India Then & Now – 1979 through 2013
India has changed a lot in the 33 years between my two visits to India, but many things have remained the same. The biggest change as I understand it is the expansion of the middle class which has increased private motorized traffic in the cities a lot. I think they also have caused an increase in upscale restaurants and hotels. The classes below the middle class still exhibit similar behavior to what I remember from my 1979 visit. I would guess that things have changed for these classes too, but externally things look similar to me.
I first visited India December 1979 and stayed for the month of December. I visited Bombay (now known as Mumbai), Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, and Varanasi (also known as Benares). I traveled around India by public transportation and by trains between cities. India was much different in 1979, it’s middle class was not as developed as it is in 2013, had a smaller population, and didn’t have a lot of private motor cycles, automobiles, and trucks. Most of the commuting was done by human or engine powered rickshaws, bicycles, carts drawn by humans or draft animals, or public transportation which were buses or trains.
My second visit was in February 2013 and I visited some of the same cities as I did during my first visit. I found that there were a lot of private cars and trucks, motor scooters and cycles, some bicycles, still a lot of human and engine powered rickshaws, fewer carts drawn by humans or draft animals, and public transportation which are still buses and trains, but they are extending the newish mono-rail system. Driving in India takes a special skill, not only do they drive on the opposite side then we do in the USA, but cars, trucks, buses, or other vehicles, will be driving in the opposite direction in your lane. The Indians seem to understand this unwritten rule-of-the-road, and by honking their horns constantly for passing or whatever else, they get by. Driving in India is not for the faint of heart!