Day 88: Bhasha Utsav Part 1

The radio broadcast recording all done, we herded the Swiss to the Kengeri campus to attend the Bhasha Utsav, Ethnic Day, at their campus. Since they would all be flying out tonight and missing all the fun in the main campus, we figured this would be a suitable peek into what an Indian college fest is.

Travel nightmares

Travel for these guys is jinxed for sure.. We were just past the major hour-long traffic snarl, when the bus refused to start any more. The fuel gauge showed empty. Some magic with the choke and PGS behind the wheels and we managed to drive up to the gas station up ahead.

Noise galore

We were in time to join the last bit of the procession. After sweating it out, taking pictures, we doubled back to the auditorium, to our front row seats. We knew our mistake as soon as the MCs came on. We had two speakers directed straight at us and between their screeching voices and the music, we had a headache in 10 minutes. The Swiss lost it at 5, I think.

Unity or diversity

The events for the day had performers from each state or region putting together a show. The Malayalis came on, then the Telugus who claimed bharatnatyam was their own, and the Tamils sang about Tamilan pride and the Congolese sang in French.

Through it all, as different sections of the audience roared to support their community or region, I wondered if such events brought us together or simply showed where our allegiance would truly lie. All the malayalis sat together as did the Tamils or the International students. There was no evident intermixing. The Tamil students did not go manic when the Punjabi did their Bhangra and the malayalis did not care much for the kannadiga percussionists.

So are we really that united, after all?

Travel nightmares continue

The return was a more nightmarish ride than onward. A few had to drive to MG road to drop off a USB drive, which meant that they had to be near college before 3. We were near college at about 430. The little bus driver took crazy short cuts and diversions and still got us stuck in traffic. My temper was sky high.

I think my mood was wrought all the more because of the attitude of the Swiss. I’m not going to glorify the traffic jam and the mish-mash of houses in the slums. But if you wanted an authentic Indian experience, then this is it. And I’d recommend you sit tight and watch, instead of riding your holy horse and making value judgements. Even Google hasn’t figured out an algorithm to predict the traffic times in India. So it’s highly unlikely any of us have. When we tell you 30minutes, do realize that we are not fortune tellers and have no control over the city or the people around.

Goodbyes

When we eventually reached the Uni, we got together for one final, farewell chai. I had gotten TallSwiss a bottle of Indian gin and the delight on his face was unimaginable. I didn’t realize in the last two weeks that the sober man could get this excited.

It surprised me that a few had tears in their eyes. Perspectives. They were all missing perspectives, I think. This was a professional relationship, and the network would be alike, no matter what. So, why waste tears?

I made sure that I said a personal goodbye to all, and apologized to a few for any hassles they would have faced in the last two weeks. Why was I apologizing? Some sense of accountability for the country, I guess. ‘Give India a chance’, I told some and laughed inside a little.

Does this mean that you will not bore us with anymore stories of the Swiss, S? I did like some stories.

So, this fancy dress of yours. Looks pretty on me too.” Scotch

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Day 87: Radio Namaste 

This is it! D day! The day that would be the culmination of the last 2 weeks of research and preparation. We were all ready and eager to broadcast live like TallSwiss and I had done from New Delhi. All scripts had been prepared, jingles recorded and shows practiced. We were ready.

And then the drama began.

ShortChef

Hotel management was hosting their crazy street food festival on the same day. So noise and chaos was expected around lunch hour. But even before that, their teacher, ShortChef, claimed that we had to move our stalls because we hadn’t booked any and we were using theirs. This is when I learnt a ton thanks to the beautiful damsels in my team.

  • If you weren’t involved in the original planning or organization, then stay out of any value judgements and opinionating in the end. We have enough uncles and couch-activists going around already.
  • No matter what may be, pick your side and stay with it.
  • Questioning the decisions made by your leader should be done when the time and place are right. And, in front of someone from the opposite camp is definitely not the right time.
  • Someone that plays the system by its own unsaid rules comes out the winner when compared to someone who blindly follows the rules.
  • At the end of the day, shit sorts itself out. Stay calm.

Mr. Cool

PGS was a sight to see, coolly working through the chaos and calmly dissing out anybody that questioned his authority. It was a good quality in a leader: to be calm and confident in the knowledge that you’ve sorted everything out beforehand. I appreciated a statement that he made – if anybody asks you, please tell them to go talk to Dr. PGS. And then I’ll handle their questions. Very powerful statement for a leader to make, very assuring that he’s got your back.

His impression on me grew when he sat down with the artists, read me, and prepared the set list, writing names in his own creative hand. It takes a modest man to get down from his managerial pedestal. It was a small thing that I couldn’t have imagined HOD do ever.

Live broadcast

Group 1 broadcast their 1 hour and we realized that we were sitting inside big brother’s den. It seemed that any live show will be blocked by the strong firewall set up by the Uni to block any malpractice.

YZ lost it for a bit, packed up and tried moving the set up to his office room, realized the same problem existed there too, and quickly shifted to plan B. We would record and broadcast a day later. All this resulted in me sitting at the stall for an hour, playing our only recording for the day, as I watched students of the campus walk by. That was some experience, holding fort, after all the drama from the morning.

Relationships

Our own recording was the last one for the day. Overall, a good job, I’d say. FaujiWife and her Swiss man were good, clearly nervous and mixed up the songs in their list. But we managed through all those little issues. FaujiWife’s Swiss was pretty impressed with our how natural TallSwiss and I sounded on the radio. New Delhi helped, I must say.

House parties

I’d like for some people to involve themselves in work as much as they do in play. But as soon as the recordings were done, a bunch of girls started planning the evening out. Even I was excited to meet them for one last time for a drink. But very soon the whole plan snowballed into them planning to book an AirBnB or a service apartment, hosting a party there and staying over for the night. Just the idea tickled me and I stayed out of it.

Turns out the plan flopped and by the time I reached home they had changed the plan and went to a pub to drink. Missed opportunity.

Day 86: Pulling one’s own weight

The slow and calm Swiss eventually realized that this was day 0 and if they didn’t pull their weights today, we’d miss our deadlines for the radio scripting. There was a lot of activity today, and we caught up on most of the work that had been pushed till the end. Even FaujiWife realized that we had worried in waste, because the two Swiss came around and work got done after all.

  • TallSwiss knew enough of Audacity to get our work done in under 20 minutes
  • YZ was technically very strong and put together our radio show in under 10 minutes
  • FaujiWife did all the audio editing for her group. Which means her Swiss didn’t even make an effort. Sad!
  • Audio editing seems like a fun work and I should experiment with it some more.

Radio shmadio. Because of all this work of yours, I have to stay alone for hours together. More hours than before. Does nobody care?” Scotch

Day 85: Bad manners 

I’m learning a lot about poor manners from the Swiss, through this project.

I’ve worked in multi cultural environments before, but we always made sure that language was never seen as a barrier. Even when I worked with the Mexicans, and Indians from different parts of the country, we had an unsaid rule to always speak in English at the table. You do not want to sound like the Filipino pedicurists, who are probably just complaining about each other’s husband’s but always seem like they’re bitching about how your feet smell, because their whole conversation is in a language you do not know.

Even when we started off with this project, all of us Indians had an agreement to speak only in English lest we let the Malayalam, Hindi and Kannada backgrounds between us be a reason to split us. And then the Swiss showed up and shamelessly spoke in French all the time. For a novice ear, it always seems like they’re talking smack about us, gesticulating violently and furiously.

For the first few days, I interrupted, clarified and always tried to bring the conversation back to English. But now, into week 2, I’ve given up. I speak in Malayalam and Hindi to people in the project with whom I’ve never used any language other than English for the last one year. People are shocked with how good my Hindi or Malayalam is because that’s how little they’ve heard me speak it before. And often, I speak about the Swiss in Malayalam or Hindi so that they feel like they’re getting the Filipino pedicurists treatment. A tooth for a tooth, and a foreign language for a foreign language.

Anyway, we had a presentation by the Swiss students to the School of Education, and we learnt how poor they are with public speaking skills. Dinner at Namesake’s house quickly turned into a show of extravagance, what with the fancy jacuzzi and infinity pool in the club house. But the family was very welcoming and the food tasted good. Hectic day indeed!

You’re complaining about a foreign language now? And you yell ‘Sit’ and ‘namaskaram’ and what not to me every time. What’s with that? Should I just bark back in Scotch-tongue going forward?” Scotch

Day 81: Swiss-Indo Bhai-bhai

The day was amm…aazing! That’s it!

Business Meet

The first event of the day was at Taj Mansingh, and is that a luxury hotel or what!? We had a desk set up right at the entrance to the business hall, where the President of the Swiss Federation was going to address a number of business partners, to further the Indo-Swiss friendship. It was truly an exhilarating experience, rolling around with the organizers from the Swiss embassy in India, and talking to some of the visiting delegates. It was more fun to listen to the proceedings of the event itself:

  • Ms. Nirmala Sitaraman, Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, was astute in her observations about the mutual dependence between the two countries.
  • Ms. Doris Leuthard, the President of the Swiss Confederation, was prim in her pink kurta, and summarized wonderfully the last 70 years.

So, TallSwiss played a great photographer, and I managed to listen to a majority of the session and summarize it on the radio, and Mr. YZ, well, he managed to stress out for all three of us. Since this was the first radio session for both TallSwiss and I, there were some hiccups starting off, but I think we got into the flow. I realized the key to being a successful radio host was spontaneity and content. You need to have sufficient material content in order to be spontaneous enough on the radio. If not, you are just blabbering on air and playing sloppy music.

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The Radio Namanste desk with YZ, and me looking super serious. 🙂

 

Delhi Darshan

We managed to report on most of the first event and TallSwiss and I took off to show him some New Delhi. A quick change and we were on an auto to the heart of Old Delhi; Chandni Chowk. I’d heard wonderful things about the parathewali gali and I was going to try some. We had a little stop-over at India gate, to show the TallSwiss off to the local public. He has been awfully calm in the middle of all the mayhem around; it is either a sign of utter disdain or a sign of his maturity. Only time will tell. Well, we sweated it out a little at India Gate, and took another auto to Chandni Chowk.

I am totally intrigued by the accent of Hindi that you find in Delhi. It’s rude almost to the point of being familial. Wonderful! I don’t know if the auto man is yelling at me, or asking me something like an extremely intrusive, paternal uncle would. What also moved me immensely was the scene around Old Delhi, Jama Masijd, in preparation for Bakr-Id. Hundreds of goats waited, chewing carelessly, unaware of the near-distant future that awaited them. Pity! I am convinced that my dietary choices are only temporary and my going vegan is just around the corner.

We got off a little ways to Parathewali gali, and walked the rest of the way, so that we could soak in a lot of the local sights and sounds. It was a new experience for me too, dari bazaar, and I definitely want to go back there, a camera in tow. Parathewali gali was a revelation, an entire little street dedicated to cholesterol mania. We had just enough time to eat an aloo paratha and a thick lassi.

aaf15c32-9d03-4962-bf09-38e0e00e6fb2 Hot and steaming aloo paratha, with a side of aloo and more aloo

Town Hall

The second big event was more high-security than the first, and we had to go through three rounds of security checks, metal and man, before we got into the main hall. The event was late by about an hour. But it was great honor to listen in on a town hall that was open to students of environmental sciences and climate studies of New Delhi. And through the radio broadcast, I’m hoping we opened this up to students from other parts of the world too.

Unlike the morning event, which was attended by business professionals, and she needed them to invest in climate and relationships, this event was for students in attendance and she spoke about the future. There was a lot about how India had to learn from Switzerland’s sustainable energy models and that India was going through the same transformation that Switzerland went through in the 1900s and that there was hope. Promising talk from a leader!

Since we were set up in the same hall as the main event, we couldn’t report live throughout, but we were able to get a majority recorded. And I was able to listen in to some very interesting talk. Most of the questions from the students were around what Switzerland could do for India, and how the students could help. This showed me two big things: One, the next generation wanted to do something, and Two, they wanted to know who could help and how. Powerful!

The weird buffet

This is when things got weird. Satan’s waterfall struck, and I had to get excused from the gentlemen to get stocked. I reached the Swiss embassy alone for the final event, the buffet dinner hosted for the President, and the Swiss joined in few minutes later. We were given a room right inside the embassy, by the main living area, where the President was expected to greet her guests before proceeding out to the garden for the events of the evening. This speaks wonders about the publicity that Radio Namaste had at the embassy and the expectations that the show held. For all that, I thought the two Swiss let us down. We were done setting up, and before we even went live, YZ was running crazy to get himself a drink. “I need my l’alcohol”, he went around screaming, and you should have seen the smirk on his face when we were handed three bottles of water. That completely shattered the high horse that I had put them on so far.

At least on three or four different occasions, they were both missing, off to find themselves a fix, while I handed the radio pad, mixing my own little AC/DC and ABBA. But, if we were there to report on the proceedings of the evening, then why were we playing just the tunes? I would have been really disappointed had I been on the other side, with a lax radio team.

Anyway, the evening show went on for about an hour, and I was able to listen in to the proceedings, as 5 Friendship Ambassadors were honored by the President at the embassy. It was inspiring to hear about the Premchands, who have been in business from Switzerland from the 1950s, and on the other hand, Mr Matias Echanove and Mr Rahul Srivastava, Co-Founders of the urbz platform in Mumbai and Geneva, two young entrepreneurs bringing the two countries together.

The event ended in dinner and we brought the show to a troubled end, before setting out for dinner. The dessert was amazing and I started with it to get the evening going. The Swiss were, of course, drinking more than eating, and it got me thinking about how quick I was to judge alcoholics. I’ve had trouble in the past accepting people and their excessive drinking; ex-boyfriends, the father, and past clients; and was I simply being too harsh on them for their choices?

YZ was excessively sweet after his third drink, and thanked me profusely for the ease with which I handled the day. He mentioned how nobody would have done the job better, and even when TallSwiss was hesitant, I brought in the facts and made the show worth it all. Just drunk talk or was he being genuinely grateful? That’s my problem with the drunk, I think; their words can never be taken for what they are worth.

“One should never be too quick to judge, S. If you looked at Scotch and I, you’d think we are born trouble-makers. But you get to know us a little more, and you’ll know that all we want is to relax and smell the rain. Give people a chance, S.” Goose

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Day 80: Diversity, Planes and 2 AMs

A few days with the Swiss students and the differences in our lifestyles and work styles are very obvious. All the visiting students seem to be extremely distracted always, needing a constant prodding to bring them back to the discussion. On the other hand, they all seem to be creatively blessed, while the Indian students typically think about traditional, lecture-like discourses. Despite being from one country, they themselves seem to be happier being alone than with others. On the other hand, the Indians have a herding mindset, where we want herd them and ourselves into groups all the time.

It was hilarious at lunch, where we were planning to show a few different cafeterias on campus to the different Swiss students but before we turned around, they were all gone; off on their own in their own different directions. If anything, this project has brought a few Indians together and that’s a plus, I guess.

Off to New Delhi

Today is the day that TallSwiss, YZ and I fly to New Delhi. From what I’ve heard, there are a few events hosted to celebrate the 70 years of Swiss-Indian friendship, and Radio Namaste has been invited to broadcast these proceedings.

If the trip leading up to Delhi is any sign of all the fun that lies ahead, then I’m in for a fancy two days. ChristU arranged a taxi for the 3 of us and we were off by 1630 for a 2130 flight; no wonder I hate flying. But I’m glad we got a head start considering what was up next. We just got out of the major traffic blocks in the city and were about to hit the highway to the airport when we had a flat. The cabbie was courageous enough into thinking he could park in the right lane, in the center of the entire roadway, and change into a spare. Nopes! I had to almost armtwist him into pulling over to the side and he actually took only 10 minutes to get us up and going again. Very impressive. And the Swiss managed to hold their calm, which was a bonus.

I learnt a new aspect of the Swiss today. If the ticket was being paid for by another, they were ready to use it to the fullest. There was a USD22 upgrade to a better seat, and a better dinner, and we picked it after deliberating for a little under 4 minutes. While I was wondering how much difference it would bring to the flight experience and if the cost was worth it at all, they had already paid for it and were considering dinner location. So, thanks to their agency, we flew premium economy.

And since the dinner was paid for too, we had dinner. On the ground. Since the flight was delayed, the dinner on the plane could be an early breakfast. I always thought Indians were the squeeze-till-you-drop kinds. But apparently it’s a universal human thing.

Hypocrite much?

The great luck from the flat tyre continued and our flight was delayed by an hour and a half. That gave us enough time to get YZ drunk and have him talk about JC. Between us, he spoke about what a dead-weight the HOD was during the Indian visit to Switzerland last year. He told us about how he would pick two meals for himself every single time because they were already paid for. You all already know of my read on the HOD considering his poor leadership vision. So, none of this was surprising at all.

But what did surprise me was hearing about all of this from YZ. Between him and TallSwiss, they had already proved how petty they were. We had jumped to an upgrade, purely because someone else was paying for it. We had decided to eat two dinners, purely because someone else was paying for it. And we had talked about stealing everything from the hotel room if the hotel was not good enough. Anyway, we’ll wait and watch!

2 AM check-ins

The 3-seater all to myself was a bonus on the plane. So, premium economy it is. But we eventually got into the hotel at 2 in the morning, and the check-in process was a million years long. I think the 20 minutes seemed that long more because of YZ and his tantrums. They had to fill one extra paper in because they were from outside. So, yeah!

Settled in to my room and I thought of all the times in the past when it was me and my room. There was that one month in Richmond, VA, when I was settling in to my second stint in the US, and learning to be free all over again. And then there were those 2 weeks in Minneapolis that started off with a wonderful hair spa and massage. Nice. And the week in Milwaukee for the Scrum master certification, with all that female power-play amidst grown men, was one to be remembered.

And then this one adds to the list.

“Aaah! Traveling is pain, sis! I just got back from a camping trip and I can’t stop panting and puffing. I can only imagine how bad your panting and puffing must be.” Goose.

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