I recently found myself missing western shopping malls which is strange as I never liked them much when I was in Australia. So I dragged SG out to one in the western suburbs of Delhi being on the metroline and hence accessible without the hassle of negotiating with auto-rickshaw drivers.
I discovered upon arrival that what I missed was not so much malls but what they represent: a clean, secure, controlled, organised and poverty-free environment. Of course within an hour of arrival, there was a power blackout an event that occurs at least twice a day, even in Delhi and which sees many buildings equipped with a massive stinking noisy generator that looks and smells like it is powered by coal.
So much for that.
Interestingly enough, the malls I went to were small, poky and nowhere near as glitz-laden as Orchard Rd, Singapore or Sukhomwit Rd, Bangkok. This could be because I went to the wrong suburb or it could be because the top 3 percentile of households in Mumbai (which is more expensive than Delhi) is quoted at earning a mere 20 lakh INR (ie: 2 million INR or 55k AUD). The lack of luxury cars or for that matter private cars on the road (as compared to KL) even in Delhi says to me that while the rich may indeed be very rich here, they are swamped by the numbers of poor and less well off.
The result is that in spite of an apparent huge disparity between the rich and poor in India, the country’s Gini coefficient is still around that of Australia’s. But the statistics are in dispute and in a 1.3 billion person population, collecting accurate data would be close to impossible.