Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Homelessness That Most Would Envy

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

I Should Be Too Ashamed to Complain

We have been living in a truly five-star hotel for more than a month. IBM Procurement must have negotiated a fantastic deal because this is even nicer than the Grand Hotel, where we took Pat's mom for vacation several years ago.

Last night, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of our first date by having the buffet dinner at the Raj Pavilion and then coming back to the room and watching a downloaded version of "The Closer." Each of the episodes is just US$2, and so Pat's going to download the rest of the season.

I haven't posted for a couple of days because work has been busy, but also because I didn't want to add an(other) entry on how I'm challenged during this adventure and prevailing....

Yesterday, I thought about how I haven't yet had many quintessentially Indian experiences, since I've mostly been working, for example, I haven't yet visited a temple, and then I realized, Yes, I have had quintessentially Indian experiences, just by living in the country, no matter how many stars the hotel has. Or maybe I've had quintessentially expatriate experiences, but either way, I'm a world apart from my life in Montclair, New Jersey.

A colleague suggested that the house we've chosen will not provide an authentic Indian experience, which annoyed me; I need to be functional at work above all, and so my home needs to be comfortable and quiet, like it is in the States. I don't want to feel defensive about this, but I do.

...But I'm Not

Our lease was supposed to be done and we were supposed to move into the house today. The owner said, No, he'll be ready instead on August 5th, and will turn over the keys only after the substantial, interest-free security deposit is wired to the bank here, which will be challenging to make happen by Friday (India time).

The only appealing part of this experience of renting a house so far is that the vendor IBM has us dealing with is called Writer Relocation. I like to imagine that I am a writer, being relocated. (Actually, it's just someone's last name; I checked the origin with our agent.)

Now, it must be apparent why I've stayed away from the blog. I'm cranky and unsettled. And just as Pat and I begin to feel most alienated by our opulent homelessness, someone here does something extra-touching, which melts us:

Last night, John, who drove me to work daily for the past month, and who has earned a promotion, so that he does not need to drive so small a car anymore, gave Pat and me a goodbye-card, including a long, hand-written letter, letting us know that we are "cool persons" and that the world is small, and that we will see each other in it in a different setting next time.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lofty Dreams

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Elevated Purpose

There's a knock at my door, Chamber One of the hotel's business center, where I spend hours each weekend, transferring my notes of the week to my online journal that I'm sharing with my management.

"Come in."

"When are you leaving, Ma'am?"

"When do you need me to leave?"

"No, I mean, when are you leaving the hotel?"

"Oh, we're trying to leave on the 1st, but maybe not till the weekend. We can't move until then."

"You're staying in Bangalore?"

"Yes, for six months. I'm on assignment for work." Her face brightens, I suppose because I'm staying in the country for some time, rather than jetting in and out like most of the guests here.

"I'll miss you, though."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Do you have an e-mail address? Would you like to keep in touch?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

We exchange addresses and I shake her hand.

"Are you doing some research?" she asks.

"Sort of. Yes. I'm living during the week and then re-living my experiences by writing about them, and sharing them with my management, so they can understand the reality here better."

"Like a diary?"

"Yes, exactly, but one that I'm sharing."

"I worked for HP while I was in Aviation School, since the classes were only a few hours a day, and I earned much more than I earn here, but I needed hospitality industry experience to get a job as a flight attendant."

"Well, this is the best hotel to get it in."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Which airline do you want to fly with?"

"British Airways or Qatar."


"Yes, Saudi Arabia is the cheapest place to live, and you can make the most money there, and they respect women there."

"I didn't know that it was cheap to live there."

"Yes, my first choice is British Airways, but they focus on color, and even Kingfisher does." Is she talking about her complexion?

"Do you mean your complexion?"

She nods.

"You're kidding. You're gorgeous -- I first noticed when you talked with me about the diamond earrings -- and you're gracious, and those should be the criteria."

She smiles and her dimple shows. She is standing up straight, maintaining her dignity while I stare at her trying to sustain my incredulous expression, even as I reason in my head that I'm not surprised, given all of the skin-whitening face-cream commercials I hear on the radio and see on TV...."With Pond''ll never need to find your love on the Internet anymore!"

"Then I think about how," she says, "Oprah Winfrey is the highest-paid woman in the world, and I keep thinking about that."

"You've inspired me." I want to tell her that I'm a lesbian and I understand prejudice, but I remember that we're not telling anyone in the hotel explicitly, and so I say instead, "I'm Jewish and some people don't say good things about Jews....I have to find the Jewish version of Oprah Winfrey."

She graces me with an extra-deep-dimpled smile as both of us are trying to imagine a Jewish Oprah Winfrey and says, "You have to know a person before you can judge the person....Fame and Name, I say. It's not enough to have one or the other."

"I like that -- Fame and Name." I wonder where she picked up the phrase. I feel like I should have heard it before, but maybe it's her own slogan after all. "Please do send me a note when you get the flight attendant job you're dreaming of."

"I will, Ma'am."

As she shuts the door, I write her e-mail, thanking her for the conversation and letting her know that when she becomes the next Oprah Winfrey, I'll be able to say I knew her when....

Friday, July 27, 2007

Shabbat at The Dublin

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.


We like to eat al fresco by the pool several nights a week, no matter how late I return from work. Tonight was going to be especially lovely, as it was the end of the week.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but there's a private party outside tonight."

"I can't eat in the bar. It'll be too smoky."

"It wouldn't bother me," Pat said.

We left the pub and walked back into the lobby. Pat headed to the elevator.

"Where are you going?"


"We have to eat." I can feel that I need to be flexible or the rest of the night will be un-Shabbat-like. "I can eat there; it's all right."

We turn around and the elegant, fluent hostess from Northern India welcomes us back in.

"Can we be seated in the no-smoking section?"

"I have one table."

We follow the hostess and I steel myself. She seats us right by the open door, which invites in a mild night. The breeze wispifies Pat's hair. I'm struck by Pat, and it feels like too long since I've paid her my full attention.

We see coral and white gladioli through the window. Pat says, "Ours are probably peaking now."

"I hope that Sam and Jessica and Jeffrey and Ellen and Meg [neighbors] are taking 'em."

"Yeah, better than their just lying on the ground."

Outside, the party includes almost exclusively men, eating shrimp from a big bowl and other finger-food. One of them is not Indian and he's wearing Converse high-tops and a tropical shirt. He's the VC, we figure.

Non-alcohol, Women and Song

Inside, a musician begins playing the sort of New Age music Pat loves and I loathe, but since it's live, and he's skilled, I surrender to it.

Song by song, he plays the sax, the flute, the clarinet and drums, and depending on the song, sings. He's an artist. And then the songs improve:

  • "Easy Like Sunday Morning"
  • Maxwell's biggest hit
  • "Smooth Operator" by Sade
  • "Change the World" by Eric Clapton....

The elegant hostess walks by and asks how we're liking the music. I've been lulled and we're genuinely enthusiastic.

"This is his first night. He's from Australia," she tells us.

We've ordered, and while waiting for our food, an attractive young woman comes to the table, smiling lovelily and holding a platter full of Chivas-logo'ed merchandise. She promises that with every glass of Chivas we order, we'll be entitled to one of the items she's cradling.

"We don't drink, but thanks," we say, practically in unison.

"She's like the St. Pauli Girl," Pat says after she walks away to look for drinkers. I've written about this before:

More than a decade ago, Pat and our friends were meeting a friend from Texas -- a UT-Austin English professor -- and she was late in joining us at Geneva, Illinois' Filling Station, a restaurant near where Pat and I used to live.

While we waited for her, a cleavage-baring, blond woman in a German bar-maid's costume approached our table, promoting St. Pauli's beer. She was giving away a poster of St. Pauli's girls, featuring her and others just like her.

One of our friends asked her to autograph it, which she did with a smile. Our friend planned to give it to the English professor when she arrived.

It was a really fun gift, if only Pat and I hadn't felt instantly guilty for totally objectifying her in service to embarrassing/delighting our friend.

By contrast, the Chivas-girl was Indian, with wavy black hair, light-brown skin, tight blue-jeans, low-heeled, open-toed mules with unpolished toe-nails and a V-neck black sweater that featured the Chivas name in gold, capital letters above her left breast, with a black blouse under it, barely open, revealing only her throat. If I were IBM alumnus, E. Lynn Harris, I'd know how to describe the shade of her skin more artfully.

I'm smiling at how much more modestly she's dressed than her American counterpart.

In between promoting Chivas, she is just barely dancing by herself to the Australian's music. She's standing with her back to us and stops whenever a man approaches. Actually, she's dancing over Pat's shoulder.

If she were a TV with sports or news on it, Pat would be peeking at the picture over my shoulder continually. In fact, while I'm writing this, Pat is watching "Eight Below," a film inspired by Antarctic explorers and their teams of dogs. "I like this story, because it's about animals," she says. Pat is so wholesome and I don't feel as wholesome, recounting this.

The young woman's dancing when the men are not nearby tells me that she doesn't see us as people around whom she needs to be modest at all. The musician takes a break and puts on recorded music. The alcohol promoter starts swaying to Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car." The word, "furtive," comes to me as I look at her and look away, and I'm not pleased by it.

That has been a consequence of needing to hide Pat's and my true relationship while moving through Indian society and this hotel specifically. I find myself much more alert to my desires than I think I would be, if I didn't feel the need to hide them selectively.

Or maybe the breeze simply blew through Pat's hair especially invitingly tonight, and maybe there are a lot of beautiful women in India.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Tonight, on a whim, I opened my Verizon e-mail account. I look at it almost never. My in-box included e-mail from Rosa, who runs the IBM Learning Center sundry shop.

Before I left, we exchanged e-mail addresses and I wrote her a quick note. She was on vacation in Puerto Rico with her family for three weeks and just returned. What a sweet note she sent me.

I felt like I was right there in the Learning Center, talking with her, like we do often. When I'm at my best, I do manage to connect whole-heartedly with people.

Rosa needs to deliver a couple of messages for me, I told her in my response: that I miss Libby's delicious omelettes, and that Paulette, the dining room host, needs to know my current favorite radio-songs, "Rehab" and "Party Like a Rock Star."

I'm also liking "Hey There, Delilah" and one the chorus of which includes the words, "She's an angel..."

Tonight, I feel I'm having good memories, rather than waxing nostalgic. At dinner tonight, the accordionist played French tunes, including one that Marlene Dietrich sang, according to Pat, the title of which began with "Lilly...."

He walked by without his instrument and we smiled at each other.

"Who's that?" Pat said.

"The accordionist."

"Wow, I'm the friendly one, but you actually remember who all of them are."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

No Time for a Personal Essay...or Is There?

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Blogging as My Reward

It's bed-time, but I find this forum irresistible, and besides, I want to reward myself for facing most of my second bout of expense reporting tonight. It's not trivial to itemize 10 days of hotel room rates and room taxes. If you're bored, reading this, then you can imagine how I dreaded submitting the work.

This weekend's "The New Sunday Express" had three articles on powerful women: the first female President of India; Hillary Clinton compared to Rudolph Giuliani; and the 568 women who are on Boards of Directors in India.

While hunting for the paper on Google, I came across a vivid article on London's recent, 35th annual Pride Parade.

Finding Kindred Spirits

On Sunday, when Pat and I visited our best friend in India and her family, she asked me, "Have you seen your friends yet from last time?" She was referring to the couple I met thanks to my friend Deepak's introduction.

"We need to call them, but just haven't yet." Other than our friend who has been here on assignment for some time, we have not interacted, knowingly, with any G, L, B or T people since arriving in India. In fact, we've hardly interacted with anyone socially, as I'm trying to find the right work-rhythm and so far, it's mostly a continual-continuous drum-beat.

Tonight, one of my U.S. management said, "Don't keep working on the weekends." But my colleagues here do...and who am I to take it easier? I really do feel that I need to build endurance and stamina to work as hard as my colleagues here do. And I thought I was among the harder workers I knew in the States. Here, by my U.S. standards, I'm lazy. It's a difficult sensation, a nagging feeling.

Today, I spoke with the executive sponsor of IBM India's GLBT constituency and that was heartening. And as a bonus, I asked to learn a bit about Sikhism, and learned that Sikhs are monotheistic and looking to "live an honorable life." I looked at my colleague's forest-green turban and thought of a yarmulke/kippah -- what Orthodox Jewish men wear.

Memory is Healthier Than Nostalgia

Our rabbi, Rabbi Kleinbaum, has spoken of how memory is useful while pure nostalgia is not as healthy, since it keeps us yearning for the era about which we're feeling sentimental.

Last night, I think I heard the Muslim call to prayer; there's a mosque across the street from IBM. Unlike the Hindu chanting that Saturday night a couple of weeks ago, I felt warmed by the singing from the mosque. It reminded me of my year in Jerusalem at 20. And I thought, at least someone's having some spiritual sustenance.

As my mom said, maybe we'll find other Jews when we move to our house in August.

I think I underestimated how much I'd miss our Jewish community -- almost as much as my electric tooth-brush, which I must now admit, I forgot in New Jersey.

Almost, I finished the previous sentence with, " home." I liked Dorothy's comment, though, that home is where Pat is, which is mostly true, and probably a healthier way for me to get acclimated more quickly. I do miss the rest of my family, though, and also my good nail-file. We've got a pocket-kit-sized one we're using till we break down and spend time, shopping.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Somers to Bangalore

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Today's Videos While Burning Just 219 Calories in 30 Minutes

Today is my 11-year anniversary at IBM. Today, calling into the U.S. team meeting, I learn that not only is one of my colleagues celebrating 25 years at IBM, another celebrates 39 and another, 35. I don't mention my relatively small milestone.

Today is a good day. Today, I help plan a leadership development event and also meet the executive sponsor of the GLBT constituency at IBM India. He is wearing a turban and is Sikh, presumably. I meet him in the context of the earlier planning and he invites me to talk with him specifically on our respective perspectives on GLBT issues in India. That meeting should happen later this week.

Eleven years ago, I try to find GLBT colleagues and supporters in our Somers, NY site. Today, I'm doing the same in Bangalore, India. My first day, who could have guessed what the future would bring.

Wonder what it was like during their first day for my three colleagues whose tenures are 25, 39 and 35 years. Wonder how long I'll work for IBM.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The British Open is Endless

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Pat has been watching the tournament for more than seven hours. Golf -- watching others play it -- is just not as compelling to me as it is to her. Her face is enchanted. Several minutes ago, her arms made a putting motion involuntarily.

Business Center Pleasure

Leaving the hotel's Business Center tonight, after talking with my mom over Skype behind a closed door, the attendant says to me, "Ma'am, you would look so beautiful if you wore diamond earrings, like I'm wearing," and she points to her light-brown ears with the sparkling, white stones, looking more dramatic than they ever could against my pale, greenish-pink ears.

I'm wearing a red Teacher's College T-shirt, navy-blue Columbia University sweatpants and zero makeup, and looking at me then, anyone would need a good imagination to see me as beautiful. For a moment, I think she's trying to give me tips on how to make myself more determinately female. I look at her with annoyance for a split-second.

Then it hits me that she's just trying to be nice and I say, "Well, certainly, you look beautiful, wearing them."

"No, ma'am!" she says looking down shyly. Actually, she is a gorgeous woman and suddently, I feel like I'm flirting inadvertantly.

She looks back up at me and says, "I've noticed you and I was just thinking how they would look so nice --"

It makes sense that she would have seen me before, since we've been staying at this hotel for three weeks so far. Still, it feels great that she is acknowledging aloud that she has witnessed me. "Thanks," I say, smiling, and then walk out of the "Internet Room."

The Business Center exit is in front of me and I turn around and return to her. "I'm touched by your having been nice to me, especially your saying that you noticed me. Sometimes, walking around this hotel, I feel like I don't really belong anywhere and to hear you acknowledge having seen me makes me feel more connected. Thank you!"

She just smiles beautifully.

Friday, July 20, 2007

More Indian MTV Magic

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Elliptical Work Made Fun in the Fitness Center Today

Here are more samples of music/movies to which I exercised this morning:

I love hearing music while being driven across Bangalore daily, too. Radio Indigo is "Your favorite radio station in the whole world."

Pat's watching The British Open and I'm stalling to avoid entering my expenses for reimbursement. Tonight, I was humming along to a Bon Jovi song and to one by George Michael, thinking about how if this were a Friday night in the States, Pat and I would more likely be singing liturgy aloud with the rest of our congregation.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pricey Accordion and Tears

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

These and other tunes from an Indian accordionist make dinner in the Raj Pavilion cheerful last night.

By breakfast this morning, pre-work, a couple of tables over from where we sat last night, I am looking out the window at bright-red life-preservers, decorating the far side of the pool. Tears are streaming down my Himalayan astringent-stimulated cheeks.

The croissant-woman does not continue to approach me. I can almost see out of the corner of my eye that I'm scaring her.

I'm not ready for work. I just want to go back to our room and watch "The 4400" with Pat. It's not a program I watch with her when we're at home, but it's amazing how even "Terminator 3" dubbed in Hindi can appeal to me here; they even managed to find a guy that spoke Hindi with an Austrian accent.

I've not yet finished writing my remarks for this morning's meeting, nor printed them, and I've not prepared the chart I need to share with a colleague prior to our afternoon meeting at another site.

"Madam, are you on holiday? You're later than usual," says the maitre d' as I'm trying to gather my yogurt from behind the glass-fronted fridge.

"No. Everything's fine, thanks," I say, my throat catching, and wanting him to disappear. A waiter appears to take my yogurt to the table and another hits the backs of my ankles with the chair as he's trying to help me sit down.

"No more assistance, please!" I want to shout, "Just leave me alone." Instead of shouting, tears come. They are just trying to be lovely to me and I cannot respond in kind.

I'm too bitter about not getting to stay home and watch TV. I'm exhausted, having slept fitfully, beginning at 1 am. I miss Pat's cooking, which doesn't happen while we're still living in the hotel. I miss my mother and sisters, my nephews and niece, my brothers-in-law. I am too tired to have exercised. I can't smile at anyone right now.

I don't think I understand any of this as I'm sobbing silently, my shoulders just barely shaking. I'm trying to enjoy the release of it, but know that I also have to keep slicing the fruit that I'll add to the yogurt, so that my routine proceeds. The tears stop when I spoon the yogurt into my mouth and I'm reluctant to eat. The crying was feeling good, other than wondering if I'm the first westerner they've ever seen cry in public. Oh, well, it's humanizing.

It turned into a good day from there....

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Best Wishes for Welcoming New IBMers

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Later today, I will speak with up to 100 IBMers, who are volunteering to help new IBMers feel more welcome, faster at IBM India. Here's what I will say, and I'm confident that none of them will see this entry prior to the meeting:

The inviting danglers commanded my attention when they began hanging from the ceiling several days ago: My head kept bumping into them; I’m sitting, and so you might not know that I’m really tall.

By the time Sapna and I agreed that I would be able to join you today, nearly 100 new GrassRoots members had joined the community, and so you don’t need tips on community building from me. Instead, thinking back to what would have helped me when I joined IBM, I’ll ask you to consider my top five best wishes for welcoming new IBMers, and then I’ll offer tips on sustaining a community.

Before I jump into the wishes, I need to say how lovely it is to be invited to meet and encourage you in your essential and friendly mission! Thank you for your leadership in volunteering to help new IBMers feel at home and productive more quickly.

Now, I’ll contrast your marvelous mission with my experience when I joined IBM in New York City in 1996:

At our Midtown location, 590 Madison Avenue, I took the elevator to the 5th floor, where a security person photographed me...unflatteringly. And then a kind woman said, “Welcome,” and handed me a binder, and said that I would find everything I needed to know inside it.

Guess what the binder contained? An eight-minute welcome video by our CEO at the time, Lou Gerstner, and, according to the introduction of the thick content inside, 40 hours of instructions on getting my Lotus Notes ID and other basic processes…none of which I read. Instead, I relied on the kindness of my new peers, who had gone through the same thing, in many cases, just a number of months prior to me.

A decade later, while I was setting up the LEADing@IBM booth at 590 Madison’s fast_forward event, the woman who gave me my welcome-binder greeted me; she was still part of HR, though no longer had that job, and she remembered having welcomed me on my first day. I’d like to tell you that it was a warm reunion.

That would be untrue, though. I didn’t remember her at all. I was flattered and amazed that she would have remembered me and so I quickly rose to the occasion, but the reality was that she had not made a huge impression on me, as her welcoming role had been so narrowly defined – unlike IBM India’s ingenious Royal Blue Ambassador and Connections Advisor programs. She was just someone who handed me a big package full of boring reading material….The video, of course, was decent, but….

I’m telling you this story because you are poised to mean so much more to the new IBMers than that woman was able to signify for me. Remember the part of the story, where I said that the people who helped me most were my colleagues, my peers – the ones who had learned how to navigate IBM just months and even sometimes just weeks before I had. And I was also lucky to have peers who had been with IBM for many years, who helped me succeed, too.

Whatever tenure you’ve had at IBM, you’re doing a mitzvah in helping new IBMers feel part of, rather than apart from, the amazing organization that is IBM. Who knows what “doing a mitzvah” means?

[If no one:] I’ll teach you now, as I offer my top five best wishes:

My Top Five Best Wishes for Welcoming New IBMers

As GrassRoots Community members, I wish you would:

1. Help new IBMers understand the beauty in being part of a globally-integrated enterprise:
• IBM does business in 164 countries and cultures (In my culture, which is Jewish in addition to American “mitzvah” means “good deed”)
• You will work with, and lead, people from all over the world
2. Share what makes you proud to be an IBMer
3. Be an agent for helping new IBMers explain how their role aligns with the IBM global strategy; encourage discussion with their manager (IBM strategy, at internal URL)
4. Show new IBMers that IBM is the best place to be from a:
• Leadership development standpoint
(internal URL)
• Professional development perspective (internal URL)
5. Encourage new IBMers to join or start a diversity network group:
• Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender (GLBT) (in process; contact me directly for further information, at...)
• People with Disabilities (PwD) (internal URL)
• Women’s (internal URL)
• Guidelines for starting a diversity network group (DNG) (internal URL)

Perhaps you’ve already thought of all of these tips and so maybe I can offer another five tips on how to sustain a community. As I said upfront, I see you’re already successful at building a community.

My Top Five Tips for Sustaining a Community

1. Be needed; keep your sense of purpose and mission thriving
2. Go global; find or help launch counterparts beyond India
3. Turn it into a leadership incubator, and make new leaders
4. Sponsor summits and speaker series, whether F2F or online
5. Stay active on the Wiki (internal URL), trading best practices and having fun.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

If It's Not Too Personal...

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

The Man Who Makes My Daily Commute Possible

"If it's not too personal," he asked tonight, during a particularly congested ride, "Are you married or single? Do you have children?" This is our third week of spending traffic jams together, and while I'm at work, he sometimes gives rides to Pat, who is my "friend" for his purposes.

Pause. "I don't have a husband and I didn't manage to have children...but I do have fantastic nephews and an amazing niece."

Yesterday, he told me that he may not be able to keep being my driver at the end of the month, when they give him a new car to drive.

It amazed me how crest-fallen I felt. His company was among the more stable experiences I've had since our arrival.

Tonight, when he asked his personal question, I thought afterwards, What if I told him the full truth? Wouldn't I feel more comfortable, driving with him, knowing he knew me in all my humanity and still enjoyed driving me around? Or if he didn't want to drive me after he knew, wouldn't I prefer knowing that?

And yet, I told him that my mom will be 82 in November, God willing, and that I imagine that in Indian culture, no child would ever leave a parent of that age to go away for six months. He agreed that that's true, and yet, he didn't throw me out of the car.

Part of me wants to be cynical and say that my rupees are as good as anyone's, i.e., a rupee's a rupee, but another part of me wants to believe that he likes me despite my neglect of my mother. Would he like me, and "Miss Pat," if he knew we were a couple? Could he fathom our couplehood? Has he known from the start? Is he clueless?

Why am I feeling free to write about him, considering he could read this blog if he felt like logging onto the web and doing a Google search on me? I suppose I wish he would and make it easier for me.

He's deeply Catholic in a country that I've read does not understand or accept lesbianism, Ishita's liberal loveliness notwithstanding. Of course, I come from a land that also does not accept lesbianism, but I'm still openly me there. I thought about that earlier today and decided that the difference is that the United States is my native land and here, I'm a guest, who doesn't want to feel unwelcome.

I don't want to frustrate wonderful people like Ishita with my anxieties, and I hope she doesn't feel a need to reassure me again; I'll just re-read her generous comment from the other day.

What sort of conversations, I wonder, are other assignees having with the men who drive them to and from work daily?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

One Hand is Paler Than the Other

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Golfing at the Bangalore CC

As I type this blog entry, I'm noticing that my right hand is paler than my left; the golf glove has created an odd dearth of sun-tan. This is a case of hand-gazing, rather than navel-gazing. Maybe it's always navel-gazing, but this time, it's also hand-gazing.

This has been an anchoring weekend. Pat and I got to swim in the most wonderful pool ever, and also played golf. Both experiences have helped us feel marvelously more so at home. Wherever we get to do things we know and love, we feel more moored.

I'm thinking of the golfing, as it happened this afternoon. My caddie, Sriram, has worked at the Bangalore Country Club for 35 years.

How is Sriram still strong enough to carry around a golf bag for four hours/18 holes? I could barely walk the whole course -- and I had no more than a single club in my hand at any point.

Accident of Birth

Thinking about the golf round, I'm reminded of a "New York Times" article I read about a month ago, about a number of older black men, who have been caddies at a Westchester country club, if I remember the region correctly, for their entire careers. The last line of the article quotes one of the members saying that he and his caddie both are 6'2" tall and the only reason that he is the player and his caddie is the caddie is because he is white and the caddie is black.

How excellent Sriram is in his club advice and in suggestinng the side of the cup at which I ought to aim the ball, and at the same time, I'm struck that this man in his late-50s or early-60s, who has told me he is a grandfather, and who is so knowledgeable and smart about golf and about this course, is in the position of supporting me, who's just OK at the sport, playing only about once a year, since our move to metro-New York 11 years ago.

On Friday, I met a colleague who grew up in Bangalore, went to the India Institute of Technlogy (IIT) in Bangalore and has worked in Bangalore for her entire career, though she has traveled extensively for IBM.

"Would you ever be interested in taking a foreign-service assignment?" I asked her.

"No, I'm lucky to have been born and to have grown up in the center of where IT is happening, and now, everyone's coming here, so why would I?" She meant that she could have all of the intellectual stimulation she could ever want by people from everywhere without ever having to leave home.

"Yeah, it's a happy accident of birth, I guess," I said and she smiled in agreement.

Welcoming All Hands on Deck, Wherever They Were Born

The secret of being a good global citizen, I'm realizing, is treating every human being like a human being, particularly like a human being who might have something to teach me.

All should go unprecedentedly prosperously in all sorts of dimensions if I remember that I am not here in India -- or anywhere -- exclusively to impart my wisdom and experience, but also to make it a mutual exchange, where I can learn new best practices. Likewise, though it would be understandable due to the relatively recent history of British colonization, Indians and all human beings, I think, benefit from being open to new approaches and people from other cultures, including me, as long as people like me behave respectfully and never try to discount the local culture...and as long as the local people can assume good will until shown that they should feel otherwise and also trust that I don't mean to invade their culture, but rather to participate in it and maybe even enrich it a bit with my diverse presence.

A slip last night: Pat and I are being stealthy about our status as a couple beyond the walls/contextual conversations with colleagues of IBM here because we are aware that lesbianism is not accepted by Indian culture; last night, walking down our hotel hallway to our room, I put my arm around Pat's shoulder (which is not taboo at all in Indian culture), but then quickly kissed her golf-shirt-clad shoulder.

"Sarah, there's a camera right there," Pat said, pointing.

"Oy, don't point. Now, they know we know they're there," I said, feeling anxious and ashamed of my indiscretion, and upset that what, to me, is such a mild act could endanger us somehow.

We've been so conscious of avoiding any public displays of affection out of respect for the culture we're living in; we figure that if an American movie star could cause a stir here by displaying heterosexual affection, we can be more culturally sensitive than he. And until last night, we had been...and mostly, still are, really, since our affection was not broadcast on national TV, but at worst, on hotel security monitors.

One of my colleagues, who knows my partner is female, and who meant no offense, said to me last week, "I think that men will stop holding hands here soon due to western influence, and I think that's a shame because it's such a sign of innocence, their doing so. It has nothing to do with homosexuality."

I know what she means, now that I've seen at least 20 pairs of male friends on the streets, demonstrating their friendship in this way. Pat commented, "There's a boyishness about it," and that's true.

Today's issue of "The Hindu" includes an editorial by IIT Madras professor, Shreesh Chaudhary, "IIT model ought to be replicated...." He writes:

IITs could be permitted to recruit faculty worldwide, if enough suitable ones are not available at home. We will have to get out of the mindset of 'Saare jahan se achchhaa....' [A staffmember of the hotel where we're staying kindly translated the expression, explaining that it is from a song that became popular at the same time as India's national anthem, and it means essentially that India is superior to all other nations.] A world class institution, just as a world class nation, must draw from the world, must be its aggregate (p. 15).

I really like the way my colleague Dr. Julia Sloan thinks of culture:
I'm from Alaska and when I think of bringing, for example, a corporate culture that originated in one country to people who work for that corporation in another country, I think of it as additive, that is, like a snowball that gets bigger when you pack more snow on, and does not lose its essential self. People needn't give up their cultures, but rather, can just add on to them.

Birthday Traditions May Vary

On Friday, I had more fun on my birthday and felt more special on the day than I recall having had or felt since childhood. The night before, I found myself resentful that I had to bring candy in for my colleagues, according to Indian tradition. It's my birthday, I reasoned, and I should be receiving treats, not having to give them.

Nonetheless, I steeled myself and followed the custom and brought in a large bag of chocolate Eclair" hard candy that I bought from the hotel room's mini-bar. At the beginning of the day, I put it in a bowl and set it on the corner of my desk, where it would be most accessible. As people arrived, I said, "Please have some candy. It's my birthday today."

"Many happy returns of the day!" they said routinely, taking just one piece each and shaking my hand, and in the case of some of the women, even though they hardly knew me yet, they kissed both of my cheeks as they wished me all good things for the day and the coming year.

A custom I resented just less than 24 hours prior suddenly seemed like the most wonderful idea in the world. I love for people to know it's my birthday when it is....Maybe it's part of having grown up as the youngest and most spoiled of my parents' three daughters, but I'm always a little sad on my birthday if everyone I interact with doesn't know the significance of the day.

In American culture, there's no excuse for telling someone it's your birthday once you're an adult. In Indian culture, I had blanket permission, since I was offering a tiny bit of hospitality for the privilege of their knowing and wishing me well accordingly.

On Friday afternoon, I learned another Indian custom that at first, I mistook for the same as the American version; my colleagues had arranged a cake for me that read, "Happy Birthday Sarah" in blue letters on white frosting....Coincidentally, that was the color-scheme of the cake my U.S. colleagues arranged for me upon my departure for this assignment....That's where the commonality ended:

In Bangalore on Friday, I began to cut the cake and a colleague came over to help. She cut just a swipe of frosting, put it in her first two fingers and thumb and approached me, saying, "This is an Indian custom." Out came the camera-inclusive cell phones and giggles from everyone who would bear witness; she swiped the frosting all over my face as people snapped photos and I couldn't stop laughing.

"This is an Indian custom that you made up for me today, right?" I said, still smiling and figuring that it was just my initiation. They promised that it really is a custom here.

In the ladies room, I washed all but a bit of the sugar off my face apparently; later, I felt that a bit of my hair that had fallen near my jaw during the frosting ceremony was brittle with invisible sugar. I enjoyed discovering this in the middle of a business meeting, and petting it for a moment in fond reminiscence.

My colleagues also all signed a birthday card for me and gave me the gift of a curved, glass photo frame, imprinted with the visual identity of our Learning and Management Development organization.

And my friend and colleague whose daughter's blog is on my blogroll not only gave me three fantastic gifts -- two Indian memoir books and an Indian film on DVD -- but her daughter SMS'ed me to wish me a happy birthday.

Involuntarily, I said aloud, "This is the best birthday I've had since I was a child....And I'm so touched that all of you signed a card for me; you hardly even know me yet."

If every day here could be like my birthday, where I surrender to, and then embrace and revel in local customs, and am embraced by the people who grew up here readily and with full faith, what a rich, fun learning experience this will be for all of us!

Indian MTV Delights

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

The Best of What I Saw While in the Fitness Center

From the following movies:

One of my colleagues thinks that Bollywood movies are vulgar. "The very reason you dislike them is what moves me about them, and the dancing's better than our music videos' in the States," I told her. She laughed and we didn't worry about disagreeing with each other's taste.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Friday, July 13th, is My Birthday

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Everyone Gets Candy

The custom in India is to bring candy to work when it's one's least, that's what one of my colleagues told me(!)

Pat said, "You should have told them that in the United States, on people's birthdays, it's customary for them to receive $20 bills from everyone in the office."

I do recall my friend Deepak, sharing a marvelous story of living and working in Bangalore and giving out candy on his birthday, conditionally. He was at IBM at the time and wrote e-mail to his department, letting them know that it was his birthday and also coming out as gay, and saying that if they were all right with his news, they were welcome to come get some candy. Everyone came and got candy.

Visibility and Voice

Today, I interviewed a manager and she spoke of the role that marriage plays in a number of women's rise (or not) in corporate careers in India. I said, "I'm not single, and my partner is female and it definitely feels like we're highly unusual here."

She responded, "In India, I think there's some denial around what you just described."

I think she's right. If we get the rental that we're hoping for, the realtor told us, in order to pay one club-house fee, rather than two, "Tell them you're sisters." Let's just say that one of us would have had to have been adopted for us to pass as sisters.

It's another good time to remind myself that no one's culture is better or worse than another's. They're just different from one another's.

In today's "The Times of India," Pat found an article, "Lesbian pair disowned by families" in New Delhi. Geeta and Babli met at the wedding of their siblings five years ago.

On Sunday, when they told their families that they had gotten married (at an Arya Samaj temple in Delhi) that day, their families disowned them.

The article ended relatively happily from my perspective: Geeta called the cops and all of the families were taken to the police station. "The police, however, said they could do nothing if the girls wished to live together as they were both adults" (p. 10).

Both Pat and I will celebrate our birthdays here. Hers is on September 19th. More candy for whoever we're with that day.

The best present would be if my electric tooth-brush charger magically appeared. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Power, Mom, Media, Pop

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

My Great Day

Today was a day when I would have loved to have called my mother. Who else wants to hear me show off about the great day I had as much as she? Pat is a captive audience, and well, I'm lucky to be able to expect her zeal in my behalf.

I almost did call my mom, but I have to parcel my miniscule free time; if I called my mother, I'd have had no awakeness left for blogging.

Along with my director, and wearing simply my bright green, linen dress-shirt, with its white collar and three-quarter-length, white-capped sleeves, and my olive, pin-striped pants, I met Mr. Shanker Annaswamy, the leader of IBM India, today.

Had I known the meeting would happen, I'd have worn my salwar kameez, or my best business suit. It was better this way. Hardly had enough time to get nervous.

"I'm honored to meet you," I said.

"Me, too," he responded disarmingly.

It was 30 minutes with one of the world's top business leaders. I can't write about our conversation, which was IBM Confidential, but I walked away, wanting more than ever to be of service to my colleagues here.

I'm so energized, even as I'm exhausted in parallel. This is my state nearly all of the time. Finally, I'm sleeping hard. The jet-lag ended during the middle of last week.


Today, for the third time since we've been here, I felt well enough to exercise formally -- still can't yet go back to swimming; my cold is lingering, though I keep wanting to feel that it's nearly gone. I saw a doctor over the weekend -- did I write about that? -- and it really is just a cold, and he gave me Cipro and Vomistop for the rest.

The hotel's health club was becoming crowded by the time I got there, at 6:05 am -- had been empty, other than one guy the day prior. How disappointing to have to watch programming chosen by a hotel guest other than me! He wanted CNN, which felt so grim compared to my thrill at MTV yesterday morning...whether or not the other exerciser had been delighted by my taste.

I'm thinking of my colleague Mike, who's on assignment in Shanghai now, and how, probably locally, current events aren't magnified by the media in the same way they are by media outside of the country, just like when I lived in Jerusalem in 1985-86, I never felt the degree of danger that the non-Israeli media always promoted about life in Israel.

At breakfast yesterday, Pat said, "Sarah, a sleeper-cell could be anywhere --"

"So why suspend living, right?"


When I left for the office today, Pat was sitting at her laptop, listening to yesterday's "Morning Edition" on NPR, and kept listening, she told me later, until it stopped connecting.

Pat is telling me to go to sleep, so I'll just finish this with the pop part; so far, during my daily commute over the past several days, I've been delighted to hear the following songs on Radio Indigo, the colour of music:

  • "Party Like a Rockstar" - Shop Boyz
  • "I Don't Need a Man" - Pussy Cat Dolls
  • "How Deep is Your Love?" - BeeGees
  • "Summer Love" - Justin Timberlake
  • "Show Me Love" - Robin S.
  • "Do You Know?" - Enrique - I hear this one the most often....

My boss here wants us to move into the community where he lives, and if the rental goes through, he's excited that we'll be able to ride to work together. I know he's right --that we'll get even more accomplished -- but already, I'm mourning not hearing Cindu's "Big Breakfast" voice and Rohit's "Cruise Control" voice during drive-times.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Chipwirrel Revealed!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Pat and I discovered him or her during our second day in Bangalore. The photo is by Pat, who not only coined the name for the squirrel-sized chipmunk, but whose camera also caught the chipwirrel, perhaps mid-prowl....

Monday, July 9, 2007

Kvetching Constructively

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Chuckle-flavored Yogurt

Reading "The Hindu" at breakfast this morning, I saw an article on an archeological dig, where the team determined that modern people were in India even longer ago than was previously known, and that they probably came from Africa, from where all of humanity originated.

"Why did *everyone* come from Africa, Pat?"

"Because that's where the aliens landed."

God, she's just what I need! Comic relief is so precious. I told our realtor of the exchange when we were apartment hunting today and she said, "That's a good one," barely laughing.

Pat said, "My humor's not as funny to anyone as it is to Sarah."

Home, Which Home?

The hunt drained us mentally, and we don't yet have a place for certain. It's between two and we'll have to see what's viable. We should know within a few days.

We rejected a third option because a) it was around the corner from where we heard the chanting on Saturday night and b) the tiny swimming pool looked more like an emerging terrarium.

A number of times during my commute to work, looking at street scenes, I've felt like I was in a time-machine, where I was part of ancient and modern eras at once.

Just now, thinking about looking for a home and about the newness of the assignment, I feel like I'm in a personal time machine, too, where I'm revisiting my past, of trying to find new shelter, which Pat and I haven't had to do since we bought our house 11 years ago, and of glimpsing my future, which seems to be wedded to helping leadership in emerging countries...I hope.

It's an exhausting and much more vivid life in parallel. I've written to some friends that either I'll age 10 years in India or become 10 years younger.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A Very Different Date-night

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Venturing Out

Tonight, we chose a restaurant from an attractive ad in the hotel room's city magazine. During the drive back, we passed through a neighborhood that was reminiscent of Mulberry Street in Little Italy in New York City in its wealth of lights strung over the streets.

The resemblance ended there. Suddenly, it was like being on a northeastern U.S. ski slope in the '70s, when a number of them pumped music through loudspeakers on the slopes.

The music would follow me down the whole run. Here, though, the music was liturgical chanting in Hindi by a single male voice. And it followed us for blocks and blocks and blocks. Both of us figured that our friend and colleague Dorothy would have loved it.

Pat found it soothing whereas after the 10th block or so, I found it the stuff of nightmares. I wanted to be more open to new experiences than I felt tonight. Beyond the 10th block, I felt menaced, like the voice would follow us all the way home. It didn't.

Now, I'm drowning it out in my head with Indian MTV, which is twice as thrilling visually as the American version. Before we left for Bangalore, a new, American friend who had lived in Mumbai for a year said, "In India, you'll learn more about yourself than you will about India."

Friday, July 6, 2007

Bangalore Bloating/Delhi Belly

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Reverse Osmosis Must Not Be a Synonym for Filtered

Before we left, my mom told us about a series on PBS, on "The Nightly Business Report" about India -- at 81, my mother's twice as savvy about the stock market as I'll ever be. Accompanying the TV coverage was a blog, including an entry on Dana's "Delhi Belly."

A few days ago, when Pat went to McDonald's while I was at work, she bought an ice-cold, nearly-bucket-sized cup of Diet Coke (more Aspartame-y here, she reports), paid for it, and then threw it in the trash. Wisely, she remembered just in time that her stomach would not be accustomed to Bangalore's ice cubes.

What a contrast to Rome, where we drank from mini-spouts of mountain-spring water all over the city -- and I don't mean water fountains, but rather just spouts. It was delicious, if a little colder than I like water to be.

Last night, I drank water that was reported to have been treated by reverse osmosis -- sounded scientific and safe. Apparently not. Otherwise, I'm not sure what has made me ill like this.

Maybe I can distract myself with the pleasure of blogging, though my stomach's gurgling more loudly than the thumping of the disco downstairs.

How Was Your Day? Please Comment and Let Me Know

Meanwhile, here's how my day was -- at least the earliest part of it:

  • Chat with Pat while still prone
  • Rush to dress, since we chatted for longer than I should have
  • Change my pants, since the black ones look too severe
  • Consider wearing my last-minute, pre-India purchase of open-toed sandals and decide that I don't need to be *that* culturally competent today
  • Determine that I will do my makeup during the commute; it's better than usual, since at least here, I'm not behind the wheel while applying mascara
  • At 7:30 am, air-kiss Pat's cheek goodbye, since I've developed a cold-sore from inadequate sleep/jet-lag
  • Greet the omnipresent, tiny, female security guard on this all-women's floor of the hotel
  • Roll my IBM briefcase down to the Raj Pavilion
  • Grab a copy of "The Hindu"
  • Eat a bowl of fresh, plain, homemade yogurt and a baby-banana, plus a glass of skim milk, Caltrate, Malarone, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, baby aspirin, Dayquil
  • Register from the paper's top story that, indeed, the main terrorist in the UK events of earlier this week is a Bangalore resident
  • Try not to pay attention to the blonde at the next table, as I don't want to seem flirty; she looks at me once, I imagine, but I won't meet her glance....How sad to be so rigid in my behavior when probably, she's just happy to see someone who looks slightly like her (I could be projecting) and I could be simply pleasant if I weren't feeling so awkward
  • Refuse a croissant, as I do daily when the revolving croissant server comes to the table -- s/he her/himself is not revolving, but the server changes from day to day
  • Purchase two, microwaveable Dal Bukhara packets and take a china bowl and large spoon with me in my briefcase, so that I'll have a reliable lunch, as the cafeteria at work is inadequate in its options
  • Roll out of the restaurant -- my bag rolls, not me -- through the fountain-centered lobby and out the front door, returning thanks to a series of smiling staff people in great, native and western outfits
  • Greet John, the man who drives me around Bangalore daily in a compact Ford with tinted windows; the model doesn't exist in the American market, and I can't recall its name
  • Anticipate his turning on the radio, to the station I enjoy, Radio Indigo, and try not to feel any guilt that it would not be his station of choice....I know because I ask him what sort of music he likes and he says, "Rock," but whenever he turns on the radio, he's changing it from a station that plays traditional, Indian music....How gross, I know, not to expand my cultural horizons, but I just like pop music wherever in the world I am, and most of it tends to be American....

Pat is telling me that it's time to go to sleep. The distraction tactic worked! I hope for a horizontal time now, with no need to be vertical during the night.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

India-pendence Day

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Happy Fourth!

Two years ago, I celebrated Thanksgiving by myself -- in an Indian restaurant in Shanghai. Today represents, as some local colleagues would say, an "upgradation" because for this major U.S. holiday, I am not alone.

Pat and I went to the fancier restaurant in the hotel tonight in celebration of the holiday. Again, it was Indian food. Pat is a sport.

We're starting to know some Hindi words: bagh is garden; murgh is chicken; and chollo is slang for let's go/see you later.

A couple of nights ago, a colleague and I learned that both of us blog. We exchanged URLs and today, right before the meeting, she said, "I had a look at your blog."

"Probably more than you ever wanted to know about me...."

"No, that's just what blogs are for...." What a relief. I think there's something ultimately liberating about writing here and sharing a number of the thoughts I have in a given day. Certainly, I felt great when she acknowledged that a blog is for expressing ourselves however we wish.

Hindi Immersion

This morning kicked off the first day of a three-day meeting of the team. We began by interviewing one of our colleagues for a few minutes and then transferring what we learned to a sheet of flip-chart paper, in preparation for introducing the colleague.

We were forbidden to refer to work or to our educational backgrounds, and so we had to describe ourselves in other ways. The son of the colleague I interviewed turned seven today, and the colleague loved Paulo Coehlo's fiction along with the sparkly blue water and white sand of the Maldives.

Among other things, my interviewer learned that I blog -- about what? he asked -- about life experiences; used to go rollerskating in Central Park instead of to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is where my mom thought she was sending me on the train when I was 13 or 14; that I've got a partner of 15 years -- at the end of this month, it'll be -- whose name is Patricia; and that I've got a niece and three nephews, two of whom are identical twins....

My interviewee asked if I wanted her to add her name at the top of the chart, in Hindi.

"Yes, and let's do the whole chart in Hindi!"

She did, and I delivered the introduction by memorizing the order, and speaking English that corresponded with each of the Hindi line items, which felt great.

"Sarah learned Hindi over the weekend!" one of them exclaimed.

My director, who's from China originally, said, "It looks like Hebrew to me!"

And so I asked if my colleague wanted me to write her name in Hebrew and she smiled, Yes. It felt good to know an alphabet other than English characters, since all of them did....It occurred to me to write out all of the line items in Hebrew, too, but I realized that that would be over the top.

One of my other colleagues played cricket on her college team; Pat said that one of her key objectives of this trip is to learn to understand the game of cricket before our return to the States.

Lunch was a special experience: Our manager took us home for a meal cooked by his wife, Sindhu, who has an M.S. in Math and now is studying Library Science. They have two kids, one of whom, at four, already was home from nursery school, and was glued to a Nickelodeon cartoon until his friend came over to play.

Sindhu's cooking was exquisite, and it felt so good to be sitting in a real home, since we're hotel-bound for now. They are Hindu and we took off our shoes before entering their home. I found it ultimately relaxing for an hour in the middle of an extra-full agenda.

Once again, I've nearly fallen asleep at my ThinkPad....

On this Independence Day, I'm grateful that:

  • The United States and India no longer are colonies, and are democracies
  • As two women, we're free to travel, and in my case work, in this country
  • I am more confident in my ability to contribute than I have ever been
  • My aspiration to contribute and my contribution both are welcomed
  • I have people I miss and who miss me while we're here
  • My writing has this blog outlet.

Monday, July 2, 2007

First Day on the Job

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Moments of Pop- and Gay Culture

Today, "The India Times" features a photo of the Kolkata gay pride parade -- just a photo with an innocuous caption, though the two subjects seem to me to be a bit of an editorial: a transwoman, and a man, wearing a "Tease Me Please Me" T-shirt, and neither looks happy or proud.

During my commute this morning, I hear a duet by Christina Aguilera and, I think, Kylie Minogue that seems sure to be the hit of the summer, "Candyman."

Oops. I'm behind. It was released in early-2007, but apparently, hasn't yet become a hit on the pop radio stations I listen to in the States.

It is surreal to be listening to it on Radio Indigo, "the color of music," while whizzing by such various neighborhoods in Bangalore.

Reality Checks

This afternoon, sitting outside of the Leela Palace Hotel, I am marveling at the thick, butter-swirled, agate table, the substantial white-cushioned, wicker furniture, the inlaid marble floor. I have just come from a local IBM leadership learning event.

Should I put on my new sunglasses, or will I look too glamorous? The breeze makes my salwar kameez billow and act like a femininity-flag.

What gorgeous landscaping! What a welcoming, warm breeze...."Oh, man!" I exclaim. A woman and her two young sons turn around and I gesture to the arch above us, where a pigeon seems to be wagging its tail-feathers at me.

My open notebook has received a critical comment from the bird. The family smiles at me and I surrender to the grossness, using tissues to wipe it off.

Later, this evening, a woman says, "You're the first Jew I've ever met."

"That's what I'm here for!" I respond, smiling, "What's your religion?"

"I'm Catholic."

"You're pretty rare here [in India], too; aren't there just two percent of you?"

"*One* percent --"

"Well, two percent Christians in total, I thought."

"You know Catholics; we figure that everyone else is going to hell," she says with a chuckle.

I smile and recall now, but not then, that people's beliefs are not better or worse than mine, but rather, just different.