At least, that is how India is sold, and appropriately so, because there are so many incredible things here, some good, many not so. Does India suck? Nah, that was only my knee jerk initial reaction to being hijacked, twice, going through customs when I arrived. Otherwise, the whole experience is part of why you live. You can’t really appreciate what you have until you see how bad things can be. Some are contented to live in your secure cocoon, and the older I get, the more I can appreciate that attitude. But, for this trip, anyway, I am driven to continue my quest for Pearl.
Continuing my history of India, independence was achieved in 1947, with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as the first prime minister.
The Father of the Nation, Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi,
was assassinated the following year at the age of 79. During this period, bowing to religious freedom, Pakistan was created, forcing 10 million to relocate. In 1971, East Pakistan became Bangladesh, a third country.
About India, note that the president, who is voted into office, is head of state, but the prime minister, appointed by the ruling parliamentary party, has political control. Presidents have been untouchable (Kocheril Raman Narayanan)
and female (Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil). Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi (not related to Mahatma),
later became PM, but was assassinated. Rajiv Ghandi, eldest son of Indira,
married a Gandhi (also not related to Mahatma), became the youngest PM, but also was assassinated. The current PM is Manmohan Singh, the first Sikh to hold this post.
Hindu is most widely spoken, but English is remarkably not. I’ve seen numbers around 20%, but I my limited experience says less. Slightly more than 80% are Hindu and around 14% Muslim. Eighteen major languages with 1600 dialects are spoken. The numbers are varied, but there are at least 36,000 different newspapers sold and somewhere between 4000 and 1800 dailies, depending on who you cite.
With a land area 200 times greater than the State of Hawaii, India has 1000 times more people. The country has a little more than one billion people, and is expected to pass China around 2030. Just the increase during this period amounts to about the population of the United States. Mumbai is tied with Mexico City as the second largest city, 18 million, below the 28 million of Tokyo.
There remains a caste system. You want to be a Brahmin (about 50 million are), but untouchables still number 170 million. Attempts are continuing to end discrimination, with some ministers and even a president (1997, Narayanan) becoming president. In fact, click on “The Present Realities of Brahmins in India,” and clearly, change is occurring.
It is recommended that you ignore beggars, for, children, especially, are part of a mafia system, and they don’t keep what you give. About malaria, this is a consideration only during the monsoon season (May-September). Here, it is February, and I’ve been taking malaria pills for three weeks, and it is not a problem at this time of year. Great!
Interesting that when it is midnight in Hawaii, it is 3:30PM in Delhi. Yes, the national time is not on the hour with the rest of the world.
Gasoline costs $3.70/gallon and electricity is 8 cents/kWh. Hawaii today is at exactly $3.70/gallon for premium (see box on the right), but our electricity is today closer to 24 cents/kWh, three times that of India.
They say you get 46 rupees for $1, but, after all the fees and whatever, maybe 42. Then, if you’re unlucky enough to get hijacked by customs, drop that to 30 if you get intimidated…like me. But $5 for a 45 minute taxi ride from the airport to hotel ( learned that I could have had the Le Meridien pick me up for free, for they will put me in a limousine back to the airport) and $50 for a full day (16 hours) tour, with an excellent lunch, from Delhi to Agra (275 miles roundtrip) and the Taj Mahal/Red Fort, and well, what’s a few bucks sacrificed at the border? Oh yes, too, as I survived, the actual ride, which took 10 hours, was memorable beyond belief. If I ever get back home to Honolulu in five weeks, I will be a more thankful person.
My simple solutions for India?
- Reduce population. There are too many people. However, I should point out that the world birth average is 3.0 children/woman, and while Afghanistan is 7.9, this figure is 2.8 in India, as compared to 2.05 in the USA, 1.81 China, 1.29 Russia, 1.26 Japan and 1.08 South Korea. I fear India will become the country with the most number of people by 2030, but if they can find a way to drop their birth rate to that of South Korea, that would be incredible. So what can India do? Improve your economy, and wait for the effect to occur. This will, unfortunately take a couple of generations.
- More honesty in government. A Corruptions Perception Index of 3.4 for India is better than other countries in this region (Pakistan 2.4, Russia 2.2, Cambodia 2.0, Afghanistan 1.3), but the U.S. is 7.5 and Sweden 9.2. Start with airport customs and I’ll be back someday.
Nevertheless, I’m glad I came, for I saw a lot of progress and considerable vitality. The economy is booming and trends are promising. India should attain incredibility by 2100 if my two simple solutions can be attained.
Dow Jones and crude oil on the right.