Thursday, January 14, 2010

Waiting At the Train Station

I was standing on the platform waiting for the train as I was returning home from Gurgaon, just south of Delhi where I was meeting with the head of Cairn’s corporate responsibility department when I started a discussion with a well dressed elderly Indian man. He told me he had two doctorates, one in philosophy and one in economics. He was also very knowledgeable in geography as during our discussion he could name all the Great Lakes in Canada/US.
Our conversation moved into a discussion on the poor in India, as it usually does given the work I am in. We talked about how the poverty index was an inaccurate and outdated measurement of the poor, as it only considered how many calories a person ate to determine their status. (this has recently changed to encompass a better measure. The World Bank estimates that 456 million Indians or 42% of the total Indian population, now live under the global poverty line of $1.25 per day. Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS) found that 77% of Indians, or 836 million people, lived on less than 20 rupees per day. Reference is Wikipedia)
As we spoke another man who was standing nearby was listening intently to our conversation. He couldn’t resist the urge to step in and challenge the assertions of poverty we were discussing. He was a professor of mechanical engineering at Gurgaon University, and was very concerned that I had the wrong impression of India. He did agree that the amount of poor was always going to be determined on how you measure them and that the huge population of India was going to make these issues appear much greater in raw numbers. But he felt that there were not as many poor in the country as I indicated and in any case, the situation was improving. I told him I hoped he was right, that would be great for India and its people.
The train then came down the track and I had a problem. I had a reservation in coach B3. It turned out that on this train there were two B3s. Which one should I choose? I went to the Enquires desk and the man there, who fortunately spoke English told me that the B3 in the front end of the train went to Barmer and the one in the back went to Jaisalmer. Up until then I was very impressed with the India rails system, but why couldn’t they just give one of the B3 coaches another name? Then, to add to the confusion, there are lighted sign posts on the platform which tell you where each coach will stop. I waited by the B3 sign near towards the front of the train. But the B3 coach it didn’t stop there and so I started to run towards the back of the train to find the coach. It could have been a kilometer run (it was a very long train) and the train only stops for about 5 minutes. Fortunately the coach was only a few back from where it was supposed to be and I got on to find my seat waiting for me. All’s well that ends well. November 27, 2009
"Experience is not what happens to a man.
It is what a man does with what has happened to him" - Aldous Huxley

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