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Posts Tagged ‘jamshedpur’

Three Coincidences

October 26, 2008 1 comment

Put two Indians (perfect strangers mind you) in a room and it’s merely a question of time before they find a few common connections. As you might suspect, I epitomize this quintessential Indian quirk.

  1. The Paper Cup Saga: In our first week in Bangalore, during that honeymoon period when work had not yet consumed me, I had the luxury of reading the Times of India (TOI) cover-to-cover. I read a very interesting story in the business section entitled After all your paper cup is not that eco-friendly. The story was about a Texas Instruments (TI India) employee creating an informative video that persuaded the employees to significantly reduce paper cup usage. Being ‘green’ at heart, my thoughts immediately raced to achieving a similar outcome in the Adobe India office. Since TOI publishes the reporters’ email addresses, I was able to dash off a quick note asking them whether they could share the video produced by TI. My attention then went to one of the authors – Sujit John. Was it the same Sujit who was school captain (three batches my senior) at St. Xaviers Bokaro? A quick LinkedIn search confirmed it. Turns out, he’s Times of India’s Bangalore-based Business Editor. Wow! my first solid contact in the Indian Fourth Estate. To top it, Sujit is married to Alice (one of my Xaviers Bokaro classmates).
  2. The Intel Folsom Connection: As I mentioned in The First Week in Bangalore, we spent the first three weeks in a guest house flat on Bannerghatta Road. The flat was in an apartment community called Adarsh Vihar – two buildings next to the Adobe office so it was very convenient for us. As Bangalore apartment communities go, Adarsh Vihar was small (less than 100 flats) but they have a decent playground which the kids and I would frequent on most evenings. One of the kids mom (Sharmila) had moved to Intel Bangalore (from Intel’s offices Folsom, California). I knew exactly ONE person in Intel Folsom – BTV Anant Kumar (my dear friend and classmate from BIT Mesra). Turns out Sharmila and her husband (who also worked at Intel Folsom) knew BTV and his family very well, in fact they were even next-door neighbours for a few years in California. Gee! What are the odds? We exchanged updates on BTV’s miraculous recovery after a month in the ICU.
  3. The Bokaro/Jamshedpur Connection: P and I were sitting in Alok & Babita Sinha’s (owners of the Raheja Residency flat we are renting) living room relating about our life’s ram kahani (“life’s story” for my non-Indian readers). The conversation eventually led to Bokaro and Jamshedpur (two eventful places in my past). Alok runs a division of Symphony Services and had a long fruitful stint at Tata Motors Jamshedpur (previously known as TELCO). Turns out that yet another Xaviers Bokaro classmate (Aman Sinha) used to in Alok’s group at Telco. Not only that, Alok and Aman (who is in the SF Bay Area) met as recently as a few months ago. On a final coincidental note, I had reconnected with Aman (at Hobees Cupertino) just a few weeks before our exodus from California.

Asthma, Bangalore and me…

August 29, 2008 5 comments

Pic: courtesy myhealthguardian.com

Asthma and I go back a long way. One cold winter in Bokaro, when I was either 6 or 7, asthma came uninvited into my life. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that it changed my life. Besides taking a lot of medicines and being bedridden more than the average kid, the big lifestyle impact was that I didn’t play much of any sport during my school or college years. In the 70’s and 80’s, asthma was not well understood – I mean besides the medicines prescribed by allopathic & homeopathic doctors to suppress asthma. Sports Star used to be part of my staple reading during my high school years. I was deeply puzzled when I read that Morten Frost Hansen (Dutch All England badminton champ) and Jackie Joyner-Kersee (heptathlon Olympic uber champion) suffered from asthma in their childhood. I was to learn later that the best way to combat asthma is to exercise “more” (not “less”).

My first job (in India) was with Tata Steel at Jamshedpur. Perhaps it was finally the release of academic pressure or maybe it was finally time to beat my nemesis. Whatever the reason, Jamshedpur was where I won my first battle against asthma. Thanks to my dear friends & colleagues Vochak (squash champion from BITS Palani) and JD (squash champion & amateur coach from IT-BHU), I was introduced to the wonderful sport of squash. I scratched and struggled around on the squash court of Beldih Club for nigh on two years. My squash game didn’t threaten but a worthy side effect was that it kept my asthma at bay and I gradually built my cardiovascular fitness. When I moved to USA, I experienced asthma-free bliss for 16 years (barring a few minor episodes of exercise-induced asthma in Chicago).

As I wrote in Why are we moving back to India now, we came very close to moving to India in 2005. A casual one week stay in Bangalore suddenly turned into a very real possibility. I had an offer to take up a key role in the Yahoo! Bangalore organization and Poonam also had a great opportunity at a biotech startup. At the eleventh hour, we pulled the plug. The asthma factor was not a major reason but it did figure in the calculations. In all my trips to Bangalore (including this one), the wheezing would start by the second or third day.

Fast forward three years. I was planning my 2-week scouting trip to India and wondering Where in India we would be moving to. By our original reckoning, Bangalore should have been on top of our list of prospective cities. However, it had fallen out of favor and was at #3 (behind Delhi and Bombay). This was partly because we were steadily reading stories about Bangalore’s worsening traffic situation, Delhi/Gurgaon’s rise as a techno hub, and of Bombay’s seduction. The elephant in the living room was actually my old nemesis.

Poonam (our Chief Research Officer) read many articles about how asthma was getting worse in Bangalore.

50% Bangalore kids hit by asthma screamed this Times of India headline in 2007. Dust mites in the humid atmosphere of Bangalore trigger around 60% of asthma, while vehicular emissions like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, aldehydes, sulphur dioxide also act as trigger agents.

‘‘Continuous exposure to allergens like Parthenium could prove fatal for asthma patients as it can lead to a permanent damage of the lungs affecting the respiratory functions’’, said Dr. Rao in this blog post Bangalore still carries ‘asthma city’ tag. Then came a study from WHO and UNICEF that declared that over 30 per cent of Bangalore’s children suffer from asthma. Whoa!!

Then out of the blue, Twitter provided a glimmer of hope. I saw the following tweet (or maybe it was a Facebook status message) from one of my Bangalore friends: “down with asthma. Bummer.” You might find the following email exchange interesting.

— start of email thread —

Hi [friend],
Sorry to hear you are down with asthma. I was reading a few blog posts recently about how the air quality in Bangalore keeps getting worse – pollution + pollen. Why you might wonder? So I suffered from asthma for years – it only stopped after I moved to US (14 years ago). Actively in the throes of moving back to India (looking at Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore as Pune) as prospective cities. The biggest ding against Bangalore (for me personally) is how severely my asthma would return – my last 2 trips to Bangalore were memorable (not!). Would like to know your thoughts..
Thanks.
– Vishy

Hi Vishy,

I can relate a lot to what you say. I was in the US for about 6 months – and was perfectly fine through the period. I am fine elsewhere in India too, In general : Asthma for me is local to Bangalore. I have been here about 10 years, and have learnt to fight it. I am generally fine as long as I am exercising in some form or the other – even a 10 minute walk would do it, as long as its regular. Through various stages, I have practised pranayama, played badminton, gone running, etc regularly. The moment, I get a little lazy – stop exercising for a few days, and asthma reminds me that I cant afford to be lazy in Bangalore. I believe, as long as you are religiously regular with exercise – you can keep asthma away. I myself have considered moving to other cities, but for internet products focussed on the global market – this is the place.
There is enough India focussed internet work happening in Bombay & Delhi, but not as many global companies/startups as in Bangalore.

Let me know if you have anything specific you are looking at in India – might be able to connect.

All the best with the move,
[friend]

[friend],

Thanks for your detailed note on asthma. That certainly re-emboldens my heart towards Bangalore. So I just booked my trip to India – flying in to Bombay on Jun 3 & returning on Jun 18. Plan to cover Bangalore & Delhi as well. Would love to hook up when I’m there.

— end of email thread —

In my blog post chronology so far, a few posts are still incomplete (and hence unpublished). One of them is the “Bangalore Calling” post where I make the case for Bangalore. (Still intend to finish that post but might take a few more weeks). Anyway, I spent 6 days in Bangalore during my 2-week trip and I didn’t feel a single asthma symptom. This was baffling and miraculous. In all my previous three trips to Bangalore, I had asthma trouble so what was different this time? I tried to contain my excitement. Maybe it was the allergy medication which I was taking regularly that acted as a shield. Did it? I have no idea.

What this asthma-free Bangalore trip did to me (& Poonam) was that it removed the we-cannot-move-to-Bangalore straightjacket. We still had a healthy apprehension about how this factor would affect the kids and me. The net score in Bangalore’s favor definitely tipped things over for us. I’m completing this post on day#13 and, so far, (touch wood!) I have not felt any symptoms. The traffic is as bad as it was touted to be but ‘maybe’ the pollen counts have come down. Only time will tell.

Where in India are we moving to?

May 30, 2008 2 comments

So we are moving to India but to which city? For better or worse, the list of candidate cities is fairly small.
Before we get into discussing the merits and demerits of each city, let me outline the key V+P criteria (V=Vishy, P=Poonam) in evaluating the candidate Indian cities. In no particular order, here are the criteria:

  • Career prospects
    • Is the city a one-trick pony? or is there a critical mass of hitech and biotech companies? (Biotech because Poonam’s background & experience is in biosciences/neuroscience)
  • Livability
    • Some blend of city infrastructure, traffic, pollution, pollen, schools, non-outrageous housing
  • Character of city
    • City of Djins? Cosmopolitan? old-world or new-world city?
  • Proximity to other cool places
  • Primary spoken language
    • Poonam is Punjabi by lineage but Bombayite by birth and upbringing. I am Andhaite by lineage but have honorary Bihari/Jharkhandi citizenship since I spent most of my growing years in Bokaro, Ranchi and Jamshedpur. Hindi happens to be the Indian language that both Poonam & I are comfortable speaking. Of course, a high proportion of our conversations at home tends to be in English but we fully expect the Hindi/English ratio to significantly increase after we move to India.
  • Quantity of friends already living in city

Now that we’ve squared away the city evaluation criteria, let’s dive into our short list of cities…

New Delhi/NCR

National Capital Region (NCR) encompasses the entire Delhi metropolitan area as well as the neighboring satellite towns of Faridabad and Gurgaon (in Haryana) and NOIDA & Ghaziabad (in Uttar Pradesh). The V+P definition of NCR includes Gurgaon and NOIDA but excludes Faridabad and Ghaziabad.

  • (PLUSes)
    • Relatively speaking, Delhi has the best infrastructure among all the Indian cities.
    • Delhi has a rich and old history worthy of exploration.
    • Reasonably strong hitech action in New Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon.
    • Gurgaon is arguably India’s fastest growing city & most modern city (at least until Nanocity goes live
    • Close to Himalayas and several exciting destinations in Uttaranchal
    • Tons of friends from Bokaro and BIT Mesra days
    • Housing still affordable (esp. compared to Bombay & Bangalore)
    • Excellent food & dining options
    • Hindi is defacto language
  • (MINUSes)
    • Infested with politicians (and all the associated baggage)
    • Delhi-wallah syndrome
    • Punishing summer heat
    • Severe winter for most (not for us since we braved Chicago for 4+ years)

Mumbai/Bombay

  • (PLUSes)
    • Probability of bumping into Preity Zinta or Rani Mukherji high (compared to any other Indian city)
    • Arguably India’s most cosmopolitan city. Entertainment & financial capital of India.
    • City has great & unique character. Energy is palpable all around.
    • Excellent food & dining options.
    • Sizable number of friends from Bokaro days, BIT MESRA days, and Timpany School, Vizag days.
    • Hindi is defacto language
  • (MINUSes)
    • Monsoon season and Bombay don’t play well together
    • Housing almost unaffordable
    • City’s infrastructure roadmap unclear
    • Commute times potentially very high

Bangalore

  • (PLUSes)
    • Silicon Valley of India. Reputed to be cosmopolitan. Hotbed of innovation.
    • Even before hitech hit feverish pitch, Bangalore had a strong tradition of science & engineering institutions.
    • Humongous number of friends from Bokaro days, BIT MESRA days, Jamshedpur days, and Timpany School, Vizag days
  • (MINUSes)
    • Traffic has become horrendous.
    • Double P whammy (Pollution + Pollen). Tough to ignore pollen since it triggers asthma. More on this topic at: Asthma, Bangalore & me
    • Housing costs approaching American and Bombay levels?
    • Need to learn Kannada?