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…

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