While the temperature outside is soaring here in Delhi, the economy has definitely cooled -- far more than anyone predicted. Today's headline: India's growth rate has fallen to a disappointing 5.3%. When we moved here 18 months ago, India was still celebrating its global boom, despite the bust just about everywhere else. Our flat in a leafy part of sought-after South Delhi cost us an eye-watering sum each month. (Eye-watering because it looks like a communist dormitory; feels like a brick oven in summer; and lacks even such basics as piped gas, clean drinking water or heating/cooling systems. Never mind decent carpentry, a modern kitchen, safe electrics or likeable decor.
Today, with the Indian rupee at its weakest, the good news is that the rent for our brick oven -- which is at least surrounded by parks and trees -- has dropped by several hundred pounds. But if living in 'modern' India has taught me anything, it's that very little has actually changed.
Sure there are some bright spots: IT for example... and pharmaceuticals (are drug companies anywhere doing badly?) But on the whole, India is nowhere near the business-friendly place it's touted as. And the past decade of growth has failed to produce even the basic infrastructure or innovation necessary to sustain any emerging economy.
Take our expensive brick oven flat. A quick tour and I can point out electrical sockets that keep failing (or literally melting); expensive Indian-made pots and pans whose handles keep falling off because the screws won't hold. Our Usha-Brita water filter has great Brita filtering technology... but is let down by the cheap Usha bit. It leaks, it breaks, it clogs. Today, I tried banging a simple tack into my son's bedroom door to hang up a lovely painted tile. The first nail bent on the first impact. The second nail held longer, but nearly split the cheap plywood door right down the middle. Other screws and nails rust on the way home from the shop. The doors of our expensive custom-made wooden sideboard swell shut in summer and swing open involuntarily in winter.
The Indian-made three-tier steel dish rack in my kitchen is steadily, week-by-week, losing its bolts. They seem to spontaneously undo themselves. Any moment now, I anticipate wet glasses, mugs, plates and spoons going into free-fall and smashing to a million pieces on the marble counters and floors.
If you can't rely on the nails or a screws a country produces, is there really much hope?