Sunday, June 28, 2009


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.


BK Chowla said...

We are iproving and progressing,despite,the Govt.You are lucky to have had this experience since you were in a different India.If you were to visit smaller towns,you would still get"KHACHCHAR"ride.

BK Chowla said...

You are lucky to have travelled to the developed part of India.One has to travel through smaller towns to get the real travel some places you could still get a KHACHCHAR ride.We are a great nation.

Indyeah said...

Welcome back after a long break Sir :)
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?
yes, I agree.

On an unrelated note :-You were in Delhi?
In the summers?
its hot!!!here!:(((
why would you willingly come to Delhi? :))

Piper .. said...

Sir, what a fabulous read this was! :) you`re right. Here in the U.S, public transport is a huge issue. Barring major metros, public transport system isnt too developed here. I for one, stay in suburban Minneapolis and I know how big a pain it is for me to travel anywhere in the town(I cant drive).. In India, we dont have to worry. Catch a rickshaw or an auto and one can go wherever one wants to! In fact, in Europe too, its good.

J P Joshi said...

BK Chowla: Thank you for your comment. I agree with you that we are progressing. I believe that we are a really CHAOTIC DEMOCRACY, more than any other in this world, but then our circumstances have been different; our diversity is mind boggling, unlike any other nation. I would however, give due credit to our democracy and our form of governance. I agree we are not perfect, but we are attempting the impossible too - reconciling such diverse needs and wants of 1.1 billion people of every hue and colour. Democracies, it is said, are not the most efficient but are very effective in the long term in meeting the needs of its citizens. India too will eventually, slowly but surely. We are all very impatient with our country, because, I believe, we love our country very much and want it to reach its rightful place at the earliest.

I agree with you on the khachchar (a cross between a horse and an ass that takes the best of both parents) rides - I too have enjoyed them in my younger days and am aware that they are still a good ride in the hills - Vaishno Devi, Amarnath yatra, etc. and the army also uses them extensively in the Himalayas where no other mode of transportation is feasible or viable.

I was lucky to have served in the Defence forces and have thus seen most of the country - mostly small towns and villages.

J P Joshi said...

Indyeah: Thank you. Yes, I was in Delhi to physically sign some papers. I agree with you that this is the wrong time of the year to be there, specially from the air conditioned climate of Bangalore.

Piper: Agree with you that public transport is a big pain, specially if one lives in the suburbs in the US. India is lucky to have all modes of transport, for every need. However, sometimes it becomes too difficult to reconcile them on the same roads.

By the way, how do you plan to survive there without a licence???

BK Chowla said...

I agree with you.My complaint is towards the lack of total governance in the country.What we see is ,despite, the Govt.The neta and the babu have to be made accountable to the system.

J P Joshi said...

BK Chowla: Thank you. I agree that "The neta and the babu have to be made accountable to the system". I would even go one step further and say that, not only babus and netas, we all need to live up to the belief that we have a number of rights as citizens, and that all these rights come with responsibilities too.

Balvinder Singh said...

JP, sorry for a long absence owing to change of place.

You have so beautifully explained diverse modes of transport on your way from Bangalore to Chandigarh.

Had you gone to Kolkata you could also experience the travel in a boat from Howra railway staion to the market place on the other side of the river Hoogly which is otherwise joined by the famous Howra bridge.

And further you could travel in hand pulled rickshaw at New market in the centre of the city.

Piper .. said...

:) I dont! :)
I`m trying to learn how to drive. Not easy Sir, given that I cant sit in a moving car for more than 10 minutes(severe motion sickness!).. :)

Nagesh said...

nice post sir.

How do we know said...

Wow!! That was SOME contrast in the modes of travel... thank god ur luck did not pack in the back of a truck and a bullock cart in the same period!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing your review on the Bengaluru International Airport and the transport options available. We hope to see you again soon!


J P Joshi said...

Balvinder: Nice to have you back. I have been to Calcutta in the 80s - had in those times experienced the hand pulled rickshaw; the ferry across the Hoogly river and the tonga ride on cobbled streets on way from Sealdah to Howrah railway station. India and its diversity in every thing always fascinate me - there is something in it for every strata and everyone - like our budget yesterday.

Thanks Nagesh.

J P Joshi said...

HDWK: Thank you. I was only trying to highlight the diversity in modes of travel during my present four night trip to Delhi - Chandigarh. I have ridden on the roof top luggage rack of buses in Kulu area - during a youth hostel trek in 1995; in the back of a truck during my younger days in NDA while going to the various camps and again while undergoing Jungle and Snow Survival course in 1975; and bullock carts for the thrill, and fun. India is amazing - depends on how one views it.

Piper .. said...

Sir ji, kahan ho aap? Long time no posts..

J P Joshi said...

Piper: Sorry have not been active in the blog world as I have a new opportunity - spending time with my grand daughter - trying to unlearn some old adult habits; and relearning some long forgotten ones from her. She is here on a vacation for 2 months and gets our full attention these days. I am planning a post on my experiences with this 9 month old.

Renu said...

India i9s really country o9f diversity..we are far way from getting some uniform type of transports. Here in Zurich i find 4 modes of transport in the city..metro, tram, bus,boat and trolley , train, all well integrated, comfortable and one ticket can be used everywhere...and wish someone would implement this in our country.

J P Joshi said...

Thank you for your comment. What you wish for will happen ONLY when we have no one struggling here for the basics of life, and that is still some years away - even at double digit growth rates.

Davis said...

A very nice place to express ones view about democracy... those who are not touched by wont understand what is talked about here.....Thats the same case to all the dumb Politicians... who have no idea what a common man goes through. There are some who have come step by step up to a level of a Politician who can make changes for the good or for doubl f bad.....what do you say???
But i do respect your view too.....Gives an option for narrow minded as** to think out of the box.........

Diana Travel Devil

Davis said...

i dont know what happens to all the comments i leave..

Diana Travel Devil

J P Joshi said...

They get published....thanks for your considered comments.