Rajesh Jain muses on how the modernising of India's infrastructure is changing his life:
I was born in Pune, and spent the first few years of my life there. I have regularly visited the city (192 kilometres from Mumbai), though in the past few years, the visits have been few and far between. Most of my journeys have been by train. I find train travel (like air travel) gives me the freedom to think - as long as I am travelling alone! Recently, I took a taxi (a “Cool Cab”) back to Mumbai, riding along a sparsely trafficed Expressway. On the way, I couldn’t help thinking how improving infrastructure is changing the dynamics of life and business between the two cities.
The first thing the expressway has been is made travel time between the two cities flexible and predictable. This is very important. One can reasonably easily predict that it will take about three hours to travel between the two cities at any point of time – either via car, taxi or bus. Even the train journey time has been reduced – the Shatabdi now takes under 3 hours to cover the distance. This is bringing the two cities closer, with the result that Pune is enjoying a mini-boom of sorts.
Software companies are expanding or setting up shop, many people are returning from abroad to live there (quality of life being better than Mumbai – something I don’t necessarily agree to!), real estate projects are sprouting up everywhere, the outer boundaries of the city are widening, and the service industry is growing rapidly in the form of malls, multiplexes and restaurants. Pune also has a historically strong education base like Bangalore, and this is likely to serve it well in the years to come.
What is fascinating to see is how cities evolve. A decade ago when I returned back to India, it was hard to imagine how places will change. Now, all around, symbols of the change and optimism abound. The Mumbai-Pune expressway may just be hundred kilometres of concrete, but for a generation, it is a symbol of the New India.
For long, India has lacked the appropriate infrastructure to ensure that simple things get down quickly. This is now being built – slowly. But I hope, we can do things right. A point Atanu Dey makes often is the need for standardisation. Take an example. Finding places given an address is so difficult. If we had clearly marked numbers on the road for the plots, it would be so much easier. More often than not, we give directions saying it is near this place or opposite that place. As we do the new things that need to get done, let us make sure we also do them right. Let a few think and set the standards, so others can follow.