The longer I spend in Delhi, the more I realise just how quickly India is changing. Being in travel and therefore usually immersed in heritage and culture I spend most of my time here surrounded by the traditional but, five years away and a return to Delhi has assisted in emphasising the huge changes which have happened to the country.
Take Delhi roads for instance, there are fewer driver driven cars, and that isn’t quite as preposterous as it sounds. Sadly we haven’t gone for the robotic option which would undoubtedly assist in the quality of driving but the fact is that many people are now choosing to drive themselves. Does this mean a greater proportion of people can now afford cars but not drivers? Possibly. More people are more educated and so drivers are harder to find as people seek jobs befitting their educated status and good loyal drivers are becoming increasingly expensive and hard to find.
There are many other factors, one being the crazy amount of wealth now in this city. This had led to a much greater proportion of high end imported all singing, all dancing vehicles on the road, which does amuse me as the average speed in Delhi must be what, 10kms ph? We all know that I bemoan the sad demise of the trusted Ambassador, as I drive one of the few left on the roads, but it is a fact that new, swanky, all singing, all dancing cars are easier to drive, more comfortable and more importantly, have coffee cup holders built in. The younger generations in particular (more on these later as they are completely changing the face of the country, mostly in a good way), now actually see the pleasure in driving such vehicles rather than being driven. I often used to wonder at people who had spent over $100,000.00 on a car only to sit in the back eyes glued to their phone/i-pad, and never experience the pleasure of driving; that was left to someone who was paid less per month than the fuel costs to run the car.
However, I am sure that the young, wealthy brigade do have drivers sitting around under a tree somewhere waiting to be called when the need arises. I did recently meet one young chap who had a Rolls Royce custom designed and shipped to Delhi, which he enjoyed driving himself on the few roads where it is possible to drive such a machine. He also had a BMW and employed two drivers, so far so good. However, the BMW was only the support vehicle in which both drivers would follow him around so that when he got fed up of driving or had had a beverage too many, he could get driven home but still be in the Rolls. 10/10 for adhering to a non-drinking and driving policy, but 0/10 for being environmentally aware, particularly given Delhi’s pollution!
This whole having a driver thing also negates the whole front seat battle we have in The West where every child wants to sit up front. Given that all cars are self-driven, passengers also sit in the front to chat to their friend/family member who is driving. Here in India, traditionally, as most car owners had/have drivers, the back seat is for the hoi polloi and the front seats are for the staff. I was rather amused the other day when a Porsche Cayenne overtook The Babe, with two Indian ladies, suitably adorned with compulsory oversized sunglasses, sitting in the back and a Labrador sitting proudly in the front passenger seat. Which, as any Labrador owner from The West will tell you, is exactly where a Labrador should be.
In addition you now see far more ladies driving and, honestly speaking, given how unbelievably badly everyone drives in this country, and I do mean pretty much everyone, there is no scope here for making jokes about women drivers.
I do admit to being a little shocked on being faced with my first women pilot, actually not my first obviously, but the first that I remember in India which transposed into having three domestic flights in succession with female pilots. I did feel a moment of apprehension but this was not so much to do with gender as age, they all looked to me to be about 16, though that says far more about my time in life that it does about their credibility.
Ladies, the fact that you are breaking ground like this in India is brilliant and the fact that I am older than I act or feel does mean that pilots/doctors/politicians now all look to be still wet behind the ears. But, it wasn’t just me, I was highly amused by the reaction of most of the Indian men on the flights as they looked on incredulously and somewhat apprehensively when said pilots walked down the aisle and into the cockpit. I loved that bit of Girl Power! However, lady pilots, are you listening? Do bear a thought for your more ‘mature passengers,’ because I did actually catch one of you doing this and it did little for your credibility or the confidence of your passengers. Do not, I repeat, do not stand outside the plane taking a selfie of yourself, giving a thumbs up whilst the passengers are boarding.
I was going to go on to dress sense, the new massively and I mean massively growing restaurant and bar culture and female safety, but time is of the essence. My day job calls, my car washer walla has arrived and I must make him chai, before, heading off to work. Although I am female and drive my own car, thus making me a very modern ‘Indian,’ I will not be taking The Babe. You see, I am lucky enough to be close enough to be able to walk to the office. Now, I am not sure if it is because I am white and should therefore be constantly be parked on my ever increasing arse, and waited on ‘memsahib style’ but most people find this astounding. However, it is a pleasant enough 40 minute walk, eases my conscious about doing my bit for Delhi’s pollution, prevents me from having to deal with Delhi traffic and assists in reducing the size of my ever increasing posterior. Not only that, the sights that one has the time to see when walking are often hilarious and will provide ammunition for at least another couple of blog posts!
Ciao for now xx
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy: http://memsahibinindia.wordpress.com/2015/12/22/rules-of-the-road-delhi-style/