Pixie Dust

Mumbai, India (Part 2)
January 18, 2005, 6:41 pm
Filed under: travel | Tags: , , , ,

Finally, I’m wrapping up my first full day in India, and man it was a long one! After this, I’m off to bed for a couple hours of sleep before my 4am wake-up call. I really miss my 9 hours of sleep a night…

We visited several stores for our business research and found almost opposite ends of the spectrum. Some were in big consumer electronics stores with air conditioning and sparkly equipment…others were tiny, stiflingly warm shops down small, dingy alleyways in random corners of the city that would have been intensely frightening in the dark.

Throughout the day, we were overwhelmed by the poverty. I had heard of people living in shanty towns and was warned that beggar children would follow us around, but it was more than I really expected to see. Some of the poor housing combined cardboard and thin metal siding for walls and rooftops. Women scrubbed their clothes on the dirty sidewalks. Trash piled up in many places, as if the poor were relegated to living within the grounds of the city dump. And the children – so tiny and skinny, not really old enough to communicate at all – they appeared out of nowhere and followed us through the city streets, often frightening us that they would get hit by oncoming cars.

There is a need here to widen the roads to improve transportation (believe me, after spending a better part of our 15-hour day in a car crowded with 8 people, I’m ready to lobby the government to fix the potholes), but they would have to tear down the slums in order to do so and the local politician draws much of his support from those who live in them. Until they can find an alternative where they can relocate these homesteaders, there will be no improvement to the roads.

It’s so strange to see what happens in places where the population and economy explode at the rate that some of these emerging markets are experiencing. The infrastructure just can’t support it. And on the flip side of these impoverished slum dwellers are individuals renting apartments starting at $150K per year. When you consider that a lunch that would cost $10 in the states costs you $5 here, you can adjust that rent upward to $300K to make it equivalent to what you would pay at home (I’m not a statistician, so my math could be way off…either way, it’s a lot of money for an apartment).

How can there be such disparity between the two? I know we have it at home, but it’s invisible to us there. What does that say about our society? Many questions to hurt my brain…


Mumbai, India (Part 1)
January 18, 2005, 7:07 am
Filed under: travel | Tags: , , , ,

Traveling here wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Actually, the trip to Zurich from Dallas seemed much shorter than the 9.5 hours it took. I couldn’t sleep on the plane, though. At one point, I dozed off and startled myself awake with the thought that I hadn’t reminded Elvis to not erase Battlestar Galactica from the DVR. Note to self: refer back to New Year’s Resolutions – watch less TV.

I got weepy on the way to the airport again; leaving Elvis is always so difficult for me, even though it’s only a short time away from him. Maybe I just worry that it could be the last time I see him again… or that something could happen to one of us. You never know. But I still feel silly every time I cry at the airport drop off.

So now the adventure has begun. I haven’t seen much of Mumbai yet, as the hotel is right around the corner from the airport. I can say that riding in a car is possibly more frightening here than it was in Beijing. At one point on our 3 minute car ride last night, our driver pushed head-on into opposing traffic to make his way to the hotel driveway. This, of course, was after we narrowly missed several pedestrians on the way.

It’s very smoggy here, reminding me of the haze that Austin gets when the fires in Mexico burn every spring. There’s also a distinct smell to the city that’s a mixture of all kinds of things. But you adjust and get used to it. I’m sure it will seep into my pores along with the Jungle Juice that I have to apply every morning to stave off the mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever.

On the plane, I debated about the Jungle Juice as I was caught between the panic raised by the Travel Clinic and the warnings on the Deet label. I ended up applying some to my exposed skin, and I was certainly glad for it later. Not more than 30 seconds after commenting on the false alarm about mosquitoes attacking immediately after disembarking the plane (part of the Travel Clinic panic), we were swarmed.