Yesterday I returned to Bombay from the city of Shanghai, China after attending the first Asia Pacific Congress on Controversies to Consensus in Diabetes, Hypertension and Obesity. Whenever an example of a well developed city is sought, then Shanghai and Singapore automatically come to mind. I have only seen Changi Airport in Singapore so I will confine my comments to Shanghai.
Ministers and bureaucrats in India often talk of turning Bombay into Shanghai. It is an absolute impossibility. Even if Shanghai were to freeze its development for a century and wait for Bombay to catch up, it would still be impossible. The greatest asset that they have are not their skyscrapers, their baby skin smooth roads or their awesome bridges, rather it is the quality of the average Shanghai resident which is so much higher than the irredeemably small minded Mumbaikar. This quality of human resources ensures that the city is a vibrant centre of business and economics, accounting for 30% of China's GDP.
The sprawling city of 22 million people has no slums whatsoever. It is also known as the city of skyscrapers. I was on the 82nd floor of the Grand Hyatt and most of the time my room was surrounded by mist and fog. Whenever the fog cleared, I could look down at the mother river of Shanghai which divided the city into two parts, the newer Pudong (where we were staying) and the older Puchi. The river is a broad, slow moving current in this season with plenty of barges, liners and yatches. In the evenings, river cruises are available for tourists.
German businesses seem to have a particular affinity for Shanghai. Every taxi on the road was a Volkswagon sedan. Most cars were European upper end cars. The people of Shanghai are helpful, courteous, non intrusive and well mannered, everything that an Indian is not. Shopping is a pleasure except that the prices are hiked in advance and if one does not know how to bargain then he is likely to pay more than necessary. We did a lot of shopping on Yu Yuan Road where most of the shops are controlled and managed by women. They make for canny salespeople.
There are two problems for the average Muslim in Shanghai: one is the language barrier. English is not commonly understood so it is better to always be with a tour guide. The second is non vegetarian food. We confined ourselves to pure vegetarian food with lots of fruit and the occasional fish. So that was ok. But if someone is excessively fond of mutton or beef or chicken, then he will have to find a Chinese Muslim restaurant for halal meat. Since I was not interested in food, I got along famously. There were many other things that I appreciated in the city but the post is becoming longer than it should. From the skywalk in the TV tower to the world's second highest building which is coming up in front of the Grand Hyatt to the Silk Factory and the Pearl shops....all in all it was a lovely experience. There were many things to see that we could not because we spent a lot of time in the Conference. Maybe next time.
Wa salamu 'alaykum.