And on to India.
What is it with Wuxi? I was there once in the past year and a half, then again twice last week. This trip to India was instigated while on the last Wuxi trip. During the past six months, my colleague D and I had been discussing options for expanding our business. He had been seriously considering doubling the size of his current operations in China. Then due to a couple of recent “road signs” he was attracted to India as a possible better option. As we started our Wuxi to Ningbo trip, he seemed perched on the fence. It didn’t take much of a nudge to push him over. He landed firmly on his feet and before we knew it we were planing a research trip to India for the following week.
India makes sense for many reasons, not the least of which is that D is Indian, and, he is familiar with the landscape, the culture, the complexity of its people, availability of raw material and labor, and other natural factors. Even though it was purely exploratory in nature, our 13 day trip was full, with no time wasted, which is why this post is late.
We took a flight from Wuxi to Hong Kong two Saturdays ago where we hung out for the day before our scheduled evening flight to India and arrived to his Delhi home just before midnight. After running errands the next day we took an early Monday flight to Coimbatore over Mumbai, where we were taken directly to a denim mill. We didn’t stop for the rest of the trip.
Our one planned break was a late afternoon trip out of Coimbatore to a “hill station” as they call them, traveling from 1,000 to nearly 8,000 feet elevation to the hill station Ooti. The trip wasn’t far, but it took a couple of hours on a two-lane, switch-back road, with lots of hairpin curves full of trucks, busses, motorcycles, monkeys, and other assorted cattle. The scenery up and down was outstanding, if only it weren’t for our driver heading into the oncoming lane in every other blind curve to overtake the vehicle in front of us, the drive would have been a tad more relaxing. At our Ooti destination, because neither of us brought anything heavier than a light-weight, long-sleeve shirt, we had to stop and buy sweaters. It was a treat going from 90 degree weather that afternoon to being warmed by a wood burning fireplace that evening.
Our stay in Ooti was a partial excuse to see a special friend of D’s, B, whom he had not seen for more than 12 years. B lives in a nearby hill station called Ketti, where she invited us for lunch to her gorgeously decorated home atop a hill with an expansive view of the Ketti area. The panorama with only the wind to listen to was relaxing enough to want to sit cross-legged and chant. It was a perspective of Indian life I had not experienced before — a beautiful mountain property, superb view, in a village populated by (somewhat) like-minded intellectuals who had decided to settle, at least for a while, in pure mountain air that only a life away from city and industry can provide.
After a full week in and around villages near Coimbatore, it was off to Chennai Saturday night for a full day of meetings before heading back to Delhi the next evening. Two more errand-packed days in Delhi, then it was back to Wuxi on a red-eye flight through Hong Kong.
Although I’d been several times before, I came away from this India trip remembering two colorful aspects: One, although I rarely eat Indian food, on this trip I had only Indian food. The local cuisine wherever we went, in the north or the south, was outrageously delicious. The curries and chutneys are to die for. The food was so good that, for better or worse, we ate every meal like there wouldn’t be a next.
And two, with so much time on the road, you learn that Indians don’t much consider traffic lanes as such. When there are visible lane markers, no one pays much attention to them. A two-lane road may easily fit four to five vehicles, depending on the width of the those cramming themselves into whatever space happens to be there.