Friday, August 24, 2007

Is India's Boom Trapped in the Mall?

Like most Indians living abroad I too have been basking in the glory of new India. The buzz about India's booming economy and burgeoning middle class has been almost deafening. So when I did return to India after a three year lapse I expected to see tangible evidence of this metamorphism. The most dramatic change has been the retail and entertainment bonanza the country now has to offer its residents. There are glitzy shopping malls and specialty stores dotting every street corner. There is definitely less that you can take from the US to wow your friends and family. It's all available at the corner "Metro" or "Lifestyle". All the old style thousand-seater theaters have disappeared to make way for "multiplexes" that now play the latest Hollywood releases along side the Bollywood musicals. Spiced lattes and flavored teas are the uber cool must have beverages at the many "Baristas" and "Coffee Day" coffee shops. While I probably will and have already made myself readily available to use and enjoy all these new products of globalization and modernization, I felt a bit disappointed at a lack of change where it mattered most. The water and power supply continue to be spotty and unreliable, the destitute and homeless still wander the streets and crowd the traffic stops, slum dwellers still need to defecate on the sidewalks for either the lack of plumbing in their residences or the inability to pay to use a public toilet, while hunger and poverty still survive boldly and openly.

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