[SM: I received the following email from Jorge Freyer: “I am a partner with Hultquist Capital, an investment banking firm focused on high tech. I have been going to India since 1974. My wife (for 30 years) is Indian. I was born in Argentina. I just came back from India where I went mostly for personal business. I would like to share my thoughts. Let me know how I can do that. I think my perspective is somewhat unique.” Subsequently, Jorge sent me the series you are about to read.]
After a 10 years absence, I was expecting to see a very different India. What I saw was an India not too different from that of 1997. My expectations were based on reports from my Indian friends and family living in the US that frequently travel to India. It seems to me that the effects of IT and call centers were highly overstated.
Yes I saw changes. More high-rises, many large malls, fewer people wearing traditional garments, lots of cell phones, big fancy hotels, etc… I also saw more traffic, more people, more garbage and more of everything. However, what remains the same to my pleasure is India’s healthy social structure.
As in the past, people seem happy, engaged and active. Social interaction at all levels is constant, either conducting commerce, or servicing the needs of large extended families. Cricket, Bollywood and politics are popular subjects with religion playing a daily role in virtually everyone’s lives. A storekeeper told me that Indians are always busy, and when they are not busy, there is time for Puja to keep you busy.
Unlike countries with large population densities like Japan, where people interact with each other with formal social protocols, India continues to operate in a different plane. Even traffic operates in a different plane. If there is an empty space, there will be some sort of vehicle to fill it. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, people and fewer cows coexist in traffic at all hours.
In the two weeks I spent in traffic, cars would constantly come within inches of each other, but never a harsh word. If you tried in the US some of the maneuvers routinely done in Mumbai traffic, you would be lynched by an angry mob of motorists that would feel their space and rights were violated. Not in India.