Much more surprising were the changes in Akola, my hometown. Many of the roads were broadened and re-tarred. For the first time I enjoyed driving in Akola. Railway station was clean with lots of informative displays giving reservation charts, positions of train compartments on the platform and so on. Big Volvo buses and Sleeper coaches were in common use for long-distance travel.
Mobile phones were ubiquotous. I also liked the creative use of SMS. For example, I was able to get status of my rail reservation using SMS. Even the district hospital was rebuilt and expanded. Instead of wasting an hour in a special SBI branch for forex, I was able to withdraw money directly from my US account from SBI and HDFC ATMs in Akola.
I also saw a marked increase in consumer spending. Marriage halls had grown spacious with people spending very lavishing on weddings. Digital appliances like HandyCams, DVD players, VCRs, bigger TVs are now very common. All this was reflected clearly in the advertisements, especially in the local vernacular dailies. Broadband Internet connectivity had started to arrive.
Heck, even poets were taking potshots at consumerism! Earlier targets of ridicule, especially poverty, were noticeable by their absense at the Akhil Bharateeya Hasya Kavi Sammelan. What better evidence of change does one need?
If you have a little money to spend, medical facilities are great in India. I went to see our family doctor complaining for an infection. I was dispatched to a specialist, who recommended a Sonography exam. The equipment quality was on par with what I had seen in US. The diagnosis was thus immediate and clear. The whole thing took less than a day. In US, I would have been made to wait 2/3 days to get an appointment with my PCP and another week to see a specialist.
Ofcourse, if everything were well, I wouldn't be here. Water and electric supply were intermittent at best. And if this is the case in the winter season, God knows what will happen during summer!
Overall though, my visit was reasonably comfortable and hassle free. Atleast, there was a marked improvement compared to the last time. I can't wait to see much better India in my next visit.