Time zone confusion

We had a conference call planned at 8:00am. Reva was to join in from India. We got on to the call, and were done by 8:40am.
9:10am: SMS. Waited in conference now off to lunch
9:56am: Mail. You didnt initiate the call!
10:03am: Reply. I guess you dialled in at 9am UK time. We had the call at 8am.
3:17pm: Mail. I dialled at 8 GMT = 13.30 IST ? Correct?
3:19pm: Reply. Ah, no. We’re 4.5 hours ahead.
3:25pm: Mail. Great Britain is one hour ahead of GMT during summer!
3:53pm: Reply. Yeah, you’re right — most people don’t realise Greenwich isn’t always on Greenwich Mean Time 🙂

Resilience of London transport

The public transport reacted beautifully to the damage. I had to take Bus 259 from Finsbury Park to Tottenham Police Station. As I waited at the bus stop, I saw a 259 double decker pull in. Followed by another. And another. And another. Four double-decker buses following one after the other — and they ended up getting filled. Almost felt like a train, except without rails and a floor above.

Explosions in London

There are explosions all over London. We are fine.

British humour

If it weren’t happening to me, I’d appreciate the British sense of humour.

I was at the King’s Cross station, buying tickets for the next week at a counter.

“Hi, um… I already have a zone 1-5 pass…”

“Con-gra-tu-LAY-tions!”

Next London Geek Dinner

The next London Geek Dinner is on July 11th. I’ve registered.

Salaam alekum

King’s Cross station. 6:20pm. I’m rushing along to catch the next train to Liverpool Street, when a jacket and suitcase step in front of me.

“Salaam alekum.”

This has happened to me before. 5 years ago. My response hasn’t changed.

“Huh?

“Salaam alekum?”

“Huh?

“SALAAM ALEKUM?”

“Huh?

“Aap Pakistani ho?”

“No, India actually.” (smile)

“I just lost my wallet, and I don’t have a ticket. Could you please help me?”

I had all of 5 pounds in my pocket. And I needed that.

“I don’t have cash on me, just a card.” (I meant my travel card. I didn’t have a credit card then.) “Have you tried the Information desk, there? They could help you out, perhaps.”

“Oh, I asked them. But they said I needed a ticket. Even if you have a credit card, that’s fine.” Hmm, that’s being pretty leading…

“Well, if you go over to the Information desk, they can direct you to the nearby police station. And I’m sure the police will find you a way to get home.”

No response.

“OK, let me take you to the Information desk. We’ll ask for the police station.”

“No, no, no. That’s OK. I’ll find my way. Thanks. Bye!”

Vanishes.

Not only am I becoming more socially astute, I’m even beginning to become smart.

Gizmos

Among the various technology gizmos I’ve seen at the UK, this is the best. Our flat has a security system that does not allow anyone without an electronic key to enter. As with most flats, there is a panel on which you can dial the flat number and speak to the owner. Usually this is connected to an intercom in the flat. I was initially surprised that there was no intercom in our flat.

It turns out, you can program the system to dial your mobile phone or land line. So when I’m at office, I get a call from the “House Door Panel”, as it identifies itself. I speak to the person at the entrance, press 0 on my phone, and the door automatically opens! In fact, this is how I let myself in when I don’t have keys.

Libraries

I’m fairly stingy. When it comes to books, I’ve always taken it to extremes.

For example, I’ve read several Asimov novels at Landmark (Chennai). I’d walk into the stoor, pick up an Asimov, just stand there (no seats) and read for 4 hours. After the neck-ache becomes unbearable, I’d leave and come back the next day.

I got pretty tech-savvy once I got a laptop and a mobile phone. I would walk over to bookshops, note down the names of interesting books on my mobile, and download books in digital format. I’ve a pretty large collection now.

Last week, I went over to Waterstone’s at Oxford Street. Armed with a cameraphone, I had the ability to even take pictures of books I wanted to read.

A few days ago, I discovered the Redbridge Council Libraries. Council libraries are free. Well-stocked. Well-spread. I casually walked in to one of them, and as I strolled through the aisles, I had more goose-bumps than I’ve ever had in a long time. The collection is excellent!

A few minutes ago, I’ve perfected the art of stingy book reading. Here’s my six-step process.

Process for reading books

Short ride

After a long time, things started going right for a change.
7:15pm: Get out of office.
7:22pm: Walk into train platform exactly as the train arrives. The right train.
7:40pm: Long walk to change trains at London Bridge. Once again, the train arrives bang on cue.
7:47pm: Another change of platform at Bank. Train to Newbury Park arrives almost immediately.
8:15pm: Out of Newbury Park station.
That was easily the shortest ride I had from Croydon to Newbury Park. Probably will continue to be the shortest ever.

Indian visa

For a long time, I thought the problems associated with getting an American visas was mainly for Indians. Today, I met someone at a Lebanese restaurant near Marble Arch. (It’s called Maroush III. There are at least a couple of other Maroushs in the area.) He’s a consultant, and has been travelling around the globe for over 20 years.

He recently flew from Boston to Bangalore. Without a visa. Why? Because he would be issued a visa at the port of entry, of course. Stands in the queue. Hands his passport to the officer. The officer leafs through the pages. Halts. Studies each page very carefully. Gets puzzled.

“Where is the visa?”

“I don’t have one. So please issue me on.”

At this, the official is startled. “Come this way, please.” And they go into a room in some corner. Left alone for a while. Two officials come back with lots of forms.

While patiently filling the forms, one of the officials says, “You’ll have to go back, you know?”

There must have been a faint smile as he said it. “No, you’re just kidding me!”

“No, no. You must go back on this flight to London.”

Disbelief. “Ha, ha! Quite funny. You’re just pulling my leg. Now, just give me a visa.”

“No, really. You must return by this flight immediately.

Having travelled for 16 hours from Boston, he heads back to London spending another 8 hours on the flight.

He is, incidentally, the only person I know (Indian or otherwise) who would have to tick “Yes” to the question “Have you ever been refused entry at the port of disembarkation?”

P.S. He DID get an Indian visa later. It was a painless process — apply in the morning, collect in the evening.