Thursday, March 20, 2014

Final presentation: Thank you and good bye PAU

Our last day at PAU has come. Unbelievable that it has been four weeks since we first entered the College of Agricultural Engineering and Technology!
The final deliverables were all lined up and the presentation prepared. Quick summary of the result of our work:
  • Modelled the as-is as well as the future processes for the course registration system (This is a short IBM ad: We did use BlueworksLive and it is really a great tool for process modelling)
  • Delivered a 40-pages technical specifications document with the requirements for the IT system supporting this process (With use cases + other technical documents and details)
  • Delivered a proposal plan as well as rough time estimates for implementation
  • Modelled the as-is as well as the future salary payment processes
  • Outlined the benefits of the new IT system
For the course registration system, we have printed out the process – a 2 x 0.6m plateau. Perfect setup for group pictures!

The presentation went very well. The Dean, our main stakeholder, Dr. O. P. Gupta, as well as the team members received our recommendations and deliverables very positively and were impressed by the work the team has delivered. Personally, I am also very satisfied and proud of what we have achieved. Despite some challenges, we have done meaningful and valuable work for the PAU, which they will be able to take forward right away. But apart from the professional component, we were able to meet a lot of great people and spend quality time with them. Big THANK YOU goes to our hosts at the PAU as well as my team who was able to bear me for four weeks.

It was sad to say good bye to PAU, but hopefully, we will be able to come back some day. As a famous slogan in India says: "Fevicol ka mazboot jodh hai, tootega nahi" (Fevicol [a company producing glue] bonds are so strong that they cannot be broken)!

Last week: Balancing the work and the dinners (again!)

Our last week has started. Do you know this feeling when you come to work a few days prior to the deadline and realize HOW MUCH is still to be done? Then you understand my feeling.

Nevertheless, while finalizing our deliverables, we were able to continue to explore the PAU.  Finally, some students were brave enough to talk to us.
In addition to that, we were able to persuade one of our stakeholders – Harpreet – to take us to one of her classes. What impressed us was the fact that all students stand up when the teacher comes in and that it is totally quiet during the lecture. As well as the fact that the names are difficult to memorize and repeat quite often (out of 30 students, there were ~3 Ramandeeps, 3 Gagandeeps, 2 Harpreets).
Outside of the PAU, it was dinner time again. First on the list was the family of Swabhimaan’s CEO. The food was, as the last time, delicious (and it was so difficult to say no!), and we had a great night. In addition to the hospitality, the highlight was a singing master-class by host, Kanika, as well as Kazu from Japan. Both of them have great voices – the texts don’t really matter since I don’t understand neither Japanese nor Hindi. Listen in!

The second event has been hosted by the general manager of our hotel, Mr. Ram. He was so kind to invite us for a dinner to thank us for our stay. He personally greeted us, then, some snacks were served. Needless to mention that snacks in Punjab mean an actual dinner. We also had the opportunity to show off our newly bought jutti.
Then, the second course, consisting of the “real” dinner and tons of sweets, was served downstairs. Luckily, we were able to have everybody who has contributed to the wonderful CSC experience, at Fortune Klassik that night. Our Pyxera consultant, Shruti, came from Mumbai. Our local consultant, Jaspreet, came with his wonderful parents. And, of course, we had our team of 12 IBMers from 11 countries. Simply awesome!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Time to celebrate or suit up has been promoted to the next level

Our last weekend in Ludhiana approached very fast. On Saturday, we had planned a big party. We came up with the idea when we realized that two team members had their birthday during the CSC time, and other two are getting married this year.

After three weeks in India, it was the perfect occasion to wear all Indian clothes that we bought in the past days (and we bought quite a lot of these). The ladies wore saris or Punjabi suits, and the gents went for a kurta. At the same time, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to do something special. This something, of course, was the traditional Punjabi headgear – the turban. We were assured that it is not rude to wear one if you are not Sikh – and now it was only the question of finding someone to tie it for us. This person was quickly found – this was a gentleman at the tailor. The three of us – Bernardo from Brazil (who is getting married in April), Rafal from Canada and myself entered the shop. The rest is history. The skill, with which the guy was tying the turban, was just amazing. Mine was made of “German blue”. Suit up has been promoted to the next level – doesn’t it look nice?
12 foreigners dressed up in traditional Indian wear were a source of attraction for the entire evening. Wherever we went, all eyes were looking at us (probably asking themselves: “Who are these guys?”).
After a visit at Baba chicken for a delicious dinner (finally, I managed not to eat too much), we went to the hotel bar. There, we prepared a nice surprise for our jubilarians: a cake with an edible group picture and the slogan of the night – Time to celebrate!
After the bar, we wanted to do what we have been wanting to do for a few weeks. Our hotel has been hosting a wedding party almost every night. But this night, we wanted to be part of it. A simple “can we join you?” was enough to experience one more traditional Indian event – and it was awesome! As soon as we impressed the guests with some bhangra moves, the local and the foreign crowds have mixed and had tons of fun together! What a great night!

Hindu temple and the storm: Gods are happy, you are wet

India considers itself a very religious nation. And Punjab considers itself a more religious part of India. As I was told, “not to believe in God in India is morally condemned”. The two main religions in Punjab are the Sikhism and the Hinduism. Since we have already visited a Sikh temple (Gurudwara) in Amritsar, we wanted to look at the Hindu temple in Ludhiana.
The interesting fact about Hinduism is that it is “a religion of 30 million Gods”. While the main gods are well known (Rama, Shiva), there are many other deities. The temple itself is a big complex, with a lot of shrines and the main building where the mass is being held.
We reached the temple after work, it was already dark. When we departed at the hotel, it started to rain, but it felt like the type of rain which brings a lot of water, but goes by quickly. Despite the rain, we had, however, to take our shoes off prior to entering the place of worship. This meant that we had to walk on the cold marble floor with a layer of rain water on it barefoot. A refreshing experience.

After seeing the evening ceremony and hearing the priest’s sermon (we guess it was one), we were ready to head back. However, by the time we left the temple, it started to hail! Something like this happens in Ludhiana very, very rarely – in fact, our local consultant said that he has not seen anything like this in 30 years. Apparently, heavy rain means that the Gods are happy. With my clothes wet, I would be very happy if the gods find ways to express their happiness differently. 

The intense rain has transformed the roads into rivers divided only by the median, with the hail swimming on the side. Our auto (tuktuk) seemed more like a boat than a vehicle. I guess that in Europe, the security guidelines would demand us to wear swim vests. This video conveys the atmosphere very well.

By the time we arrived at the hotel, the traffic in Ludhiana has totally collapsed. While some people were just amazed by the nature event, others were trying to get home despite the weather, with their scooters and bicycles just drowning in the floods.
Hail in India – one of the last things I expected. And one more adventure on the long list…           

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

School vistit @Swabhimaan NGO

Part of the CSC assignment was to spend time as a group on community service. We decided to visit one of the Swabhimaan NGO schools. Swabhimaan, as I mentioned before, runs schools and provides education to underprivileged children. Found in 2008, Swabhimaan is involved in 25 schools around Ludhiana.

We decided to spend a few hours with the kids and to talk, play and laugh with them. I have to admit that this visit was one of the most powerful experiences in India so far. It was impressive to see that there are people that want to give education and thus, a chance to the children from poor(est) families and who really care about them. From our end, I hope that we could make a small contribution to make the kids a bit happier.

We divided the children into a few groups and played games different games with them.

Each of the groups has got a card with a fancy stamp after the end of the exercise. Some kids were busy examining it.
 Kids were really smart and hat a lot of fun.

And we enjoyed the time, too!

What a great time and experience!
P.S. Please visit Swabhimaan's site at

Monday, March 3, 2014

Back to Ludhiana: Work and after work

It has been three weeks after my departure from home now. The days fly by with an enormous speed, and each one adds to the list of stories, adventures and events.

The work at the PAU progresses well. The course registration process, which seemed to be rather straightforward in the beginning, turned out to be a complex one with quite a few exceptions. The process map resulted in a ~175x60 cm tableau (and as you see on the picture, I am continuing to make smart comments).

At the PAU, there are still things to discover. Since the work for the College of Agricultural Engineering and Technology, it has different agricultural vehicles as well as a driving range where the students learn to drive. After a cup of green tea with our clients, Dr. Satish Kumar and Dr. Rohinish Khurana (members of the exclusive PAU green tea Club), we were offered to check out the tractors ourselves. Since I am a city kid, it was the first time for me to drive a tractor. Conclusion: It can drift, has two gears and a left and a right brake (why?). It was a great ride.

After work, things continue with the same intensity. On one of the nights, we decided to visit Ludhiana's only micro-brewery - a place called The Brewmaster. Living in Germany, it was, of course, impossible, not to taste beer made in India. The beer is served in "beer towers", in addition to that we had great food. Not to forget that after our visit, I received a call from the manager asking about my experience. Good service!
Another highlight was a Bhangra class. Bhangra is the traditional Indian dance. Being in India, we really wanted to be part of this cultural experience. During a 1-hour class, the teachers did their best to show us the basic moves. Many of you know me as being a dance noob, but I did my best to keep up with the beat. Keep calm and Bhangra on!
Hungry after the physical exercise, we went to a South Indian restaurant. There, we had the famous dosa - a pancake made of rice batter with potato stuffing. The one on the picture seemed to be a special one for the big group.

Each day, new adventure!