The Disha Story

 

Written and Edited by Abhay Joshi

Some content provided by employees of Disha Technologies

Written in 2006

 

First Incarnation: the US-only entity

 

Name: Disha Software Technologies

Date started: 24 August 1994

Business Address: P. O. Box 2437, Champaign, IL 61825, USA

Federal Tax ID: 36-3976854

 

After getting my master’s degree in computer engineering from Syracuse University in 1987 I stayed on in the US and worked for about seven years as a software developer. My friend Vikas Joshi, on the other hand, returned to India and started his own company called Harbinger specializing in knowledge management and computer-based learning. Vikas visited the US frequently to get projects, and I helped him in little things whenever I could. Together we met Steve Veach in Chicago, Joe Hardin in NCSA, Urbana, Prof Vaidya in Urbana, and Mohamed in Champaign. It was a good experience for me to watch Vikas doing his business. That is how the entrepreneurial spark in me was born.

Glimpse of the first Internet Browser

During Vikas’s visits in 1993-94 we used to roam around looking for software projects. Urbana-Champaign was a University town, and there were very few companies in this area; most of them were so used to cheap student labor that even the offshore rates were too high for them! (Of course this was before the great outsourcing wave of the late 90s, and the offshore rates were a bit on the higher side.) We also used to make rounds of the University departments looking for any kind of software development work. NCSA, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications – one of the prestigious supercomputing centers in the country – was right there in Urbana. Naturally, we used to circle its campus like vultures hoping for a piece of the stupendous high-tech work being carried out inside. Joe Hardin was a senior manager at NCSA and we once managed to arrange a meeting with him and give him our sales pitch. He was unmoved, and instead of catching on the offshore story, gave his own sales pitch about a great new application his team at NCSA had designed. We came out of the meeting feeling sorry for poor Joe since he had clearly failed to notice our great programming talent. We openly mocked and laughed at whatever great application he was talking about. The next day, we heard that there was an exhibition at NCSA of some sort, so we drove up there. Apparently the great application that Joe had mentioned was on display. It was called ‘Mosaic’ and it looked like a graphical utility that allowed access to the Internet. ‘Big deal!’ we thought, since we had been using the Internet since our Syracuse days (1986) and this was just another Internet application. There was, however, a big crowd of students, visitors from other Universities, and a bunch of folks in suit and tie. They apparently had much better appreciation of what NCSA had developed than what Vikas and I had just a day ago. As it turned out, we were witnessing a revolution and had no inkling about it! Mosaic brought in the Internet revolution. One of the developers of Mosaic, Marc Andresen went on to start Netscape Communications.

Turning a Bad News into a Good One!

My last job was with a company called Addamax – which specialized in Trusted Operating Systems. It was a very niche business and they always struggled to get customers. But they had a great team, and I learned a lot during this job.  There is something special about working in the system software space – it gives you the feeling that you really understand how software works after all, and gives the confidence that you can pretty much do anything else. After Addamax started showing signs of a slump, my urge to start something of my own got stronger. If Addamax really went bust I could always look for another job; but I might also try doing something independently. That was my thinking. So Tanuja and I worked on the idea together. I obtained some preliminary information about the legalities of starting a business. A name was required to do business, since I was sure about expanding the activity beyond just me. So Tanuja and I huddled to think about a suitable name for the entity.  Since we had no children at that time we were completely inexperienced in the business of coming up with names. But we knew the criteria for the name – it had to be simple to pronounce, it had to have a nice meaning but nothing too pompous, and it had to be an Indian word.  After a lot of thinking, we decided that the name would be Disha.  I personally had an emotional tie with this name because a while ago when I was a student in Pune, I had received a lot of affection and support from a bunch of sisters the eldest among who was Disha.

 

(There is another story about why the company was named Disha. In Marathi, the question: प्रश्न असा आहे की उत्तर काय आहे? brings out the answer “Disha”. This indirectly means: Disha is the answer to every question. In my mind, Disha was the answer to the question ‘what direction to take next’.)

 

The next challenge was to come up with the logo.  Again the goals were simple – the logo had to be nice looking, but easy-to-use for a variety of documentation.  So I simply used WordArt to create the logo – which is basically “Disha” written in the Manhattan font with an arrow laid on top of it, and the arrow points to the right – meaning Disha was to be a place pointing to the right direction!

 

(People ask why the arrow in Disha’s logo is from left to right. The answer to that is: if you read दिशा - Disha in Devanagari - from right to left it reads शादी (Shadi) – obviously not the type of business we intended to do! So that’s why the arrow was left to right!)

 

The next challenge was to figure out a punch-line – which was a relatively straightforward task.  Having decided the name, the punch-line came naturally – technology is a means, not the goal.  I was enjoying all this very much.  At this time there was no grand vision, nor a business plan in place.  I simply knew that I wanted to do some software work on my own and in my own premises. I was full of confidence that I could do any type of work - application development, kernel level work, device drivers, user interface development, or even training. The only constraint was the OS platform - which had to be UNIX, because I had no experience with the Windows environment. In the back of my mind, I also knew that Disha would have a connection with India. I had been watching my friend Vikas doing his offshore business. So I had some idea of the challenges and also the fun involved in having a team working in India. Like everybody else of my generation who had come to America for higher education, going back to India or at least having a connection with India was always on my mind.

 

Later in 2005, one of the employees – Khalid M.Shaikh – at Disha did a search on Google and found this entry:

https://www.cs.unc.edu/~raskar/coep/directory.html

Name : Abhay B, Joshi

E-mail address(s) : trpg3425@uxa.cso.uiuc.edu (Last Update 11/18/94)(valid until May 1995)

Year of graduation from COEP : 1984

Department at COEP : Instrumentation and Control

Current Institution (School-Company): Disha Software Technologies

Current work address: P.O.Box 2437, Champaign, IL 61825

Work phone number: 217-367-4492

Current home address: 2023 S. Orchard Street, Apt C, Urbana, IL 61801

Home phone number: 217-367-4492

India home address: c/o Prof. B.G.Joshi, Mauli-krupa, 499 Pool Ali, Shirala, India 415408

 

Initial Business:

Disha was officially a partnership in the beginning - between Tanuja and me. Of course, she had very little time, as she was busy doing her PhD.  But she had a big role in defining the name, the logo, and she participated in brainstorming on different ideas. My first project was some secure networking related development work for Argus - the new company formed by previous Addamax employees.  Randy Sandone, who was the VP of business development in Addamax, became the CEO of Argus, and most employees joined his new company. So I knew practically everyone here, and I knew they needed help. And they didn't mind keeping me busy.  When the Argus work reduced to a trickle, I contacted my old friends in Naperville at Lachman Technologies. They also had an interesting project going on with one of their customers called Palindrome, a storage company. The work had to be done on-site, so I started commuting to Chicago once again.  I struck a deal wherein I could work for three days and then return to Champaign. The work was very interesting - they were just creating functional specifications for an ambitious new product and I was given the task of creating technical architectures for a few components of this product. The work was in 'networking', which was my strongest skill at the time. So I managed to make a very good impression on the engineering team at Palindrome. As a result, they hired my services later when I was no longer working for Lachman. I specifically remember the names of Paul Hartge, Becky Hjellming, Robert Drake, and Jack Bishop. They were a great team to work with, and I learnt a lot about new application development and object-oriented programming. These guys were very process oriented, and they had excellent guidelines for systematic development. I remember that they even had a detailed guideline for writing object-oriented software in C.

First Employees:

I did not hire full-time employees during my consulting days. But as the work started piling in, I decided to take help of contractors. Naren Mididaddi, who was my co-worker at Addamax, became my first part-time contractor. I think he had taken up a job in Chicago area and I asked him to do some development work on the side for me. Since he was unable to sign a contract for this work, we had his friend Sudhakar enter a contract with Disha. Later on, there was some Ethernet driver porting work, for which I took the help of Ken Wessel - a lanky guy from Wisconsin who had a lot of experience in driver development. I had met him during my contracting work with Motorola in Urbana. (I remember his favorite comment before he took off on weekends for his home in Wisconsin. He used to say, “Well, off I go to watch the cows.” And then he would add after a pause, “On the beach of course!”)

 

These sub-contracts where very informal; I never had a comprehensive legal contract with anyone, but it all worked very well. There was no question of managing people since these guys were quite independent and reliable. But it surely increased my confidence of taking up work of bigger magnitudes.

 

Disha in the State of Illinois lasted 10 months, because we packed up our bags and baggage and made for the State of Washington in 1995. Tanuja had finished her PhD in Computer Science (her thesis was in Computer Vision) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and got 2 job offers - one from HP and the other from Microsoft. Since Disha consisted of just me at that time, I was not too worried about the choice of the new location; I was confident that I would be able to find work to keep myself busy wherever we went. The HP offer was for their facility in Fort Collins (which could only boast of Rocky Mountains besides HP), and the Microsoft offer was for Seattle, which was a much bigger city with many more opportunities for consulting work.  Plus our friend Sanjay Jejurikar, who was at Microsoft at the time, convinced us that moving to Seattle was the superior option. So in June 1995 we moved to Seattle. At that time, I was doing some work for Palindrome in Naperville, and they graciously agreed to let me continue working from Seattle.


Second Incarnation: the real Disha Technologies:

The Third Founder

After I moved to Seattle, I continued the projects with my Chicago-based customers. But it was obvious that I would have to think of a new strategy to get customers in Seattle. It was also clear that I needed to evolve the one-man show and give it some sort of a long-term vision.

 

My classmate from Syracuse University, Sanjay Jejurikar, happened to be in Seattle. By then Sanjay had already built an enviable career at Microsoft in the Windows NT Division. Sanjay and I started the practice of meeting in Crossroads Mall for lunch every Thursday. We always met at the ‘Bite of India’ fast-food restaurant, and ordered the same rice and curry dish every time! The topics of our discussion were varied, but the main topic of interest was the current trends in the software industry: the incipient wave of outsourcing to India, the success achieved by some of our contemporaries, etc. Sanjay tested my entrepreneurial seriousness by describing to me the advantages of being employed at Microsoft. Microsoft stock options in those days had a tremendous attraction for software engineers. I even went through the interview loop at Microsoft as a litmus test - when I was offered a job, I managed to avoid the temptation. After having cleared up this checkpoint, we continued our discussions on how Disha might progress. We knew that the model for Disha clearly was ‘outsourcing to India’. Sanjay introduced me to his childhood friend Kiran Bhagwat, who at that time already was a year-old entrepreneur himself. He had a business called OpenView Technologies in Pune. Kiran and I got talking about the software outsourcing business, and we realized that we were talking the same language. The year-long communication that ensued only cemented our mutual respect and confidence. In about a year after first meeting Kiran, Disha Technologies India (under the actual name of Redmond Software Private Limited) was launched in August 1997.

 

Sanjay continued to provide me and Kiran with insights into the software testing business, guidance on how to spot good talent for testing, etc. He joined Disha on full-time basis in 2001 - one year after he retired from Microsoft - and became CTO. He had, unquestionably, the deepest understanding of the software testing business in our company. He knew the joys and sorrows of this career path; he knew the challenges (and solutions too) of managing this business. So, although he joined Disha a few years after it was launched, we think of him as the third co-founder of ‘Disha Technologies – the specialist in software testing’.


Dealing with a Change(r) at the very start!

Disha India was launched on August 1, 1997. The company’s name initially was Redmond Software Private Limited; I suppose we wanted to advertise our affinity to our giant customer Microsoft which itself was headquartered in Redmond. The US Company, which came into existence earlier, was named Disha Technologies. Believe it or not, we started business not with manual testing projects, but with some serious Test Tool development work. We put up an advertisement in the local newspaper for SDET positions. Quite a few candidates turned up. We had them give a written test consisting of C programming and CS questions. Srikanth Sastry was then an employee of OpenView Technologies - commonly known as OVTL – and he was actively involved in the logistics of conducting the written test. (At that time Srikanth had no intention to consider working for this wacky new venture. Luckily he changed his view soon thereafter!) After the interviews we selected 4 candidates to whom I delivered a few hours of training - basically on the fundamentals of Windows NT-based software development. One of the candidates - the only girl among the 4 - disappeared after the training; so we finally had 3 employees as our first team.

 

One of the first projects was to write an automated Stress Test tool for the RSS (removable storage service) component of Windows NT. In those days it was known as NTMS. The work was quite difficult - probably too difficult for our fresh inexperienced team. We realized that to test the program we would need a Robotic Changer device - one which consists of a tape drive, a rack of storage tapes and a robotic arm that inserts and removes tapes in the drive. I was able to convince Microsoft to loan a small Changer device to ship to the team in India. But a new problem cropped up. The contract was with Disha USA and at that time Disha USA was an independent company - with no relation to Redmond Software other than the fact that I was personally in both companies. So there was no justification for Microsoft to ship an expensive Changer device to an unrelated company in India! So we devised another tack - using Microsoft India as an intermediary. That is, MS Redmond would ship the device to MS Mumbai which in turn would loan it to Redmond Software under a local contract. It seemed like a workable plan. So I coordinated with a couple of people in Mumbai to receive the Changer and then arrange for Kiran to pick it up from them. Unfortunately the Changer got stuck in Mumbai Customs. In spite of heroic efforts from both shores, we were unsuccessful in untangling the Changer. Precious time was lost. Finally we decided that the project was at risk if we continued waiting for the device. The work could not be performed in India, and hence the engineer working on the project would have to travel to Redmond. The engineer assigned to this project (Anmol), in the meantime, resigned - the complexity of the work and the dynamics of the situation probably got the best of him. Subrata Majumder, the second employee in line, was courageous enough to take up this challenge. He got his B1 visa too and reported in Redmond to start the work. Subrata and I worked closely on this Stress Test tool - we came up with a multi-threaded C++ design that achieved the required goal beautifully. We did exceed our initial time estimate (so exceeding time estimates is a congenital disease at Disha!) but our customer didn’t mind since they were happy with the quality of the intermediate delivery, and could easily appreciate why we would need more time.

Prasanna’s first US visit:

We were an active participant in Microsoft’s Windows 2000 project. We were asked to test the migration feature: if users wanted to upgrade their existing Windows installations (Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0 etc), this particular feature would allow them to retain their old settings. We were asked to test both the English and German versions. In those days there was no high speed Internet connectivity available in India to download Windows builds (600MB without symbols). So we had to ship CDs by express shipping services such as FedEx. That also took about 7 days! So we had to plan our work very carefully and ship CDs immediately after they became available. We got this worked out quite well and things were humming almost till the end, and suddenly when the milestone was very near, we realized that we had not shipped the German NT 4.0 CDs for the final test pass! There was no time left to ship since the deadline was just a few days away. The team quickly discussed options and decided that one team member would catch a flight to Redmond and complete the work on-site. Customer’s delivery was very important, and cost was secondary. Fortunately Prasanna got his visa and boarded a plane to Seattle. In those days Disha USA had been given an office (a room) on Microsoft campus itself. There were no employees of Disha USA - I did everything: project coordination, account management, onsite testing, whatever. I also played host for visitors from India - their pick-up to and from the airport and stay, etc. Of course I thoroughly enjoyed that. So I picked up Prasanna at the airport and drove him straight to Microsoft! I took him to our little office within Microsoft; we set up the test bed, and got started. After spending a few hours with him, I left. But Prasanna worked throughout the night – remember that it was day-time in Pune, so he could work with the Pune team. And almost 24 hours or so after landing in Seattle, Prasanna actually took a break for a short nap and again returned to work. This was his first ever flight – one that was a long and tiring flight. This was also his first visit to the US of A, and to the top software company in the world. But he ignored his physical condition, and kept all emotions out of his mind until the job for which he had come was done satisfactorily. We finished the test pass on time and Microsoft was pleased.

 

This is but one example of the pride we take at Disha in delivering the goods to our customers. We know how important it is to find that last-minute bug which can cause considerable end-user grief. And we have been rewarded for this dedication. Engineers have had tremendous opportunities to demonstrate their hidden potential and grow their capabilities by leaps and bounds. I can safely say that anybody who has spent 3 years or more at Disha has gained a fantastic amount of insight into what is software engineering all about – which, in those days, he or she couldn’t have gained anywhere else in India.

 

Incidentally Prasanna became the first employee of Disha USA. He is still there, of course, and supervises all project coordination activity and also participates in System Engineering.

The Seattle Earthquake:

February 28, 2001, 10:55am.

 

We had done well thus far in the system software testing space, having done lots of work for the Windows group. We were slowly extending into the application software area. Web-based applications were (and still are) very popular in those days. Radview was an emerging company at that time that had a Load Test tool called WebLoad for web applications. They once came by to our office and gave a short sales presentation. Subsequently, they invited us to a half-day seminar on Load Testing in downtown Seattle. These seminars are essentially free marketing seminars – the host company gives free breakfast, invites a few industry experts to talk (which is the added attraction for attendees), and then uses the opportunity to showcase their own products/services to the attendees. Well, at that time we were probably more interested in the free breakfast than load testing! In any case, Sanjay, Prasanna, Srikanth and I drove to the venue in Sanjay’s Land Rover. The venue was the 24th floor of a tall building in Seattle. We reached by 9am and merrily ate the free breakfast. The room had a magnificent view of downtown Seattle and the Puget Sound. The initial couple of hours were taken by guest speakers talking on various topics in load testing. At about 10:50, it was finally time for the Radview guys to take the floor and present their great product. The woman fired up the slide projector, greeted everyone with a happy smiling face, and hardly got through the first slide when there was a loud roaring noise as if a huge motor had suddenly fired up, and the whole building started shaking. Being smart testers, all of us there immediately realized that it was an earthquake, and started running helter-skelter. Sanjay crawled under a table – which was a prescribed reaction but no one else joined him and so feeling lonely he crawled out. Some of us (like me) reached the large door of the hall and stood underneath its arch. Prasanna had fear written on his face – and someone later told me that he was mumbling “oh God, this is too early for me to die, I am yet to marry and have a family”, although I don’t believe that this was true! Srikanth, on the other hand, seemed to be enjoying the earthquake thoroughly – he had reached one of the large windows of this 24th floor room and was watching how the outside world was reacting to this surprise. I also joined him for a few seconds. The building was moving and shaking quite perceptibly and it went on for 40 seconds and then stopped. As soon as it stopped we knew what to do. The RadView lady probably wanted to continue her presentation. But we had no doubts about what to do next – we ran for the stairway like men on a mission. The lifts were out of function, so we ran down all 24 floors as quickly as possible. The adrenaline was pumping so fast that we didn’t even sweat after this huge exercise. Our car was parked in the basement garage – which meant that we had all of 50 stories-full of creaking concrete above us! When we reached the garage there was another loud noise. We thought the building was coming down; so we panicked and started running out of the garage when someone told us it was just the noise of someone closing his car’s trunk! Then we quickly got into Sanjay’s car and drove out of the basement garage of the heaving 50-story tall building above us. On the way back we turned on NPR (National Public Radio) and got to know more about the earthquake and the damage it had caused elsewhere. Fortunately the earthquake did not cause much damage. The building we were in had no problems either. But if the RadView folks wanted to make their seminar a memorable one, they had definitely succeeded!

 

Technical details of the earthquake:

6.8 Richter, Epicenter Nisqually, Washington State.

Isn’t Samosa a safe thing to eat?

I don’t remember exactly which year this episode took place. I think it was some time in 2001. Sunita Koranne was visiting US for some onsite work. She used to spend a lot of her free time at my house and had become quite friendly with my wife and my children. Once we went to Portland for a weekend trip and took Sunita along. Portland is a nice little city on the banks of the mighty river Columbia. It’s about 4 hours drive from Seattle and its weather is very similar to Seattle’s. The famous volcano Mount St. Helens is about half-way between the two cities. St. Helens in fact had erupted in 1980 and they still sell artifacts made from the ash that had erupted and engulfed most of Portland.

 

Anyway, we knew some folks in Portland from our college days, and so we went to their place. Our hostess, very hospitable as usual, got us all seated comfortably at the kitchen table, and brought out a big plate full of Samosas. We were all quite hungry after the journey, and the weather being cloudy and rainy, the idea of hot samosas followed (hopefully) by some hot tea was very enticing indeed. Sunita, in particular, was beside herself to see the samosas, which she hadn’t seen since leaving India (which was probably a couple of months ago). “Wow! You get samosas here?” she exclaimed, and without asking took one from the plate and munched it down. The samosas were a little smaller in size than what we get in India. So Sunita had no trouble munching down about five of them in a matter of a few minutes. After the initial excitement had settled down, and her stomach had found something to work on, she started eating a bit slowly and started to savor the taste. She realized that the taste was not quite the same. She said, “Hmmm, the samosas taste a bit different, don’t they?” Until this time, nobody else had tried the samosas. So I picked up one and took a bite. Instantly I knew that it was a beef samosa – i.e. a samosa with the filling made up of ground beef. So I told Sunita, “Yeah, it is different. Because it has ground beef in it!”

 

Sunita was a strict vegetarian until that time, and her idea of adventure in the meat-space would have at the most included chicken or fish. But eating beef wouldn’t have been there in her wildest of eating dreams! She was shocked to realize that she had not only broken her vegetarian vow, but had committed the sin of eating beef! Poor Sunita! She was overcome with nausea and had to run to the bathroom!

 

Morale of the story? An attractive UI is not everything. The stuff inside is equally important.

Can third world infra-structure deliver?

Part 1:

These days it is common for people in the IT industry of India to expect high quality work environment and great infra-structure. Employees expect a fully air-conditioned office with spacious cubicles, vibrant and colorful furnishings, and subsidized, if not free, food amenities. They also expect broadband connectivity to the Internet and a secure network infra-structure. Of course, the picture today that one sees outside the IT industry is quite bleak. Non-IT industries suffer from power outages, slow networks, poor civil infrastructure, and so on. Just a few years ago, we also had similar issues. The following story is a good example of what kind of awful logistical issues we had to deal with to deliver our services. It was narrated to me by Milind Bhirud.

 

Let’s roll back to the year 2002. We were testing Windows 2000 Service Pack 3. While testing the FRS (File Replication Services) component, the team hit a regression bug in Active Directory Replication. The team promptly filed this bug in Microsoft’s bug tracking tool called RAID with a lot of information. When the Microsoft tester Rafik Robeal tried to reproduce it, he was unable to do so. He asked for additional information like logs and settings related to Active directory. He also suggested that we could tweak a few registry settings to enable verbose logging. It was the month of April, and we were facing major power cuts. Pune was red-hot under the summer heat. At the time Rafik asked us to re-run the test to get more information, it was a blackout day here in Pune. The UPS systems were draining fast. To get this important issue resolved, we cascaded 10 UPS systems in series to keep the test-bed of only 4 machines online!

 

We were able to reproduce the bug with the required information which we provided to Rafik. For the next 2 days he got busy analyzing it and after that he came back stating that we had hit a very important issue in NTDS-Sites, which might have helped intruders exploit NTLM.

 

Such was the feat accomplished in the days of poor infrastructure. There was no air-conditioning and barely enough power to keep the machines running. The team that literally sweated to deliver was led by Sandeep Sangoram, and Mangesh, Pravin, Karan, and Milind were part of the effort to reproduce this bug. The entire Win SE team of 12 people offered their UPS systems for cascading, although each of them had a delivery pressure of their own.

 

Part 2:

The Bellevue office of Disha was no different in terms of conservative infrastructure. Although there were no power-cuts (thank God) we were quite low tech compared to the companies around us. There is one particular example I remember which is quite hilarious.  For Internet connectivity we had one 56 KBPS modem for the entire office! It was connected to Marcia’s machine (our office receptionist and admin). She was the early bird, that is, she always arrived earlier than the others. So she would turn the modem on as soon as she got in. I had given her a step-by-step procedure to connect to the Internet. She was not a big fan of computers but was good at following exact instructions. So once she connected the modem to the Internet, our office was online! We had shared that modem so that other machines on the local network could use it to route their Internet traffic. So when other employees trickled in, they were already connected to the Internet on a shared line of 56KBPS! We had a couple of local American employees who were quite amazed at our stupendous connectivity infrastructure!

Big pleasures of being small

Note: These episodes are contributed by Deepak Satarkar. Deepak joined Disha in October 2000 as a test engineer. Presently he is a Senior Test Lead in one of the delivery groups in Pune.

 

Let’s go back to the days when we were testing Windows 2000 Service Pack 1. We were primarily running manual test cases for setup and migration. Each test case involved the lengthy procedure of re-installing the operating systems which used to take at least 45 to 60 minutes depending on the OS and the machine configuration. OS installation did not require any manual intervention, so we could simply take a break during that time. Each team member had his/her own machine and some of us had learned to synchronize our test cycles such that we were able to start the installation step at the same time. That allowed us 45 free minutes together. We utilized that time to play cricket in the test lab itself (on the fourth floor)! I still remember that once somebody hit a nice clean shot and crashed a tube light! There were times when there was no electricity for more than 3 hours and even the UPSs were useless. At such times, we used to play cricket on the road in front of the office building. We can never forget those golden days of work and play.

 

We used to celebrate Disha's anniversary every year on August 1st. Since we were so small, we celebrated it on the building terrace which was a little over 120 square feet. Kiran/Sanjay/Abhay used to light the ceremonial lamp and cut the cake, and then it was party time for two hours. All this happened during office hours. We used to contribute funds ourselves to decorate the offices with balloons and other decorative stuff.

Mysteries abound in our business!

Note: This episode is contributed by Prasanna Ganapule. Prasanna was our first STE hired in Pune, and later became the first full-time employee of Disha, USA.

 

This story dates back to the year 2002. I will narrate an unusual incident that puzzled us completely, forced us to desperately find a solution to mitigate risks, and ultimately taught us a valuable lesson!

 

Back then we were a small team at Disha in Bellevue. Marcia did all the non-technical work – handling the phones, reception, HR, travel, kitchen, supplies, taxes, vendors, and so on. I was in charge of ‘shipping and handling’. Our business processes were not that mature to do everything systematically. Of course the ‘software testing processes’ were very mature because of which we could attract business. One day, we received an RFP from a new prospective customer – Windows Mobile (Pocket PC). Abhay and I were very excited because this was something we had not done before. We had a few rounds of meetings with the customer, made presentations and convinced the Microsoft Test Manager (Richard Owens) to try us out on this project based on our proven knowledge of Windows and UI testing. Richard agreed to give us the project and called a follow-up meeting to discuss logistics.

 

Until this point we were treating this just like any other project and were preparing for ramp-up at our Pune office. A Project Lead was assigned and team members were identified. The work was very exciting – testing Windows Smartphone 2002 features. Sounds cool, right? When we met with Richard’s team to discuss logistics, they informed us that their deadlines were very tight, and we would have to ship the Smartphone devices in a matter of days. We had only 15 calendar days before testing must start. We returned to our office scratching our heads on how to ship the devices. For a moment we wished we could ‘beam’ the devices like they did in Star Trek! We called Kiran that night and conveyed to him the good news! He discussed the matter with Anirban and a bunch of other folks to get everything set up at a lightening speed. We were totally unprepared for a mysterious problem lurking in the dark.

 

As I said earlier, our logistics processes were not proven to be mature. This included the shipping process! We had done some shipping before and we had a shipping agent based in Los Angeles. The first installment contained 4 Smartphone devices. These sleek, nice looking gadgets were not at all common in those days. Cell phone technology was just undergoing its evolution to GSM technology, and most cell phones sold in the market were dull looking. The market didn’t even know about ‘Smartphone’. So, these stylish sophisticated devices with bright color screens looked magical in our hands. I packed the phones properly and Marcia (our versatile Office Admin) shipped them to our Pune address through the LA agent.

 

Meanwhile the team in India was waiting anxiously for the devices. They received the box just like I had shipped from Bellevue, and it had all the devices except one! It was a most baffling mystery. The box looked fine and the packaging was in tact. I was quite sure that we had not shipped any device separately; nonetheless only one Smartphone went absconding! Since I was in charge of shipping, obviously all questioning eyes were on me! I was quite sure I had shipped the device. I combed the entire office to ensure the device had not slipped out by mistake. We checked with the Building Maintenance folks to ensure they had not found anything while emptying trash cans. One of us even suggested that we invite the Police to investigate this loss – but we didn’t act on this suggestion. We pestered the shipping agent, the airline carrier, the customs dept for 3 more days, and finally concluded that we had to take corrective steps.

 

Of course it wasn’t easy just to forget about the shipment. If it had fallen in the wrong hands there could be serious implications – hackers could steal this new prototype technology putting Microsoft’s IP in jeopardy. Those devices were not commercially available in the market yet – we had obtained prototype models specifically made for Microsoft! All phones carried an unreleased version of the PocketPC Operating system. They all even had SIM cards installed. It was really a worrisome situation. We debated and discussed for hours and hours how to mitigate the risks and get out of this hole! I discovered, a couple days later, that similar Smartphone devices were available by Microsoft for mobile application developers under the DDK (Device development kit) agreement as part of MSDN subscription. Hurray! We immediately followed up to check the OS version installed on those phones and whether we could flash new versions of OS on them. They indeed supported flashing new OS versions. Abhay and I immediately met with Richard Owens and shared the bad news, but also put forth our mitigation plan. He was quite shocked obviously to hear about the missing device, but he seemed pleased with our honesty, the effort we had taken to investigate, and most importantly the proactive solution that we had come up with. He pacified our fears regarding IP – he told us that he wasn’t too concerned about it since there were security features built in. He also told us in no uncertain words to fix our shipping process if we wanted to continue doing business with him!

 

As per the plan we immediately purchased 4 Smartphone devices at our own cost and shipped by FedEx to Pune office. The package reached Mumbai airport in 2 days as expected. Kiran immediately approved importing the devices by paying the full duty. We paid almost 80% of the purchase price as duty charges and got the 4 phones cleared in a day. The work started at last, not too late to finish the project on time!!

 

We spent considerable time fixing our shipping process. We started using an aluminum box with a combination lock to ship expensive equipment. We put in tracking mechanism and wrote best practices, dos and don’ts, and user guides for everything from purchasing, shipping to custom clearance. We made considerable changes to our risk management and mitigation plans, and established ‘trusted partners’ to tackle all our logistics. We finally shared the process document with Richard.

 

So what happened to the missing Smartphone? We were able to track the device to Milan, Italy since the carrier was Alitalia Airlines. But we were unable to trace it any further. So for all we know the device ended up in the test laboratory of a Sicilian Mafia! Well, let’s hope it did not!

Working from a different kind of home:

Note: This episode is in the words of Rajini Anantha Padmanaban. Rajini joined Disha’s Bellevue office in January 2003 as a Contractor, became a full-time Project Coordinator on the April fool’s day of 2003, and is presently a Project Manager.

 

Here is an interesting project that was executed during my early days at Disha (early 2003), which vividly demonstrated “flexibility to meet customer needs” as one of Disha’s secrets of success. The project was called “Windows Messenger (WM) End to End Testing”, in which we were asked to test WM user experience with different network devices (like NAT, firewall) and Internet connectivity services including broadband services like DSL and Cable. This was my first project coordination experience in Disha.

 

We were hit by the first major challenge right away! We discovered that the broadband services available in the city had their own geographical territories, and it was rare that multiple services could be availed of at the same location. Our office in Bellevue was thus useless because only one provider was active there. We had to literally search for a location in the city that had the best reception from most of the providers. We spent a lot of time on the phone working with the phone company and the ISPs to check out several areas/homes, including homes of Disha’s employees. We finally found one apartment complex, a few miles from Disha, which had the optimal reception. Brahma Vella happened to live in the same apartment complex. He helped us find an apartment for rent.

It was a one bedroom apartment, right above his home. We signed a short-term lease, singed up all the ISPs, and carried tables, chairs, fans, lamps, stationery, water, toilet paper, etc to this new home.

 

Of all the ISPs, the MSN DSL was the last to activate access. We had to ask Microsoft managers to put in a word to expedite the activation. We set up the MSN connection in the kitchen! Qwest and AOL were given the privilege of using the bedroom, and AT&T cable was set up in the living room. Verizon DSL was set up in Disha’s office.

 

Finally the testing began, with 3 testers working from the apartment and 1 tester back in the office. They exchanged results with each other on IM, mail, phone etc. The customers were very happy with the extra effort we had taken to make this project happen. They visited the apartment, took pictures and video recorded our test activities!

 

The project required very meticulous coordination, planning, follow-up, etc. However, it was great fun as well. Given that it was my first project, I got to know several people outside of work as well. We successfully wrapped up the project on time, turned the results in to Microsoft, cleaned the apartment, handed off the keys to the rental office and returned to our office! Thus for this project some of us got the opportunity to work from home – albeit of a very different flavor. One of the testers from that project – Anand Pradhan – is still with Disha today.

It is never too late to report a Bug!

Note: This episode is contributed by Vaibhav Bedekar. Vaibhav joined Disha’s Pune office in March 2003, and is presently a Test Lead.

 

This incident took place in 2003 – just before the release of Windows 2000 Service Pack 4. We were running a test pass on the Escrow build which was to get released to the public after 2 days. I was working on IR testing related to Ports and Monitors components.  I found a bug which was related to detection of IR printers while logged on as a power user. I reproduced it on multiple machines and thus ruled out hardware dependency. It was a genuine bug! I notified our Test Lead Sandeep about the issue and he asked me to regress it older builds and Service Packs (to check if the bug existed). After a thorough investigation we concluded that the bug was present since last 10 builds and had not been reported. Fortunately the behavior was not observed on older Service Packs. Clearly it was our mistake – we had not spotted the bug in earlier builds. The engineer who had tested this component before I took over had somehow missed it because of a misleading comment mentioned against that specific test case.

 

Nevertheless it was an important issue. Sandeep decided to report it to the customer with along with the entire history. Since this issue came to light just two days before release, it caused consternation in the Microsoft camp and a flurry of emails began. We were all very tense. After about four hours (at about 12:30 at midnight), Microsoft’s project manager Prasadi De Silva had a conversation with Sandeep. She was very supportive and showed no panic at all despite such late disclosure of a major bug.

 

In their daily war meeting at Microsoft they decided to postpone the release by one day and the bug was punted (postponed) to the next service pack. After the release Prasadi appreciated our courage, but I can never forget the hours which we spent under tension.

What is Integrity

Note: This episode is in the words of Amogh Phatak. Amogh joined Disha in 2001, became a Test Lead and then migrated to US to become a Project Coordinator in 2004.

 

I started as a Project Coordinator in Disha’s Bellevue office early 2004 and was immediately assigned to the Microsoft LCS (Live Communication Server) or what was then known as "Vienna" project. I had been a project lead before for teams in India, but still I was nervous taking on responsibilities of project coordination for an offshore project, working with a fresh team in India and a project lead who was new to Disha project methodology and work culture. Sure enough, a challenge cropped up for me. When we were nearing a major milestone, I realized that our team was running the tests on a wrong build. I panicked and didn't know what to do or how to bring it to the customer’s notice. Since the customer hadn’t realized the mistake, I decided to first discuss this internally and eventually everyone within Disha got involved – Abhay, Kiran, Sanjay and Samir. Finally a decision was made to inform the customer, accept our mistake and make all necessary corrections – at whatever cost to Disha! Abhay was very calm and provided me much needed support. He accompanied me to meet the Microsoft Customer and explained the whole situation. Kiran himself got involved from Disha India and marshaled additional resources. Everybody worked very hard, day, night and over the weekend to achieve a tall task within 3 days!

 

We could have repeated the test pass without telling the customer and come out clean. However, we chose to accept our mistake first, give the customer the opportunity to understand the impact, propose corrective measures and then make amendments. When I reflect back I look at it as a very important lesson learnt in “Integrity”. Also, it is very comforting and reassuring for an employee to know that the top brass of the company believes in and practices the most important values of this organization.

Our first off-site meeting at Baron’s Resort

Note: Some portions of this section were contributed by Somesh Rai. Somesh joined Disha in October 2000 as a test engineer. Presently he is a Test Lead in one of the delivery groups in Pune.

 

In 2004 the company arranged an offsite meeting of the senior team members. This was the first time in the company’s history that we were all traveling to a relatively distant place for two days. It seemed more like a picnic since the meeting was at a beautiful resort near the Panshet Dam near Pune. We started early morning by a chartered bus and spent two days and one night at this resort. The resort was located at a lovely site – we were just half a mile from the huge lake formed by the dam. The resort itself was architected nicely. Every row of rooms was placed at a different height such that every room had almost the same view – of the lake and the greenery around it. The dam and the lake were just walking distance and there was a boating facility available also. There was a swimming pool inside the resort which some of us made good use of.

 

The schedule for the two days was quite relaxed. There were various presentations by our own people on topics ranging from software security to impact of globalization. There also was lots of free time to take long walks and enjoy boating which we made full use of.

 

The meetings were excellent; however what impressed all of us was the enormous talent exhibited by Dishaites during the evening sessions. Many of us knew that Abhay Joshi was good at playing Tabla and Harmonium, but we were surprised to hear him sing a couple of songs. Achyut Godbole, renowned for excellent management and technical skills, showed that he also was a master of music. The way he explained and demonstrated different Ragas was marvelous. The most stunning part was hearing him whistle entire classical tunes; it sounded as if a melodious tune on Flute was being played.

 

Surprises didn't get over with this meeting however. In the annual function of 2005, we witnessed another personality with multiple talents. Chinmoy Bhagwat, who is a Delivery Head in Pune, was seen singing, acting, playing musical instruments on the same day.

 

Indeed I realized that Disha not only has deep technical talent but also a rich artistic talent.

Performing amidst constant resource and location changes – Project SumTotal

Note: This section is presented in the words of Somesh Rai after some editing. Somesh joined Disha in October 2000 as a test engineer. Presently he is a Test Lead in one of the delivery groups in Pune.

 

Disha’s Setup/Upgrade team for SumTotal (an LMS company) started the project at our Anand Park office. Just after a few months the team was moved to the SBI office. Again in July 2004 the team moved to Disha’s office in Hyderabad. A few months later SumTotal asked the entire team to move to their own premises in Hyderabad. Thus the team was relocated three times during the final six months of the project!

 

Every time the team moved, there was inevitable people turnover. Not everyone was willing to move to Hyderabad, for example.

 

The Setup/upgrade testing involved highly interdependent and time consuming tasks. The available Internet bandwidth in those days allowed us to download the 350 MB product build in over an hour. The build was then deployed on 20 machines with six different configurations. The manual testing was then performed with different tools (used for database, file content and access verification and comparison). The testing task normally took 6 to 7 hours. Since the build was provided daily, usually available after 10AM, the team had to plan and execute the pre-testing and testing activities very carefully and with full understanding. Sometimes upgrades required more than 48 hours of continuous execution.

 

With every location change, the team had to accommodate challenges of setting up of all the machines. The new members had to quickly develop understanding of each test task and the exact intended functionality of each test scenario. All new team members introduced into this team accepted the challenge happily and did quite well.

 

In summary, the SumTotal project underwent relocation four times, and almost complete team makeover three times. These frequent changes did not affect Disha’s performance on this project. The transitions were managed well by effective training, knowledge transfer and planning. I was a Test Lead and I would like to particularly mention Srikanth Sastry for being a great support for me during all phases of the project. I was the only team member that was on the team from start to finish!

 

 

 

 

Changing Tracks: From Commerce to Software Testing

Note: This section is written by Prashant Bodas who came to software testing with a background in commerce.

 

Abstract:

 

In this article, I have attempted to describe my journey towards becoming a happy software test professional. I cannot yet claim that I am fully successful in this journey, since there are many more things to learn and achieve. But still the journey thus far might be interesting to read about because, looking at my academic background and previous work experience nobody would have taken me seriously if I had told them that one day I was going to be a software tester. But this is what actually happened, and the narrative might be helpful and encouraging to other folks who are in a similar situation and have similar aspirations.

 

My Background:

 

I was born in Kanpur, UP. My father, Pandit Kashinathpant Bodas, was a very well-known classical singer and had a tremendous following. I was raised in the shadow of his greatness and learned a lot from him and my mother. I was inspired to make it on my own in this world. With the intention of striking gold in the business field, I took the Commerce line of education. I finished M.Com. and started working at a News Agency. But the world was changing at the time, especially in India, and the software services industry was picking up steam very fast. My younger brother got the opportunity to shape his career in that direction just in time, but I somehow missed the party.

 

Becoming a Mumbaikar:

 

I married Preeti (nee Vidya) in 1996 and moved to Mumbai with my family in 1999. After struggling to make it through a few odd jobs that suited my educational background and experience, I decided that a career change was the best option. However, just thinking about it was one thing, and making it happen was quite another. But I was determined; I had a chip on my shoulder to prove to the world, to myself and to my family, that I could do the seemingly impossible. Armed with that determination and a never-ending faith in the Almighty, I took computer courses and waited in the wings for the right opportunity to come by. In 2003 I applied for a position at Disha Technologies in Pune and was invited for an interview. Unfortunately my bookish knowledge of computers wasn’t enough to pass the interview rounds and I returned with a rejection. I was disheartened but not discouraged. I persisted with my efforts to build my elementary knowledge of computers and software by reading up books and taking courses. And as the Hindi saying goes, “In the God’s world good things do happen, albeit late” (भगवान की दुनिया मे देर है, अंधेर नही), the opportunity came by.

 

The Big Break:

 

In December 2005, I was once again called for an interview at Disha (now Aztecsoft). I was interviewed by Abhay Joshi and Chinmoy Bhagawat. The interview went well. I honestly informed them that my academic background had nothing to do with Computer Science, but that I was determined, focused, and motivated. That I just needed a chance to prove myself. I remember to this day the concluding remarks that both of them made that they would hire me as a 3-month Apprentice (with no guarantee of confirmation) and would be taking a huge risk even doing so. My happiness knew no bounds, but I had to gather all the strength and resolve to make them both realize that I was worth the risk they had taken. I promised them that I would do everything that I could to maximize the confidence and trust that they put in betting on me. I joined the company in December 2005 as an Associate STE.

 

First days:

 

I remember my very first day at Disha. I was this starry eyed, confused, deer-in-the-headlights kind of a guy with a non-technical background roaming around amongst BE, MCA and MCM types. I didn’t understand half the stuff they chatted about casually. But they were all very supportive of me. I went through a month-long training: 15 days of theory and 15 days of practical hands-on exercises. The shock of the career change sometimes made me wonder if I had done the right thing. Was I trying to chew more than what I could swallow? But I kept in mind the tough mindset of the Maratha soldiers on Kondana when Suryaji Malusare had cut the ropes: it was do or die. I drew inspiration from this bit of history. I worked very hard, day and night. I was away from my family who was in Mumbai, but I had their support throughout. That was one of the strongest things going for me and I wanted to repay them over and over again. And above all, I had to impress the man in the mirror - myself.

 

Software Testing:

 

The next few months were very hard. Before joining Disha, I had already taken some courses in Office productivity tools and software. I had learnt how to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. I had also taken courses to improve my English and Communication skills, and I got the opportunity to apply them in the new IT corporate world at Disha. I started off with reading specifications of the software that I was responsible for testing. Since my first project was on software that was already developed over the previous 3 years and hence was stable, I talked to people who had worked on it earlier and asked them about areas they found the most challenging and buggy. I analyzed existing bug reports to discover buggy areas.

I went through a training course during the induction to strengthen my communication skills. I also applied common sense to help me develop good professional relationships with my team mates.

 

Initially I started off reading books related to Software Testing (Software Testing: Ron Patton, Effective Methods for Software Testing-William Perry etc.). I realized that not only did I have to raise my technical skills in areas like SQL queries, etc. but I also had to understand the software system under test from its user’s perspective. That is the most important thing for a tester to learn and bring with him to work every day. I made a determination that I would learn everything about how the users of the software use it in their everyday job and how it helps them solve problems. For that, I decided to look at the software system as a whole from an end-to-end functional perspective. I was thrilled to work in this challenging field and greeted all tasks assigned to me with open arms. I decided that I would not go home each day unless I had found 3 new bugs. It was a tough target to meet, and I did not necessarily meet it every day, but it gave me a focus and a goal to achieve. On the side, after work hours, I spent time in understanding the SQL language which is the backbone of all IT software. I read books on it, and I wrote sample queries that utilized INNER JOINS and AGGREGATE functions and transactional updates. I also started to learn JAVA on my own because I realized that I would have to start to learn the art of automation if I wanted to get more things done in a finite amount of time. I always kept an open mind about learning more and more.

 

I learned how to write test plans and test cases, how to write bug reports, how to test an application and explore all areas for more and more bugs, and how to look at software from the user’s perspective. In Feb 2006 I was assigned to the CONCUR project. This was the real test match, with a real leather ball, with a real bat, pads and shoes. I had just opened my innings. Within a month I became one of the most reliable engineers on the project, as my project lead would tell me. I kept on plugging, toiling, and moiling through hours on end. Towards the end of that project, I was presented the “Pat on the Back” award. It was the proudest moment of my life. While transitioning to another project, the NSE project, I met Abhay Joshi for an informal review chat. Abhay had nothing but words of appreciation and encouragement for me. I was happy and proud to know that I had kept the promise I made to him and to Chinmoy, and to myself.

 

Good things come to people who wait:

 

Since then, the journey has become sweeter by the day. I got another “Pat on the Back” award for the NSE project. I look back upon my first few months, and I feel proud to be where I am now. I have the utmost confidence in Aztecsoft; the people, the technology, and their customers. I am passionate about what I do and keep an open mind. I am in love with my career and my job as a software tester.

 

Looking ahead, I will focus more on learning to program so that I can automate manual testing tasks. I will also familiarize myself with product code inspection, learn about tools such as UI automation and Code Coverage tools, and explore areas such as Performance and Security. I will try to keep myself up to date with the advances in technology by reading technical periodicals and be an even better tester. I am hopeful of educating myself in this trade such that I can become an SDET and a TEST LEAD some day. The sky is the limit.

 

I owe my sincere thanks to Aztecsoft for giving me the opportunity, my family, my friends, and of course Lord Almighty.

 

Moral of the story:

 

The biggest lesson that I have learnt, that may be useful to people in similar shoes, is “Live every day as if it’s the last day of your life. And never give up.

 

 

 

Highlights of our trip to India and Disha/Aztecsoft

By Arlette Wentz

October 2007

 

Saturday, October 13th - After a very long flight which lasted about 16 hours from Newark NJ to Mumbai, India, we finally arrived.   After collecting our luggage and going through customs we walked outside to find it was very hot and humid on this evening.  It was a great treat to meet Saurabh Dadphale after communicating with him over the past 2 years. Saurabh formerly worked for Aztecsoft in the Pune finance department.  He now works for Reliance Communications in Mumbai.  He met us with a car and driver who took us to our room at the Transit Hotel.

 

First Impressions:

There are so many people!!  They are everywhere!!!!  Ten men to each female are out on the streets going someplace.  Cars are packed with people, busses are crowded, streets are alive with motor bikes, bicycles and people walking.  The traffic is amazing with so much activity.  Cars and bikes maneuver around each other honking horns and hoping someone will move over to make way.  The roads are rough with numerous pot holes and broken or missing sections of pavement.  New to me are the 3 wheel vehicles with driver taking 1 to 10 passengers.  These are open air without sides, but the top is covered.  There are very few cars with a single driver.  Most cars have multiple passengers, and they are much smaller and narrower than cars in the US.  Most cars have numerous dents and body damage to them……………but I didn’t see a single collision.

 

We had a great visit with Saurabh as we traveled to the Transit Hotel in downtown Mumbai.  The cars, people and traffic are quite overwhelming.  Wow!  It is crazy!! Our room is quite large with a separate sitting area.  The air conditioned temperature was much appreciated.

 

Sunday, October 14th - Saurabh joined us in our hotel as we finished breakfast.  We packed up everything and left our luggage at the front desk.  Saurabh arranged for a car and driver to take us around Mumbai for the day.

Our fist destination was the Queen’s Necklace on Marine Drive.  We walked along the sidewalk along the rocky beach and took pictures of ships along the shore.  This area would be especially pretty at night with the sparkling lights along the bay.

Our next stop was at the Gateway of India which is a huge arch on the harbor.  We took several pictures of our group and some birds.  The beautiful Taj Mahal Hotel is nearby.

The Prince of Wales Museum was our next destination.   It’ real name is Chhalrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangraalaya………oh my!  There we found a wonderful collection of statues, bowls & vases, weapons, paintings, carvings, inlaid marble, costumes, rugs, jewelry,  Indian sculpture…………tons of interesting things.  I took a few pictures in the museum but my camera ran out of battery power so no more pictures for the rest of the day………….phooey!  

The Planetarium was really great in this huge domed room to watch the light and planet show.  It was cool and comfortable enough to take a nap.

We returned to Transit Hotel where we picked up our luggage and changed car and driver for the ride to Pune.  Saurabh went with us to Pune.  The countryside is rolling hills with small trees.  It was green and pretty.  We stopped for coffee at hilltop restaurant which was all open air.  Much of the ride was in the dark and not lit with street lights.  Litter and trash is all over the sides of the streets.  The streets are full of pot holes and broken sections of pavement.  Drivers slow down a bit and keep on moving.  Amazing!!

We eventually found Hotel Autumn in Pune.  Our driver had to ask directions of guys on the street several times to get directions.  Our hotel is quite a distance from the main road with many turns through a pretty shabby neighborhood.  The hotel was great with excellent staff.  The single beds were very firm but comfortable.

Interesting hand held spray hose near the toilet.  Hmmm……… pretty nice.

 

Monday, October 15thJenish Kumar picked me up from hotel.  It is great to meet him as we work on HR issues, immigration, invitation letters and such together.  We drove to the Aztecsoft office in Aundh where we met Ashwini Vichare and Pamela……in the front office.   I took pictures of Panini Deshpande and Pramod Paranjape plus Jenish Kumar in front of the Aztecsoft office.

We traveled on to new office of Aztecsoft in Infotech park area.  The building is not complete but 2 floors are ready and some departments have moved in.  Finance, HR, recruiting and training areas are located on the first floor.  The remainder of the building will be completed in a few months.  Jenish showed me around the ground floor area and introduced me to some folks.  I got pictures of the finance team, all but Aparna since she was not feeling well and did not work today.

Abhay Joshi found me. It is so great to see him!!  I delivered his mail and tax documents from our accountant.  Abhay showed me around the 3rd floor where he works.  I took pictures of Abhay Joshi, Rajesh Patil, Chinmoy Bhagawat, Sonali Gogate.  It is so cool to see all these VIPs together in India.  They invited me to join them for lunch.

I set up my laptop in a small conference room in the finance area.  Chetan Bhagwat of SMG got the internet up and running for me.

Abhay picked me up and I joined Abhay, Rajesh, Chinmoy and Sonali at Mezza Nine restaurant. 

I ordered chicken tandouri, which was close to barbeque chicken which was spicy and good.  Everyone shared their selection so we had a great variety of food to eat.  This was an honor for me to dine with the company managers……….. almost like I am someone important!  Chinmoy asked if I knew any Hindi words or had picked up any of the language as I work with so many Indian guys in the office.  I told him “No, but I do know an Indian song.”  I sang the first line of Ai Dil Hai Mushkil.  They thought it was great.  Chinmoy asked if I would sing my Indian song at the Aztecsoft Idol contest that afternoon.  I agreed.  J  J  We drove around other infotech company buildings in the area near our new building.  I got some cool pictures.

I sat with Jenish during the Aztecsoft Idol contest with 12 singing contestants performing.  I took many pictures.  Shots of Sameer Saxena and Utkal Murodiya are included in SmugMug trip photos.  They were so good!!  As it turned out all the managers I had lunch with were the judges of the contest.  They asked me to sing my Indian song, which I did.  Everyone cheered so loud that I lost my place when I didn’t they couldn’t hear me so I started over.  It was pretty fun and the crowd enjoyed it!  I didn’t notice at the time but a video was taken of the performances, including my song.  One of the guys in Pune emailed one of the guys in the Bellevue the link to my video performance, which also came to me.  Hopefully this link will work.  So funny!!  Check it out……………     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNTA47iXU_o

 

I worked on my laptop briefly, still not able to connect with Wells Fargo payroll system Evolution.  SMG is working on it.  I could connect to Outlook but not internet.  I left work about 6:30 and took a ride with Jenish back to my hotel.  Great conversation discussing immigration issues, transfer letters and various HR concerns for US and India.

Ron and I had dinner in the hotel.  He walked to a gas station from the hotel on the main road today, which was quite an adventure.  The hotel is quite a distance from the main road with many turns and narrow streets.

I am so happy to be able to get online from the hotel.  I answered emails and sent a note to our family.  I can also open Evolution to do payroll with Wells Fargo.  I filled out the worksheet for payroll Oct 1-15th.  Hopefully this will also work in the office tomorrow.

 

Tuesday, October 16th – A driver picked me up about 10 am to go to the office, we picked up another couple people at Aundh office and stopped at Astrix House office.  I went inside where I met Sachin Godbole.  He worked in Nashville on Healthstream project.  I took a picture inside office of a few people including Sachin and Yogesh Amberkar along with many people on CCH project.  One fella sang my Ai Dil Hai Mushkil song when he saw me (Sameer Saxena……I think)…..so funny!  I got a picture of us!

We traveled on to the Aztecsoft office.  Several people gave their best efforts to get Evolution to load.  Outlook works, but no internet.

I went to lunch with the whole finance team.  We walked to the same restaurant as yesterday, but we sat outside.  It was very nice.  People eat with their hands tear off bread wrap and scoop up sauces with it to eat.  A finger bowl with lemon water is served to clean up.  I’ll stick to a fork, thank you.

Abhay asked me to speak to his group of research and development R & D.

He gave me a great introduction.  I sang my Indian song for the group and talked about my experiences and what I do in the company.  I gave my impressions of India and differences.  I took several pictures of the group.

Returning to finance area where Evolution finally loaded successfully!  I trained Sunder and Anirban as I entered data for payroll.  It worked okay, so I could even email .pdf to Sunder to print the payroll report.  I need Melanie’s direct deposit info to complete the payroll.

Checked in with Jenish after not seeing him all day.

We rode back to Aundh office together then the driver took me on home to hotel.

I had dinner with Ron in the hotel as we shared the day’s events.

Abhay came to spend time with Ron this afternoon and took him to the store and had coffee.  I caught up on emails.

 

Wednesday, October 17thAshwini arranged a car to pick us up at 8 am and take us around Pune.  Sachin Ubhe was our driver for the day.  He is a nice young man who spoke very little English but drives in this crazy traffic with great skill!  After about an hour drive we arrived at Sinhagad Fort which is located on the top of a hill outside of Pune.  The road getting there was narrow and rough with many switchbacks.  Sachin walked with us to the fort which was quite a hike from the parking area.  I took lots of pictures looking across the valley in all directions below.  Amazing view from the top!  There are not many pieces of the fort remaining, but the gate section and towers.  Parts of the walls are visible and in total disrepair.  I got a great picture of a lady carrying a load on her head…………also pictures of a group of young ladies near a gate.  I got a picture of me with them…….pretty funny.

Our next stop was at the Raja Kelkar Museum where we viewed many old, old, old statues, bowls, and lots of idols of gods.  One whole room was devoted to musical instruments.  Samples of costumes and clothing with silk paintings were particularly interesting.  I enjoyed seeing the collection of hair lifter dryers and measuring tools.  As I understand, this man and wife collected items from all over India and their son donated them to the museum. I got in trouble with one of the guards for taking pictures…………….oh well!

Our next stop was to the Aga Khan Palace where many items and memorabilia about Mahatma Ghandi are shown.  There were many very interesting articles about his life and dedication to improving way of life for India, peacefully.  He had a major effect in the government of India and getting independence.  I would like to learn more about this remarkable man.

We stopped for lunch at McDonald’s and ate upstairs where there were lots of young people as we were near the college.  Young people were wearing jeans and t-shirts, just like in the US.  Ron and I felt very much out of place as the old pale people in the crowd!!  So far this is the only place where we have seen many girls wearing jeans and clothing normal to US.  Everywhere else the ladies wear long colorful saris of beautiful fabrics and long flowing scarves.

When we came out of McDonald’s we couldn’t find Sachin, our driver.  He had to go somewhere else to park the car.  He finally drove up for us about 20 minutes later.  I didn’t like the little girl carrying her little brother, begging for money or food.  An old lady on the sidewalk selling jewelry and stuff kept calling out to us to buy her trinkets.  This was very uncomfortable and we felt totally out of place.  We were certainly happy to see Sachin drive up so we could get out of there!!

Sachin took us back to our hotel about 5 pm.  We took a nap in the cool comfort of our room until dinner time.  We enjoyed a quiet meal at the hotel with waiters very attentive to our needs.  “Smiley” is particularly good to us, speaks no English but really sweet, big eyes, mustache and huge smile.

Wrote emails for work.  I finished payroll and submitted.  I worked until till 3 am.

I visited on messenger with Melanie.  Vince is on vacation and is not available.  I wonder what is going on with him?  Melanie does not know either, but he is not working from home and is on emergency vacation until further notice.  Alka is leaving at the end of the month I believe.  Melanie is going crazy with changes and requests in the apartments.  Subodh is seriously looking to change to Cingular for our cell phone carrier so save $$.  Melanie is dealing with Sahra’s T-Mobile issue and her personal calls on our corporate bill last month.

 

Thursday, October 18th – Slept in till 9:30.  Washed a few clothes and had lunch in the hotel.  Abhay picked us up at 2 pm and showed us around Pune.  We stopped at the University of Pune campus where I took some pictures.  The campus is quite spacious with lots of trees and places to stroll.  Abhay says Pune is a college town with lots of young people who come for college and never leave because it is a great place to live.  We went to a Ganish temple right along the sidewalk.  We took off our shoes and walked bear foot near the idol of Ganish.  Many venders nearby were selling flowers and coconut offerings.  It didn’t seem solumn or spiritual in the least to me, but very commercial.  I bought a little decorated statue of Ganish with the pink elephant head on a fat man, and a post card.

Abhay parked the car in new Pune area and took rikshaw to old Pune area of town across the river. I loved the auto rikshaw ride!  What a kool way to travel around the city.  Abhay says it is best way to get around. 

We did some shopping amongst gajillions of people along the shops right next to the sidewalk which were crowded and hot.  We stopped in one shop to look at blouses.  We were ushered way upstairs to the 3rd floor.  It was very hot up there although they turned on the fans.  They had stacks and stacks of tops in cellophane bags on the shelves to show me…………….way too much customer service for my comfort!  I kinda like it in the US where the store clerks ignore me unless I ask for help.  Four sales guys plus Ron and Abhay waiting for me to make up my mind was a bit much!!  I tried on one top, to determine a comfortable fit and selected two other blouses to purchase which were beaded and embroidered.  They were about $9 each.  I also got an embroidered top for Tyne.  The prices were quite reasonable.  Ron also got 2 nice shirts in another shop.  I was tempted to stop in the numerous fabric shops along the way too, but that will happen another day when we are not bothering Abhay.

We held hands to cross the busy street….which was pretty scary!

Abhay took us for coffee in a local restaurant. We also tasted a kind of dumpling with chutney sauce.  It was pretty tasty.

Abhay suggests that I should make a list and keep track of what I do and the time it takes for what projects to get a handle on what it really takes for my responsibilities.  I can’t do it all and do it well.  He suggests that I document my duties or it will not get any better and I will have no relief from working 16-20 hour days.

We went back to hotel to freshen up then Abhay took us to his home for dinner.  We enjoyed great conversation and a lovely meal.  Sarong and Abhay played a duet, Abhay on violin and Sarong on the keyboard.   Sanika sang a song about a peacock before the rain.  Abhay’s parents live with them in a townhouse in a nice gated community.  A young lady helped Tanuja in the kitchen.  Abhay gave Ron a decorated notebook cover and me a lovely woolen shawl.  I got pictures of the family, with Abhay’s parents too.  We had a great visit and fun time.  Abhay and Tanuja took us back to the hotel by 10 pm.

I answered more emails and visited with Melanie.  I wrote notes here, at least highlights to fill in details later.

 

Friday, October 19th – A company car picked up Ron and me both to go to office at 10 am.  I guess Ashwini forgot because we were scheduled for pick up at 8:30.  I had time for breakfast. We picked up a couple other people at Astrix House office on our way to Aztecsoft main campus.  This is Ron’s first trip to Aztecsoft office.  There were not so many people in office today, very few of finance team.  I set up my laptop in the office area of meeting room.  I took Ron upstairs to 3rd floor to deliver candy to Abhay’s area.

There is a sense of excitement in the office as today is the Aztecsoft Vibes event.  At 11:30 everyone in office began loading busses.  Anand directed us where to go.  We were handed sack lunches to eat on the way.  Many busses took the entire office of employees to a convention area about an hours drive to a large auditorium with theater seating.  We sat near the front with Aparna and the finance team.  I took several pictures of many people I know that have visited Bellevue office.  These folks are in my pictures: Yogesh Amberkar, Ajay Dhake, KPM Das, Sujata Rajarshi, Rajesh Patil, Chinmoy Bhagawat, Amar Karvir, Sonali Gogate, Dr. Raghaven, Gyan, Prabin Gade and Ashok Krishnamorthy.    I talked to Krishna Kanth, Rashid Siddiqui, Ashwin Mokandan, and Kiran Ingale.

It is great to see all the managers and directors together at this function………people I kinda know.

The top 3 contestants of the Aztecsoft Idol contest performed their songs.  All are top notch so it was difficult to vote between Asit, Sylvia and Shirish.  Ballots were cast and later during the show Shirish was announced the winner.  He was great!  I particularly enjoyed the dancing by both guys and girls and couples too.  The music was peppy and fun, very unusual and no words I could understand. Samir gave a quarter end report on the company growth and directions to continue.  He gave a great presentation which was very encouraging.  Over 200 new employees have joined in the last month.  Great growth potential is happening already……..more expected in Bellevue with Microsoft and Real Networks in Seattle too.  CCH is doing well too.

Samir and the directors danced on stage which was most entertaining!!  Evidentally this was in response to a bet of some sort from the previous Vibes event. I took a ton of pictures including some movies of the dances.

This was a fantastic show to boost company spirit and pride in the company.  We really should have something like this in the Bellevue office!!

Indian tea was served outside where everyone gathered to visit.  I took a bunch of pictures of the group.  We loaded in regular busses to take people to their regular bus stops near their homes.  There were 6 to 8 bus loads of us.  We went to old office in Aundh where we got another ride on home to our hotel.  What a wonderful day with the folks from Pune office.  It was truly memorable!!

 

Ron and I rested, then got ready for the evening.  We hired a driver to take us to a restaurant for dinner,………….. also for a ride to airport in the morning.

We drove to Mainland China Restaurant to meet Veeresh Kanitkar.  He also brought his sister and mother to join us.  Veeresh worked on Real Networks project and came to Seattle last November-December.  He doesn’t work for Aztecsoft now.  We communicate on MSN Messenger now and then.  We enjoyed a great visit remembering his trip to the US and our interactions.  Veeresh was one of the 4 that Ron & I rescued from staying at the Marvin Gardens hotel and moved them to Mediterranean Inn where it was much nicer.  The highlight of Veeresh’s time in Seattle was the Living Christmas Tree production at Overlake.  That was nice to know!  Veeresh presented me with a lovely gift of an Indian top, pants and a scarf with decorative embroidery, in teal and hot pink………..just my colors too.  I love it!!  This was so thoughtful of him!!  We had a wonderful evening, enjoying the delicious Chinese dishes, and especially getting acquainted with Veeresh’s family.  His wife is in Palo Alto California for a couple weeks, so we missed meeting her.  We took several pictures of the bunch of us.

 

This is why I do what I do for the Indian visitors of Aztecsoft!  My efforts to help them get settled, take them places, get them what they need and be available to help them in a variety of ways is really appreciated by these guys!!  No one else in the company shows them this special kindness and caring!

 

Our driver waited for us while we had dinner and drove us home.  I caught up on emails plus visited with Melanie, Ashish and Avinash.  I created org chart for Ajit Pardeshi’s RFE and sent it to Prasanna for review.  I finally went to bed at 3 am.

 

Saturday, October 19th – We had early breakfast and checked out of our hotel at Autumn, room 310.  We wanted to say goodbye to our favorite waiter at the restaurant and give him a tip, “Smiley”…………but he was not on duty.  Darn.  One of the Aztecsoft leaders, Dr. Raghaven joined us for breakfast in the hotel.  He was flying back to Bangalore today.  He was part of the group that I heard getting to their rooms about 2 am this morning.  We also spoke to Prabin Gade in the hotel.  He is returning to Hyderabad this morning.

 

Our driver picked us up at 9 to take us to the Pune airport.  We liked how they tied a security strap around our luggage and secured the zippers closed at Kingfisher airlines.  Nice feature.  While waiting for our flight we visited with Craig and Matt, from Chicago and New Jersey, also on their way to see the Taj.  They were  nice guys, currently working in Pune as consultants.  Our flight from Pune to Delhi was delayed for a half hour.  I got in trouble for taking pictures at the airport and was instructed to delete the pictures.  I deleted one of 3 or 4.  What the heck!  Kingfisher gave neat bag of goodies, water and great lunch.  Very impressive!  We arrived in Delhi about 2:30 pm.

 

We hired a car and driver to take us to Agra, show us around and bring us back to Delhi.  The cost is 11000 Rs total.  Ron paid 5000 Rs to start.  Our driver is Raj Kumar.  The car we started out to take didn’t have air conditioning……….or he couldn’t get it to work, so we traded cars for one that had cooling.  The drive was long but interesting.  It is much cleaner and less traffic in Delhi area than Pune.  The highway was smooth and nice most all the way.  We hit some traffic in areas where people were gathering for festival.  I got a couple pictures of camels pulling a load along the highway. We stopped at a restaurant along the way.  I got 3 beaded squares which could be wall hangings or pillow tops.  Really cool items for the Aztec look in the office.

After a 6 hour drive, we arrived in Agra.  Mansingh Palace Hotel is really, really nice!!  We enjoyed a lovely buffet dinner in the hotel restaurant.  We checked out several shops in the hotel and need to return to buy.  I tried on and purchased 3 pair of sandals.  These were pretty cool and for little cost.

 

There is no free internet hookup in the hotel so I wrote about the last 2 days here.  Now I am somewhat caught up.  Tomorrow we will visit the Taj Mahal.  I am excited about the beaded squares I purchased and have plans to hang in the reception area at the office, incorporating other found Indian items on the wall as accents.

 

Sunday, October 21st – We enjoyed a buffet breakfast in the Mansingh Palace Hotel in Agra.  We met our driver, Raj Kumar, and tour guide at 11 am.  Our guide for the day is Hemant Gupte, a wonderful young man who speaks English very well and is full of information to share about the area.  He took us to the Agra Fort which is full of history of the area and gave inspiration for building the Taj Mahal.  Hemant told us about the artisians of the area, who make jewelry of semiprecious stones, hand tied rug makers and artists who create inlaid stones in marble. The gardens and inlaid designs in marble in the fort were impressive!

 

Hemant hired a horse drawn carriage for us to the entrance of the Taj Mahal as motor vehicles are not allowed near the entrance.  This was a fun ride!  Our tour guide, Hemant accompanied us and gave us tons of information as we strolled around the gardens and courtyard of the Taj.  He took lots of pictures of us and the Taj with beautiful lighting as the sun goes down.  Incredible!!  Amazing!!  Awesome place to see!!  I can’t believe we are actually here!  It was very crowded as we went inside to see replicas of the tombs where Shah Jeman and his wife are buried.  She had 14 children during the 19 years they were married and she died giving birth to the 14th baby. The Taj was built in her memory.  What a story of love!!

 

Hemant said he is getting married to college sweetheart of 3 years.  The wedding is November 21st, just one month away.  We really enjoyed his company and exchanged emails so we can keep in touch.  agrahemant@yahoo.co.in  

We returned to our hotel by 6:30 pm.  After a rest we had buffet dinner in the hotel restaurant.  Many tour groups were there.  I visited with a lady from Israel.

We shopped in the hotel book store and got several gifts for family.  I wrote more here while Ron slept.

 

Monday, October 22nd – After a buffet breakfast in the hotel, we checked out of Mansingh Palace.  This is an outstanding hotel.  Raj Kumar, our driver for these 3 days in Agra picked us up at 9 am.  We had a long drive from Agra to New Delhi of about 200 k.  We enjoyed interesting sights along the way and took more pictures.  At one point the traffic came to a stand still.  Apparently a car sideswiped a bus and damaged the car so it needed to be pushed off to the side of the road.  Many people were out of their cars to find out what was happening…..or to help………who knows.  Interesting!

In another area, many trucks were backed up along the road, the remaining lane was terribly congested with 2 or more lanes of cars, auto rickshaws, motor bikes, and you name it, trying to get by.  Raj talked to a guy at a concession along the road to get directions of alternate route around the traffic jam.  We headed out through some little neighborhoods, with skinny streets, huge potholes, ditches and terrible road conditions.  2 or 3 cars followed us, just as if we knew the way.  Raj stopped to ask direction of many guys along the way.  Of course we didn‘t understand a word they said but with arm gestures, we seemed to be headed in the right direction.  Eventually we made it back to the main highway.  This was definitely the scenic route and was quite entertaining!  We passed by many little huts in the fields.  I would guess people actually live there.  It is amazing to see how little these people have, and seem to survive. 

Raj likes to honk the horn as we approach everything along the road.  Some people move to the side so we can pass, others ignore the request to get out of the way.  Raj is an excellent driver and passes most vehicles along the road, swerving in an out of traffic with great skill.  We arrived at the Regale Inn in New Delhi about 3:30 pm.  Raj asked directions several times to find the place.  It is located in a scary neighborhood and Ron & I decided not to venture out of the hotel.  We checked in and rested in our room only going across the alley to the restaurant for dinner.  The restaurant was very dark, with bar downstairs, and only a couple other customers.  We felt uncomfortable.  It was so dark we had to move to another table to read the menu.  The food was great but way too many waiters and staff standing around watching us.  Back in our room, safe for the night, Ron watched TV with his eyes closed and I wrote here.  The hotel has no internet service.  We have a king sized bed which is hard as a rock and no toilet paper or even a dispenser which seems very strange. The air conditioning is pretty loud but keeps the room very comfortable.

 

Wednesday, October 24th – The complimentary breakfast was served upstairs in a similar room arrangement as ours, one floor below.  We selected what we thought would be pretty simple to prepare, toast and black coffee.  About an hour later, one of the hosts returned to the kitchen carrying a grocery bag with a loaf of bread.  They were not prepared for such a strange request I guess.  Our coffee looked right but had sugar in it.  Oh well.  We drank it and didn’t say a word.  We also had great difficulty trying to call the Aztec office in Hyderabad to get the address or someone to pick us up and take us to the office.  We couldn’t use the phone in the living room area.  The host said it was blocked………which seems pretty strange.  My cell phone did not work. 
The hotel host finally used his cell phone, called and spoke to someone who would send a car.  About one hour later, the car came.  Holy cow!……….what a morning!!  We finally reached the Aztecsoft Hyderabad office about noon.  Ron and I got set up in the conference room where I could get online and answer emails.  SMG was good to help.  During the afternoon we talked with Kiran Kumar, Pravin Gade, met Mohamed Abdul Azeez who will come to Bellevue next month.  I need to do an invitation letter for him.  Jasen Harada also stopped by my conference area.  He just arrived for a meeting tomorrow for a potentially big project.  Kiran helped Ron with some banking to exchange $400 into rupes.

Our driver had some difficulty finding the correct guest housing to take us home, but we made it.  We had dinner upstairs again.  It took about an hour and a half to get our meal of egg fried rice and a chicken curry dish.  The meal was spicy and delicious and we were very hungry!!  We also enjoyed the sweetened black coffee.  We might even learn to like our coffee with sugar!!  J

 

Thursday, October 25th – A cab picked us up to go to the Hyderabad office to work again today.  Jenish called that Rashid Siddiqui’s blanket L-1 was approved!  Whoopee!!  Great news!!  I worked in a little meeting room near the conference room in Bock A on the 4th floor.  Jasen and Ajay Dhake stopped by before a presentation with Microsoft for a very large contract that may happen.  The group met for several hours………..until after 7 pm.  I answered many emails, prepared offer letter for Mohamed Abdul Azeez.  He picked up the letter and is planning to travel to Bellevue on Nov 6th.  I had many problems with printer, Outlook, and connecting to my files on Bellevue server.  SMG is very helpful and got me up and operating various times, only to have something to fail again.  I sent note to Veeresh and talked with Aparna and Saurabh.  I was not able to print so couldn’t do 4 invitation letters for Jenish.

Jasen suggested a nice restaurant on Necklace Road.  Our driver took us there and waited while we had dinner.  It was a very nice restaurant overlooking the sparkling lights along the edge of the lake.  I enjoyed a bottle of wine and a lovely dinner………..feeling no pain at all!!  (Later I learned that yummy bottle of wine I consumed all by myself, cost about $70…………..way more than dinner for both of us!)

 

Friday, October 26th – I joined the immigration task force conference call at 9 am.  The main discussion is about blanket L-1’s.  We packed up for our flight to Goa leaving the hotel at 1 pm.  We had several hours to spare at the airport since our flight didn’t leave till about 5:30 pm.  Oh well.  We visited with a nice young man from Kerala who has coconut trees, rubber trees and bananas on his farm.  We exchanged emails and plan to keep in touch.  On our next trip to India, we must visit Kerala.  His name is CV Thompson.

Indigo Airlines charged us for soft drinks and snacks during the flight.  Nothing was free.  We found that very unusual.

A car and driver from the hotel met us at the airport.  It is overcast and humid in Goa.  Our ride to Aldeia Santa Rita resort took about 1½ hours.  This is a very tropical area with tall coconut palm trees and much vegetation.  We were quite apprehensive on the ride through many dumpy little towns.   The resort is quite nice and we have an apartment sized bungalow with a little kitchenette and separate living area.  All meals and sight seeing cruise are included in the package price to stay here.  Pretty cool!  We enjoyed a buffet dinner in the outside dining area, served from 8-10 pm.  Lots of young college age people are staying here that know each other.  They consumed lots of the beer and “house provided beverages”.  They were having a great time!

I particularly enjoyed the live music by a young man playing a keyboard with rhythm accompaniment.  He had a beautiful voice and sang many older songs I know.

 

Saturday, October 27th – It is so quiet and peaceful here at the resort……….a great place to relax.  We had buffet breakfast, then took a walk on the beach.  A sandy path leads down to the beach from the hotel.  Ron and I walked along the sandy beach with the waves breaking along the shore.  It was so pretty and a fun hike.  Many people were out sunning on chaise lounge chairs.  We were approached numerous times by children mostly, wanting to sell us jewelry, bags and trinkets.  We spent the afternoon relaxing in our room.  Ron read and I caught up writing here.

We joined the group at 3:45 for tea and snacks before the sight seeing tour to Dona Paula.  Our driver took us to the city of Panjim where we walked to a waterfront pier area, called Dona Paula with many vender booths, then to an overlook for a great view of the harbor area.  It is very pretty and quite tropical with palm trees and rocky beaches in that area.  We purchased a few items from the venders, scarves and a top.  In town we had another shopping adventure, this time at Bombay Bazar, a jam packed department store with way too many eager and attentive sales clerks wanting to help us spend our money.  They were quite successful too!  We got gifts for most all family members, plus some silk fabric and sunglasses for me.  We really thought they would ship all this to U.S. for us, but that did not happen after all.  (Ron did an amazing job of organizing our suitcases and got everything to fit!)  For our evening entertainment we joined a bunch of people on a large boat for a sunset harbor cruise around the bay near Panjim.  We were entertained by music and dancing of some traditional Portageese dances plus passengers coming on stage to dance.  It was great fun and the young guys really got into the music and were quite entertaining!  We had dinner back at Aldeia Santa Rita.  I was disappointed the young man was not singing and entertaining us tonight as I really wanted to get his picture.

 

Sunday, October 28th - We packed our bulging suitcases for the next destination.  Ron didn’t mind leaving behind a pair of old shoes.  Our driver took us to the airport by 2 pm for a 4:30 flight…………way overkill, with no place to sit down.  The people-watching was entertaining though. The flight from Goa to Bangalore landed about 5:30 pm.  We hired a taxi only to have a driver from the office also arrive to pick us up carrying a sign with my name.  We had no idea we were being picked up!  We got most of our money back from the taxi and rode with the guy from the office.  It was raining slightly in Bangalore.  The traffic was tremendous and we noticed many more cars with one passenger and fewer bicycles.  The auto rickshaws even look in better condition than in other cities.

Our accommodation is at Kuteera guest services apartment.  This was formerly a very large family home, now remodeled for corporate guest housing.  The room is great with lots of space, plus a desk and internet connection.  Whoopie!  I spent about 3 hours and never did get connected.  Operator error most likely!

 

Monday, October 29th – We were served an omlette, toast and tea for breakfast.  Our driver picked us up at 9 to go to the office.  The traffic was the worst I have ever seen!  We had a total gridlock of busses, trucks, cars, auto rickshaws, motorbikes and pedistarians!  Seattle traffic is a dream compared to this!  Holy Cow!! We eventually did reach the Aztecsoft office where I could work for the day.  Srikanth was able to get me connected to the internet and Outlook…… so life is good.  Several of the guys came by to meet with me and chat.  I got pictures of most of them too.  Immanuel Raj, Santosh Kumar, Lohith G N, Abraham VK, Karthik Appavu, Seetha Raman and Biswajit Mishra.  They were very appreciative of all that I do for them in Bellevue and wanted me to know that.  This was so nice to hear.  It is fun to see them back in their own surroundings!

I met with KPM Das, Nita and Ashwini of HR department.  We talked about various issues of transfers, payroll, medical insurance and taking care of our people.  I talked with Poornima Kedarnath and got her picture.  She does all the flight arrangements for people traveling, which shifts me into high gear to find accommodations for the ones coming to Bellevue.  Poornima called to check on a bus tour for Ron and me on Wednesday to see sights around Bangalore.

I talked to Zubin Tavaria about merchandising and branding requests.  Now I see the plan for large posters under plastic sheets around on office walls.  Large 2 foot by 6 foot banners are in the conference rooms in all India offices.  Yes, I will make it happen for US offices to get the same look as offices in India.  The banners will be changed every 3 months or so, but mounted frames remain.  Sunetha Menezes also talked with me about Vince and the vodaphone we brought as far as Pune.  Ashwini said she will send it on to Bangalore………..but it has not happened yet.  She talked about getting rental pc’s for Bellevue MS Shopping team for next 2 months, hopefully from Hard Drives NW.  I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with these people.  Putting voices and faces with the email interactions is very helpful!!  I got caught up with all emails also.  Tomorrow I will work in office again…………and must deliver candy to managers for Shiby too.

Our driver picked us up about 6:30 pm taking us back to guest housing.  Somehow the traffic was a bit lighter.  Our host in the service apartment Kuteera and his friend worked quite some time trying to get my laptop connected to network and MS Messenger.  Strange, but there is something blocking the connection……………and it worked from office today.  Very strange!!  I got caught up writing here, so had plenty to keep me entertained till about 1:30 am.

 

Tuesday, October 30th – Our driver picked us up for another day in the Bangalore Aztecsoft office about 9:30 am.  I answered emails and made notes of projects I need to do and stuff to print out.  I made invitation letter for Seetharaman SuriyanarayananSeetha will travel on business emergency this weekend.

Seetha took me across the hall of A3 to meet Srinivas KV.  He is also one of the people Shiby wanted to deliver candy to………. so I did that.  All the Microsoft BU-2 people gathered in the conference room to meet me.  Biswajit Mishra gave a little introduction, with kind words of my help for the onsite team who come to Bellevue and are helped in many ways.  It was nice, yet uncomfortable.  We passed out candy and took a picture of me with the Microsoft team.  Some of the faces will look familiar when they come to Bellevue………………and many are coming very soon, about 15 in the next month.

The office boys are so great to bring tea and order lunch for us every day.

I spoke to KPM Das about my list of requests to include in the transfer letter…….and to have people who work on projects in Bellevue, be on Bellevue payroll, not Santa Clara.

Sunetha gave candy treats for Vince which I will deliver. I talked with Poornima about bus tour tomorrow starting at 7 am.  Our driver picked us up about 6:30 pm, taking us back to the hotel in the rain.  We discussed our trip tomorrow to Mysore.  We decided to have our driver, Kumar take us in air conditioned car instead of taking a bus tour with the group.

I worked on pictures all evening, installed new Fuji program on laptop and downloaded pictures for first days of our trip.  They are separated in different folders by day, which won’t really work, so I need to redo this later.

 

Wednesday, October 31st – Halloween – We saw no signs of any sort that it was Halloween.  They do not celebrate Halloween in India.  Our faithful driver, Kumar picked us up about 8 am for our day trip to Mysore.  The drive took us about 85 miles from Bangalore which took about 3 hours to reach Mysore.  It is green and nice along the way, with many little farms.  I got a great picture of a cart full of sugar cane pulled by a cow.  Kumar stopped and got me a stick of sugar cane and pealed it back for a taste.  It was so interesting!  I ate nearly the whole piece but wished I had a knife or something besides my teeth to break apart the outside layer to get to the sugar part.  Ron wouldn’t even take a taste.

 

Thursday, November 1st – After breakfast, we packed up, signed out and left the Kuteera Guest House.  While signing the guest book, I noticed that Subodh, Ashok and Venky also stayed here.  This was a super place to stay and we were treated so well.  The 2 young men were especially great to us, Ranjt and Monuj.  I got a picture of them.  We met the owner of the guest house earlier in the week, Mr. Kanteera.  He was formerly an employee of Aztec Software.

Our driver Kumar picked us up at 8 to get to airport.  Some local festival is happening which may make traffic worse than usual.  Actually, the traffic on the streets was lighter than expected and we learned why a bit later.  The lines in and around the airport were terrible.  Evidentally, the festival provided many people with a day off, so people were flying out of town.  There were droves of people waiting in line to check in and go through security.  We had huge long lines to wait for each step of the check in procedure.   Many flights were delayed, including ours for about an hour.  We impatiently waited for our 11:30 flight Bangalore to Mumbai to depart closer to 12:40.

We took an auto rickshaw to Hotel Transit.  It is very hot and humid in Mumbai.

I tried to contact Saurabh, to no avail.  We spent the afternoon in hotel where it is very comfortable.  After much frustration with trying to purchase wireless service online, I finally decided to purchase a prepaid card for 24 hours. Ron and I had dinner in the hotel restaurant, then went across the street to the reception area to get the wireless card.  It was raining pretty hard and while crossing the street back to our portion of the hotel, Ron slipped and fell at the entrance.  He lost is glasses and hurt his hip when he landed.  His glasses were found and no damage done, but his hip is sore.

I am happy to catch up on emails.  So many problems and issues in office!!  Melanie is so ready for my vacation to be over!!!  I talked to her at length on Messenger.  I worked till 3 am catching up and making my “To Do” List.

 

Friday, November 2nd – Last day in IndiaWe had breakfast in the hotel and spent the day at Hotel Transit.  Ron’s hip bothers him to walk after his fall last night.  He was very happy to spend the day reading and watching TV.

I completed my India highlights report.  After great difficulty, I contacted a friend of Irfan that I met at the Amba Vilas Palace in Mysore.  Following several phone calls and text messages, I have an email address to contact his friend Ganesh Murthy.  I worked on my laptop all day and feel pretty well caught up with what I can do from here.  I tried all day to contact Saurabh, but no word with him at all.

I downloaded all pictures from our trip to my laptop and viewed 3 folders of the slide shows.  I could do a lot of cropping and editing, but that may not happen.

 

We checked out of hotel and got a ride to the Mumbai International Airport by 7 pm.  The entire airport seemed deserted!  We were totally shocked.  We walked all over, finally found a restaurant……..where there were about 3 customers.  Amazing there were no people and such a drastic contrast to the mobs of people at the airport in Bangalore yesterday!  We finally reached the gate for our flight but the security check was not open to check people in.  It finally opened about 30 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart.  Huge mess!  This was a Boeing 777 plane on Continental Airlines with about 300 people to board in 30 minutes?!  Obviously, it didn’t happen.  Each passenger and all carry on baggage needed to be screened, so the line was long and moved very slowly with just one scanner.  Our flight was delayed about an hour.  We were in flight by 11:45 pm.  The flight was very long and tiring for 25½ hours to fly about 8350 miles to Newark, NJ airport.  We slept a lot plus watched TV series repeats and movies.  I enjoyed Bridgett Jones Diary……or something like that.

 

 

Here are a few observations or comments about the differences in India that we noticed.

 

·       Toothpicks have fancy shaped tops like they were made on a lathe with great attention to detail.

·       Ladies in India generally do not wear any makeup at all.

·       Ladies generally wear their hair very long and pulled back without any softness around the face.

·       Many more thoughts to share here……………….but this is pretty long already!!!