We left Mumbai in the wee hours of Independence day. Every trip to India, especially the metros shows how rapidly the country is changing (On this trip we visited Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai).
The Mumbai we visited 3 years ago and the Mumbai today shows a marked difference. The "goshala" which was visible from the apartment window is now an 18 story building. The sunset from the 6th floor window is not an available sight anymore. There are 4 high rises between the window and the sun.
There is a 6 story mall in Chembur that beats the local mall here in Cupertino hands down. Similar stores, similar prices, same "sales" and "deals", International food courts with popular Indian food chains thrown in, movie theaters with seat reservations and reclining seats and digital projection, Cleaning crews that regularly clean the floors every 5 minutes, paid parking lots, super clean restrooms, etc. etc.
India has also caught up or gone farther than the USA on some of the bad stuff. There is a security check with two metal detectors and a guard and a frisking booth to enter a mall. Same thing for any big restaurant, public park, etc. etc. The population should have gotten used to being checked and frisked at least 4-5 times a day as part of the daily routine.
The big cities have also learnt how to segregate the poor and hide them from the eyes of visitors for the most part. In the US, you don't see poor people in the suburbs. If you go to San Francisco you see homeless folks and beggars but not in huge numbers. The last visit to Mumbai had lots of poor folks trying to make a living and lots of beggars everywhere you went, from the airport to the busy road sides. This trip we did not see beggars. It is like they have all disappeared or relocated! The poor folks trying to sell trinkets to make a living were still there.
Still this experience stood out..
5-7 years ago when I was more hot blooded and less pragmatic, there would have been a different reaction to this 5-6 year old kid selling Indian flag pins few days before Independence day on a busy road where he was risking his life to make a few bucks (in all probability for someone else). Now that I am older and more sober to the reality of the world the way it is today, was content enough to pin the flags on my little girls and watch the smile on the kids face as he took the 10 rupee note.
If the poor go out of sight, they will soon go out of mind, if it is not the situation already!
The young twenty somethings in the metros who have salaries that allow them to spend and go to malls, especially with the lifestyle of living with their parents have become "americanized", not only in how they talk, dress, eat, shop, but also with the way they seem to treat the poor as unfashionable.
In the US it is okay to wait tables, it is okay to be part of a clean up crew as a "summer job" or a means to make a few bucks. I know kids who work the local grocery store as clerks and the local movie theater here at the ticket booth whose parents are well to do. That needs to catch up in India. That way there is a respect for everyone who does any job. That would be a welcome change.
A kid like that going to school and selling trinkets as a part time job from a safe store on the sidewalk would be an equally welcome change!
More travelogs to follow...