REPORT FROM INDIA
The smells, the sounds, the sights, the vibes, the food... it couldn't be stranger if I was on another planet. Even the computers are different. Fortunately I've spent lots of time in India in the past so I can't say I need to spend any time hiding under my blanket in shock. And I love it.
I bet you're wondering what's all the rage in Delhi this season, right? Well, it looks like what's really in for the gents, at least in some circles, is dying your hair fiery orange; very attractive. For the ladies, the big fashion statement seems to be girth. Unlike the fiery orange dye jobs, though, which seems to belong to the working class and lower middle class fashionistas, the girth thing is strictly for the prosperous-- and I have to say that is a very growing segment of the population.
I'm clueless as to the official inflation rate of India but if the official stats are as dishonest as the official inflation stats coming out of the Bush Regime or out of China-- where inflation is rampant and bodes badly for the rest of us-- it wouldn't be worth finding out anyway. So instead I can just sniff around for inflationary clues above and beyond a plethora of big boned gals and lurid dye jobs.
I remember last time I was in Delhi I stayed at the Imperial Hotel and it cost my company $175 a night. This time they asked for $975. That seems plenty inflationary, don't you think? A friend's family owns it and he was able to get me the Indian price-- everything is more for foreigners-- and it is $385, still way too expensive. (I found a special internet deal for AAA members in the only five-star hotel in New Delhi to go below $300/night.) The city used to be really cheap; now it's really expensive. And it isn't because of the exchange rate. When I first got to India in 1969 a dollar fetched 13 rupees, although you could buy 28 rupees for a dollar in Switzerland and 40 rupees for a dollar in Kabul. The official exchange rate is now 38.50 rupees for a dollar, a nice deal. But inflation is so high that it barely matters.
The hotel charges 150 rupees to use a computer/internet in their business center... for 15 minutes. The cyber cafes in the back alleys, where young Indians sit and fill out job applications, costs 20 rupees per hour. I found a clear one today and feel comfortable trying to post. Yesterday's sported keyboards so filth-encrusted that I had trouble holding down my lunch.
So what do Indians think about us? This morning at breakfast I read The Asian Age and there was a front page story that caught my attention: "Many in U.S. Believe in God and UFOs." It was a story date-lined Washington and I'll let the Harris Online stats speak for themselves. 82% of adult Americans believe in God and 79% believe in miracles. Just over 70% believe in heaven and angels and over 60% believe in hell and the devil. 42% believe in evolution and 39% believe in creationism. 33% believe in UFOs.
That was on page 1. But the big story-- literally; it is called The Big Story-- is "Foreign Policy Debate Suddenly Transformed." There are still photos of Bill and Hill up all over India, like in little shops and restaurants. People love the Clintons here. But do they ever hate Bush-- or at least his foreign policy. The NIE that was leaked this weekend and exposed the Bush Regime warmongering lies about Iran's nuclear intentions and capabilities, are the biggest international story here. On the same page there is also a story about how Bush is still insisting how dangerous Iran is.People here do not buy it. They're all counting on their photos of Bill and Hill to be relevant again-- and to save the word from a madman.
UPDATE: AND THE INDIANS AREN'T THE ONLY ONES WHO ARE HAPPY
One could infer from the new Time that the American military is even happier than the Indians. A few weeks ago I was at a dinner where Senator Tester said he felt Bush was going to attack Iran before the end of his term. I think we're all assuming that bet is off-- even if Cheney hasn't given up his bloodthirsty dreams.