The duration of my trip was the longest since first traveling to India in 2005. I arrived on 16 June and departed on 13 July 2013. In Mumbai the monsoons had begun only weeks prior. Although always changing and growing, there were two things that stood out in this financial capital of India and political capital of the state of Maharashtra. Auto rickshaws had been banned by municipal law. And, Starbucks had come to the city . . . actually six of them. The brand was introduced to India through a business alliance between Starbucks and Tata Global Beverages. All the drinks were the same as in the USA, but the food was different.
From Mumbai I traveled to Bangalore where I spoke at the Global Opportunities 2013 business luncheon, an event sponsored by my company, Global Perspectives Consulting, to introduce the services of local intercultural consulting firms to businesses that work across cultures.
As typical while in Bangalore, I spent time with Dr. Subbanarasu Divakaran, a retired professor of chemical engineering who lives with his wife in a flat in the district of Koramangala. We had a great Indian breakfast together with his family and good conversation about innumerable global issues.
Out of Bangalore I had side trips to Vellore, Tamil Nadu and Pune, Maharashtra . . . the first by hired car and the latter by airlines Spice Jet and Indigo. The famous Yerwada prison is located in Pune that once housed Mahatma Gandhi. More recently, the Pakistani-born Lackshar terrorist Ajmal Kasab was executed there by hanging in November 2012. He was part of the Mumbai attacks of 2008 that targeted eight locations in the city simultaneously.
Departing Bangalore, I spent one week in Bidar, Karnataka facilitating a training module on the topic of worldview. The city of Bidar was settled by a Muslim prince in the 14th century. One of its most prominent landmarks is a huge ancient fort built across 500 acres of land just outside the city. Because of the city’s location in the northern most part of the state of Karnataka, locals speak Kannada, Telugu (language of Andhra Pradesh), Marathi (language of Maharashtra), and others. A strong Muslim population speaks Hindi and Urdu. Sikh pilgrims speak Punjabi.
From Bidar, I traveled by hired car east to Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh. From Hyderabad I flew north to Calcutta where I overnighted in a “retiring room” at the domestic airport. The room was reasonably priced at 1200 rupees and provided a private bathroom, AC, hot water, towel, and toilet paper. The following morning, I flew on to Dimapur, Nagaland in the far northeast of India.
Since India’s division from provinces to states in the early 1950s, there has been an underground insurgency movement in Nagaland. I spent one week at an extension center connected with the India Institute of Intercultural Studies where I facilitated a course on Qualitative Research Methodsto Masters-level students. I stayed at one of the homes of a Dimapur district judge. Years ago, his father was the leader of the underground.
Evangelized in the early 1900s, the State of Nagaland is 90% Christian. The motto of the underground insurgents is “Nagaland for Christ”. There are 16 major tribes with distinct languages that make up the population of the state. I had students from the Sumi and Ao tribes among others. The academic course was presented in English.
Toward the middle of July, I departed out of Dimapur, Nagaland by train further north. My destination was Jorhat, Assam to catch a Jet Airways flight back to Calcutta. Rice is grown in central Assam, so I traveled past kilometer after kilometer of paddies where rice was being planted.
From Calcutta I returned to Mumbai for an early morning Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, Germany and eventually to Denver, Colorado.
What is India? Who is India? Answers to such questions are virtually impossible to answer without a myriad of qualifiers. I have visited no place in the world that is more diverse than India. I have met no people in the world who are more unique. At the same time, I see commonalities all across the nation.
In a blog to follow I offer intercultural reflections on what I saw and whom I met.