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When we are pleasantly surprised

Posted on Trivia- The Spice of Life on 10/04/2022

Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link
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About five years ago, my then five year old nephew who lives in the United States had come on one of his annual trips to Mumbai. He was coming to visit us. The route he took had a big surprise in store. He was on the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link (which is better known as the Bandra Worli Sea link); for the uninitiated, this sea link is a 5.6 km long, 8-lane wide bridge that links Bandra in the Western Suburbs of Mumbai with Worli in South Mumbai. It is an engineering marvel. My nephew suddenly sat up and rubbing his eyes asked my brother (i.e. his father) whether they were in the US or India. He found it hard to believe that there could be a bridge of this kind in India. Even a five year old, staying abroad, had stereotyped notions of what India typically looked like.

If children could have such perceptions, it is but natural but we adults too would. For example, we have our own stereotypical notions of what a government office would look like. Dirty, dingy, poorly maintained, minimalist – these are the adjectives that come to mind. So, if you set foot into one where none of these qualifiers apply, the first reaction would be – I am at the wrong address! Such are our notions that we find it hard to accept that things can change for the better.

Terminal 2, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai
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The same is the feeling that one gets in the Chanakyapuri area of Delhi. When you are navigating the series of roundabouts in the upscale area, the thought that often crosses your mind is that this just does not seem like India!! Ditto for some of the wonderful airports and expressways of India. In fact, when I went to the US about 7 years ago, I was aghast to see the JFK airport. It looked like a very poor cousin of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport. There are some advantages of starting late, after all.

Tejas Express
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Globalization coupled with a thrust on infrastructure development has indeed helped us Indians to pleasantly surprise ourselves more often than before. The only problem is of maintaining what we build. About five years ago, there was a newspaper article which spoke of how India’s first high-speed train – Tejas Express – running between Mumbai and Goa, came back after its first run as though it had been vandalised. The train came back with fewer headphones, damaged infotainment screens and waste strewn all over.

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Thus, it is not just important to build; it is equally important to maintain what we build. It is perhaps here that people like you and me have a very important role to play. The day we stop feeling that public property is nobody’s property and care for it like it were our very own, we would stop being surprised, for the good things of life would become an integral part of it.

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