Saturday, March 29, 2008

Another 'Real India' Poolside

In continuing tradition, Thursday night marked the start of our weekend, aside from early next-day meetings. Endeavoring to alter the standard GK-1 N Block fare, we opted for poolside at the Park Hotel's Aqua lounge. Combining a group from Bain, and celebrating the admission of a few friends' to HBS, our overzealous ordering showed its striking face in the form of Rupees on our bill. Bombay and Delhi host venues that rival the likes of Hong Kong, London, and New York in price. Though India is understood internationally for its population and poverty, it's also host to Asia's largest number of 55 billionaires and over 83,000 millionaires. It's a country of contrasts and challenges and one that is remarkably pluralistic and diverse culturally, geographically, topographically, linguistically, and economically. It's a country in which some things do not move, and others are world class. I realize these differences on a weekly basis as I learn phrases in Guju, Punjabi, and Hindi; I learn this each time I arrive in a new city; I learn this each week as I frequent a chic bar or restaurant with Indian friends from work, and then spend my Saturday traversing the frenetic streets of Old Delhi.

The 'real India' is a country that varies and is personally dependent. Last year I went searching for it on trains and in small villages. This year I find an equally 'real India' that exists in an efficient Kingfisher flight with brand new AirBus 320 aircraft; it exists in as high-heeled women make a morning trip to Barista for lattes; it exists in a villager with a mobile phone, and multi-million dollar Bollywood escapism; it exists with bamboo scaffolding to erect glass wonders; it exists with an S-Class Mercedes and a chauffeur, in a taxi, in an auto-rickshaw, on a cycle-rickshaw, and over bare feet. I can only try to understand that these worlds are not mutually exclusive, but are the various versions of India that those around me all know and love.

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