Skip to main content

'These BMWs Look Abandoned'

The weather in Shanghai is pleasant, mostly between 13 and 20 degrees celsius. And its great to walk around, particularly if most of what you are doing is in one part of the city. At one junction, after seeing our nth street-corner parked BMW, my friend remarked, "The way these BMWs are lying here, it looks like people have abandoned them."

Actually that's true. The number of BMWs, Audis and Mercedes cars on the road are just staggering. Remember, this is a communist country that espoused equality not too long ago. Not to mention Volkswagen Passalts. The most common car is the Volkswagen Santana. Most of the taxis here are Santanas as well.

The interesting thing is that it was not just me and my friend who gazed in amazement at another BMW 5 series that whizzed past on a busy Shanghi intersection. Our Taiwanese-Chinese associate Lee seemed to concur. "That car will cost at least a million RMB (1 RMB = Rs 6 approx)," he would say, as an Audi A8 would slow down in front of us. Or, "That one will be 1.2 million RMB," he would point at Mercedes S 350.

I Can't Figure It Out !

Lee lives in downtown Shanghai in a office cum apartment and faces one of the two major elevated roads in Shanghai - translated, a flyover that runs all around and through the city. Lee says despite knowing of all the opportunities, he himself is amazed by the amount of money people have made here. "I just can't figure it sometimes, actually most of the times," he says.

China does not have much of a stock market so this is real money then ? Yes, both my friends think so. For the early settlers, including Indian traders, China has been like a gold mine. The sheer manufacturing and production opportunities have created thousands of entrepreneurs who in turn have created maybe millions of prosperous young Chinese, who working in these very enterprises or deal with them. Like Lee.

And there are the other, state funded opportunities. The massive public cum private infrastructure spend is a strong GDP kicker. China is adding expressways like there is no tommorrow. And realtors are erecting skyscrapers like they are going out of fashion. Indeed the first thing that hits you as you enter Shanghai are the umpteen skyscrapers. "When did they build this ?" you wonder.

Living In Balance

Yet, mega cities like Shanghai live in balance. Because the transition is still on. On the way to an industrial estate on the outskirsts of the city, we drive past the equivalent of an urban slum. Brick houses with `Mangalore' tiles and narrow roads with people walking briskly, dodging cyclists. And little shop cum garages with old men frying dumplings in large cauldrons. And people standing around, buying, eating. Like the guy you might buy samosas from back home.

And there is urban poverty too. Step out of the ornate Peace Hotel and you are accosted by beggars. Ditto with Bar Street in Beijing as I discovered during my last visit. Foreigners are preferred. Despite the trappings of a somewhat tough state, beggars survive. Its pretty clear that they can be dispatched, if the authorities really wanted. Perhaps that's China's own way of reminding itself of the task ahead. And being fair. And while the BMWs and Audis may multiply, so will the beggars. Unless the growth miracle truly envelops everyone.


Popular posts from this blog

The Gatecrashers Of New Delhi Airport

Am traveling again, this time I pass through the hallowed gates of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport. If you want to showcase how Incredible India is, this is the classic one. And it makes me wonder whether the ownership really transferred into private hands. Anyway, the experience kicks off nice and early as I drive up the incline. A long traffic jam has developed. My driver alternately jams the accelerator and brakes to stay in one place. And its raining heavily.

The airport is packed with people, even more than Mumbai and Hyderabad airports, whose vast collections of crowds usually amaze me. Like all other airports in India, roughly 95% of the folks who visit the airport ain’t going anywhere. They are here to see off the other 5%, or is it 2% in New Delhi. Most of them travel very long distances.

Passengers like me are a hopeless minority. In every way possible. For a moment I thought I would give up and return, so challenging did the task of entering the terminal appear. T…

Why Did Aamir Khan Swing For Narmada ?

He is not the first celebrity to do so. But he’s turned out to be the most radical, activist Bollywood filmstar by far, all in day's least as far as my memory serves me.

The reasons why he would back the Narmada Bachao Aandolan
could be several. Ranging from the fact that a cousin associated with the movement influenced him to the fact that he was in and out of the Kutch for six months whilst the shooting of Lagaan.

Lets assume all that contributed significantly. Still, why join the protestors in the manner he did ? Why become a face for the movement ? Knowing well there could be consequences that may not be the most desirable.

Dammed If You Do..

To his credit, he did not buckle to the mob frenzy that followed his signing up a few days ago. Instead, he calmly called the attention of all and sundry and asked if these were really the politicians and political parties they wanted to be led by ? He even accused the political parties of trying to bully him.

There are those who de…

Why ISB Might Beat The IIMs

Im pretty sure these headlines are unintentional. I saw one this evening which said, "ISB declines to reveal boy's identity." Another one, "ISB is not revealing boy's identity, yet."

Im sure you had the same thoughts I would have had. Some heinous crime has been committed and an organisation that goes by the initials of ISB is refusing to give up the accused.

The Indian School of Business is in the news. A graduate student has bagged a $233,800 (Rs 1.04 crore) job. That beats the previous record set by the IIMs.

Recently, IIM Bangalore kicked up a fuss saying they didn't want to turn their placement season into a circus and their students into animals in a temporary zoo. Makes sense I guess. ISB has picked up from there. And refuses to part with the lucky chap's identity. That makes him lucky twice over. He earns the money and gets to keep it, since the Bhais won't find him easily.

Totally Biased

For various, totally biased reasons, I would like to …