India is all about the people, colors, cultures, sounds, and contrast – at least for me. Within a five mile radius are some of the “poorest” neighborhoods on the planet as well as some of the most expensive real estate. I’ve been fortunate in that my past work at software companies gave me the opportunity to visit India a number of times. My first visit was in 2004. Arriving in the middle of the night at the old and very small Bangalore airport on a large wide body Airbus, the place was dark and only a couple of other small planes were around. However there must have been thirty or more workers scurrying around outside at the gate waiting for our plane. Inside was a small dingy, smoky, chaotic airport. I knew that everything was going to be different.
I haven’t visited many of India’s typical tourist sites yet – you won’t see images of the Taj Mahal here. What you will see are everyday people.
Walking around Dharavi before it was made famous in Slumdog Millionaire is one of my best experiences in India. I was inspired to visit Dharavi by an article in the May 2007 issue of National Geographic. Dharavi is an amazing place – almost like an island with its own economy and industries – recycling of all types, tanneries, pottery, blacksmiths, etc. Surrounded by expensive real estate that has been developed to its borders, Dharavi’s future does not look promising. Developers and government want to relocate Dharavi’s residents to high rise public housing and then bulldoze the place for development. Although its residents may end up with a shiny new kitchen, it will destroy Dharavi’s livelihood.