Frank Sinatra visited Australia and was greeted at the airport by the press. A reporter asked him what he thought of it so far. Under the circumstances his answer was extremely diplomatic, “You have very nice roof tops”.
Until about half an hour ago my impressions of the subcontinent was it now has very nice airports. They give the impression that middle class India (and Sri Lanka) is thriving. Cosmopolitan architecture, cosmopolitan brands, perhaps a little less bureaucracy. This is my fourth visit to this part of the world, it’s changing.
But when you get out of the airport India is still India. Traffic chaos, hooters hooting, cars going too fast and too close. Cows grazing along the roadside as well the odd goat and flock of ducks, dogs, some on leads. Messages on the back of trucks, which on my last visit were always “Horn please” this time are more diverse “Dip your lights” and “Wait for side”. Bamboo scaffolding, hazy atmosphere, busy people.
The French are quite smug about how Gallic France is. France is nowhere near as Gallic as India is unself-consciously, chaotically, noisily, delightfully and occasionally frustratingly Indian. It’s good to be back.