Last week, I was very fortunate to be invited to live, work, and learn development process with a project management company here in Kerala, India. I have to say that it was a short but a very meaningful opportunity: both culturally and academically. Here is a story of my two day journey:
In the US, the concept of project management is very common, and thus most construction projects often include a project management company; a mediator that facilitates the communication among the client/owner, architect, interior designer, and the various contractors by managing construction schedules, budget & estimates, and translation of design to actual building structure. However, in India, many construction projects happen without project management, which may cause all kinds of issues. So, when I first heard that RAXA was hiring a project management company, I was thrilled to meet the project managers and what I’d be learning from them.
After Ram (project manager) enthusiastically accepted my request to shadow him around, the first site that we visited was another water-front resort that was built for upscale guests seeking serene and luxurious solitude in their suites. At this site one of the assistant project managers, Anoop, patiently answered all the questions I had regarding construction vocabulary, processes and daily tasks. Everybody on the construction site was very friendly, and thus I got to talk to various people such as the architect, contractor, superintendent, plumber, electrician, and construction workers.
For lunch, Anish and Anoop went to buy lunch for me from a local restaurant. I would have gone together if they had an extra seat on the motorcycle. When they came back from the restaurant, they brought me local Keralan food wrapped in newspapers and put in a plastic bag which included rice, curry, fried egg and fried fish. I forgot to take a picture since I was so hungry that I started eating it immediately! Below is a picture of a Kerala meal that you can get from a local restaurant. When you first sit down the servers brings you an empty tray and some hot water so that you can wash the tray (although it’s already pre-washed, this seems to be the common way). Then, one or two servers bring around a pre-selected menu: in our case, we had the menu items below:
Another site we visited was a private residential house designed by Anish, who acts as a designer/architect and project manager. This house was built for a famous Ayurvedic doctor who treats the current president of India. The house was a typical Kerala style home, thus, including a pooja (prayer) room and a reception room located right next to the main entrance.
When I arrived at Ram’s house after work, I was greeted with a warm welcome from his wife Shaila. Immediately after I stepped into their home she offered me chai tea with crackers. Sitting down on one of the lounging couches, I was again pleasantly surprised by assistant project managers who joined me to watch TV. In fact, all of the staff lived very close to Ram’s house, and they had breakfast and dinner together every day like one big family. By evening the house was filled with most of company crew and their families. Ram also prepared a separate room for me with fresh toiletries so that I could have a private and comfortable room for myself after a long working day. During the whole stay, I truly felt like I was at my own home.
Before the dinner I went grocery shopping at a local supermarket with Shaila and Anish. The first impression of the supermarket is that it looks exactly like the ones that we have in Korea – just a little smaller and with a different selection of food. While Shaila was doing her shopping, I purchased black nail polish and shampoo!
Staying with Ram’s family and company crew I again noticed why Kerala is known to be “God’s Own Country.” It’s not because of the joke that Anish told me but because of its people and culture that amazed me and made me believe that it is truly a paradise hidden in India. I’m glad and grateful that I had this opportunity to home-stay with Ram and will visit them whenever I come back to Kerala!
p.s. For people who are wondering what Anish’s joke was about: A boy went around India to use telephones in various temples to talk to God. In Mumbai he went to a temple and called God – it cost him 100 rupees. In Delhi he went to a temple and called God – again, it cost him 100 rupees. After going around to many more temples, he reached Kerala, where he went to a temple and called God (same God). This time it only cost him 1 rupee. Why did it cost him only one rupee when other temples charged him 100 times more? It’s because it was a LOCAL CALL since Kerala is God’s own country!