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.
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.
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.