Land of Contrasts

India is a land of contrasts. You can find very wealthy people living in a country with extreme poverty. Never would I have believed that I would see my first Aston Martin yesterday, parked in front of my Mumbai hotel. Dealerships for Mercedes, BMWs, Audis, even Rolls Royce are in all the larger cities. Those that have it, flaunt it. They adorn themselves with fancy clothing, expensive jewelry, and high-priced watches. They only shop for brand name clothing. They carry the latest iphones. They have pedigree pets. Yet driving in from the Mumbai airport you pass Dharavi slum, the largest slum in the World which is the home to over 600,000 people

Dharavi  Squalor

Dharavi Squalor

Dharavi, a city slum within Mumbai

Dharavi, a city slum within Mumbai

India's New Prime Minister Narendra Modi

India’s New Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Aston Martin Vanquish

Aston Martin Vanquish

and everywhere you look you see people sleeping under dirty blankets on the sidewalks.
India is also a land full of corruption. Where the innocent sometimes get accused just to pad a policeman’s pocket. Where government employees hire their accountants to hide black money. Where family members steal from each other. These people consider the bribe money they receive as part of their salary!
India is also progressive in a lot of ways. Due to their limited supply of electricity they have developed smart ways to save energy. Street lights are florescent, as well as the interior lights in homes. Hotels require you to remove your key from the box on the wall, which cuts off all power to the room while you are away. India still has rolling blackouts and people and businesses must rely on generators.
Plastic shopping bags and plastic pill bottles have been banned to help reduce trash. Imagine the amount of trash 1.2 billion people could potentially produce!
Change is in the wind……
The new Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to get 24/7 power for India. He’s also launched a campaign to clean up India and I can already see the difference it is making in the streets, trains, etc. Another promise he has made is to provide a working toilet in every Indian home. There’s just so many issues that need resolutions here. The tap water is not drinkable, so people have to rely on expensive filtering systems or bottled mineral water. Villagers must drink well water, which causes many of them to get malaria and other bacterial diseases.
There’s a trend among mostly prosperous young people to have only one child. How will this affect India in the future? Only the government employees are given small retirement pensions. Children are expected to cover the old age expenses of their parents. India could sure use a reduction in population, but this could leave some senior citizens vulnerable.
Speaking of a reduction in population. Many women are undergoing sterilization, and losing their lives in the process, while vasectomies for men are so much simpler. It’s a shame this is still a male-dominated society and that women are not cared for properly.
The metro systems in Delhi and Mumbai have been developed to lower the number of cars on the road and to decrease pollution. New expressways which bar bicycles and other slower means of transport have made it faster to get around the cities. Inside the cities you still have massive chaos and few follow traffic rules. I’ve noticed my cabs driving right through red lights as if they aren’t even there.
Luxury retailers are sprouting up in all the major cities to cater to the new middle class which has resulted primarily from the boom in internet back office and call center employers. I was shopping for some gold shoes to wear to an upcoming wedding and I wound up paying close to the same thing that I would’ve paid back home in USA.
Divorces are on the rise, probably due to the newfound financial security of some women. No longer will they stay in a dysfunctional arranged marriage. Many men and women are choosing to divorce and find new loving partners.
More and more you see western clothing being worn by women in the streets, particularly by the younger set.
The TV channels you receive here have many English speaking choices. Some, like Romedy and AXN, even play all American programming. I’ve been able to watch my favorite show, The Voice, on every Monday and Tuesday evening!
India is in the midst of a housing bubble. Prices are going straight up for luxury flats and homes. People that can afford to are buying flats during construction and selling them for 130% or more when they are complete. The price of a new home in India is now 44 times the average worker’s pay. There is no way they will be able to sustain those prices and I predict that they’ll come tumbling down, like they did in the USA.
Rents in the larger cities, like Delhi and Mumbai, are also on the rise. Luxury flats and rental homes sometimes fetch close to $2000 USD, while it is very common to have $1000 USD rent.


Thanksgiving In Mumbai

As Thanksgiving approached I was wondering if I could find a turkey dinner anywhere in Mumbai. I searched the newspaper and found several places offering the holiday meal.
Tonight I’ll be going out to Indigo Restaurant in the Colaba section of Mumbai for the evening treat. I’ll let you know how it goes. Hopefully the bird won’t be spiced like masala…hahaha.


GE Hours Later………………
I was pleasantly surprised tonight. I had an excellent meal, topped off with a glass of wine and a chocolate raspberry torte. The meal was baked turkey, dressing, small spiced potatoes, green beans and cranberries. There was a nice bread basket with assorted breads.
I was even more surprised to see large Indian families and friends coming together for Thanksgiving. Greeting each other with hugs and kisses they started the meal with a prayer of gratitude.
So many times we export the bad part of our culture. It’s lovely to see a good part of the American culture being honored in India too.