Growing up in India as a child, my parents never once gave up an opportunity to compare me with a friend who was better in either education or sports. This comparison is what made me strive to beat competition and in a few cases get battered by the same either psychologically or otherwise.
India has since then come a long way. But our dear neighbour China always sets the bar so high that India seems to be that student who is almost passing but can never match up to that kid who’s definitely headed to an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).
Then one fine day after decades of debate and decades of planning, we got the metro train. Debates spanned on whether we build the train underground or elevated, the routes kept getting planned and re-planned. The excitement for the common man that India has finally arrived was like a child hoping for ice-cream after a grueling exam.
But during that decade of planning, another magical event happened in India ….. INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL. Post the year 2000, Indians migrated to all parts of the world as the IT worker and suddenly we knew all about New York, New Jersey, California, Texas, Miami, Toronto, Singapore, London and many other cities. We were no more the snake charmers but the land that was causative of the zero which resulted in the rise of computing. While the Chinese had bettered us in the international movie scene, India and Indians were rarely mentioned i.e. without the snake charmer. Audiences jumped out of their seat when James Bond came to meet Vijay Amritraj the auto driver in Octopussy. Mera Bharat Mahaan!
But travel also revved the local growth as politicians and bureaucrats alike were put to test by that very comparison we grew up with. We went to Singapore and came back with the stories of how its a S$1000 fine if one were to spit on the street. We spoke of Singapore’s cleanliness, its meticulous transport system and the method to their madness. While back home, Surat ran into a plague in 1994 because of the garbage mess and many cities are following that path as the civic body and its employees are too busy robbing public money to go to Singapore and Thailand for a holiday. The local garbage issue by their standards is nothing to be concerned about.
My story is one of sheer awe for the Chinese who have not only provided a public transport system but a comfortable one for their people. It seems beyond doubt that THE CHINESE CARE BETTER FOR THEIR PEOPLE”.
A few years back I decided to take my family as a tourist to China to see what the brouhaha was about. What surprised me is a country which has taken its cities to another orbit. Shanghai was straight out of a sci-fi movie with boldly designed buildings, a Maglev train which moves at over 500km an hour between the city and the airport and so many other aspects that one must see the city to believe what I say.
A few days into our trip, we took a bold move at 7pm to take the metro train to go back to our hotel. The process of buying the ticket was efficient and not knowing Mandarin wasn’t a hindrance. But the shock was the ocean of heads on entering the station that made me think that I’m in a Bombay rail situation. But as Indians, “HOPE” was the one thing that stood tall and hence we didn’t turn back. Typically in India, our wait for an empty train would be endless. However, to our surprise, we moved smoothly towards the train, boarded the first one without playing rugby and the distance between me and the next person was a atleast over half an arms length. Wow!!!
Back in India, the Bangalore Metro opened and several months into its operation, I figured that I should take the train atleast once. The opportunity arose on MG Road when Uber was next to impossible to get and therefore the train was an exciting alternative. Getting tickets was not as easy and once on the platform, it was 40 minutes and 12 trains later that I got a train which was relatively less crowded (not a Velcro situation :-)). The train was packed throughout and got more and more busy.
This got me thinking. Our bureaucrats want to provide us facilities as a result of all this comparison and constant talk that India is behind etc. etc. However, they also want to make the Indians pay for it by making it as uncomfortable as possible. This shows us that these politicians and bureaucrats don’t care about the Indian public as much as the Chinese bureaucrats and politicians do. Now hows that for a comparison.
Raj Kaushik – Vitarkka