India log: wrapping it up

Getting Dressed

My hotel offers a really nice laundry service. You leave your laundry in a provided linen bag and they return it to you that night by 7pm. They do a great job, but it’s unbelievably expensive. $5 to wash socks! Therefore, once I got over the sticker shock, I committed not to using this “service” again. I had already tried earlier to find clothing at the name brand stores without getting screwed there, too. Abhijit, one of the guys on my team, let me know that he had a childhood friend that was a tailor. I visited him this past Saturday and it was pretty amazing. They would make my clothing for just a little bit more than what I was paying to have it cleaned. If you ever have a chance to have your clothing made, go for it. There’s nothing like having clothes that fit you perfectly. Abhijit said that they’d make one shirt and one pair of pants for me, I come back the next day and try them on and give feedback. Sounded pretty good. I had a button down dress shirt made to my specifications, for about $9.50. The pants never fit better and they were less than $15. I went to town on this. Abhijit suggested I look at other stores for cloth and have these guys make the clothes. I did that on Sunday and it came out amazing. I got much better cloth, so the price basically doubled, but I’ve got really nice clothes for an amazing deal. Let’s put it this way: you bring the cloth and they’ll cut the cloth and make the shirt for $3. Sure beats letting the hotel wash the socks.

Movies

India has a good amount of fame for it’s movie industry, commonly called Bollywood, for Bombay’s Hollywood. The common joke is this: now that it’s known as Mumbai, maybe it should be called Mumblywood. I did see a movie on Friday with the VP of the India outsourcing group. It was one of the more popular commercial movies now playing, though I couldn’t tell you the title. Most billboard advertisements are in English but the movies are all in Hindi, with no subtitles. I had to deduce what was going on by visual cues and the odd English word or phrase dropped in the dialog. Differences were pretty quickly realized. Tickets were purchased for assigned seats, with an attendant showing us where we sit. We got our seats way in the back. It was a huge theater and I couldn’t see well in the dark, but when my eyes adjusted, I realized that the entire theater was empty except for the last five rows. I guess no one likes to sit up front.

The premise of the movie was that a gangster wanted to meet this not satellite disc jockey. In between there were lots of jokes and musical interludes where the lead characters were suddenly the stars of a music video. I found out that the singing is a common theme in just about every India movie. There’s almost always an intermission, which is odd in just over a two hour movie, but I guess that’s just another culture thing. It wasn’t about ¾ of the way through that I realized another key difference. Here’s this romance and they’re moving toward each other and the romance is heating up, but there’s no kissing. It’s a romantic comedy and not once do they kiss. I read in the paper the day before that there’s a big debate going on about whether to allow kissing on television. A big no-no here. Lots of cleavage shown in the newspapers, everyone as hot as can be, but that lip locking is not happening any time soon.

Self Improvement

The paper and television are filled with various forms of improvement: weight loss is by far the biggest, though I didn’t see heavy Indians like you see in the U.S. the whole time I was here. The others are age defying creams, various hair replacement techniques and Fair & Lovely. There is also a Fair & Handsome line. These are skin lightening products. The local movie and television programs are filled with people that are only slightly more tan than tuberculosis patients. I asked my driver, Sameer about this. He says he has a good friend who’s on some sort of mission to lighten his skin. He’s a black guy who uses three different skin lightening products, one of which is herbal. Garnier is another popular brand. After a year, Sameer can’t tell the difference, but his friend swears by this stuff. I told him that Americans often would like to be more tan. Just highlighting how people are never happy.