Emerging India – Traveller’s Tale

Just came back from a long trip to Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad. It was very interesting in many ways. The highlight of the Mumbai trip was a half day spent with a couple of hundred officers of Mumbai Police. Police Commissioner Arun Patnaik wanted me to talk to his men and women in uniform and asked me to be part of his monthly ‘crime meeting’. It was an amazing experience and I wish I could tell you more.

From Mumbai, I went to Pune and spent two days with MindTree’s Pune office. One morning there, I saw this probably everyday sight somewhere in Hinjewadi: two young women travelling to work. It is evident that they work for a software company there and this is their daily commute. Nothing out of the ordinary, except for the somewhat recurring theme of Indian womanhood: avoid eye contact with the world if you must survive. One is listening to her MP3 player and the other is careful to cover her face. The road is a jungle.

Women travelling to workI have written on this theme many years ago when Indian Express asked me to pen down my thoughts on emerging India but it haunts me.

When I started travelling for the first time outside India, the one startling difference I noticed was the fact that women in the developed world did not look down, look away or consciously avoid eye-contact when outside their homes. Just as the men did, they walked straight, almost heads held high. In India, we have to get there one day. It is going to be a long walk but walk we must.

When I see a woman commute in a city bus or train or while she is crossing a street, if she is urban and office going, she is invariably wearing the earphones.

She is messaging, I am in my world, don’t knock, don’t pry. I am not available.

She is wearing an electronic veil of sorts.

But sometimes she is alone on a somewhat deserted road someplace.

Take notice that if she has a cell phone, she is always speaking to someone. Again, fully in to the conversation, very serious and animated and, she is looking away from you.

The voice on the other end is her fragile protection. From, men.


From Pune, I went to Hyderabad. I love the airport there. It is G Mallikarjuna Rao’s way of saying, India, I love you. Each time I alight there, my spirit soars.

It is an India within our reach. Right now, right here. If we want it this way.

As I got off the plane and went looking for a baggage trolley, I saw none. I looked around askance. Then I realized the trollies have been all neatly lined up next to the conveyor belt in anticipation of the alighting passengers.

Trollies lined up next to the conveyor belt

Neatly lined up trollies

Someone is thinking here!

There was the welcome movement of the conveyor belt and I picked up my bags and walked out. Birbal, my pick up, was waiting there. After a short walk, we got into Birbal’s car and then headed out only to stop momentarily at the airport toll booth. And what do I see there? Take a look:

If you did not find anything out of the ordinary, please look again.

The toll booth is air-conditioned!

I have never ever seen such a thing in my country in which climate control is for the man who flies the plane and rides the expensive car. It is not for the high school dropout, a newly arrived migrant in search of work who must seat in a cramped cabin for an eight hour shift, hand jutting in and out to take the money, give the change and the receipt to people who do not say a thank you; the cabin invariably tiny, poorly constructed with makeshift or leftover construction material.

But not here. Not in Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao’s Hyderabad.

Thank you, GMR.

Lubna Says
Tuesday June 5th 2012

Don’t we all have to look down, because the road is pot-holed? I’m being serious. I wasn’t used to looking down and when I shifted to Bangalore, I’ve tripped and fallen many a times on the road. Now, even the roads of the city I now live in, aren’t any better. That said, I keep a cell phone in my hand, when I am commuting late at night, just so, that if need be, I can quickly call for help (and my cell phone is an antiquated model which no self respecting thief would be interested in). A pepper spray comes in handy in some cities. Yes, I guess, women have to play safe, maybe some day, things will improve.

Durgesh Khandal Says
Tuesday June 5th 2012

nice blog.. gained pleasure through your great sense of humour..

Akash Mohapatra Says
Tuesday June 5th 2012

Its a pleasure to read this. But, more like to know your experience with men & women in uniform.

Akash Mohapatra

Shantanu Das Says
Tuesday June 5th 2012

Hello Sir,

Nice article with all the minute details penned down in a sweet way. It’s really true that the Women still find it difficult to get a right place in our so called male-domonated society. But, the time needs to change and we should all come togather to take this long walk and give them their due importance and security.
Also, Hyderabad Airport is the proof of the ongoing great Indian development, which can be followed by all other cities.

Lastly, Sir as you wanted, I have posted you my brief background for your pursual to your office address in Bangalore. Looking forward to your suggestion.

Your Admirer as always,

Subramanian Sankaran Says
Tuesday June 5th 2012

Delighted to see you singling out Hyderabad airport for special accolade. I have visited this true icon of modern India a couple of times in the recent past. Truly wonderstruck at the world class thinking that stands out in stark contrast to the much touted Bangalore International Airport where I regretfully have to board/disembark in my journeys out of my home in the “Silicon valley” of India.

Hetal Says
Tuesday June 5th 2012

I beg to differ… your analysis of women’s actions on the road has nothing to do with safety especially if this observation was made in broad day light..

“When I see a woman commute in a city bus or train or while she is crossing a street, if she is urban and office going, she is invariably wearing the earphones.
She is messaging, I am in my world, don’t knock, don’t pry. I am not available.
She is wearing an electronic veil of sorts.” — How is this different from what men do..? I live in the United States and this is something I see here too – both with men and women. The culture of making small talk with people is soon going to be obsolete thanks to rapidly emerging technology. The psychological reasoning for why people prefer to talk on the phone is way off and unlike how you describe is not only limited to women. I am definitely not belittling the security aspects of India.. just the fact that the idea and your observation & pictures don’t converge.


Nibedita Says
Thursday June 7th 2012

Dont know you would read this or not, but just felt like to post this.

Was going through your book The professional.

U talk about the values but do you things these values work or come to existance when you have critical family problems??? Does it work when u see your own parents helpless and just situation palying a game ??

yk maheshwari Says
Wednesday June 13th 2012

Hyderabad, GMR story is similar to Captain Gopinath or VG Siddartha of Coffee Day. Hyderabad has taken over Bangalore in terms of roads, infrastructure and other resources.
Contractors who finish roads or for that matter rain water drains, never have a responsibility to clear the debris/ left out material. Each of the road width becomes 50% after the service is carried out; there by shrinking roads- increasing time to commute. This also means IT workers reach office at 10 am and leave by 5 pm – customer has to pay for all this. Why would he keep doing that ?
Tax payers money is managed and spent by uneducated political leaders; who are largest buyers of AUDI, Mercs and Forrester -Toyotas.
Morality of indian youth – is under strain as per Subroto– 100% agreed phenomenon.

S.K.Mohanty Says
Wednesday June 13th 2012

Respected Sir,
Nice Read.
Recently purchased your book MBA@16 to gift to a friend’s son.But couldn’t resist the temptation to go through it. Alas! it should have been written when we are 16. Highly Recommended.

Aarti Says
Wednesday June 13th 2012

Wonderful blog! It inspires me to churn up a reason to come visit Hyderabad, just to see the airport. I live in Mumbai, and despite all renovations or so-called infrastructure boost that Mumbai Airport (international) is going through, when one lands here from developed nations, it looks, gloomy and dark. We need a GMR here too!

Hrudya Says
Wednesday June 13th 2012


Kaustav Says
Sunday July 1st 2012

It was an absolute pleasure singing to you & your friends at the wedding anniversary celebration in Sadashivnagar. Have been a follower of your blog. Leaving a post first time after witnessing your wit & humour first hand this evening that turned memorable majorly due to your energy & presence!

Anuja Kale Agarwal Says
Tuesday July 10th 2012

i am not sure you remember me but we met many years ago when you were the key note speaker for the Veritas event in Goa. I was Head of Comms. then, working with Sharad Sharma. I couldn’t agree more about the fact that women do try to avoid eye contact. Having travelled extensively within India by bus, taxi, trains and planes, and plenty of overseas travel, I cannot help but compare and contrast the experience/s. In India you feel constantly scrtunised and / or stared at – rudely. Compared to that, in foreign countries you can be so anonymous, so carefree because no one stares or makes comments, whatever it is that you’re wearing. It is sad and one hopes that Indians will learn and india will change. Till such time, we must keep our gaze down,lest people think we’re inviting trouble, message extensively or pretend we’re on the phone when taking a late night taxi and hope that nothing untoward happens to us… Karate skills and pepper spray a clear bonus!

S.Leena Says
Saturday July 14th 2012

I love my India…so well written sir :)

Friday August 3rd 2012

Dear Gardener,
I have seen Air Conditioned/climate controlled rooms at one of the IT company’s office in Chennai for the security staff. I was amazed to see it when I went there for my interview. A well maintained office neat and clean everywhere. The atmosphere outside will make you feel relaxed.



Abhay Mishra Says
Thursday August 16th 2012

Dear Subroto, can u mail me your email address? I have some thing interesting to write to you. Please know that I have no favour to ask from u. Have a nice day. Abhay M.

ag Says
Tuesday August 21st 2012

Dear Sir,
The Pune IT Hub at Hinjewadi is a chaotic mess and poor employees waste productive hours doing the daily commute. It would be great if IT leaders got together and put pressure on the local civic administration to ensure good roads that are free from bottlenecks, better planning and clean sorroundings. It is the least that the IT companies who get a relaxation on taxes by opearating out of SEZs, could do for employees who are told that if they do not agree to work on projects in the SEZ areas , they would have to quit the company. I am sure IT professionals would not mind working out of the SEZ locations if the traffic woes were resolved by capable planners. As always, the buildings came up first ahead of the rest of the infrstructure. How could the local administration not have been aware that daily close to half a million employees would be commuting to and fro from Hinjewadi? Why was better planning not done? Hinjewadi receives many heads of foreign companies and yet the sorroundings are not upto international standards.You’ve mentioned Hyd airport here so one cannot help but wonder why excellence must be restricted to certain pockets – why can’t all development projects (including SEZs) not be of the same standard as Hyd airport? when will India ever get there?

Sudeep Guha Says
Saturday September 22nd 2012

Great…..really unbelievable……

Thursday October 31st 2013

White cabs
We are providing good services to the customers and 24*7 days are working and you may get best and cheapest quality cabs for rent and here we are providing different top companies cars for rental purpose.

Cabs In Hyderabad

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