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Reality Bytes: Eight Months Later

Diwali is around the corner. Family is in town. Lights, lanterns, festivities, shopping, sweets and delicacies and fire crackers. We celebrate Ganesh festival, Dusshera and even smaller festivals like Kojagiri Poornima.This truly encompasses what being in India is all about.

Our last two months have been more on adjusting to life in India.The usual suspects are still lurking around.

Traffic

Traffic is bad. I feel even more now that I have started driving. With our small car, we had to take the car seat out when we had family in town for a month. Now Varun refuses to sit in the car seat though he usually sits only on backseat.Once a valet didn’t come forward on seeing us as he suspected Vipul was a driver as he saw Varun and me in the backseat. Since then Vipul insists on all of us sitting on front seat at least when we go out dining. We even did a long road trip recently ( though Varun was on back seat on the long drive). Most of our long distance driving is restricted to-day time; but I must confess I have been on one trip with colleagues when we drove at night with kids on laps. But in our defense, these friends are used to driving in India at night and the highway was divided as well as lit – so its didn’t feel as dangerous as I would have once assumed it to be.

Lifestyle

The temperature has become more bearable. We have made several trips making most of the good weather. Mumbai and Lonavla for Gauri and GanapatiKochi and Kumarakom with my brother and SIL, Kurnool with colleagues and Srisailam with parents.  Only one regret we couldn’t visit a waterfall and have a good soak this monsoon. Maybe next year.

We visited several in Hyderabad as well – Lotus Pond, Shilparamam, Jagannath temple – photos will be shared soon!

We have shopped a fair bit – Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Promod, Marks and Spencer’s, Pantaloons. Cant always defer to US or Mumbai trip for shopping. Next up is a quest for a tailor.

One good part about Hyderabad is that there are several Sunday brunch places around the town. Westin, SO, Taj Krishna, Novotel – have a buffet style brunch that you can indulge in. Varun runs around, tries his favorite pasta and chicken, bread sticks, juice and ice cream and dozes off on the way home. We don’t have to worry about what to order. And as we eat early, almost always are first ones on the scene. Fresh food, attentive service, happy Varun- what else can I ask for.

Working at IDC

Finally with release of Windows 8, Vipul is now a bit free and relaxed. We went to Ramoji Film City for his Ship party and made a movie – It was insane. Varun and I went along with him ( family was invited) and we stayed overnight and had a custom ‘Nizam night’ hosted to celebrate the team shipping and watched the movies made.

This past month was also a month-long Giving campaign at Microsoft. At IDC, this takes a new dimension as one of the goals is to ensure everyone participates. So variety of events were planned at team, division and at Microsoft IDC level. On our team we had a sports tournament (where I was named MVP as I had most points..hahahah!) , Talent show (where all girls on the team performed a medley), Auction and a Family event (where we invited families and hosted them for an evening with Bingo, food, music and fun!)

It was a fun way to bond with team mates over the month.

We had our ship party as well as released in October as part of Office 2013. Our ship party was in Leonia Resort where we spent the day and then did the Gangnam Style performance.

Yea, its been most fun at work with manageable work loads. The atmosphere is more college like with all young recent grads actively participating and leading these events.

Chores and Help

Our honeymoon phase is definitely over.  Our cook left us for some unknown reason and we had to scramble to find another one. This new cook is getting used to our taste and schedule. She comes twice a day and prepares better food than the previous one – although charges a lot more money than the previous one.

Our maid is still the same – though she sometimes skips work and we are stuck with a pile of dishes to clean. I am seriously considering getting a dishwasher. And a dryer is on the list as well since our existing one died on us.

The guy who cleans the car comes regularly though does a poor job of cleaning the interior of the car. Vipul or I go down once in couple of weeks and deep clean the car. Varun loves this part as he can make a mess, play in water etc.

A lot of folks ask us if we will stay or return. We still are on the fence. I have seen quiet a few folks return due to work reasons, charter changes, reorganizations etc. I have seen quite a few folks not move back but find another role in IDC. I have seen a steady stream of imports as well ( as our PM directors calls us ;)) in management positions. Returning to Seattle will be very hard. I don’t look forward to the rainy drizzly overcast winters. And living with out all this basic help outsourced will be harder now that we have had a taste of good life. But we are nowhere near to rushing out to buying our own house and settling here.Lets see. Time will tell. We had decided to try it out for couple of years before we make up our mind.

I have heard about 12 month mark being a true life changer. Onwards to that. Till then I have Diwali, sweets, shopping and fire crackers to think about!

NEO @ IDC

Monday, March 12th 2012, marks the beginning of phase II of our Microsoft experience.

It was a long day with delays, miscommunications, filing a bunch of paper work and long-winded talk reading from the power point slide about benefits and insurance – very different from the experience in Redmond almost 8 years ago.

Yesterday, we told our driver to arrive by 8:15 so we could leave early and be on campus by 9:00. Vipul had received an email with NEO times, I didn’t even get an email but I just tagged along hoping that it was a communication error. The driver reported on time, but we were delayed since I had to find my card key. We left home at 8:35 and reached campus by 8:50 am – muy better than my Redmond commute to Advanta. Traffic was light along the way. Vipul has been to IDC before, but this was my first time – I was excited to see Infosys, Wipro, TCS, ISB, CA, all in close proximity!

Once at IDC, we had to go through multiple security checkpoints – luckily since our card key was ‘activated’ we could scan and enter – else we saw others get down from the car and go through some additional security measures.

Past security, the driver parked at the garage closest to Building 3 ( where the NEO was scheduled) and we asked to come back at 5:00 to pick us up.

Building 3 is a modern building – reminiscent of Advanta or City Center buildings with lush tropical foliage, fountains and flowering trees. At that mid morning hour, I could smell the faint traces of plumeria as the occasional breeze wafted our way.

Once inside, we used our card key to enter the building, but the receptionist/security guy pulled us aside to verify our card keys and then gave us directions to the NEO room.

There were about 12 of us in all at the NEO. Everyone was given a different start time of NEO – so people strolled in leisurely. We had chai and exchanged notes with others while we waited. Also, the NEO is over 2 days, day 1 is Global NEO and day 2 is for enity specific – MSIT, MS IDC etc. But since we didnt have 15 people, we didn’t end up with Global NEO and that will be scheduled at a latter date.Finally the HR gal showed up at 10:00 ( she was told that the session is at 10:00) and we spent the next hour and half on going over various forms ( new employee form, pension , corporate card etc). Vipul and I were industrious and filled the forms while she was explaining so we got done by 11:30! Others filled the forms after 11:30. Then we had a lunch break till 2:00.

Now, Vipul and I were starving at 11:30 – we ran upstairs to the cafeteria only to find that they don’t start till noon. We had a pathetic veggie burger and veg pita roll from the only counter that was open and then had a glass of buttermilk. Then I went upstairs to meet my team and said hi to an old friend, Shubhada ( glad we are on the same team!!) and found the cube where I will sit. Boo for the cube, but yay for the team!

After that we took the shuttle to Vipul’s office in Bldg 1. I waited in the lobby while he met his team mates and found his office ( he gets an office ~)) . Then we explored his cafeteria ( mine is better but lacks chat corner) , gym ( there is one in each Bldg with showers and towel service). His building also has a Barista , basketball court and a cricket ground ( a match was going on in 35 C heat  – either they are crazy or we are these ‘pretentious firangs’ who can’t handle heat anymore).

Oh, and did I mention there is free Maaza in the cooler?

And the dishware and cups/mugs are the ‘real’ kind – not the compostable ‘can’t- handle-hot-contents-for- they-melt’ variety!

After lunch, we had an hour-long session on flex benefits and insurance plan options. It was boring and I was glad when it was over. The gist that I took away from it is that we can get coverage for us as well as our parents as part of medical insurance, life insurance is limited to employees and their spouse, dental coverage is almost non-existent and child care is subsidized.

Following this was another hour-long session on details of medical insurance, claims process, network policy etc. This was the longest hour today as the United Healthcare speaker droned on and on.Even garam garam cardamom chai could not keep us up. Luckily, everyone felt that way and no one asked any questions and the session ended before time.

The last session of the day was on Income Taxes, salary structure, allowances, deductions and exemptions – the most interesting session of the day. I will post details on this in a subsequent post once we file the Indian Income tax return for our ~ 2 weeks income before the tax year ends on March 30th. The speaker  from Ernst and Young was knowledgable and relatively engaging. Kudos to him for answering questions patiently and making taxes not-so-boring at the end of the day!

Then a bunch of Bank representatives (AXIS, ICICI, HDFC , Kotak Mahindra etc)  had come on campus so we could open a bank account. There is an ICICI bank on campus, but we opened an account with Kotak Mahindra as they had the best interest rates on savings account ( 6% P.A.) and had a Activmoney feature where in any amount greater than 1 lakhs gets transferred to a fixed deposit earring higher interest rate of 8.25% .The other benefits , such as ATM coverage, daily limits, net banking etc seemed almost the same amongst all banks. They made us fill our name, address, phone number, nominee information on a one page form and said that they will fill the official form which is 4-5 pages long using that information. We simply signed the official form and gave them a photograph and copy of our passport and in exchange got a welcome kit that included the ATM/Debit card, online account ID, bank account ID, passwords , check book etc.

I was hungry by this time. We ate a samosa and gulab jamun ( free!), met another friend, called the driver and came home. Traffic was OK at 5:30 and we were home by 5:50.

I was glad to see Varun after a long day! We went down for a walk and to play in the garden.Tomorrow is first day of real work. I can’t wait to get started 🙂

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