I travelled the length, if not the breadth, of this amazing country over the past two weeks. While the news continues to be dominated by stories of our political paralysis, and now the slowdown of economic growth to 5 1/2%, the on the ground business stories continue to be amazing.
Blazing hot and arid Rajasthan is on the cusp of an economic boom. Oil had been found, there are solar power projects and wind energy projects coming up, all of which combined will make the state a net supplier of energy to the rest of the country.
One of the State's principal export commodities, guar gum, used in the oil and gas industry as a drilling lubricant, has seen a twenty fold increase in value over the past three years!
Amazing deserts in both Jaipur and Jodhpur. Janta Sweets.
Rajasthan grows a crop called isapgol, rich in fibre. The isapgol fibre is exported to Europe where it is inserted into wheat prior to bread production. Wheat's own fibre is extracted and put into baby food, where it fetches a higher price!
On board the train from Jaipur to Jodhpur on Indian Railways' 12456 Up. Did this 22 years ago as a backpacker, it was easier then without pull alongs, Tumis and iPhones to worry about, and in spite of the 20 liter backpacks we lugged around, we blended in better. Now, standing on Jaipur station's platform nr 2, executive luggage alongside, white earbuds and speakerphone plugged into iPhone, talking busily on a conference call, I stand out, just a bit.
India's rail compartments, specked I suspect during a visit to a Soviet steel factory by a team of Indian engineers in the 1960s, are indestructible and therefore unchanged.
An overweight ‘aunty’ in the bunk diagonally above me keeps asking her son in the bunk above me, and whom she insists on calling “Eh bhaiya”, whether he needs another pillow, blanket or water. I may come close to committing my first homicide today.
What does appear to be changing by the way, in rare synchronicity, is a large part of South Bombay, or 'town' as it is sniffily called, home to the second largest collection of art deco buildings in the world, after Miami.
Above Left: Moonlight, post restoration
The arid but beautiful Rajasthan countryside slips past as dusk falls. Texting back and forth with Ludo, one of the principal backpack buddies from 22 years ago, now based in Bangkok. Didn't have cell phones then, just well thumbed paperbacks and cheap Indian cigarettes.
Btw, the banner photo was taken from our holiday home outside of San Gimignano at 6.20 am. What light! It lasted all of five minutes.