Tuesday, June 17, 2008

InStep invades CHENNAI!

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I'm not exactly sure who reads this thing anyway. So yeah, after our adventures in Bangalore, the rest of the week passed pretty uneventfully. The InStep induction on Monday (InStep= the name of the internship program I'm doing) was probably the most notable thing . . . Narayana Murthy came, which is kind of a big deal. No, it actually is a big deal. He founded Infosys with about $250 back in 1981, and with his business model and values it's grown exponentially to be the multi-billion dollar corporation it is today. you can read about him here.

The induction was basically an introduction to Infosys as a company. I hadn't realized how big a global player Infosys really is-- although they're virtually unknown in the States, almost every major company outsources here. And when I say outsource, I don't just mean call centers and software. For instance, I work with a bunch of aerospace engineers who work indirectly for Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, etc.

Infosys is also a pretty cool company in other ways. For example, they're huge on sustainability. My keyring to my hostel room has a card on it that you need to turn on the lights in the room, so the lights are never left on. They use recycled water to do most of the landscaping, and try to conserve water and energy usage in general. Two of the interns are working on a project where Infosys is trying to build the most energy-efficient building in the world-- serious business. Infosys also does a lot through the Infosys Foundation, which does charity work throughout India.

So we had several hours of powerpoints on Infosys, India in general, cross-cultural sensitivity and anti-sexual harassment (gotta love corporate life), tea with the big guy (N. Murthy), and team building excercises (of course); then back to work. Work is kind of so-so right now; I'll post about it if there's anything interesting but for right now just assume that I'm either bored or indifferent.

The rest of the week passed uneventfully, and we decided to go to Chennai for the weekend since we were invited to the wedding of one of the other interns, Asif. I planned most of the trip, so it was pretty stressful to herd around 22 college students for the weekend. However, it was definitely a memorable trip! we started out on Friday evening (we had booked a minibus for the weekend WITH A/C) and drove to Chennai, a city about 6-7 hours east of Bangalore. We arrived at an Infosys-operated guesthouse in the city at about 1am after inexplicable delays, detours, and two Bollywood movies (my first ever). The next morning, we joined forces with the amazing Chennai interns (17 of us, 5 of them) to see a little bit of Chennai. We spent some time at India's oldest and largest shopping mall, more like an indoor bazaar, and the world's longest stretch of urban beach (but most definitely NOT the cleanest). One really interesting thing is that you basically become a tourist attraction at places like this; people come up to you and ask to take your picture, and they yell "HI!!!!" because it's one of the only phrases they know, and are genuinely delighted if you say hi back. There were tons of kids at the beach, and a lot of them would follow us and talk to us. We couldn't go out into the surf because it's monsoon season and the riptides are pretty strong.

In the afternoon we went back to the guesthouse to get ready for the wedding; we had all purchased formal Indian clothes on Thursday night in Bangalore, and we looked pretty fabulous. The girls arrived at the wedding at 5pm to prepare for the wedding, where Asif's family treated us like royalty. We all got mehndi (henna) on our hands and jasmine in our hair; they even gave us anklets with bells on them. After we rejoined the guys, I'm pretty sure we took more pictures of each other than an overzealous parent before senior prom.

The nikkah (ceremony) started at seven theoretically, but since we're on Indian Standard Time it was more like eight. The wedding itself was huge-- hundreds, perhaps a thousand people gathered into a hotel ballroom lavishly decorated with gold and pink fabric and flowers, with a stage at the front. There were even two video screens set up along the sides with roving cameramen panning the crowd and zooming in on key details of the ceremony (kind of like a Jumbotron). It was actually a double wedding, two sisters (Sharmila and Fawzia); not marrying two brothers sadly. The ceremony was interesting; I'd never been to a Muslim wedding before. The bride and groom sign the marriage contract in separate rooms and only then are brought together; all the male family members stand by the groom and all the female family members by the bride. I couldn't understand much though, because everything was in Urdu.

After the ceremony was the most delicious indian dinner I have ever had in my life. It was amazing. Highlights include: some kind of vegetable korma, some kind of paneer (I need to get better at remembering names) but the highlight was definitely the dessert, which was my favorite indian food: gulabjamen and vanilla ice cream. ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Okay the rest of the Chennai trip will have to be in a different entry because no one will read this one if it gets too long, plus I don't want to write any more today.

10 comments:

The said...

Your mother is definitely hanging on every word!!

Karen Alley said...

Your summer is definitely more exciting than mine, so I'm having fun reading about yours :)

A.Vamsi Krishna said...

Hey Margaret,

do keep posting, me and my friends like to read your blog and that of others who're interning in India..I'm a graduate student at Penn State Univ and it's interesting to see your perspective on India...I'm happy that all of you (interns) are enjoying your stay there..

Martin said...

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