Note: This is not an exhaustive read, my views are independent and based on 5 days and 6 nights in the Motherland
“So when’s the last time you went to India?”
“The country has much changed my friend; you are in for a shock”.
Tip: If you want to fly direct to India, I recommend Virgin Atlantic, can’t fault them
The First Impression. I recall Indra Ghandi International Airport back in 1993, dark dingy place full of chaos. Fast forward to 2012 and you find something on par with London Heathrow, more light, calm, quiet and very organised. If you have ever watched Bollywood movies down the years, you will have noticed that the male and female dancers have become “fitter and leaner” over time. This is somewhat the case with Indra Ghandi International Airport, the staff do provide “eye candy”. However, there is one stark difference between London Heathrow and Indra Ghandi International, those collecting you cannot come inside the Airport, they must stand outside. So you can imagine when I walked out, I felt like one of those Bollywood stars reaching out to zillions of adoring fans. So my very first impression..? Not bad.
Gurgaon, The Monster. I spent most of my stay in Gurgaon, which is an up-coming City outside of Delhi, separated by a Toll-road. Gurgaon is an amazing place in terms of development, all of the FTSE100 companies can be found there on your door-step, it is, a real industrial powerhouse and will no doubt supersede Delhi in the next few years. The infrastructure is much improved and the metro system very extensive, however, pavements are still unfinished, with piles of sand and gravel on the roadside.
Some things just never change. Back in 1993 I remembered two things, the dust and traffic. Guess what, no advancement in that area. I recall getting dressed in my glad rags and walking out in my Kurt Geiger shoes, only to find them covered in dust and dirt and that was just walking from the front door to the car. India’s advancement as an economic power has meant the emergence of more vehicles on the road. India is a nation obsessed with small cars, however in my view there is no value in purchasing an expensive model because there is always a 90% chance of someone hitting your vehicle each time you drive out. Ever hear about the old myth that wives would pray for the safe return of their husbands each time they drove to work? Well I can second that, there is a method in their madness. After the first two attempts, I stressed not to sit in the front because I “shit my pants” each time, how the hell they avoid accidents I will never know, some seriously skilled driving.
Another tip: If you thought Rickshaw’s and Auto-Rickshaw’s were a death-trap some years back, things are worse, get yourself some serious life insurance if you intend on travelling in them.
I am not rich, therefore I am no one. There are a couple of scenes that stick out in my head. 1. Being followed by an old lady at Bangla Sahib Gurdwara asking for money, she said she would pray for me to have pale-faced kids. I put my hands together and said you are asking the wrong person, the one to answer your prayers sits on your doorstep. 2. At functions in India, it is customary for people to throw money in the air where several people are dancing. What I noticed was young kids standing around the edges of the dance floor, eyeing up the falling notes and then pounce like a human vacuum to pick up the money, only to get kicked and pushed by the cameramen. One major thing struck me, the hunger for money in their eyes, it was burning, which made them so focused that they felt no shame sprawling all over the floor in amongst the feet of the dancers to collect each and every paper of money. 3. As we parked up in traffic on our way to the shopping mall, a group of kids no older than mine started tapping on the window, asking for money or sweets. One of them stood in front of our car and refused to move. Those living in India might be used to this, but I was certainly not.
If you don’t have money in India, you are no one, no have no human value. You could disappear tomorrow and no one would know, not many would care!
My Say. India has moved on, without a shadow of a doubt, extreme progress. Very soon it will be at the forefront of technology, however it will forever remain a looser in terms of how it deals with different classes of people. Someone mentioned to me that the poor very much depended on the negligence of the rich and how they waste their money, in order to survive. That may be true, but the burning hunger of the poor is too overwhelming.
I don’t really care what India stands for, all I know is that somewhere placed nicely in the city of Amritsar, my beloved Harmander Sahib stands proud, a place of sheer peace and tranquillity, amongst the absolute chaos.