In October 2007, a USAID-funded educational-development program flew five of us to India to try to recruit planning professors to teach in Kabul. This was my first time in India. Coming from Kabul, New Delhi is quiet, uncrowded, orderly, and unpolluted. I have since learned that much of the ‘uncrowding’ is due to the violent removal of hundreds of thousands of people from informal settlements in the center of the city. Amitav Baviskar (2006) writes that this demolition and eviction campaign was intended to make Delhi feel like a ‘world city.’ It did indeed have that effect on me; India feels like a ‘developed’ country like Thailand and the United States. Does the violence that produces urban order make it so?
I just thought this package labeling was hilarious, at the same time that it is very telling about the mood in India today. During the week that I was there, the Rupee and the Indian stock exchange were climbing, and the UN intergovernmental panel on climate change, led by Rajendra Pachauri, shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. It was interesting being in a country that is feeling good about its future. It has been eight years since I have experienced social optimism.