(Editor’s Note: This is the first “after” India trip post from my classmates, from Ben. You can read his “before” post here. I hope to have the other three classmates submit posts within a week or so.)
Wow, what a trip! I am writing this blog post while on flight 3 of my 3-flight trip back home to the states. I left Chennai at 6 p.m. local time on Tuesday and I’m scheduled to land at 3:40 p.m. Chicago time Wednesday, which would be 2:10 in the a.m. Thursday in Chennai, for a little over 32 hours of travel home. During my layover in Paris, I found myself confused as to what day it actually was, and at this point, I have no idea!
Our 12-day India journey was amazing, and one that would take a lot longer than a simple blog post to communicate all of our experiences. For this post, I thought I might just recap some of the key items I learned.
The first is the Indian traffic. Words cannot describe the chaos of traffic here. I remember our first ride on the bus to the hotel where I was in awe of the traffic. I found myself in amazement the entire trip. Surprisingly, we only saw one accident during our visit, which is unthinkable, really. The best way to envision traffic in India is image driving on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago with no traffic lanes, five motorcycles for every car, and every available space filled with a vehicle. That is pretty much driving in India. What amazes me the most – besides relatively few accidents – is that we never were really in a traffic jam. The traffic just constantly flows. I do not know how, but it does. Additionally, there is a very low value placed on safety. We would routinely see families of four on motorcycles, and we even saw the family to the right. So many things wrong with this picture, but this is normal in India.
Poverty was very apparent here as well. Unlike in the United States, in India the top of society is entwined with the bottom of the pyramid (BOP). I was able to visit a higher end condominium complex with my Great Lakes friend, Priyank, and surrounding his complex was BOP housing. Priyank indicated condominiums in his building were going for $100 to $200 USD per square foot which is the same or higher than in the United States. For as poor as India is, I found this incredible.
Lastly is the filth. India is a very dirty country. This is primarily due to the lack of waste management. People in India essentially throw the trash over the fence – out of sight, out of mind. We also witnessed the cultural phenomenon where business owners believe picking up the trash is not their job. Every morning we would see sweeping the front of their shops clean, but you would never see them picking up the swept pile. They essentially sweep it from in front of their store and leave it. There are also random impromptu landfills where people essentially dump all of their trash. Garbage can be seen everywhere in India. It was good to hear that India’s new leaders have a “clean India” initiative.
One of the funnier moments of the trip was our bus ride to the Coimbatore airport, and I am not talking about the flat tire. I had recently finished a can of Coke on our bus ride when the bus driver noticed I was looking for a place to discard the can. He asked if he could get rid of my trash for me, to which I said, “sure”. He grabbed the can, rolled his window down, and tossed the can into the interstate. I was stunned! After I recovered from my astonishment, I just laughed at the incident for how incredible it was as it goes against everything we have ever learned. He asked if doing that in the United States would have resulted in a fine, to which we replied, “a big one”. For India to clean up as desired, changing this mindset of randomly throwing garbage out the window will a difficult and long change.
Overall, the trip was amazing. I had a lot of fun, saw some amazing things, but I am glad to be going home!