Well, I’ve been here the better part of a week so I though I would jot down some of my random thinking about what I’ve seen of this country. I’m very well aware that what I’ve seen is extremely skewed – in as much as the majority of my experiences have been in a very high class hotel and a very western company. I have an hours commute to and from work but even the sights I see along the roadside there are still in the suburbs of what I have repeatedly seen called “The most advanced city in India”.

It’s a extreme cliche but the main overiding feeling I’ve picked up so far is that India feels very much like a country in a hurry. Not only do the vast majority of people seem constantly busy, or keen to be, but the city itself feels very much like it is desperate to get from one stage of its history to another.

For example – this is the building opposite work :

This is work :

But, most tellingly, this is the site all around the vast space around the two :

There is a huge amount of building work going on all over Bangalore. It certainly does appear on the surface that a vast amount of foreign investment is coming into the city.

It goes beyond that though. All along the roads to work are dozens and dozens of tiny shops. Many of these have hand paintined signs saying things like “Engineering” and many others are selling mobile phones and other similar items. This next to street food stalls, people paid to simply sweep the streets over and over and, naturally, the odd wandering cow.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. At the moment the city is a bizare clash of cultures, at least in the parts I have been exposed to, with native culture taking a battering from not only Western influences but also increasingly Japanese and Chinese too. I think if I were to come back in 5 years not much will have changed but if I were to come back in 30 years it will indistinguishable from other “uniculture” (still can’t believe there is no Wikipedia entry for that work) cities like London, NYC, Sydney, etc.

There is already plenty of evidence that they are packaging and selling their cultural history in the same way as most Western countries. At the moment they haven’t reached the point where, as in the UK for example, you rarely seen non-uniculture items in common usage (there’s plenty of Indian cultural and religious items on people’s desks at work) but I think that day is coming quite soon.

At the moment the traffic is as insane is

describes it. However I have actually felt safer in a car here than at home as, while they drive in a totally insane fasion with total disregard for everyone else, they seldom average above 20mph. I’m told by my work collegues that they are just starting on an ambitious underground network so in a few years when that is complete I would like to think it will be better. However I would expect by then that even more people will be in the kind of jobs that involve commuting so I suspect it will be little different – at least for a few years.

What else? Well, one of the things that has surprised me a lot here is the level of gender equality. Not only are there a lot of female managers at work but this appears to be reflected outside of Western companies as well. I see literally thousands of unacompanied women walking to work every morning, including young girls walking alone to school, and I’ve seen no end of women on motor bikes and scooters. I find observing social dress code very interesting. Almost 100% of men dress in a Western style – regardless of whether they work in an office. In fact seeing the odd one or two that don’t, mostly on building sites, comes as rather a surprise. In contrast at least 90% of women still dress in a traditional sari. Those that do dress in a Westerm style, jeans for example, tend to be unsurprisingly be the yongest and I believe (with little evidence) are much more likely to have grown up or spent time outside the country. There does seem to be a conscious effort to change the status of women – certainly if the badge I saw on someone’s desk “Symbian – Proud to be a woman!” is anything to go by.

That said why that gap is closing very fast there are others that aren’t. One of the other things

 mentioned to me before I went was the sheer number of people. This is extremely obvious when you arrive. This hotel, for example, looks like it employes at least one (or more!) person per guest and the 40 person restaurant has at least 8 full time waiters. Many people appear to be in “make work” jobs such as the street sweeping I mentioned above. These include folks whos sole job is to collect coffee mugs or mop the floors full time at work. There is an extreme proliferation of bored looking security guards everywhere such as the chap whos full time job appears to be to guard the library books at work. This is obviously going to become an increasing problem as more people move to more higher paying office style jobs. The salary range is already obviously vast and is going to get worse. I know little about but strongly suspect that the cast system already effects how people interact with each other but this extensive wealth split is going to make things worse before they get better.

So, to finish off for now, I would still say that everyone I have spoken to goes out of their way to be extremely helpful. I’ve had to get used to being called “sir” in almost every sentence by everyone (not only at the hotel but also at work) but again I guess this is down to the stratification in society and how everyone, at least at work, is brought up to be painfully polite (people junior to me always stand up when I come over and offer me their seat).

I’m contemplating going out tomorrow night to see how people have fun around here but the pub / club I’m thinking of going to is in the center of the central / Western / student area of town so I’m expecting it to be not too different from home. At the weekend I’m going to do the tourist bit (sites / shopping – if anyone wants anything let me know).

If I have any more insights I’ll let you know… 🙂

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