It was confusing. The India I saw before my eyes had little in common with the India that I’ve been reading about or the India on Indian TV. Even the faces were paler, and the ads showed westernised, middle class situations and settings.
Outside my tour bus, rubbish along the roads, nonexistent public facilities in many situations, flooding four star hotel bathrooms and unending subsistence villages were the norm.
Where was the India of call centres, Bollywood, the economic power creeping up on China’s impressive record?
But I am told there are many Indias, all of them real, all of them illusions.
A few reality checks as a result of first hand experience: the caste system is so entrenched that official documents require its identification, and the UK government is now amending their discrimination laws to include caste, as a result of migrants from the sub-continent bringing their sad attitudes with them. A family disowning a son for marrying into the untouchable caste is truly sad.
When one thinks of China, one does not think of colourful, ritualised worship and endless temples to some 300,000 deities. Some 30% of India’s fresh food goes to waste due to inefficient roads and transport and storage. Put similar sets of statistics together and it is easy to conclude that India is unlikely to be a major world power anytime soon.
As the first of the BRIC nations I have visited, my views may be premature. Brazil, Russia and China await me.