Notes on a Changing India for my Father

India Personal Writings

New Orleans       My father passed away fifteen years ago this June, but I couldn’t help thinking of the question he would often ask me when I returned from some country not in his own travelogue.  He would ask me what to tell him what would interest him from my latest trip.  Not having been in India for more than a half-dozen years, I found myself making some mental notes for a conversation that wouldn’t happen.

I stayed at a hotel on Juhu Beach for several days in Mumbai, where I had stayed off and on in previous visits.  There had been some changes.  Breakfast was now on the patio and the birds were largely kept out by netting and the days when you got brewed coffee and a masala omelet were gone, but those weren’t the big change.  In an important first, they had put in a water filtration system in the hotel, so the water was potable even for the likes of me.  Rather than finding a water bottle in the room or buying water on the street, they had four bottles of their own Emerald Inn water ready for service in the room.  Amazing!

The metro construction that was so ubiquitous in Delhi on every past visit seemed finished almost, and in a noticeably critical population, was getting positive reviews from everyone I talked to on the subject.  Many in fact, even with personal drivers on call, reported having taken the metro and found it quick, clean, and cheap.  In Mumbai, on the other hand, construction on the second metro line seemed everywhere, but that seems true of all construction.  I counted more than thirty cranes working on skyscrapers as I came into the downtown area before giving up.  As horrid as the traffic is, all reports indicate that ride-sharing apps have made a significant difference, with Ola and Uber dominating.  Ola is an India service which the ACORN organizers recommended, but required an India cell number to register, so I found myself uploading Uber, which I had abandoned in protest years ago.  They were glad to have me back, they claimed.  No hard feelings, obviously in late-stage capitalism.  Interestingly, most seemed to be regular cab operators who used Uber for extra rides, so maybe a tad better than the worker rips of the states.

Clubs were a new experience for me.  One meeting I had in Delhi was at a golf club, while another was at a membership-based international club.  I had gone by mistake to the Habitat complex, where once we had a meeting with the ILO in their offices there.  Looking for my party in the restaurant, it turned out that was an eating club as well.  Many of these clubs had rooms for guests, like a hotel.  I stayed with our head organizers in Mumbai in a Bandra East cricket club that, surprisingly, was even cheaper than my Juhu hotel.  Internet was depressingly slow, but the food was cheap, and opening up the café every morning by myself at 7 am, fruit, an omelet, and toast was only about two bucks in dollars, so I felt like I had a deal.

My dad would have enjoyed this report.  I wish I could have taken him along with me.