Today is Indian Independance Day. Since I got the day off along with everyone else I decided to go down to the Botanical Gardens at Lal Bagh. This allowed me to see even more evidence of how people in India are split, not just by money and cast but by many attitudes too.
One of the things that has become obvious to me, going back to money for a minute, is the great difference between corporate wealth and state wealth here. The corporate sites are springing up extremely quickly. They have many floors surrounded by dark glass and immaculate gardens with solid walls and guards all around. Compare this to the state infrastructure with the terrible traffic, sporadic electricity supply problems, etc. I am willing to bet my company and most other western ones here are paying next to nothing in tax to attract them here – on top of paying engineers about 5% of what they would get paid in the UK. Comparitably speaking that is still a lot of money here and if you believe in trickle down economics a lot of that will bolster the local economy – it’s just going to take a while.
Going back to the park… Obviously I picked probably the most crowded day of the year to go. It was the first day since I’ve been here that’s been really hot and I think it’s going to be sunburn fun later on. I’m very glad my cab guy found me very quickly after I called him and ferried me directly to a shop that sold cold water.
Anyway – I was going to talk about attitudes. It is Indian Independance Day so I was fully expecting a few people to not be completely happy that a white guy was wandering around. In the 4 hours that I was there I had one person say “This is not your country – go home!”, one woman shove me out of the way hard when it was very crowded (but, to be fair, she probably didn’t even look at me before she pushed) and a significant minority, maybe 20%, look at me with a distinct “what are you doing here” expression.
However I can’t concentrate too much on that because of the large minority who were not only friendly and smiling but went of there way to come up and speak to me. I had lots of people shake my hand and wish me Happy Independance Day. Several people wanted to know where I was from and to practise their English. Most strange a lot of people, well over a dozen groups – all young lads, wanted their photo taken with the all-dress-in-black-wearing-shades white guy. One group was paritcularly enthuiastic and each one wanted a photo of them and me. Their designated English speaking managing only “Very good old boy!” as his only method of verbal communication.
All in all I’ve had an exhausting but fun day so far. I was most surprised when after we got back to the hotel my cab driver wouldn’t take the tip I wanted to give him for working on Independance Day. Just goes to show that attitudes are the same world over whther they be suspiction, friendlyness or pride.