My Chinese Impressions – Part 6

Continuing on my series of experiences in Shanghai in this post, I want to write about two of my memorable experiences – one that lasted the entire trip and I marveled at its efficiency day in and day out, and the other that lasted a few minutes but is etched in my mind and perhaps would last forever…

The All Pervasive, Always Available – Taxi Culture

For me the efficient taxi culture in Shanghai, as a visitor, was the best part of the experience. Not to belittle, anything else, but when a piece of machinery in a state works so efficiently that there is no scope (or even the mere thought) of fleecing a naive or guliable foreigner – that too in a developing nation – the effort needs to be applauded.

The taxis are available almost everywhere. Given street name and building number will get you there without any cheating (ok, there is some bit here and there, but it can be largely ignored in the larger scheme of things and given the number of taxi rides I have taken). Meter will be promptly used and no haggling on charges – ever! Once, I thought I was being taken for a ride and started haggling in my broken Chinese (much to my boss’s amusement), but only to realize that it was indeed the right fare and we were not being cheated.

Well, for people in the developed countries this might seem a trivial experience but anybody who is well traveled in India will sigh a relief reading this bit about Shanghai, because this efficiency is not easy to achieve. They might not know today, but on account of this service I would rate them on par with any US/European cab ride I have taken – of course, only cheaper and faster (they don’t strictly wait till the red light turns green at signals…)

Nanjing Trip

Nanjing literally means the south capital (Beijing being the north) and is a large city with a thriving economy. We were doing a customer visit and traveled via train to get there. My experience has to do with the landing at Nanjing station. As we descended the stairs to get out of the platform, I saw a sight of this large human wave, with no space between any two individuals at any point – in, around, behind or in front of me – converging towards a common point from three different directions to move outwards. For a moment, I thought I might faint, there must have been more than 3000 odd people trying to get down the steep fleet of stairs all at the same time to the same point. As I did a quick check on my senses, I was gripped with a fear that I might be tossed up into the air as there would no space on the landing podium.

Luckily, nothing bad happened, the crowd descended at its own pace, went merrily outside the station and busy with their lives – I think, just the sheer scale of handling such a large crowd day in day out within such an efficient train system is a great feat in itself and people being so cool about moving in and out of such large crowded spaces is something that beats me!

My friends tell me that it might be because I have never lived in Mumbai and I must experience the metro to believe it…I guess, I will someday, until then – this goes down in my memory lane as the largest crowd experience ever!


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