Sunday, June 28, 2009

INDIA - DIVERSE MODES OF TRANSPORTATION

Diversity and India are synonymous - most of us know that for a fact. However, when one starts thinking about it, one is amazed at the number of ways this diversity strikes us in our day-to-day life. I had been on a short trip to Delhi-Noida-Chandigarh over the last four days and had to travel distances from a few kilometres to thousands of kilometres. I travelled by various modes of travel and on my return tried to recollect my experiences - diverse, in every way. This post will only focus on the transportation, although diversity was also experienced in the languages, weather, culture and the usual other markers.

My trip started from Bangalore by Easy Cabs to cover the 18 km distance, followed by travel in a Spicejet Boeing 737-900 for the travel from Bangalore to Delhi - both these can be classified in the contemporary world class mode of travel category. The drive to the airport from my home, and the Bangalore airport itself, can be safely termed as world class, as far as the infrastructure goes. The temperature at Bangalore was about 20 degrees Celsius at 7 am.



Our flight reached Delhi at around noon and the announced temperature was 40 degrees Celsius. Getting off the ladder one was hit by the fury of the mid summer hot, sand laden blast, called 'loo' of Delhi. I commuted in a prepaid cab, - a 1990s Maruti van, and all this while the temperature kept soaring while we covered the 17 kms distance. After completing my work the only quick means(it was a blistering 43 degrees by then and one could not stand outside) of conveyance available for the 5 kms distance was the Delhi auto-rickshaw. The ride was HOT - Delhi summers are dreadful, specially after Bangalore.

The transportation to my next destination was even hotter, what with the auto exhaust leaking under the seats and the hot blast hitting my right calf - highest temperature on that day indicated 46 deg. Celsius in Delhi. Borrowed my friends 'Hamara Bajaj' scooter - 'the petrol cock off, choke half out, tilt fully right for 30 seconds before you kick start' kind. Work in Delhi completed by 7 pm. Walked around (popular mode of transport in our child hood - bus number 11).

Met friends and then took a neighbourhood cab to the Inter State Bus Terminus - a terminus crawling with buses from the ancient industrial era to the latest Volvo buses. Similarly, there were people of all colours, sizes, and means trudging along trying to find transportation to cities around Delhi. Took a Volvo bus to Chandigarh - the roads and the bus were once again close to world class - we have this funny habit of carrying all our luggage to our seats - doesn't matter if we, and everyone around, gets inconvenienced for most part of the journey.

Returned to Delhi by Shatabdi - it has always amazed me as to how the railways always run full and carry people of all classes - a microcosm of India. However, Shatabdis try to insulate the middle class from the other classes, while travelling, but one cannot but notice them on the platforms of stations that it whizzes past, or in the fields, or in the shanty towns on the outskirts of every city - temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius, lived in air conditioned comfort, feel bearable when one sees families living their entire life under sheets of blue plastic.

Had to visit a bank branch in Delhi - nearest one to the New Delhi railway station being at Pahar Ganj, I took a cycle rickshaw to manoeuvre through the narrow, potholed, overcrowded, encroached upon streets around New Delhi railway station. Many years ago I had read that the human pulled rickshaws were to be banned in the then Calcutta, as these were considered inhuman. Cycle rickshaw is also considered as one such contraption by some people.



The trip in the rick was followed by a Call cab to Delhi International Airport Ltd. Having travelled, I can say that DIAL has really built an international standard terminal - very impressive indeed after the experiences one has had at the other older terminals at Delhi. Read about the DIAL experience in a magazine, and tried to understand what it took to make the change in look, experience and feel at DIAL - had some idea, but was stunned by the facts - in short, it took a LOT to make it happen. Feel proud that we could make it happen, like so many other things, notable being the metro in Kolkata and Delhi. Management guru, Gurcharan Das's, statement, "with bold ambition, quick thinking, meticulous planning and brilliant execution - all the skills that are making Indian companies successful on the world stage" is so true today. It reminds me of another saying, "Government's job is to legislate and enforce legislation and not to get in to means of production, or in to providing services that the private sector can deliver". India is finally waking up to this fact.



The modes of transportation during this short trip included some that were at par with the leading edge any where on the globe while some were at the other extreme, or from another era - and the rest falling in between. We still have bullock/ camel/ elephant/ horse driven carts with wooden wheels as modes of transport. Has any one experienced any others too? Can we do away with some of them, right here and now? I do not believe so.

I believe, India is far too diverse in means, terrain, needs, wants and requirements and that all these modes of transportation will stay with us for some more years to come. What do you think?

Images: Courtesy Image search on Google. In case any one has any objection to the use of these images on this post, please do let me know and they will be removed immediately. Thank you.