Great to run with the girls

For the longest time, I have been thinking about getting up early, biking down to the Hyderabad Botanical garden ( a great chunk of green space very close to where I stay, the only one in the area, as a matter of fact), and going for a run there.

Finally happenned today, thanks to this group of girls, who decided to start running together.


We did 6 kms. People ran or walk as they wished, each at their own pace. We all loved the paths through the forest areas, and some of us who hadn’t been on those paths before were surprised at the greenery. The morning was nice and cool. After the first round of the park, we all felt we could do more. Ammie, with her child on the stroller, was raring for a longer run. So were the others. So off we went, on a second lap of the gardens.

Was a great way to start the day, and hoping the enthusiasm continues. Next meetup is at KBR park, one of my favorite places in Hyderabad.

Eventually, the group would set up as the local chapter of RunnerGirls India.


Customer Service takes a back-seat, yet again

You would think that given we have so many service providers competing with each other in almost every sector in India, you, the customer, would finally be the king. Or Queen. Demanding and receiving prompt, hassle-free service.

Poor gullible you. Or poor gullible me, to even expect reasonable service, let alone stellar service.

Case #1: We moved houses, just two floors down, same apartment. I call Airtel Broadband services to come and fix the line at the new flat. They take down the service request, and inform me, to my surprise, that they would disconnect me immediately, and the  service people would come over to my apartment any day over the next 3 days to fix it. I try to explain, calmly even though I knew  it was going to be quite futile, that I work from my home office, and 3 days of not being connected puts me in spot, so please could they disconnect on the day when the shifting service folks would come. “No Madam, our process does not allow it, the request will not go through to the shifting dept unless we disconnect you now”. Process?? What goddamn process? I get all mad and fired up, and ask them why not, to which of course there is no reply, except that the process would not allow it. It felt like I was trying to break through a stone wall. Deep breath.

Case #2: The Airtel guy comes to shift. Disconnects everything from the apartment above, comes to the new apartment and fiddles around for 3 whole hours one evening, and again 3 hours the next morning. No connection, nothing. “Madam, problem with the wiring”, classic if you don’t know whats wrong, pass it along. Turns out he was trying the wrong point altogether.

Case#3: I’ve not watched any TV for the last 2 weeks, thanks to the Tata Sky guys. Same story – guy comes, rips out the Tata Sky disk on the roof-top to make sure the connection is gone, comes down and demands extra money for fixing it in the new apartment. This one is down-right extortion. Unfortunately, he did not realise not everybody is a TV addict. And he did not realise how stubborn Appa can be at times. So off we packed him, and the disk is still lying in the balcony of the old apartment.

Case#4: Tiresome, just writing about it. But for the sake of completeness, I have to tell it all. So today, I go to ICICI bank. I ask for a cheque book, in that it says clearly, “if your address has changed, please update it here”, with a form below for the new address. Lady at the counter tells me sorry, but first you have to update the address, and then ask for a new chequebook. Hello, why do you have it in the same form then, I reason with her. She is blind to reason – the dreaded word comes through again – “Madam, Process”. She may as well have told me sorry, but I am not allowed to think, I’m only supposed to be a machine replacement. I huffed and puffed my way to the managers office, who tried to tell me the same story, but somehow he could not put up the stony resistance of the teller, and promised to Try. Okay. Try. I know very well you are going to call me saying the Process did not allow you.

Case#5: Well, this one is not so bad, but it showed very plainly what is wrong with frontline service staff in almost all companies in India. A lack of a back-bone to make decisions, thats what. I went to pick up tickets for the Qadir Ali Baig foundation’s Theatre Feastival ( my rant about the cultural scene in Hyderabad worked) at HICC, Novotel. The lobby manager tells me tickets are with the sales manager, who is in a meeting for the next one hour. What?? I am coming here to buy your tickets, for God’s sake, and you tell me I’ve got to wait in the lobby for an hour because the sales manager is hoarding the tickets somewhere. What irked me more than anything else was the sheer servile attitude of the lady – she was actually scared of calling up the sales manager, because, you see, he was in an important meeting. After half an hour of waiting, I threatened that I would walk into the sales meeting, and give them a pitch about customer empathy. Magically, the sales manager appeared. Sad to say, sometimes you have to appear more mean than others to get your stuff done.

Happy news, I am going to two plays directed by Naseeruddin Shah tomorrow and day after.

Bad news, customer service is only lip-service. It rarely appears. Anywhere. At least not among the people I seem to be encountering. It would be wrong though to blame the boys and girls, mostly junior folks, who are routinely dealing out such lousy customer service. I would, in fact, blame the company, and specifically, those higher up the chain, who are supposed to, empower their employees to make some rational decisions on behalf of the customer. Somebody needs to tell them, processes are okay, but customers come first.

I hate to say it, but Hyderabad kind of sucks

I have lived in the city of Hyderabad for most of my working life – close to 7 years now.  You would think, after staying here all this time, I would develop at least some fond feelings for the city. Well, to be honest, I was happy to pack my bags and get going from here a few years ago to Seattle, US. But what do you know? Life ( job actually, not mine, the hubby’s) brings me back right here.

Why this sudden rant about the city? Well, when you are working, kind of a 9 – 9 job, then where you stay does not matter a whole lot. Okay, okay, it does somewhat, but you are too pooped out at the end of the day and only want to hit the sack anyway.

Life changes when you don’t have that 9-9 job. For one, you are more in touch with whats happenning outside the glass and chrome buildings.

And thats I, for one, realized how little the city has to offer. Die-hard Hyderabadis may beg to differ. Well, I beg to differ with them.

Lets start with one of the best things good cities can offer – good food. The lesser said about the gourmands out here, the better. You have only to look, and what you see on offer are buffets. All you can eat meals, – no mention of what you are eating mind you. Its all about how much you can heap your plate. And if it is with oily Biryani, all the better. Heap some more. And finish off with dessert buffets of the usual humdrum chocolate cakes etc. etc.  This is supposed to be a cosmopolitan city, and what do you have to offer? Apart from the Biryani, which was handed down from the Nizams, do we have a single speciality restaurant worth their name in this city? Chain restaurants is the best we can manage it seems. ( okay, I can name a few. But only a very few, mind you. One of two Thai, one new Bengali restaurant).

Okay, now that we have had our fill of Andhra thalis, which I don’t mind once in a while, but really is over-fried and over-spiced, lets get on to the entertainment bit.

For that, what you have is a wide and varied choice – of third rate movies at any of the multi-plexes. And Hyderabad has the most number of movie halls in the country, you’re bound to get a ticket for some movie somewhere. Though you may have to try hard, Hyderabadis will watch anything, and I mean anything.

Bad luck for anybody who’d rather watch a play, or something humdrum like that. There is one happenning every quarter, so you have to squeeze out every ounce of entertainment you can from that one play you do get to see. Like we did when Anupam Kher came to town, maybe, 3 months back. Since then, nothing, Nada. Zilch.

Okay, so there are the so-called Lounge bars. Okay, so Hyderabadi women have finally learnt to dress themselves ( though the other day I actually spotted somebody in a dress with skulls on it!!) , but what about the men? When, oh when, will they learn??

I can go on. Oh please, somebody tell me some redeeming feature of the city. Even the lovely rocks and the grandeur of the Golconda and Qutb Shahi tombs are gone with the high-rises around Hi-Tech city area. Green Hyderabad never was, and the highest point in the city, according to some hiking enthusiastic friends, is actually a Dargah in secunderabad area which is on a single-rock, about 100 steps and you are at the top.

There must be Hyderabadis out there who feel enough for their city to point out its niceties. If so, please let us onto the secret.

And please don’t say Golconda again. We are talking about living culture here.

< I found this great compilation of activity clubs by Ajay here.  Great job, Ajay! >