Trekking along the “Great wall of Korea” ..


Today was Chuseok (추석) and my second in Korea… The Same Day Last year was filled with pretty much everything that i could have asked for.. This year we thought of Visiting a very important historical landmark in Korea which is Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. Its pretty much a smaller version of the great wall of china covering multiple hills going up and down with occassional outposts and 4 Main Gates.. It covers an area of 1.54 kilometers with a wall in the perimeter. The wall itself is around 5.74 kilometers long. The fortress features a floodgate, four secret gates, four guard platforms, two observation towers, two command posts, two archer’s platforms, five firearms bastions, five sentry towers, four angle towers, a beacon tower and nine bastions. The whole fortress including the wall was built in just two years, 1794-1796. The total cost of building the entire structure is around 158 US dollars and 1500 sacks of rice. How inexpensive in the world we live in where high school students have MP4s and PMPs costing 200-300 US Dollars! Such a contrast….

Sergey and I decided to visit this place and go for a walk along the hilly perimeter of the fortress. We were told that it would take about 3 hours to walk along the entire length and we started off our journey from the south gate around 3:40 pm. By the time we decided to stop, it was about 6:30 pm and we still had about a quarter of the distance to cover. Since we were really hungry from the constant strenuous trekking we decided to go back to Suwon Metro Station and head back post dinner. Will upload the pictures soon @ My Photo Gallery..

I really had an amazing experience today due to lots of picturesque and serene locations in the fortress. IT caught me thinking that this marvelous structure was built just in 2 years and now… Centuries later its still standing heads up with all its prodigious glory. What a workmanship.. Even better craftsmanship… Just unbelievably wonderful.. We can see examples of many such palaces and temples in out own country, India, itself… Take Madurai Meenakshi Temple in the South, built in 1600s … Taj Mahal in the North, completed in 1648.. Hawa Mahal in the East, completed in 1799.. Sanchi Stupa commissioned in 3rd Century BCE..

All these are examples of our national treasures.. Works or art and skill we must eternally be proud of .. Each of them tells their own story of devotion and dedication…

A striking contrast which came to my mind thinking about all the ancient marvels.. The Public Roads.. Strong roadways is definitely something a country can be proud of.. It would play a pioneering role in its development and trade relations and should be having a high priority when we think of development of a state or a nation itself.. In my thought, this might be the ONE inspiration behind the “Golden Quadrilateral” project started by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former PM of India..

I dont know much about other states but atleast in m hometown, undoubtedly, the best road ever built was the Swaraj Round, by Shaktan Thampuran.. Centuries after its built, it is one of the roads with minimal damage when compared to many other very recently made roads.. The latter (with a little exaggeration of course) can be seen with more craters than the moon after a strong rain.. I am sure that this is a case (to some extend without doubt) in many cities along the lengths and breadths of our country..

Coming to think of it.. Swaraj Round was constructed at least 3 centuries before these “high technology roads” and may be that is the ONLY reason why it is still intact.. I mean.. the resources meant for its construction would not have been redirected to some other “destinations”.. Man!!! If only we knew the “secret”!!!

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Obeying the Rules ??

A picture is worth a thousand words. I was just browsing through my photographs yesterday, when I came across the one shown below. It was taken near Seon Yu Do Park, Han Riverside, Seoul. You can know why it is a little interesting, if you observe that in spite of the traffic pattern, which is really heavy with  line sof cars going as back as your eyes can see, on each of the lanes, there still is another lane to the leftmost side which is absolutely emtpy. Obviously intrigued, I asked my friend why it was so. His reply was that, the l eftmost lane was for emergency purposes only. It is meant for granting fast access to police and ambulances when there is an emergency situation and hence people leave it empty even if it means that they have to wait for a lot more time driving in the busy lanes. Moreover, this scene was not  a rare one around here it seems. HIs words literally took me off guard and caught me thinking..

If you know what I mean, I hope you would be impressed as well. If you have no idea of what i am talking about, then i guess you are better off not knowing it.

Adieu,

Kiran

My Eternal “Wish”: Next Rebirth as a SC/ST/OBC in India

First of all I wish to make clear that, as a person, I am indifferent to the caste system we have in India and i believe in equality of the entire humanity. Honestly, I don’t support the idea of superiority and inferiority among religions, castes and creed. I don’t think that SC/ST/OBC are in any way lesser than others. They are good humans with an equal potential just like anyone else. They have equal chances for success and have a high respect for, in my mind. This post is to vent my agony and anger ONLY ON the current reservation based educational system in India and I have tried to expose my views on the whole “Reservation based on Caste” issue that has been lingering around, ever since I can imagine. Any views mentioned in this post here are purely personal and I have tried to be as objective as possible in voicing my opinions. I sincerely apologize if this causes any kind of ill-feelings in your mind.  Though there might be many advantages arising due to the reservation system, my intention in this post is to throw some light on my the negative sides of the reservations (which many of you might already be knowing) from my perspective. Hence you should expect this post to be purely critical to the system.

The point what i want to make clear is: With the kind of inequalities that is rampant in our society, there should be reservation for certain section of people, but caste should never be the criterion. (Thanks Anoop)

Before i start the post, I would like to summarize some “random numbers” that i was able to get from Central Counselling Board – Institute Wise Allotment List 2008. Let me give you the first and last ranks, with their quotas in some of the premier institutes in India (excluding IITs as I don’t have the statistics with me and IIIT Hyderabad as there is NO reservation whatsoever in the admissions to that university).

University,
Branch

First AIR
Admitted
(Quota)

Last AIR
Admitted
(Quota)

Last AIR
Admitted (OP)

NIT Trichy, ECE 219 (OP) 40808 (ST) 3807
NIT Trichy, CSE 745 (OP) 43063 (ST) 7158
NIT Surathkal, ECE 79 (OP)
44254 (ST) 4461
NIT Surathkal, CSE 756 (OP) 41886 (ST) 6848
NIT Warangal, ECE 322 (OP) 49985 (ST)
2169
NIT Warangal, CSE 159 (OP) 49015 (ST) 2854
NIT Calicut,ECE 373 (OP) 48814 (ST) 6147
NIT Calicut,CSE 2223 (OP) 43441(SC) 10134

For the uninformed international readers of my blog, AIR – All India Rank in All India Engineering Entrance Examination 2008; ECE – Electronics and Communications Engineering; CSE – Computer Science and Engineering; OP – Open Merit Admissions (100% based on AIR); SC– Scheduled Caste; ST – Scheduled Tribe; OBC – Other Backward Castes. NIT – National Institute of Technologies are the best institutes in India after IITs and IIIT Hyderabad. ECE and CSE are two of the most sought after fields of study in the engineering department for us. Hence for making the table short and sweet, I have not considered all but two of the many fields of study.

If you observe the table, especially the last two columns you can see what i am talking about. The last column stands for the rank of the student who got into that particular university/branch purely based on his rank (read hard work and a li’l bit of luck). The second last column stands for the rank of the student admitted last into the corresponding university/branch based much more on his caste than his efforts.

You can observe the ridiculous pattern. For example, lets take the case of NIT Warangal ECE (the worst case scenario among all the cases). Among the regular students, the last rank admitted in OP is 2169. It means that any student whose rank was 2170 or above (I can safely say that an All India Rank (AIR) <10000)is pretty good given that about half a million students write the same centralized exam) was not in a position to get into this university, branch.  In the place where none of the relatively more intelligent students above ranks 2170 – 10000 got into the college (and i am sure that many of them would have applied for it, unsuccessfully) when another student (with due respect to his intelligence) with rank 49 985 got into the SAME coveted seat. So its like this, there are two students for the seat, one with AIR = 2170 and other with AIR 49 985. When both of them applied to the same seat, the latter got in (thanks to his caste) whereas spite of being a much more deserving student, the former failed to get it (due to his “misfortune” in not being in the “elite” SC/ST/OBC). All his considerable hard work he had put in over the last two years of study, could not secure him his desired seat where as someone who rank is 20 times lower, was able to get it, JUST ON ACCOUNT OF HIS “LOW” caste. (Please read “” as sarcasms).

India has about 50% seats in ALL THE National Level, Government Supported Institutes (Including IITs). It means that if you are born in the privileged group of SC/ST/OBC. Oh what a life it would be.. You dont have to study as much as the unprivileged OP students, you dont have to work that hard. Still with much minimal efforts in comparison, you can still get into any decent seat you would like to get into, no matter how ridiculous your rank is.  Due to the important of the sensitive issue on Caste based reservation System in India, Wikipedia has dedicated some considerable space for a long article which can be found here. Interested may follow the link to read more on the so called “pros and cons”.

The quality of the output from all the premier institutes in India has been rocketing downwards due to this system. You can refer to what i am saying based on the Job offers a majority of the students get.

Lemme put in my two cents at this point, WHY.. i mean WHY cant they put all these reservations and of the likes in Elementary and Middle schools. I dont oppose that since there are millions of schools in India, the case of a deserving student not getting education can be ruled out. Let all indians, regardless of their caste study together, and be in a position where they can compete with each other in the All India Entrance Examinations. Let them get the rank they deserve in that exam, and get into their dream seats with no differentiation between their ethnic background. Instead, the government targets the BEST UNIVERSTIES india to put these students in and many of them fail to cope up due to unstable foundation in their schooling.

To top it all, now that the student reservation has been a “unprecedented success”, Mr. Arjun Singh had a whim to “try out” 50% faculty reservation in IITs. Wow!! Thats an icing on the already “delicious” cake which he has made. When i say he, I dont mean to target Mr. Arjun Singh alone. I mean the entire force behind this venture of “upliftment of Indians”.

If only i was born into this “privileged section” of the society and i mean the elite group of SC/ST/OBC, my life would have been much easier, thanks to the Indian Government.. Due to the reasons stated above ,its my “wish” that I be born into that section of society where dreams come true as easily as making water from ice.

But alas!!!! I can only wish….. right?

A Visit to Cheon-An

Hey there,

This post is basically a memory on the visit to my brother’s (Na Min Soo) home last weekend and goes right into my Pensieve (Harry Potter Fame).  If you are someone who likes to visualize places through another person’s eyes based on the descriptions, this post is suited for you. Else, please be my guest and and make some productive use of the 10 minutes you would have spent on reading this post.. 🙂

Something about Na Min Soo.. He is one of the best friends, alias brother, whom I gained from MWNL, my lab. It all started with an invitation from him last month “Hey Kiran. How about visiting my home and having some Chicken which my mom prepares?” I was like.. wow .. sure bro.. why not ?? I knew then that it would be an unforgettable experience to visit a Korean Home (My first by the way) and eat home made food after so long (I miss my family… 😦 ..) Due to exams and other commitments, we could not make it during the whole of last month but we decided to go last weekend, since it was the weekend right after our exams and we thought that this would be a good way to lay off some summer heat. As an icing to the cake, the day coincided with his dad’s birthday as well. What a pleasant set of coincidences. 🙂 It was Minsoo, Dongmyoung (another one of my good friends from SNU) and me, in Minsoo’s Matiz on a bright Sunday morning of June the 15th, 2008.

I was apprehensive about talking to his dad at first since i was not really good at Korean and here in Korea, respect is a must. Hence i was afraid if I would make some mistake and talk something thats not appropriate. But to my surprise, the first words Minsoo’s dad uttered after meeting me were in English. What a relief.. He made me feel really comfortable and after some time, i started behaving like the regular “non-stop-talking” me .. 🙂

As in the past, after coming to Korea, I did many things for the first time in my life. Today was not left out either. As a surprise to me, we decided to have Sam-Gyeop-Sal (삼겹살), Pork fried on coal, a very popular Korean Food and one of my favorites. The element of surprise did not lie in the food we ate, but where we ate. We decided to go to a stream originating from the mountain and cook the food on a coal fire right across it. Since it was summer, there was not much water in the stream and hence that removed all the hindrances of a nature friendly lunch. We went to the stream and found many many families and couples whiling away their Sunday afternoon in the pleasant warmth of nature. We found a suitable place for our “adventure” and the dad started making the food. We had brought Kimchi (Something like Indian Pickle), Fruit Juices, Soju (Traditional Korean Alcohol – 20% strength), Rice and Two kinds of meat. The lunch was splendid, thanks to dad, and we really enjoyed the nature friendly, on-the-stream eating experience. It was the first time for me to experience such a thing and I have taken some photographs which i will upload soon. I still have them in my D40x and hence the delay. We were given live entertainment by children playing in the water and doing their activities. It was a memorable lunch indeed.

After the lunch, we went to dad’s work place. Its a factory that makes cotton yarn. It was the first time for me to visit such a factory as well. When i saw the levels of automation, right from the feeding of raw cotton to the finished output, I, for a second was happy to be an engineer. The only human intervention that was needed was for the switching on and off and for occasional maintenance.  I was really impressed with the beauty of the machinery built by engineers like many of us, and as usual i took some photographs as well ( I never go anywhere with my D40x these days.. Am just addicted to the sweet li’l electronic marvel. 🙂 .. )

We had cold-ice coffee to beat the summer and went sight seeing around the industry campus. When i was looking into the lengths and breadths of Korean Suburbs i was able to find that they still depended to some extend on Agriculture. There were lush green fields all around me with small houses flanking them. This was a huge contrast compared to the tall sky scrappers in Seoul. I felt home. Seriously.. I felt as if i was in Viyoor (My hometown)  looking out of the window of my room, which opens the view to lush green fields as well. At that moment i really really really felt homesick. Thank god i would be visiting home sweet home in less than a month from now. Oh god.. One year passed by.. Cant believe that i am one year shy of being a professional engineer at the job i could only have dreamt of, one year ago.

Anyways.. coming back to my post from the small diversion… There was another reason i felt home actually. After a one year gap, there i was, in a place resembling my home town, with two siblings and one dad., smelling the fresh countryside air, far away from the hustles and bustles of the busy Seoul Life. I wanted to buy a home an stay there, starting right then as a matter of fact.. 🙂 I was missing my home to that extent..

Since Minsoo knew that i never travelled in a Korean Train before and that I had really wanted to travel in one, if possible today, after departing from the factory, we went to a train station and he bought us, Dongmyoung and me the train tickets back to Seoul. I was really happy. It did feel like a big-bro buying the tickets and giving it to his younger bro saying “Here Kiran. Let your first train journey be a gift from me”.. So kind of him .. BTW .. the word “Kind” is used extensively in Korea as an adjective to a person. I haven’t used that word to describe my friends, even once in India. I guess that’s just Korean English..

Since we had about 2 hours before the departure of our train, we came back to Minsoo’s home and continued the birthday celebrations. We ate Tiramisu cake and watermelon and took some photo printouts using the hand-held USB photo printer Minsoo had gifted his dad today. Post, we started off for Cheon-An railway station to catch our train back to Seoul and with a pack of Walnut Cookies (traditionally popular with its origins in Cheon-An) gifted to us. En-route to Seoul I was able to take some pretty decent shots of Building 63 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/63_Building) , from an angle I had never had a chance to see it from.  Will upload them too soon @ my photo gallery in Picasa.

And yeah since we were so full with all the food, today we could not taste mom’s Chicken dish. Minsoo told me that he would eat my share in the night, on my behalf.. I am sure it was delicious.. wasn’t it Minsoo? 🙂 I hope i can taste it the next time i visit Cheon-An

Thank a million Minsoo.. Thank you for this memorable day where i felt a part of the wonderful family you have..

Kiran

PS : starting my internship at Samsung this thursday. I would be working in System R&D Center in Telecommunication Networks @ Samsung head quarters in Suwon. Will post about it once i start the internship. Pretty excited i must say. A first step to corporate life before starting my dream job 🙂

Surely!! We do need to learn from them!!

You know…. It’s only when you meet someone different from you, I mean, as a nation or race, or any other classification you may have, that we learn about our deficiencies. And these experiences leave a strong foot print in our mind. I would depict some experiences that I have had since I came to Seoul and however banal they may sound or feel, there is a strong underlying message that caught me wondering…. If only it was like that in my place too. As we Indians have a lot of good qualities from our cultural heritage, I intend to be purely critical in this post. I take this approach because I believe that a critical eye can convey what I wanted to convey, in the most effective manner.

What I DON’T intend to do thru this post is to compare and prove that one country is better than another. All that I just want to say is if we… I mean IF WE are open to other cultures and people, there are a lot of thing that could be mutually learnt to improve ones life. That’s it!


Okay… the first experience happened recently… Before starting that let me come to a common scene that’s in the canteen or my college where I had studied. Many a times I have seen students fighting with the canteen manager saying “this food sucks”, “you gave us much less quantity… its not sufficient” … and the canteen manager replies like “if you want a better food, go somewhere else.”, “With this money you are paying, what do you expect”… All fights and stuff… Basically, the canteen people try to save money by reducing the quantity or compromising on the quality… And that too… at the expense of the health of the students… They JUST DON’T CARE.The same issue prevails with the mess system. I don’t need to remind those who have experienced, the unpalatable things they call food, which is served at the NBH and OBH cafeterias.

Coming to the post, recently I happened to visit one of the smaller restaurants in SNU campus and its more like the canteen and not like the mess (where refill is allowed). We were 8 students and we all ordered traditional Korean food for dinner. The food was delicious and when we were about to finish eating, the old lovable grandma from the kitchen made an extra portion of food for us and served us with a smile. I could actually sense the sincerity and love in each morsel of the food and most importantly her intention. She served us food just as if she if our own grandma and she made food just for us. And give that its a restaurant, she did not charge us, but just gave us the food saying “Eat more my dear children and stay healthy”..

So sweet of her. I was really touched at her actions… I felt really really nice and felt cared for… This dialogue is what our mother or grand mom would say when they serve us food at home right? She didn’t HAVE to give us this food to make us come there again. She didn’t really HAVE to give us this extra food for any reason what-so-ever. That’s the cultural difference in restaurants, which I have faced here. When this really sweet thing happened, needless to say, the next thing that came to my mind was the pitiable canteen walah in our canteen who tried to save every rupee regardless of the effects on health. I still remember getting many mails from the students to the common mailing list complaining about the health issues they had had after eating food on certain days. I still don’t understand all the fights the canteen or mess people had created to save a penny but loose something that is much much much more valuable,

The satisfaction of serving good food and seeing the smiles on the faces of the students

Another thing that I wanted to emphasize the stress on Honesty thats expected here. I know that everywhere the teacher teaches “Be Honest”, “Never Lie”, “Don’t Cheat” etc etc etc… But I wonder how many people (including me) have implemented it in our regular lives. How many times have we tried to stick to these principles when we could have been just fine being honest. Instead, we have gone in the other direction, just for “fun”, to be “brave” etc etc.

Trust me, if someone who is inclined towards cheating and stealing come here, Seoul would be a paradise for him. I have found many street markets in Seoul which sell relatively expensive stuffs worth Rs. 500 – 1000 a piece, left unattended by the owner. And all these take place when the streets are filled with people, and literally you are always physically sandwiched between at least two people all the time. Amidst such an unattended crowd, where ANYONE can just take something from the shop was walk away undetected, the owner just don’t seem to care. First time I faced this, I was surprised… How can he be so careless lest some one steals one or two of what he is selling. After my discussion about this with my friends here I was impressed with the emphasis that the people here give to such qualities. They simply don’t expect you to cheat. That’s the best way to put it. They just don’t expect you to be dishonest

As a result if one is caught red handed, one will be considered a social outcast in the otherwise honest society. Why I was so surprised with this is due to another set of incidents that happened before. There used to about ONE email every week saying, lost mobile phone, lost this, lost that etc etc. And wait!! There even was an incident which happened in the library to one of my senior friends. He was in the library studying and he left the mobile phone on the desk for literally 5 minutes (if I remember right) to drink water and freshen up. And guess what… When he came back, the mobile phone was LOST!! that too from the library!! There was a big row at that time and many of us were surprised at how this could have happened from the library…. To this day I don’t think he got his phone back (correct me if I am wrong).Another bizarre incident that had happened was to one of my batch mates and his friend’s $500 cell phone. He was sleeping in his room with the door open with this cell phone next to him. All that he knows is that when he woke up, the cell phone was lost! How unbelievable!! This incident showed the community, the extend to which some (a fraction may be…) deceitful people would go to steal things which are not theirs. Pitiable to say the least!!This strong contrast caught me thinking… Why cant honesty and sincerity be more common in our society too?? Why can’t people NOT steal? Why can’t people be honest as much as they can? Why cant people control negative feelings like jealousy, revenge, deception etc. as much as possible? I know that everybody will have these in them… but why do they let them go out of control??

Why? ….

I really don’t know if these can be answered ever…

I am sure that you would agree that there is a lack of sincerity and honesty in many sections of our otherwise-perfect society. But If these questions can be answered and once these qualities come to pertain in our society, I can only imagine how perfect it would be….

If you actually see the factsheets, Korea was much much poorer and underdeveloped compared to India in the 1970s and now Korea is at least 10-15 years ahead of India on the same scale of development. Look at Japan… Just another example… It was a true Phoenix that rose from the ashes after the 1945 Atomic Bombing to one of the MOST DEVELOPED NATIONS of the world. I can say without any doubt that the “trivial” and normally overlooked qualities like “Honesty” “Sincerity” and “Integrity” have been the foundations of such rapid growth proven throughout the history…

Without a question, it would be the fastest escalator to progress and make the status of our great nation which saw the birth of many great people, from A Developing Nation Since Last 50 Years to A Developed Nation – India and all the “Vision 2020” and “Vision 2050” can be renamed to “Vision 2009” if not “Vision 2008”…

No Indians, Please!

 

I came across this article through a link forwarded by my friend swetha. Its portrays a real life situation which actually I faced in Trivandrum some years back. It shows that the biggest discrimination being done to Indians are by none other than fellow “compatriots” (Indians) itself. Recently there was an accusation of Racial Discrimination on Australian Cricketer Andrew Symonds by Indian Cricketer Harbhajan Singh. Regardless of that news being true or not true, you can see how “weirdly” Indians discriminate Indians, in this article. I found it amusing and hence copied it to my blog for you guys to read. You can find the original article written by Sidin Sunny Vadukut @ http://in.rediff.com/getahead/2008/jan/02sidin.htm

 

 

 

No Indians, Please! – by Sidin Sunny Vadukut

 

 

The week right after Christmas I spent a few wonderful days with the wife on the sunny, sandy beaches of Goa. We just lay there soaking in the sun, reading our books, making small talk and trying to ignore the four million or so people who offered to show us dolphins, deep sea fishing and, when the wife was away getting a juice from the restaurant, ‘a good time with Russian lady and ayurvedic massage you like?’.

 

I was mildly offended of course. I had no interest in the ayurvedic massage whatsoever! What with all those oils and herbs and such like.

 

Alas, the wife returned in a jiffy with her grape juice and Svetlana remained a fleeting moment somewhat.

 

Something about the sun and sand makes them foreign folk throw away their clothes, change into swimming clothes, run down to the beach, swim for 15 minutes and then run back to lounge chairs where they spend the rest of their holiday taking in the natural beauty and unspoiled lush environment of Goa, mainly in the form of marijuana.

So much so that individual beaches in Goa are now, quietly, turning into the purview of intrepid entrepreneurs from certain countries. For instance, the beach we were on was apparently the Russian zone. Shortly northwards was a strip that was resolutely Italian with some Belgians thrown in. And to the south was a famed beach run by the Israelis seeking oneness with themselves using organic products in little pipes.

 

One morning, we were gently sunning ourselves on lounge chairs by the beach in front of our resort. As we read our novels, a thin, scrawny local ran to us and asked us to leave immediately. I sipped on my seventh vodka orange juice and spoke defiantly to the centermost of the five identical men in front of me:

 

“Why should we?”

 

“This lounge chair is not free.”

 

“Well there was no one sitting here.”

 

I sensed a scam coming up. No way he was going to get me off a vacant lounge chair, one of thousands, on an otherwise abandoned strip of beach. I was determined to show the wife that I was no pushover.

 

“Well, sorry but we ain’t moving mister!”

 

“Okay fine. You should know that it belongs to the Russian mafia.”

 

“Well, in that case you can keep this lounge chair for yourself dude! I don’t want it! Let’s go darling and not feed the international crime syndicate!”

 

By now I was screaming as I had already reached my room, running in my urgent need to show fearless disgust with this criminal nexus. My wife followed a few minutes later very quietly, possibly in awe of my moral uprightness.

But soon we were to learn that keeping the locals at bay from ‘foreign property’ was the job of the locals themselves.

 

Let me explain.

 

Thanks to the extreme cultural diversity of the beach crowd in Goa, there are a range of fine restaurants along the seafront that cater to a variety of culinary tastes. Our experiences with one of them more than illustrate the fact that when things get elite, the desi takes great pride in giving the other the cold shoulder.

 

We had heard high praise of an Italian restaurant on a beach half an hour up the coast. Apparently their pasta was most spectacular and they made the cheapest cocktails you can get in a non-election year anywhere in India.

When we walked in, we quickly noticed that we were the only locals around. Amidst a sea of a hundred or so foreign tourists all lustily biting into pizzas and pasta and garlic bread. Also lots of seafood.

 

We were both dressed in most civil jeans and t-shirts, looking very Friday casual like they show in the TV clothing ads. Shoes even.

 

Pointlessly, of course.

 

The Indian waiters ignored us completely. It was like they were looking right through us. Like we were Indian footballers in a bustling public place anywhere in the country.

 

“Can we get a table for two please?”

 

He stood and gave us the complete once over from head to toe. A condescending smirk spread on his face.

 

“Waiting.”

 

He spat the word out with utter disdain.

 

“How long?” I asked him, beginning to get a little pained at his insolence.

 

“I don’t know. Wait.”

 

If you are wearing a purple shirt with a yellow collar, crimson coconut palms plastered all over it and a wide-brimmed straw hat you expect to be treated by waiters with some respect. Instead, I was beginning to appreciate what it feels like to be a Congressman in Ahmedabad.

 

Just when we were about to give up and go back to our room and another night of violent, relentless, animal Scrabble, the Italian owner walked over and immediately spoke to us with great politeness and humbleness.

He apologised for making us wait and in 10 minutes had us seated as a table with the same ‘attitude’ waiter now waiting on our every whim and fancy:

 

What is it with waiting staff at premium restaurants in India that make them treat Indian customers like crap?

Why, in our country, do we suddenly have to treat everyone else like royalty except our own people? Sure we might not know our Camembert from our Chardonnay. Sure we might not leave thousands of rupees in tips, but we still have every intention of paying our bills provided the Rediff people send us our cheque for our columns in the preceding week.

 

So why treat the phirangs like they are some sort of godsend?

 

There is a restaurant here in Mumbai on Marine Drive that is quite popular with the swish set. I will refer to it by the false indicative name “Fault Matter Frill”. Once, a few months ago, a friend called up and tried to get a booking:

 

“Hello Fault Matter Frill? A table for two please.”

 

“Name?”

 

“Parthasarathy.”

 

“Sorry, we are all booked for the evening.”

 

Partha was mildly upset till someone in the office gave him an alternate strategy. Partha called them up again 10 minutes later. This time with some extra emphasis on the vowels.

 

“Hello, Fault Matter Freell? A table for thoo please.”

 

“Of course sir. Your name please, my dear sir!”

 

“Parto. Parto Cerratti, frowm Naaapolee”

 

“Oh, how exotic sir. Would you like a table by the sea?”

 

“Of kowrse, of kowrse.”

 

“Our pleasure sir. Look forward to meeting you sir.”

 

“Okay da.”

 

“What?”

 

“Ooh la la, I said ooh la la.”

 

Then there was the time I went to Chennai. There was this disco type place that allowed no single men inside UNLESS you were a fair-skinned foreigner. The others had to go upstairs and look at the crowd from a balcony above though a net.

 

Why, when foreigners are around, do we have to suddenly look down upon our own countrymen? Frankly, the whole thing gets me a little upset. And frustrated. I would never think of giving priority to any foreigner over an Indian if I was running as establishment. Except, of course, Angeline Jolie.

 

Thankfully, later during that trip to Goa we went for dinner to yet another restaurant. This one managed by a French man who was known for his excellent customer service. We went with much hope only to be made to wait while an ugly, blond man with a paunch, bad teeth and stubble was waved in ahead of us.

 

However, this time we didn’t take it badly at all.

It was only Rohit Bal. He is, after all, one of us.

Chosuk, Vinayaka Chaturthi, Laptop et. al.

Date : Sep 19, 2007 10:29 PM

Hello,

Another mail after a long time.. 🙂 As i had told you in the last post, was pretty tied up with work. After tomorrows class at 1:00 – 2-:15, I have 10 days off.. Its Chosuk (thanksgiving) the next week. No classes on this Friday, Monday – Wednesday Chosuk, Thursday class cancelled and fri sat sun holiday.. So totally 10 days 🙂 Its said that during Chosuk, EVERY shop (including restaurants and supermarkets) in Korea is closed and that you can find no one outside in this otherwise very very densely populated city. Everyone, from a shopkeeper to a CEO of a company goes to meet their parents with presents and spends time with them. You need to buy the stuff for these days in advance as NOTHING will be available for buying on those days. That’s Chosuk in Korea.

We celebrated Vinayaka Chaturthi last Saturday. In the morning I went there to help co-Indians clean the place and arrange things. It felt really nice. The pooja was on Saturday and the celebrations was on Sunday. It was an all-Korea celebration with people coming in from various parts of the country. Nice to be with a group of Indians after so long. Interestingly there were some Koreans too who took part in the celebrations and many of them spoke Hindi pretty good. There were two Korean kids who sang Gayathri Manthra and Ganesh Vandana on stage. Really impressive. Another group of Korean women sat on stage and kept on singing bhajans. Felt really nice that people outside India too like Indian traditions and culture and that they were also following it. Feeling proud to be an Indian. The whole function was arranged superbly. Kudos to all Nitin and all the organizers for the effort.

Click here for the link to 4 photos taken during Vinayaka Chaturthi

On Saturday, I went to an Indian restaurant called Himalayas in Korea with my mentor Hakjune Kim and his Girl Friend. Trust me when I say this. If you wanna make more money that what you would make as an engineer, come to Korea and start an Indian restaurant. Its very expensive. A papad costs around $2. A biryani which is very little in quantity costs $11. Each of us can easily eat atleast two. A plate of Chicken Tikka costs around $9, Tandoori Chicken Half costs $10 etc etc.. And Hakjune told me that Himalayas, the restaurant was the one of the cheapest in Seoul. Later i came to know that an average Indian dinner costs around $40 per person at other Indian restaurants. In India i guess a 5 star food would cost this much where as here $40 / person is in a regular small restaurant. See the profit these guys make in the name of Indian Food!! 😀

Spent yesterday night at Lab with seniors. Around 12 AM, they ordered lots of Chicken pieces from a KFC Equivalent in Seoul and had a feast. 🙂 Never saw this much chicken in the same box before in my life.. Slept on the bed in the lab and today morning I woke up and went home to get ready. Even tonight I am planning to stay here watching some movies..

Got my laptop that Samsung had promised to give us as a part of the scholarship. My first OWN laptop ever. 🙂 It’s a powered with a Pentium Core 2 Duo, 1 GB Ram, 120 GB SATA HDD and ATI X1250 256 MB Graphics Card. Here is a pic of my lappy.. 🙂

My Laptop

Our lab reserved the football stadium at SNU for an internal soccer match on Friday from 9 am to 11 am. For playing in it, I bought a nike soccer shoes today. Cost me about $60 but thank god that the lab would reimburse. 😉 Our professor too would join in the game. Am Really excited and looking forward to it. I love this about my lab. We do everything together 🙂 .. May it be eat, play, work etc. etc. There IS a feeling of “togetherness” here.. I feel so good to be a part of MWNL.

Thats it for now,

Kiran