Sunday, April 13, 2008

Second Impressions

The past day and a half have been wild. All my waking hours were devoted to this morning's presentation, followed this afternoon by five non-waking hours (aka, a comatose nap). In some ways I feel like I'm not seeing India at all because work leaves me no time to roam the streets and play tourist. We go from point A to point B in our Mercedes and I want to take pictures of everything, but it all goes by too fast.

On the other hand, plunking down in this city on the other side of the world and immediately diving into work on a project with total strangers is certainly an authentic experience. The good news is that my presentation went very well and that I can begin to relax. I have been joined here by Rashmi Jaipal, a Bloomfield professor of psychology and a native of India who is currently on sabbatical and living up in or around Delhi until August. She's been very helpful explaining everything to me, especially the food (!), and after tomorrow's midday press conference she's going to travel with me to Mumbai, where she'll have about 4 hours to show me around before I have to head to the airport and fly back to Newark.

Speaking of flying, I neglected to mention two key points in my rave review of Jet Airways. The most significant is that they have an outlet for your laptop at every seat! (It even took an American plug.) Since laptop batteries are depressingly short-lived, it's great to actually be able to get some work done, or just watch a movie. Well, they had their own great choice of movies, but it was good to be able to work some on my presentation on the way over, since I had so little time. And on the way back I can work on my presentation for the Presbyterian dinner, taking place in Westminster all of 3 or 4 hours after my return. Lucky me!

The other great thing was that the plane coming over was less than half full, so I could stretch out over three seats to sleep. This was a jumbo jet and no one was officially seated in the rear cabin, so you could go back there and it was like you were POTUS on The West Wing, with your own personal bedroom aboard Air Force One. Don't know if I'll get that lucky going back.

Some more pictures...

They call these 3-wheeled motor vehicles "rickshaws," and they are the most common form of taxi.

Motorcycles are as popular as cars, and often feature couples, the women in long flowing garments. I've even seen them with parents and child all aboard. No one wears helmets and the traffic is crazy, but they're used to it.

Raj and Trish from Sumeru and Rashmi from a little place we like to call Bloomfield College.

With all the IT industry and now animation becoming a big deal, Pune is positioning itself as the Silicon Valley of India, thus this poster.

The banner for our big show.

This is the hall for our event, the night before. It's at the Pune Convention Center.

And this is it with chairs, an hour before opening. At this point we're hoping some of them will get filled.

Whew! People actually showed up.

To hear this guy?!?

Now to the good part! I'll have to get the Indian name for this, but we had it two days in a row, but from two different regional cuisines. The idea is that they keep filling up the small bowls with a variety of dishes and also heap food on the middle of the tray. As soon as you finish something, the waiter's hovering above you to refill it. It really is All You Can Eat. It reminds me of Korean restaurants with their wide variety of side dishes.

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