Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gift Giving

A relative of ours had a baby born recently in Chennai.  We visited the mother and the baby yesterday.  As is the custom, we placed some money as our humble gift on the baby’s tiny pink hands.  The young parents thanked us.  We came home happily.
After coming home, we (my wife and I) reminded ourselves of an incident that happened 2 years ago in Gurgaon.  My brother-in-law (my wife’s brother) lives in Gurgaon and he is married to a Punjabi girl.  While we were in Gurgaon we happened to visit one of her relatives.  They had a baby born recently (at that time).  Those relatives are no strangers to us.  We know them very well.
As is the custom and also we wanted to, I placed some money in the baby’s hand.  The young mother refused to accept.  She kept saying “no” “no” “no”.  I insisted 2 times and she kept saying “no”.  I then gave up.
When returning home, my brother in law and his wife said I should have forced the money into the baby’s hand in spite of the mother repeatedly saying “no”.  She said it is our custom to say “no” several times before accepting the gift. 
(I did not ask her then.  Now I think I should have asked her what she meant by “our custom”. Did she mean “Punjabi custom” or “North Indian custom” or “Indian custom” or “human custom”?)
I basically trust people.  If I offer something and they say “no”, I sincerely think they mean it.  I am like that.  If my intention is to accept something, I never say “no” for a few times just for the sake of it.  I do not like the “izhupari” (rough translation: tug of war).
When I am giving a gift, please accept it graciously. I do not want to beg you to accept my gift.  I do not want to argue with you to accept my gift.  I do not want to fight with you to accept my gift.  If I end up doing that, I am exhausted.  The happiness is gone.
What do you say?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hotel Experience

Last week we visited Guruvayooor in Kerala.  This is one of the holiest places for Lord Krishna.  I have no idea which hotel to book for staying.  I surfed the web and booked a hotel through Travel Division.  I have no idea if they are affiliated with Kerala Government or a private travel consultant.  Anyhow I booked in a hotel in Guruvayoor.
We had a good darshan of Lord Guruvayoorappan.
It is time to check out.  The time was 7 PM.  It was pouring cats and dogs.  We have to catch the train at Thrissur, which is about a 35 minute drive from Guruvayoor.
We go to the reception desk and I give my Visa credit card.  He took my card and looked at it for almost 2 minutes.  (To us, it looked like 2 hours.)  Then he asked me if I can pay in cash.  I told him I don’t have that kind of cash with me.  I asked him what is the problem in accepting my credit card.  I pointed out at the big sign at the reception that says they will accept Visa and Mastercard.
He then threw me a curve ball.  He said his card swipe machine is not working.  I told him there is nothing I can do about it.  He than asked me if I have any debit card.  I asked him back: “will that “swipe machine” work on a debit card and not on my visa credit card?”  I also told him I don’t have any debit card but I have a mastercard if he wants to use that.  He never replied.
He picked up the phone, dialed someone, and had a serious conversation with someone for 5 minutes in Malayalam.  I did not understand a thing of what he was saying.  One English word I picked up was “commission”.  He used that word 3 times.
After hanging up the phone, he swiped my Visa credit card in his machine.  It was accepted.  He gave me the small print out to sign.  I did and he gave me my credit card back.
Something bizarre happened then.  I asked for a copy of the detailed statement of account for which I was charged.  Usually, in hotels, during check out time, you do not have to “ask” for it. They themselves will give you.  That will show all charges – room charges, tax, bar charges, food charges, and others in detail.
He said I have to get that from Travel Division from whom I booked my reservation.  Now I have no way to verify if those charges are correct/legit or not.  I have stayed in hundreds of hotels in many countries including India.  This is the first time a hotel will not give a statement of account and ask me to get it from the organization through which I booked my reservations.
We had to catch the train.  We did not have time.  So we left.
During our car ride from Guruvayoor to Thrissur, I was telling my wife I would like to call our Visa card company in USA and make a stop payment on this until the hotel send us the statement of account to our home.  My wife being a Goody Two-shoes convinced me not to do it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Chennai Tidbits

Couple of weeks ago, I had to print something.  Since I don’t have a printer at home, I was looking for a browsing center to print my stuff.  I asked a policeman who was standing in the street.  He pointed to me where the browsing center was and I thanked him and started to walk away.  But he wanted to prolong the conversation:
Policeman – Where do you work?
Me – I am not working now.
Policeman – Where did you work before?
Me – Telephone (It is not a lie. But wanted to give a vague answer)
Policeman – In Chennai?
Me – No
Policeman – What was your salary? (I think he assumed I worked for the Government)
Me – What can I say about my salary!  (Again wanted to give a vague answer)
Policeman – You are correct. Us government servants are paid very poorly.  You are better off. At least you work for the central government.  (I have no idea what he meant.)
Last night, midnight, I had to go to the Chennai airport to receive someone who was coming from Frankfurt.  I waited close to the door where passengers are coming out after customs.  I saw there were about 5 guys wearing suits also waiting there.  One of the guys came to me and we had the following conversation:
Suit Guy – Sir, this is a restricted area and you cannot stand here.  You have to move to a different location.
(I looked at his badge and it said “Westin”.  I immediately recognized he is a chauffeur from Westin Hotel waiting to pick up a passenger.) (I was very calm and quiet.)
Me (in a soft tone) – Are you police?
Suit Guy – No
Me (in a harsh tone) – Then you shut up and get out of my face.
The suit guy walked away.
Stay tuned for more.                                                                                         

Friday, November 7, 2014

Jaipur Travel – Photos

In my previous post, I said I am not including any photos of Jaipur.  I assumed that you all either have been to Jaipur or seen a lot of photos from that city.  However, a few blogger friends want to see, at least, a few photos that I have clicked.  So here they are:
                                                               Jaipur City Wall
                                                      Few Photos from City Palace

Ganga Jal
Birla Mandir at the base of Moti Dungari Hill
Few Photos from Hawa Mahal
Jal Mahal
Spitting Fire at Chokhi Dhani
Dinner at Chokhi Dhani
Few Photos from Amber Fort

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Jaipur Travel – Tidbits

We have never been to Jaipur before.  Therefore, we visited Jaipur last week.  Don’t worry.  I am not going to shove 50 photos in your face.  I know you all have been either to Jaipur before or have seen those photos umpteen number of times.
I want to share a few tidbits.
Some of you may remember I wrote on June 23, 2012 about our train journey from Amritsar to New Delhi.  I titled it “Best Train Ride (in India)”.  We wanted to experience the same again.  Therefore, we booked Chennai-Jaipur-Chennai by AC First Class.  VERY BIG MISTAKE.
The AC First class can accommodate 10 passengers.  4 berths in Cabin A, 4 in Cabin B, and 2 in Cabin C (Coupe).  There were a total of 7 passengers only.  We were in Cabin A (2 people), Cabin B had 3 people, and Cabin C had 2 people.  There are 2 lavatories for these 10 people only.  But only 7 passengers.  2 Hours into the journey, both bathrooms became so dirty and the whole compartment was full of bad smell that we felt like vomiting.  We asked the attendant to clean them and he took his own time.  I think people go out of the way to dirty the bathrooms.  How much wreck a few people can havoc in 2 bathrooms in the train in just 2 hours!
We were so disappointed with the train journey, we cancelled the return train tickets and flew back to Chennai.  Lesson learnt: Don’t go by trains in India unless it is a Shatabdi Express and the travel time is less than 6 hours.
This is interesting.  We were going in a taxi in Jaipur.  It was a long beautiful road. Both sides were lined with lots of trees.  The center divider had lots of plants and flowers.  The ride was very smooth and no bumps.  We were impressed.  We asked the driver (in our broken Hindi) the name of the street.  He said it is jalan road.  We did not get what he said.  We asked again.  He said it is called jalan.  We asked him to spell.  He did not know how to spell and also got a little bit irritated.  Therefore, we did not pursue further.  We were looking out and at an intersection we got the name of the street.  It is J.L.N. Marg.  Ahhh. Now we know.  We still think it stands for Jawaharlal Nehru.  Just curious.  Jawaharlal is one word and not two words (Jawahar Lal). Therefore, it should be J.N. Marg and not J.L.N. Marg – assuming it is named after Jawaharlal Nehru. What do you think?
We enjoyed so many places in Jaipur.  One of the unforgettable experience is the Rajasthani food at Chokhi Dhani.  One of the best dining experience.  Chokhi Dhani is an ethnic village resort in Jaipur. (I am about to publish this post.  Someone just told me there is a Chokhi Dhani in Chennai also.  Will try that one also soon.)
One small suggestion for those who are planning to go to Chokhi Dhani in Jaipur.  Please engage the taxi/auto for round trip.  We did not know what time we will be back.  We thought we will hire a taxi from Chokhi Dhani for our return journey to the hotel.  ANOTHER  MISTAKE.  We were ready to go back at 10:30 pm.  Hundreds of taxis and autos.  But all of them were waiting for passengers already booked the round trip.  We walked a long distance and came to the main road where there were some lights.  We just stood there for 20 minutes thinking some empty taxi/auto will stop and pick us.  Finally one auto stopped.  There were already a middle-aged couple in that auto.  The driver asked where we are going?  We told the name of the hotel.  He said he would drop us there and named his price.  We agreed.  I asked the male passenger if it is ok with them.  He said fine.   My wife sat in the back with that couple.  I sat in the front with the auto driver.  In fact, I actually enjoyed the ride.  My wife was the one worried to death throughout the ride that I may fall off the auto.
One more thing we noticed in Rajasthan (or in the whole northern part of India) that young people give lot of respect and care to elders.  We rarely see that in Chennai.