Friday, January 23, 2009

Roads & Traffic....

Another one thing, I really amazed in UK is their roads and traffic systems. I think,these roads are the first thing,which attract people like us coming from India.whenever I travel on these broad, flat and beautiful roads, they tempt me to drive a Ferrari on it’s maximum speed ( இப்படி செம்ம ஸ்பீட்ல வண்டி ஒட்டி நம்ம ஊரலே நெறிய தடவை மாமா's கிட்ட மாட்டிருக்கேன் ;-)

In England, people use High Speed “Motor Ways”, for moving between two towns. There won’t be any traffic on these roads. No signals too (except in the tool booths).You can’t slow down / stop your vehicle on the motorway.

UK motorways originally have no speed limit, and designed for traffic traveling up to 100 mph (160 km/h!!!). Some may have lower limits of 45miles/hour. You can’t drive slower than the limit. These speed limits varies from one place to another, depends on the local rules.

To leave from the motorways, there are special “Exit Lanes”. Likewise, to join in the motorways, you have special lanes called “Ramps”.

Everyone here, follows lane traffic and traffic rules very consciously. They don’t even try to void the rules. (நம்ம ஊர்லதான் டிராபிக் அண்ட் ரூல்ஸ் பத்தி தெரியுமே!!!). I feel most of our attitude depends on our peers. Many of our peers don’t follow the traffic rules. So we too… don’t take it seriously.

Unless otherwise, we start following the rules… nobody will follow. At least we (our generation) should take the lead to start following. This is not only for Road rules.. for all ;-) ( Okie, திட்டாதிங்கோ!!! இதோட என் பிரசங்கத்தை நிறுத்திக்கிறேன் !!!)

All the vehicles use GPS based Automotive navigation system. We don’t need to explain to the driver the route. The Navigator guides the Taxi driver. It provides the road data in the form of a vector map.

Even Street names or numbers and house numbers are also encoded as geographic coordinates in the database, so that the user can find some desired destination by street address. (Would be very helpful to our Auto rickshaw drivers.. naa ? :-0 )

And... why these totally unnecssary/irrelavent (my)photos nnu ketkureengala!!. Chumma irukkattum. Freeya vudunga sir :-)

Will continue….

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Titanic Memories - Southampton

Till I reach the Maritime Museum,I was not aware that the fateful departure (first;also it's last) of RMS Titanic happened from the Southampton Docks.

The tragedy is covered in detail in a special exhibition at the Southampton Maritime Museum and it tells the real story of the Titanic through the voices of some of the survivors and the people of Southampton whose lives were affected by the disaster.

I was completely speechless after visiting the memories of the tragedy.

Few memories from the museum…

(Titanic leaving Southampton on her maiden voyage, 10th April 1912)

*The departure of RMS Titanic from Berth 44 at the White Star Line dock in Southampton marked the beginning of a fateful voyage into maritime and world history.

*That momentous and much-celebrated event which began at noon on 10 April 1912, ended so tragically less than five days later, at a recorded time of 2.20am on 15 April 1912.

*Even today it is staggering to imagine all the 1,523 souls who stood by as the few boats available were sent away, knowing that it would take a miracle if they were to be saved too.

*It is difficult to imagine the 705 brave survivors watching in terror and anguish as their loved ones and dreams all perished that night when the so-called "unsinkable" Titanic did the unthinkable and went down.

Hampshire, and Southampton in particular, has many associations with the story of the Titanic, its passengers and crew. Some survivors returned to live in Southampton and one is still there to this day.

It's wonderful museum and display. It made me feel like I was right there the night that Titanic was sunk.Really great....

Monday, January 19, 2009

Walk through the Southampton Walls

On the Sunday morning, I started my walk around the old town and exploring the walls of Southampton.

Southampton was severely attacked by the French and by some Pirates, in 13th Century. After this attack, the city's walls—part of which dates from 1175—were extensively added to protect the town.

Though some portion of the wall were demolished during various wars, A large part of the town's walls remain today. The whole town was protected by these walls with their watch towers.

The Bargate:
Bargate was the main point of entry and exit to and from the north. Since Southampton is on the south coast, this made the Bargate the main gateway to the city.

God's House Tower Museum of Archaeology
The city walls include God's House Tower, built in 14th Century, for the purpose of Defending Southampton. Over the years it has been used the Town Prison and even as storage for the Southampton Harbor . Today, it is open as the Museum of Archaeology.

The Arcades
South of the Castle lies in the Arcades. This is was also built for the purpose of merchants, to protect their properties.

The Eastern Walls and North East walls were demolished, as the town grew,except for a small part between God's House.

It was really a great experience for me, to walk around the Historic walls and Towers

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Red Funnel Ferries,Southampton

After completing one full week in a new country I got settled with the pluses and minuses of the new place. While climate and Food (lunch) were the major problem areas; But still manageable.

Okie, you probably get very boring by now. Let’s me bring you some outdoor fresh air.

The first and my favorite place, I visited was ‘”The Red Funnel Ferries”, which is just 100 meters away from my apartment.

Now you know why I said Ocean Village is my favorite place!? Look at the Boat House,yachts,Blue water... such a nice view

Red Funnel is basically a fancy dock for small yachts and cabin cruisers. Surrounded by a Park, wealth of shops, restaurants, cinemas and bars, it offers outstanding recreational facilities.

Friday, January 16, 2009

12 Jan 2009: Day started rainy ...

Today, it was a really rainy morning and it was hard to get up... A very interesting thing to note in UK is that the sunlight dawns at only 8AM in the morning. (Nobody gets up before that anyway!! Except me of course! ) and stays upto 4:30--5 PM in the evening! It gets dark after that.

I forgot to tell you the time difference between here and India. UK falls in GMT (Western Europe Standard Time), which is 5.30 hours behind India. Means… If its Monday afternoon 2.30 AM in Chennai, it would be 9AM morning in Southampton.

And the climate: It's really Coool!!!. I've never seen it goes above 5 degrees. during evening times, it comes down upto 0 degreeC !!!

After a simple breakfast, we started to our client office, which is just 10 minutes drive from my apartments. We took a cab (there is no other way) and went to the client’s place!! I Met my Client !!! (This is the first time, I meet them in person)

After a few minutes chat, we started our work. (It took nearly half a day for me to understand the work ;-)). My client came at exactly 12, to call us for lunch. I had my first English Lunch (Sorry! I couldn’t remember the name of the dish). It was full of cheese; tasty too!!.

During lunch, we’re discussing so many topics. But not even a single word about our project. A soon as we completed our lunch and returning back to work station, He started asking about the project status and issues;-).They have very good balance between work and Life.

All the people here, are very Professional, caring, and work conscious. I’m really impressed by their way of working and attitude. You can’t see any one of them chatting/surfing net/in Canteen/ playing games/listening songs, during office hours. They don’t want to waste not even a single minute of their working hour. As soon as they’re work is done, they leave the office; they don’t stay at office unnecessarily.

Many of them are 40+ with the experience of my age (--). I’m surprised to see them, still working as a Design Engineer. They don’t mix up technical skills (engineering) with Management. Engineers are concentrating only in engineering! The fate of becoming a Project manager within 5 years of experience is possible only in India ;-)

If I start writing about the work culture here, it would deviate the topic (will go into another series of posts ;-). So I won’t scribe more about office and work, here after.

Will continue with some outdoor stuff in the UK…

My Apartment in Southampton

**11 Jan 2009:

So,The Taxi brought me to my apartments exactly 1.20 hours from London. The place, where we stay is a fully furnished serviced apartment. The apartment is very nice, too! It’s located in Gloucester Square, near Town Quay. Town Quay is one of the commercial areas of southampton.

The house, I stay is much bigger than I expected, although not large. The Apartment comprises Living room, large fully fitted kitchen.2 double bedroom with shower room attached. Also a Large bathroom with Bath tub, Broadband, Balcony, Secure Intercom entrance, allocated parking….

The living room is a perfect size with a couch, two chairs, a TV, DVD player, and small stereo. The living room is in the same room as the dining room where they have a small table with 4 chairs.

I have a good Kitchen. They have kept some vegetables, milk, Curd, Rice.. . and almost all the basics of kitchen were ready for us. And I’ve a good Cook (?) with me (My team mate;-0). So I think, I won’t suffer much with food here.

My room is next to the living room. It’s quite large! It has a very large closet with 2 tiny beds and desk.

The best thing about this apartment is it’s balcony.You can enjoy the beauty of the sea and Red funnel Cruises, just few meters away from the house.Can you see the Sea behind me? (I'm on my Balcony)

I’m very happy with the place and accommodation.I wasn’t expecting it at all!

Yeah! Tomorrow, I’m going to visit my client and start working…

Will keep you updated.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My UK Trip: Part-4

*11 Jan 2009: Reaching Southampton

Wow! I have reached London! I can’t believe that I’m actually here! It’s so strange actually doing something you’ve been thinking about for many days.

As soon as, I got down, I was instructed to clear my Emigration and collect my baggage. I went straight to the Emigration Check Counter. One Fat lady with absolutely no smile, said “Haaaai” to me. I gave her the filled in Landing Pass which was given to me in the plane. There was not much to check. But still the Lady Officer asked me a few questions.

Purpose of your Visit?
How long you’ll be here?
Where do you plan to stay?

The same questions… But I felt bit nervous this time, as I found bit difficult to understand her slang. I answered in the most nervous form of English available.

“Okaiy!!Wish you a pleasant stay ” She said.

“Thank you”, I replied..

Yeah!!!! I was through!!!!!!!!!!!

So I was finally into the UK after completing all the formalites!!

Then I went to the Baggage section. I waited for almost 10minutes to collect my bag, from the looooooooong queue of luggage. My client had booked a cab for us. The taxi driver was waiting with the Placard.He greeted us with the big smile and picked us to his Benz . Hey!!! I’m going to travel on BenZ – S Class Saloon (What a pity here they use it as a Taxi!).

Southampton is nearly 80miles from London.The drive to my apartment at Southampton was about 1.5 hours from the London airport. While driving in the (Benz!!!) taxi, I got my first view of London. It was much different than I expected. It took just 10 minutes to come out of the city. I had a picture in my mind as a very big one. Unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy the beauty of London with Light. It was around 7.30PM.

I was just keep watching the road and cars flying on them. My car was slowly reaching Southampton.Southampton is the largest city in the county of Hampshire, on the south coast of England. Scattered houses and commercial buildings, Big play grounds, small parks with big beautiful trees and birds you would never see in India. Thuoght he light was very bad, They’re beautiful!. I can’t wait to start exploring them.

Soon, I will write more about them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My UK Trip: Part-3

Around 12:30 – 12:45,the Jet airways started calling in people for the flight. First, the passengers of the business class were called in and then economy class passengers called in based on the seat number( I don’t need to say, My company had booked Economy Class for me ;-0). I went through a passage where my boarding pass was checked in and I walked ahead into the passage leading up to the plane’s door.

As soon as I entered into the plane I realized that its bigger than the domestic flight in which I had come. There were 9 seats in a row split into 3-3-3 seats. But this time, no window seat. My teammate grabbed it for her comfort sleep. Another disappointing aspect of this flight was that there were no airhostesses. Only boys were serving all the needs. (While getting down only I could see some beautiful ladies, who’re serving only at Premier Class ;-(!!)

Soon the plane started and this time I was too tired to feel anything except for the slight realization that I was leaving my country! I was looking at the lands of India through the Window, till it got disappeared.

I decided to shut eye but before that I was given some lunch. (I don’t go to bed with a empty stomach;-)). I munched the food item as I was watching the huge screen displaying the flight path and other relevant flight information.

And the flight had a better on-board entertainment system with a small TV for all seats. I even had a remote with which I can select a variety of options to be displayed on the screen like movies, flight information,games,music etc etc. It was so cool. I Started exploring the Jet Screen(They call their personal Entertainment Display as “JetScreen”).

Out of a big list, I choose the movie “Taare Zameen Par”. I think, I don’t need to say anything about the movie. Taare Zameen Par is the Directorial Debut for Aamir Khan; simply superb. I really felt bad for not watching the movie, till then.
It is one of the must watch movies.

By the time I had passed only a 2 or 3 hours of the journey. Then again started playing with the JetScreen. Started watching a movie called “bachena ae haseno “. It is a romantic Movie,a guy fall in love with 3 different girls at different time of his life. The movie seems quite ok in the first half but as it reaches interval, becomes so emotional and a bit too long.I couldn’t watch that movie more than that. Switched off the Player and went for a Walk (Within Flight only ;-))

I was thrilled to know that my plane was flying over cities like Islamabad, Kabul, Kyrgystan, Kazakhastan, Mosco, Belarus, Poland, Belgium(Germany),Netherlands, Bresseles ,France….etc etc. these were all the cities which I I have read and watch only through News papers and Televisions.

I was very thrilled when the flight crossed Belarus. The Crew information appeared on the big screen as,
*Attitude: 38565ft ( Oh my God !!!)
*Outside temperature: -81 Degree C (Yes! As the height increases, temperature goes low)
*GND Speed: 967Km/hr !!!!!

Still 2 more hours to go….. Started watching another useless movie “ Dhaam Dhoom”. Finished the movie in Half-an-hour and went for some snacks. Then I was roaming around the plane through out it’s length (by watching the beauties traveling with me).

By that time, the flight almost reached the borders of Heathrow airport and rounding for the landing signal. I filled my Landing pass (which should be submitted during the immigration check at London), which was given by the Flight attendees.

After the most memorable hours, the flight landed at London Heathrow Airport.

Will continue…

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My UK Trip: Part-2

Jet Airways Flight 9W 822 was swifting through the clouds of my lovable Chennai. Some of the air hostesses ( Yes! Jet airways was really beautiful;-0) demonstrated a few safety techniques. After that, we were left alone except for the occasional interludes by the flight attendants for snacks and other refreshments. I spent most my time with the local newspaper which carried the “Ramalinga Raju’s arrest– Satyam Scam story” as I tried to take my mind away from my excitement about the travel.

But the two and a half hours drifted away pretty soon and soon I was presented with the gorgeous view of New Delhi at the mid-day!!! Our captain switched on the Seat belt switch for the landing. If take off was an unexplainable happiness and excitement then landing can be termed as a beautiful bunch of moments filled with thrill and anticipation.

As the plane landed I couldn’t help rambling in my mind as to what I should do once I get down. I got into the jet airways bus and was dropped in at the gate.

What do I do now????

I had absolutely no clue!! Fortunately, I had my team mate with me to support;-).But this is the first time, she is also landing in Delhi airport. My eyes were scanning for a Jet airways office!! But NO !!!! I went straight to the Helpdesk by Indira Gandhi Airport, which was straight at the exit. After checking my flight ticket he instructed me to collect my baggage and go to International Airport.

As I stood watching the bill boards I resolved I would visit the city again and spend the time it deserves. Shuttle services are operated between the domestic terminals to the international terminal of the Delhi airport for free as a complementary service as the distance between the two terminals was not walkable.

After a 15 minutes bus travel, I reached the International Airport and tried to blend in with the crowd. I handed over my check-in luggage to Jet airways desk (Due to security concerns, nowadays they ask us to check-out and check-in the luggage again). The Guy at the Jet Airways counter accepted our luggage and gave us the Emigration Form.

After that I was guided to the immigration counter where I submitted the “Emigration form”. That guy asked for my passport and boarding pass.

As I anxiously waited before the official, he stamped a few stuff onto the form and asked.

“which company are you from??”, How long your stay at UK?”

I said ”MindTree Ltd ( Fortunately/Unfortunately he didn’t know about MindTree;-) ), 2 weeks.

“What is the Purpose of your visit? “.

I replied” Board testing”. Unfortunately(this time;-) He didn't know about Circuit Board too. But he didn’t leave me. Then I was made to explain him the complete Board Design Cycle!!!

He punched the emigration Stamp on my passport and boarding pass, Hand luggage and looked at me.

I waited curiously for the next question, he asked “If you guys do all these high tech work here, then why do you go to UK ? Why can’t you develop here in India?”

It took me a while to realize that the question was asked on a lighter tone, just to ease me. I smiled politely and got my documents back. After a while I passed the security check and waited in the waiting room which opened up into the gate to the plane. Yes!!!. All the formalities are over. I’m permitted to fly out of India!!!.

But it was only 11.45 am and my flight was at 12:55!!!! I waited for sometime at the waiting hall; Talked to all my family members through phone. Then just roamed around the Duty free Shops. I couldn’t find anything there except Drinks, Drinks and Drinks. There are a few Perfume shops also there. Then I headed straight to gate 5 which was printed in my gate pass.

Will Continue...

Monday, January 12, 2009

My UK Trip: Part-1

Disclaimer: The post "My UK trip" is long, potentially boring and most probably not what you want to know. But anway... :-)

10th Jan 2009 : It’s not a normal Saturday. Woke up pretty early and start the preparation for my travel tomorrow. It took almost half a day to bring my bag into shape. Made lunch, ate, read for some time, took bath, watched 'Vasool raja MBBS' (It was so much funnier when I watched it 1 year back) and then hit the bed. It was around 10PM and I closed my eyes, patiently waiting to fall asleep.10:10, 10:15, 10:20.. But…No sleep…. Read for some more time - Still no sleep. Changed the sheets and pillow case. Nothing (Normally this always works for me!; but not this time:-)). I was sleepless till 11.40. Then… slowly felt in sleep.

11th Jan 2009 : Woke up at 3AM and got ready for the flight at 6.45AM. I knew I was about to be part of such an experience as I left to the Chennai airport. The feeling of my first onsite trip was filling my heart with all the excitement it had to offer. This trip has a few specialties..

*It was my first trip beyond Bangalore.
*It was my first trip outside the country
*It was my first trip on a Flight (obviously). ….And so on.

My trip was split into 2 flights. The first one was from Chennai to Delhi. Delhi to London Heathrow is the next; both in Jet Airways.

I was most worried about the process that I had to follow during the flight. Though got some advices and experience stories from my team mates and friends. I reached the Airport around 4.30am and got in with my luggage. By that time, my team mate also reached the airport.

We went straight to the jet airways stall in the departure segment. After instructions from the Jet airways staff, I took my baggage for my screening. My check in baggage was passed through some scanner and the contents inside were checked. Then I went straight to the Jet airways stall where my baggage was weighed and strapped with the flight stickers. I was also given the boarding pass there.

Check in baggage – the baggage that shall be carried with the plane in a cargo section. Most airlines allow you to carry the baggage with upto 23-30 Kgs Hand Luggage – the baggage that can be taken with you in the plane. Most airlines allow you to carry a Hand luggage upto 8kg. You can carry a laptop bag or a handbag in addition to this.

My Project Lead was also there, for our sent-off. We had some chat with Tea (The tea was terrible; but I didn’t expect that I going to get more horrible teas here after). Then I went through the security check. Here I was checked with a metal detector and was let through as the only metals I had were coins and the metal in my belt.

As soon as the security check was complete, my flight boarding also started. After few minutes stay at the waiting hall,I got into the airlines bus after showing my ticket at the entrance. The bus took me to the plane and I boarded the plane through the “portable staircase”!!!

I got seated in seat which was in the window side of a three seater (Thanks to my teammate for blocking ht window seat for me) and I was watching the Chennai MTC buses and suburban train through the window. Soon the plane started, and after some slow run for few minutes it started traveling on a higher speed on the runway. I would be more than 300Km/h. I love the speed and like to drive my bike at the runway :-0

The thrill of take off can not be explained and it is to be experienced. It’s an experience which gives you the excitement of thrusting into sky like a roller coaster. Soon I was in the air and I was presented with the most amazing view, I had ever seen in my life. I enjoyed the beautiful landscape throught the window that I could get. As the plane ascended higher and higher, I was filled with an uncontrolled enthusiasm which was overflowing through my eyes and my involuntary smile.

Will continue...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My UK Trip

Have reached Southampton safely; just getting settled here…

This is my first international trip and what an excellent trip it is…. It is so interesting being immersed completely in another culture, and trying to view the world through a different lens. I would like to share and record each and every moment of the trip!.

So the following posts will be exactly an attempt to memorialize all the events, that I am going through during this trip. Also it is a feeling that, I would have found it useful if I had heard all this experience from someone earlier.