Atanu Dey On India's Development

Sept 11, 2007

San Francisco Bay Area

It feels good to be back to the place I called home for much of my adult life. After just a few days it feels as if I had never left the San Francisco bay area, even though I have been living in India for the past four years. Certainly I visit this place frequently enough. Even then the fact that I can pick up a car right after a 12-hour flight and drive 100 kms to a friend’s place is a testament to how much at home I feel here. Driving a good car on excellent roads is a pleasure denied to one in most of India.

If you can possibly avoid it, don’t fly Air France. (I had to because I have my frequent flier miles with them, and besides I had promised my friend that I will swing by Paris for a couple of days and accompany her and her 2-year old from Paris to San Francisco.) At Air France the prevailing attitude appears to be that passengers are a bother and they are doing the passengers a favor. I have flown dozens of airlines and in my opinion they take the prize for the worst in-flight service.

Anyway, flying Air France coach class is a small price to pay to be able to be in sunny California. I have been here five days and have met most of my friends in the south bay. I have not yet made my visit to Berkeley and San Francisco – will do so in the next few days. Just being here makes me feel relaxed and peaceful.

I do find it remarkable that I can manage the transition so easily between India and the US – two worlds that are poles apart. Yesterday while waiting at a traffic light, I was startled to hear a car horn. It was the first horn I had heard in five days and I looked around to figure out who had horned and why. Someone honking here is an exception and the event is worth investigating. I think I hear more honking in half a minute in India than I do in an entire year in the US. Like the constant pressure of crowds, noise in India is all pervasive and inescapable. I take the general neatness and cleanliness of the US as much for granted as I do the rubble and the garbage of Indian streets.

Sept 11th

I know exactly where I was and what I was doing this day exactly six years ago. Even at noon I was in my apartment in my pajamas watching TV. The most famous terrorist attack had happened just hours earlier. The fake “war on terror” started on that day. It was clear to me then that the US was confused by the attack and I wrote about it a few days later in a piece for Tehelka called The Looking Glass War. The confusion seems to have been compounded and the US is thrashing around the world trying to regain some semblance of control.

I am afraid that it is going to get worse for the US. The hegemony of the US is most definitely on the decline and I think it is rightly so. A population which can re-elect neo-conservatives certainly don’t deserve to have power, and must pay for their ignorance and hubris.

  • Pankaj

    Unfair to compare India with Usa, comparisions is only between equals.
    India going to remain in the state you said for a long time.

  • http://perpendicularthought.blogspot.com shadows

    >> The hegemony of the US is most definitely on the decline and I think it is rightly so.

    Not really, I think. Its biggest mistake was taking on too many nations at once, but US will get over it soon.

    Ok, if the hegemony of the US is on the decline, then its bad for everyone.. The alternatives arent better. Eg. China , Russia, and the al-Qaeda inspired emboldened muslim world

  • Pilot

    “Horn Please”
    Thank You

  • Harsh Gupta

    It would be interesting to know the effect of urban orderliness on labor productivity.

  • little Ram

    What you say is true about the orderliness, cleanliness of the US vs India. It always surprises me at the ease with which people transition between the two places. However, as one who has lived all my life in India and only visited the US even if very many times I feel acutely uncomfortable every time I am in the US despite all the advantages you state. Maybe it is the weather or that I never learned to drive there or never went to college there that are factors, but it is a bit more than that. I guess it is hard to account for tastes- some guys like me just like it here despite everything! Yes, I dearly wish for a transformation into a clean environment and an orderly society in India; still I prefer something about the place that I am not sure I can identify. I have traveled around a bit even if not an awful lot, but when back in India is when I feel at home.

  • Prakash S

    +1 on Air France. That airline sucks, so do most others.

    You can use your air france miles on Jet Airways, arguably, one of the best airlines in the world.