Thursday, January 22, 2009

Work and Play

I'm convinced that play is important for human beings, even adults. Perhaps someone will do a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study and prove it; better yet that play saves money in the workplace. Today we interspersed much logistical planning, thinking through and development of workshops and presentations, strategic approaches in key areas, and more informal activities.

In the morning we worked hard and tried to schedule meetings with colleagues, to no avail. As usual, I became anxious things would fall through, but my fears were assuaged by the end of the day on the side of reason. Reason told me people were busy and would get in touch. I was concerned we'd run up against a wall.

After working for some time, we took a stroll to shop. I bring my camera with me and find taking photographs to be quite useful as well as fun. As an aside, I was taking a close-up photo of a power box, and a man walking by asked me, "Why is that important?" Funny question - I said because it is artistic to me. There is art everywhere.

But I digress. Since shopping is a resilience-building activity for me, and I was tired of melting in the inappropriately heavy suits I'd brought, and are in a place where suits are made for one in the true British fashion (and I've never owned a tailored suit - not that I need an excuse - but I do), we went and had one measured up for me in a lighter fabric. Siddharth is very helpful to have around as a cultural buffer and catalyst, at least.

After that we took a ride to meet with Siddharth's uncle, who is a very knowledgeable physician and businessman, to confer with him on key strategic issues. He works in an area called Opera House, and I saw the inside of a second hospital in Mumbai. Security was very heavy. Comically, one guard was preoccupied with my camera (no cameras allowed) while the other didn't heed him any attention.

We then went for a stroll to take in Opera House. I rarely see another white person. There are plenty of stray dogs, and they all have (if they are not sacked out), a 1000 yard stare. The dogs here look very philosophical. As perhaps do the cows, though I may be projecting. We decided to go to Chapati Beach, nearby. We couldn't get a cab for a while. Finally, we did, and a fight broke out in the middle of the street. I really wanted to get out and get very close to take pictures, but I restrained myself. A huge crowd gathered around the fighting people and swayed back and forth, sometimes like a sea anemone, sometimes amoebic, among the cabs and motorbikes. It looked like a riot, and I could easily imagine how violence could spark and spread.

A bystander leaving the fight caught me taking his picture. I'm not sure he approved. My impression is that people are not well-disposed toward the media, and a guy like me with a camera... though people sometimes don't like it for the usual reasons.

We got to the area near the beach and had some delicious pan. There was a huge array of different kinds of edible substances. We went to a well-known bookstore, the name of which escapes my enfeebled mind. I bought several comic books, the kind children read, depicting different tales such as the well-know Birbal (in Birbal the Wise) and an excerpt from the Ramayana (Ravana Humbled). I was sad because they didn't have any graphic novels. Just a matter of time.

We went to the beach, and I could see Nariman Point through the haze of smog, where I'd been yesterday. I imagined a beach landing of armed men. But there were just many people watching the sunlight at the end of the day.

We then stopped for a light snack at the New York bar, where the waiter took an uncomfortably strong liking to me, demonstrating this during the photograph with the placement of his hand. I will spare you the photo but I have an odd expression on my face. Again, we had trouble hailing a cab, and when we finally got one two middle aged women in saris brushed us aside and got in, without nary a word. When we arrived back at the Phoenix Tower, we worked again for quite some time, laying out the framework for a few meetings coming up, and consolidating information from several conversations with colleagues throughout the day.

Dinner was preceded by a funny, all-to-familiar and frustrating misunderstanding which is characteristic of everything being quite different here than in the US. In the morning our hosts asked when we wanted dinner, and we said 9pm. Around then they told us dinner was ready, and we kept working expecting them to bring it to the table. We wondered why it was taking so long, and the attendant Moti just sat in the kitchen. Finally we asked, about an hour later, and they said it was upstairs on the 26th floor. It was quite good. We then worked more... and now it is time for bed. More of the same, tomorrow. A full day workshop on the 25th, and 3 hour workshops on the 27th and 28th, along with a slew of other activities.

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