I am confident that all these were not merely my perceptions, but were factual.
After such a life, and after a few years in the US, when I visited Tanzania a couple of years ago, I was shocked at the conditions there. Even in their big city, Dar es Salaam.
A couple of days later, our group headed to the village, Pommern, where we were to spend the two-plus weeks. That village was way poorer in every which way than any of the villages I had visited throughout my childhood.
But, conditions were awful.
Even the blackboard was not a blackboard--it was merely a rectangular portion of the wall that had been painted black. Very few students had textbooks, and the furniture in the classrooms was not anything to write home about.
But, that was Tanzania, I thought.
Now, after visiting Neyveli, my old high school seems to be only a couple of notches above that high school in Pommern.
The classrooms looked the same as they did when I was a student.
How can that be?
More so when the industrial activity in town is immensely more profitable now compared to three and four decades ago.
There is something seriously wrong with this picture.
As I walked around with "W" and "J" I kept muttering to myself, and to them, that this was all too depressing. Maybe I was screwing up their homecoming experience!
Were/are my expectations unreal?
I think not. If four decades ago the facilities at the school were that much above norm for my cousins to go ooh and aah, then am I not justified in expecting conditions to be correspondingly better now?
When traveling, I have come to use a convenient shortcut for getting a feel for how things are: peeping into bathrooms at public buildings. So, of course, I walked into the toilet facilities for students, and took a couple of photographs as well.
There is something seriously wrong here.
In a way, this ties in with my earlier observation that "long-term investments that could propel continuous productivity enhancements seem to be severely lacking. From the physical manifestations in roads and power supply to education and health."
Makes me think all the more about the Chinese versus Indian approach to development--my hypothesis is that schools in cities and towns in China would not have fallen behind in their facilities, compared to how things were four decades ago. Some day, I hope to visit China and check it out.
But, as Shakespeare wrote in Sonnet 130, there are flaws and we still love them:
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;You said it, Will!
Coral is far more red than her lips' red ;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.