Executive summary:Bus-ing from 800 year old temple ruins in Bagan to Yangon (via Mandalay)
and then flying to Bombay (via Bangkok) is very much like taking a ride in the famous DeLorean . Read on to find out what its like to go back to the future.
15 years since I first left…
I think that no matter where you come from, the breakneck pace and the mesmerizing confusion of Bombay strike you as soon you gulp in your first breath of almost toxic air. Coming from a Burma that is stuck in the 60’s, India’s rush to get it’s 100’s of millions into the 22nd century is both awe inspiring and terrifying – and Bombay seems to be at the bleeding edge. Bombay is a city of contradictions and the fact that it’s not a total disaster (or is it?) is an ongoing miracle. Here are some things that I find most confusing and hence most interesting:
While over half of its 16 million residents live in the slums, it’s obvious that the middle class has cash to burn. Every luxury item producer who is shutting down stores in Europe, America and Japan is opening new ones here. Ferraris join the locally made cars, bicycles, auto rickshaws, motorbikes, bullock carts and the occasional elephant in turning the streets into gridlock without the grid. Everywhere you look, there’s a construction site, a foreign company moving office, delicious cheap food, traffic and of course people, people and more people.
In decided contrast to Burma, theres a sense that India is going somewhere – and it’s in a hurry. If you want a part of India’s bright future, complete with your I-phone, car, appartment, maid, cook, cleaner and club membership, then you better study hard and work hard. A “B.E.” is no use any more – show me your MBA! A light week at the office is 50 to 60 hours. Each day, thousands of bright, qualified, motivated graduates join the quest to bring more jobs from the US and Europe to India. Not only factory jobs, but office jobs, high-value finance and technology jobs. And they speak and write better English than most graduates in New Zealand.
The things I remember about Bombay are still here – there’s just more of it. More traffic, more jobs, more opportunities, more poverty, more ideas, more pollution, more hope, more money, more modernity, more diversity, more materialism. In the week we spent there delighting in the company of old friends and family, we walked the streets, rode the rickshaws and squeezed into the trains, two more people in an every increacing crowd.
Seeing, touching, smelling, hearing and tasting, this entity called Bombay can be as exciting as scary – just like the future.
Where to next…
Train down the Indian Ocean coast – Goa, Mangalore and Cochin.