On our final evening in India, several of us who were not tainted by a fever or a cold got together for a few celebration drinks in the Radha Regent's lounge, which is a quirky Irish bar with Americana decor. The next morning was a leisurely one, as the group preferred to take it easy before what lied ahead of us - over 36 hours of travel back to Champaign! We snapped a few team photos at the hotel before heading over to a Chennai mall for a bit of last minute shopping and lunch. A few of us tried our hand at a cricket batting cage at the mall, which reminded most of us that cricketing was not necessarily in our future! When I walked through the mall, I saw a number of sights that offered some great last impressions of India. Seeing a model Tata Nano (priced at around $2,500) in the mall atrium reminded me of India's growing middle class, and how luxuries like automobiles, restaurants and retail goods were available to many more people than before. However, next to the mall was a river strewn with trash, as well as a shanty town of thatched-roof huts where rural migrants lived. While India's growing prosperity is evident, one need not look far to remember that major economic, environmental and social challenges remain. On the way to the airport, I thought about this, and how interesting this country's future will be.
Beginning on Thursday afternoon (or very early Thursday morning, Champaign time), our marathon of flights began. We left Chennai's airport (old, but currently being renovated) for New Delhi. As soon as we disembarked in Delhi, the city's familiar smog greeted me as soon as I entered the city's enormous and modern airport. Again, I was reminded of the incredible challenges that parallel India's development. We took our time perusing the airport's many duty-free outlets before heading to our next stop, Zurich, Switzerland. After arriving in Zurich, a few of us decided to venture into the city for a few hours between flights. What an incredibly beautiful city! After taking a train from the airport to the city center, we walked Zurich's charming streets on a cool Friday morning. We eventually reached the city's picturesque lake, with a market selling flowers, cheese and produce nearby. The locals were most gracious with their directions around town, and we most enjoyed this jaunt away from the airport before boarding our last flight to Chicago.
In the past two days, I've been asked several times "So, how was India?" Even though that seems like an easy question, India's extremely varied sights, people and culture leave it hard to assess in a few sentences. The more I think about it, I think that the Indian Tourism Board's campaign of "Incredible India!" probably describes the country pretty well. In virtually every single way, India is incredible enough to be memorable, both for the good and bad. In India, you'll find incredibly spicy food, incredibly beautiful Hindu temples and natural beauty, and incredible economic growth that enviable by any standard. At the same time, you'll find incredibly congested traffic and overpopulated cities, as well as incredible environmental challenges and disparities in wealth. India never fails to amaze, and everything you'll experience there (whether pleasant or unpleasant) is vivid, energetic and bound to make an impression. I loved my time in India, and am so thankful for the opportunity to visit the country. I absolutely look forward to seeing what the future has in store for India, and regardless of what it is, it will not be dull.
Before I close this last entry, I'd like to thank a few individuals for making this trip such a rewarding experience for me. First, I'd like to thank our terrific group of MBA students from the part-time and full-time programs, who were fun, pleasant, supportive and always willing to share Pepto Bismol tablets with their fellow travelers. Our GCP clients in India also deserve a hearty thanks, as their engagement, cooperation and hospitality made this trip ever more meaningful. I'd also like to thank our tour guides, especially Kamlesh Amin of Traansway Tours in Mumbai, and our friends from the MLC in Chennai, who were all terrific resources to introduce us to India. Our videographer, Ravneet Oberoi, also deserves thanks for not only being an incredibly cool guy and member of our group, but also for his film that's bound to be impressive! Karen Myers of the ILLINOIS MBA also handled many logistics during the trip, and helped make travel in a bustling country much more seamless for us. Finally, I'd like to thank Dr. Rob Valli, whose hard work, team focus and positive disposition helped make India a great time for us all.