Customer Service – Whole Foods

Monday, I was in Whole Foods store with my wife doing the usual grocery shopping. At the checkout counter, there was a guy in queue before us who got a wine bottle. There was a problem with the wine bottle. It seemed from the conversation that the bottle was not properly tagged. So the guy manning the check-out called for help from the manager.

The manager came and took the bottle and tried to hunt down for the tag from the rack. She couldn’t find one. So she came back to the check-out and told the customer to just pay the least price of all wine bottles in store, accepting that it was a mistake on their part not to tag an item correctly. The customer was happy that he got a good wine for so less a price.

All this took place for nearly 5 minutes. After the guy left, I was the next person on queue. The manager instructed the guy who did the billing to not bill for the milk I took from the store. That was a pleasant surprise. All I did was wait patiently in the queue. So nice of a move from the Store Manager. The price they get to please two customers, is more business.

I really appreciate the customer service.

Mazda CX-7

Last week, on the sixth month anniversary of our marriage, me and my wife shopped and bought a new car. It is a 2010 Mazda CX-10. I traded the old vehicle in and got this one.

Reading a lot of websites for advise, setting the budget, working through edmunds, kbb and getting reviews and retail values and finally doing the bargain with the dealer. It was a new experience, but a worth learning. Thinking about this takes to one thought, the world is growing richer in cash. Yes. My dad bought his first car 3 years ago. I am buying it now. Good thing.

Wonderful driving ahead.

Love Marriage

Recently, I read a blog post from my friend Srikanth on Marriages in India. There was a lot more that I could relate to, so here is my view on it.

Marriages – In India, this signifies more than the coming together of two people. It is the coming together of two families and relations. It is an event where people want to showcase their position/status to the relations and friends. It means a lot to the parents of both the sides. Each caste/subcaste has its own custom ways of conducting a marriage. There lies the beauty of marriages too, elaborate preparations, sending out invitations, inviting people, booking of marriage halls, cameras, reception, food etc., and the list goes on!

When it comes to arranged marriages, the process is simple. Everything is arranged. Which also means, everything is taken care of by the parents. This is one last responsibility that every parent wants to handle before considering their children to be mature enough to handle the world! With arranged marriages, everyone is happy, parents, friends, relatives and also the bride and the groom. Happily Ever After!

In case of love marriages, the process is always complex, excepting in a few rare instances. Nothing is arranged. Since marriages are the coming together of two families, it takes a lot of time. Convincing the parents first to agree to it. If the boy and the girl belong to different caste/subcaste (forget different religions here), there comes the problem for convincing the parents to stop worrying about the society. Then comes the part where both the families have to meet. This is the hardest part. Both families have to like each other ūüôā If all these succeed, then comes the actual negotiation and finally marriage. The thing here is, no one in both the parties will want to hold the responsibility. Everyone will like to escape, to get away from the wrath of the society. So it falls on the heads of the bride and the groom, to do all the consoling and getting everyone to agree.

One nice thing about love marriages is (as per my understanding), during this entire process, the boy and the girl get to understand and appreciate each other well. This helps in the long run of their relationship. They tend to talk over each and every step. Each one of them start to like the ability of the other to handle tight situations, supporting each other. Fruitful!

Marriage is the occasion to commemorate the coming together of two people. An event to forget all differences and wish the couple a happy life together! When the life itself is not predictable, why not let people live happily till they are! Let Happiness prevail!

Getting Settled

Here is more update on my life in America. It was hard finding an apartment here. Office is in Downtown area. I don’t own a car. So I had to consider that fact too, either, the office must be reachable by Public Transit or walkable.

I found one. A nice and a beautiful apartment (That is how anyone from Chennai will feel about any house here). I am now a resident of Downtown, Richmond, VA. After the apartment hunt, then comes setting aside enough money to furnish your apartment. I had to buy a bed and a few kitchen utensils, the minimum requirements to stay in any apartment. With no car to get to places to shop, I resorted to shopping online.

In India, we just buy a bed (wooden or steel), then we order a mattress or we just leave it off. Here, we have more. First you have to get a bed frame, then a box spring, then the actual mattress. Still, I have not gotten used to not tracking dollar conversion to rupees. I have asked my stupid mind to stop counting it. And there are 4 sizes to choose from, King, Queen, Full and Twin. That is when my college friend, Abhilash (Nair as I call him), came. He was the friend in need. He has been here for sometime now, he dragged me to the omnipresent Walmart. And that ended all the shopping.

We also made it a point to visit the local Indian Restaurant ‘India K Raja’ and the Indian grocery store, ‘Lakshmi Palace’. It was good to do a bit of shopping. Now I have moved to the new apartment. It is just 5 mins walk to my office. Also the SSN application is over. I am getting settled.

First Week in America

I arrived at the Chicago, O Harare Terminal on 20th October. Just like any other first time traveller to the United States, confused, excited, wondering, awe-struck, I entered at Terminal. My flight carrier was Lufthansa. It was a long day for me, I started from Chennai, India at 1:45 AM IST. I landed on Frankfurt airport at 8:29 AM German Local Time. Then the connecting flight landed me in Chicago at 12:26 PM CT. What a long day with 4 meals already done.

Immigration and Customs were a breeze. I brought 2 huge check-in luggages, one with all items to wear here, and one with all groceries, equipped to run a Indian Grocery Store. Well packed with goodies, and love of my lover, mom and sister. I had my domestic flight that took me to Richmond, VA only at 4:49 PM CT. I waited all that time in the domestic Terminal 2, flipping through “2 States” by Chetan Bhagat. It is a nice book. (More about it in a separate post)

There was Manoj here to pick me up. A nice colleague. He took me to a grocery store, restaurant and then to my apartment. He even took pain to see that I got myself comfortable in my apartment. Thanks Manoj, if you are reading this. Jaswinder Singh was there with him. He is my lead here. It was in his car, that I got to the Apartment.

Till now, everything was fine. Then, I wanted to open a bank account, get a phone connection and all these wanted a SSN. God! Everyone and every service wanted to know my SSN. I am brand new to America, and I can’t survive without an SSN. The SSN application can be done only after 10 days, after my immigration information and I-94 forms have moved to the office. I was stuck.

I work out of Virginia Retirement Systems office. It is located in the downtown area. Got used to the place now. I have started cooking. The second day, I cooked rice and ate it with “paruppu podi”. The next day morning, I did Top Ramen’s Noodles. Simple items though, this was my first try at cooking. Day before yesterday, I did “Pongal (Ven)”, it came out well. I was very happy! Today, I wanted to try more. So I cooked “Venkaya Sambhar” (Onion Sambhar). Though it came out with little salt, it turned out to taste good.

From a software engineer, America turned me into a cook. Those in Richmond, looking for room mates, who knows to cook, you can look out for me. More ramblings in future posts! Watch out!

And people out there, recommend me if I should take a separate apartment or go for a shared one with a room mate. Also, I hold a valid Indian License, will you advise me to buy a car and start driving now or 6 months later!

Real Police – Thief chase

Two days back, when I was on my way to the office, at the Park Town station, this incident happened.

It is not unusual to see people at the Park Town station, crossing the railway paths and not using the sub-way. It has to be partly blamed on the authorities too for such a poor maintenance of the sub way. During the rainy season, it is flooded that people are forced to cross over to the other platform by crossing the railway lines.

But that day was sunny. As usual, I was there at 7.30 am to catch the morning train to Tiruvanmiyur. When I emerged out of the subway, I could see two Railway Police Force (RPF) Officials hiding on the entrance to the subway. There were talking to the people nearby. As I entered the platform, there were people who were signalling to the men crossing the railway lines not to cross. That is when I realized what had been happening.

The RPF men could not be seen from the other platform, when someone crosses the railway lines and reaching the other end, they would be caught by these two men and complaint filed. It reminded me of one of our childhood play called ‘Police-Thief’ (‘Thirudan – Police’ in Tamil) where one would play police and others would play thief hiding from the police. The game play was the police to figure out all the thieves from the hiding spot.

It was happening the other way round here, the police were hiding and the people had to figure that there were police hiding and use the subway instead of crossing the railway lines.

After all, Life is interesting!

Obama's Inaugural Speech

All news channel have been reporting on President Obama taking the oath of the President’s Office of United States throughout yesterday. His inaugural speech was really one of its class. In the charismatic voice of Obama, it even sounded one of the best heard in the lifetime.

Here are a few excerpts from his speech, that I liked.

Talking to the other nations watching him take the oath he said:

“And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born:¬† know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.”

In his speech, the emphasis are always on the words ‘America’, ‘We’, ‘Hope’. That is why he has been drawing crowds. It is not only America that is looking at him, it is the entire world. A true leader’s speech.¬† So optimistic when he says, ‘We are ready to lead once more’.

“We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.¬† The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation:¬† the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given.  It must be earned.  Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less.  It has not been the path for the faint-hearted Рfor those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”

Calling the Americans to work, rather than bask in the past glory. It was really a speech that can be treated as a ‘wake up call’. He may not deliver what he had promised, but he has been inspiring, which can make people work.

“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.”

“On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. “

Let this be a speech to the world. Let a new era of responsibility start throughout the world. Let us all work together for saving the earth and leave the world a better place for the coming generation.

All the best Obama on your new office.