Well, here is the long awaited update about my trip to Bangalore.
Due to the fact that my Indian employment visa, along with those of about 25 other US batch people, stated that were working in Bangalore, we had to be bussed up to the Police Commissioner’s office in Bangalore proper to be registered as foreign nationals and get our “papers”. I was then going to spend the night and meet up with some colleagues to do touristy stuff.
Friday morning, we left campus at 7:30 AM for the 3 hour drive north to Bangalore for what we thought was a 10:30 AM meeting. We arrived on the outskirts of Bangalore around 9:30 AM and our bus lurched to a stop – we had hit rush hour traffic in one of the most congested cities in India. Needless to say, we crawled through the organized chaos of rickshaws, “two-wheelers” (motorcycles) and automobiles for close to two hours.
We finally arrived at Corporate HQ in the Electronics City portion of Bangalore at around noon. In the US, being an hour and a half late to a government meeting would be cause for panic – not so with the polychronistic/circular view of time that is embedded in Indian culture. We ate lunch and eventually made our way back onto the bus. We sat back and forced our way through even more traffic in the direction we assumed was the Police Commissioner’s office – the bus driver obviously knew where he was going, right? Wrong. We must have stopped 15 times for him to ask people on the side of the road where the place was (To his credit, however – he was good at turning a 30 foot bus around on a dirt road with a herd of goats in front of him).
We showed up at the Police Commissioner’s compound at approximately 4:30 PM and found a very busy office. This was bad, particularly since we had to make sure that 25 people had multiple photocopies of their offer letter, a letter from the head of Human Resources saying that the company was responsible for us, a copy of his passport, copies of my visa and passport and a letter from HR saying that we were employed. We also had to fill out two forms that asked us for every piece of information under the sun. By the time we were ready to go, it was 5:30 PM and they closed the door on us.
A furious exchange of words in Kannada between the HR representative and the police commissioner ensued. He then proceeded to look at all of our passports, then he looked at all of our visas, then he told us to go away and come back first thing Saturday morning. Why you ask? Because the offer letter wasn’t on original company letterhead – regardless of the fact that we all had official company IDs and had 5 other letters in the packet on original letterhead. This posed a problem – one which was quickly and deftly settled by our HR representative. She found space for 20 of us in the corporate compound and put 5 of us (myself included) into a very nice business hotel – all of this done over her mobile phone, in gridlock traffic. Most impressive.
The next morning, we rolled into the Police Commissioner’s office at around 11:30 AM (they opened at 9 AM) and finally were able to start the process. Turns out, all the work we did to organize our paperwork was for naught – the official flipped through my paperwork, randomly scribbling on each page with his pen, and signed it within two minutes. I then had to walk to the front of the building to obtain a second signature – this official spent even less time looking before signing. I finally made it to the final window and was able to submit my form. I was finally free.
The rest of the weekend was less exciting, but a little more relaxing. We walked along Residency Road – and experienced one of the infamous rolling blackouts. We listened to American Top 40 in the taxi – and heard a 13 year old’s birthday dedication coming from half a world away. We found out that some of the rickshaw drivers (near Infantry Road) in Bangalore are surprisingly honest and will admit when they don’t know where something is, even when presented with the opportunity to take two Americans who don’t know the city on a “long ride”.
We also were able to see the stark contrasts between those whom have benefited from the growth of the technology sector and those that the “tech boom” seems to be passing by. We drove down Hosur Road and saw corrugated metal shanties next to the state of the art campuses of the major tech players (Accenture, Oracle, IBM, HP, etc.) Quite a surreal sight, but something I have grown used to seeing over the last few weeks. It has definitely strengthened my desire to continue to use the skills and resources I have to do something to serve my fellow man.
I suppose that was a sufficiently rambling story about my (mis)adventures for you to digest in one sitting. My plans for the weekend include getting a webcam (look for vlog entries!) and ordering up some fine custom tailored dress clothes at Chopra’s (including a traditional kurta made). Finished all my work before COB today, so I can just relax.
Hope everyone is well out there in Internet-land. Peace be with you all!