Wednesday, April 26, 2006

thoughts from tehran

Note: I wrote this article for my company's in-house magazine. My colleagues are the intended audience, so you may feel little out-of-context.

* * * *

"Cud u come down for a minute?" that was Sheela on phone with me. I said "okay", n started moving downstairs thinking that she may have some snack at her desk, which she wants to share with me (good sheela, she always does that). She was waiting for me outside HR cabin when I got there, she asked me to get into the small discussion room next to HR cabin. In there, I saw Venkat, and I got a bit concerned. What on earth Venkat has got to do with me? I wondered as I sat down. My anxiety grew as Sheela n Venkat looked at each other n sat there waiting for each other to start talking to me.

Finally, Sheela decided to break the news to me. She said "Would u like to go to Iran for a short-term work assignment?" Surprise, excitement, relief, sorrow, joy, curiosity - mixed feelings flashed inside my head. But all I could do was flash a smile n say "Sure". With that "sure" I guess both Venkat n Sheela were relieved!!

Next few minutes Venkat explained what my work responsibilities will be n how great opportunity it was. I must confess I didn't pay much attention to him as I was too excited. Then Sheela told me that I will be expected to leave within 2 weeks. But I didn't have passport; I told them so. "Oh, no!!" was the immediate reaction from both of them. But then Sheela picked herself up and told me that I can get passport within 2 weeks through Tatkaal scheme. I agreed and walked out.

Next few days were crazy. I had to give up my precious late-morning sleep to stand in looooong queues at the passport office. However, I managed to get the passport within nine days. Now I can provide consultation service if anybody wants to get passport in such a short duration (of course, I'll charge for it ;-)).

Days were crazy in other ways as well; some people were asking me "You are going to Iran?!" as if I was going to some forbidden land. Some Lifetreeans started giving me 'oh-they-r-sending-u-to-hell' kind of looks. Only person who was as excited as me and encouraged me throughout was Radhika, thanks to her for that. But I refused to be discouraged; I got the facts right from a friend's friend who had lived in Iran for long time, who ensured me that there was nothing to worry.

I was excited and curious as this is my first trip outside India. I was bit concerned about immigration and customs check; but I was happy that Jagadish was traveling with me. Through the whole journey I just followed him, like a calf following the mother cow! Only thing was I had to wait for him when he took smoke-breaks at airports, but that was okay. We landed in Tehran airport after a 12-hour flight.

First impression about Iran was very good, thanks to the taxi-driver. At the airport Jagadish got separated from the group (or so we thought); the taxi-driver, who was to take us to the hotel, helped us to find him & waited with us for more than two hours. It was very nice of him to do so. Tehran is very beautiful n clean city. It is located in a valley with mountain ranges on both sides of it. So we get nice view of these mountains everywhere (many of u wud've seen pics of Deepak n team making merry there). The weather is quite nice, very moderate now as this is spring season. We can see nice flowers everywhere; n the city is beautifully landscaped. People are very well-behaved, courteous, n helpful. They stand in queues even to get ice-cream from in front of small ice-cream stalls!! That was quite a sight for me.

Fine, what's with the work? U may wonder. Our client MTN is launching a mobile service here in Iran, which is called Irancell. The service is going to be up on June 1st. Right now, MTN people from all over the world are here; u'll see Blacks, Whites, and Browns here in Irancell premises. Terms like SMS, prepaid, postpaid, billing, recharge, balance transfer, GSM, network, dealer, subscriber... they echo in busy Irancell office. Me, Jagadish, and Navendu have come here as consultants; so we get to work with MTN, which brings a great exposure. Getting to see a telecom service provider shaping up, getting to know how things work, & working for it - is indeed a great opportunity (Venkat was quite right!).

Meanwhile the E-Care team of Lifetree is working here, Deepak being the key person for that. Everyone seem to be loving Deepak here!! When they pronounce his name it sounds like "Debug" though; he sure is a debugger for Lifetree here. Though I am not qualified to judge a senior like Deepak, I would like to humbly tell you all that he has done commendable job to create a good image for Lifetree with the client. Hope Lifetree will be able to cash on that good image n have long association with Irancell in future too.

Well, it has been a good learning experience in all aspects. Thanks Sheela for that call to "come down", I am flying high now!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

my philosophy

Three things I believe in:

1. Whatever has to happen, will happen.
2. Good things happen to good people.
3. I am a good girl.

Well, I am an Indian citizen n I have right to believe in whatever I believe in. Now if u think that I have good sense of humor, thank you :-)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

i wonder..

Aish got hurt again, that too in our Karnataka (hers n mine). So sad it feels; she got SCRATCH WOUNDS on THREE of her fingers it seems, what a pity!!!

Okay, fine. Let me be serious. I really wonder what this lady feels about over-the-top publicity she gets. Does she get irritated? She really must be. Don’t know what affinity media has got with her. Does she feel "why only me?" Does she feel like screaming "leave me alone..." in loudest of her voice? Or does she enjoy the publicity secretly? They say any publicity is good publicity for celebrities.

I really wanna know what she thinks about all this. If you happen to venture to Baagalkot pls ask her and tell me.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

into thin air

Wonder what is? It's the name of a book I read recently. What a book!! In spite of being non-fiction it kept me soooo engrossed..

It’s a true story about the tragedy that happened at Mt. Everest in 1996. One of the climbers who was in the team which got struck by a deadly storm, Jon Krakauer, has written it. Twelve climbers got succumbed to the thin air at the ‘top of the world’ that year.

Jon, a journalist-cum-climber, joined the expedition team as a correspondent for the Outside magazine. He was among few survivors in his team.

Now about the book:

  • Lots of technical details about mountaineering, which interests me.
  • The way Jon has written it, it’s as if a friend is telling u the story. His way of narration is raw, sincere, and personal. U feel like u r one of the members in the team while reading it.
  • The ultimate truth called death, when it strikes u just can’t do anything.
  • Unpredictable n mighty nature – all would’ve been well, if that storm cud wait for few hours that day when Jon’s team made it to the summit. Human being is too small n weak in front of nature.
  • The craze of mountaineering/climbing/trekking. It gets to u big-time when it gets to u. It’s an addiction. Even when they knew they were n danger, they didn’t want to give up; they wanted to get to the summit.

The tragedy happened when the climbers were descending the mountain. An ice-storm struck n few members just couldn’t make it to the camp safely. The part of the book where 2 of the members who get too exhausted get abandoned from their teammates made me cry. But it’s reality, helping others in such conditions is risking ur own life. Jon writes that he keeps feeling guilty that he couldn’t help his team-mates; but he couldn’t have done much even if he had tried.

I liked the book very much; it has taught me few things. Thanks to my friend who got the book for me as birthday gift.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

the song on friday morning

Another Friday morning here in Tehran (now don't think that morning means 8 am, no.. for me morning is 11.30 am on holidays). Sipping hot cup of coffee while admiring my own coffee-making skills, I was getting mentally prepared for the extensive cleaning job I was about to do. The house was dirty n needed some labour & attention.

As I started my work, it struck to me that I need some entertainment. I can't rely on TV for entertainment here, I can only watch BBC news in TV. So I plugged in my laptop thinking that I cud play some songs. Feeling lazy to take the cable off the telephone n connect it to laptop to connect to the net, I thought of managing without Kavitha, my favorite singer. So I searched for music in my hard-disk. One of my colleagues had copied some songs in my hard-disk, but I had never bothered to play those songs all these days.

I pressed Ctrl+A and clicked play button, increased the volume to max (so that I cud listen to the music in all the rooms) and went ahead with the cleaning work.

The first song started.. and I was... I don't know what i felt at that very moment. It was Rajkumar chanting "Poojyaaya Raghavendraaya". Rajkumar, who had been laid to rest just the previous evening back in Bangalore.

Whoever said he died? He was fully alive in my flat with that Raghavendra Bhakthigeethe that morning. In fact, artists worth remembering never die.

If only 'abhimaani devarugaLu' in Bangalore who turned the whole situation so violent the previous evening knew this truth...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

a day-out, to the glory

With a bit of research on the net, I found contact info of many tour agenies in Tehran. Called one of them n booked for a one-day Tehran tour without thinking much..

It was a one-day tour which took us around the palaces & museums in Tehran. Mainly it gave us an insight about the life of Shahs who were ruling Iran before the Islamic revolution happened.

Sharp at 8.30 that morning the car arrived to take us, when we were busy gulping down the coffee…We got introduced to Ali, our guide & Hameed, the driver.

We headed towards National Museum, which was our first destination for the day. On the way Ali showed us many embassies; including the American embassy which is closed now. When the Islamic revolution happened they captured American embassy and took the staff as hostages (and kept them as hostages for more than a year to win some bargain with US, finally US had to give in I guess; this was a big news sometime in early 90s I think, I didn’t know anything about it). I could see “We will make America face severe defeat” written on now-closed American embassy compound wall.

We also saw oldest square of Tehran, which is now called Khomeini square, which was called something else earlier. Almost everything (airport, govt. buildings, etc) is named after Khomeini now.

The entrance to the building complex which contains National Museum, Islamic museum, and couple of buildings which belong to army looks like this, beautifully done I must say.

The national museum has stuff which is thousands of years old. Persian civilization is one of the oldest civilizations. It also has Shah Period (300 yrs ago) things. This pillar is a royal emblem of some dynasty I guess; doesn’t it remind you of our Ashoka Sthambha?

This statue of a Shah was destroyed during Alexander’s invasion time.

Next to the National Museum there is Islamic Museum, which came into existence after the Islamic revolution. It has beautifully painted and carved handicraft stuff. A jumbo-sized Quran is also there. What interested me is this oil-lamp.

Our next destination was Golestan palace-cum-museum complex. Very colorful one. The inner wall and ceiling are done beutifully with the use of colored glass.

They have extensively used glass, wood, and colored ceramic tiles to do the designs. See this outer wall of the palace which is done with ceramic tiles.

A closer look at those colored ceramic tiles and how they are fixed to get the designs. Ali told us that each of these small tiles are worth approx 10$.

One of the famous kings in Shah Dynasty who lived here is Nasser-ed-din Shah. There were lots of paintings and photographs of this king in the art gallery.

This is one of the ventilating towers a building in the complex has (it has 4 such towers). This tower is supposed to pump in the air inside and keep the whole structure cool; young princes used to live in this palace it seems.

Our next stop was a palace complex in the north of Tehran, which is closer to the mountains. This palace (I forgot the name) looks more modern than the Golestan palace.

These giant legs are the symbol of Shah’s power and strength. They are more than 10 ft tall.

This beautiful thing is a television box though there was no TV inside.

This room is called “War Room”, they discussed war strategies here. See the notepads, the globe, and the pen-stands. I wanted to flick one of those pen-stands :-)

After seeing this palace we went to another palace called the ‘Green palace’, true to its name everything is green in this palace, including the curtons. Ahmed Shah, another famous Shah, used to live here. There was another palace in the same complex where Ahmed Shah’s father used to live. But now army has taken it in for some reason and tourists aren’t allowed. Green palace was the richest palace we saw, with gold fittings everywhere. This dining room looks so fabulous.

Can you see the golden spoons and forks? The picture is blurred as things are inside a glass cabinet and because of the glaring light.

One thing which is very evident in all these palaces is the European influence. Shahs had close relationship with England, France, and Italy. The paintings in the palaces are done by French artists, the furniture is also mostly from Europe.

Another thing is these palaces are not very old (100-300 years old). Shahs were ruling Iran until Islamic revolution happened, which was at around 30 years ago.

Well, needless to say, that was a good trip. Got to know a lot; thanks to our guide Ali, who answered all our questions with great patience in his not-so-good English.

btw Ali’s son wants to go to Bangalore to study computers.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

experience tehran

Few things about Tehran:

The view of snow-covered mountains. Wherever you go in the city, u'll see them. I simply love the view! But I am told that winter is almost over and the snow will disappear in few days...

As this is spring season, there are flowers everywhere. And there are lots of flower shops in the city.

One more interesting thing I noticed is that they sell flowers at traffic signals here (the same way how they sell stuff at traffic signals in Bangalore; but imagine someone selling flowers at traffic signals in Bangalore!!). This guy was more-than-happy to be photographed.

People are well-behaved and helpful. They stand in queue even to get ice-creams in small ice-cream stalls!!

I was most surprised too see Shahrukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai on the covers of Farsi magazines in a book-stall!! I tried to speak to the stall-owner showing the pictures of SRK & Rai, he said he knows about Amithabh Bachhan & Salman Khan too...

My colleague was held in immigration counter for long time at the airport. I was wondering why, but later came to know that all the person in the counter wanted to know was how Kajol is doing!!

Seven scenes: Few days back it was new-year celebration season here. The Farsi new-year is called "Nouroz". They keep the following things in houses.

It contains apple, coins, some grains, dates, garlic, some powdered spice, and egg. In Farsi, the names of all these things start with letter "S". And they keep fish, mirror, milk, water, Quran, and the sprouted grass. They keep this setup for 13 days.

(This reminds me of a ritual followed on Yugadi day in South Canara; they keep rice, vegetables, fruits, and a mirror in the pooja-room. All are supposed to see themselves in that mirror the first thing in the morning on that festival day. Just wondering how the cultures are similar!!)

This grass is sprouted from some grain. On the 13th day they throw out the grass; they believe that it takes the evil things away... Even in offices and hotels they had kept this sprouted grass.

Generally, people seem to have good opinion about India. "You from India?" they ask with a smile on their faces.

The taxi drivers drive so rash here (even Bangalore autowallas can't beat them in this!). Every other car has a dent..

Looks like everyone has cars here. That's obvious, fuel being so cheap they can afford to keep cars. Public transport looks quite decent, i'll try it some day. Also heard that they have metro.

Peugeot, Daewoo, Ford, Benz, Chevrolet - these are the common cars seen. Somehow they don't look jazzy though!! And no big vehicles like Scorpio and Innova here, except for a few Toyota Land Cruisers...

The place is hilly; if I go down to main street from the place where I am staying, it's a mini-trek back!!! Lots of ups-n-downs!!

We get variety of rotis; there are specific shops which make n sell only rotis. Iranians prefer these for breakfast; it's common sight of them flocking at these shops when we drive to office in the mornings.

The money: The value of Rial being very less, we end up paying thousands n lakhs. That feels funny. I am not used to the currency yet, have problem paying at shops...

The language Farsi has similarity to Urdu/Hindi. May be because Urdu originated from Persian. I have learned few words n phrases...

Food is a problem for vegetarians. I wonder whether they have any vegetarian dish in Iranian Cuisine... Just thinking about the special treats we used to have in pizza hut while eating pizza for lunch everyday...

That's all for now, more later if I find out more.

ps: it was lots of pain putting the pictures, so u better appreciate them.