Posts in "India"

8 Words From India We Should Add to the English Language

Over the course of the last nine years in India, I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I can barely speak any of the local languages. To anyone that asks, I quickly point out that in Chennai at least, almost everyone speaks English to varying degrees of proficiency. In my office, amongst the marketing, sales and account management teams, the default language is English.


For that, I can thank the agitations of the early 1960s when the central Government of India wanted to impose Hindi as the national language across the country. The political parties in the south vehemently opposed the implementation of Hindi to conduct all official business and so the Dravidian movement was born.

In a big F-You to the central Government, English was selected as a second language taught in schools in the south over Hindi. The result? A population that is at ease talking to foreigners but will have great difficulty communicating to their fellow countrymen from the north of the country.

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50 (ish) Things I Learned After Demonetisation

It’s been 50 days since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared on TV and gave the nation a collective heart attack. Demonetisation took out 86% of the cash value from circulation. Imagine that. All the money you had at home turned into worthless paper until you went to a bank and deposited it all, declaring everything you have to the income tax department. Since then, exactly zero rioting has broken out and the political opposition is still figuring out how it feels about this whole thing.

I, on the other hand, have experienced many highs and lows from demonetisation. Here’s 50 (ish) things that I have learned since 8th November.

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A Most Distinguished Guest

I’m told by my team mates that there are plenty of advantages of being a foreigner in India. For example, they claim that whenever we go out for dinner together, they get better service in restaurants. Now that’s not for me to comment on because I’ve got nothing to compare it against. I’m friendly to waiting staff and they mostly seem to be friendly to me.

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Chennai Rising – What Happened After the Floods

It’s been a couple of weeks since my blog post on what happened before, during and immediately after the Chennai rains. What was meant as an update for family and friends on what was going on (OK, mostly to reassure my Mum, who does worry so), seemed to have captured the attention of Chennaites around the world.

There has been no let up in the relief efforts of people all across Chennai. While now we can say that with a very few exceptions, most people have been rescued from their homes or the water has receded far enough for them to get out, rehabilitation is in full swing.

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As Chennai Sank, Humanity Rose in its Place

I don’t think November and December of 2015 are going to be two months that I forget for the rest of my life. Every year in Chennai, the Northeast Monsoon (NEM) pours rain all over the city. When I first arrived in Chennai in 2008, I remember that like clockwork the rains would come during the night and then clear up by morning. The last few years, the rains have been erratic and last year it was as if the NEM didn’t even happen.

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Where does one go for Christmas in India?

Listen up Internet. Can you help my wife and I? We want to go somewhere for Christmas but we just don’t know where! The only requirement is that it’s in India, we shouldn’t have been there before and there should be some things to do or places to explore.

This will be my fifth year outside of England for Christmas. Last year my wife and I decided to switch things up a little and booked ourselves into the Hilton Colombo. She was working for the Hilton so we got a nice staff rate on the regular price. To top it off, the head chef at Hilton Colombo was British so he laid on the best Christmas dinner I’ve had in a long time.

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How I Tried To Rescue A Puppy But Ended Up In Hospital

Living in Chennai, one is never too far away from an animal of some kind. Whether it’s a street dog or an animal more common to a farm than a city, the city is teeming with local fauna.

Every day, Darwin’s survival of the fittest plays out as disease, competition for food and danger from other animals all look to weed out the weakest.

In particular, the animals tend to be at their most vulnerable when they have a new born litter to look after.

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Tales From the Taramani MRTS Station

My team mate is known for being the resident crazy dog-lady in the office.

Now somewhere out there is a lady with twenty dogs, dog pictures on the wall, doggie slippers, t-shirts with dogs on, crockery with dog pictures, a poster hanging on the wall that says ’15 reasons why a dog is better than a husband’, and a bumper sticker on her car that says “I ❤ dogs“. This lady would look at my team mate and say “Whoa, steady on, I think you might have a problem”.

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A Tale About Socks

“Meuw, meuw, meuw, meuw, meuw” came a squeaking noise from the bushes.

“Hey, it’s a little kitten!” my wife exclaimed. “Are you sure? It sounds more like a high pitch chirp from a bird” I replied, confident in my avian chirp recognition. A motorbike zoomed past, its headlight briefly illuminated the bush and silhouetted a tiny black kitten not more than a few weeks old. It punched a big hole in my bird argument so I let it slide.

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Is it time for middle class India to vote?

I’m absolutely fascinated by the Indian general elections, there is so much controversy, so much colour, so much hatred and so much passion from all sides.

Unlike the UK, where the major parties have sort of morphed in to one giant bubble that is either marginally centre-left or centre-right but basically the same, India has over a 1,600 parties at the last count.

These parties represent everything from castes to languages to religions (although it shouldn’t be explicitly stated in the name of the party) to workforces to states to regions within states to marginalised sections of society (there’s even one for the runaway lovers) and finally to political beliefs – although that’s not always necessary.

Indian lovers party

Generally what’s required is for someone to feel aggrieved and oppressed, find a bunch of people who also want to feel aggrieved and oppressed about the same thing and then form a political party that states that its members are aggrieved and oppressed by the people or party currently in power.

This year the elections have become even more fascinating because there is a huge amount of anti-incumbency sentiment surrounding the current coalition – with the Congress party in particular drawing the bulk of the resentment. The BJP, being the only other capable national party, thought it would sweep to power unhindered, but now there is an upstart party called the AAP (that literally expands to “The Common Man’s Party”) which has more than a few politicians worryingly looking over their shoulders and making contingency plans.

Added to this are the multitude of state level parties which have decided not to tie up with any national party and will possibly play a role in being the kingmaker come results day. This will give them some nice ministries to head up, much like the DMK’s A. Raja did for the Telecoms Ministry a few years back.

Traditionally, Indians will tell you that they love to talk politics, and believe me, it’s oh so true. Mention the ‘p’ word and you’ll have countless tales of how this politician or that party needs to be removed from power.

However, when it comes to actually voting, the urban middle class was always found to be missing. The parties understand that the way to power is to please the masses, and the masses live in hundreds of thousands of villages across rural India. Political parties will give away freebies like food grinders, 14 inch colour TVs, desk fans and more – not to the middle class, but to everyone else who actually decides the elections.

I was curious whether this time around, would things will be different? Had the middle class had enough? Was it finally time for them to walk the walk after talking about what’s wrong with this country day and night for the last five years?

To find out I conducted a utterly unscientific survey of friends, colleagues and acquaintances whom I’ve met in my 6 years here. They represent the (mostly) young, urban working professionals – the future of the nation, if you will.

Gender Ratio

I don’t think this was really relevant to the survey, but since I was asking young (ish) working professionals, mostly from the tech and marketing worlds, it does show a massively skewed gender ratio.

Gender Ratio of this survey

So here we are with the questions

1. Will you be voting in the forthcoming elections?

It was very interesting for me to see so many people saying that they would vote. Many of the people who said No felt the need to qualify why they wouldn’t vote with a lot of them living away from the constituency in which they were born.

Percentage of people who will vote

What I also found interesting was while I asked the question, a handful of people wanted to tell me that they were ‘voting’ for Narendra Modi. For those of you who don’t know, Narendra Modi is the Prime Ministerial candidate for the BJP party. No one said they were voting for the BJP, they said they were voting for Modi.

This also brings up the curious question of whether people are so swept up with the Modi wave (that the media likes to call it), do they have any idea about the MP they are actually voting for – or do they even know they are not actually voting for Modi but for someone else who will nominate Modi as the Prime Minister?

Indeed, it seems as if Modi himself has realised this and is now being projected as Modi vs other parties.

Update 10th March: It was pointed out to me that even QZ did an article on how young people are voting for politicians rather than the policies they represent.

The only other response of note was from the poor person who looked blankly at me and asked “what election?” before declaring, at the age of 20, that they were too young to vote anyway. The voting age in India is 18.

2. Do you follow any politician or political party on social media?

A lot is being said about how the political fraternity is embracing social media. What they mean by embrace is that the social networks have turned in to cess pools of venomous vitriolic as supporters of all sides wage social media war against the other.

People who follow politics on social media

Personally I think it’s misguided. People will already have made up their minds who they will vote for and tend not to follow a party they won’t vote for. The election is so polarising that there cannot be too many undecided voters. Added to this, it’s the large national parties that are making the most noise, the state parties and smaller local parties know that ground roots work pays bigger dividends with the masses that actually vote.

That said, one respondent, Krish, co-founder at Chargebee, said that he didn’t follow politicians but did follow influencers, and specifically mentioned Mahesh Murthy. He felt that influencers are playing a bigger role in getting the message of the political parties across to the social media users than the parties themselves.

3. What is the single biggest challenge for a Government of India to solve?

I’ll be honest and say I think I already knew the answer to this question. Corruption is on the minds of everyone. However, I didn’t want to skew the results so I didn’t give anyone a list to choose from, I simply asked them for whatever was top of their mind.

I didn’t expect the range of issues that were raised. Interestingly, only one person, Nidhi Bhasin, said national security was an issue which was surprising since the media has raised so much fuss about Chinese incursions in the last year.

biggest challenges in India

(note: Accountability means Political Accountability – so many politicians get elected but never actually attend parliamentary sessions or have any accountability on what they’ve actually done – which is probably the same the world over!)

Here’s the full infographic, if you’ve got any thoughts or want to add your answers to this survey, please leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear what you have to say!