Wednesday, July 12, 2006

those lazy hazy crazy days

On summer break from biz-school, my days have been neither lazy nor hazy, but crazy yes. Moved out of Chicago, went to Mexico for 5 days, then to India for 3 weeks, and have just barely started my summer internship with here in San Francisco, all within a month. A friend from Wharton is already finishing up his internship (with the same company) at the end of the week. And to top it all, Chicago GSB wants us to submit resumes for the 2nd-year resume book by July 24th. Cheers!

The internship is shaping up to be quite interesting and fun. It helps that there are a whole bunch of us (interns) from all over the place -- a couple from Haas, one from MIT, one from Kellogg, one from Duke, one from Wharton, and at least a few others whom I haven't met yet. From what I can tell, I'm going to be working on a whole bunch of stuff from Corporate Strategy to Corporate Development to Biz Dev.

But the highlight so far was India. (Yes, it even beat out Mexico and the World Cup, surprise, surprise). I hadn't been home in two and a half years, so that explains part of it. But even otherwise -- India was a total ball. Spent a few days in Delhi, did a day trip to Agra, then a couple of weeks in Ahmedabad, a few days in Mt. Abu, and long-tailed in Delhi. The Taj was great. I don't think I actually remembered the Taj from when I was 5 years old, but it did seem a little smaller than I'd imagined it to be. The pre-monsoon June sun reflecting off all that white marble, didn't help things very much. But by the time we got to Fatehpur Sikri, it got a little cloudy (and, yes, hazy). Oh, what a place!

Mt. Abu also turned out to be much more pleasant than we'd anticipated -- at least a few degrees cooler than in the plains, and with a couple of quick showers, it cooled down even further. We stayed at Bikaner Palace, where we'd stay on family vacations. It brought back memories, and even though the Palace has clearly seen better days, it's been re-renovated, and was an absolute pleasure to stay at. We did all the usual hikes in the area, did a little rowing in Nakki Lake (much to the relief of the over-worked boatsman) and took in some much over-due culture at the magnificent Delwara Temple.

A'bad was cooler (though not weatherwise) than ever before. Plus, my DJ-cousin Mukul was in town from Austria. So we got to hang-out with him and his friends -- Mayur and Uday of the Bandish Project. They were playing a gig at "The Club @ Fun Republic". They were awesome. There was this Hyderabadi band called the Def Brothers who were covering for them. They were pretty good too.

Ate really scrumptuous meals at Swati Snacks -- a pan-Western-Indian restaurant with spartan wood-and-metal furnishings, kinda like a sushi bar; Agashiye - a rooftop restaurant on top of "The House of MG", which is a really tastefully done (Art Deco, IMO) heritage hotel; and Tea Center -- which had some extraordinarily good continental food in addition to about a hundred teas (I marvelled at, but didn't have, the "Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe").

Also hung out at a couple of Hookah bars (but didn't inhale, mind you) including a really really cool indoors/outdoors loungy place near IIM called "Mocha -- Coffee and Conversations". Very tastefully done, with tarps and tapestries, plants (and trees), swings and booths and floor-seating and Moby and Cheb i Sabbah playing in the background, we didn't mind paying Rs. 150 for a bottled-water and a french-press coffee, while-people-watching.

Finally, the malls -- oh, the malls. Yes, they're all over the country, but barring the new Shipra mall in Ghaziabad (in the outskirts of Noida), I hadn't seen anything like the new malls springing up all over the place.

The prosperity in A'bad is mind-blowing. Who are all these people with all this money?! My friends offered up these alternatives: 1) rich gujjus from Bombay who invest their money in A'bad, 2) NRIs (there certainly are a lot of them from A'bad) and 3) all those gujjus who make up 60-70% of active traders on the Bombay stock-exchange. But my Dad, who runs a large and successful Industrial Consulting firm in A'bad, says that he's never seen this level of industrial activity in Western India (which is where you'd expect to see that kind of activity anyway) in the 35 years that he's been in business. So it's not a mystery to him -- the prosperity and all that.

My Mom got satellite radio at home. The clarity is awesome, and she can now listen to NPR and Country (though she thought she was getting "Folk", from her time) and Western Classical and Old Hindi anytime she wants.

Saw MI-3. It was okay. Also saw a Gujarati play called "Balvant ane Babli" with Tiku Talsania. Again, okay. The Sabarmati had Narmada water in it. That was pretty cool. Oh, how could I have forgotten the roads?! The roads in A'bad have actually, and significantly, widened. I didn't think that was physically possible. And the highways are totally and completely mind-blowing. Whenever I thought about highways in the developing world, I'd think of Mexico and wonder when India would get that way. Let me tell you, the wait is well and truly over.

Yeah, I did get bascillary dysentry, but it wasn't so bad.