Wednesday, November 14, 2012


“IT’s INDIA”…………
These two words are used very often to describe the “indescribable” things that make India the unique place it is to live. It is the catch phrase to explain the “unexplainable” things you see, what people do, and how things are done. I have heard it used in business, government, at conferences, in my office and in my home…….and I have used it several times myself on various occasions…….the words roll easily, perhaps too easily, off the tongues of everyone in the country. More often than not it is used situations and circumstances where there is a “fine line”…….good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, ethical vs. unethical, professional vs. unprofessional……….you get the point!
On October 28, 2012, after traveling a short distance from my home, I came to stop at the intersection and surveyed the traffic situation in both directions……since I was turning left I naturally glanced to my right first to check the oncoming traffic and when I glanced to the left I noticed a “mahout” and his elephant making their way down the opposite side of the road.
Elephants are a normal sight throughout India, and it was not uncommon for me to see them, but as it crossed in front of me, I noticed something that I had never seen before, and I seriously could not believe my eyes…..
As usual, I had my camera and I shot a quick photograph while I was driving, but I wasn’t convinced that the shot was clear enough, so I quickly deviated off my original plan and drove past the elephant and parked my car.

With camera in hand I waited patiently on the side of the road for the lumbering elephant and the mahout to make their way towards me……..
When they reached I confirmed that this elephant was being used as a walking advertisement for a company that I had never heard of…….a “global” company at that…… I had never seen such a thing……clever, perhaps……but it raised many questions in my mind…..

I have to admit, I did not think about “abuse” at that point…….my pondering thoughts were more logistical in nature……
“Who thought of this?”……….”Was it for a special event/promotion?”………..”How much did the mahout get paid for allowing his elephant to be painted?”………..”What kind of company is this…..what do they do or sell?”………….”How much exposure will they get from a promotion like this?”……..”Is this the right image for their product or services?”
While I snapped, the mahout, who obviously did not speak English, smiled and with sign language asked me if I wanted to ride……..I waved him off and shook my head and snapped a few more shots and returned to my car…….and recall saying out loud to myself…….”Only in India!”

As I was buckling the seat belt I watched the elephant reaching up into nearby tree for something to eat and then made my way back on the road.
It wasn’t until this afternoon that these photographs along with many others got downloaded from my camera. While organizing and editing them, I recalled this incident and decided to share my encounter with you and to perhaps get your views on “animal advertising”.

I also did some research on Opus India and RK Global…….turns out that OPUS India is a subsidiary of Opus Media Group UK who with an alliance with RK Global is expanding their presence in India.
RK Global is an Indian financial brokerage firm with services ranging from Equities, Derivatives, Commodities, Currency, Depository, IPO Distribution, Mutual Fund Distribution and Consultancy.

A “Google” search brought me to the headlines boasting an event that was attended by Anil Kapoor, a famous Bollywood actor during the launch of the F1 Opus, a luxury publication documenting the sport of Formula 1 Racing.
It seems that the event took place on October 26, 2012 at the Oberoi Hotel in New Delhi………and two days later the lumbering giant with a logo painted on his side found his way into my south Delhi neighborhood……for a breakfast of fresh leaves!
When you click on the link above, the writer at the Times of India described Opus Media UK in the following way…..
“The Opus Media Group, from the UK, is known for producing luxury publications that present never-before-seen matter using beautiful photographs and text.”
Well I would say that Opus Media lived up to her words by creating a “never-before-seen-matter” situation for me to discover!

Right or wrong? Exploitative or not? Animal abuse or creative advertising?
“IT’s INDIA”……….I guess!
Please post your comments…….I would love to get your thoughts on this subject.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"How Sweet It Is"

The four words, "How Sweet It Is", was a trademark phrase used by the legendary American actor and comedian, Jackie Gleason.
Promotional photo of a young Jackie Gleason

Through my childhood, I remember Gleason most as Ralph Kramden, the main character in television show called "The Honeymooners". Many of you may remember him also........however, if you are just hearing about him for the first time, please do some research. He had a very illustrious career.

He popularized this phrase so well during his lifetime, that it is still used today as a "Welcome to Brooklyn, New York", the city that Gleason was born in.

Street Signage welcoming drivers into Brooklyn New York

"How Sweet It Is", is also the title to a popular song by James Taylor (1979), that he had done as a cover song to the original version performed by Marvin Gaye, whose version  sold 900,000 copies in 1964.

"How Sweet It Is" - James Taylor

Sorry to disappoint you, but this blog entry is about neither of the above.........this blog is about my recent experience with freshly squeezed sugar cane juice on a roadside near Shirdi, India, the town most noted for the Sai Baba Temple..........oh sweet it is!

Here's the story..........................

My colleagues and I got an early start Sunday a week ago, and began our day by visiting the Sai Baba Temple......followed by a brief return to the hotel for me to grab my camera (as they are not allowed within the Sai Baba grounds), before heading out to visit the other famous temple in the Shirdi area, the Shani Temple at Shignapur.

The journey from Shirdi  to Shignapur is approximately 50 kilometers or so, and as we made the turn off of the busy main highway, it was hard not to notice all of the sugar cane juice "dhabba's" lining both sides of the road.

Sugar cane juice is a very popular beverage throughout India.......vendors can be found year round in just about all parts of the country selling this simple drink....... occasionally in our neighborhood,  one can find vendors squeezing this sweet liquid from the cane using a "hand cranking device" mounted to their mobile cart.

At more established roadside spots in the city, the sugar juice is squeezed into glasses using a motorized version of the hand cranking over sized mechanical device made of of pulley's, gears, belts and a noisy motor, huffing, puffing and chugging along to produce the sweet liquid drop by by glass.

But the juice makers (all farmers I am told) along this stretch of road in rural India had a unique method for producing the sweet beverage.....and one after the other, side by side.....they were competing against each other to sell their product to the thousands of visitors making their way to and from the temple.

Most were located under the shade of massive trees........with scattered plastic chairs for their patrons to relax in and enjoy and swings made of rope and tires for children to entertain themselves.
For those without natural shade, tarps were strung in various ways from tree tops and bamboo stakes........while others had created more formal establishments made of brick, mortar and concrete. But all had one thing in common.......the unusual method used to squeeze the juice from the cane.

Anxious to reach the temple, I did not suggest we stop, but I knew that on the way back, there was not only the promise of a refreshing beverage waiting for me, but also a great opportunity to take some photographs of this unique way of creating the juice and share the experience with all of you!

So what is this unique method I have been not been revealing until now?

Meet Sony..........the bullock who was the key participant in creating sugar cane juice in this part of India. Throughout the day, Sony remains strapped to a hand carved wooden crank that turns two hand carved logs with gears, that squeeze the juice from the cane fed by the "juice man"!

Sony.......up close and personal.......don't pay attention to the didn't make it into the container!

If there is one common thread that connects all of India, it is "ingenuity". I see it everywhere throughout the country, and this is a perfect example that highlights what I see during my travels. This juice cart is a prime example of  my newly coined phrase, "Indiagenuity"!

Sony and his juice making machine

On Sunday......when the farmers are not working their fields along with their bullocks, they have a leisurely day at the roadside, sitting and waiting for passersby to stop, have conversation and perhaps renew an old acquaintance or make new sweet glass of juice at a time.

Raw Cane waiting to be crushed and made into a delicious beverage
 As we drove down the road, I was looking for one of the establishments to make the bold claim  that they were the "original", but I couldn't find one! Undoubtedly, if this discovery was made in the U.S., someone would have surely made such a claim!

Second pass
 While I did not count, I would not be exaggerating if there were at least 50 such places to stop and get juice......I will be making an upcoming trip and I will take a detour to not only count, but to have another glass of this wonderful drink.
The cane gets fed through the machine about 4 times!
With such stiff competition, vendors used creative methods to catch the eyes of passers by......there were the boring traditional methods such as signage and flags that would flutter with the wind, but those more creative decorated their main attraction, the bullock, in some unique way.
The fresh juice being collected in a not so clean container! Who cares about hygienic conditions?
While Sony is surely a handsome specimen, some of the bullocks were decorated with garlands, some had hats,and like Sony, their horns were painted in bright colors; red, blue yellow orange, etc.

Even after a very tiring week in the fields, most bullocks were standing at attention waiting to make their rounds and squeeze some cane, yet others used their time at the juice dhabba to take rest......obviously, who would want to stop at a juice dhabba that had a resting bullock????????

Lazy bullock across the street! No business!

Are you curious about what a glass/cup of this freshly squeezed, marvelous beverage costs? Take a guess....go close your eyes!......oops, that doesn't work because you have to read.

Did you guess 15 rupees? Perhaps not if you were from a big city like Delhi or Mumbai............yes, I was a bargain........and so very yummy!.......and for my readers in the US, it is the equivalent of about $0.30........thirty cents! Actually less at today's conversion rate. So fly on over for a glass!

The "Juice Man"
 I wish I had more time to research.......who started this trend, who designed these juice machines, how long has this tradition been in practice........
I grew up in state which produces 20% of the sugarcane grown in the United States. Louisiana has more that 420,000 acres of land under cultivation that produces 13 million tons of cane with an economic impact to the state of 2.2 billion US dollars. I have driven past miles of sugarcane fields, but back home, freshly squeezed sugarcane juice is not popular.......I'm not sure why because it sure is good!

Doesn't that look yummy? All fresh, no preservatives or artificial coloring!
 However impressive, Louisiana's sugarcane production pales in comparison to India, the worlds second largest producer of sugarcane and recovered sugar!
Notice how the cart is partially buried and weighted with rocks to keep the bullock from overturning it!
I would not mind introducing my fellow Louisiana brethren to this delicious beverage if I could find a way to have one of these juice carts dismantled and shipped back to the US. It sure would be fun and I am sure I could get more than $0.30 cents per glass!


"How Sweet It Is".............

Friday, October 26, 2012

Feeling Like a Celebrity!

Every now and then, something happens in your life that makes you feel special! Don't you agree?

I am sure that all of you reading this blog post have had similar experiences, when someone or some circumstance has made you feel super important!

Well my family and I are far from celebrities........and as a matter of fact, we are very humble people.......just regular people living their lives as normally as we can............just like everyone else.

The other day, I registered my blog on a site called "".......and a few days later i received a nice request from the editor of the site asking if I would be willing to conduct a written interview about our experiences as an "expat" in India.

I agreed and within a few hours were sent a series of questions........sent in my answers along with a few photographs that were requested "voila" article gets published for all to makes you feel kind of special!

Here is the link in case any of you are interested........and for those of you who click on this link, I would greatly appreciate it if you would navigate to my blog on the site and leave a few kind words.

There is an Expat Blogging Contest taking place, and if you have enjoyed what I write and find my blog worthy, I would appreciate a vote for me......and of course any other blog that you may find worthy as well.

Happy reading.......and please leave a comment....or two......or three!

I hope you enjoy.......and please....leave a comment!


Monday, October 22, 2012

Patience? Yes......but I Snapped!

I travel.......alot!.......I travel approximately 25 days per month.......but I'm not complaining.

To say that I thoroughly enjoy my an understatement.......I truly love what I do.

As a result of so much traveling, I have become a bit of an out of a suitcase and navigating security at airports.

Obviously.........I travel internationally as well.........not often, mainly to go home twice yearly to visit family.....and the occasional business trip, but mainly my extensive traveling is done domestically in India.

If there is one thing I have noticed about India and airport security is that they are "consistent"......yes......that was sarcastic!

However, I am not going to divulge any top secret security measures in this blog........I just want to share with you one experience that tested my patience the other day.........a rather long day at that!

Let me preface this again by stating that in the past 4.5 years I have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles/kilometers both internationally and domestically. These travels have taken me through some of the toughest airport security systems throughout the world.

I have removed my shoes, my belt, my watch........I have removed all electronic items from my briefcase, I have removed my laptop from its case, and on and on.

I have been "wanded" God knows how many times and I have even been through the "controversial" body scanning units that reveal secrets that may shock "Victoria".

But in all my travels I have never been asked if my camera was "real".......

So after a long day.......and having been asked the question......I SNAPPED....literally!

I just thought I would show you what it looks like when I have reached the end of my patience!

I remain a very patient man......and I was of course very polite during my interaction with him......and I greatly appreciate them screening so thoroughly and keeping me safe in the air.........but yes, I did show him that my camera was real!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Indy" turns 4 years old.......How many years is that in Human Years?

I grew up in the US............not on the metric system like all other parts of the world.

When I moved to India, the ounces I was familiar with were replaced with "ml's", pounds were replaced by "kg's", and dollars were replaced with "Rs.".......

Converting everything from one to the other is something that I had to adjust too........but honestly, I still rely on the familiarity of the weights and measures and currency system I grew up with.

I have gotten quick at calculating in both currencies...............certainly not an expert, but I can navigate back and forth more easily now that when I first moved here............but it all doesn't seem "real".

It's hard to explain............100 Rs. doesn't seem like $2.00 USD...........and 95 kg doesn't seem like 210 lbs.......

So what does all of this have to do with "Indy" our Toyota Innova turning 4 years old?

Going Strong at 100,000 kilometers
  Just the other day, on my way to work, Ramesh, our faithful driver, proudly pointed out that the odometer on the car just turned 100,000 km.

Wow.....a milestone. So I asked him to slow down so that I had time to pull out my camera and take two quick photographs of the display panel.

That quickly led to a discussion.............."how many miles" is 100,000 kilometers?

It made me reminisce about a time when I was growing up and as children we would go around converting dogs ages into Human years.

It has always been commonly believed that each year of a dogs life is equivalent to 7 in human years......but this isn't quite accurate......many factors go into determining a dogs age and it varies by breed.

So Ramesh and I started to try and calculate how many "miles"..........and the banter started back and forth about how many kilometers in a mile.......I was doing division in my head...............back and forth......but I knew one day I would have a little time and I would find out the accurate answer.

For you math whiz have probably already calculated it.......for me, it took several find a converter on the Internet and let it to the calculations for me.

100000km = 62137 miles, 1640 yards, 1 foot, 8 inches

Yes......can you believe it............I was close in my calculations.......I proudly told Ramesh the answer and I was only off by 10 yards.................NOT!

"Indy" has been a great car............for his birthday he got his check up, fresh fluids.......oil and such and he got a new set of brake pads.....his original ones were becoming a little squeaky.

He got an early birthday present around 90,000km.....a new set of tires......

He is getting "old" though.......a warning light has popped up intermittently for the "safety restraint" system......sometimes it is on....sometimes it goes out......we took indi to the shop and the technician stated that there was nothing wrong except they would replace a wire for 15,000 Rs.......thats almost $300 USD.....I told Ramesh........thanks but no thanks!

Check out the "Safety Restraint" light illuminated and almost out of fuel!
 But what I can't believe is that we only put an average of 25,000 kilometers (15534 miles, 460 yards, 1 foot ,11 inches) per year on Indy....... our cars in the US have very high mileage. This is extremely low in comparison.

When we first got Indy, Ramesh and I took him to the pundit who performed a "puja" hardly seems like that was 4 years ago.........if you want to read the blog entry......see the archives for 2008 and the posting was done on November 9th. It was one of my early blog postings and received many page views.

So....for those readers back in the old is your car in Human years.......or how many kilometers does your car have vs. miles...............

Practice those never know, tomorrow you may find yourself on your own adventure someplace in this world!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Lungta Flag Shop - and John Keats

Over two years ago during a small break to the city of Mussoorie in the northern part of India, I discovered a Buddhist village on a morning walk.

It was my first time to see prayer flags gently blowing in the wind and the site was one of amazement and beauty. I had written a blog post about the experience in which I described the meaning behind the flags, but often wondered about who and how they were made.

Check out my Blog archive written on October 19, 2009.

Several months ago, on a trip to Gangtok, in far northwest India, the answer to my question was answered.

So I thought I would give you an insiders look to the people behind the scenes.......

Gangtok is a delightful little city that is blessed with clear skies, a rarity in Delhi and in most major cities in India. While walking to my destination, I noticed a sign for the Lungta Flag Shop......with an arrow directing customers to use the stairs to the second floor.
Now keep in mind that Gangtok is in the mountainous region of the lower Himalaya's and most buildings are built on the slope of the mountains, so it was an oddity that while at street level I was actually descending a stairwell to reach the second floor of the building.
The pathway was dark and the surroundings were pitch electricity...and a stark contrast to the brightness of the day. Even after allowing my eyes time to adjust to the darkness..........there was no light in site......and I was forced to use the dim light of my mobile phone to navigate the dark corridor.

Needless to was a bit descending into the underworld......but I was up for the adventure.
I finally found the shop and made my way inside, armed only with English and not able to speak the local language...........but in such situations, a smile  breaks such barriers of communication.

The shop was lights, except from the window at the far end......using the outside light, two ladies sat behind sewing machines that required no electricity and the continued to work throughout my visit.

I have seen such sewing machines in antique shops in the US............long past their prime and cast aside decades earlier after being replaced with more modern machines that required electricity............yet hear in India, machines like these are common and many make their livelihoods pedaling away for hours upon hours.

The shop walls were filled from floor to ceiling with material printed with all colors, and were a stark contrast to the dingy walls behind.

After I took my photographs, I thanked the shopkeeper and her staff and made my way back into the dark hallway and back up to sunshine.

I have to admit, two years ago my imagination ran wild with thoughts of Buddhist monks sitting in a quiet monastery in some remote location hand sewing the flags before they were bestowed upon villagers for hanging in outside locations to put their prayers forward to be carried by the wind.

I found the following quote and I believe that it is quite fitting considering what I have written:

             “My imagination is a monastery, and I am its monk”
              ― John Keats

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Economist - Why do I love living in India?

I came across an interesting article today that I thought I would share with all of you.....and yet another interesting fact about India, my adopted homeland .......and I have found yet another reason why I enjoy living in India and am so fond of the country.

I am not sure what many of you will gather from this, but I can assure you that it made me realize that there are several places in the world that I wouldn't want to live in.....

I never thought that I would be influenced because of the price of a 500ml bottle of beer!

Here are the stats!

Daily chart

Thirsty work

Sep 24th 2012, 16:04 by The Economist online
How long does it take to afford a beer?
ON SEPTEMBER 22nd, the beer started flowing at Oktoberfest in Munich, an annual Bavarian beer festival which confusingly begins at the end of September. Last year, over the course of the 16-day event, visitors glugged 7.5m litres of beer, sold at an average princely price of €9 ($12.50) a litre, which is what a typical large stein holds. Germans love beer and down around 100 litres per person a year. Away from the Oktoberfest beer is readily affordable. Analysts at UBS, a Swiss bank, have calculated that it takes a German earning the national median wage just under seven minutes of work to purchase half a litre of beer at a retail outlet. At the bottom of the pint glass, low wages and high taxes mean that boozers in India must toil for nearly an hour before they have earned enough to quench their thirst.
Now here are some additional things to ponder......China and Nigeria have the lowest prices for a 500ml beer........I have been to China, but the beers I consumed were not cheap! I was obviously in the wrong place..............and Nigeria........not tops on my places in the world that i would want to live in.
Japan......$4.15 USD for the average price of a beer..........No Thank You......I'm not sure if i even want to visit the country!
Australia.......I have a friend from Australia........he drinks beer like a is a good thing for his wallet that he lived in the USA, because at $3.70 USD per beer down under he would have never been able to afford his beer tab! He would have had to take a second mortgage out on his certainly is an eye opener for me I have a completely different perspective regarding "Beer and Barbie"!!...It is not a casual thing but almost the price of a gourmet meal with champagne!
Britain, Spain, Canada - All over $3.00 USD............nice places....but unless I got a substantial increase in salary, or stopped drinking beer altogether............I wouldn't want to live there.
ARGENTINA - out of all the places on the list...........the price is reasonable..........less than the USA's average price........and they have great wines also..............has potential
So next time you are asked......"If you could live anyplace you wanted to in the world, where would you choose?"..........what would your answer be?