Fantastic Four. Can you believe that? To me, its seems surreal. I still can’t believe we are in India, settled in our own apartment and driving our car around the town.We drove to the old Hyderabad and totally survived it without running into or over people. Well, we got a scratch but that was totally not our fault – the biker and his girl decided to ride so close to the car that they scraped the left side view mirror. Now that side of the car is feeling the love!
Well, four months later, we are loving it here in India. Last weekend we spent with friends – some old and some new. We bonded over pizza and poker, chaat and cake and booze and Wimbledon. It was just like old days in Seattle and it’s just helping make our transition easier.
Here’s my rundown of key topics everyone keeps asking me about.
Working at IDC
This is very interesting. People at IDC are very smart, talented and passionate. Mostly they are younger and work late nights – 27 years is the average age. Many don’t have a social life outside work – they even spend their weekends with team mates – which is not a bad thing. It helps reinforce the team spirit. But people are very competitive. Guess the competitive spirit that guides most through various entrance examinations and the sheer desire to be in the 0.5% to be recognized/make it in life does not suddenly stop after making it to Microsoft. One up man ship is common. It happens in Redmond as well but it’s not ‘in your face’.
Teams at IDC seem to have a bit of a complex. We are always striving to do more features with a better quality. We work hard and we are always striving to get approval of our US counterparts . Every mail where we may have done something better than our US counterpart makes us proud.Well, I think we should be proud of what we do regardless of what US counterparts think.
Work-life balance is a hit and miss based on the team you join. I havent experienced this first hand but have heard from friends that their teams either have daily late night meetings or late nights emails to respond to. The teams sort of expect you to respond to emails right away – it’s a precedent set by other team members who are constantly glued to their phones and respond to the email as soon as it’s in the inbox. It frustrates my friends to no end but given recent move and pending reviews forces them to join the rest in their behavior.
I haven’t come across a single male who works flex hours or leaves early. I think culturally, we make exceptions for women with kids and expect everyone else to pitch in at any hour. I must say, my team is an exception to this. Not because my boss will read this but truly because I haven’t experienced it yet on my team.
And, vacations is another variance. The number of days you take off, where you go, do you have enough balance etc – everyone on your immediate teams knows that. And they don’t fail to remind you (or your boss) if your vacation balance is negative.
It doesn’t end at vacations. People generally are interested in each others life and want to know more about it. It just takes a little bit of getting used to. And has its merits – random strangers point out if you leave your car lights on, they send emails about rash drivers and help you find the best deal on anything you are looking for.
Life in Hyderabad
Hyderabad…oh, you are a city of contradictions. We love Hyderabad – well Jubilee Hills, Banjara Hills, Madhapur and Gachibowli areas to be precise. Beyond that we don’t venture. I know of people who stick to these neighborhoods and love it here. While you get everything in these areas, I don’t like that I can’t get up and go anywhere beyond without it being stressful. We did venture once to Kukatpally ( try saying that aloud, I like the way it rolls off my tongue. Now say it two times fast ), and boy were we in for a ride.
The crowd, the heat, the traffic brought us back to reality – it was of any typical second tier city in India. People enjoying picnics on mini gardens created on traffic circles oblivious to the honking and fumes around, guys lurking at corners just watching other folks scurry about their work and staring at girls and the quintessential cows on road. This Indian ‘stare’ is one other thing that annoys me to no end.I sometimes retort with ‘Kabhi Ladki nahi dekhi kya?’ (Havent you seen girls before?) and other times simply shrug and walk away.
Even in these so-called affluent neighborhoods, contradictions abound. Small shanties are on vacant lots next to uber residential complexes. Some residential complexes don’t have to worry about water shortage while others get water only for a few hours a day. Our maid who lives less than 500 meters from us, gets water only once a week- that too in the middle of night.
The contradictions overwhelm you when you first land. After four months, we tune it out.
Now that we (as in Vipul) has started driving, we feel the pain of driving in this city. It’s not that traffic in other Indian cities is disciplined, but here people happily drive in wrong direction and block traffic. Autorickshaws, bikes and jay walking people are the worst offenders. You never know when someone will be in front of the car – driving is stressful. Period.
While we love the Rapid. we miss our BMW a lot. My dear BMW, it’s a good thing we didn’t decide to import you here. You would have been dented/scratched and soiled in no time.
After a month, we got our car registered with Andhra Pradesh RTO and finally have got our car number plate. It’s not as straightforward in Redmond. Rs 1200 and an hour later, the car was registered as we went through an agent. They send the Registration card to keep in the car and the registration number via the agent.
After innumerable follow phone calls, we final got the card and the number yesterday.
Then you take that number to a shop like this (below) and buy a license plate of your choice (embossed, fiber glass or aluminium).
We paid Rs 2200 for an embossed fiber glass plate. Not sure if thats a rip off. Hopefully, today we will be able to pickup the plate and fix it to the car.
The weather is generally better now. On cloudy, breezy days, its perfect. On other days, its in mid – 30’s which we are still getting used to.
Restaurants, Pubs and Nightlife
Our nightlife experience in Hyderabad has still been lame – mostly for the lack of trying. August looks promising as we have parents for the whole month allowing us to party hard! And we have tried a lot of restaurants and liked most of the ones we have been too. Stay tuned for a post on restaurants we have tried and liked and are on our list.
Likely to stay or Come back?
It’s too early to say that. We want to make it work. But basic things frustrate us to no end – traffic, getting a PAN card (it took me 3 tries to fill the form ‘per instructions’) , getting car registered, every day task of driving to work etc. It’s sad that half of the city doesn’t have water and electricity while we have fountains running at the airport and light and music shows at night at tourist spots. I think the animals at Hyderabad zoo are well taken care of than the people you see on the streets.
But as I said earlier, you tune it out and look beyond it. Else life would depress you to no end. Selfish but thats how it is.
On the bright side, we are beginning to make new friends and have parties. Varun has a group of friends he plays with in the evening. Now, that’s a start. Friends truly can make your life in any city. We are blessed to have few around to make this transition easier!
Well, it’s almost two and half months since we moved, and today, I have found some time to sit down and write again. Life has become so busy and hectic that there is almost no time to do anything else.
Between work, Varun, swimming classes, house hunting, car shopping etc the days have simply flown. So here’s a rundown at how things fared in last couple of months:
Working at IDC
It’s a little bit different from working in Redmond. I am slowly getting a hang of work life in India. In US, work life revolves strictly around work. Statements like ‘ I spend enough time with you all during the week, I need evenings and weekends for family’ are not uncommon. Work life is more social here. It’s a cultural thing to bond over meals and IDC is no exception.As soon as meetings or serious work is over, people hang out together – be it for lunch or for tea and snacks – virtually no one eats at their desk. I tried that a few times and then promptly gave up. It’s hard to resist the interesting conversation that happens over meals.
Redmond ‘Softies read books like ‘Dont Eat Lunch Alone’ – here we live by it. Networking is not the goal (as the book defines), but it’s just to spend time with friends and catch up.
The biggest plus point of this social culture is that the management shares information, business data etc in variety of different forums as well is available for reviews/walkthru with us ( and not just limit themselves to key audience).
There are people playing table tennis or carrom at all times of the day . Work pace is bit relaxed during the day and then picks up pace in the evening. This is largely due to the younger crowd at IDC than in Redmond. Moms like me typically end up leaving early and logging back in later at night to catch up on work.
And, all hands are an interesting experience. Visiting exec’s from Redmond are treated like superstars, complete with showbiz style introductions. People applaud enthusiastically and are generally interested in the All Hands content which was not the case in Redmond. The focus of all hands is not just on the Division goals and progress, but its on overall Microsoft. Needless to add, the event was catered – Chinese, Chaat and Kulfi 🙂
Life in Hyderabad
Like any other second tier city in India, Hyderabad life is predictable. Maybe life in Hyderabad with a kid is predictable. Which is not a bad thing. Traffic is manageable. Its not as polluted as Mumbai or Calcutta. We are within 20 mins driving distance to Jubilee Hills and the indulgences it has to offer. The only thing that is making us miserable is this heat. 42 C – 45 C is not something humans were meant to endure. By the time I drop Varun and reach office, I feel that I am dehydrated.
And for the couple of days that the AC is not working, we are melting in our own sweat. We just cannot sit in a room without the AC’s on. To say evenings are warm is an understatement. The hot stifles around me as Varun and I take a walk at night. And the constant hum of AC’s around when we are out for a walk tells me we are not alone. I really can’t wait for the monsoon to begin.
As we could stack our relocation benefits, we are still in corporate accommodation with the cook, help staff and driver at our disposal. After 2+ months, its hard not to feel pampered and it will be even harder to give it up after the benefits are over. I don’t think we will live without a cook or a maid in India, but driver is something we are debating about. Spoilt rotten that we are now, we are in fact thinking of getting someone for evenings and weekends so we can actually get some more free time 😉
Also, in the last few weeks, we accelerated our house and car search. After visiting 25 + gated communities ( apartments and villas), almost signing a lease and then backing out, we are planning to stay in JayaBheri Silicon county (details to follow) – the same community that we had our temporary accommodations in. And after test driving 3 cars, we have booked Skoda Rapid as well (again, details to follow). As much fun it is staying in all paid for lodgings with a chauffeur driven car, we long to be in our house with our belongings and drive our own car.
We changed too many things this year, now its time to bring sanity and routine to this change. Hopefully, we will truly begin settling in once we move into our own house!