Infinite Scrolling

Monday, 30 April 2018

Three trips to Europe: How India has changed over three decades

Our very first trip to Europe was in 1986. India's GDP that year was USD 0.25 Trillion.

Our air ticket to London from Delhi cost us approximately INR 10,000 per person. One USD that year was equal to 16 INR so in USD the ticket cost us USD 625.

For our trip to the airport we hired an Ambassador taxi. Those days in India we had a few main cars Ambassador, Fiat and Maruti Suzuki.

The Ambassador was a Morris which had been produced in India for many years, with minor upgrades. Fiat had one model a car with an 1100 cc engine and Maruti Suzuki had recently launched a 800 cc hatch back.

Delhi Airport was a basic airport at that time. Baggage check in was manual.

On arriving at London we landed in a huge modern airport with conveyor belts and escalators. A wonderful experience.

In London, on the roads we saw a variety of car models. All modern cars, sleek and shining. I remember the ride in the cab. It was almost soundless. It was raining and the smooth swish, swish sound of the wiper blades which cleaned the windshield perfectly was a new experience for me.

This was also the first time that I saw and used a bank ATM for withdrawing money.

Traveling for the first time in the London Underground was another memorable experience. The ease with which we were able to reach places in the city was comfortable and convenient.

We subsequently traveled to other cities of Europe and came across excellent infrastructure and public transport systems.

The overall sense was of having traveled from a developing country to the developed world.

The next time we went to Europe was in 1995. India's GDP that year was USD 0.38 Trillion.

Things in India were largely similar to our 1986 experience.

The airport in India now had conveyor belts installed. The variety of cars in India had gone up just a little. Maruti Suzuki brought out a 1000 cc sedan and also new 1000 cc hatch back and a van. We had another sedan brought on the road by Hindustan Motors the manufactures of the iconic Ambassador. This was the Contessa based on a Vauxhall  design.

We had better telephones and it became easier to make long distance and overseas calls.

It appeared that a change was afoot.

The experience of going to Europe was still, however much like what it was in our trip in 1986.

We now went back to Europe this year in 2018. India's GDP now is USD 2.26 Trillion. Our ticket to Milan cost us INR 30,000. One USD today is equal to INR 66. So the ticket cost us USD 500 per person. Cheaper than what it cost us in 1986!

This time we traveled to the airport in a new Maruti Suzuki Ertiga. Delhi airport now is a modern airport, recently ranked first in the world on airport service quality. Unlike our earlier experiences, this time on returning home from our Europe trip, we felt we have landed in a more modern airport than what we experienced in Europe.

Almost every brand of car may be found on Delhi roads. Our earlier experience of being awed by the variety of cars when we went to Europe is now not there.

Also two Indian companies are designing and making cars in India. These are Tata Motors and Mahindra and Mahindra. For a long time Indian cars were based on designs and models made abroad. This has changed.

Delhi has a world class Metro. The infrastructure of roads has improved considerably. Our banks are automated.

Bank ATMs are common place. Communication and software is world class. Almost every person in Delhi has a mobile phone, a very large percentage of these being smartphones. Internet availability has improved both in speed and quality.

These are three snapshots of how Delhi, India has changed over one life time.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

It is much easier to travel and see cities now

We made a family trip to Europe after more that two decades. Technology has made it much easier for us to travel to various cities and more importantly within the cities.

I remember in our earlier trip making a hotel booking needed one to install fax machine on your telephone line. This machine was used to fax your credit card to the hotel. This was the only way the booking could be done. There was no email at that time.

A lot of research had to be done, through travel guide books and talking to friends and acquaintances. We would carry photocopies of travel books and hand written notes. This was better than carrying the book which was much heavier.

On arriving at a destination which would be at an airport or a train station, the first task was reaching our accommodation. Luckily detailed metro maps were available. These along with notes from the detailed briefings from friends, along with a city map made it possible to navigate our way to our accommodation.

Subsequent travel in the city to visit places was done almost exclusively by the metro. It was not intuitive and easy to use the trams and the public buses.

This is how it was done. Now things are better.

On our recent trip, after more than two decades, we found that technology has made everything intuitive and easy to use.

Our smartphones have become everything. They are our travel material source, they are our maps and most importantly we get accurate and clear guidance on how to move by public transport.  How to walk to the nearest tram station or bus station, how much time will it take to walk, which tram or bus to take, how many stops it will be to our destination, which tram or bus to take next and finally how to reach your final destination with detailed instructions about the streets to walk and the turns to take.

With this we reached our accommodation correctly. Every time.

Two things have happened.

One; we are able to travel by tram or bus instead of the metro. Traveling by tram or bus is so much better for us visitors for a short time. We are able to see much more of the city and its environs.

Two; we did not have to ask for directions from passers by. This was a problem two decades back as there was often a language barrier.

With all this we fell into a set pattern when we reached a new destination. On reaching first thing we would do is have a meal, this would usually be in a fast food outlet of a known brand. Next we would look for a tourist information center, go there and buy a two or three days public transport pass. Then with our smartphone as a handy assistant we would use the public transport to reach our accommodation and subsequently to freely see the city.

Technology made us confident and we could see much more and go to specific places of our choice.

The biggest change being the ease with which we could now use all types of public transport.

Tenets I followed: Facts not opinion