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Amrit and Balbir
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Balbir Singh and Amrit Sethi are founders of the popular web portal, www.koramangala.com. Since its inception in December 1998, the website has received global media coverage and was also featured on "Sunday Morning 60 minutes", on the widely viewed CBS News channel.

Recently, the couple went on a 2-week trip to the United Kingdom - Balbir's second, but the first for Amrit, for whom this has been a fabulous experience.

Back to Oh! To be in England

Hammersmith, Here We Come

Just about a day in London and we were already having a great time. The tube, the buses, disciplined traffic, shops, bars and pubs, supermarkets - were all so fascinating to us, coming from a city dirtied by political bashing; a traffic-jam city marinated in utter chaos. What made ‘Newsweek’ rate Bangalore as the top ten IT destinations in the world? Maybe, they ought to do a re-think.

We still had a long way to go and we kept reminding ourselves that London’s the type of place when there’s never going to be enough time to see and do everything.

Today’s schedule was our trip to Hotcourses’ office in Hammersmith and we were quite thrilled at the likelihood of meeting everybody. Some of whom we had met in the past, some we had spoken to over the phone and many whom we’d neither met nor spoken to, but only heard of. Included in our visit, were briefing sessions on new areas of work that we’d be upgraded into soon.

It promised to be an exciting day.

London's famous underground
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It was a lovely morning – chilly though not unbearable - as we stepped out of the hotel. At the Bayswater Tube Station, it seemed unusually packed. Certainly didn't look like an office-going crowd since it was 8.45 am and well past peak-hour. Standing in the 'Q' for the Travel Card Pass we discovered, 'Voila! They were all tourists, just like us. French, Italian, German, Spanish, Polish, Americans, people from all over - all here to get a feel of enthralling London.'

We bought our Travel Cards, but couldn't enter the automatic gates since this pass could be used only from 9.30 am onwards. We were scheduled to be at the office at 9.30 that morning; but, under the circumstances we hadn't much choice.

The beauty about the London Underground is that one can get to any destination rather quickly, even if there's a train change to be made. Our destination was Ravenscourt Park – one stop after Hammersmith – with a train change at Earl's Court for the District Line train to Richmond.

It was just past 10 am when we got off at Ravenscourt Park and asked directions for King Street. 'That one over there, that's King Street,' pointed out this kind gent. We walked down the street (or is it 'up the street') looking for door number 150-152. In a few minutes we were at the Hotcourses office. Frankly, I actually missed it. Mona saw the name board on the glass door and excitedly said, 'Here's HC'. If not, we'd probably have walked on and ended up God knows where.

Our pal, Paul Fraser
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It was great meeting everyone, especially Paul Fraser, one of the two 'Data Warriors' with whom we interact with on a regular basis. He was what I'd imagined him to be; young, smart and extremely handsome. Paul Cherry, another Data Warrior, was on holiday but we'd get to meet him later, towards the end of our trip.

I liked the Hotcourses office. What struck me most was that there weren't any cabins; except for Mike Elms' cabin. He's the founder and understandably, he needs some sort of seclusion. In any case, the doors to his room are always open. One doesn't see this sort of thing in most Indian offices, where almost every Tom, Dick, Harry and Ramaswamy has a cabin. Even the work-stations have partitions because, 'there should be some privacy'. What privacy does one need while at work, unless there are some nuclear secrets they don't want others to have a peek at?

We spent about two hours at a presentation-cum-briefing-cum by Ana Santidrian and Kim Dunkley and around 1 pm, Ana says, “Let's go for lunch.” Neil Pearson, Dave Wadham, Ana and the two of us trooped out towards The Thatched House, a well-known English Pub at Dalling Road.

It was a cozy place - ye old English - with wooden tables and chairs and I seem to remember a fireplace near to where I sat. The waitress brought over menu cards and while we browsed through, Neil looked at me in askance. 'No beer,' I said. So, it was Diet Pepsi for all. Somehow, I can't control those yawns after lunch and I can imagine what a glass of beer would have done.

The Thatched House - Old English Pub
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We had Tapas which is a Spanish starter dish; like a 'Papad', or the 'Appalams' of South India that go well with 'sambar-rice'. In England they call 'Appalam' or 'Papad' as 'Poppadums. There was a tasty dip – spicy chutney - going around with the Tapas, which I quite liked. The Thatched House is famous for its Sunday Roast. It wasn't a Sunday, but I had a roast anyway – if memory serves me right, it was Lamb Chops – with lots of vegetables to go with. All Mona can remember is that she had 'something with prawns in it'.

An hour or so and a short walk later we were back at the office. More briefing sessions followed, with lots of coffee, and soon it was 5.30 pm. And time for most people to leave. We said our goodbyes for the day, since we were to come back later after a few days

I must confess that after that delicious meal, I felt rather refreshed. We're so used to '40 winks' after lunch that I remember quite vividly, I wasn't yawning.

Next: Rendezvous at Piccadilly

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