (people fresh out of university) looking for around 6 people to be trained up by me in the art of programming, design, usability and quality control.

Side note: In the UK, it is often said (semi-tongue in cheek) that those that have the ability will use it, and those that don’t have the ability will teach it. So in a classic case of those that can, do, those that can’t teach, I can neither design nor programme computer code, and yet I will be instructing others in these arts.

I have now conducted 18 interviews and seen a wide range of candidates. Below I will detail some of the things that I was looking for and what I wasn’t looking for from the interviewees.

Note that these things are probably specific to computer programmers and graphic designers. I’m not saying this is how all interviewees should be, and if you decide to apply some of the stuff I talk about and don’t get the job, don’t come blaming me!

What I wasn’t looking for

Let’s start with what I wasn’t looking for…

a) I wasn’t at all interested in the career objective at the top of resumes about what the candidate’s goals are.. Once you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. Anyone can write a paragraph with buzz words like “challenging role”, “develop my skills”, “fast pace environment”, “work for the growth of the company”. It’s all contrived and not written with any passion.

If there is going to be a career objective in the resume, I would suggest writing something more honest and without the buzz words. Be different!

b) I definitely wasn’t looking at, or gave any relevance to, what the candidate had put down as their hobbies and interest. Unless you have a hobby or do an activity that is directly related to the job you are going to be performing, I would go as far as to say don’t even include it on a CV. Too many resume’s I read put their hobbies down as “watching TV”, “hanging out with friends” and “listening to music”.

c) Academic qualifications. This might sound quite shocking, but I wasn’t too interested in academic qualifications either. I was far more interested in seeing the persons motivation and enthusiasm for the subject.

What I was looking for

Now let’s see what I was looking for…

a) The biggest thing I was looking for was an honest enthusiasm for the job the candidate was applying for with a proven interest to learn about the specific role. If they were able to talk about it and show how they were motivated enough to learn about new things outside the normal academic education (doing things off their own back), then they had my attention – far more than those that had extraordinary academic qualifications but showed no evidence of having the motivation to carry on the learning outside academia

b) Another factor I was looking for was the undertaking of projects either through university or personal endeavour related to the job role the candidate was applying for. In this case we were interviewing for PHP programmers and graphic designers.

For the programmers, I was very interested in seeing what projects the candidate had done by themselves and not been told to do by the university.

For the designers, my interest was seeing a full portfolio that demonstrated a wide range of skills in photoshop and other graphics packages. Unfortunately most designers fell down in this area 🙁

c) The final thing I was looking at was the openness and friendliness of the candidate. Some candidates were a closed book, others came across as quite arrogant. What I was asking myself was “would I like to work with this person”. This is going to be mostly down to the personality of the candidate.

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Who knows, maybe I’m way off track with my interview technique and quite naive in my approach. But this is the first time I’ve ever been the interviewer, so if any of the older readers has any advice that I should take on board for next time, I’d love to hear it!

Bollywood Movies and Four Star Hotels

Life isn’t all hard work you know! This weekend I’ve been chilling out a little bit more (by that, I mean I haven’t spent 16 hours a day infront of a computer).

On Saturday we went to a really, really posh hotel called The Residency Towers which really is as nice as it looks on the website.

The reason for going to the hotel is because there are no bars or pubs in Chennai in the traditional sense, the only places that can get a license to sell alcoholic beverages are special wine shops and hotels – and only in a hotel can you sit down and drink.

Amazingly, the rooms cost just £37 a night for a single room. Very nice!

After a few beers and dinner (coming in at less than £10), it was off to see one of the famous Bollywood movies. As a side note to anyone that has never seen a Bollywood movie, the general format for all films is as follows:

– Boy loves girl
– Girl loves boy
– Some external force (parents, distance, religion) is keeping them apart
– Sing and dance about their love for one another
– Get married at the end

Although the films are predominantly in the Hindi language, the actors slip into English so often you can follow pretty well what is being said and what’s going on. Incidently, they can often be pretty funny at times too!

On Sunday, it was a little more relaxing, where it was off to a Starbucks style coffee house where it had everything but the Starbucks prices. Three panini’s, two coffees and two doughnuts coming in at under £4.

Then it was off to a Spanish bar/restaurant called Zara’s which wouldn’t look out of place in London. Again, this place is also a hotel, so they can serve beer here. Football on the widescreen LCD TV’s, cold beer in one hand, and a lovely lamb spaghetti in front of me. All for a mere £7.

There is of course the other side of life in Chennai, you simply have to step out side your luxury hotel or Western bar/restaurant to see families sleeping in the streets or the slum houses…but my host prefers me not to talk about such things!

And as a little bit of light hearted fun, you know you are in India when…

Speed camera’s are considered a complete waste of resources and money when a far more effective, entertaining and fun solution is to simply place a large metal barrier across one half of the road, forcing all the traffic into the on-coming traffic lane. It slows traffic down a treat. For 20 miles each way.

But where is the fun in just having one barrier when you can stick another barrier 30ft away on the other side of the road forcing all vehicles to sort of chicane their way down the road. Anyone who’s ever seen the Blues Brothers car chase should have some idea of the mass pile-ups that occur.

Click if you’ve never seen Blues Brothers

On a side note, if you want to send me some comments on this website (everyone will be able to see them), you need to register for an account on the right side under the login box. You’ll need to confirm your email, but once you have done that you can start posting comments 🙂

Mastering The Indian Language

India.

It’s an entirely different country you know. To master the Indian language, you would have to become a master of 15 different languages…and that’s just the ‘official’ languages. Unofficially, it seems every city, town, village, hamlet and quite possibly 3 member family has their own language.

In Chennai, the city where I’m staying, the official language is Tamil.

When I came over, I thought it would be only proper of me to learn a few words and phrases such as hello, please, thank you, yes, no, why is my dinner trying to escape from my plate, excusemewhereisthebathroomineedtogonowgetoutofthewayarragagghghghahg…mama etc.

Unfortunately it turns out that all the common phrases are spoken in English, so as good as my intentions were, they would have been in vain.

When you hear the Tamil language being spoken, it’s quite strange because there are English words mixed in – sometimes this is enough for you to get the jist of what they are saying, without actually understanding what they are saying…if that makes sense.

However, since most of their English is learned from american TV shows and movies, they don’t understand the brits when they talk. For example, when I was conducting the interviews, 70% of the candidates put that they spoke and understood English, but they needed a translator to say the exact same thing I was saying but in an Indian accent.

In other news…

You know you are in India when…

The motorbike you are on (ridden without a helmet of course) breaks down in the middle of the street. The problem is assumed to be no petrol in the tank. You park up the bike and wander to the nearest gas station. You don’t have a proper petrol container, but that’s ok, because you just bought a 500ml bottle of mineral water and tipped the water out. Viola! Instant petrol container. Fill water bottle petrol container up with petrol. Spillages? No worries mate, it saves us having to clean the floor. Take petrol container back to motorbike and fill up gas tank. Motorbike still doesn’t start. Scratch head. Stare at ground. Give up. Push motorbike back home.

Interviews In India

For the past week I’ve been interviewing “freshers” from the Southern Indian universities. There are six positions available, 2 designers, 2 programmers and 2 quality controllers.

The plan is to take these freshers on for work experience – but unlike the UK, it’s not going to be for just a few weeks, this is going to be a 6 month stint.

During this time, I’ll be mentoring them and giving them real life projects to work on as a team in order to develop their individual skills as well as experience of working in a office environment. If any turn out to be real stars, the owners of Agriya may even look to take them on full time.

Unfortunately I can’t comment on the quality of the candidates as the interviews are still ongoing with another round taking place later this week.

If you haven’t already, check out the Chennai Photos. I’ll try and remember to get some photo’s of the office posted in the gallery tomorrow.

Indian Food

Now there’s going to be a few raised eyebrows for anybody that knows me personally when I tell you this…

Indian food is lovely!

Once we got over the fact that you don’t need to add 10 chilli’s to add taste, the food is really nice. Everyday is something different and always nice. Once the chilli is removed, you can actually start tasting the food. With chilli’s the only experience you have is your mouth catching fire.

I think I will start taking some pictures of the food I’m eating – anyone who knows me will be in for a shock!

Even the fact that it is all vegatarian food is not a problem for me – I’m not missing meat one bit.

The only downside is that the family are insisting I’m not eating enough, so even when I’ve finished an entire plateful of food, they want to keep giving me more and more!

I’ve uploaded some photo’s of Chennai but the links are not working yet. I’ll get that sorted this week some time.