19 June 2007


The monsoons have finally brought some relief to my AC-less ass. Temperatures are now topping about 30 during the day, with the addition of a pleasant breeze. Thanks to global warming, there not to much actual rain here, but still enough. And moreover the sky is now often blue instead of copper.  I've made some quite good friends here and you meet quite a few interesting folks around Delhi in general.

As hinted at by my lack of AC, my NGO still remains insolvent, hence I have not gotten paid and have instead received quite a bit of kindness from friends. I, however, am now thoroughly on board with the job search. I have learned that Monster and Jobster both suck. For Monster, I didn't exactly have a narrow search--about ten different kinds of proffessions in about 20 countries. Got back one result. I mean what the hell? I guess things have not changed much since the old Monster which would respect to my interest in, say, non-profits, by returning search results for IT workers for such companies. Jobster is also strange in that the social networking phenomenon doesn't apply well to job-searching in that most people are not in a state of constant search. When they find a job, they forget about their profiles. A better thing would be to offer these services with Facebook or Friendster, since people would still be logging in even when happily employed. Of course this would require more people to grow up and use social networking sites.

All of my experiences with my current NGO just encourage me ever more to get into my own business and simply run things myself. And India's a positive environment for that in that there are plenty of opportunities to be had here.

Another upshot of my insolvency is that it's led me to try eating at more cheap places here. One, an Andhra restaurant near where I live, produces a lamb-nugget that is awesome. Consisting of a manlier meat, it even beats the chicken nugget from the roadside dhaba in Tamilnadu. Crispy and batterfried in a spicy batter with all sort of chillies and garlic, these lamb-nuggets are mighty. Serve them with cheese sauce and white people would kill for them too. This Andhra restaurant also makes a fish curry that is no joke. Being good Andhra food it's the first properly spicy thing I've found during this stint in India. In general this country suffers from one pepper, the green/red chillie, which is often not that hot. The first step to good hot food is to supplement that heat with black pepper, which is different and complementary. But more importantly, more kinds of chillies could be used like in Mexico or the US. Of course I still haven't found a good Christian or Zoroastrian (Parsi) restaurant. Having brough the chili to India in the first place, Christians are the most reliable connoisseurs of spice in India.

01 June 2007

Delhi: The Arrival

Now I've been in Delhi over two weeks and it's a big improvement over Kabul. Thanks to Chitra's help I found a decent appartment in Green Park and I've set up my office in Priya Complex market in Vasant Vihar. My "office" is actually Passion, which is a tea house that looks like a post-modern Starbucks and offers free wireless hi-speed internet.

It's an interesting experience finally getting to live in Delhi, and here are the biggest insights I have into Indian society so far.

-Some things are universal. The guy from AirTel who's supposed to set up my internet has so far managed to miss two appointments.

-You litterally cannot build stores and fill them with products fast enough here. People have a desire to spend their money but few places to do it. In the upscale suburb of Gurgaon there are countless megamalls and hypermarkets under construct to complement the 15 already completed. Delhi only really has a few decent shopping areas--Ansel Plaza, SouthEx, Khan Market, and Priya Complex, the rest are all out in Noida or Gurgaon. Now before you realise my bias, I'm not saying this as a snobby Californian so much as a consumer who just wants to be able to get stuff in an enjoyable and navigable environment. The old bazaars, say in Shahjahanabad, are now mostly wholesalers and not practical for the consumer, and the rest are crowded, dirty, and annoying (or tourist traps), even if they do have good food. Overall Delhi makes Los Angeles look pedestrian-friendly, which means not that it doesn't have public space, but that those spaces are too superhuman in size and hence too alienating. Whoever can fill demands more decent public/commercial space will make a lot of money. (this relates to my theory on how any good public space needs to be comercially oriented, this is why the National Mall in Washington DC is such a dramatic failure; it's not fun and it's not social)

-There is a serious lack of entrepreneurialism here and this has serious implications when coupled with the need to feed this growing economy. I'll give an example of how this plays out. At the tea house where I work they have a music playlist that basically consists of Backstreet Boys and Michael Jackson, which the odd bit of Shaggy thrown in. All day long they will play the same Backstreet Boys songs over and over again and this doesn't change ever, I've been here almost every day for two weeks now and I've stopped in before as well. Now it's interesting that this never drives the staff crazy and that they don't think that they can say something to their manager about changing it. Trust me, nobody likes Backstreet Boys that much. Ever. The next point goes to why I don't ask them to change it. My reason is simple--the music will switch to whatever I ask them to change it to and then probably remain on that in perpetuity. In other words, it wouldn't get any better. This may be a bit presumptuous on my part, but I think as an example it captures something of the picture. I remember seeing a newspaper ad that has the shocking title of "World's Most Reliable Career!". Think about that for a minute.

A other cool thing is that I've already managed to have some visitors here. Shareena came to stay with me here and Liz and Sahar, both of Kabul, are also in town for short periods. Sahar actually will be here for about four hours tomorrow on a layover, during which I plan to take her to the famous Bukhara restaurant.