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Chinese Checkers (with ‘evidence’)

March 2, 2015

Text not edited or complete. Already growing longer & longer like the Hanuman tail. So stopping forthwith. Will carry on later.

Google search for :

‘China road caves in’

for the state of art of Chinese Highways.



My first exposure to anything Chinese was again in Malaysia. 1997 was a shocking year for South East Asian economies dubbed ‘the Asian Tigers.’ In Malaysia I saw how the cheap Chinese imitation goods were killing the local Malaysian industry. Chinese businessmen from Malaysia and Singapore flew all the way to Beijing to bring in loads of chinese electronics and other stuff quashing the hopes of small-scale industrialists and entrepreneurs in the region. If at all there were any. The kind of cottage industries and small scale manufacturing units you see thriving in India are a rarity in many nations which you realize only when you are in a foreign country. The range of imported goodies into Malaysia included hangbags to umbrellas to notebooks to cheap fake jewelry. Not all of them were legal and licensed. A lot were smuggled or perhaps brought in by back-channel routes.

an illustration from our daily life: our metro rails:

Recall in 2001 Malaysia awarding the Malaysian Rail project to Chinese company over Indian Railways violating the agreement reached by the Malaysian govt with the then Prime Minister of India A B Vajpayee. Indian Railways Construction Co IRCON did the Iraqi railway and a few more foreign assignments. Intense lobbying by aggressive chinese businessmen is the reason for China being awarded the contract whereas there is none in India to work in our interests. Big disappointment to NRI community especially me. Odds heavily favoured India for bagging the prestigious and ambitious land rail project. Local chinese in Malaysia work a lot harder over our Malaysian Indian brothers & sisters when it comes to bolstering our trade ties. India lost out to inadequate marketing skills. And perhaps diplomacy?

The final award of the contract went to China as we know but even as of today India and China are equal bidders for railways in any developing part of the world. China wins because of low cost production and appealing finishing designs. Packaging and presentation are as important as production. The chinese output appeals to our aesthetic senses and we have to admit here, Chinese technology is far more advanced and sophisticated than ours. I won’t argue about the superiority or standards though. Indian products and packaging are an eye sore. Technically we are still weak as a nation, hesitating to innovate and improve our conditions. China has time-tested bullet trains to monorails, whereas we are making a scratch in modern engineering in transport only now. Ironically we are looking forward to Chinese expertise ourselves. Even MetroRail in Chennai has coaches supplied by China whereas Chennai is home to ICF, the Integral Coach Factory that turns out railways engines and air-conditioned bogies in the local industry routinely for both domestic use and export purposes. So there are areas we have touched and are experienced in like veterans, and there are areas we are scared to dread.

How about the gigantic tunnel boring machine for instance. My son did industrial training with the Chennai Metro and came back telling us the inside story. The machine is what caught his attention most. My husband has also been under the earth’s surface both in Chennai and here in Qatar in his official capacity/signed visitor to see the projects underway. He is mighty impressed. Tell me what is the Indian role in engineering services here. True the engineers and managers are Indian. In Chennai Metro, some of the labourers are chinese themselves. They are in the city as per trade agreement accommodating some of their specialized labour. (Most other labourers are Biharis never Tamils. Tamils have become laziest to the core. Not a single south Indian labourer in our Metro project).

(My son said how Chennai soil is so fertile – until almost upto the top layer. It was removing the moisture or water content that was the biggest challenge. This is not a major issue as we see here in middle-east where the soil is so… arid. It changed the perceptions about India for me a little. I thought Chennai was slowly turning into a desert – a concrete jungle. The water component in the metro highlights the nature of Indian soil that needs nourishment, that’s all.)

But its disappointing that the heavy equipment are all Chinese technology. This kind of garnering knowledge or mastering technology cannot happen overnight. Its a systematic approach, planned development, phased growth. Even learning to handle the equipment requires expertise.  First of all our population must be mature enough and ready to absorb such a high degree and content of knowledge. Are we ready for this. Underground Metro is a fascinating world of engineering & technology – a blend of mechanics and civil & structural engg, electrical & electronics and instrumentation. Co-ordination is another great task. It requires brilliant execution and management. The team is Indian mostly which is a small satisfaction. Our guys learn faster. Its our government that is denying knowledge and technical know-how to our people. We lack great institutions imparting high standards of education first. We lack inspiring leaders, leaders with vision. If Indians still make it, we make it on our individual capacities – NOT because the State comes to our help.

I have pictures taken on surface in ongoing Metro project in Chennai. Not sure if its okay to upload them. There is an underground metro station coming up within a km from my home! But metro raises for us interested parties a whole range of questions. We know our limitations and we acknowledge the Chinese superiority with a shame and adulation at the same time.

Make in India

Brand India

I never saw anything original in Malaysia in the 4 year period we lived there. ‘Pensonic’ was their only miserable desi brand. Everything else was assembled locally – from flat screen TVs (then) to CPUs. Sadly that’s what India is doing too in a way in electronics. We have become one of the world’s cheapest and best assembly lines of cars and commercial electricals & electronics, superseding the Asian Tigers, as Singapore and Malaysia and Thailand flounder under increasing and inhibiting costs of production owing to expensive labour and raw material import. India and China have long since taken over but there is a difference. South Korea supplies cheaper than Japan and is found to be a favourite with Indian consumers. To my knowledge, for a long, long time atleast until we were there, Malaysia did not even give nod to LG, Samsung and other Korean products. Japan enjoyed an enviable market.

This is the problem with becoming one of world’s economical and efficient assembly lines. This is such a characterless job.We stop exactly at this point to innovate and improvise. Patent or technology belongs to someone, research is not for us and we are happy following the leader in the market, never aspiring to become one. Which is why whether or not Modi’s ‘Make in India’ succeeds, it pleases me endless, someone is even giving a thought to such a notion. Whether that shall translate into anything concrete is worth waiting and watching for.

Making in India is important, branding India is important but it is equally important to research and innovate.

India is home to a vast pool of skilled labour that ofcourse can be put to good and optimal use.

The grave danger lies in our local semi-skilled labour and work force getting stagnated without an improvement in their conditions, playing their monotonous role in the production line. They may not be encouraged to learn and benefit. In a short time, a robotic machine could easily perform their mechanical duties saving labour and costs.

India is not alone in this department. Mechanization is resulting in unemployment throughout the world. How easily the farm hands are replaced with machines.  A sorry side-effect to industrialization and over-simplification of the manufacturing process.

Yet we have to move on. Somewhere along the line a compromise has to be reached as to how much labour-intensive we must be as against how much to be automized/mechanized.

I think India has a long way to go before reaching the point of confluence of interests or divergence of interests. Or contradiction of interests. Right now I am restricting this post to manufacturing concerns alone.

Many complain about ‘Micromax’ but I love it however bad that could be! A bold beginning. This is how China made it. Right or wrong, do it. Make it in India!

Duplication may be a good point to start. But from there we have to remember to move ahead. Research plays a key role. What is the budget allocation for research & development (R&D) this year?

Why have the Asian Tigers lost heavily to India and China in the last 2 decades? Now we assemble things far cheaper and quicker than them, that’s the reason. How long before African nations or even those like Bangladesh start filling our shoes. Bangladesh is already a name in denim manufacture, outstripping India. We may have a 1000 reasons to reel out like exemption in excise duty etc, but whatever it takes to win the war is inconsequential. Finally what matters is who does it and how.

Our neighbours Pakistanis are making their own armaments. Why should it take a Modi to think of cutting down our defence imports and concentrating on local production. Pakistan has captured a small export market for its weapons. Why is a country that is building satellites lagging behind when it comes producing and assembling our own defence equipment.

HAL is not enough, ISRO may not be sufficient, and IRCON still has a long way to go. Private participation/entrepreneurship has always gone hand in hand with public sector undertakings in our country. What we have in place is Mixed Economy – a rare economic model unique to India. This ensures the marginalized are not left out. That growth reaches grass root levels. Why are the public banks operating branches in most remote corners of the nation? Service is the motto.

Its unbelievable sometimes that the same Malaysia which stubbornly resisted South Korean technology lost to the Chinese fakes so readily. (Ofcourse Malaysia later relaxed their policies because in today’s world, there is not a place as we know where Samsung has not reached into). The chinese unlike the Japanese or the Koreans did not promote a particular brand. Instead of Micro-trading or manufacture, they were into Macro-supply of anything and everything you found in a mall or a night market in Malaysia. I wasn’t to know then, their hegomony was not limited only to south east Asia. The mighty fall was that of US wherefrom power started shifting gradually to the east. It is trade next to military that defines the hold a nation may have over the world in my opinion. China was matching US stride by stride already and what lacked for balance of power between east and west was weighed in by China soon, filling the yawning gap left in the global arena by the retreating Russia once the cold war came to an end.

Chinese products were now universal. I knew the effect only on my arrival in India by 2001. In the intermittent 4 years, world had a lot changed. India had also signed some WTO agreements and had acceded to the opening of markets keeping with global conditions. ‘Globalization’ was the trendy mantra. Until 1997 I recall, how closed Indian economy was despite the reforms ushered in by our late PM PV Narasimha Rao.

We used to shop at a small supermarket ‘Nilgiris’ in the city before leaving for Malaysia. Nilgiris has a special place in every Madarasi’s heart. The supermarket concept itself was new in the early ’90s. We liked Nilgiris because we could take and shop with our baby son there. For the first time in my life, I was starting to find shopping for groceries a pleasurable experience. Shopping was something we began looking forward to during weekends. Shopping became a good family entertainment – quality family time. We Madrasis owe it to Nilgiris and Vitan for introducing us to happy shopping hours the likes of which we were unexposed to until then. Urbanites and working class like us couldn’t have wished for more. I still shop at Nilgiris. A 1000 malls may dot Chennai today but I love the ambience of Chennai’s oldest supermarket so very much.

On return from Malaysia we were back in Nilgiris – only to be surprised this time to find many Malaysia products and US cereal foods stacked in its store shelves – something unthinkable in the ’90s.


First time when I went to the South East Asian nation, I had taken over a dozen pencils for my son with a sharpener. The stocks lasted me well over an year. Besides learning and writing alphabets and numbers, my son was in the stage of drawing cartoons and scribbling all the walls over! So pencils got used up thoroughly. Soon I started buying local chinese stuff. Now I found that my son was using up more than a dozen pencils in a single week! It was true he was writing and scribbling and drawing more but the quality of the chinese pencils was horrible. The pencils were breaking down at the center with a little pressure by the child and the leads were coming out separate. The leads also finished fast if at all they survived within the pencil. The chemical crayons, the erasers everything looked shiny compared to Indian products but were a drain of money. Almost every chinese-make product we bought for our use in those days was easily getting cracked or broken, beyond being fixed. And there was no other alternative. There simply did not exist a Malaysian desi market. In India, the habit is always to restore, repair, rebuild and recycle. With the chinese, the world discovered for the first time, the environmentally polluting mantra of manufacture called ‘USE & THROW!’

Good, one beneficial effect of ‘Use & Throw’ policy is general creation and sustained increase in demand which will induce more production. But to whose advantage is this???!!!


However to be fair to the Chinese, I like their nail cutters, tool boxes of various grades like for cars, garden use, domestic range etc.., especially the inevitable and handy screw driver set, then sewing needles, garden/car wash hose, swiss knife set and the like. I like their PVC doors and windows and synthetic carpets and bath mats – always wonder why India cannot match them frame by frame in this department. All our doors in the flat in Doha are PVC by chinese – imagine their market share here. India too is doing bathroom PVC doors but I think traditionally Indians still prefer wooden doors elsewhere in the house. Aluminium frame windows could have captured Mumbai and Bangalore markets but in Chennai, it is still the wood. Kerala and Andhra are worst. Our consumption ways are different.

‘Pre-fab’ structures therefore have not made a mark in India yet. I like the pre-cast boundary walls I see in the middle-east. So easy to install and dismantle. Neat and elegant and uniform. Class stuff. Indians cannot even come to accept the hollow block structures. We have a certain fixed mind-set about these things. Its surprising given the low cost of production and ease of manufacture of pre-fabricated structures, market in India for this kind of utility based product is still not impressive.

Even for wardrobes (and for furniture in some cases), most of us prefer custom-built, wooden ones. I myself got my woodwork done at home rather than buy readymade MDF wardrobes imported from Indonesia/Malaysia. The idea is catching up and I can see what lies in future atleast in home furniture segment. As traditional carpenters are disappearing slowly from the scene, very soon India could very well become a good rival to China with manufacture of pre-fabricated units like doors, windows, wardrobes and everything.

And I have always wondered why India is not manufacturing the toilet bowls and wash stands! We do, but mostly it is a western concept. A huge bulk is in the form of costly imports. Those few desi brands like Hindware also mostly market only the imported sanitaryware.

Take the simple vinyl table cloths or placemats. Who is making them. Like the dollar shop, we have China Bazaar in India. Why am I forced to buy the Chinese Yoga mat. Why is there NO equivalent and good Indian brand. The problem is, we don’t even have competitive manufacturers in most manufacturing categories! This isn’t a minor segment. We fail to see how small things like these can consolidate us into a major global manufacturer.

India is generally supposed to be a conservative, protected market compared to other world players. Even so, look at how the Chinese are breaking barriers to reach into every imaginable nook and corner of our economy and spaces. The chinese reach is mind-blowing!

Photo frames, apple corers, nonstick ware, digital calendars, penstands everything is chinese.

And what about the lighting industry. Serial bulbs. Gujarathi companies are catering to some extent but in high-end category, there is still no matching with China. Look at their range of chandeliers. Ever wondered about the dim lighting in hotels within the false ceilings. Who makes those lights and what costs.

Packaging /Packing /Canning /Tinning /Bubblewrap /Sheeting: Ever given a thought to the tough plastic package covering the Pepsi cans for instance. I am interested because we have a friend who is into marketing of metal sheets and plastic covers for manufactured goods. Before I met him, I never imagined the scope of manufacture or marketing or turnaround in this kind of market. Our friend has been some 40 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. Last he was marketing the wraps to inlay in water canals so water won’t seep in. From chocolates to tin cans to wraps, there lies another big world out there.

Forgot the calculators!

I don’t even want to discuss the hardware. From mouse to printers to whatever… Gives me such a heartache. Finally India is designing and manufacturing microchips and is slowly making a name in hardware but has a long way to catch up with China.

To give credit to India, I may cite the Pharma sector. One which is doing well but the recent Modi trip to US has done some great damage even to this desi manufacturing sector.


I was looking around my home to determine how desi our life was. In Chennai, our kitchen is Sleek, a branded name. I wanted it because my cooking space is tiny admeasuring only 9 feet by 6 feet. Within that limited space I took an year to fit my own custom-designed kitchen for my specifications with professional expertise. The brand imports from Germany mostly as we know. I tried SS fittings for my bathrooms – all Indian make and regret it now. They have all rusted in a couple of years and need replacement.

My furniture is Indonesian import and so are the cots. My dinner set okay I bought from here in Doha. The previous one was from Malaysia but Thai make. My fridge is atleast Godrej, local Indian! And so are the blenders and the Idli wet-grinder. My bath fittings are Indian and the cots and mattresses are imported. For one cot I am using local coir mattress. Wardrobes completely made with Indian wood. Wall paints – Indian. Wall tiles – Indian. Floor tiles – here we have the best Indian marble and Indian granite but we have Thai import marbonite. Its 3/4 inches thick – something Indian manufacturers started making 2-3 year later. Curtains are Indian. Stairs and kitchen counter are jet black Indian granite. Clothes – delightedly Desi!

But the nail cutter at home, the screw driver set etc are Chinese. The ironing table is Chinese. Best chinese invention if you ask me. Off all chinese products I like their iron stands the best! So space-saving and convenient! The torch light/emergency light is chinese. The washing machine is German (IFB). The OTG is atleast local Bajaj! I refuse to use a microwave in India. The water heater is American (AO Smith). Air-conditioners are a mix from different nations assembled in India. Only one – the O Gen – is completely Thai. Now I understand O Gen has lowered (!) its standards and is producing in India to cater to Indian customers.

For my  part, I buy only the local Indian desi cosmetic Lakme – one lipstick is 750 bucks that I use for 3 years. Looks like I am one of the few rare females here NOT to shop for cosmetics in the malls. Ayurvedic preparations and labels like Biotique are doing brisk business everywhere. Marketing is another area we have to concentrate on.

So is it really possible to live a 100% desi life in India today? AND MOST IMPORTANTLY WILL INDIAN INDUSTRY/MANUFACTURING BE COMPETITIVE. 

Even cosmetics like Loreal etc I find overseas are made in China!  Clothes are divided – from India mostly and some from Pakistan (doing a post on that exclusively very shortly). Chinese lose out to traditional Indian motifs but i like their fabric over both Indian and Pakistani. They cater mostly to western tastes.

Perfumes like Victoria’s Secret – only the label is European/American. If you check the manufacturing address, it will be China. I checked out the famed Guess handbag which is also made in China. I buy 1-2 but my travel companion is Hi-Design, the local Indian label which uses genuine leather. Ah… another dilemma about using leather. I am unable to use foam leather.

But its astonishing, there is not a field the Chinese have not tapped into. Anything and everything they can mimic! My husband routinely visits industrial fairs. Over the years he is saying how China is gaining grounds and winning a great market share over the originals like German and Swiss and French technology. In general, European technology is far superior but expensive. You see it the first year, the next year the chinese flood the market with cheap fakes. There are many takers for cheaper technology – including the poor African nations and Asian ones.

What copyright or patent law works against the chinese, tell me.

Even the copycat act we Indians cannot imitate successfully, and that is our problem!

In effect I have seen, wherever the chinese products make their way into a market, that society is doomed!

We lived in KL for 2 years – in the suburb called Puchong. We were new to Malaysia but were already witness to many a mall and cornershop across the street down their shutters.We were starting to feel guilty for arriving in the south east Asian nation at the wrong time when its own men and women were losing jobs left and right. But my husband worked for a chinese multinational company whose accomplishments included foundation works for the Twin Towers or Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, an icon for Malaysia tourism ever since. The country faced severe technical manpower shortage and hence we were wanted direly.

In Puchong, we used to take our little son to IOI mall. It had a great kids play area which is why I remember it so fondly. Even when we were there it got closed. I do not know if its open now or not or what happened to it. The closure of the mall deeply saddened us.


How to touch the soul of India!

During Navrathri this year, I was put off by my friends’ show of chinese dolls and chinese Ganesha! And weren’t they cute! Even the gifts for ‘thamboolam’ were little chinese miniatures/mementos. The fire-crackers for Diwali are by and large chinese but this is one department I don’t have complaints about. ‘Sivakasi’ – the mecca of firecracker industry in India in Tamil Nad uses child labour. And I am against environmental pollution. This year went as green Diwali for us. My son enjoys some chinese rockets with his friends – otherwise for over 2-3 years I have not bought firecrackers for Diwali. Its heartening to see an increasing awareness in our people as more and more people are stopping to celebrate the festival of lights with firecrackers. Most have turned to mere chinese rockets as a mark of celebration.



In middle-east I see some ugly, grotesque buildings done by Chinese running beyond schedule. The chinese get the contracts because at a time they can ship in low-cost semi-skilled labour of even some 4,000-10000 working hands at shortest notice. They bid the lowest for contracts and reportedly provide their workforce the worst and inhumane amenities that I cannot detail here (hearsay only). Yet its difficult to spot chinese labourers anywhere in the open. Reason is, to complete projects on time if not ahead of schedule, the labourers work extra hours than stipulated by industrial norms. Whereas other countrymen enjoy evenings out atleast during weekends, one can never see a chinese labourer spend a single riyal anywhere in the nations they work for./in. Not even the chinese executives can be seen mixing with others/other nationalities/shopping. Socializing is a waste of time for them best utilized for some other productive purpose.

There are tens of thousands of chinese labourers employed in the gulf. Invisible. Just as their masters are. You cannot spot them in public anywhere ever. Such a sad story. The story and real history of a joyless China. I hate India becoming another China. All work and no  play.

There are also poor chinese imitations of Landcruiser etc whose road worthiness/safety one cannot be sure about. Wonder about their crash tests. Sometime back they were very popular and gave those companies like Toyota and Nissan a headache but recently there is an awareness. However India’s own Tata buses are  plenty in numbers plying the roads here. Proud of Indian quality. They may not be the beauty – but they are so… sturdy, well built. Well made. I wish Indian companies & manufactures never compromise on standards and ethics.

The same way in a Malaysian Indian home, once I spotted an Indian-make Usha ceiling fan working for over 25 years in solid condition.

We live in a gated community here in Doha which is a brand new one. In fact we moved into a brand new apartment – like after doing the ‘grihapravesham’ (housewarming). Only 4 years since we shifted here. Already the floor tiles – chinese – have been changed over 8 times, almost once in every 6 months.

In the flat we live in, even if its so new, the floor tiles are coming loose already. I want to shift for this purpose. We have carpet. And there are no kids to run amok and break anything in our house either. We don’t move or change furniture frequently. If I am gone, the house is locked mostly. Yet in every single room be it bed or living or kitchen, the tiles are easily getting broken and coming out of place.

We all know of chinese use-and-throw 3rd grade quality in things – we see that in pencil sharpeners to mobile phones, all copy cats. But seeing it in their construction material is aweful. One block in our flats is sealed completely in under 5 years to be repaired totally. The residents were asked to move out. Everything chinese there coming out.

Guys think twice about handing bigger projects to Chinese. Sri Lanka is handing the chinese their port as well as our friendly neighbour Pakistan. After shaving the host nations completely of their natural resources in matter of 10-20 years, you can find these countries abandoned by the chinese just like the state of these stairs and corridors. Once the earth is completely sucked off its natural resources and richness, the chinese shall have no more use for the host nations. 

The furniture in my place is coming apart – ours is a fully furnished apartment. When we first booked the place we were in love with the entire thing. Not even 5 whole years here and everything is creaking. The dining chairs’ legs are wobbly. No comments on cots.

Bathtub is developing mild cracks. If I am not here, there is no work for it.

Indian quality is much, much, much better. Indian-make cars like Scorpio are also sighted here. So sturdy, built like a bull.


Baby formula feed from China contaminated with harmful Melamine still stays fresh in world memory.Estimated/reported victims: almost 300,000 infants.


Difference between Chinese and Indians is that:

We Indians are basically emotional, spiritual, family-oriented, not as materialistic compared to Chinese, not as patriotic, not united, not as ruthless.

We sing and dance and pray and live as families supporting young children and old people alike in our homes. Our families are still our most basic and beloved institutions. How many national holidays we have an year. How many vacations we take. How many pictures we watch. We play cricket for the love of it – unlike the Chinese who practise any sports for Olympics or Asiad, not for fulfillment, not for the joy of sports. And this sea of difference forever will characterize the gulf between us Indians and them the Chinese.

Buy why India still holds a chance:


One silver lining in the cloud is that, there are many indigenous and good things about us we seem to be unaware of. The same Indian Railways for instance. Truly the arteries of India that drive our economy. When we were in Malaysia we have faced some racial taunts. My husband then did a project for a brief time in Andhra with the same Chinese company. The scale of Indian Railways’ activity stunned his Malaysian bosses who agreed it was something none of the Asian Tigers could ever replicate. Railways was a system by itself. So organized, efficient… And the bulk it moved everyday leave alone the tens of millions of passengers…. Smaller nations cannot even dream of such a feat.

Its wrong to give credit for everything good to the Englishman. True he introduced Railways to us Indians. But Indian Railway network has bellied expectations and has expanded into such a gigantic network employing hundreds of thousands of men and women from officers to labourers to drivers and cooks besides other technical staff. Indian Railways touches the very central nervous core of India and unites India the way nothing else can. And one day’s business/turnover of Indian Railways alone may exceed the sum total economy of many petty nations per annum. The huge volumes of steel to other manufacturing equipment to passenger goods it moves along with the passengers is another world record.

The railways started getting computerized by the turn of the century. I have been personally booking my railway itinary from as far and as back as in 2002-03, online. Excellent website which has been overhauled thoroughly over the last few years. IRCTC is a role model desi organization.

India need not have to look far for inspiration. Indian manufacturers can take cue from our railways as to how to do business and at the same time serve the nation. Everytime I travel in train, I look at the manufacturing code of the railway seats because I have an industrialist engineer BIL who is into metallurgy! I even keep looking for his company name!

Do we ever look at the bus ply (flooring). the steel rods and hangers to hold in buses/trains, the seats soldered and forged etc? I do. Do we think of the linen provided in trains? Of the water supplied to trains ferrying 1,000s of passengers every single day? Do we think of the wi-fi in moving trains, the mobile chargers and the over-all electric supply? Do we think of the prompt catering services ? These are all small engines of growth that actually propel our economy.

Indian Railways to me therefore is a government by itself. Run on profit. Charging modest for the greatest service it provides to the society.

Before complaining of stinky toilets, let us also give a consideration to what a wonderful and powerful govt machinery our Railways is. It represents us Indians, shabby as we may be, yet doggedly getting things done, trying to reach our destination.

Thus India on bird’s eye view is dismal. India has to be studied in depth to understand the basic intricacies to get a grasp of how this mammoth wheel turns.

I hope the Railways’ self-sufficient model is adopted in every economic sphere in India. Self-sufficient in the sense, the Railways even have their own security/police. They use their own electricity. They run their own canteens to cater to passengers. And look at their website: they are even into booking tours, hotels and travel packages! And now you can pre-order your food online just the way you do in flights. IRCTC even boasts of online shopping! I enjoy train travel immensely. Feel truly desi.

When India can manufacture and export railways coaches, why cannot we realize the dream ‘Make in India’ phase by phase.


India needs a boost to manufacturing sector. Ours is the only rare world economy that galloped from being primarily agricultural to the hi-fi tertiary stage of the IT industry and banking and commerce -bypassing the important and imminent industrialization phase. Our manufacturing is far from satisfactory. I get updates on our current economic status from my family folks. Whether we are in a boom or in a downswing directly reflects on the business volume of my BIL!

India’s entry into the software world is phenomenal but that cannot keep us going for the rest of our lives. The rest of the nation has to keep up with the sudden shift in our direction and progress. The acceleration in speed means some of us are left out. We have not crossed through the different necessary stages of evolution of economic development to join the big league. Our IT companies catapulted us overnight into worldwide stardom. Which is why our masses are grappling to adjust to the abrupt changes we have been subject to in last 20 years. Had there been a gradual and systematic industrialized growth employing the vast millions, the progress would be more consistent and uniform today. Instead when the villages saw the IT parks first over factories, the outright shift from traditional occupations to most modern technology imposed on the society some heavy costs. Rapid urbanization sans matching social indicators like employment opportunities for all is not good news. It leaves a skewed society behind ridden with crimes. This is the scene we have in India today. Even our most backward districts seem to come alive with ‘knowledge’ awakening – with impetus foisted on learning and excelling and servicing in tertiary sector like IT and banking without the support of a compatible infrastructure to go with for instance.

When a housemaid or labourer wants to improve himself/herself, how should he/she go about it. He/she should get basic education first, find work in a factory and then seek knowledge. The time in the production line will mature the mind, will give the individual time to come to terms with sudden prosperity and growth. Whereas today in our villages, agricultural labourers straight away become IT engineers with a substandard education. For a caterpillar to grow into a beautiful butterfly, it has to essentially wrap itself in a cocoon and take time to develop. But what is happening in rural India today. Is this the right way?


The difficulty of doing business in India: Are our honest men safe?

A complete overhaul of our infrastructure is the dire need of the hour. The ‘Golden Quadrilateral’ opened up many avenues and brought our villages closest to accessible highways but the system is in a dismal shape. Corruption has to be routed out – not only from government and administration. Corruption in quality of work input has to be dealt with severely first. My husband refuses to work in India for this reason. Quality compromise is something he is not prepared for. He is a meticulous time-keeper. In India, he found that every single day he was getting into arguments with consultants as well as clients. Penalty for lesser/lower quality is high in foreign countries. Projects cannot be delayed indefinitely but have to be completed and handed over within a time-frame. Industrial safety is of utmost importance. All these norms are flouted easily in India and without a guilty conscience. Indian labour force and managers are not disciplined, rues my husband. They are quick to compromise and do not adhere to steadfast, unflinching rules of the industry he is used to observing in foreign countries. Frequent brushing up of knowledge is necessary, even mandatory. Periodical manpower training has to be accorded greatest significance. Industries in India fall behind in all these aspects. India spends as much as any other developed nation on infrastructure such as highways. But we end up with worst product – which means the public are the losers.

Here are pictures of our recent drive through NH-47 Chennai-Bangalore highway. Its patched in many places – otherwise driving is a pleasure in most parts. A highway’s estimated lifetime is about 40 years. So why the patch-up.

Similarly the quality of IT Highway in Chennai is heavily compromised. It’s consultant company was a reputed multinational firm who were world class. But today we observe, the rainwater harvest/storm water drain is not done in this most  hi-cost and prestigious project. So come monsoons, it is full flooding for IT professionals and locals living off the highway. High-rises have come up for some 30-40 km on either sides but the road is a disaster – a monumental failure. A standing example of how reckless engineers, architects and even foreign consultants can get in India. The same foreign consultants might be dragged to courts and be made to go bankrupt if this is Malaysia or even Qatar. But in India, the attitude is ‘chalta hai.’ Why should anyone bother if public money is syphoned off or frittered away useless.

It aches our heart therefore to work or live in India. Remember Satyendra Dubey, an IIT graduate murdered in the ‘Golden Quadrilateral’ in Bihar? I spent sleepless nights in Andhra for the same reason. My husband was in a similar spot at the same time in a different state in India, that’s all. Not much of difference between Dubey and him. I was waiting for the day he would quit work and start working abroad.

In India, life is not easy. As much as i love my nation, I am not blind to how cruel and ruthless and corrupt and narrow-minded and hypocritic we are. Scared to work in India, scared to work in North India. We have become such a dangerous place for honest people to live and work in – can you believe.

NH-5 was my husband’s dream. He wanted to give something back to India. I am glad he could. But it was tough.

You have to be real brave to work and live in our nation today. I salute the slogging professionals from all fields… I think I am veering off again…


Chennai’s Monorail is held up and so are many interconnecting flyovers and expansion plans. Reasons? They were started by the previous regime. I am not saying my ex-CM Jayalalitha Jayaram is a saint. I have promised my husband not to criticize politicians in the social media. And besides I vote for ADMK always at state level. But whoever stalls development for selfish goals, I cannot help accusing them of halting our development process. Such a nuisance to the public and what a waste of public money. Chennai is in extreme need of completion of these projects. Take a peek at Nelson Manickam Road-P H Road and then the huge standing columns from the Koyambedu junction in NH-47 leading upto Sriperumbudur,  you will cry for this nation. With the protruding steel rods rusting and corroding – if you do not wince for India now, you will never.

Reminds me of the subway in Harrington Road (not the eatery). It was started by DMK govt. Next 5 years were JJ rule. The subway was not touched in the entire period and was closed for use. As someone who had to use it every single day of my life, I found that for next 5 years I had to circle around 2 km to get to the other half of the same road. Next DMK returned to power. Who is more corrupt I don’t want to discuss. Within an year the state govt finished the project started in their times.

Why I point out this case is, there are some 5-7 schools from nursery to higher secondary grades in one end of the road. Whereas the residents are mostly from the other side of the railway line (for which purpose a subway was long overdue). Imagine the hardship thousands of children were subject to for as many years, as well as their parents. Little 3, 4, 5 year old kids had to suffer maximum. Think of traffic jams. Monsoons. What a waste of fuel, time and energy. All for what? Atleast until the subway work was taken over, the residents could wait for the manned railway crossing to be opened by the operator. It worked well. The locals had to put up with the road closing for almost 7 years once the project was started and then abandoned with the elections. Or may be more. Atrocious. Callous. Ask me, I am a directly affected party.

I still vote for JJ, no doubt. I have come to accept the great underlying principle in Indian democracy/Indian politics: NO POLITICIAN IS ABOVE PETTY OR VENDETTA POLITICS. IF THEY WANT TO FINISH YOU, THEY SHALL DO IT WITH SUCH AN IMPUNITY that you won’t know what hit you. I am scared of our establishment. I am scared of my nation India. I no more know what is right and what is wrong and what are my limits. 

I wish the best for India still. Its my nation – but becoming more and more something I am finding difficult to identify with.  The more I try to delve into this kind of topic, the more disillusioned I get.

Sometimes I wonder – who is right. India or China. Brand India.  Make in India. Sounds too good to be true. But first let us get our conscience right. Let our government not scare our own people. The first step is getting the basics organized. Doing honest business. Rest will follow automatically. Being open to criticisms is the fundamental characteristic of a mature democracy.

Off the mark again I guess….., Time to weigh the pros and cons of industrialization…

I am not saying industrialization is easy or comes without a substantial cost. The one huge casualty is nature. How to bring an equilibrium between industrial growth and preserving our environment without further decay. The key lies in perhaps earmarking or developing alternate forest regions. Clearing of primary forests is not good anyway. The secondary growth can never substitute for the primary bush.  But in a nation like ours with 1.3 million hungry souls to feed, industrialization has to be the only way to generate large-scale employment and engage the masses in a productive fashion.


Time to encourage and build more desi industries. Let ‘Brand India’ prosper. At the same time, lets find other remedial measures to upkeep our environment which is for our own good. We don’t know how much damage China has self-inflected itself with. India is forced to sign a lot of treaties including those on Climate change, Carbon emissions etc. So how do we go about balancing this job. Its not going to be easy.

Chinese are now onto Africa in a big way. By the turn of the century wonder what will be the African story.

Not to say the least of how damaging are environmentally the chinese:

Chinese are the No.1 slayers of African elephants today for their ivory.

Chinese hunting the endangered species Shark is no secret either.

How much these guys are trading their ethics and conscience for short-term benefits.

I only hope India does not replicate the China model. This is not good.


On the otherhand we all know of the chinese prowess in space technology, medicine, engineering and science and mathematics in general. They are mastering everything they can with a vengeance, something Indians can learn from them. Overall the chinese living standards have still improved to incomparable levels to ours. In engineering, the chinese are now setting new world standards and are already becoming the global leaders taking over from the US. From cheap imitators, they have evolved into great thinkers and inventors in a very short span of time that we Indians have not managed to do. Came a sarcastic voice from the background (who else?!): ‘First of all none would be wasting time like you in China, blogging irrelevant!’ and ‘Don’t you know Google, Facebook etc are banned in China? May be they should be in India!’

Says my husband, India’s greatest weakness is our characteristic genetic trait: EMOTION. Unless and until we conquer it and sever the ties that restrict us like religion and familial bonds, we may never become like China in another 1,000 years!’ and I said, ‘So shall we be happily!!!’

And one more thing, never forget the difference between a democracy and a communist regime.

One clear example is how tough land acquisition is proving for development activities in India. In China, there is no question of legal or humanitarian consideration. In Andhra Pradesh, when my husband was working for the NH-5 project, the government was slapped with a slew of court cases by trading merchants and Andhra farmers. In fact many of them were well-to-do rural folks with sizable land holdings. Prime and fertile mango groves and agricultural lands were taken over for highway work. Soil had to be sampled from even interior. Government prevented any meddling with intervening forest tracts. The locals were not cooperative. In fact, I feared for my husband’s life in those times because he represented his company in undertaking the project. He met with angry villagers every single day who dared to defy the court orders. Finally I was grateful when he wrapped up the project without an incident. Can you imagine such a scenario in China?

This demonstrates how officials working on national development agenda can get themselves mired into catch-22 situation. On one side is the corrupt establishment and land mafia and sand mafia and the like, and on the other is the public outrage when locals get uprooted/upset.

India no wonder is viewed as dangerous business.  To some extent, our sympathies are also with the displaced lot. No economic package or compensation can be good enough for them.

Not denying development activities result in deforestation and destruction of nature. And major displacements of the tribal and rural populations. We are paying a very heavy price with every step we take towards industrialization.

Again as we were leaving Terengganu by 2001, my heart bled looking at the equatorial forests with primary vegetation destroyed in acres without a trace for industrial activity. In 4 years we lived in Malaysia we have seen total annihilation of green cover in Dingkil (Cyber Jaya-Putra Jaya) (near KL, the capital) and in the state of Terengganu. This is apart from various other widespread development and industrialization activities throughout the south east Asian nation. Our friends now say we will not be able to identify Kuala Lumpur or Terengganu anymore. Nothing is as green as it used to be in 1997-2001. Rainfall has steadily decreased over the years and KL is witnessing an unprecedented water shortage (there was only in 1997) ever in Malaysian history.


Will China be allowed to make inroads into Indian markets. Already their overwhelming presence is felt in everyday life of ours, but compared to others around us and even America, India has been able to successfully dodge and thwart the chinese advances to some extent although not wholly succeeding.


I have a feeling, the dragon could be fiery but the elephant has the wisdom and patience. Emotion is the elephant’s downfall but that’s what makes it one of a kind.

On the whole I would say, I am not seeing a magician in Modi. I don’t expect him to change in 6 months what went wrong through 60 years plus. Modi’s role should be to steer India in the right direction. Nehru laid some solid foundations for India the fruits of which we are reaping – like the IITs. the AIIMC, the ISRO etc. Daughter Indira followed with dams and reservoirs. Rajiv era got in the computers. Narasimha Rao ushered in economic reforms. Atal Bihari Vajpayee gave India our ‘Golden Quadrilateral.’ If nothing, Manmohan Singh’s 10 years gave India a sense of stability. We could have been worse.

So what will Shri Narendra Modiji go down in history as? What will he be remembered for. What will he build for India. I know I may not live to see the full fruits of his efforts, but Indian history will record it and our future generations shall whisper his name.


 DISCLAIMER: This post is NOT a piece of satire. If you find it funny I am not responsible! 



From → Dilli Durbar

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