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India: Land of Contrasts
J. C. Tilton

The last half of November I had the unique opportunity to visit India. My company sent me on a training/process appraisal trip of the software engineers that we use in that country. Someone else from our work group was originally designated and the trip fell into my lap, it was hard to turn down the chance to visit the other side of world.

The total flying time was somewhere around 20 hours. So I was exhausted when arriving in Mumbai(formerly Bombay) India. I could tell that I was no longer in Kansas. The airport, as does much of the country, was a mixture of old and new. It had kind of a musty smell that I found in many of the buildings - from the tropical climate. In some areas of the airport, I saw clerks working on old computers from 15- 20 years ago. In other areas they had brand spanking new pc's. The airport was kind of dingy and showed its age, meanwhile soldiers with automatic weapons were very much in evidence.

The very first weekend I got to play tourist thanks to my hosts. First stop was the Gateway to India. Built to welcome an English King years ago, it looked to be around 100 feet tall and is an impressive stone structure. We next stopped at a house that Gandhi lived in for 17 years. India was a former colony of England until 1947 when Gandhi helped their independence and became their first prime minister. Unfortunately, he was assassinated about a year later, however always the man of peace he forgave his assassin. He is revered in India and is the equivalent to our George Washington.

On Sunday night we went to a Hindu wedding reception for one of the engineers from the office. Their weddings are longer than ours, usually lasting over several days. There is a ceremony with the brides parents, the grooms parents, the actual wedding, and a reception. The wedding ceremony itself can last 4-5 hours! Food is “veg” and “nonveg” - a devout Hindu will not eat meat and does not partake of alcohol, but some are not as devout as others and also there are many religions in Mumbai - as evidenced by my Hotel room where I found the expected Gideons Bible and also a Krishna and Buddhist holy books. The Bride and Groom looked like a prince and princess to me. He was in a suit, while she wore traditional Indian garb with lots of jewelry - many necklaces and bracelets. The reception hall was very colorful with strings of multicolored lights. They sat in high backed chairs that reminded me of thrones.

Some of the contrasts that I saw was our 5 star Hotel that had makeshift huts on either side of it. They grew trees around the Hotel to block them from view, but you could see them from the road. Most folks have decent housing, but the have-nots have a tough go of it. In one block I saw a new modern 10 story office building going up, in the next block I saw a chicken, a dog, and a man all digging thru a trash heap. The Indian economy is growing and gaining in strength, but there is still lots that stand to be improved. One surprising fact that I learned is that although Hindu is the official language, in many provinces different languages are spoken. So a person from one section in India may not be able to understand someone from say the Southeast.

Overall, the stay was a delight. The people were friendly and pleasant. It is not hard to find someone that speaks English. In major metropolitan area's many signs are in Sanskrit and English. But travel is best using cabs, they drive on the opposite side of the road, and traffic is hazardous by our standards. Dogs, cows, and humans frequently appear out of nowhere and motorcycles weave in and out of traffic. Major Hotels and top restaurants have western style restroom facilities, but the rest have restrooms different from ours. Western style (Continental) food can be found - as well as McDonalds (chicken only - no beef!), but I found the Indian food to be delicious. It was the experience of a lifetime and I hope that sometime I get to visit again. Comments:

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