Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I love the fall

The cool crisp air, the smell of leaves burning, the colors, the light, the feeling that this is natures last hurrah before the onslaught of winter. Heres a poem I wrote in 1992 when I was at my friends cottage in Quebec.

Summers gone away my love
And the leaves begin to fall
As slanting light becomes pitch night
We await the winters call

The autumn breeze stirs my heart
And makes me long for you
By harvest moon, the fleeting loon
Flys south in skys of blue

The raindrops on the orange leaves
Are natures tears of sorrow
For autumns here and the winters near
And we will all be gone tomorrow

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Great Wall

I saw another one of the must see places on my list of life time must see places. The great wall. Me and my Tibetan guide the same girl Xian that I met at Tianamen went to see the wall at Si Ma Tai the most remote part of the wall from Beijing. It is almost 2.5 hrs by car. There are nearer walls (at Ba Da Ling and at Mu Tian Yu) but Xian advised against going there. Turned out to be a great decision, When we got to Si Ma Tai it was almost deserted. It was really awesome. Walking the wall is like climbing a steep mountain. How the Chinese built something so magnificent almost 600 years ago is beyond belief. In a sense the great wall was one of the first "Networks" - the Chinese used flags and flares to pass signals along its length. In addition, they also used it to quickly transport troops and horses. So it served both as an actual highway and an information highway. Pretty damn awesome.

Pudong and Puxi

So Shanghai has two main regions, the east known as Pudong and the west known as Puxi (pronounced Poo-See). Everytime someone asked if I had been in Puxi it kinda made me grin. It was just too funny...Pu-"Dong" and Pu-"Seee"...sometimes you cant even make up stuff like this...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

In the heart of the Peoples Republic

So I am in the capital of the Peoples this feels more like Communist China. You are more likely to see citizens wearing traditional Chinese clothing, more likely to find exotic food like snake on a restaurant menu and the Red Army is everywhere unlike Shanghai which as you know from my earlier posts was almost identical to Chicago in look and feel. I was in Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City yesterday...just standing there trying to remember how 1989 must have felt...the image of the student in front of the Tank....

While I was there I was approached by three students from NationalUniversity who wanted to practice their English on me. At first I thought it was a some kind of scam but it turned out to be genuine. They served as my tour guides for the rest of the afternoon. It was delightful. One of the girls was Tibetan. Needless to say this was too good an opportunity to pass up for me so there in the shadow of Chairman Mao's smiling visage I had a big discussion about Tibet and the 1958 annexation and such. Surprisingly it was only me who was arguing for a Free Tibet...the TIBETAN was completely OK being Chinese....(I was told that most Chinese are unaware that China annexed Tibet by force. Apparently they are taught in school that the oppressed peasants invited the Communists in to free them from feudalism....I guess the winners of history get to write history even if its not true)

I was impressed with their knowledge of current events both Chinese and international. Several of the questions I asked I'm pretty sure that the average American University student would have no clue about. Of course they were completely ignorant of almost all western authors (ALTHOUGH THEY ARE ENGLISH MAJORS :)...I found that quite funny actually..even with 3 to 4 years of English they are not yet at the pt of reading English books...they read magazine articles...

How often does one get to tell a University Educated person who is majoring in English about a fella named William Shakespeare for the first time....:)))

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Where we shine?

India does English so much better than China. In China I have to show a card with the mandarin characters to the cabbie to get anywhere. The only words I know in Mandarin are Neehaa and xiexie (shishi) - means welcome and thank you. I'm sure with my accent I'm probably insulting the cabbies mother or something.

I think Chinese are good doers - Indians are good thinkers. This maybe the divide. I'm not saying Chinese cant think and Indians cant do...I think its an affinity or a propensity...Indians all want to be like Brahmins - just think and do pujas and attend Bharatanatyam recitals. .......perhaps its in our DNA.

George was recounting an interesting story. He doesn't eat seafood. He was visiting a distributor in some small town. He gave strict orders, several times to the distributor that he couldn't eat sea food...he arrives in small town and sees that dinner is a variety of fish, prawns and other delights. Obviously feeling a bit put off that his host has ignored his multiple requests he does not eat the food. The host comes up and asks what is wrong why aren't you eating the food. George says he doesn't eat sea food to which the host says "Sea food - this is all River Food, We specially make River Fish, River Prawns etc"

That my friends is the best story Ive heard that sums up the huge language issue in China.

China Infrastructure

apparently India spends 6% of GDP on Infrastructure and China spends 21%....the results are obvious....why would Indian politicians not spend more on provides jobs, has a high rate of return for the country by attracting more FDI. I guess I dont get it

When I was in Bangalore I read a newspaper article that a delegation from Delhi was coming to Bangalore to learn about garbage collection. However having just seen uncollected garbage on 100 feet road in Indira Nagar (suburb of Bang.) I was a bit puzzled as to why Delhi would want to learn this skill from a city that clearly did a crap job of collecting its garbage. I guess mediocrity is all relative.

Might have been a better idea for the Delhi delegation to go to Bangkok, Singapore or Shanghai to learn about garbage collection perhaps.

Reconnecting in the globalized world...

So after 23 years I reconnected last night with my best buddy George from grades 7 thru 10 back when I lived in Chennai...I saw him last in 1984......he lives and works for Pepsi in Shanghai....thank God for Facebook and email and other technological marvels that we found each other and were able to meet face to face....aint globalization wonderful.

Can Freedom and good civic sense coexist in the developing world?

I am starting to think that it is socialism that may have taught the Chinese good civic order which we Indians seem to lack. (perhaps the public exercise drills, everyone wearing a blue uniform etc under Chairman Mao?) The civic behavior I am seeing is close to what you see in the west i.e. orderly lines and a respect for the law. What is ironic is that the Chinese achieved this with a communist dictatorship and we haven’t been able to do it with 60 years of democracy. Maybe freedom and orderly civic behavior are mutually exclusive at least in the developing nations.

Monday, November 05, 2007

China - My first impressions

I have been in China for a little more than 24 hours and the obvious differences with India are everywhere. Shanghai feels like a US city. In fact it looks and feels like Chicago (just without Lake Michigan or the EL). There are some absolutely stunning skyscrapers all over the city. No old dilapidated Victorian era buildings like India, no obvious poverty on the streets, no animals, no paan spitting and no auto rickshaws. Also no honking of horns – that was also really surprising. I just assumed a city of 13 million people would have a lot of irate drivers but the traffic flows in an orderly way similar to any modern western city.

There are still a number of bicycles even on the highways (believe it or not) but surprisingly those are the only two wheelers on the road. I have seen no motorbikes or scooters yet. The roads are excellent and the Chinese drive them like they are on a speedway. My cabbie that drove me to my hotel had the speedometer at 120 – 130 Km/h the entire drive. The cabbies also give receipts and go by the meter. There are non meter cabs but that’s only if u don’t want to stand in line for the city cab (they are 2 to 3x city cab fare)

The GM China people I met are also pretty no nonsense and focused on the job. The GM India people had more of a “babu” approach to the job with lengthy chai and lunch breaks etc.