Saturday, 25 April 2009

Yeh mera India....

It was so nice to be in Delhi, to be able to witness the spring season's final act. The heat of the unrelenting sun began to pour down in the last few days but it did not prevent us from admiring the flamboyant bougenvillas spraying magenta in the dusty landscape, blood red hibiscuses, the towering peepul trees, the soothing shade of the neem and other members of the flora and fauna, I had a chance to get reacquainted with.

I spent a huge amount of time on the Delhi roads, commuting to and from Greater Noida and wondered just how the Common Wealth games can be held next year in this city of unfinished flyovers and overhead Metro tracks, traffic snarls, hasty road repairs, swarms of pedestrians taking to busy roads (simply because nobody thought of them when all the flyovers were built) and sights as incongruous as a bullock cart labouring up the wrong side of the flyover. The Akshardham complex looks beautiful and all the toll paid for the various expressways seems paisa vasool, has to have faith! in God and Shiela Dikshit.

We were invited to come and witness our neighbour's ten year old daughter's dance performance in the newly built Ansal Plaza, where a dance competition was being held. It feels like all of young India is boogie woogying nowadays, a hugely competitive sport. Looking at those pretty young things dancing solo or doing the tango with a romeo, while a huge crowd of mostly students stood around, left me scandalized.

I wondered how my dad would have reacted, had my daughter been one of the participants. I then tried to tell myself that the crowd used to be much more and more unruly in all those college festivals when I went on stage...but then, I couldnt see my audience and they were supposed students, while this was a shopping area, where anybody and everybody could come and stare.

Nevertheless, I shouldnt have worried, young India has matured, there was genuine applause for good performances and no seetis, or inappropriate behaviour...even with a couple trying a miserable tango, none for bare midriffs, none for the uninhibited jhatkas....I felt old, ancient, a bit dinosaurish and sorry for reacting in such a old fashioned way.

The one thing which warmed my heart, was watching the go getting youngsters in India. They were everywhere, in banks, in offices, in malls, on bikes, in cars...The young people in banks were dressed in Western office wear, speaking Queen's English with customers, but not hesitating to sport the full 4 dozens of newly wed's bangles. They were comfortable in their trousers and happily speaking and joking amongst each other in Hindi, even in the UK visa office. The real estate developers are going through a downturn and the girl there told us that salaries have been static for two years now, therefore, the mood there, was a bit sombre. Another disturbing trend, which I gathered from mums of guys and girls, earning fat paycheques, is that they are refusing to get married- too much hassle.

Strangely enough, when I got back to England and got into the train which would take me home to Norwich, I overheard a familiar Asian accent and saw a young Indian man speaking on the phone. It was a long conversation which flitted between English, Marathi and Hindi and it did not take me long to figure out that this software Engineer from Pune was being asked to extend his stay in England and he was trying to get out of it. He reminded me of my nephew, a soft ware Engineer in Bangalore, who has been enjoying gaadi, baadi (car, flat) and foreign trips, but is health conscious or may be traffic conscioius enough to bike to work.

Later talking to this young man on the train, he said he had too many things on his mind as in two weeks, he had a product launch. He did not have time to talk to me or accept any sweets I could offer. He was busy ringing the Pune office, getting somebody to text him phone numbers of people he needed to speak to, here in England, then would proceed to speak to them. He was speaking in all three languages, harassed and hassled, with no self consciousness, whatsoever. For global citizens like him, it did not matter which part of the world he was operating from...Bangalore, Pune, London or Ipswich? Welcome to the flat world...which is becoming hot and crowded. We carried lots of books from India, amongst them Thomas Friedman's next and am reading the entertaining Shobha De's "Superstar India"

More next time- Be good and be happy!