Letters for my kids to read in the future, from around the world now

Archive for the tag “India”

Not being able to use cash in India

Dear G & B (and bump),
I’ve spent the past week or so in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune enjoying the heat whilst it hits zero degrees at home.

Mumbai skyline

There is some crazy stuff going on in the world at the moment. 2016 has been a funny old year, but I don’t know how much of this will make the upper rankings of history books, so by the time you read these letters, you will need to scour the web to look them up:
1) The UK left the European Union (“what is the European Union” you ask…?)
2) Donald Trump, a businessman/celebrity/nutter has been elected as President of the most powerful nation on earth
3) Lots of icons have died: David Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder, Terry Wogan. I suppose this happens every year, but it seems to have been a bumper crop.
4) There was a demonetisation policy in India
I’ve been experiencing number 4 first hand as it unwinds. Essentially, the Prime Minister (Mohdi) announced at 8pm on 8th November that all 500 and 1000 Rupee notes would no longer be legal tender as of midnight that night and just then be taken to banks to be exchanged for new 500 and 2000 notes. Crazy move and something we in the UK would know would cause chaos (and it has) but there is method in the madness: There are 1.3 billion Indians and only 20 million of them pay tax. That is one hell of a black economy and he is trying to reduce it. All those people that deal in cash now have to declare it. If they declare a significant amount that they’ve been stashing under their mattress the government will ask why, fine them and look into their dealings. Overnight (literally) he has made people have to legitimise their businesses and savings.
In practice, there has been pandemonium and it has hit the poor the most as cash has suddenly become scarce and they have no other way of paying or things. If people get hold of  (new) cash they are holding onto it as the queues at banks and cash machines are huge, taking people all day. Even when you get to the front you can only withdraw the equivalent of £50! It is an exercise in patience and I admire the Indian people for that.

Queues at the ATMs. This is actually a very small, orderly one compared to most

I queued for 2 hours to exchange currency when I landed at Delhi airport, which turned out to be pointless – nobody wants to accept my crisp new notes unless they can give me old shitty ones that I can’t then use! I have had to use cards and online payments entirely for a whole week and it certainly makes you plan in advance.
Enough of the economic update. I had great day looking around Pune (used to be called Poona and was where the sport of Badminton was invented) at the old Fort and some of the markets. Beautiful colours, terrible smells, but a nice afternoon adventure. There are a lot of stray dogs and stray people, but neither of them bother this obvious fish out of water, they just get on with getting on.
Some images of the Phule Manai (market) and Fort:

I’m now back in yet another airport lounge in France waiting for my connection back to the UK and you little rascals. I just got sent videos of you both performing the alphabet to camera: G is spot on and quite the little thespian, B’s attempt was full of enthusiasm and interpretative movement rather than accuracy. I’m smiling from ear to ear.


A Pune sunset


Dad x


India when it is 45 degrees C

Dear George,

The wall of heat that smacks you across the face, penetrates your clothing and fills your lungs with surprise is really quite unpleasant. I stepped onto the Tarmac in Delhi and realised I don’t think I have ever been somewhere this hot. Maybe a sauna. Maybe. The humidity isn’t too bad so it is not a case of instantly sweat-soaked clothing, but once you are hot, it is hard to cool down and it makes everything just that little bit more difficult, more annoying.

I haven’t been to India in May before, but I have been plenty of times. It is a love-hate relationship. Love the service you receive, hate the bureaucracy. Love the food, hate having stomach cramps. Love the weather, just not when it is making the road melt.

I went to meet some colleagues on Connaught Place (large circular piece of turn-of-the-century town planning in the heart of the city) last night and decided that I would take an autorickshaw or tuk tuk. Cheap as it comes and the bar was not far, so I thought it would be okay. Usually when you go at speed the air in your face cools you down. Not here, it heats you up, like having a hair dryer blasted up your nose. I fell out of the thing once it had stopped and nearly ran for the nearest air conditioning, a tragic sweaty mess.

Connaught Place is undergoing restoration, which was supposed to be finished over a year ago and was started several years ago. It is the centrepiece of the capital and is an absolute mess. An example of where India gets it wrong – infrastructure. I once landed at Delhi airport and sat in the car park for over an hour, not moving for traffic. When we finally got out I saw why: cows on the road. Cows outside your country’s major airport. Then I almost died on the Pune to Mumbai highway because there was an elephant walking against the flow of traffic in the fast lane. Bonkers.

But I am here to work, and that can be tough when you are overheated. You also have to contend with the Indian mentality. I love Indians – they are kind, generous, thoughtful and value friendship and trust. However, they can’t keep time, love paperwork and will constantly interrupt you so that every meeting takes three times longer than it needs to. I have finished in Delhi now and am on the way to airport and a much cooler Bangalore.


That’s sweaty eyelid heat



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