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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Trip Report – India

The biggest problem with this trip report is that I really did not have much time in India.  It was a hasty visit to nail down some action items and then move on.  So I didn’t get much time to see very much of Hyderabad, much less India.  But what I did see, I’ll report here.

Coming in to Hyderabad airport tired, we lined up for immigration control.  Since India requires visas for all visitors, I expected a long line.  Considering it was midnight, immigration officers were doing a very detailed job of looking at everyone’s passport and visa.  The only problem I ran into was, the immigration agent at the desk I approached took my landing card, stamped my passport, and told me to move on.  Later, after collecting my luggage, the exit from the sterile area was guarded, and an entry slip was required to pass.  I was supposed to have gotten this from the first immigration agent, however, he didn’t hand out slips to anyone.  So there were some awkward moments as the second immigration officers tried to figure out what to do about this.  Eventually they let me pass.

I was met by a driver for the Taj Krishna hotel where I was staying this week.  We were escorted out to our car, luggage was loaded up, and off we went.

I’ve been trying to think about a politically correct way to frame my comments about driving around Hyderabad.  There is a lot of poverty.  You see it as you make your way around town to stay in a posh hotel.  There’s no missing it.  Even though Hyderabad is building itself as a hi tech city, their legacy is poverty and they are still trying to deal with it.  You can’t miss the huts, tents, and shanties as you drive around.

There is a positive side, too.  Education is very important in India, and Hyderabad is no exception.  As you are driving around, when you’re near the public schools, you see the children in their school uniforms making their way to school.  Further out, in the shanty towns and poverty-stricken areas, you see the children emerging from their shanties in clean, pressed school uniforms, getting ready to make their way to school.  In America, kids in these conditions would probably not qualify for public school because they simply don’t have an address.  Yet in India, everyone gets a free education, regardless of where or how they live.  It’s no wonder that India is becoming a technical hub of the world.

The only other problem that Hyderabad (and most big cities in India) have is traffic.  The US State Department warns about this, and it’s not an exaggeration.  Roads in India are poorly maintained, there are few traffic controls and even fewer traffic police, and everyone is an aggressive driver.  My next blog entry will include a YouTube video of a typical Big-City intersection in India.

Fortunately, my driver, Javed, was skilled and safe and got me through all of this.  But I would strongly recommend to anyone making a trip to a big city in India:

  • Get a private driver who is reputable, safe, and responsible to you or your company for your safety
  • Never ever take the 3-wheeled "mini taxies"
  • Don’t try driving yourself

Aside from that, India was a beautiful country and Hyderabad was a great city to visit.  Pictures are in the gallery.  I’m sure I’ll think of more to post here later. 

posted by Michael Humphries-Dolnick at 11:48 am  

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