Murmeli goes India

An AIESEC traineeship in Hyderabad, India

Work & bargaining

Every day seems to be so funny, strange and new that I can’t stop writing. Today I left the flat at about ten past nine. The same auto driver that took me to work yesterday appeared into my sight when I was a few tens of meters from Road n:o 12. I realised it was the same guy when I said “Basheerbagh?” and he answered “Yes Yes, Basheerbagh, 50”. That’s the price we had talked about the day before. Anyway, I quickly corrected that it is 40 that I’m willing to pay and off we went. His auto failed him at this big crossroads and he had to push start it. I was wondering if I was supposed to help him, because I’ve seen some people help the drivers in that. I didn’t. Hope he does not now think I’m a Western albino bastard.

We arrived at work well before 9.30. He took another route this time and we arrived at the work place from a different direction. At work I sat at the desk I have been using for the first two days only to be interrupted by the owner of the PC who had been absent until now. So I started a hunt for a PC. I talked to my boss who told me to talk to the HR manager who told me to talk to this another guy who then went to talk to no other than my boss 🙂 Then they had to phone the system administrator in another company because ours was sick with fever that mosquitos carry. My boss told me not to get bitten by mosquitos. We actually have some at the flat even though it is nearly stormy outside and we are in the middle of the city. We have this mosquito repellent thing in each room that emits gasses that kill them. I’m also taking my malaria medication whereas Claire has stopped taking hers because of the side effects!

Anyways…. I finally got the PC. The next funny (or strange) thing happened when my boss noticed how filthy the desk I was using was. He told me that it is too dirty for me and it must be cleaned. At the office we have that older woman who never speaks or smiles. My boss started communicating with that woman using not words but powerful facial expressions and mimicking. He was clearly very upset. The woman responded with similar expressions and she hesitantly came to clean the desk and wipe the dust off of the PC. I observed the scene without knowing what to do or how to react. My boss also noticed the broken window left to my desk and shook his head, appearing noticeably appalled at what he saw. He did not say a word. I reckon he was quite understandably a bit ashamed that I had come there to work in such conditions. I presumed that I just have to settle for the place I had been given. Obviously it was dirty but I did not mind.

I went to have lunch with a colleague of mine just like yesterday. We went to the same place also. I had asked him yesterday what the very highly esteemed biryani is. I knew it was a special Hyderabadi dish. I ate a vegetarian biryani which had rice, vegetables, curry and curd (has at least water and onions in it). My colleague even got me a couple of spoons from the counter but I said that I know how to eat like Indians do, that is, with my right hand fingers. He said that actually also many Indians use cutlery instead of fingers. Indeed, I saw one such person there. The biryani was very tasty and more nourishing than the dish I had yesterday, because the biryani had a lot of rice. It was not too spicy, although I was able to sense the dish in my mouth and throat long after the meal.

After the meal I went to the toilet at the office to check if I have any biryani in my face. There was not any, but there was a huge cockroach on the way to the toilet. I did not see it on the way in but I saw it on the way out. It was at least eight centimeters long. I have never ever before seen one. And when I finally meet a valiant representative of the species it happens at work. I managed to walk away without even blinking though. Once I got the desk, however, I used the cold breeze from the window as a lousy excuse for myself for putting on the socks I had with me 🙂

Anyways… I don’t really mind. I am here as an Indian and not as a foreigner. I tolerate whatever they tolerate. Of course I still have plenty of that Western feeling in my life. I’m writing here on my bed using Pike’s laptop and listening to music on my MP3 player. I’m wearing socks, shorts (a rare sight in the city), a t-shirt. I’ll be having cereal for breakfast. And coffee that is not 90% sugar! 🙂 And guess what, the tea is even sweeter…

I bought flip-flops from a shop very close to the place where I work. There were two guys at the shop. Another one gave me shoes to try on and another one, an older man, was sitting behind the counter ready to rip me off 🙂 I have been told by the other trainees and also people at work that in India you have to bargain. You can not believe how hard it is for me to get used to that! I said I would not pay more than 100 Rupees (less than two Euros). The guy who was helping me trying out the shoes said that the price on those very high quality and 1. class flip-flops is 160 Rupees. I said 100. He said 150. I think I said 110. Finally we agreed on 120. But the man behind the counter did not agree. He thought that the guy who promised me 120 knows nothing. He said 130 is final. We started arguing. My arguments were that the merchandise was already in a plastic bag and the guy had promised me 120. They were saying that they can not give away this fantastic piece of footwear so cheap. Finally, when I told that I’m leaving they relented and let me have the flippy-floppies for 120. Hooray! My first bargaining in India. I got 25% off and it was not even that great an achievement. I was told yesterday that I should not pay more than 50, definitely not more than 100. But I was not in the mood for more late night shopping. The shops are open until 10 because the 9.30 to 18.30 working time is quite standard. It can also be from 10.00 to 19.00.

I have become quite a tourist attraction at work. I am now seated in a corner away from the others actually, but people come for coffee and tea right there. A couple guys already greet me saying “Hi Mikko” or “Hi Mike” and come to say hello. Some people are curious and come to talk to me. One guy was very curious and asked a lot of things and also showed me the Andra Pradesh (the state whose capital Hyd is) tourism web site on the Internet. I now have about 15 names written down in my notepad. I ask people to write down their names because they are just so different from Finnish and English names that just by hearing them once or twice and repeating them does not make them stick in your mind.

The auto driver on the way back home was funny. The meter showed 36 or 38 Rupees. I gave the man 40, thinking that I’m not going to start looking for small change. Auto drivers carry change, even though they always say they don’t. They’re just messing with you. This guy said “Thank you sir thank you sir” as if I was tipping him. No way. I kept saying “10 back, 10 back” and finally he gave in. Finally I said that he drove very fast and he was a good driver and gave him a tap on the shoulder. “Thank you sir”. He really was fast, probably had turbo in that three-wheel wonder.

All in all, a good day.

Coming soon, the first pictures…

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July 5, 2006 - Posted by | Being a trainee, Indian life

1 Comment »

  1. LOL, imagining you having a shout contest with the sales people bargaining over flip flops just makes me smile! 😀

    Comment by Tanjuska | July 6, 2006 | Reply


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