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This show is a continuation of my personal and business travel expose, where we chronical the making of technology products in foreign lands. In the prior episode, Indonesian Graphic Design & Bandung Hipsters, the journey began with an Indonesian emotional roller coaster ride that kicked off the newest iOS app, “Tax Fight.”
Welcome to New Delhi
My Entrepreneurial App Ashram continued from a 4am Bandung, Indonesia wakeup call, to a 12am New Delhi arrival - the next step of my journey to visit the "disbursed" - aka non-US and spread out development team. Delhi was to be a two night quick stay, before a train ride north to Mohali, Chandigarh. The Indian dev team, named 34 Interactive graciously offered to book the train ticket for me. And in typical fashion, did so late, pushing my departure back a day – no worries, I guess, there was a ticket booked and paid for the next day.
I did not mind the delay, as it gave me time to both reflect and mediate on my journey and multi-regional food poisoning that was brewing in my gut. There were questions and stimulations (gut included) that inspired me to write and wonder… Wonder, after finishing my visit with Tikutur 13… why this team also has a number in their company name? Seemingly stupid inspirations fill my mind, as I filled – or rather fill - my iPhone notepad with a spew of traveler consciousness. Why was the hotel cleaning the marble floor that was clean, while my hotel room floor was less than clean? I am jealous. I am a ramble of words. It is early morning, day two at the free hotel rooftop breakfast, with views of, the other rooftop. Heat is rising. Body temp abnormal, I think the food poisoning has gone upstairs to the head. Why bother going to India?
I was here to meet the people who helped Accounting Play get to #1 in accounting on the App Store, after seven releases and what seemed like seven-hundred QAs and builds. QAs, being quality and app testing prior to launches. Along the road to the App Store, the work flow, communication, and builds were often frustratingly incomplete, but, the job would always... Eventually... Get done - for an affordable price. The journey can be tiresome and culturally difficult to produce an app, yet we had already made it to one destination. I booked the plane ticket to open my window into Indian work and culture. Accounting Play is set to break ground (or code) on the membership site and more innovative apps and I was here to see if the team was up for the challenge. My grail was to complete the impossible product creation triangle, a journey seeking development that is: Fast, Cheap, and High Quality. Such alchemy had long since vanished from the Bay Area circa 1955, but I had faith it existed elsewhere in the world.
In India before the Plane Actually Landed
"I hate New Delhi - dusty and horns honking all night and day and the people, they are like Beverly Hills but worse." Proclaimed my new found Indian bestie, Bangia, met in the flight over. Our friendship was solidified over a Tiger Beer and Monkey Whiskey on my self-proclaimed day off – which basically are granted by yours truly when traveling over ten hours at a time. What a nice boss. Hastened by the fasten seatbelt sign, we wandered around the plane - crashing empty seats for a makeshift lounge.
The flight was going well at first, with many empty seats, in the middle seat prior to takeoff, sat yet another San Francisco tech ex, on his more conventionally spiritual journey. His yoga shorts are riding high and starry eyes are a’ drifting - my eyes roll at the stereotypical outfit. Yoga man had lots of beads. Lots. I smile, all part of the journey. Prior to takeoff he seizes on an empty row. Unknowingly this might be his only personal space for the duration of his Indian trip. I am impressed with the utilization of excess capacity. Surely he must be an advocate of the “sharing economy,” or, something. My legs spread out and before we know it, the Air Bus is groaning, I mean really making a lot of noise, into the darkness.
"Can I?" an older smiling Indian man asked as he eyed the empty middle seat. I thought... Can you what? Crowd the row for no particular reason? I thought in the nicest way possible. He followed up with a nice "Please," half smile, and a head bob nod-shake of some kind. He was seated and it was round two of the musical chairs. I go to the airplane bathroom, thankful to have "kept it together" for the day, returning to see a new person in the window seat. This strange rotation continued for the duration of the flight until I was able to create my own miniature Kali moment – as in the Hindu goddess. A few hours later "Can I?" Only this time it was me, grinning - I had brought my new found friend over to occupy the now vacant middle seat. Payback!
Bangia and I chat it up as though long lost traveling buddies, both workaholics, shifting our lives abroad slightly to "take a break" only to continue our perceived productivity. He was traveling around the world, interviewing at MBA programs looking to further his family's construction business, a "dirty job" as he casually put it - displaying a subtle smirk that said... Sketchy! Time flies and the plane lands, with everyone in the wrong seat - quiet rules and order broken, yet the plane still lands and we make it to our destination...
Welcome to the Depths of Delhi
DELHI. Got my bag and clear customs, like, literally just walk outside. “Taxi! Taxi!” “I HAVE a taxi” practically shouts one person in my face, but I am unfazed. I know this hustle, dust in my eyes, I ignore the solicitors whose most voices are all but drowned out by the honking... Ok. No surprises at this point. I followed the old routine: max out an ATM, chuckle at the receipt showing my millionaire Rupee status bank balance and I begin to look for a legit cab.
Half asleep, I arrived at my hotel, amidst a sea of neon signs and lots of, well honking - even though the streets were relatively empty. My neighborhood looked like a combination of Tijuana and Las Vegas, not exactly my scene - but the price was right. No donkeys to be found, but there were oxen and horses casually strolling along the busy streets. I found my room after the midnight check-in and I was in for a real shock. I opened the closet and the closet light turned on, door closed... and then off... Half dazed I kinda relished this ingenuity. Like an app... The user, half asleep me, performs an action and then there is a result. Like a "Hello World" programming exercise in which the novice programmer makes the computer say "Hello World" upon pushing a button, this closet also delivered a great experience, a light. I sleep.
I wake, to a horn, in darkness. Wait a minute I think, I am in INDIA! I soak in my surroundings and notice a glow from the closet, "Were they growing something in there?" I make a funny to myself, I chuckle, spring out of bed to give the closet door a nudge shut, but the nudge does not turn off the light. Hours ago the system worked perfectly, now broken. I start flipping switches around the room, initiating the informal QA process. The light is still on. Teasing me. Getting brighter, now pouring out of closet cracks as my eyes adjust to the otherwise dark room. I hate this kinda thing when something should work, but doesn’t. It makes me second guess the engineering, my prior experience with the device, my existence – as well as the social cultural fabric. “What kinda country would allow such a thing!” – well maybe I am not that upset, yet. I am light sensitive and I begin to rationally apply tests to satisfy my highly irrational emotions.
There are about fifteen light switches in the room, which under some math probability problem, likely produces more combinations than I care to think about. I try approximately ThirtyFour Interactive combinations. It is not any one switch “breaking” the "code." I look to the top of the closet and notice... Another type of switch – or button rather, one triggered by an open or a closed door... Boom. I poke the button, the light turns off, release button, light on. Relief. Logic. Riddle solved. The switch had simply been dislodged and all I had to do was fix it back into position.
A calm came over me as I casually reached towards the button for an easy fix - a kind of relaxation felt when writing in the final answer to a crossword puzzle. Problem solved and now just to place in the crown jewel. In my zen state of self-proclaimed genius, I reach to fasten down the switch when ZAP, Zzzzz, and faint smell of a cooked finger happens. I am electrocuted by exposed wiring that was casually hidden in the dark, presumably highly flammable, wooden closet. Finger and ego damaged. Why is it like this? Here was a pretty good idea, working, and then ZAP. So close to a good idea, yet this thing was never done right from the beginning.
What does 12 Indian hours of musical airplane chairs, honking, and exposed wiring mean in context of app development? Everything.
Accounting App Ashram Part III: Goodnight Delhi, 2-am Inspirations, and to Enliven the Senses
City Street Sleepers
Late night I find myself strolling and inspired by the city’s street sleepers.... The evening heat has created a zen of sorts for the bike cart couriers – who are wrapped around their bikes in circus-worthy contorted yogic configurations. Some on their back, others using their friends three wheeled bike to double up the sleeping real estate. The men are all rail thin, like the steel tubing under them, over them, with them... Nothing present around the bike cart except just them... No water or food or other pieces of clothing… Just the steel casting soft moving shadows as passing cars go by. Some lay on their sides, near naked in the heat, legs and arms wrapped around supporting steel pieces like two lovers embracing in sleeping union. There is a connection between the man and the cycle rickshaw machine that is their transport, home, and alongside others - a community. Some sleep on the ground, next to their canopied mechanical device, but not touching. Perhaps too many years together had created an inseparable relationship that required different sleeping areas.
Dogs scratch around the bikers and form their own community, play fighting, pissing to mark their nomadic territories. I had just done the same and looking to also sleep myself. Some lucky dogs have partners, while others find odd homes on top of sand piles and in front of construction sites. Other loners curl up to pillars.
Tuk tuks... The motorized 3-wheeled honking demon taxis circle around - big bugs, yellow canary in color with green bottoms. They too come together in the late night to retire. Legs dangle from front seats and sometimes there is someone asleep in the back as well. Perhaps a business partnership and mobile mini-duplex? The pack of tuks tuck away and sleep far from the bikers.
So many places to sleep in the thick warm New Delhi air... Some have an elevated platform, while others lie on the concrete - not bothering or wanting ground cover - in the middle of the sidewalk. The older men fade away in the shadows and the younger seek light, likely for protection. One child chooses the cool marble to sleep face down, in front of a trendy club. After all, it was Saturday. Locals take selfie pics from their smart phones, largely ignoring the lifeless sprawled bag of a five year old child, only ten feet from the bar entrance. Perhaps the drone of bass heavy music and party atmosphere is the only lullaby he will get this week. A man with no legs scratches by my vantage, likely looking to retire from the days scavenging.
I try two tuk tuks for an AM ride back to the hotel, but when I show the map of my destination to their faces, looks are blank. Ever-prideful, one literally drives in circles before I need to abandon the miniature yellow, this time bee-like vessel. These two different men were illiterate - navigating the streets and life semi-blind, fifty rupiah (a dollar) at a time. I can offer no hindi and no help – even if I kinda knew where I was going, really didn’t know where I was going.
Walking, walking past the families in the street, sleeping tuk tuks, dogs, and bike transporters... Past the train station... And more animals, although the horses and oxen were noticeably absent from the evening. Arrival to "aircon" in my hotel, which two days earlier I dismissed as merely "good enough." I am sick and battered, but my wounds are self-imposed. The horns now have become more of a melody, this time in the morning, more of my lullaby, once jarring, now soothing, settling into sleep, interrupted only by trips to the bathroom. Everyone gets some sleep in Delhi.
Ode to New Delhi
Delhi Tourism Promo Copy Writing Competition Satire Submission - "What Makes Delhi, New Delhi"
Delhi... An urban oasis to waken the senses. Moist heat supples the skin and blowing dust exfoliates it. Feel the cleansing as all liquids and solids are expelled from the body. Feel the closeness to your fellow man just about, everywhere, especially in lines. Join together in traffic unison and express yourself via horn. Enter an open air taxi, aka tuk tuk to feel the wind in your hair... Horns in your ears, not the French ones either. Observe the wildlife... Dogs, oxen, horses, and even monkeys occasionally grace the cityscape. No other place will you enjoy such public transportation options from moto to luxury sedan, commercial truck beds, and bicycle. Allow a porter to carry your bags for you, should traffic slow to a halt prior to the train station.
Taste, as you inhale, three thousand years of humanity. Smell the aromas of food and economic growth. Dare... To try some street delicacies. Allow a guide to bring you to sites and his favorite eating and shopping places owned by friends and extended family. After, checkout the night life reserved for the city elite. Tired, return to your hotel, enjoying the wide open streets and only semi-occasional horns... And wake to those same horns, ready for your next exploration of this religiously diverse and ancient city... Delhi...
John Gillingham, CPA is the founder of Accounting Play and the author of the ten part blog series “Accounting App Ashram” where he details his entrepreneurial journeys in India and the islands of Java in search of entrepreneurial enlightenment. The series chronicles the surprises and struggles of meeting the remote teams and conducting business abroad.
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Prior Episode APP: 049 Accounting App Ashram I: Indonesian Graphic Design & Bandung Hipsters
Next Episode APP: 051 Accounting App Ashram IV & V: Chandigarh Micro Brews
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