Perceptions and Reality: Nov. 11th
I told Ravi about the problems I was having back home with perceptions about hiring (how dare he hire; it costs so much money!). He told me a story about his early days with Texas Instruments when they did a presentation to the Board of Directors. About two-thirds of the way through the presentation the second—in—charge says "I’m sorry to have to ask this, but from the tour I’ve seen today, and the number of bodies in the plant, and from these figures, this seems like an awfully expensive venture you guys are doing, just how many millions are we talking about here?". Ravi stops, then calmly says, "Um...these figures aren’t millions, they’re thousands."
The Honeymoon: Nov. 19th
For the last week, Sue and I haven’t had any surprises. Yogen told me to keep a journal for the first six months because after that India would seem normal. Actually the acculturation process has been quite rapid. Living is not easy here, but we are developing a routine, and we are getting used to how India works.
Business in India is still a mystery to me. People lie, cheat, renegotiate when the negotiation is seemingly done, etc. Someone once told me that when you become the boss you would never hear the truth again. In the last week I have had many chances to reflect on this advice. The whole idea of a "long-term" relationship doesn’t seem to exist in most mind sets here. The question is more about what can "I" get today, not, what should I do so that I have something tomorrow. Is this due to a fatalistic attitude? Nobody understands that Apple is a great long-term client. Instead, in our vendors’ eyes, Apple’s attraction is its name; we are a "status" client. So one of my carrots here is the press. To keep the sales and marketing landlord from preventing progress on our facilities work, I drop frequent references to press conferences, and gala openings. This has the desired effect.
I’ve tried to explain to Tom, our American architect doing work here in Bangalore, how to interpret this seeming willingness to blatantly lie. In India, it’s not so much what the question is as it is a matter of who’s asking the question, and who’s answering it. If a student asks a question that the teacher doesn’t know, the teacher makes up an answer, rather than saying "I don’t know". If I ask a vendor a question such as "does this part work with this part", the answer depends on what the vendor wants, and what he thinks I want the answer to be. The actual relationship of the truth to the answer does not enter into his reference frame. My favorite examples of this are when I shop, especially for sculpture or computer equipment. Invariably, if the sculpture salesman does not know me, I get the "Very expensive sir, because all out of one piece sir". I quietly say "Nannu shilpi, illa onedu" (I’m a sculptor, and no, this is not one piece). The established response is a longer and louder tirade about how hard it is to get one piece this big. Maybe they say this because they think I’m B.S.’ing too. I then proceed to actually show the salesman the joints. This usually leads to a discussion about how they sell best pieces in India. It’s even worse with Apple computing equipment. I haven’t quite mastered Ravi’s hearty laugh and smile that says stop bullshitting me, and let’s get down to business.
Things we like most about Bangalore: It’s summer the whole yearlong. Our garden is beautiful. There are an incredible number of different and lovely butterflies. The tropical jungle bird sounds we hear when the sun rises; first the crows, then the parrots, then something wild, which goes "oi-oi-oi-oi-oi" with each oi at a higher tone; then a little bird which sounds like a squeaky wheel badly in need of oil. "Gul Mohar" trees - also known as "Flame of the Forest". Guards who wear turbans and caps that look like wedding cakes. Somewhere in India, I am sure, there is a Monty Pythonesque Ministry of Silly Hats. I love driving behind large Ashok-Leyland trucks, with every inch painted with some religious motif, including 3D devil heads painted on the domed differential housing, and sayings on the tailgate that say in Kannada "No-hurry, don’t worry" or "between you and me, there is no urgency". There is great art everywhere; I spent a thousand dollars last week on bronzes, carved sandalwood frames, shesham screens, polychromed Gujarati sculptures, and various reed mats. We don’t have any dining room furniture yet, but boy do we have great art. We have two lovely green ring-necked Himalayan parrots, named George and Gracie. I watched in amazement and respect as Gracie systematically bit her way out of her first cage. They eat with their left hands, so their Indian origins are somewhat questionable. I’m trying to teach them to eat apples from my fingers, but I’ve got a long way to go, and only a few fingers to spare. Medical conditions being what they are, I make sure to feed them only long slices.