Last day of intense labor! Crammed in a hotel events room, we see all those who came for training away. In between, a stroll in the streets of Pune to catch some fresh air. The street vendors are everywhere, selling whatever they can to make a living. It reminds me of Mexico’s informal economy that feeds millions. These street vendors who find a spot and are there every single day, until the time when police wants its bribe and comes to collect. I wonder about these stuffed-animal vendors: how long have they been here in this same spot? How long will they be? Will the police come one day to collect? And why do they sell stuffed Pandas in India?
At the end of 5 intense weeks it is nice to have a small celebratory dinner. If you get in early you even get a discount for food and two for one wine! Barbacue Nation is a place that brings back many memories from my first time in India; we used to go have our portion of “non-veg” barbacue in Bangalore. There it was in an open space, this time in Pune it was a closed space so the smoke fumes reminded a Brit of his early years barbacueing in the garage. A good way to celebrate the end of all the hard work.
Another trip to the post office; it felt like a trip back in time. In this age of technology, looking at so many letters and papers, this place made me wonder what is their sorting system, how do they manage to keep things in order and tracked. The trip this time, to mail our correspondance to various places around the world. It is interesting to see the way they work in the office and how important mail still is in this world. On this visit the postal service even had 20 ruppee stamps!
Our office has entertainment to clear the mind: fussball, pool and a ping pong table and of course a table of Carrom: a traditional Indian board game also known as Strike and Pocket Table Game, carrum, couronne, carum, karam, karom, karum, and finger billiards. And as part of our Indian experience, we thought we should learn some traditional games as well.
The beginnings of Carrom are a legend at best; some say it originated in India but other theories trace the beginnings to the British, Burma, Egypt or Ethiopia. So no one really knows. Whatever its beginnings though, it is said to be played in India as early as 18th century onwards as the main source of entertainment for the Maharajas. The game consists of carrom men (19), strikers, queen (red coin) and powder (for application on the board for smooth strikes).
Rules change depending on who is playing but in all versions, the method of playing is to use one’s finger to elegantly (or not) use the striker coin to contact other coins (the carrom men), so that these carrom men fall into any one of the four holes or pockets on the carrom board.
An hour and a half away from Pune, halfway to Mumbai, there is a town called Lonavala where we were to have a team building activity for a weekend trip. Near Lonavala there is “Bhushi dam” 100 meters deep and a popular destination for weekends and mischief. Laws have been set in place as a result of people drowning in the dam; these laws prohibit drinking alcohol nearby, restrict the time of entrance and transit to only local traffic. It is no surprise that traffic police block the road and ask for bribes to allow drivers to go to through to the dam. Therefore an obliged stop for us to get hotel reservations ready to show and not pay the back-hander we were being asked for. Amongst mud and cows we parked and waited within our bus. Thankfully we didnt get stuck.
Working in Pune has been a pleasant experience in that the office space is heaps nicer. There is so much more space however once grads are here for training the few meeting rooms available have waitlists. There are still random and somewhat private places to have phone calls, like a rickshaw. If only you could drive it around the office too.
Yet another parallel between Mexico and India, is the corn based street snacks from push carts outside the doorstep. Made in front of you on burning charcoals means that you are able to trust that you can eat it with no fear of getting delhiBelly. The vendor will offer lime and chilli but for one who travels with sauce and chilli around the world is better to season it at home. The perfect snack when one is peckish yet not hungry.
A failed attempt to try an Indian barbecue restaurant meant stumbling upon a bakery recommended by a German for the bread: FlourWorks. We found delicious biscuits and a dessert which had four different custard based puddings. It is always nice to sit outside for dinner after an almost 12hour work day; talk nonsense and eat a nice dinner accompanied with suboptimal beer.
Being in India means the great experience of auto rickshaws: a convenient and very fast way to get to places. The downside is that they can only really take three people comfortably – though that doesnt mean people fit up to 5! There are however some rickshaws that operate more like buses, taking people around the same place and charging individually. We only really used these rickshaws for the first time this week after a game of footsal; fitting 8 people to get home. Squashy but good value for our money.