Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Working & Visiting Kolkata

Excited about coming to Incredible India I was greeted with warmth, excitement, humility and respect - as I traveled I unearthed the tarnished India, unrelenting pestering that was beyond irritating, it felt threatening. There were times I unfelt unsafe as a lone traveler. The more welcome I received the more weary I became, I had a right too - their inquisitive approach soon turned to demands of selling to get their hands upon my white cash.

Read my blog series on my visit to the Golden Triangle in the Mid-North of India.(this is post 1)

I started my travels as a corporate executive visiting my then client for a week’s training on communications and marketing for the in-house marketing team and to develop awareness on marketing tactics for the customer service, technology teams and development units.

I have been working with Indians since 2007. There’s a big corporate cultural differences between Europe and India and over time barriers were reduced and communication became more fluid. My in-house marketing team were global in their outlook but I knew to expect something different from the 100+ strong team based in Kolkata.

My flight was easy, using Emirate Airlines – definitely one of the best airline companies I have ever flown with. Their attitude was endearing, attentive and while it wasn’t top-notch it definitely beat the European airlines on attitude.  The entertainment system is phenomenal, and transferring at Dubai airport just gives you a huge sense of the impact that this new Airport Hub has on global travel.

Landing in Kolkata the company’s driver collected me from the airport and drove me to my hotel where I would spend the week. As we departed the airport huge swabs of land had been clearly divided, as large construction was under way. It occurred to me that India was growing rapidly. (As at this time I also write on China, the similarities in construction are minimal, it’s all high-rise).

I remarked on this growth to my Indian colleagues. To me it was positive, it was the future. To them they saw it as little more than irritation that the country was still very much behind. This was my first step into India and I was expecting to see a completely different side, and certainly over 3 weeks it became much more apparent.

However, a technology firm of this nature was not entirely behind the times. It operated globally, IBM was next door, they have air-conditioning, a road network. On exploring Kolkata further it was possible to see people divided between rich and poor. This gap is expanding by the day. Poorer people treated as third-rate citizens, even those with whom they worked. It grew complex when it comes to money, cast, creed, and education. On one look at someone an Indian can tell you where someone fits on a social scale and how they should be accepted into a group.
The road to central Kolkata was long, as we entered the British colonial zone I could start to feel the sense of my own history. What had we as British done? Was it good? Was it bad? Had we helped bring the Indians into a global economy or had we hindered it. The British created the Rail system. Huge construction programmes were delivered for the buildings that are still standing after over 100 years, but was this really positive, or had we held the country back?
With a global population of over 1 billion, the Indians are still struggling to control the growth and this is obvious with the shantytowns and the split between rich and poor. It was evident here in Kolkata because I know people here, they tell me their life and their stories and I see what other people have to live for.
The fact there that is a huge memorial building for Queen Victoria pretty much demonstrated the power we had in the country over 100 years ago. Perhaps if we had taken India with us during that time they wouldn’t have the issues they experience today – but I guess the West wanted, and still want, cheap products.

For information on Gay Kolkata – visit my post: http://ryanchaynes.blogspot.de/2013/03/finding-gay-kolkata-india.html