First trip to India and I was in a bubble - airport to hotel to office to hotel to airport to hotel to office to hotel to airport. Yes, that's the whole trip and I only ventured a little of out my bubble. Next time, I promised to do so more!
Gurgaon and Hyderabad reminded me so much of Indonesia - the crazy all directional traffic with no regard for traffic rules or lights; the beggar moms with their babies in arms for sympathy factor at the road junctions knocking on your window pane; the kids with the blank stares, sitting on the street kerbs or any steps they are not being chased away from; the destitute resigned to having to bear the noise, dirt, lack of hygiene in their little shacks across the streets of walled commercial buildngs. I guess the culture shock was less than what I had expected and I have no idea if that's a good thing.
I took a day trip to Arga with a work colleague from Singapore whom I happen to know is travelling to Gurgaon at the same time, and that's the beauty of having miscellaneous internal forums. While rich in grandeur, Taj Mahal was a disappointment in its size. I have had stories about this places and the attraction was cleared hyped more than deserved. The six-hour car ride with a new driver who took multiple wrong and non-expressway routes from Gurgaon to Arga didn't help. The only good thing that happened was the McDonald's which I got to try unexpectedly enroute to Arga. But it was a disappointment too with the greasy fries and taste-lacking Chicken Maharaja burger.
The first day in the Gurgaon's office and an magnitude 7.5 earthquake occurred. I felt the office building swaying and I looked over to my colleague and asked "Is the building swaying or is it me?" Suddenly, a few of them then agreed that the building was indeed moving left and right. Everyone started evacuating and I cannot believe how slow people were moving. I mean, I am not expecting anyone to panic and start running amok but a speedier descent down the stairs to the gathering grounds would have been much appreciated.
Mark Zuckerberg was at the Taj and my manager's manager joked that he's stalking me. I must ask security to look into this. Google have "so much" to worry about from Facebook. Pun intended.
I felt right at home when dressed up in my sari to explore Falaknuma Palace and Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad. Falaknuma Palace lived up to its name of a luxury hotel-palace and we felt like royals here. The view from patio showed flickering lights across the city and it felt surreal. The flowy sari made me feel so feminine and showed off the right curves at the right place. It should really be advertised as the next big dieting tool! It's definitely something that helps curbs appetite if you do not want an exposed muffin top after each meal.
One cannot begin to count the number of times an Indian (both genders) came up to ask for a picture together. At one point, I had to tell them to stop and say "No more photos". Now, I know exactly how a celebrity feels with papps snapping their photos with and without their consent.
This trip, I met awesome work colleagues from different offices (Dublin, Mountain View, Hyderabad, Gurgaon and Singapore). This is what I really love about visiting other Google offices - the people who makes a difference to your experience.