A Drive Through Pune
Many Indians call Pune “the Oxford of the East” because of all the good universities and colleges here. Pune used to be known as a quiet pensioner’s town - a place to move to when you were through with your demanding career and ready to leave behind the commotion and fast pace of Mumbai. But with the amazing growth of the IT sector the last couple of decades, the city has changed. Many engineering centres have been built, and several major software companies are located here.
I was on my way to visit Pune for the first time. The city, known mainly for software and education, is a good example of the “economic miracle” that has taken place in India since massive economic reforms were put into action in 1991.
My plane landed at the airport half an hour after takeoff from Mumbai. The Jet Airways flight had left me light-hearted and refreshed from the delicious salty-sweet lemonade they served on board, along with some wonderful caramels called “Coffee Toffees” that just put a smile on my face, even in the 38ºC heat.
My cotton blouse stuck to my back in the hot, humid air. A group of Indian locals passed me on the way to the baggage claim. They looked so exotic next to the handful of doughy-looking white businesspeople milling beside them. I could not help but stare; every Indian I saw had smooth, velvety skin in shades from caramel and cinnamon to rich, dark chocolate.
“India’s Economic Miracle”
Once I got my bags, I met my hotel contact who quickly ushered me into an air-conditioned white van. As the driver magically made his way through the dusty, chaotic traffic (peppered with beggars, bony, holy cows, and noisy mopeds, in addition to shiny European cars and colourfully decorated trucks), my contact filled me in on the current situation in his city. “They call Pune “the Oxford of the East” because of all the good universities and colleges here,” he started. “Pune used to be known as a quiet pensioner’s town,” he told me, "but with the amazing growth of the IT sector the last twelve to fifteen years, the city has changed."
A Real Shocker
I could clearly see from my window the glossy, air-conditioned shopping malls catering to every Western desire. Outside on the sidewalk, though, were unwashed beggar children dressed in tatters, who spent their days with their family in the median of a four-lane boulevard, not knowing where their next meal was coming from. The real shocker for me, however, was the slum lining the edges of the airport and railroads. Some of the shacks had walls and corrugated iron roofs, but others were hardly more than pieced-together tents, unsteadily held together by a chaotic jumble of reeds, straw mats and bits of dirty, crumpled plastic sheeting.
A Country of Contrasts
“Pune might be special in some ways, but it is representative of the “New India”. Our economy has grown rapidly since the reforms of 1991”, our contact continued. “Having been a British colony, India was a poor country for a long time after independence from the British in 1947. This is changing, although poverty is still widespread. India’s biggest problem is infrastructure,” he explained, “hundreds of millions lack proper sewage systems, clean water, and a reliable power supply."
Tasks and Activities
Listen to this interview with an Indian IT Worker
- ENGLISH – PROGRAMME SUBJECT IN PROGRAMMES FOR SPECIALIZATION IN GENERAL STUDIES