A lifetime Visiting India Part 2.1990 to 2014 by Sundeep Bhatia
In 1990 I visited India as part of a round the world trip,following the completion of my Law Society Final exams.
The trip took place in the later part of August.
Up until the monsoon rains,in September,the weather was intolerable.
It was unbearably humid.I would take a shower and,five minutes later,I would feel as though I needed another.
Otherwise the trip was as usual. I enjoyed good food and the company of my relatives.
There was now another car manufacturer on the scene.Maruti,a company originally established by Indira Gandhi’s allegedly murderous son Sanjay ,who was killed in an air crash.
They had a collaboration with Japanese manufacturer,Suzuki,to sell small cast off vehicles and immediately rose to the top of the automotive pile .The tiny Alto 800 became the first car for millions of citizens including my future wife.
In 1991 the Indian market was opened up to the outside world. Over a period of time,and visits,I saw the changes.
When I visited in 1995 satellite TV had arrived . India has developed its own indigenous TV Industry which mostly catering for the lowest common denominator.Soap operas,with sub “Neighbours” production values ,and infantile plots rule the airwaves.
In many cases the production values of the adverts outstrip those of the programmes .
Over the last 12 months there are signs of more demanding fare with better production values.
An Indian remake of 24 and a drama called Yud involve the participation of Bollywood stars.
Bollywood has also prospered .The latest blockbusters are high budget and are seen at multiplexes around the world.
Shopping malls have spread up everywhere. They,like any mall in England,are crammed with brands such as Marks and Spencer,H and M,Zara,Apple,Nokia and multiplex cinemas where the latest Hollywood and Bollywood blockbusters live in blissful coexistence.
Everything is available now .The days of filling suitcases with items bought in the UK are long gone.
On the roads Bentleys,Mercedes ,BMWs and Jaguars rub shoulders with Marutis,Hyundais,Hondas,Fords,Audis,Skodas and Volkswagons.
The roads have improved . There are now Multi lane highways . Yet you still have to beware lest you meet a bullock cart or a driver travelling in the wrong direction.
On my current visit Police officers closed off a section of highway and all traffic fought for space,on the same side of the road,with no traffic cones.
However no road network can keep up with the volume of new cars coming on to the roads of Delhi. Heavy traffic is a constant problem.
Many relatives have jobs in the IT sector due to the high level of computer literacy here.
The excellent education system means that English speakers are eagerly sought by call centres.
The world has shrunk since I first visited India in 1970.
Making telephone calls to Jndia used to involve days of planning. Now calls can be instantaneously. A short phone call would cost several pounds. Calls can now be made for less than 2p a minute.
Indian groceries are routinely available at British Supermarkets and English groceries are routinely available in India.
The whole world watches the same films and TV programmes. The same music is consumed worldwide .
Air travel is far cheaper than it was 40 years ago.
I used to communicate with my relatives by way of aerogrammes which would take weeks to arrive. Now email and Facebook mean I can easily keep in touch.
A summer visit is no longer uncomfortable due to the preponderance of Air Conditioning.
However India still has many problems.
The most severe is still poverty. Whilst the middle and upper classes grow ever richer the poor remain as poor as ever.
Young street urchins beg at traffic lights as do mothers carrying babies.
The infrastructure of the country is inadequate.
Most houses have back up generators because power cuts are a daily occurrence as are interruptions in water supply .
Roads are still inadequate .
Yet I will always be grateful to my parents for showing me my heritage.
The greatest legacies of my trips to India stare me in the face every day.
My wonderful wife and our darling twins who will remain in touch with their heritage for another generation.