Sitting in a king size bed, in a 5 Star hotel, Juhu Beach, Mumbai, India after traveling for 24 hours and spending the day in business meetings, its almost possible to forget that I am in another world..I know I am jet lagged and sleep deprived, and that it is early days in the adjustment process, but already the contrasts are feeling a bit over whelming.
It was four a.m. local time when we finally made it to bed and breakfast at 10, seemed but s flash away, And since two of the others in our business group wanted to see the main tourist sites, we did so with a car . It was a Sunday and all the locals were out in full force which made the experience more comfortable as there were no busloads of internationals following various coloured flags beseeching their flock to follow them.
It could also have been the fact that due to last year's terrorist attacks, the windows of the Taj are still boarded up, and there is a very heavy security presence in our hotel, the tourists have not returned. While the city looks and feels safe, and according to the business people we met things are back to normal, I still find it un-nerving when our car, entering the hotel grounds is search with bomb detecting equipment and a dog, and each individual's bags goes through an airport like security check.
Leaving the hotel to go to the beach, we sign out and we return through a well fortified door, in medieval like fortress wall, with armed guard, only to again go through the security process. Still, the beach teaming with people and vendors selling food and offering children's amusement was warm and welcoming, reinforcing the sad truth that a handful of terrorist can hold a city racing towards a population of 20 million, hostage. Unfortunately, the same can be said of and experienced, everywhere in the world.
There are the usual indicators that this is a city the is living in the past, present and the future. The obvious evidence of poverty are telling of the past, the glittering stores which could be anywhere in the world the present, and a company like Tata, a gigantic, world wide conglomerate that is truly in the future, delivering cars for the price of an entry level Canadian racing bike.
I am sure it will take a long time to integrate the experience, but a couple reflections are worth repeating. While driving along an area where the walls were overtaken by grafitti artist, whose images are the message, there was one fairly crudely painted slogan that continues to reverberate through my mind: “keep you coins, I want change” which of course can be interpreted on so many levels.
Even the business section here can be thought provoking.. The headline proclaims “Planet positions hostile for rally in equity market”.After an erudite discussion of Moon-Jupiter, Sun-Mars, Venus-Jupiter influences, etc.the columnist, having written the mandatory 800 or so words, a practice that is something no doubt shared by market prognosticators every where, there is the need for a conclusion which in this case is that while “medium term bias remains bearish, we cannot rule out the possibility of range-bound trading, with a day or two of solid gains” Clearly the jargon of business journalists share a common planet since I am very much used to reading at home, at the end of many a thoughtful discussion concluding that markets may go down, fluctuate at current levels, or they may go up.
In a world of uncertainty I am sure that India is and will be colourful, dynamic, exciting and never boring, and I feel blessed by my lucky Stars that I will have five more weeks to experience it all.