I felt an strange sense of peace as I got into the taxi. I was traveling overseas after nearly 3.5 years. These 3 years have been eventful. Two children came into this world through us. I changed my work. I claim that I have finally found my life’s calling. I rediscovered the joy of drawing. I ran 2 half marathons. I became a teacher, a mentor, a guide. I co-authored a book. I went through a few emotional roller coaster ups and downs. As I write now, even I am surprised how much has happened.
Travelling does that to me. As the taxi got on to the Pune-Mumbai expressway, a crow took a few swoops and flew alongside us. Memories flashed past in my head like fireworks in the night sky, creating beautiful loops and swirls. For a moment it all seemed to make sense. But if one does not hold on to the thought, it fizzles away and scatters like dry leaves in the wind.
Anyhow, the thought that distinctly filled me was of how much has changed in India since the first time I traveled abroad. That was way back in 1989, when I travelled along to the US, to be hosted by my two aunts in New York and Houston. Nothing is the same.
The roads used to be narrow and strewn with potholes.
The vehicle was a fiat and at least once in the journey we had to stop and let steam out of the radiator.
The highway was predictably jammed and the journey time was totally unpredictable.
The airport was in shambles and a cause for shame and embarrassment.
The passengers were nervous and some had an attitude of ‘cooler than thou’.
The airlines flying out of Mumbai could be counted on your fingers.
The queues were slow and unbearable even though the number of people wasn’t much.
It is all so different. It is a different country altogether. The last 15 years have brought about sweeping change.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a major pothole. As I right, I am scanning my memory to make sure Im right, and I’m shocked, but I am right.
I highway is as good as anywhere in the world.
The airport, oh my, its another story altogether. I napped during the journey, but my eyes opened as the driver drove into Terminal 2. I wondered in amazement what this modern temple-like structure was. I truly thought that it must be some ultra modern spiritual retreat. It had a peaceful, modern, yet classic and sophisticated architecture.
Thousands of passengers, dozens of airlines and the queues moves swiftly and systematically. Indians followed the line and were respectful towards each other!
The most amazing change to me is the passengers themselves. Indians are becoming cool, confident, respectful of each other, smiley, fashionable, and even fit! There is an air of ‘yes I want to travel the world, but I am an Indian and I love my country’. Maybe its only in mind, but I feel it distinctly. We are travelling with a new sense of self-belief. We have a renewed feeling that we are important players in the global scheme of things, and have enough to contribute. At least I do.
I truly believe the next 10 years are going to very very interesting. I expect the pace of change to be even faster than that of the last 10 years. New vistas are opening. Youngsters have hundreds of career options to choose from. There is opportunity and ‘scope’ everywhere.
The taxi driver must have been around 60 years old. A muslim gentleman from UP, who lives in Mumbai and drives a cab since the last 40 years or so, he agreed with me that so much had changed. I asked him what had changed for the better. He said everything. Except one thing, he said. There was a time, when people would look at the success of others and feel happy, and share their joy. Today, he said, we feel jealous and competitive.
May the next ten years fill us not only with success, but also with huge self-belief. Enough, so that we can smile and celebrate at the success of others.
Thanks for reading.