After being in India for one month, my impressions of this country are still that of a foreigner - fascination!!! Fascinated by the growth spurt that it has gone through and is still going through and fascinated also by the levels of poverty that continue to exist. From the moment I walked out of the plane and into a wall of humidity at 10pm with drops of sweat popping up almost immediately, I knew that I was in for something that I could have only imagined but something that defied that imagination...
India - it engulfed me with its freeways in the midst of being constructed - they call them flyovers here - and cell phones being so common that the woman selling jasmine flowers sitting on the dusty ground by the side of the road overrun with traffic, people, cows and kids owned one and used it often. Chennai, earlier known as Madras, and this is how I will always remember it being called, is very different now being the hub of car manufacturing companies who have established themselves here. So the roads - if you could call it that as it dares to defy the definition, are packed so close and tight with cars flooding them. My lungs will thank me immensely someday soon and hand me a rich reward if I could find them some unpolluted air to breathe in!!!
We have all heard the saying, "You are never alone." Well, never in any other situation have I considered this to be completely true in the physical sense except here and now. There are people everywhere at all times of the day and night, not to mention the stray dogs and cows that forage the trash and claim the streets at night. The pure joy of silence is lost here since it is almost impossible and it is a fantasy that some have never experienced.
Driving was a luxury in the US whereas here it is a race to your death...since everyone drives on the other side of the road..but in this country, I wonder if that matters as everyone drives in any direction they want to, completely disregarding the lines drawn to distinguish the lanes, honking is the only way it seems to them to move forward, although the two inches they move forward gets them nowhere but seems to appease the mind that they have made progress. In the midst of all the smoke and the traffic, I frequently see families of four hanging on for dear life on a motor cycle with the father driving, the mother sitting with both legs on one side, holding onto one child nearly squeezing the life out of him while the other is perched happily on the gas tank that is hot from the sun, leaning into the polluted air with no restriction whatsoever. And to top it off, now the mother is on a cell phone. I can do nothing but shake my head in disbelief!!! This appears to be my usual expression apart from my jaw dropping in surprise but I don't do that very often since it would be an open invitation to kill myself with the pollution in the air or the flies that joyfully settle on anything that exists.
Speaking of which, living in a third world country always brings with it the pleasure (not so much for me) of the Discovery Channel with its own variety of live insect shows - the cockroach which is indestructible, the mosquitoes that take exceptional pleasure in taste-testing my foreign skin, things that buzz, things that leap, things that fly, you can see them all live and participate in ridiculous dances with them trying to stick to you and you trying to kill them. It certainly is quite entertaining!!!
Despite all these things, the positive sides of growth is in the country is phenomenal. AIDS awareness is more since it is rampant in these parts of the world; women have more freedom which is not too much more but enough to make note of - they are more vocal about their rights as they understand them, they are allowed to have higher positions than men in very few instances, they are the larger task force in this country with outsourcing being the name of the game. Call centers employ thousands of women who slave in their homes all day and then work graveyard shifts, assume a western name and adopt an American or British accent to earn a living.
The country is starting to very slowly reform in certain things - like freeways are being constructed everywhere; gas stations are being modeled after the US; Womens Rights Groups are being formed; beautification of certain monuments are being done for preservation; businesses are growing everyday - every large American company has a factory or has outsourced business in India - Verizon, Accenture, Citibank, IBM, Dell, Microsoft, you name it and they have it here!!!! It is truly amazing!!! Globalization is the name of the game here right now and it is interesting to see how the country handles such rapid growth. It is sad to see that not only does the good of the western culture influence the country but the bad as well - drugs are a huge problem here now whereas, they barely existed 10 years ago, promiscuity is rampant therefore the increase in HIV/AIDS; smoking is the thing to do to pass your time with your friends - if you don't smoke you are looked at very differently.
On the positive side, there are more forward- thinking people who are returning to India from all parts of the world and therefore this changes the face of business and the way things are run to a certain extent. However, training is still such a taboo in these parts and Franklin Covey is carving a niche for itself in this industry. People know and love Stephen R. Covey but are very skeptical of training and it does not seem to be the top priority of many companies here. So this will be interesting to see it unfold!!!