For many years I called Delhi home.
Winters would bring chilly temperatures hovering just above zero. Which sounds wimpy when compared with a Winnipeg winter of -40’c, however when you have no indoor heating, it is mighty cold!
And fog, so thick sometimes you could barely see a few feet in front of you. Causing havoc with air transportation with delays endemic those winter months…
This is what I found looking out from my hotel window, an early morning in February…
Dawn in Delhi from the window of the Taj Mahal hotel on Man Singh Marg. That mythical quality was clearly not captured so well in the photo, and alas is a combination of natural (fog) and unnatural (pollution) factors.
Such a contrast to our scorching sunshine days in Mumbai! I returned from Delhi early Feb to be greeting by an unseasonably early temperature rise.
Related Sunday snaps:
Everyone likes a nice story book happy ending? Right?
And guess what? Spoiler alert! I’m about to give you one…
To recap… once upon a time I had real salaried jobs in India.
With each job at each company there was a little thing known here as a “Provident Fund” i.e. something you contribute to towards your retirement.
Which is a great thing!
Except that if you are not actively contributing to your Provident Fund (PF), it goes dormant and lies there withering away with no interest accumulating.
Yeah… you got that right… it gets frozen.
Factor in inflation… rupee devaluation… and basically what could have paid rent may not even buy a cup of coffee when you try to retire. I exaggerate… somewhat… but not completely…
So what happened?
Job #1 – Zippidydoodah!!
- Remarkably quick… merely took a few calls, getting the right forms, supporting documents in place and that was it!
- Redeemed in weeks… that’s correct! Under a month!
Job #3 – Get smart!
- Began with the usual “We lost the paperwork” and “Ooops! We didn’t set it up with your middle name…”
- Re-submitted paperwork with a different ID and different bank account without my middle name. Smart lass, eh?
- Redeemed in only a few months… that’s correct! Under a year!
Job #2 – Umm….
There is a reason the middle job comes last in this story…
There was more than one obstacle in this case… Like any good tale there were villains aplenty!
Villain #1 – Good old M&A
Original company merged with its global competitor… Combined company again went through a further acquisition… each change meant a further complication.
Villain #2 – Good old incompetance
Original PF registration had the wrong date of birth. Yeah, I know, how could that be when all supporting documents has the correct date of birth? Simple… someone… somewhere… wrote or typed a “0” instead of a “9” and voila! We have a problem.
Villain #3 – Good old ignorance
Once navigating a defunct PF was managed, date of birth corrected, someone got the bright idea that I was disqualified from withdrawing due to my citizenship. Seriously???
Yet like all good stories, we have heroes too!
Hero #1 – Good old boys…
Unbelievably, remarkably, astoundingly… despite all the changes, the Finance guys at my erstwhile employer remain.
Even more amazingly, they respond to my emails and til this day do not ignore my calls.
Without them nothing – and I do mean nothing – would have happened.
Hero #2 – Good old persistence
Even with the right people behind you, without consistently, persistently following up, resubmitting documentation, checking and rechecking… submitting new documentation, checking and rechecking… submitting yet new documentation, following up, checking and rechecking…
Only with pesky sometimes annoying prodding could any progress be achieved.
Hero #3 – Good old info
When ignorance reared its ugly head, more help was needed.
Even the right people, with persistence, gets nothing accomplished without the right “proof” that what someone less informed thought impossible was indeed possible and proper. Information is power. Proof of that information is even more powerful!
Documents were duly submitted dispelling ignorant assumptions that foreigners – and more specifically Canadians – have no access to their Indian Provident Fund.
So then what happened?
The heroes prevailed and defeated the evil villains and my beautiful lovely provident fund was won!
Redeemed in only a few years… that’s correct! Under a decade!
Moral of the story?
Living in India Tip #2
Remain friends with the finance and admin guys of your former employer!!! You never know when you may really really really REALLY need their help!
Years ago a Turkish diplomat getting ready to leave India shared that one thing he would not miss about Mumbai was the constant cacophony of the crows.
I was puzzled as this was not an issue for me… at the time I lived in Kalina. While there were birds a-plenty, crows weren’t specifically a problem.
Til we moved to Bandra.
That’s where the fun began.
And I remembered the crow comment… Oh how I remembered his genuine frustration at the constant, relentless cawing… What trouble they were getting into homes, garbage… the nuisance and nonsense of these feathered devils.
It was a frustration I began to share.. particularly as we have several crows who have adopted our building.
However there is another aspect to the equation.
The humble garbage bin.
Why you may ask is this at all relevant?
Because in addition to the sharp cawing, this is a further element of angst with these scavengers.
They LOVE garbage. They LOVE even more making a mess of things. All your unmentionables strewn about for all and sundry to see… Our building crows boldly open bins to unearth your hidden edible treasures.
Enter the brick to the rescue.
In my climb up the stairs I discovered a simple yet smart way adopted by several neighbours to combat the crow garbage scourge!
Just like the odd cones on our building pipes that keep the rats and mice away, a simple brick on top of the garbage bin makes it sufficiently challenging to the crows.
Voila! Garbage crow deterrent!
Now I gotta go get me a brick!!
Other Sunday Snaps:
There I was with an old friend and his partner, my partner and his old friends – who just so happened to know each other.
It is a small world like that.
My partner was in Kolkata to perform in a play.
I was in Kolkata to meet with my client and conduct focus group discussions with their team.
It wasn’t an accident we were in Kolkata at the same time. One commitment sparked another and thankfully nothing got in the way.
So that Sunday evening, we came out after the play to meet our friends, enjoying the slight nip in the air…
I could not have been happier.
For me, Bengali is one of those languages that I do not speak but I was immersed in enough consider it a familiar friend. It is the sound of one of my many past homes… the home where I lived in the 90s as a student in Chittaranjan Park, Delhi.
And Bengali food is something that once upon a time was what would constitute a regular home cooked meal.
The setting? A piece of history.
While the Tollygunge club was officially founded in 1895, the Club House was built even earlier and is now over 220 years old. What was once home to Tipu Sultan’s son and a member of the East India Company now is where our friends come out to enjoy their day or night.
Rather than be a stuffy relic, ‘Tolly’ is where families and friends go to entertain and be entertained, relax and re-invigorate…
It is a nice reminder that things do change… yet also retain elements of days gone by.
It was also a time to reflect…
Looking at a friend I’ve known for more than 20 years, it was clear that I’m not the same person I was back in early 1995 when we first met.
However I would not be the person I am today without all the ups and downs, rights and lefts that occurred in between.
So though Bengal is no longer a core element of my everyday today in a way that it was living in a Bengali home in a Bengali colony, hearing Bengali, eating Bong khanna, listening to Bengali music… these experiences are all intrinsically part of me, not just my past but indelibly part of who I will always be.
And for that I am thankful. It was indeed a ‘Tolly’ good evening!