Day 4 in India. We are in Mumbai. We are still adjusting to the new timezone. The kids have more trouble with jet lag than us. Weather is horrible. It's not too hot, around 24-25C but extremely humid. This makes it very very uncomfortable without air conditioning. It's always sticky and sweaty. Monsoon is here. It rained heavily for about 90 minutes yesterday evening.
We visited our relatives in and around Mumbai suburbs. I have noticed a few things around Mumbai since the last time I was here in November 2004. Roads in general are in much better shape. Everywhere we see construction going on on and along roads.
You can feel the effects of booming economy everywhere. Real estate is exploding. On outskirts of Mumbai suburbs a 1000 sq. ft. condominium inside a gated community can cost anywhere from 3 to 8 million rupees depending on location. At today's exchange rate of around Rs. 40 per US dollar that's $75,000 to $200,000. That would be typical of a second tier city in US. Single family homes are a privilege of extremely rich people exclusively. Cell phones are everywhere and they're damn cheap. In the time I wrote this blog 50 new cell phone connections were issued in India. 6 million new cell connections every month! That's how fast it's growing! Malls are sprouting everywhere and organized retail is getting ready to enter India in a big way.
Yet life in general in suburbs is still very hectic. On average people spend 60 to 90 minutes commuting every day, one way! And the weather is no help at all. Most people avail public transport that is extremely crowded during rush hours, and these transport facilities have no air conditioning at all. Many big name employers now have air conditioned offices, but most people still can't afford air conditioning and those who do, will typically have air conditioning installed only on bedrooms.
But all this prosperity and boom is touching only a section of the society. On our way back to my parent's home we were waiting at a traffic light. It was pouring. We could barely see anything in front of us. And in that horrible weather two 6-7 year old almost naked kids were going around the waiting cars with rags in their hands to wipe the windshields in hopes of getting a few rupees. I didn't see anyone offering them anything, neither did we. Or the insides of our cars would get soaked with the rain. It was heart wrenching. The poverty and prosperity living side-by-side. That's India!