Criticising India for its many failures has been a favourite subject of many in the UK. I have challenged many intellectuals, social scientists and many of our community members who simply cannot see anything positive in India. As I embarked on my latest trip to India, I wondered if I was wrong after all. May be the picture portrayed of India by its critics and the media was correct after all. I landed at the Indira Gandhi International airport on 10th December along with my wife and daughter. The airport is world class, the immigration check was rapid and the bags arrived in no time. The wide tree lined roads of Delhi and the general cleanliness are impressive. New Delhi now has a well run, clean and efficient metro system. We took the metro from Patel Chowk to Chandni Chowk and were there in twenty minutes. Chandni Chowk the heart of old Delhi has a maze of narrow streets and it is heaving with humanity. Not for a minute did we feel scared, people were friendly and no one pestered you to buy goods. The Akshar Purshottam Swaminarayan temple is a unique land mark of Delhi vowing people with the beauty of the temple and its presentation of Hindu culture. Atmaswarup Swami manages this temple with great success and it was a real pleasure to meet him. While in Delhi I also met Maneka Gandhi who passionetly promotes vegetarianism and animal rights. On the Delhi Haryana border, state of the art residential flats can be seen and the areas colleges are preparing the young population of India to match the best in the world. From Delhi we went to Vrindavan which has over 5000 Krishna temples. At the Hare Krishna temple hundreds of devotees from many parts of the world, especially Russia were relishing the ecstasy of Krishna worship. The recently built Prem Mandir reminds one of the Taj Mahal. We also went to the Akshay Patra Centre from where food is prepared for thousands of school children and delivered to the schools at lunch time. We saw the machine which makes thousands of chapatis and sabji or curry for 20,000 people in two to four hours. We also saw the Sandipani School which has hundreds of poor children. They get free education, free food, school uniform, books and medical care. From Vrindavan we went to Ahmedabad. We went to the, Three Doors area for shopping. There were thousands of small shops, hundreds of Rickshaws, cows and street food stalls selling mouthwatering Pani Puri, Pau Bhaji, Bhel etc. It is scene worth observing! Every individual takes great pride in what he or she does and does it with great dignity. The Kankriya River Project is a symbol of the new emerging Gujarat. While in Ahmedabad I had the good fortune of taking part in the birthday celebrations of Pramukh Swami at the mandir. Opposite the temple is the recently built Yogi Bapa hospital. It is a state of the art hospital and an example of the professionalism with which all the BAPS projects are executed. I also visited the Gujarat Samachar office in Ahemdabad and had the pleasure of meeting CB Patel. What a fascinating journey CB has had from India to Africa,to the UK and back to India!. The people of India have great patience and forbearance. It is a fact that unscrupulous politicians and businessmen are fleecing the country of billions of pounds. People however have faith that a new dawn is round the corner and change will come sooner rather than later. In spite of many difficulties there is a confidence on the faces of people, the confidence that they can achieve anything. From Ahmedabad we went to Rajkot. It is a centre for light industrial manufacturing and tens of thousands of other businesses. Our last stop was Mumbai and the new sea link bridge which cuts across the city is an example of the change taking place. Parts of the city will soon have the metro and mono rail. The greatest thing about the people of India is their tolerance. As an example in Vrindavan if you visit the Rangnath, Radha Gopinath, Radha Damodar, Radha Shyam Sundar and Vrindavan Vihari temples you will get to know the monkey menace! If you are wearing glasses or holding a mobile phone the monkey will snatch it away in a split second. Only after it is fed some sweets by a monkey expert will it release your possessions! And so there is a fragile peace between humans and the monkeys! How tolerant, how merciful are the people of Vrindavan! In every field India a country of a billion people and such a massive diversity is making progress. India has not let me down and my doubts have disappeared!

 

Nitin Mehta MBE

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