Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sunday (6/19/11)

So after our long trip to the Taj, I decided to take things a bit easier the next day. I met up with Louise and we went to this place called the Lotus Temple. The Lotus Temple is actually located very close to where I work. I probably could have/should have just gone after work one day and spent my time seeing something else. At any rate, this is what we decided to do.

We took a rickshaw to the temple itself. The area is enclosed and one must pass through a search and a metal detector to get inside (pretty standard procedure for India).

The great part about the Lotus Temple is the amazing green space around the temple. The temple itself looks great from the outside and is built in the shape of a lotus flower. The people who worship here are of the Bahai faith (which I had never heard of). Apparently, there was a prophet in the 1800s who lived in Iran and carried a message from God and these people are his followers. The most amazing part of the faith is that they take pieces from all religions and believe in accepting everyone. It's a really neat message. Interestingly, one of the things that they call for is establishing a single language in the world so that everyone can communicate with each other.

We didn't spend long walking around the grounds, as it was already very hot outside. The temperature was easily over 100 and probably closer to 110 (if not higher). To enter the temple, you are required to take off your shoes. This made the walk from the shoe place to the temple entrance very uncomfortable. I felt as if I were walking on hot coals.

We walked to the top and were told a bit about the faith and the rules inside. There is to be no talking and the inside is for silent meditation. Once finished, you can leave, taking as long as you like.

Louise and I went inside and sat down. We met a high schooler who was eager to talk to us. Once we were inside, I had to shush him so that we did not draw attention to ourselves. I thought the atmosphere inside was absolutely incredible. Once you're inside, its completely silent except for birds chirping. Inside the temple (which is one large open room with marble floor) birds live there. Their songs echo throughout the silent building. The temple also does not have air conditioner and is kept cool by the water pools surrounding it.

After we spent a few minutes inside in our own thoughts, Louise and I walked outside and down the stairs to the area where the pools are. The water was amazingly clean looking for Delhi. We then walked down to the museum near where we entered and learned about the Baha'i faith and how it got started. It kind of reminds me a bit of the Mormon religion for some reason...except this one doesn't throw it in your face and force you to convert.

After we finished with the Lotus Temple, Louise and I took the metro to go to Connaught Place. We were meeting up with Melanie there before seeing more sites. We decided to wait for her by getting a snack (and change) at McDonalds in CP. McDonalds is awesome because the give you change without complaining. It's one of the only places in India I have found that will do that. Everyone conveniently "doesn't have change."

From Connaught Place (CP), we walked to the jantar mantar. This was an old celestial observatory built in Delhi in the 1700s. According to the plaques around, it can calculate the precise celestial position of the sun and planets. It also can tell the time on earth via the sundial down to the minute! Pretty cool. I wish the instructions had been a bit more clear on how to read it, but the idea is neat.

After that, we walked back to CP to go to a South Indian place. We got dosas, which are a special type of bread that is dipped in different kinds of sauces. Definitely a success. I even had a mango lassi there. Yum! After leaving the restaurant, I turned over my ankle, which made it very painful to walk. I hobbled to the subway and then we took a rickshaw back to the guest house. And it was time to start the week once again.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Taj Mahal

Who knew that half the excitement of going to the Taj Mahal would just be getting there! We decided we were going to do the whole trip in one day, leaving at 5am from New Delhi, arriving at 9am that morning and spending the day in Agra seeing the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri.

One of our Indian friends who had also not been to the Taj volunteered to drive us in his car because he wanted to see it too. He is actually a really nice guy and I am glad I have had the chance to get to know him a little bit. Anyways, we get into his car at 5am and I am still half asleep. One thing I do not like that much is really loud music (or really loud bass). I am not sure if its just because I am classically trained as a musician or if I just dont enjoy really loud noises or what the reason is, but that's how it is.

Anyways, so three of us cram into his back seat at 5am and the music is blasting. He has a bass in the back of the car which is equivalent to half the size of the trunk. It is so powerful that I could literally feel it in my chest. Also, there was virtually no traffic on the road, so we were hitting bumps like crazy. Several times the force of the impact caused me to jump in my seat. I can't say it was the most pleasant 5am car ride I had ever taken (not that doing anything at 5am is pleasant).

We drive across town and get to a gas station. In India, instead of getting the gas yourself, you have people who pump the gas for you. Its very similar to how it used to be in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. One pulls up to the gas station, tells the attendant what kind of gas and how much, and they fill it up. You never have to leave the car. On this particular morning, however, the gas attendant was not paying as close attention as he should have. We did not realize until the tank was full that the attendendant had actually put diesel fuel in the car instead of premium gasoline. The wrong gas in a car will certainly ruin the engine! Furthermore, a car that runs on gasoline cant even run on diesal. Our friend was pissed, thinking that his car had just been ruined.

We got out of the car and he started yelling at the attendent. The manager came over and apologized. The only thing that could be done at this point was to empty the gas tank completely of all the gasoline and then refuel with the correct fuel. This certainly put a damper on our Taj Mahal plans. We exited the car and they pushed it off of the side. The same attendant that had made the mistake jacked the car up and got a metal bucket to put the gasoline in. I wasn't sure how safe this was, but there wasn't much else that could be done. The entire process of waiting and having the gas emptied took about an hour (I wished at that moment that I could have just slept for an hour instead). Standing outside was uncomfortably warm and we began sweating.

While we were stopped at the gas station, we got to see survival of the fittest first hand. A small baby chipmunk dropped from the tree near where the car was parked and began scurrying towards the fence. The chipmunk was damp as if it had just been born or bathed. Somehow it must have fallen out of the tree. The little chipmunk scampered towards the fence to take cover. Out of nowhere a large black bird sees the vulnerable chipmunk, flies down, and grabbed it in its beak. It flew to the top of the fence nearby and began eating the baby chipmunk. Ashley gasped as the scene unfolded. Darwin would be proud. I wished I had been video taping the scene.

Discussing that little bit of excitement kept us occupied while we waited for the car to be fixed. Our friend got a signed contract from the gas station agreeing to indemnify him for any damages that occurred relating to his car as a result of the incident. They gave him a slight discount on the gas, giving him premium for the price of regular to compensate for some of the remaining gas in his car that he lost. Personally, I think he should have gotten the gas for free considering it was their negligence that caused the issue AND they caused us to wait over an hour. What if he had been going to work? Or to a meeting? Or the airport or any other number of places where an hour would not have been enough time. I suppose the gas station did not care that much or they just figured they could get away with not giving it to him for free.

We got back in the car and continued down the road. Soon we had started going through toll roads and within 45 minutes were in the countryside outside of Delhi. The landscape was semi-green, but also a bit barren. I also did not realize that by traveling to Agra, we would be going on a safari. On the trip there we saw we saw elephants, wild monkeys, sheep, camels, cows, and oxen. The elephant and the camel were both being ridden by owners, so they were domesticated.

Also on the way there, a drunk driver hit our friend's car on the back right side (luckily there was a lot of traffic, so it was not a hard hit). Clearly, someone or something did not want us to get to Agra to see the Taj that day. Unfortunately, the concept of car insurance in India is pretty undeveloped. If you get hit, you have to bear responsibility unless the other person has car insurance (which they often do not). You can have your insurance pay, but it causes your rates to go up even though it was not your fault. You can also sue the driver directly, but the courts are backlogged here. It might take 5-10 years before one can get a settlement. Even then, you can't get blood from a turnip, so if the defendant is insolvent, you're SOL anyway. That was a long way of saying our friend had to pay for the damage to his car out of pocket, which sucked for him.

Eventually, we drove into Agra and through the town to the Taj Mahal. Due to pollution, the Taj will not allow cars to drive to the front of it anymore. So instead, we had to find other transportation to get to the entrance from the parking lot. For the entertainment of tourists, you can get a camel pulling a wagon. We decided that this option seemed cool enough and took it. Just as we were about to push off, an Indian man jumped on our thing and offered to be our tour guide. He showed us his card with the official rates and offered to give us a tour for the Indian price rather than the foreign price (b/c we did have two Indians with us). Since it was only like 400 or 500 rupees for the tour, we decided to take the option.

He rode with us into the grounds of the Taj but did not say too much. When we got to the gate area, he lead us right to the foreign tourist ticket area. We gave him money to purchase our tickets and had them in about 5 minutes. We then had to go through the security to get to the Taj. Because we had a tour guide, we qualified to go through the VIP section and not wait in the very long and hot line to get inside. Having him probably saved us a good 30-45 minutes of waiting plus confusion. As far as I am concerned, having him for this reason alone made him worth the money.

We went inside and he started talking to us. We got some great pictures from a professional photographer (which I eventually broke down and bought). The Taj itself was amazing. Before entering the main garden area, there was a gate. The gate itself was quite a spectacle. The domes on the top were added for each year that it took to complete the Taj. It took 22 years in all, so there are 22 small domes.

We walked inside to see the Taj in all its grandeur. Wow! That's all I can say! I can understand why this is one of the most popular places to see in all of India (if not the world). The entire complex is completely symmetrical with a long pool of water running down the center. I guess because its summer the pool was drained and it was just empty concrete. It still looked pretty cool.

The photogropher guy kept following us to get more pictures in hopes that we would buy them on our way out. When the others were taking photos (by this time I had decided I wasn't going to buy but a couple because I had my own camera with which to take pictures), the tour guide and I spoke briefly. I learned that he was a student studying in Agra and he gives tours to make extra money. He told me that his favorite people to give tours to are Americans. I smiled and asked why. He said it was because they always give him $100 tips because they think he does such a good job.

I don't know if he was bullshitting me or not (sometimes people say stuff like this to you in India to play mind games with you to give them more money). Even if he was, he probably should have kept it at 10 or 15 dollars in order for it to have been believeable to me. So I didn't believe him and he certainly was not getting an extra one hundred dollars out of me!

Anyways, we went inside the Taj itself. You had to remove your shoes like any proper mosque. Inside was dark but still amazing. You could look all the way up to the top of the dome. Unfortunately there were no pictures allowed. Shah Jahan's grave is right next to his wife's. Because his grave is bigger, it is the only part of the entire Taj that is not symmetrical. Another neat thing is that the inside is decorated with beautiful semi-precious stones. Our tour guide took the flashlight to one of them to show us that it glows when light shines on it. This is precisely what happens when there is a full moon (they open up the Taj on nights with a full moon and its supposed to be amazing).

We walked outside the back part and saw the river. We also saw across the river a large foundation. Our tour guide said it was for the Black Taj Mahal that was never built (for Shah Jahan himself), but the guidebook says the Black Taj Mahal is a myth. I am not sure who to believe. He also showed us that the columns on the outside are an optical illusion to make it look like there are more sides than there actually are.

Although we got there around 9pm, by the time we were finished, it was closer to 11 or 11:30pm. By this time it was scorching hot outside. By scorching, I mean at least 100 degrees. We were sweating, tired, and exhausted. The tour guide took us out of the Taj and to the inevitable shop where they try to get our money and he gets a kickback. They were selling plates and marble things, which actually seemed quite nice if not a little overpriced. I did appreciate the fact that we could sit down and it was air conditioned. Our friend Jerry, likes to talk, a lot. Usually, it would have irritated me, as I would have wanted to move on and see more things since we had such a short time there. In this particular situation, however, I was glad he wanted to chat for a while with them because it allowed me to enjoy the cool AC.

After we watched Jerry haggle for an hour, we walked headed back to the main area. On the way, we were heckled by numerous small children selling random trinkets. We didn't really want what they were selling and it became annoying very quickly. The other problem is that here they simply will not take no for an answer. When you have someone like Jerry with you, as nice of a guy as he is, it compounds the situation and you go nowhere fast. After we battled off the children (and ended up buying a couple of t-shirts), we made it to our car. I think the tour guide was disappointed that we did not buy any of the things at his shop, but what can you do?

We then decided to stop off at lunch. I was happy to go somewhere quick, but Jerry wanted to go to a specific restaurant (at the Sheraton hotel). He wanted to go there because someone from his office had recommended it, and he wanted to be able to talk to them about it later. It made sense...its a great networking strategy. I could definitely learn a thing or two from Jerry about networking.

Lunch was fabulous. We ordered kebabs (chicken and lamb), dal (lentil beans), naan, and beer. It was all quite expensive, being one of the nicest restaurants in Agra. Jerry offered to pay and I was shocked! It was really nice of him and he didn't have to do that. The hotel said the dal was the best in India. I would say it was pretty good. The waiter was kind of a pompous guy though. He wouldn't bring Ashley utensils until she first tried eating with her hands. After living in India for 2-3 weeks, I am sure we've all tried eating with our hands enough that we know whether we want the experience or not.

After lunch (which lasted like 2 hours), we were running out of time in the day. We had to choose between seeing the Agra fort and Fatehpur Sikri. Everyone at worked told me how awesome FP was, so I pushed for that one and we were off.

We drove for about 30 minutes in the car before finally reaching the turn. We were flagged over to the side of the road by a man who offered to be our tour guide and only charge us Indian prices (there were 2 Indians in the car). So for about 500 rupees we had the option of going on a tour, which was a more than reasonable price. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

He lead us to the front and let us park in front of the entrance to the old city. We saved a lot of time doing this, but I was a bit disappointed because we did not get to walk around the area a bit. It was nice not having to find a car to take us to the front or having to walk there though.

We went inside the old city, which was the capital of the Mughal Empire for 14 years before it ran out of water. It was pretty awesome, I'll give it that. Our tour guide lead us around, showing us little things. Children continually swarmed us and the tour guide tried to keep them away. There were actually two of them - one who only spoke Hindi and a second who spoke English. We were assured that these guys were working together and that we would not be double charged.

He finally lead us around to this back area. In Fatehpur Sikri, there is a religious shrine in a white building. Before entering, he told us we were required to make an offering of cloth and to buy a string to make a wish. Conveniently, he lead us to a Muslim Imam who just happened to be selling exactly what we needed. The price of the cloths also just happened to be 500 rupees per cloth ($10). It was completely outrageous! When Jerry questioned it, the tour guide incredulously argued with Jerry about how its a custom and its disrespectful. The cloths could easily have been produced for less than 40 rupees.

I didn't end up paying, but some of the others did. I also did not like that this tour guide was constantly impatient, rushing us when we had not spent as much time at a particular place as we wanted to.

He then lead us around to the back of the shrine where there were little marble things being sold (just like at the Taj Mahal). The guys were putting things in my hand and showing it to me, but I wasn't really interested. It looked cool but I figured there were better places to buy them. What was really striking was that the tour guide got involved, as if he was the shopkeeper. He was trying to convince us to buy things and being pushy about it. It's one thing to lead me to a shop where the guide gets a commission and he sits there quietly, but its quite another for the guide to actually participate himself. It seemed he was more interested in that than giving us the tour.

After way too long with the person selling the marble statutes, we forced the tour guide to leave (it would have been shorter if Jerry had not been haggling with them). Even after we left, instead of continuing the tour, the guide walked behind the rest of us, talking to Jerry and haggling with him some more. I went inside and saw the mosque there and examined the architecture as we finished our tour.

Outside I took pictures of the area (Fatehpur Sikri is on a hill rising above the rest of the landscape). When I was away from the others, the guide came to me and asked for a tip. I told him it was my understanding that our friend had paid him and tipped him. He claimed to have not received a tip. I felt bad and gave him 200 rupees (or about 5 dollars). As soon as I got into the car, I found out that our friend had indeed tipped the guide 500 rupees already. This meant that he got almost a 150% tip for not giving us very good service.

The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth. The money is not that important, but its the principle (I find myself saying this a lot in India). I think I would have enjoyed Fatehpur Sikri much more if we had had a better experience with the tour guide. That being said, it was a great place and I was glad I had the chance to see it and the Taj.

The drive home took an hour longer than the drive there because of the ridiculous amount of traffic. As soon as we got home, I went straight to bed.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Week 2

So after my first week at my internship. Two of the Indian interns - Ayush and Laban - had finished their internships and left. I still have two others - Mrenali and Rukmani. So at least I am not alone.

One thing I started to notice very quickly here was that the people in my office were surprisingly not as friendly as I expected. Everyone here is really nice. They will smile, wave, say hello, and exchange pleasantries. Beyond that however, it seems that they really aren't that interested in talking to me. According to the other interns, this is normal treatment for an intern. It seems that there is a sort of social hierarchy in the law firms. At the lowest level you have interns like me, who when I ask for work, thye sometimes tell me they have plenty of work but can't give it to me. I wonder what kind of work they could possibly have that is non-delegable. I mean I can understand if they want to check my work or that the time that they would wait for me to do the assignment and then check my work might take too long. Who knows.

They take the hierarchy thing to surprising levels. For example, in the firm there is an upstairs area where everyone eats lunch. There are three tables there and they are relatively close, so its easy for others to talk from one table to another (it is a small room afterall). When we sit there with the interns, no one really speaks to us at all. If they do, it might be a small conversation like oh where are you from? Oh that's nice. Or oh what kind of work have you gotten so far? Interestingly, when I try to engage them in conversation, they answer my questions but usually my conversation will spark up a conversation between them in which I am no longer included. It's like my question is used as a basis for what made them think about it and then they talk and I usually will just listen and watch. In the weeks that come, I will try to venture out and break down these barriers a bit.

At least Rukmani and Mrenali are nice and talk to me. Mrenali's family lives in Delhi but is originally from that is pretty cool. Rukmani is also from Delhi I think. She goes to school in Rajasthan (the desert state to the west of Delhi).

As far as work stuff goes, my second week just carried over from my first week. I finished my gambling assignment and on Thursday I finished my beneficial ownership assignment. I am not quite sure how good it was, but we'll see when I get comments. I feel like the lawyers here don't always give a lot of good feedback. I have no idea if I am doing a good job or not or if I am even giving them what they want. I guess if a lawyer gives me more work in the future, it means I gave them what they wanted and if not, I didn't. That's the only way I can think of to gauge.

On Thursday, the senior partner gave me a research assignment for him. He asked me to work on a paper comparing the fiduciary duty of directors in the US to the fiduciary duty in India and to identify possible holes in the law. A lot of the research projects I have received so far (beneficial ownership and the directors assignment) have been theoretical to help them with problems that will likely come up in the future. While this is all well in good, I was kind of hoping for some more practical experience. I can (and likely will) write academic papers in law school. The point of the internship is to get some hands on experience. (Luckily, by weeks 3 and 4 this does change).

On Friday, I ended up going out to dinner with Sana in Visant Vihar. Sana is a friend from Emory who did Model UN. She is originally from New Delhi and has an internship here this summer and is living with her family. She came and picked me up at the guesthouse with her driver and we drove to Visant Vihar, which was about 4km away. We went to this thai restaurant, which was really nice in the back of the shopping area.

Visant vihar is a nice little area with shops and restaurants. There is a wide range of places from a local shop on the side of the street to nicer restaurants. She had heard about this place but had never tried it. It was not disappointing. I ended up having some japanese food that they make on this special kind of grill. They allowed us to customize the ingredients kind of like they do at a mongolian barbeque place. We also had a glass of house wine (it was an Indian wine) that was pretty good too.

One thing that is irritating about Delhi is how high the taxes are. The VAT is 12.5% here! So you pay a base of that on everything you buy. Additionally, alcoholic beverages are levied at a tax of 20%. I suppose this is to discourage drinking and to raise extra revenue for the government. I have also noticed that there is a service tax when you are charged a service charge (the tip for the waiter). So generally a meal will be something like 1400 rupees for two people at a nicer restaurant (this is about 30 dollars). After all of the taxes and service charge, the bill comes out to be about 1900. So as you can see...the taxes here are quite ridiculous! My sister always complained about how high the taxes were in Chicago. I guess she would really hate Delhi.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Sunday was another day for sightseeing. You'd think I would take the time to sleep in and relax before starting another week, but I decided that my weekends in Delhi and in India were limited and that I needed to make the most of them. I wonder if I will feel that way after a few more weeks here or if I will be too tired.

I met Louise and Melanie in the lobby to go out. They needed to return some things at FabIndia (where we went with professor Krishnan on the first weekend). I hadn't eaten, so while they were there I went across the street to have lunch.

It was good that I went to eat so I didn't have to watch the returning and shopping that would ensue (no cash back but only exchanges are allowed there). By the time I was finished eating, they still hadn't finished I waited for them to finish (they were almost done, so that was good at least).

Afterwards, we went to a large Sikh temple. It was called the Gurdawa Rakab Ganj Sahib. Next to the temple there was a large pool of water where people could ritually bathe. It kind of resembled the pool of water in Urfa around the mosque there. It was pretty to look at. In some places people were bathing, but in others someone in charge was telling people to stay out of the water. I am not sure why. I did notice that there were fish in the water that looked like catfish or coy (it was hard to tell from where we were standing).

We also went inside the temple. It looked similar to the one we saw last night. Louise stayed in line to get blessed and give a donation. I just stepped to the side and observed the inside of the temple and of course snapped photos. I am not sure when it was built or anything, but it was both beautiful and fascinating.

Afterwards, we took a rickshaw to a metro station so we could go to Chadni Chowk. I was hoping to get another shot to go into the mosque and the red fort. Melanie and Louise also wanted to go see the book bazaar (on Sundays there is this big bazaar where you can find books of all kinds).

We took the cycle rickshaw and the girls sat in the front while I sat in the back. This was a horrible rickshaw for us to take. The back had the seat bent forward slightly so that the space was smaller for me than it should have been. Additionally, there was some piece of metal or some sharp object on my butt. Every time we went over a bump, it was quite painful for me. Unfortunately, the road quality is not good in there were a lot of bumps. First the rickshaw went the wrong way. Then, he went to another wrong place...finally after going twice as far as he needed to, we ended up where we were supposed to be. I was suffering immensely. (At least I had a thumbs up-an Indian soft drink resembling coke) along the way. Still, I felt that I would not be able to sit for days.

We walked around the bazaar and they had every book imagineable. Everything from Mein Kampf to Clinton's memoir to engineering books. They even had classics like Dickens and Jane Austin. The price was also less than half the price in the U.S. If you ever wanted a book, this was the place to get it.

I was only mildly interested in the books. I didn't really want to spend as long there as Louise and Melanie did. Finally around 4:30pm, we decided to go to the mosque. By the time we walked there and climbed through the same neighborhood I described yesterday it was almost 5:00pm. They required us to pay 200 rupees to take our bags inside even though we tried to explain that only one of us would take pictures (they have a fee of 200 rupees per camera). After a considerable amount of arguing, we all three had to pay and were allowed inside.

I was ticked about the fine and so I was taking many pictures to get my money's worth. Then, people started coming up to us asking to have our picture taken. It was mostly Melanie and Louise that got asked. I was still asked by a couple of people. They even made Melanie and Louise hold their babies! It was like they were movie stars!

In all the commotion, we were delayed from going inside the main portion of the mosque. All of a sudden an imam came up to us and said excuse them. I am not sure if he was talking to us or to the people trying to take our pictures. I say this because the guard told us we had to leave and started ushering us out. On our way out, the call to prayer started. I was dragging my feet and still taking pictures on the way out, which displeased them immensely.

The whole ordeal actually really pissed me off. Not only did they take 200 rupees from each of us just to get inside with our bags, but then they ushered us out before we could even see the inside. I understand that it closes when prayers start, and I am more than happy to respect customs, but the way they did it was rude and left a bad taste in my mouth. Furthermore, it was like we had a personal escort on the way out. How does this guy know I wasn't a Muslim who was a tourist in India who had also come to pray. Maybe I wanted to stay and experience the mosque as a real Muslim. No one else was forced out like this. If I try to go back, I am sure they will try to make me pay the 200 rupees again, which is just ridiculous. I actually kept my receipt (which did not have a date) and upon them trying to make me pay, I will be very argumentative and show them the receipt and claim that I have already paid. Hopefully, it will work. I really want to see that damn mosque. I think what's crazy is that in Turkey, as a non-Muslim, I was never ever treated like that. It was absolutely terrible.

After that experience, we went to McDonalds to get a coke and break some more change (I go there and usually get either a coke or fry and just break the bills when I can). Anyways, we also took the opportunity to sit and plan our next move. We were going to go to the India gate. We decided to get off at Central Secretariat and walk down the lawn from the parliament to the India gate.

Delhi took its city planning ideas from a number of cities, one of which being Washington DC. Between the parliament building and the India gate, there is a large mall just like the national mall in the US. We decided to walk it and enjoy the evening. Furthermore, I was told that the best time to see the India gate is right around the plan was to walk the mall as the sun was going down so we'd get to see it lit up at night and in the evening before the sun set.

The weather was hot, but the gate was beautiful. One thing that was neat was that many Indian families go to the mall area and have picnics and enjoy the weather in the evenings. It was nice to see people enjoying the outdoors with their family. We even saw a couple of pickup cricket games in action.

The gate was built to commemorate the lives lost in India in World War I. There is an eternal flame that burns under it and there are gates with guards to prevent you from getting too close to the actual gate. It seemed a bit like the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington. Perhaps that is the atmosphere that they wanted to portray.

Around the corner from the India gate there was a fountain with tons of kids playing in it. It looked really refreshing (bc it was so hot) but really dirty. It was almost like a makeshift Indian water park. If we had one of these back home, I'd certainly go play in it. After watching the kids for a bit, we took the rickshaw back and settled in for the evening.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Weekend in New Delhi

So the first weekend I was here, I decided would be a great opportunity to explore New Delhi. I was itching to make the best use of time and wanted to get out fairly early. Many of the others who were on the trip were still sleeping by 10 or 11am. Krista, Tara, and Danny were awake and invited me along with them to see Humayan's Tomb. The rickshaw ride ended up taking us to a neighborhood near it without taking us to the front of the tomb. We eventually were able to find out way there. It was very hot outside. The neighborhood that we were dropped in was an interesting place. There were all sorts of things being sold. However, you could also tell that the people there did not have much money. I was asked for money several times even in the first few minutes I was there.

We walked around the corner and it was extremely hot. Krista, Danny, Nick, and Tara didn't really tell me before they were leaving that they were going to I had to throw on clothing in like 5 minutes. As a result, I didn't have any food or drink before we went outside. When the weather is over 105 degrees, its probably not a good idea to leave the house without having any water. It's especially not a good idea not to be carrying water on you in case you become dehydrated. Oops?

We finally made it to Humayan's tomb which was awesome. First you go inside a small gate onto the grounds. The grounds are a manicured lawn with gates to the right, left, and straight ahead. One walks down the path, through the gate, to reach the tomb.

Actually, the tomb was built 100 years before the Taj Mahal AND the Taj Mahal was modeled off of it. It was neat to see this tomb before seeing the taj so I could compare. It was built in the 1500s for Humayan by his wife.

On the way in, we met this professor who was a professor of history and knew a lot about it. He shared his knowledge with us (well me mostly). He asked where we were from and all of that sort. In the end, he then asked me for money! I was shocked (but I guess I shouldn't have been). Apparently, information is not free here. He then remembered I was a student and then said not to worry about it...but even that he expected money was surprising. It was a good reminder for me to be careful about these things.

I walked around the grounds and enjoyed the tomb. To get to the tomb, you had to climb up very steep stairs. The tomb itself was elevated above the rest of the ground level, so it allowed you to see around Delhi. From the complex, you could see a factory and a seikh temple. The inside was a few large rooms with graves in them. Actually, it was very similar to the inside of the taj mahal. The architechture and grounds were beautiful. The others were ready to leave, but I definitely could have stayed longer. Unfortunately, one of the monuments was under construction when we were there so I didn't get to see it (Humayan's tomb has several monuments).

After walking around, I wasn't feeling well. Being out in the heat for 3 hours with no breakfast and no water was not good and I had to get to a place. Getting a rickshaw for a fair price was difficult (partially because we didn't know what a fair price was and none of them would use the meter). We eventually got one and probably overpaid (story of my life with rickshaw drivers) and were on our way to Khan Market.

We were going to Khan Market, which is a nice place to eat and shop, because Ayush suggested that we meet him there at around 3:00 before we end up going around New Delhi for a bit. He offered to take me and whomever else wanted to come to Chadni Chowk. He specifically wanted us to go later in the day because he said it was too hot to be outside and most people from Delhi don't actually go out at the time we were out. Oops.

We got to Khan Market a little early and I was desperate for something to drink. I felt like I was about to pass out. The others were dragging their feet about finding a place and I had to communicate to them how badly I needed water. Not soon after we found this place called the Boombox Cafe, which served all kinds of foods (including American foods even!). Some of the titles on the menu definitely made me laugh. It's like they had things on there but they weren't quite right. Chicago style hotdogs but with slightly different ingredients. That kind of thing. Anyways, I chugged a bottle of water pretty quickly and after sitting in the air conditioner felt much much better. We waited for Ayush to come and then we ordered. (Ayush happened to be wearing an awesome Sean Connery James Bond shirt).

Upon eating, Melanie, Ashley, and Jerry joined us as well. At this point everyone from our group was there except Louise, who was hanging out with another friend. After finishing lunch (it was getting kind of late by this time), Ayush took us on the subway to Chadni Chowk. This place is one of the most famous places to go in old Delhi.

We exited the subway and walked down the pathway to the more open area. I was immediately struck by how chaotic everything was. Cars were rushing in all such directions. There were tons of people. It was insanity.

We followed Ayush towards the end of the street where the Red Fort was located. Keeping up was difficult because the sidewalks and streets were congested and people would get between us. I tried to walk in the back to make sure all of the girls were safe. Old Delhi has a reputation of being particulary unfriendly to women...especially after dark (but it wasn't after dark here just yet).

We finally made it to the end of the path where the Red Fort was located. Our initial goal was to go inside and see it. When we got there, we realized that you couldn't go in after a certain time without paying. Usually it is free, but every night they have a light show which costs money to see. They close entry of the fort after a certain time because much if it is off limits even during/after the light show. We snapped a couple of pictures in front of the massive complex, but then we left.

We decided that the Jama Masjid (the largest mosque in Delhi) was close by and that maybe we could go see the inside of that instead. Ayush suggested that instead of walking we should take the cycle rickshaw. I rode in the back of the cycle rickshaw while 2 others rode in the front. There was also another rickshaw for the others. I felt a little bad for the rickshaw driver actually. Peddling 4 Americans is no small feat. It seemed like hard work and it was definitely hot outside.

We went a ways and got out. I am glad we had the experience of the cycle rickshaw but I think I could have walked just as easily. We then walked through the rest of the market to the stairs of the mosque. People were shouting at us to get our attention. I think they were hoping we were shopping. The one thing that looked and smelled fantastic was the meat on the skewers. I wished so badly that we could have it, but it is not hygenic and we'd probably get very sick from it. It smelled so good though! There were other sorts of interesting foods that I would have liked to try.

We got up to the mosque and we were accosted by more beggars. Unfortunately, this mosque closes before sunset. No tourists are allowed after about 5:30pm AND no women are allowed in the mosque after dark. So another Delhi landmark without success. At least I knew where it was.

We took another cycle rickshaw back near the metro station. The traffic was heavy (and cycle rickshaws are subject to it just as much as cars). We got out early and decided to go inside a seikh temple in Chandni Chowk.

In order to go inside, men have to cover their heads with a bandana looking thing. Although its a religious custom, I couldn't help but laugh and think that it was like pirates of the Caribbean or something. Arrr matey!

Anyways. We take off our shoes and go inside. There was some kind of service going on and so we couldn't really stop and stare or take pictures. We just had to walk through the path laid out. It was kind of weird because there were no chairs (like the inside of a mosque) and the path laid out went in front of some of the people watching the service. I wonder if it was a problem that we were obstructing their view. If I were praying, I would have found it incredibly distracting.

The inside of the temple was very interesting. There was a golden alter in the center and a seikh religious cleric of some sorts sitting on it and talking. I later learned from Louise that taking pictures would have been ok (which I did at the other Seikh place we went)because they are one of the most open religions to outsiders in the world. Its neat that they are so willing to have people learn about them and don't mind pictures and things. (Or maybe I think that because it satisfies my tourist urges).

We walked back to the metro and made our way to Connaught Place, which is the center of New Delhi. It also happens to be where all of the expensive shops and places are. So we were going to eat but then Krista and Tara didn't want to. They wanted to go to the India gate. Ayush wasn't hungry either so he offered to drive them there.

Instead, the rest of us (by this time Nick and Danny had left) decided to go to McDonalds. It was a great choice for 2 reasons. 1) They always have change; 2) A fountain coke and fries sounded super delicious.

So the change thing is a number one reason which might surprise people. Back home, getting change is easy. You go to a store and buy something and they break your bills. Whatsmore, whether you go into a taxi cab or something else, everyone has change for everything. In India, its different. Rickshaw drivers will often say they just "dont have change" which means they are trying to stiff you for some extra profit. Additionally, when I try to pay for things like laundry services or other things, they won't have change and will complain or it will be very difficult for them to break your money. If you can find any place to get small bills here, its definitely worth remembering. The ATMs at the banks wont dispense in anything less than 500 rupee bills, so its very difficult to find change (some even dispense in 1000 rupee increments). The McDonalds there is different though. For whatever reason, they have enough change and the employees are friendly. I think Indians sometimes go there to get change as well. (Its even a problem for them...just they know how to ask more easily).

Long story short, I got my fountain drink and some change too! While we didn't get to see as much in Delhi as I wanted, getting the lay of the land was helpful to orienting me here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The First Full Week (6/8-6/10)

So its been over a week since I posted my last entry. Things have settled down a bit and I have gotten into the groove of my daily life here.

So last week Ayush took me to New Friend's Colony to a restaurant there to get some food. One thing India is known for is the street food. The only problem is that most of it is not safe for foreigners to eat for various reasons. It sits out all day, its prepared with dirty water, the street vendors don't have gloves or wash their hands, etc. Even most Indians won't eat the street food. It makes it very hard to resist when you're walking down the street and you smell delicious food cooking (and being sold very cheaply) but you cant have any. Suffice it to say, I was more than just a little excited for this little trip.

After work we get in his car and make our way over to New Friend's Colony. First we stood outside of the restaurant and had this thing called golgappe. It is a spherical crunchy (but hollow on the inside) piece of food. The consistency is like that of a tortilla shell but it tastes nothing like it. The vendor in front of the restaurant dipped it in a red sauce and a green sauce. My instructions were to take it all at once. It was delicious. We then went inside the restaurant. Ayush ordered two other types of chaat AKA street food (one with potatoes and one with some other type of vegetable). They each had a red sauce with a white sauce. The combination included a little bit of spice and a little bit of sweet.

We also had some sort of chickpea dish with paneer (Indian cheese) and bread of course. It was fun to spend time with Ayush and eat the Indian foods.

On Wednesday, another intern, Mrenali came back from her little vacation/break/whatever she was doing. So in total, there were 4 Indian interns and me.

Thursday and Friday were relatively uneventful. The first real assignment I got for work was kind of overwhelming. My mentor asked me to examine the concept of beneficial ownership and talk about how it applied to the Indian context. Apparently, little or no law had been made on it and it was up to me to do some research. Not only did he expect me to find the answers, he also wanted me to come up with the questions. So basically, he gave me the SEBI Regulations (the equivalent of the Security and Exchange Commission in the US), the Companies Act (basically the law of corporations here), and the FEMA manual (all the regulations regarding foreign exchange in India). My task was to look through these things and find inconsistencies and things that are not clear about the concept of beneficial ownership. The materials given to me were well over 3000 pages, so it took a lot of time even to skim it to come up with some questions.

By Friday, (two days later) I had come up with what I thought might be 5 relevant questions and had partially attempted to answer one of them. He took it for comment. In the mean time, I was given another assignment about gambling, which was fascinating. Basically, I had to do some research into Indian gaming laws and what the internal government's policy was on the subject. In doing so, I also learned a lot about the different legal ambiguities surrounding it. The gambling law here is really interesting and in a state of flux. There are interesting legal questions like whether the internet is a public place that I thought about (even though they had already written the memo on the law part it was still fun for me to think about the answers to these kinds of questions).

Another thing that is really great about my internship (that I don't think others are getting) is that Venkatesh will sometimes teach us classes on relevant Indian/US laws. He knows a lot about US law so that's always his basis of comparison, which is particularly great for me. This week he taught us classes on how an IPO is offered in India (on Thursday) and on Friday he taught us about the elements of a mergers and acquisitions deal and how its done here. I enjoyed getting the background and was especially appreciative that he was willing to take the time to teach us. The other interns think that the only reason we were given the class was because I was here. They even said they were grateful that they got the classes because other Indian firms do not teach them about Indian laws in this way. I hope more will continue so that by the end of my internship I will have a decent working knowledge of corporate law. (Also, I am grateful because the learning curve is steeper than I thought it would be. I wish I had taken a class in either corporations or securities regulation before coming).

On Friday, Krista decided she wanted to go shopping with a friend of hers at work, leaving me to find my own way home. I had decided by this point that taking a taxi by myself would be too expensive. I don't want to spend 300 rupees just to get home if I don't have to. Although Professor Krishnan told me not to, I decided to try and brave a rickshaw home.

It actually was not too bad! I am not sure why he told me not to (probably b/c he thought I wouldn't get a fair price or because it was hot or something like that). The first guy I found was willing to give me the meter (a rarity here) and I gladly took it and even tipped him when we got home. The guy actually did me a huge service by giving me the meter because now I knew what a fair price home on the rickshaw would be. It was great for my future ability to bargain a ride home every day.

The ride was also not too bad. It was hot, but that's India. I enjoyed the wind blowing in my face and definitely enjoyed paying less than half the price of a taxi cab. I resolved after this never to take a taxi home again. I will probably continue to take the taxis to work, though, because they are nice, always use the meter, are always reliable, and most importantly, they are air conditioned. Taking the cab will allow me to come into work clean and unstressed.

For the weekend, I just planned to go sightseeing in New Delhi and get to know the city a bit better. That's all for now.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Last Few Days

So apparently, I am not very good at being diligent about this whole blogging thing. Thus far, there has been very little time to do so. In the day we get up in time for work and work until 6:30 or 7:00. With the horrible traffic in New Delhi (and believe me...its REALLY BAD), I usually don't get home until about 7:45 or 8:00. Some of the others who live closer or can take the metro get home much earlier than I do. Such is the life of working in a law firm. Once I get home, I am completely exhausted (even at work I am completely exhausted). I am not sure if its the jet lag that is killing me or if I am legitimately tired. I hope its the jet lag because other wise I will never see any of Delhi because I will be too tired all of the time.

So I'll just give some highlights and some observations I've had over the last few days to broadly catch everyone up.

The temperatures are hot, but not as bad as I expected. Luckily, the humidity is very low. The 100 degree temperatures feel like the low 90s that you get in Georgia or I can handle it. Besides, we have air conditioning in my room and at my work place so I have spent very little time outside so far.

I am still a bit jetlagged. On Sunday, I woke up voluntarily at 6:15am. I just basically messed around for a little while.

On Sunday, we got up early to meet one of the new donors for the program at Professor Krishnan's hotel. The hotel was excellent - a 5 star resort (I wouldn't expect anything else from Professor Krishnan). In order to get there, I took my first ever auto rickshaw ride which was quite the experience. For those of you who don't know, a rickshaw is basically a three wheeled device powered by a motor and a driver drives it on the road. It's kind of like being on a motorcycle with 3 wheels. The rickshaw does have a roof over it to shield you from the sun and bad weather (not that it's rained since we've been here). The one big disadvantage to the rickshaw is that since it is open (ie: no doors or windows or any of that). Thus, it can be very hot. I cant really take it to work because I would be drenched in dust and sweat by the time I got there (the land here is pretty dusty). It almost seems like we're living in a quasi-desert. The breakfast was beautiful. It was an all you can eat buffet with a breakfast station, fresh pastries, cheeses, yogurt, and salmon. I definitely enjoyed it thoroughly.The new donor for our program was also a really interesting guy who is doing interesting research in India. I was really glad I had the opportunity to hear him speak about it and meet him.

After breakfast, we took a cab over to a Market area called GK-5. The girls wanted to get some clothes and I just wanted to get out of the guest house and see a little bit of Delhi. I quickly realized that clothes shopping with the girls was not the best way I could have done that. The traditional indian clothes were interesting, but I lost interest in watching the girls try on their clothes. They met with Vibhu, an Indian lawyer who met us for dinner the previous night and she was helping them. Actually, Vibhu is a really nice person and I wish I had talked to her more.

After the seemingly endless clothes shopping, we went to a middle eastern restaurant called Shalom. Apparently, Shalom serves Lebanese food and not just Israeli food. Weird. Anyways, I definitely got a picture in front of the sign and that will be posted soon. I didn't really eat because I was still full from breakfast, but I drank soda and smoked hookah. The hookah was decent but of course not as good as Turkey.

After lunch we went to another cafe and had some dessert. It was a fun day to unwind before the first day of work. We came home and had dinner at the guest house and then went to bed relatively early.

The first day of work was uneventful. I met with the senior partner and then with all of the associates. Then I basically went to my desk and sat there with nothing to do. No one gave me any tasks or assignments. It was weird. I was waiting for Venkatesh, the attorney I had been in contact with, to come to the office. He didn't end up coming until 11:15 or so. I wish I could roll into work at 11:15 every day. Anyways, thats besides the point.

He calls me into his office and we talk for a bit. He is a really nice guy and very very intelligent. He actually worked at Cravath before coming back to India. So we talked for a bit and he told me about a research project he was thinking he might have for me and then said he would talk to me about it in a little while. So I went back to my desk and I waited and waited some more. Then, it was time for lunch. It was an associate's last day so they took us in an office car to the Crowne Plaza Hotel. It was a 5 star all you can eat buffet. They had sushi, lamb curry, this awesome kind of chicken on drum sticks, and several other foods. Additionally, they had a dessert table that was to die for! I had chocolate cake AND chocolate mousse. Yum! The lunch was a nice opportunity for me to start talking a bit with some of the associates and one of the partners I sat next to. Everyone was friendly, but not overly so. I felt like I kind of had to start conversation to get them to talk to me, which was not quite what I expected. Seeing a foreigner is not really that exciting for a lot of these people because many of them have studied in the US and/or travelled abroad.

After the 2 hour lunch, I returned to work and sat more until 6:00pm. Then I was given a small research assignment to do by one of the lawyers, which I worked on until it was time to go. I was a bit disappointed overall and before I left I told Venkatesh that I was there to work and wanted to have more to do. He said they were trying to give me a little time to get settled. Although I appreciated it, sitting in front of a computer with nothing to do for 6 hours is not exactly that fun or relaxing. He probably thought I needed to chill out.

That night, we met professor Krishnan for dinner at the guest house. I didn't end up eating because I was so full from lunch. I think the heat has also decreased my appetite a bit. We recounted our first day and generally hung out. Vibhu was there too. Then I came back to the room and went to bed (I was completely exhausted and probably could have slept as soon as I came home at 8pm).

Work on Tuesday was a bit more interesting. I got a couple of research assignments and one bigger assignment (that I still have no clue what to do from Venkatesh). At least I had something to do! I also started talking with the interns, which were all pretty nice. They all attend Indian law schools and are in either their 4th or 5th years.

After work we met professor K for drinks and dinner and Ayush, one of the interns, offered to drive me there so I didn't have to take a car. It was really nice of him to do it (he is awesome). Dinner was great! I had a seafood platter complete with lobster, mussles, and scallops.

So now I have settled in and the daily routine is just to work and go home.

I would say one of the things I have most surprising is how much service help there is. At home we have someone to cook for us, we have someone who comes in and makes our bed and cleans, and we have someone who will do our laundry for us. At work, there are people who come around and serve us water at our desks. When we eat in the conference room, they take out plates for us and put our food on the plate for us and then they wash our dishes when we're finished. Even when I got up to get a coke, the guy poured it for me. It's crazy! I almost feel like its like the south before 1861. I was talking about it with the interns and they were telling me that the concept of "running errands" here is completely nonexistent.

The other interesting thing is how really nice buildings and areas are juxtaposed next to really not nice areas. I thought where I worked would be this really nice industrial complex (Amarchand, the largest firm in India is right around the corner). Instead, the neighborhood is really run down. There are smatterings of nice buildings but otherwise, its quite a sobering experience. Yesterday, a religious group set up a stand in front of my office and was offering free food to everyone who wanted it. I asked if it was safe to eat, and they said definitely that was the end of that.

Tonight, Ayush promised to take me to a place where I can get street food that is actually safe to eat. He also offered to show me around Delhi this weekend! So hopefully the next time I post I'll have much more to say about the city itself (unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to see that much yet).

I am writing this post at 6:45am. I woke up at 4:45 and couldn't go back to sleep. Yesterday I slept all the way until 7:15 and the other day I woke up at 4:15am. The adjustment has been slow and hopefully I will get over this horrible jet lag soon! I've never taken this long to get over it before (but then I've also never been this far away).