India has changed a lot since we last visited over ten years ago. There were far fewer hassles (except at the railway stations where touts still abound) and we didn’t even get scammed (unlike in Delhi, many years ago, when we got scammed twice in our first ten minutes)! The shop keepers didn’t badger us too much either. Maybe the southern indians are just more laid back than their fellow countrymen in the north?
We flew into to Chennai (Madras), travelled down the coast to the southernmost tip of India, then up the west coast to Cochine before heading inland via the hill stations, across to Mysore and Bangalore and back to Chennai.
The first thing we noticed was that there are a lot more ‘late model’ cars on the road, jostling for space with the hundreds of motorbikes and tuk tuks (auto rickshaws). They all drive like maniacs; forget malaria…the roads are the biggest danger. The humble bicycle is still popular but traditional rickshaws are much less common.
So, it seems in general the indians are getting richer; though there are still slums in evidence. However, we didn’t see a lot of beggars and, on the whole, people looked well fed.
The mainstream were very well presented. It is common to see ladies dressed to the nines, sitting sidesaddle on the back of motorbikes, dodging cows and routinely risking their lives, in the crush of traffic. How do they stay so beautiful amongst the grime?
The men are also smart with their trendy haircuts and freshly pressed shirts. It made me laugh; when we were in the Maharaja’s palace in Mysore, whenever the queue passed an ornate mirror all the young men would take out their combs and do their hair!!
The place is still pretty dirty with rubbish everywhere but, due to general hygiene standards improving a little and the advent of anti-bacterial hand wash (so you can sterilise your hands before you eat), we didn’t get the infamous “Delhi Belly”. In fact, the food was wonderful; especially the delicious masala dosas (fermented rice pancake stuffed with a savoury mixture) which are only available in the south. The curries are fiery hot and had our seven year old in tears one night!
Travelling down the east coast and through the countryside of Tamil Nadu, we saw a lot of massive universities, newly built. There were many specialist fields in evidence including high-tech engineering colleges and medical universities. (Medical tourism is another growing industry.) With their young population and their “you tell us what you want and we’ll make it happen” entreprenurial attitude, the indians are setting themselves up to take the world by storm.
(We have outsourced our accounting work to a company in Bangalore (read “The 4 -Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss), and this was certainly their attitude. Their pricing is very competetive too. Watch out..they’re after your job).
Cricket is still wildly popular and most locals can name the entire Australian cricket team and the NZ team to boot!
It’s a shame, but inevitable, that with the rapid modernisation of India, some of it’s endearing quirks are disappearing. Reading the daily newspapers used to be hilarious, but nowadays there is barely a mention of “sleuths.” The odd amusing terms are sometimes used…I was once referred to as “your good self” and an email reply from one hotel was signed “Love and Regards”!!!
“Love and Regards India. We’ll be back”
- Tamil Nadu committed to Chennai greenfield airport: Stalin (topinews.com)