Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Little Fun Insight....

^ Here is a little fun insight into what our life is like here. There are several magazines in Hyderabad that track life here. "You and I", "Wow!" and others are like a local People Magazine. We and our friends often end up in these magazines during events. And in the local newspaper. Why? Foreigners. We provide a certain allure by having come from our disparate countries and been willing to settle in dusty, old Hyderabad.

Click on the photo above - we are at the top of our page at the opening of a night club.

It's too funny. I mention it because last night we went to some thing where a French guy brought in cheeses and there was some wine and cheese tasting where we had fun all night. During it, the photographers kept snapping everyone's picture as we hung around and talked. Tara had her picture taken a million times. I'll try to get those pictures in this blog.

Remember, I have also been featured in the newspaper.

I cannot seem to explain that we are really nobodies where we come from. ;-)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Again, the theme of color....

I asked if Tara had spoken with Liam, just to ensure he was alive and all that good stuff. She had actually spoken to him!

He has gone deeper into Rajasthan than we did as a family, he has now gone to Jodhpur, as well. As he told Tara, this is "The Blue City". Awesome, as you can see from the above picture (click on it for the larger version).

I envy Liam.

Wow, did I just say that? Universe, you win...


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Painted people

One thing I have noticed about India is that it is a more colorful place than anywhere else I have ever been.

One thing you'll see in India that I still don't understand after a year and a half - some Hindu men paint their thumbnail from time to time. Just one thumbnail, and it can vary from hot pink to purple. As a Westerner, it's a little unsettling.

I have never asked, but I think it is related to a religious ceremony.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

To put all doubt to rest....

....a few folks have reached out to us and asked what our schedule is. We will be back in the US this summer, exact dates TBD.

Happy about it? Kinda, but kinda not. Surely some lengthy writings will occur during the next several months on the subject.

Suffice it to say this way of life is in our blood now, and we want to do more of it.

For now, this first assignment will wind down and we will repatriate to our life in Charlotte, which is and was a good life... but it will be difficult in many ways.

We look forward to seeing everyone soon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Where's Liam?

Just so you know, we are in Andhra Pradesh and Liam, this week, is in Gujarat and Rajasthan. I put red dots where he is, and a blue dot where we are, for your reference.

We hope the trip is great for him!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Republic Day

Today was a day off of work - but, alas, I was in the office. It relates back to some breaking headlines mentioned in prior blog posts, but I'll leave it at that. Work details on the blog is a no-no....... a founding principle I had when I created it.

So, what holiday did I miss? I missed Republic Day. A Republic is a nation without a king..... I didn't know that until about 5 years ago.

How does Independence Day in India differ from Republic Day if Independence Day was the day India shed British rule (and consequently lost their king)?

India declared independence two years before the British and India actually parted ways, which happened in 1950.

I had no idea..... and chances are that you didn't either. So, now we all know.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Small world strikes again

We had a real treat today when Ravi Zacharias came to speak at Pearl City Church. He currently lives in Atlanta, but originates from India and received most of his education at Oxford. I saw him speak in Charlotte in 2003 and we have enjoyed listening to his podcast "Let My People Think" for years. He's a brilliant philosopher and apologist, one of the important voices out there right now. We get a daily e.mail from his group entitled "A Slice of Infinity". It's great reading.

In short, we really like this guy.

He spoke to a packed church, standing room only - and he was an engaging speaker who spoke for almost an hour to a crowd that was made up of people from around the world. Nice experience.

The small world phenomenon has hit a really interesting thing in presenting us a chance to see Ravi Zacharias speak here in Hyderabad, after enjoying him for years to the degree that we feel like we know Ravi Zacharias.

It was a real treat for the mind and heart today.

Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

Pearl City Church.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Off to Rajasthan

This will be a week without pictures on the blog, as Liam has the camera on a high school trip to Gujarat and Rajasthan. We gave him the camera.

We hope it goes well and he has a good time.

As the high-schoolers sat on the bus waiting to leave, I put my hand on his head and rubbed his hair through the window, to which we was appropriately mortified. Here is a picture that made it onto FaceBook.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The puppies

As I have mentioned before, there are wild dogs all over the place in India. And, as one would expect, these dogs were once puppies. So, there are also puppies all over the place here in India.

This past week a particularly cute group of puppies was noticed on the main road above our neighborhood.

It started when I noticed a cute puppy running along the edge of the road on my way home from work. It was cute and had a mostly-black coat, with some beige colors on its legs. It was running along next to the chaos of the traffic, very cute. And certainly imperiled.

Then, a few days later I saw it running across the road on three limbs. Its back leg had been broken and was askew from its body. It made it to the edge of the road, which was about five inches high. It tried to jump up with just one back leg. It failed to clear the edge and flopped back onto the road. I was in the car, so that's all I saw.

Remember that these were seen for only a few seconds as I was in the back of the car. Just glimpses, snapshots...

Finally, I mentioned to Tara about the little puppy trying to jump and falling, just in casual conversation. She immediately knew what I was talking about. "Yeah, it's dead now. I've seen it." She went on to mention that there were a group of them living in the boulders up there.

We haven't noticed any more puppies up there recently.

It's one if India's big challenges, these dogs. Every year there are thousands of Indians who die of rabies from being bitten by street dogs. There are countless more that bite people and impart lesser diseases. And there are huge numbers who simply get bit by these dogs. We had a friend from Norway who was bit as she jogged. Another set of families live in a neighborhood where the wall around it is not finished, and wild dogs menace the place and even attack the pet dogs in that place.

For India to claim a bright future will only be partially true unless it works on things like feral dogs. It's a tragedy. And there is some guy whose mandate it is to control the dogs in the city, but he simply skims the public funds and sits in his house in Jubilee Hills. Terrible.

So, because we had this connection, albeit from a distance, to this group of puppies who died slowly, we're all the more glad that we have saved Ashoka. He's become a good bit larger now, and he's a good natured dog. Even when he is naughty (often), we enjoy him. Aidan calls him "my brother". Jonah tries to get him to sleep in his bed. Liam routinely dresses Ashoka in human outfits, and Tara really loves the dog. He makes everyone happy.

And he has a trainer coming three mornings a week, so he should be well-behaved. At least that is the goal. After his trainer left today he vomited in the middle of the living room, so we'll see.

And, he was saved from the streets as a puppy. We feel good about that. Thanks to Robyn for giving us Ashoka!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I saw an albino baby water buffalo in the street today. Just thought I'd share...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Global Economy

It seems like the problems in the global economy have reached outer space.

There is this odd project in Hyderabad that is entitled Alien Space Station 1. It is a luxury apartment development which is intended to be futuristic to the point that it would only appeal to extra terrestrials. Or something like that.

Interesting marketing premise.

I have been watching with interest if this would even proceed. The website for it is now down. I think it is a dead project. Not even a place of boundless optimism like Hyderabad could sustain an idea this bad.

But hit this link while it is still active and read about this project. It would be funny if it weren't so darn odd.....

Alien Space Station 1.

Google on this.....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Live Inauguration Blogging....

I am sitting here listening to Yo Yo Ma, Itzahk Perlman and some others play a version of my favorite Copland composition, which is based upon a Shaker hymn - Simple Gifts. Incredible....

It is really a great time to be an American.

I have been a voice for a more civil tone in our shared life as Americans, and this blog post is written in that spirit. The audience is small, and those likely to read the whole thing perhaps smaller, and those who will think like I do smaller yet..... but write I will.

Part of what I will say is good bye to George Bush. His bumbling words, tendency toward duplicity, and even excessive and/or misguided aggression make him one of the least appreciated Presidents in recent memory. It is entirely with merit that he is thought in a less than glowing light.

Still, let's remember that he did more for Africa's AIDS crisis than any prior President.

He had the most diverse cabinet in the history of the executive branch.

He stood up to those who attacked us in 2001.

He gave a brave speech with children behind him wherein he declared "These children are not spare parts." (the children were all once frozen embryos).

These are things he received very little in the way of accolades because of the other things he did and stood for. So be it. But perhaps he contributed to the future in a way we cannot yet anticipate. That's the best we can hope for - that some goodness will stem out of the last eight years. Surely, enough heartbreak has happened in Iraq and elsewhere that we are almost obligated to look for some light in the darkness we have all walked through.

Yes, for those who want to give me the counterpoints..... I know all of that, please spare me the e.mails. And by the way, you are right.... and so am I.

Laura Bush did some redecoration of the White House recently, which largely should be interpreted as a gesture of kindness to the next occupants. One friends of FaceBook wrote, "In the midst of this financial crisis.... ARE YOU KIDDING ME??"

Then, this Inauguration is the most expensive in history. No comments.

So, it is the first time in a while that people on the left, those who make up most of our family and friends, have the ability to set a new tone in our public life in the US.

I am in a bit of a unique position in that I also have many friends and (fewer) family on the right, and they are being very optimistic right now. May the good will that they are extending be sustained and may we work together to enter into a new place.

Then there is this issue of the Inaugural pastors. One pastor is invited to pray and some declare him divisive. Then, a second pastor is invited who "the other people" consider divisive. So, those who claim the name of Christ end up being the most divisive element of the whole affair. What a shame.

Barack Obama's speech just ended, and it was delivered in a way that reinforces he is an inspiring orator. Just fantastic.

The cold hard reality is that staring tomorrow, the heady adoration will need to die down and we need to get to the business of moving forward and upward.....

For the record, my comrades on the left thinks I am one of them, and my comrades on the right think I am one of them...... let the mystery continue! Just know that I am dedicated to helping bring you all together.

Happy Inauguration Day to Americans everywhere!

Monday, January 19, 2009


Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, 'Wait'. But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill with impunity your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society....when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of 'nobodiness'--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

MLK - Letters from a Bringham Jail

I thought I'd put on some of his words that are less well-known, since this is a special MLK day, perhaps one so unique we won't ever see one like it again.

Most Americans are pretty pensive about what is happening now - even if we are not all of the same political ideas and sensibilities, which we are definitely not. So, this blog post is written by an American who is proud of his country's ability to shift its injustices to the degree that a few decades after blacks were publically pummeled in front of the whole nation for wanting to do something so simple as attend the same school as white children, we will swear in a black man as our President. Really a remarkable country that we come from.

Enjoy the MLK holiday.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Writing to you from the James Bond Room at My Caffee Latte, early on Monday morning. It is still Sunday back in the US.

One observation about India - it is being influenced by American culture about as much as America is being impacted by Indian culture.

As I stated, I am in The James Bond Room at a coffe house in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. That alone says a great deal.

People in the US are doing yoga in droves. Indian restaurants and food are growing quickly in the US. People with eclectic spiritual worldviews are including Indian beliefs and incense and chanting of Om in their self-concocted rituals.

Conversely, people in India are doing more aerobics, jogging and lifting weights. American restaurants and food are growing quickly in India. And more people are becoming Christians here in India than at any point in Indian history.

Admittedly, most people on both sides are largely unimpacted by this culture fusion. Let us call them The Unfusioned. I think there are many Indians who still live a deeply Indian existence, and many Americans who live a deeply American existence and know, or care, little about each other. Which is fine.

Then there are those who dabble from afar in the culture of the other. Let us call them The Dabblers. As I sit here in The James Bond Room, there is some young couple in the corner watching rap videos, developing an image of the US that isn't exactly the life most people know back there. To them, America is a bit blacker, more slick, highly sexualized, and filled with nice cars and scantily clad women. So, there is a bit of a misunderstood fusion taking place amongst some Dabblers.

Finally, there are those of us who jump in and actually go to the other country. Let us call them The Jumpers. Needless to say, there are more people from India going to places like the US than the inverse.... but there are several people here who are extending their stay because their economic and job stability prospects are better here in India than back in the US or Europe. Put that in your pipe and smoke it! A mere twenty years who would have ever thought anyone would be saying *that*?

As far as The Dabblers, a few observations.... the yoga classes in the US emphasize things that are so natural in India that it becomes a bit contrived when seen through an Indian lens. For example, we learned that many yoga classes in the US begin and end with a group "Namaste" and some gentle humming. This is totally fine, of course. But Tara made the point that this wouldn't happen in India because it is the equivalent of a group exercise class starting with everyone saying a collective "Hello!" and finishing with a group "Good bye!".

Additionally, there is a myth about India of being a spiritual country with placid people and beautiful vistas and exotic customs and aromatic foods..... and while there is some truth in this, the India that exists in reality is something other than the idealized scenes that we in the West put into our heads.

So, was Kipling wrong? He said, "East is East, West is West and Never the Twain Shall Meet."

I am pretty sure Kipling saw very little of what was coming in this era we live in. The East and West have definitely met, and neither will ever be the same. It is interesting to see people here who think they depict America in their mannerism, habits and language - and end up being something other than American. Conversely, Americans who get chakra tattoos, burn incense incessantly, and generally idealize all things Indian look a little silly. So, an authentic merger of cultures is not what is happening. In some ways, The Dabblers are a bit of a silly parody of the other culture. I find The Unfusioned and The Jumpers to be the most authentic people in what is happening now.

Anyway, it's all interesting. I am sure there is more to write on this subject, maybe I'll find time amidst the blaze of work I am experiencing!

Go Steelers!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

It's a small world

It has been interesting to learn about scale while here in India.

Here, scale is all off from our normal expectations. We live in a crowded nation. There are people *everywhere*. On the other hand, we are part of a small community of NRIs (non-resident Indians, a category for those who have spent substantial time in places like the US and UK) and expats who form our social network. So, we are currently dealing with a huge number of people and also a very small number of people. Then, there is the America community in Hyderabad which is an even smaller category, although most of the NRIs are Americans.

Then, I contrast this with how well-connected Tara and I have become with people that we haven't heard from in decades through FaceBook. It's great to be reconnected in this way. And more people from my high school and college live in Charlotte than I ever knew. Funny, I had no idea they were there when I lived there!

Additionally, I have noticed that wherever I go, there is always a follow on conversation with someone who has a connection to that place, or has lived there, or has family there. As I think I have mentioned in other blog posts, there is a rule of thumb that whenever one goes into a church and strikes up a conversation, there is always a connection to Charlotte. Always. It has happened three time here in India.

Last week I found out that a family friend here in Hyderabad is from W. Hartford, Ct. and she grew up with a girl I swam with in college in Ohio.

So, it really is a small world, after all. This lesson was acquired in the US, but it has been reinforced in India, of all places.

Even here on the other side of the globe, we see this. Our friend John has a connection with our other friend Jo in that he worked with Jo's mother back in the UK. John and Jo didn't know each other back in the UK. And Jo and her husband Matt moved to Hyderabad from Connecticut where they enjoyed shopping at Stew Leonard's and sent their children to school in my hometown of Westport.

Our friends Krishnan and Indu are from Charlotte, but we met them here.

So, sticking with this theme, there is a small college in Vermont called Middlebury. My parents live about 35 minutes south of the college. My brother Dick went to Middlebury College, as did his wife Lynelle. So did Lynelle's parents. My friends Jackie and Siobhan have brothers that went there, as well. My fraternity brother Doug's sister went to this same school. My friend Letitia dated a guy there and randomly met my brother in a social setting. One of Liam's camp counselors, Donnie, also goes to Middlebury College. And this list goes on and on. So, there are connections to that great little town and school. Middlebury has even been depicted in this blog during our summer visit back to the US.

As I sat alone in the Foreigners Registration Office in Hyderabad one day in November, a young girl sat next to me. I could tell she was American, and I struck up conversation with her. She was a student from Middlebury living in Hyderabad for a semester, finishing up her time here. She was from San Jose, south of San Francisco, California. We discussed Middlebury and the things there that we both knew and enjoyed. She knows the Route 30 that you can take into Middlebury, and I explained that my family lives on that road on Lake Bomoseen.

Now that I am forty, I have to remind myself that I can no longer do the "Did you know so and so" with a college-age person. During our conversation, I did some quick math and realized that this young lady was probably just learning to walk when I graduated from college. So, I restrained from trying to make a direct connection during our conversation.

It really is amazing when you see the connections we all have, where even in a place like India you find linkages.

When we were in Dubai, most of our taxi drivers were from Hyderabad. One of them comes from Raidurga, the section of the city that is connected to our current neighborhood. As I said to him in Hindi after we made that connection, "Duniya chhoti hai!" The world is small.....


Friday, January 16, 2009

Aidan.... long ago

I have eaten something that I shouldn't..... again. Yeesh.

Don't have much to say today, so I thought I'd go back and post the very first picture of Aidan after we got to India. Click on it for a larger version, and notice how his eyes say - "Where in the world have Mom and Dad brought us?"

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lessons of an American Family in India

The blog entries have been somewhat superficial lately, so I wanted to make sure that I took some time to write something of substance. Work is blazing at a million miles an hour, and FaceBook has started to infringe on my internet schedule. So, I have not given the blog as much time as I should.

This is an attempt to write something meaningful.

We have a little less than six months left on the assignment, and it is time to start reflecting backwards on what has been learned and experienced here. As always, I am the one member of the family who writes on the blog with any regularity (and I am the busiest!), so this essay will largely be made of my own reflections. But they also include a good bit of information based upon Tara sharing her ideas with me, and our collective observations about our sons.

For this essay, I will deal with the question – How has this experience changed us as Americans?

The quick answer is that it has changed things tremendously for us. On the other hand, it has driven deeper other parts of our American-ness. For sure, nothing will ever be the same.

First, the context.

* Growing up as an American, you do get instilled with the idea that you are different.

* In some ways, you get a sense of a certain superiority about being an American.

* It is an almost universal trait of Americans that we are authentically proud of our country.

I think we would be included in these categories. To exempt ourselves from these definitions, even the uncomfortable one related to the feeling of American superiority, would leave the assessment lacking. So, let’s get it on the table. Tara and I were raised like most Americans. We are raising three Americans. We carry the artifacts of that upbringing and that cultural immersion.

Many have told us that we're not like most Americans. We know what they mean, and we take that as a compliment of sorts. Still - we are Americans at the end of the day.

So, what have we learned as Americans?

Well, living in another culture reiterates daily the one theme that we Americans wrestle with – that people are people and that we are all fundamentally the same. Be they brown, black, white, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, or any other “type” of person, people are fundamentally the same in their desire for love and community. In fact, this experience has taught us that even in cultures as widely different as America and India, our shared humanity comes out very visibly. People are people, we see it day in and day out. We now know this in a personal and direct way. It is no longer a theory - the world is actually filled with people that are basically like us!

Sure, before this experience it sounded good to say that all of humanity is fundamentally the same. Saying such a thing made you sound broad-minded. But deep down we Americans still carry the belief that we are different and many of us breathe a private sigh of relief that the rest of the world is kept at arm’s length.

This experience has driven home that people are, in point of fact, people. Simple as that.

It’s funny that it takes an experience as radical as this to impart an idea that is so simple!

But, on the other hand…..

It would be wrong to say India and the US are indistinguishable. There are some vast cultural differences. I’ll start with the most obvious example. And this one must be said in the most clear terms possible……

India is an absolutely filthy country.

Not just a small issue with sanitation here and there. The whole country is dirty. Sure, you can pull back from it and find yourself in beautiful surroundings, but the general reality is that the people of this land treat their surroundings like garbage, and consequently it looks.... well, like garbage. There are wild dogs everywhere, rats the size of small dogs, human waste spread to and fro, garbage strewn on the streets, and people digging through each and every garbage dumpster, of which there are very few. It’s really astounding, and it's the one thing those of us from outside of India comment on – “It’s so dirty”.

Secondly, there is a general tendency toward discourteous behavior in the public sphere of India. People peeing on the side of the road, everyone spitting, men walking in front of women through doorways, children defecating on the streets, people entering an elevator before you have exited it, police brow-beating the weak and unwary, people breaking the queue.... the list goes on and on.

The general cleanliness of America is a wonderful thing. Generally, we Americans are a clean and courteous people. We have a general sense of our surroundings being important. We think of our public spaces as something that we all own instead of a place that no one owns. We generally believe that we should not do to someone else’s property what we would not want done to our own. For the most part, we think that a sign of a good man is that he seeks to make the life of a woman more comfortable than his own. And we authentically stand in line behind each other. That alone is a huge difference!

Honestly, it takes just a few minutes when you enter either country to notice these differences.

On the other hand....

India is a place where people have a certain sense of tolerance that is uncommon in the US. People here generally are quick to smile, and there is a great sense of humor in India. Life here is not about running a million miles an hour until you are depressed and unhealthy. For many people, life is unraveled in such a way that allows them to go through their days at a more survivable pace, even an enjoyable one. Life is good here in some important ways. Yes, many people are deeply poor. Yes, there is graft and corruption in so many aspects of life here. But, despite this, India is a place that makes you smile a lot.

In the US now, there is a bit of an increasing trend of tension. You see it with people who seek the material until they almost drop from exhaustion and are left very sad by the emptiness of the endeavor. The ongoing rat race is one that is unhealthy for all who participate in it at the expense of their heart and mind. India doesn’t have this in exactly the same way, although that may change over time. That would be sad to see India become more like America in this sense.


India has never attacked a neighboring country. Sure, India has been invaded again and again. But it has not returned the favor. This is exceptional. How many countries can say that?

The US, on the other hand, has not always been a good neighbor. We can, in reality, be a bit of a bully at times.

That's a big difference.


This essay could be a lengthy exercise in going back and forth about the good and bad points of each nation. Both nations have considerable merits, and many of those are similarities. Both nations also have considerable drawbacks, many of which are, again, similarities. Other things are complete opposites. And that lesson alone gets to the heart of the thing we have learned. Life is a wonderful, jumbled, mixed up set of circumstances. And India and America have both managed to create something wonderful from this.

The point...

~ Is America the only game in town? No.

~ Are Americans superior? No. We’re pretty much the same as everyone else in all the ways that are important. In other ways, we are distinct, and when those distinctions are good things, we should feel happy about that.

~ Is America the best game in town? In some ways, sure. In other ways, definitely not.

~ Is the world changing rapidly underneath all of us? Yes.

~ Will America need to open itself up to the rest of the world if it is to flourish and survive in this more integrated world? Surely.

~ Is that opening up likely to happen? Not sure. For five of us, it has happened. And that will certainly make all the difference.

The best we can hope for, humbly, is that we will go back to America and be used to spread some of the beauty that we discovered while here in India - which is such an unlikely place to have found so much beauty.....

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sankranti - Pongal

Today was a day off of work, a harvest celebration in India called Pongal. It is also called Sankranti. I think Pongal is the name used here in AP.

So, when I came back from the gym, there were various people trying to fly kites in the neighborhood. I joined them, only to have everyone in the family disappear one by one. It ended up being me and the driver, Subu, as well as some other guys from the neighborhood.

We got our kite up a few times, but the wind was a bit low and the kite got snagged in trees time and again. But, it ended up alright.... here are the snaps.

First, here is a daylight snap of the Pongal rangoli that Monga made for us.

^ Aidan with the crew trying to figure out how to get our kite to stay up consistently.

^ We got it off the ground.

^ Then it got some real height.

^ Jonah enjoyed it. He is also handsome in his kurtha, so I took the picture.

^ Things devolved when the kite biffed for the third time, so we brought it home.

^ But Subu was a man on a mission, he came in the house about an hour later and brought me up on the roof.

^ It achieved heights that were unparalleled. And there wasn't a kid in sight.

Subu inspired me with his persistence, patience and creativity. He's an awesome driver and a good guy. And the best kite flyer in the family. ;-)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Some recent pictures.....

^ There was a recent bday party here in Whisper Valley, and there was an element of it that was scavenger hunt - related to getting the party bags. Here are the snaps.

^ Notice Jonah in his kurtha. And Tara in her skull tee shirt.

^ Tomorrow is Sankranti, also known as Pongal. I am unsure what it involves, but I think it involves flying kites, so that is cool.

^ Ashoka growing by leaps and bounds. We now have a trainer that comes by and tries to tame this naughty puppy that we love so much.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Great Song - Enjoy

This is currently my favorite song from India. It's from Jodhaa Akbar, a movie we really enjoyed. These are wandering Sufi saints who are singing to Akbar (played by Hrithik Roshan, Tara really likes this actor). It is just a wonderful song, hope you enjoy it. Watch the whole thing, and turn it up.

If you're in our American viewing audience, you'll probably get distracted by how different this is from the music you listen to. But let it sink in, it's an absolutely captivating song. Forget how "odd" it all is.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

More pictures

I took a subset of pictures that Tami downloaded onto our computer and posted them. Click on some and see the larger version, enjoy....

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Well, the drama is moving into its next phase. Mr. Raju is the in jail here in Hyderabad. He is being treated, according to authorities, as a "Class C" prisoner. I am not sure what that means, but I'd prefer not to find out what a Class C prisoner gets treated like in an Indian jail - ever.

The public outrage and shock is turning into one of quiet fascination. The story will now follow several routes - some people will write a book on it for those seeking many details, some will start to forget about it, others will be angry and continue to speak of it as the tragedy that it is. But, for a while we all stood in equal amazement that such a thing finally happened in India. As India makes herself more of a relevant member of the world community, this kind of thing is almost a right of passage. India has joined the US in its shame around corporate governance and bad business practices that went unchallenged until it was too late.

A coming of age, of sorts....

At the base of the tragedy are the associates of the company. It appears there may not be a way to pay them beyond this month. Many or most of them will be snatched up as time passes. But they will forever have that company's name on their resumes, and that will always cause the reader of that resume to pause for a brief second.

Well, this is the last time that I'll write about Satyam. I'll go back to dissecting life here in India from a personal perspective, but for a few days I, like everyone else, stood in rapt awe and sadness at the Satyam debacle. May it end with some good news for the young and bright people who gave so much for that company.

Friday, January 9, 2009

More on Satyam....

So, the drama continues....

Stories of Ramalinga Raju having absconded, and of his wife verifying he is at their home and just general confusion. Interestingly, Satyam's disgraced Chairman lives in Jubilee Hills, where we lived last year, and his house is cordoned off by police for his protection. And no one seems clear on his location.

He's there. It's just confusion.

15,000 resumes have been uploaded to an Indian website that people use to find new jobs.

From the LA Times: "Raju has cheated me and millions of shareholders," said Rajesh Shrivastava, 43, a businessman who owns 5,000 shares. "I still fail to believe that I have almost lost everything. The god of IT has failed me."

And my favorite of all. As the financial auditors in charge of assessing Satyam over the last several years were asked about this, they did themselves no favors when they said the following - Their assessment of Satyam yielded a "true and fair" picture of the company, but that did not mean it was "accurate".

True - accurate - true - accurate - true - accurate.....

I have always seen a connection between these words. Hmmmm.

Well, as the facts continue to unfold in this India-meets-Enron drama, everyone continues to be astounded and saddened, but a small group of Satyam employees got together and held a vigil during which they painted their hands and put them on a white sheet as a sign of solidarity. It was a "Spirit of Satyam" event. Someone should have given them better guidance on this.

Very tragic stuff. What could be next?

Thursday, January 8, 2009


OK, I am going to break with convention for this blog and talk business for a bit.

The question of the day..... is the entire planet built on a house of cards?

I ask only half-jokingly.

The last year has been sobering, to say the least. Events that almost no one saw coming have utterly changed the landscape of the US economy and, as a consequence, much of the world's economy. As I have spent more time delving into it to learn what happened, I was disheartened to find out that much of what has happened was so avoidable. If people followed the fundamentals of responsible business, none of it would have happened.

Here are some rules we need to look at again:

RULE NUMBER ONE - Don't lie.

Don't anticipate that housing prices only move upward - forever.

Don't lie about housing prices.

Don't sell someone a house they cannot afford.

Don't buy a house that you cannot pay for.

Quite politicizing every aspect of American life, there is no "right to home ownership".

Don't leverage the heck out of your company and secure the debt around housing prices.

Don't accept former politicians into your corporation's board.

Make sure your auditors don't lie.

For good measure - let's say it again - don't lie.

And... don't tell "half-truths". Those are lies.

Finally, I fear in a few years time we will look back at what is happening now and add a new rule with great urgency:

Never, ever, ever let the goverment prop up the private sector.

Anyway, today had an earth-shattering event occur in the line of work that I am in. Satyam, a giant Hyderabad-based IT services company, fell to ruins. The head of the company, Chairman Ramalinga Raju, admitted that he has been cooking the books for years, and he has overstated profits, overstated outstanding receipts due to the company, understated debt, and just generally avoided the truth wherever he saw it. It is being said that more than $1 billion in non-existent cash was being stated on their books as recently as last month. Yes, that is a billion dollars, not rupees. He missed Rule Number One so many times that it makes your head spin. *Then*, we come to find out that there is a related company that is part of Satyam but named Maytas (Satyam backwards, it's getting weirder, right?) that is involved in..... real estate! And with the recent corrections in Indian real estate and the porous border between business units at Satyam - well, you see where this is headed.

A few interesting things to note.

Satya in Sanskrit means "truth".

Satyam won an award for corporate governance last year.

Now, on a serious note, the attacks in Mumbai and this thing are going to impact the confidence people had in India as a business destination. Neither of these things, especially so close together, can help India's emerging image. The people of India deserve better than this. I think of all of the young people that have been diligently working on their careers for years at this company - now - it's all gone.

Ironically, I write this as I am in Mumbai working on a merger between corporate titans.

Man plans, God laughs.....

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I am back in Mumbai. It seems the security is beefed up only in a cosmetic sort of way. I worry about India's ability to authentically head off attacks.

Anyway, more later.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tami - Day 3

Interview with Tami, Day 3....

What has surprised you most about India: Oh, God. [laughs] The men peeing on the side of the road..... in abundance. That's it's common to see that.....

What's the most beautiful thing you've seen in India thus far?: I guess it would have to be when we bought bananas on the side of the road and the people that lived there lived in such a little open brick dwelling yet they were so nice and had beautiful smiles and their clothing was so colorful. It was the beauty of the spirit of the country that I saw....

If you come back to India in 20 years, what would you like to see changed?: I'd like to see the trash removed. A ruin is fine being an old dusty ruin (they visited Golconda today), but the trash around the perimeter of it doesn't need to be there. That would be nice to see changed.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Here are some of Tami's photographs. She has a great eye and a really good camera. Click on any of the photos to get the large version of the same.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


We have a visitor, Tami Reilly, one of Tara's long time friends from home. It is the first, and probably only, friend visit amongst Tara's life-long friends, so she is very excited. Tami and Tara are spending the night at the Marriott here in Hyd - leading the good life, as it were. Good for them.

Tami has a unique affinity to India. She is a yoga instructor, and has done some innovative blending of vinyasa yoga and spin cycling. She is here to train some people in Delhi at a fitness club, stopping off to see us first.

It is always fun to see India through a newbies eyes. Especially Tami, who has a great knowledge of India and has never been here. Additionally, I sense that perhaps she has a perspective that is based largely on the idealized India, the exotic India that occupies the mind of many in the West. She turned to Tara during her first day, a bit appalled by what she was seeing, and said, "Is that man just going to pee right there on the side of the street?" To which one must laugh, as urination is the most tepid gastric display on the streets of India.

Overall, it has been fun to have a visitor, and the pictures she has been taking will be posted on the blog soon, if she is cool with that.

She is here 'til Thursday.

Welcome Tami! Namaste!

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Ashoka is getting larger by the day. Here's a picture.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The New Year

When the year changes here in India, there is an explosion of well wishes, all of which focus on having a "happy and prosperous 2009". The e.mails are filled with pictures of fireworks and dancing silhouettes, and the text messages are heart-felt.

I thought I would share an SMS that I got on New Years Eve, typed exactly as I got it:

Before 2008 ends, let me Thank all the good people like U who made '2008' beautiful 4 me. i pray u b blssed with lovely years ahead! HAVE A WONDERFUL 2009.

You just aren't going to get that anywhere else.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Rangoli around Whisper Valley

Welcome 2009! Here are some of the nice rangoli around the neighborhood.

Ours is the one that says "WESH YOU HAPPY NEW YEAR". I think Monga made a new conjunction from WE WISH. Of course, she knows no English, so it's pretty cool she did this as well as she did.

Various people seemed to have stumbled into their homes over their rangoli, this the degradation.