Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hyderabad Zoo

I couldn't recall the last time I went to a zoo, though I could recall that when I went to Anna Zoological Park in Chennai as a kid, I scaled the railings and almost jumped into the territory of a bunch of Zebras.

I have heard rumors about Hyderabad's Nehru Zoo as the largest zoo in the country and we (my wife, myself and a friend of hers) decided to go find out how good it is. We went to the zoo and found out that a safari ride is available at an additional fee of Rs.25/-. So, we thought we would check that out.

As it was located at the far side of the zoo, on the way to the safari ticketing counter, we got to watch a white tiger located right next to a mob of deers, and a herd of elephants all at a very close range. The white tiger was especially a treat to watch. The tiger could get a clear view of the mob of spotted deers and kept swimming in the waters trying to find its way past the wall that protected the deers.

At the ticket counter, we found that the safari is available not just the expense of Rs.25/- but also at about one hour of time in the queue. When we finally got into the armoured van and ventured into the woods past the iron gates, we found that the lions and tigers were kept inside a caged anyway! All that hyped up fantasies about free roaming wild animals like those in the Discovery channel came to a very disappointing end. I later heard that the animals received the treatment because somebody ventured into the safari range and got himself killed! It be sad if it was true. The animals get punished for the carelessness of the dead man and the zoo authorities!

But the Bisons and a lone bear were let roam free in the range and the curious bear with a smiling face kept following the van for quite sometime giving us a enough time to watch at a very close range! Some return-on-investment! The safari lasted about 20 minutes after which we got to see two really big turtles. This is probably the largest I have seen. Apart from that the other residents of the zoos were all the usual suspects. Jaguar, (non-white) Tiger, chimps, orangs and other kinds of monkeys, and a few wild birds.

Hyderabad seems to be able to maintain parks better than other cities I have visited, and this zoo was no exception with plenty of well maintained greenery.

Overall, the zoo is a good day's off, worth the money you spend on entry ticket (Rs. 20/-). But safari can be safely skipped. The one-and-a-half hour saved on it would be well spent on covering the rest of the zoo (We had to skip the reptile section) and enjoying the nature over a cup of coffee.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Who and What India would be?

Michiko-san, a 60 year old Japanese lady who is an avid traveler and a colleague of mine was telling about her spinster days when she first traveled to UK, then around the world in her quest to learn English by interaction and to explore places. She added "You may think that I must have been rich. But I very much belonged to middle class, but in 1960 Japan's economy was growing and Japanese people felt they can pursue and achieve anything they want"

I thought, now India is in a similar mood. It is growing and its middle-class is ambitious. Only we have more poor people to liberate from poverty, more cities to organize and more institutions to rid of corruption, more people to educate and more laws to enforce.

Just as it happened to Japan, the growth will one day slow down, or worse, come to a halt. And when that happens, even if we have the intention we may not have the excess cash. Whatever we do before then will what determine what and how India would be before we hit the ceiling of growth.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Guha on "Will India become a super power?"

Inspired by a nationalist feeling which paradoxically peaked during my life in the US and fueled further by the "India Shining" economic growth, I must admit that I, for the first time, fancied the chance that India will one day become a super power.

Time has changed since and I believe now that the chances of India being a super power in the forthcoming decades, given the ground realities in India. But I still nurture the hope that India has its chance in being a super power.

I recently ran into a booklet - as big as pocket diary - from "Outlook" magazine which addressed the question "Will India Become a Superpower" written by the noted historian Ramachandra Guha. I have respected Guha for his objectivity in his various articles in India Together and Outlook. So, I found myself compelled to read it. A few of Guha's observations and his conclusion are very interesting.

In the article he succinctly outlined the mood of the wider world and conventional wisdom about the newly formed Indian Republic. According to Guha's observation, world-watchers of 1950s believed that India would not stay united or democratic because its didn't fit the European model of society united by a common language, common religion and a common enemy. For the same reasons, the fact that India is unique in its status as a union and a democracy (however dysfunctional it is)

I have come across a school of thought, especially among the youth of 1970s that the Nehruvian socialist vision had obstructed India's progress had it been under Patel's more capitalist hands. While Guha doesn't directly address this if-else point, he observes right after independence the private sector stalwarts such as Tata and Birla asked for the state interference.
The Bombay Plan of 1944, endorsed by G.D. Birla and J.R.D. Tata among others, asked both for curbs on foreign investment and for an enhanced role for the state...At the same time, Indian capitalists lacked the capital and knowhow to invest in sectors such as steel, power, roads and ports. They were thus content to focus on the manufacture and distribution of consumer goods, leaving capital goods and infrastructure to the State.
What really lead India pulled away from progress is the government under Mrs. Indira Gandhi in the late 1960s which, citing "political expediency" had failed to liberalize the Indian economy that by then had the right elements such as manufacturing infrastructure, skilled engineering and technical workforce in place.

In his conclusion he quote corrupt and degraded central government, trivialization of media as some of the seven reasons why India will not become a superpower. However, he says India should actually stop trying to be a super power which, in his own words, is a "my penis is larger than yours" way of thinking. Instead he calls for India to judge itself against its own achievements.
"We need to repair , one by one, the institutions that have safeguarded our unity in diversity, and to forge, also one by one, the institutions that can help us meet the fresh challenge of 21st century"