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svgfahmesvgJune 7, 2022svgMemories

Vodaphone, Priyathama and Red Wine

The world is sick. Most of the people have been confined to their homes. I have been an avid listener of history and I can’t actually remember when this happened last. I mean, even during the last world war, people used to flee from their homes, right? No pointy or round-shaped nukes from Wadiya can be held responsible, rather a tiny being called virus is. This is my first day at the home office due to COVID-19. Things are pretty weird as expected as the threat and romanticism of the probability of the end of the world are looming over our distressed mind. Writing to me is a journey, an experience. So, what’s happening around the writer, is important. If we could get the reader experience those while reading as well, could it be interesting? Maybe, or perhaps my mind is too much biased towards virtual reality as my daily work involves this. Anyways, today we are going back to November days. I visited India with my business partners at Battery Low to attend the Indian Game Developer Conference, Hyderabad. It was a 10 day trip in India, covering 3 places largely. Today we are going to discover the story of Vodaphone, find our Priyathama and enjoy the magic of Red Wine. Be aware that not 100% of what will read is true. I may or may not have tweaked things a bit for the readers. So, best of luck!

After a lot of drama, we finally reached Hyderabad airport. Now, as we clearly missed out on our opportunity to buy a sim card in Kolkata, the only way we could get connected with the outside world was through wifi, which was not accessible in the airport as we didn’t have a sim card. We started to wonder what’s the purpose of the wifi at the airport if you can’t use it without a sim card. But it is what it is. Mimo, my friend, and CTO of the company went AWOL looking for washroom as my other partner, Istiaque Bhai, COO of Battery Low, found his favorite toy after collecting luggage. He found a kid! Well, what do you call these toddlers? Kid, or baby? Anyways, an Indian lady was facing trouble managing her toddler and all these luggage. Istiaque bhai brought out his hidden talent. He is super good with kids. They love him! The waiting time till Mimo resurfaced after doing God knows what wasn’t boring as Istiaque bhai was handling the baby and I was enjoying watching the funny and cute scene.

The Oyo hotel we booked was far away from the airport, so we were thinking of calling an Uber. But alas! We had no means of connecting to the internet. Okay, let’s take a bus- Mimo suggested. We left the uber corner and walked outside to the bus station only to find out the bus fare combined will be more than Uber fare and also, we will have to walk for 7–8 minutes with our luggage after getting off the bus to reach the hotel. The ads of Vodaphone nearby was mocking us. We reached out to passers-by to help us with the internet. Finally, there was some hope. He called helped us call an Uber after sharing the internet via hotspot and guiding the driver to come near the tall India flag. Then he instructed us to go to the flag stand and not to move from there as we will be out of the internet and as we don’t have any sim, the driver has no way of contacting us if we move elsewhere. We waited and waited. 15–20 minutes went by, the driver didn’t arrive. We were at a loss what to do with all these luggage as we have already moved around a lot. The driver has probably canceled the ride or got lost, but we had no way of knowing exactly what happened. Istiaque bhai went looking for another bus he saw nearby to check whether that goes near our destination while Mimo was pushing me to seek internet from the beautiful lady sitting in the roadside park just opposite of us who, according to Mimo, was clearly onto me. After battling so hard with my mind, when I finally decided to cross the road and approach her (for the internet of course), then a man came running. “Are you the guys with no internet? I am the Uber driver you called. I have been finding it difficult to reach here as I am relatively new here. Please come with me.”

No, I have no idea what that fish-shaped building is

Hyderabad has some giant structures. They clearly are very caring about the vehicles because we couldn’t find any zebra crossing in the near distance. So when Mimo and I went looking for a Vodaphone sim card we lost each other. Thing is, the vehicles there don’t stop for people. The ONLY way you cross a road by foot is by holding your hand upwards and slowly or quickly walking/ running towards the opposite direction with the hope that your timing is perfect. It’s almost like a video game! I did my timing right but Mimo got stuck. 12 minutes passed by and he still couldn’t cross it due to the heavy traffic. Then he went another 400 meters, waited 10 more minutes there and finally met me at the spot I was standing after 25- 30 minutes! I have to deal with Gulistan traffic every day and crossing roads like superhero flash is nothing new to me. But this Hyderabad traffic made me feel like a noob.

After achieving zero things (couldn’t find any shops to buy a Vodaphone sim), we hurried back to the hotel and prepared to leave for Novotel as we didn’t want to be late for facebook’s event.

Me, my partners and Oli Jones

The event was really interesting as we learned about the ins and outs of facebook audience network. But that wasn’t the most interesting part. The more fun part was the networking party thrown by them afterward.

All of a sudden we were surrounded by new friends. Avinash, Nalin, Oli, Deeptha and a lot of other veterans were there as we chilled together. Some of us were really happy. Mimo was overwhelmed and hugged me in happiness. Avinash helped us with the uber this time since we still didn’t have any sim.

As we entered the car and Istiaque bhai was trying to initiate some Hindi conversation with the driver (He was really enthusiastic about strengthening his hold on Hindi), the driver told him, “No English. No Hindi. Only Telegu.” Now that hit him hard. He looked at us helplessly and gave a feeble laugh which probably meant, “I/we are fucked.”

We reached our destination at night and decided to look for a sim card, yet again. But suddenly news came from Bangladesh while we were getting ready to head out. It was a big news of success, so we started to party. Mimo was happy even before the news came in. After getting it he became aggressively happy and the rest of us joined him as well. We partied till we got tired and acknowledged that we need to eat again and also, look for a sim card. We took an auto for 150 odd rupees to reach a place where they should sell sim cards. We scanned the place inch by inch only to find out the shop which sells got closed half an hour ago. It won’t open until 11 am tomorrow but we have to be at the event by then.

Dinner time!

Uncertain, we ate at McDonald’s and sang the hell out of our heart as we journeyed back home to fall for a happy sleep.

Mimo, having a happy sleep
Idli, Vada and whatever

The next morning we went for the buffet breakfast. They served us with the delicious local idli and vada. I don’t know which one is what but I am not eating this thing ever. Mimo was really hopeful about the new food, only to find out that he is more interested in the toasted bread.

The first day at Indian Game Developer Conference was fast and fun! I have to write another entire post about the experience if I am to do proper justice, so just skipping it here.

Battery Low at IGDC 2019

Now they had a cocktail party and an open-air concert after that day’s events. It was the early evening. We went outside and grabbed our drinks with the coupons. Enjoying an open-air concert with beers in hand- life didn’t seem so bad as Mimo was making joke yet again about a girl checking me out 2 rows ahead. Zamil bhai was calling us to join at dinner at a restaurant not too far away. But suddenly Telegu songs seemed so melodious. We couldn’t understand a word they were saying. But we loved the music. Istiaque bhai was already outside the concert zone and was waving hands to us saying that Zamil bhai and his team were waiting for us. Mimo was adamant that I talk to the girl. He was like, “Fahme, you are single and are at an international event where a girl with the same beer at her hand is looking at you. What are you waiting for, man?” I always have a special corner in my heart for concerts. I devour them with all my heart. Probably that’s what made me vulnerable, or maybe I was missing someone. Either way, this time I approached. Turns out she was not someone I saw somewhere (that’s what I told her though), she was one of the friends of the performing vocalist. Mimo had high hopes about me making friends with her but he was disappointed with me after knowing the outcome.

Dinner by Zamil bhai

Anyways, Zamil bhai has this charm of dragging his juniors to incredible places even if they don’t want to. I was sure that if we go to the after-dinner party at their hotel, we would be late the following morning for the event. But he made us go and to be honest, we had a blissful experience together. The lights were turned off as we screamed Artcell and black together. Istiaque bhai especially was really happy.

We had a troubled journey back to the hotel and fell asleep immediately. The next morning, as I woke up, I saw Istiaque bhai talking to the room service guy. “Anna, do you samjho (understand) this song?” Then he was playing something on his phone. I discovered it was a song he heard at the concert last evening. He took a partial video of the song, about 15–20 seconds only. But he couldn’t find out the name of the song. The room service guy was of no help. Then he tried it with the receptionist. Then the manager. Nobody could help poor Istiaque Ahmed with the name of the song but he wanted to hear it so badly!

We took an uber using the wifi at the hotel and asked the driver to stop at a shop as we need to buy a sim card. The driver helped us, but little did we know about buying sim cards in India! It took 3 of us an entire hour to finish the whole procedure and finally, get a sim card! I was upset as I missed one of the sessions I so dearly wanted to attend but something magical happened afterward. Istiaque bhai was asking the driver about the song now. The driver asked to play it again. Then he told us to search for a particular movie’s songs. We failed to find it. Then he took the phone at his hand and within a minute he got it! He cracked the song! He also translated the meaning to us. The name of the song was “Priyathama Neevachata Kusalama”, and we heard the new version last day. Being emotional, Istiaque bhai tried to say a few sentences to the driver in Hindi, only to initiate an amazing mixture of Hindi, Bangla and English words. The last day of the event was super as well. We went for Hyderabadi biriyani afterward.

Hyderabadi Biriyani at Hyderabad!

Every place we went, Istiaque bhai made a significant effort of speaking Hindi, which was fun to listen to!

The last day in Hyderabad was full of activities as we went sightseeing.

Somewhere in Hyderabad

We conquered the Golkoanda fort and a lot of other places. This fort has astonishing views.

View from the top of the fort!
we got so mesmerized that we shot something like this!

It is a must-visit place for anyone. In the late evening, we left for Goa. But that’s the story for another day.

The story ends today. What are you waiting for? Oh, you are looking for the Red Wine.

Well, it was there. All along. I promise it was in the story. I hope you find it.

It will make you …..

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