Sharing the global stage: Musings on Mumbai

[cross-posted at the TechLearning
blog
]

After nearly 24 hours here in Mumbai, several things already
are quite apparent to me…

  1. The Southern states in the USA – my previous benchmark for hospitality –
    have nothing on the folks that I have encountered so far in India (and I say
    that as a native of the South). The people here have been uniformly gracious,
    friendly, and welcoming.
  2. The word that best describes this city might be LOTS. As in LOTS of poverty
    (it’s staggering, really, to a Westerner such as myself). As in LOTS of traffic
    (a bewildering mess of cars, trucks, taxis, buses, auto-rickshaws, scooters,
    bicycles, and pedestrians, all darting in and out of extremely small gaps in
    traffic). As in LOTS of people and LOTS and LOTS of construction and LOTS of
    energy. Somehow it all combines together into a positive, tangible buzz. There
    is a feel to this place – a palpable sense that this is a city that is on the
    move.
  3. Mumbai is a place of startling juxtapositions. At the foot of a gleaming
    corporate office building will be a shantytown. Adjacent to an eight-block
    section of decrepit, decaying apartment buildings (that, of course, are packed
    with residents) will be a shiny glass-and-marble shopping mall. Next to a
    filthy, tin-roofed store selling tires (that appears to be held up only by the
    posters and ads affixed to its rickety wooden walls) will be a new high-end
    electronics store selling HDTVs.
  4. For all of the possibility that is here, there’s still an enormously long
    way to go. Mumbai and other parts of India may be on a tremendous upswing but
    there are hundreds and hundreds of millions of people who are seeing little, if
    any, of the economic growth. That said, it’s a numbers game. Even if only one or
    two hundred million people in a nation of over a billion join the Indian middle
    class, the economic impact on the global economy will be quite substantial.
  5. Any tech plan that starts like this (as does the American School of Bombay’s) is probably going to be pretty
    succesful:

As our world becomes more technologically and globally interconnected,
it’s increasingly imperative that we all understand and plan how to facilitate
student and faculty acquisition and mastery of 21st century skills. The 21st
century isn’t a time in the future; it is now.

Have I said anything that hasn’t been said before? Probably not. But I now
can feel in my gut a sense of what this city is like. In Flight
of the Creative Class
, Richard Florida notes that the
biggest danger facing the USA is not terrorism but rather that talented,
creative people will stop wanting to come to America
. There are
places for those people here in Mumbai (and in South Korea, Australia,
Singapore, Ireland…). Tom
Friedman
is right: we Americans are going to have to get used to sharing the
global stage.

Scott’s trip to Mumbai: pics at Flickr, movies at
YouTube
.

6 Responses to “Sharing the global stage: Musings on Mumbai”

  1. I look forward to reading of your experiences in Mumbai? Is there a palpable sense that the caste system still plays any relevant role in Indian society? Is the sharp contrast there between haves and have nots tied to societal norms regarding cast? I’m just curious. i have heard the caste system is in sharp decay.

  2. As I am not familiar with Mumbai, the concept of the juxtapositions parallels that of the culture in Mexico. Are you in a position to compare the divisions between the two for those of us that are less world-travelled?

  3. Scott and I are presenting together in Mumbai. Having lived in Arizona for six years, I did see many of the same issues in Mexico, between the haves and have nots. In India, however, the chasm is much greater. An example – I was admiring a multimillion dollar yacht in the bay as several women were begging me for change.

  4. So, Dave, did you give them change? And, more imporantly, how’s the food in Mumbai? Have the folks there ever met anyone who can eat as much as Scott McLeod?

  5. is that larger chasm due in any part to the cultural remnants of the cast system?

  6. Thanks for sharing your impressions.

    Makes it much more “real.”

    What is the state of schools in a city like Mumbai?

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