Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Vernon & Charmain are shifting to Mumbai. I'm joining them on the drive for the next 7-10 days, otherwise I'll have seen little of India over the last 20 months. Today we head west to Bangalore and eventually further west to the coast (Mangalore). We'll head north thru every little port into Goa. After some fun & sun there, we'll drift into Mumbai. Depending on another friend's availability, I may swing thru Pune before flying back to Chennai. Web access will be sporadic, probably at Net cafes...but then that's better than Sify.
Friday, September 26, 2003
Sify changes the rules...
whenever they like. I pre-paid for a year's "unlimited" service and within a few months, they sent out a change notice. They labeled anyone logged on beyond a few hours per day as "commercial" and started subtracting time from the end of their service agreement. Such is Sify's arbitrary discrimination and lack of honor in pre-paid agreements. After 6 or 7 months, I was quite surprised to find that Sify had calculated a large reduction in my ever-shrinking year and my account no longer worked. When I called the Sify HelpDesk (a nightmare to be Blogged) and disavowed high usage, Sify finally looked into the Caller ID of sessions into my dial-up account. Lo and behold, there was a mystery number that ate up my "clock". I had to do the bulk of the investigation and that mystery number was always busy, probably used as a modem line. When I eventually reached a human at that number, they were as surprised as me. To my good fortune, they also spoke English and lived very close to me. The bottom line: Sify's second party rep (the installer who couldn't get my username right) had surreptitiously re-sold a sub-account of my account to these unsuspecting foreigners from Scotland. Sify's scum-sucker pocketed their entire annual payment for himself. I gave all details to Sify including the business card of their rep, but the exhausted account remained unusable. Sify has never informed of a single action taken ;^(
Thursday, September 25, 2003
Sify's rep/installer leaves out important detail
He promoted the "unlimited" dial-up Internet account at Rs. 4200/US$85 per year pre-paid, a reasonable US$7 per month. What he left out was the phone company charge: US$70 per month at my usage. Similar usage in the US never cost me more than US$20 per month. To quote Vasha: "asswipes".
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Sify Pain: Day One
Yes, the problems started on Day One (April 2002) when I waited for Sify's representative to show up at my flat. A second-party installer finally arrived and couldn't establish a username for my annual, pre-billed account. He first tried "yardboy" and the Sify system wouldn't accept it. He guessed that someone already had that username. I doubted that anyone in India would use "yardboy", but I politely suggested "yardboy_oj". That also failed and he again guessed the username was taken. After I questioned his logic, he then guessed that there was a problem with the Sify account set-up software such that no username would work. He said he would return the next day when the Sify system was functioning. I waited for the second-party rep again. He eventually arrived and tried "yardboy" again. It failed again and he tried the same excuse: "the name 'yardboy' is used by someone else in India". I laughed and responded that it was in use from the previous day when he tried it. He was never able to resolve and I ended up with some convoluted username that I never wanted. Trust me, readers, this is just the beginning.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Gifted by a departing employee
I not only enjoyed meeting this Bengali gentleman for a departing glass of iced chai, but he surprised me with my first kurta (embroidered overshirt) and pyjama (drawstring pants). As I've taught the idiom to serveral of our Indian Call Center agents, I'm now "styling".
Monday, September 22, 2003
Madras Bulls rode to Pondicherry this past Sa-Su
We made our move after 9:30AM Saturday with 12 Royal Enfield Bullets (and new Thunderbirds). There were no pillions as we headed south & averaged 70kmph. Not only was this a good turnout to honor Vernon's shifting to Mumbai, he led the pack down the ECR (East Coast Road) in near perfect, staggered formation. It's taken a while to get the Bulls coordinated on formation riding, but we had our mojo working. It was a sight to behold and the formation actually makes 4-wheelers think before driving rashly around us. We made our usual stop outside Mahabs for brunch at Hotel Mamalla. About two hours later, we pulled into the Hotel Pondicherry Ashok, a nice looking seaside resort north of Pondy proper. After negotiating a reasonable room rate (thanks, Harsh), we retired to the bar for malted beverages, snacks, and spirited introductions (some of our riders were newer and it's always good to hear a tale or two). Once our finely tuned human machines were lubricated, we stepped out of the a/c bar to a sandy volleyball court. We took the game just serious enough to sweat out a little beer and prepare ourselves for a dip in the sea at sunset. After cooling down, we pillioned up (thanks, Vernie) and headed to Hotel Mass for cabaret where the costumes seem to be made with special disappearing fabric (tho 90% of the time, it's a sight NOT to behold). Warning: these young ladies do not appreciate Rs. 10 notes as they think themselves much more deserving. After the show, we had a fairly good dinner at Rendezvous where I can not recommend the camembert cheese. They have no clue it's to be served runny, at room temperature.
After a good sleep, we awoke to bed coffee and then a late brunch. We booked a boat ride with the local fisher-people. We burnt our soft, corporate feet as we crossed the sand to their vessel. They took us straight out 500 meters and let us swim with an overboard rope because of the current. We relaxed until 3PM and then paraded our formation back to Chennai. We returned by 6:30PM, stopping in Besant Nagar for Frankies (wraps, egg dosa with various fillings). On the way home, a few of us complained of aches and saddle sores, so we stopped for a head massage with chilling Navaratna oil. In my opinion, a great massage beats cabaret ;^)
Friday, September 19, 2003
Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day...
something I did everyday for a year running the Pirate's Pub on Saba Rock, BVI. Argh, matey ;^)
Vehicle Smoke Emission Testing in the state of Tamil Nadu, India
The law says get it done every 6 months and even tho "rules are meant to be broke in India", I got one of my Enfield Bullets re-tested (and passed) last night at Balakrishna Automobiles, a Bharat Petrol dealer at 142 St. Mary's Rd., Chennai 18. I mentioned to the tester that the smoke-belching Chennai buses were an insult to those following the law. I then heard the tester give the lamest excuse ever: "The buses emit the black smoke when under load (full of passengers). The buses pass the testing when not loaded." I tried to explain that it's not about the load, it's about the planet & the air we breathe. He didn't get it. He doesn't want to get it. He's part of the sooty attitude across India and concerned ecologists should take their business away from Bharat petrol bunkers (gas stations).
Thursday, September 18, 2003
Sify account still expired...
and I say "Good riddance".
WTO: G-21 issue with G-7 subsidies
The G-21, headed by India, China, and Brazil, has been butting heads with the G-7 (US & EU) over the latter's agricultural subsidies to their farmers. The G-21 makes some valid points about how the G-7 unfairly skews trade by US$300billion per year. [Ankh]
In fairness, I hope to find out what the G-21 subsidizes her farmers.
India knows all about subsidies. India alone subsidizes her LPG & kerosene sector at US$1.5billion per year. With Indian Assembly polls in mind, the Indian Cabinet announced these subsidies would be extended from 2005 until 2007. Even with these subsidies, India-owned oil companies continue to lose US$1.2billion per year, possibly requiring an increase in subsidy. [NewIndPress]
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
My Sify account expired 3 days early this month...
and this is the second time in 3 months I've been thru this aggrevation. When I subscribed earlier this year, it was advertised as unlimited service. Sify touts huge bandwidth in front of the customer: NetPhone, music, video, etc. After several months of unlimited service, Sify quietly capped the monthly bandwidth at 400MB. Apparently they can change the service at their convenience. 400MB is next to nothing:
1. a single 650MB CD can't be downloaded
2. 40 min. of video would eat up the month's allowance
Now when I use Sify, I find myself always worrying about exceeding bandwidth and this greatly reduces my Internet experience. I have to wonder how much bandwidth was used up this month by the Sify engineers who came to my flat and were continully pinging their faulty rooftop equipment ;^(
Are Call Centers coming to Chennai, India for the wrong reason?
I know of one investor who originally thought the English-speaking infrastructure was pretty good in Chennai. I know that fledgling Call Center used to encourage its agents to improve their English language skills by watching HBO, Star, ESPN, AXN, etc. That Call Center even installed a TV in their canteen to promote better English. Unfortunately, this all changed on 01 SEP 03 with Chennai government being the only politicians in India to adopt CAS, Cable Access System. Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bangalore were smart enough to reject India's first (and poorly planned) pay-for-view scheme. Chennai Call Center agents can not afford the set top boxes that have effectively doubled cable TV prices. The general Chennai population is refusing to buy the boxes, hoping the holdout brings about some upheaval. Meanwhile, the Call Center agents suffer. Who did the Chennai politicians think would benefit? Whose pockets are being lined?
Monday, September 15, 2003
Blessed by the Sify gods, connections have been successful for a whopping 48 hours
Pinch me, wake me up!
Madras Bulls, tough guy bikers, ride outside Chennai to Mayajaal Theater...
for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. What can I say: Angelina Jolie is good eye-candy for anyone living in conservative South India, but be forewarned, there is real kissing in this movie (lips actually touch). I also found this theater better than Satyam: no rowdies disrupting the dialogue and only one cell phone rang. And the popcorn was good. Once again, there was no beer stop on the ride home ;^(
Sunday, September 14, 2003
Sify connection actually working for the last 24 hours...
or at least the three times I logged on during an otherwise busy Saturday. After the engineer left yesterday, I also left for a circuit of Chennai:
-clutch lever replacement (after being sideswiped by a truck on Wednesday)
-street-side biryani with brinjal (eggplant) & raita (onion & buttermilk)
-a beer in a wine shop "room" where there was also a cage of live quail if one wanted a snack
-haircut (and massage)
-Madras Bulls meeting at Elliot's Beach (Mars is still bright in the SE sky)
-take-out Punjabi dinner brought to a friend's house for the movie "Three Kings"
-and home by 12:30AM to fold laundry & make the bed.
Saturday, September 13, 2003
Sify ruins the start of my weekend...
when I can't log onto their network at 8:35AM IST. In fact, I am not able to ping their gateway, so even if a Sify engineer comes to my flat, it (gender-neutral engineer) will not be able to get a log-on screen. I have called Sify's HelpDesk and was put on hold twice in the first two minutes by Divya. She was otherwise reasonable in that she didn't have me try all the arcane & superfluous troubleshooting sprung on less experienced users, i.e.
1. Please be re-booting your computer
2. May I be putting you on hold?
3. Let's be re-inputting your exact same IP & DNS addresses into your network settings
4. May I be putting you on hold?
5. Please re-boot your computer
6. There is a virus on the web & it may be affecting our back office
7. I'll escalate & you'll get a call back
8. Let me re-confirm your mobile again (and again)
Divya actually listened to me when I said that I couldn't ping the gateway & she wisely escalated an engineer to visit my rooftop where Sify's network equipment is located. I had to ask her for the Reference ID Number and when the
shaman engineer would arrive. This could be interesting: she has set the time a mere two hours away (10:30AM IST). Imagine that I only have to wait around my flat for 2+ hours on a beautiful Saturday morning.
Sify engineer was on time & resolved the rooftop switches in 10 minutes
Too bad they can't have remote bootable switches or give lockbox access to a PC HelpDesk manager who lives on the premises and knows what to do.
Friday, September 12, 2003
Ouch, Sify just slapped me...
by having some sales-type call me a week before renewal, seeking my money. They can't do their tech callbacks or provide a product as agreed, but they can shamelessly sell. Whatever happened to decency?
Sify engineers were waiting for me when I got home at 9PM on a Friday night...
so I didn't go to the gym. They spent about two hours in my flat, pinging their network, confirming Sify's terrible connectivity on my laptop and theirs. They then spent 10 minutes on the rooftop with their switches & miraculously their network returned to normal performance. I probed, but they were discreet to the point of secrecy. They intimated that half our apartment building was getting good connectivity and I lived in the wrong half, suffering "collusion". What else is new?! They hinted at "wiring & dust". Hell, Sify should know about dust: on any given day, the Pollution Index in Chennai is over 300 when the health safety limit is 200.
I know these guys started their day early (9AM). They are basically good guys (the network is management's fault, not theirs), so I ordered pizza and fed them dinner. I explained to them that it was Friday night (the weekend), beer goes with pizza, and I intended to enjoy. They politely declined. They started to leave with full bellies & confident that their network would remain performing, but I asked one last question: "Why does Sify let a valuable Network Engineer travel by motorcycle without a helmet?"
Thursday, September 11, 2003
Sify BroadBand... Just Say No
I've had enough problems with Sify that I'm considering a Letter to the
Hindu Indian Express, a webpage documenting all the horror stories, and the persistance of a lawyer. One of Sify's tricks is that they make it so damn hard to fight back. They force you to document your case via their help desk where wait times ruin your day, call record details are noted at their convenience with varying degrees of accuracy, call backs often fail to materialize, and case status becomes erroneously "resolved". To be continued...
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
‘India, US, Israel create the unwritten axis’ [NewIndPress]
Israel claims that the partnership had been created to combat international terrorism. Well, I'm confused. For the umpteenth time in the last 19 months, I was told again today that "India is a country where rules are made to be broken". I'm confused about how rule breaking fits in with a partnership already teetering on the tenterhooks of terrorism. The oxymoron "rule-breaking axis" also succeeds in confusing me. Lastly, I wonder if India can control its own road terrorists where more people die than from international terrorists. I pray for success, but I'm still confused ;^(
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Doin' the flip-flop, playing with the internal clock...
Slept a few hours last night to get up at 6AM and to work at 7AM for one of our Help Desks moving to a different building. The phones worked! I squeezed in some grocery shopping this evening and now I'm nodding around 11PM (hoping to get up at 5AM). I'll be a day-person in no time so I can do some interviews and hiring at week's end.
Monday, September 08, 2003
R.I.P. - Warren Zevon dead at 56...
I saw him live at Rochester, NY's Red Creek in a small bar setting. Of course he performed "Werewolves of London".
Sunday, September 07, 2003
I opened my big mouth as I pulled my Bullet into the car park of Amma Nana grocery store...
where I saw another Bullet-riding vellakaran (white guy) and shouted out: "Where the hell is your helmet?" Fortunately, he spoke English and agreed wholeheartedly with the rhetoric. "Bruce" also saw my Bulls tee shirt and expressed interest in joining. It turns out, he's from the US for a two year stay with his Uncle and invited me to a bar-b-que (as in, meat). YardBoy's mama didn't raise no fool and after a day of shopping, laundry, sweeping and mopping my own flat, I thoroughly intended to enjoy myself at Bruce's home one street away from mine. His half house is nicely furnished: not only did he have a real bar-b-que grill and microwave, but a backyard big enough for volleyball and more. In the living room alone, I probably met 20 charming Americans all living in Chennai (which are 18 more than I've met in the last 19 months). One guy from Alabama had spent 21 years in the Marines before retiring. For the second day in a row, I met the Managing Director from Ford India who originally hails from Virginia, but also worked in Ford's Hanoi operation. There was another guy from Virginia, his charming Chinese wife, and "Jelli", their bundle of joy that I entertained with the "pull my finger" trick. I especially enjoyed meeting several native Chennites who fit right into an American enclave, one in particular who enjoyed a good cigar and scotch. Did I mention there was the svelte Aquatic Director from the American School and I believe she bench presses 220lbs? And I'd like to know where my host got his high-quality beef and imported beer. Props to Bruce, his Uncle Sam and the family ;^)
Saturday, September 06, 2003
Today, the Royal Enfields (Madras Bulls) rode to Ford India...
and we had 9 bikes with a pillion or two (impressive turnout for a sometimes soporific set of cycle saps). Bulls came, saw & conquered. We can now probably assemble Ford Ikons due to TourMaster Nish's Ford plant knowledge (which he protects with a helmet). We had a lot of exercise (walking), but we ate better than I do at Tidel Park, played some carnival games (won some prizes), got a tat of some "monster" put below my iguana tat, saw some young teenage boys gyrating up on stage with really darling costumes, and planted an additional helmet "bug" in the Ford Managing Director's ear (just before he took a helmetless Bull-ride). There were no breakdowns today (other than hypocrisy). Of course, there were the omnipresent tea-stops. Here is where I have an issue (like I don't already have enough "issues"): Is there a problem with a beer stop on a warm Saturday afternoon? Does one 650ml Kingfisher put a 90kg body over the BAC limit? It doesn't in my native ;^)
Thursday, September 04, 2003
Let's stare at the white guy...
What many Indians know, but don't understand, is that I'd prefer much darker skin. My sacred hide was as dark as many desis when I lived in the West Indies. My skin was healthier and I was less depressed. But then I wore shorts & tees at a tropical resort before I started working call centers.
After the stare comes the random roll of three following questions:
1. "You take the heat." Not really a question, but yes, I "took" today's 34C/93F very well. Would you like to go to Rochester, NY where the low temperature will be 11C/51F for the rest of the week? I didn't think so.
2. "You take the spicy food." (you're getting the idea). I tell them I'm still looking for spicy food as I'm biting into a raw green chile. I sometimes describe the sorely missed Caribbean Scotch Bonnet or habanero pepper while I explain the Scoville Heat Scale.
3. "Do you speak Hindi?" Nahi (I tend not to embarass myself that way).
I immediately smile & ask them: "Where is your native?"
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Lesson learned by Madras Bull, swami & scribe
Bulls are riders of Royal Enfield Bullets, India's iron horse motorcycles that time forgot. One wise Bull in particular has ridden from Chennai to Bangalore many times, but a recent trip was catalyst for several lessons including the insight reported below:
Lesson 3) India is still an innocent and lovely country under all the
corruption, hypocricy, politics and thievery... but that beauty and
innocence is fighting a losing battle. I met a man on NH4 near
Mulbagal, Karnataka, who has walked for two years across this
country starting in Kota, Rajasthan, pushing a tricycle in which he
carries his meagre belongings. And on which he has painted the
words 'Good will tour of India'. The man, a sardar called Sant Hardev
Something in full traditional garb, kirpan and all, was on his way to
Bangalore two years into his three year Yatra. His only mission was
to tell everyone he met to give peace and unity a chance. He was also
kind enough to give me the address of his home in Rajasthan and
invite me to stay there if I was ever riding through. I rode the rest
of the way back home in awe of this young mans conviction and
optimism - traits that are very difficult to keep in time such as
these... Only to hear from Bips (fellow Bull & MRF Master) the next
day that he had seen the tricyle smashed and in a mangled heap by the
side of the road on his way back the next day... about 15 kms from
where I met the man. Apparently a truck had gone off the road at night
and hit it. The Sant told me he walks from 5 am to 8pm, then cooks his
own meal and sleeps under his tricycle every night. I sure hope he
survived. I have not slept well since Bips news.
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
”It happens only in India”
Unassuming midget but deadly terrorist
"Three feet something..." (Mini-Me?)
Congress plays Opposition: says stop all trains for an hour
Rail roko (strike) planned for 22 SEP.
8th Standard student tortured for failing to pay higher school fee
Rs. 57.50/US$1.25 versus Rs. 160/US$3.40
Monday, September 01, 2003
American road checks explained for our foreign readers
The Boy from Up the Mountain writes of being stopped by the police at a late night road check. The basic purpose is to get idiots (drinkers and rash drivers) off the roads where they can injure others. Additionally, licenses, registrations, and vehicle inspections are checked for validity. Here are some differences from India:
1. All vehicles are stopped, not just motorcycles.
2. If someone runs by the check, there is a chase vehicle.
3. Bribes are unheard of and the mention of same can result in arrest.
4. Fines are expensive ($40-100/Rs.2000-5000) and paid centrally at a court.
5. Infractions are noted on your license, causing insurance rates to skyrocket.
6. Multiple offenses can cancel one's license.
7. Court fees for a drinking & driving charge can amount to thousands of dollars (Rs. lakhs).
8. Vehicles can be impounded on the spot. Towing charges are easily $100/Rs.5000.
American infractions can include:
1. Not using turn indicators.
2. Crossing solid lane markers or straddling lines.
3. Not dimming high beams to oncoming traffic.
4. Any inoperable lights, worn tires, or cracked windows.
5. Excessive horn honking, particularly near residences.
7. Not giving right-of-way to pedestrians.
8. Stopping across stop-lines or in crosswalks.
9. Smokey exhausts or loud mufflers/silencers.
10. Aggressive driving: intimidation, shouting, staring, and hand gestures (I'm guilty).
11. Rash driving: too close, cutting off others, passing on the inside, etc.
In a real life example from today, an Olympic champion was stopped for speeding. The police then also cited him for drunken driving and un-signaled lane change. He spent two hours with the police, but did not go to jail as he was able to post $250/Rs.12,000 bond. On 10 SEP and regardless of where he lives, he must return to the local court where charged.