Sunday 27 April 2008

City Comparison

Each of the cities I have visited in India have been fundamentally different. It has almost felt like I have been visiting different countries. Oh sure, there are some things which have been the same (everyone communicating on the streets with the excessive use of the horn and the overwhelming traffic) but each and every city has made a very different impression on me.

Chennai: The infrastructure of this city has got some serious problems. Everywhere you looked was a construction projects, not just buildings but pipes, roads, homes. The tsunami seriously damaged the area and the rapid growth of the IT industry has meant this city has got to work hard. This was the only city where the power seemed to give out several times during each day, not for long but for a few minutes. There appears to be very few Westerners here. I think I can count the number of white people I saw on my ten fingers. Hands down though, this wins for best hotel and location. Fisherman's Cove and the beach are a wonderful place to relax after a long day although it is far removed from the daily life of your average Indian. I struggled to envision what life is like for the Indian residents of this crumbled city. About 3 out of 5 people wear motorcycle helmets when traveling by motorbike. It is hot and humid, the most humid by far.

Bangalore: I had but one brief opportunity to see this city on one trip into the city centre when I met colleagues for dinner. The centre is very modern and urban. Lots of lights and shopping centres. There are lots of Westerners both in the airport and at the restaurant we ate in. In fact, if I recall correctly every table had a Westerners at it. Maybe that's the restaurant for taking all Westerners. The traffic was the worst here. About 4 out of 5 people wear motorcycle helmets when traveling by motorbike. It was much cooler especially at night than Chennai.

Pune: This city is green and mountainous. More so than any other city I visited. It seems to have a combined urban/rural feel to it. No one wears motorcycle helmets. It was hottest here but no humidity. There were loads of Westerners. The hotel air conditioning had 2 speeds: off and deep freeze. At one point in the night I awoke shivering and turned it off. I woke a few hours later being viciously biten by mozies. The deet came out in force. One of the most disconcerting moments was when waiting for my flight to Mumbai in the Pune airport the electricity went out for more than 5 minutes. OK, that's not really reassuring. Every city (except Mumbai had power outages whilst I was there but at least it didn't happen whilst I was waiting to catch a flight. Eeeeke!

Mumbai: This city clearly has the best infrastructure and the most Westerners, mostly business men appearing to do the same type of work I do. I sat between 2 white men on my flight here and it was nearly all white people in business class on the way home. We encountered very little traffic on the way to the airport although granted I spent the least amount of time here. Oddly, the domestic terminal of the airport is nicer than the international terminal. There are very few motorcycles and it wasn't all that hot. They seem to generally obey the traffic signals here which is a first.

I have numerous mosquito bites, mostly on my feet (think I missed those with the deet spray) and will continue to take my anti-malaria pills for a week. I only had a couple diarrhea incidents (not bad for 1 week, I reckon). I was not involved in any road traffic accidents (the greatest miracle of all). I was not mugged.

I was deeply annoyed by the tipping culture, ie everyone (sometimes up to 3 people at a time) wanted to help me with opening doors, moving my luggage, etc and each and everyone of them expected a tip including employees of the airport/airlines. The greatest expense easily was tipping all these people when in fact I didn't need or want any help. I get the poverty but let's put these people to work on the infrastructure and stop the corruption.

I have expanded my horizons somewhat although to say I saw India would be a mistake. I saw what corporate India wanted me to see: nice hotels, nice taxi cabs, nice offices, nice restaurants. Everywhere I went was clean and air conditioned.

The middle age in me is relieved to be home safely but the adventurer in me yearns to go back and pull off the covers to experience the real India. I want to take my children. I want them to see the world as it is beyond their private school, big home and nintendo/Wii.

I slept like a log in my bed last night. My own sheets, my own pillows, no mosquitoes. It's great to see the world but it is greater to be home with the ones I love and who love me.


Anonymous said...

Glad to have you back home safe and sound...Love Mom

Janell said...

I sure enjoyed visiting India with you via this blog. Loved the last paragraph best.