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Friday, November 16, 2007

India vs China

India vs China

 

I had spent quite a lot of time in China the last few years and so I enjoy comparing the two countries, which incidentally seemed to be a national sport among Indian intellectuals – their arguments tend to conclude that India's future is going to be far superior in spite of the current obvious economic and infrastructural lag India suffers; Chinese tend to scoff at India, saying that the latter is nowhere near China's progress…

 

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I see wildlife everywhere in India.  All the parks are full of squirrels and pigeons, parrots and eagles fly in the skies of` Delhi and Agra.  One does not see that in China, where the skies are as polluted as in India – perhaps more so than in India.  And both countries have semi-permanent smog around in the skies.  In China, there is one more reason for the lack of fauna: They eat anything and everything. One would be lucky even to find a stray dog anywhere.  In India, many people are vegetarian; Hindus do not eat beef and Muslims do not eat pork and other prescribed meats. I don't think they even bother with anything more exotic, such as squirrels or pigeons!

 

 I haven't had any beef or pork for weeks now.  And I miss my Singapore ba chor mee and dim sum!

 

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Is there any real India motorway?  I shared the important Delhi-Kolkata so-called Expressway with camels, donkeys, holy cows (they are everywhere – on the roads, in city centres, whatever), noisy motor rickshaws and on one occasion, an elephant.  This road is just four lanes wide in most places and passes through town and village centres.  Imagine how jammed and packed it gets.  It is not an expressway or freeway one sees elsewhere.  China, on the other hand, is building a world-class motorway network across the whole sprawling state, and one can now travel across the country in record speed, without having to stop more than several times a day.

 

What I found disturbing were the many checks at state borders in India.  Drivers often have to get off the vehicles to pay assortment of local taxes (and bribes?).   There were also many trucks waiting to cross such internal borders.  I imagine they would take days to clear them.  Why should there be such internal checks if this is one single common market?  The effects of the notorious Indian bureaucracy, or plain bribery issue?

 

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Crowds everywhere like in China.  In India, they really push and squeeze even on occasions when there weren't any need to.  This takes time to get used to.  So it's difficult to tell between a "bona fie squeeze reaction" and a pickpocket attempt.

 

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Toilets are cleaner in India where they exist.  Maybe this is an Islamic influence, as Muslims need to clean themselves before prayers, and India had come under Islamic rule for extended periods.  China's toilets must be the dirtiest in the world and there's hardly any concept of privacy in public toilets.  Ironically, I have spotted people peeing on India's streets right next to rush hour traffic.  I don't understand why…

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