India 2010 vs. 2014

(I wrote this blog post last year, forgot to post it.)

Ever since we moved to the US from in 1980, my family and I have visited India every few years. The last 15 years I have noticed dramatic growth and changes in India.

Most recently, we went in late July / early August 2014 to meet family and attend my eldest daughter's performance at The Music Academy in Chennai. The last time we went was in July 2010. Since then, some things frustratingly remain the same, and some things show that we are at the cusp of dramatic change.

  1. Mumbai International Airport. The entrance is huge and welcoming. Immigration used to be a smelly, sticky, and poorly air conditioned room. Now, it feels like the lobby of a international 5-star hotel.
  2. Trains. They remain the same. The bathrooms are disgusting at stations, and in the trains themselves. The coaches have not visibly improved in the last 30 years. The conductor asked us for an increase in fare after we had already purchased the ticket. I felt like he was leveraging his authority to extract a few more Rupees from us. I did not have the energy to protest.
  3. Inflation. It costs us Rs. 600 ($10) for the porter. Perhaps we didn't bargain well. Lunches cost us Rs. 800 per person in Chennai, and were ordinary by most standards. These prices are just plain unaffordable by the Indian middle class.
  4. Mobile devices. We used Google Maps on a smart phone to find a local restaurant that the auto rickshaw driver did not know how to locate in Chennai. This is a harbinger.
  5. Corruption. Police in Bangalore do not seem to be taking bribes. Things are computerized, so people pay the fines as expected.
  6. Pollution. Garbage pickup exists, but citizens have terrible aim. The garbage lands somewhere within a 200 yard radius of the bins. This problem was there in 2010, and still there in 2014. Gandhinagar is getting more polluted, although Ahmedabad and Chennai are cleaner. 
  7. Public facilities. There is lack of good public toilets, the same as it was in 2010.
  8. Bureaucracy. Getting a VISA on time was near impossible. Another story for another post at another time. The outsourcing arm of the embassy, Cox and Kings, are imbeciles.

Overall, I am optimistic. Although the public sector is static, a free-er economy combined with technology is helping India inch forward.