I’ve come to Delhi for a business meeting.
While walking from the hotel in Oklah, an industrial zone in Delhi, to the company I’m meeting with, I see a lot of people living in very small houses. Houses? A kind of building, houses is exaggerated… Obviously, the people staying here have a very low income. Kids are playing with waste on the streets that is visible everywhere. Most of their life takes part outside: outside cooking, outside working, outside washing – a life that is conducted without privacy and reduced to the minimum of what is needed to survive. Many of them are busy with producing plastics, collecting paper waste, some are cutting woods, some are fusing pieces of metal, some are repairing wheels. There is a smell of burned rubber in the air and – of open defecation. Toilets do not exist.
There is a lot of traffic. Cars, rikshaws, bycicle drivers who transport huge pieces …young children run around in the middle of the streets.
When I arrive at the office – located a few meters away in a secondary street – it seems that from one moment to the next I have jumped into the modern business world; the world of the poor has stopped at the gate door. Who comes here, looks nice, good clothing, and elevated lifestyle: climatized rooms, parking slots for nice cars, a lot of space and modern offices.
It’s a really good meeting – we talk about Corporate social responsibility projects and their is a lot of ideas we will follow up. It’s not the business itself that is wrong, it’s just the gap between here and there – the poverty a few meters away, not somewhere, but right in front of the windows.
The most terrible thing I notice is that everyone here is simply used to it. The contrasts are “normal”.
It is so easy to forget behind the doors of our offices…
When I leave the meeting I’m offered to take a car. I prefer to walk. “It’s not a real nice part of Delhi, we will organize a car for you”, they tell me. No, thanks. I know. But walking through the streets intentionally means to understand how the world looks – I believe we have to experience what it means to live under the poverty line. At least to go and see.
Happiness does not depend on money
What is surprising: in the middle of all these really poor surroundings there are also lot of smiles and interesting things to discover. Happiness does not depend on money. Thinking of the rich world there people should be all happy every day to be able to enjoy all the commodities … However, these people here have no infrastructures, no water taps, no beds, no idea how to create a better future for their children. But often smiles in their faces.
The artificial happy world
After a while I arrive at a place with big banks, shopping malls. The banks are closed. There are still a lot of issues with cash -more than five weeks now after the devaluation. The poor suffer from it because many have no bank account. Small money is rare these days …
I take a Rikshaw and go to Khan market – away from these big modern shopping malls you can find all over the world. They are somehow desolated. They have no own “face”, it’s just about profit, consumption and the people staying there do not look real. A lot of sweets and unhealthy stuff is offered. The diabetes rate is very high in India. Western style. On big promotional banners Western faces are displayed everyday – Dehli’s blinky world – showing the happiness of the Western world.
Khan market – worth to be visited
Khan market is the place where you find everything, many types of handicrafts, bread from many countries and really nice small shops. A mixture of tradition and very specific, regional items. Often run by a few people only.
I enter in a candle cafe. It is an amazing atmosphere. India at its best.
Last, but not least there is an entire shop of Christmas decoration. Christmas bowls, Christmas reindeers, Christmas trees in all variations and colours…
So, is India normal?
India is always a surprise. There is nothing that could not be part of it. It reflects how human life goes. You hate it and you love it. Or you just love it with all its dimensions because it’s our world. Because it reflects all kinds of “normalities”; there are my personal normality, your normality, the normality of hundred of thousands of people.
It’s my last day of a five weeks stay in India. The third time this year. Many projects, many talks to people of many different backgrounds, managers, tribals, doctors and leprosy affected patients, people living in the dirty streets and others staying in one of the most luxurious flats I have ever seen in my life.
That’s it. India.
Christmas is coming soon. Back to my normal life. Back to the West. Is it normal?
Well, it might be. What about yours, is your life normal, too?
I will come back soon to India. Because India is simply incredible. And even more normal than what we in the Western World might think how the world normally looks!