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Small town India in pictures

November 13, 2007

Small town India has been in the news lately, whether its because of increasing computer users, galloping cell phone users, improved physical infrastructure, or simply because some winners of reality shows hail from small towns. And let’s not forget our celebrity cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni who is from Ranchi.

The rapid growth of small towns is what the buzz is about today and it is the changing face of India. This post is about a place smaller than most, the booming small town of Aurangabad in Maharashtra.

Aurangabad was not covered in the survey on the emerging growth centres in India probably because it is not as big as the cities covered. As many as 15 Indian cities were surveyed by Knight Frank for determining the emerging growth centres in India and these were Ludhiana, Lucknow, Guwahati, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Surat, Nagpur, Indore, Goa, Vishakapatnam, Mysore, Coimbatore and Kochi. I guess these places can be called small towns when compared to metros like Delhi or Mumbai but to my mind these places are not small. It’s the city of Aurangabad that fits the bill! And the prosperity I saw there was impressive. There were hardly any beggars (no, not even at the tourist places) and I saw few slums (and they can’t really be called slums if one compares the living conditions to Mumbai) although we drove around in the bylanes of the city hunting for cheap places to eat.

What I saw instead were brand new houses, shiny motorcycles and busy people. Not surprising considering that Aurangabad is now an industrial hub. Companies like Bajaj Auto Limited, Varroc Engineering, Skoda Auto, Wockhardt, Shreya Life Science, Orchid, Lupin, Atra, Videocon, Nirlep, Siemens, Colgate Palmolive and Good Year are here. Aurangabad is also a ‘beer hub’ and caters to 50 percent of India’s demand for beer!

Infrastructure has developed rapidly, not bad at all for a small town, and I guess Aurangabad being a tourist centre has helped (Ajanta and Ellora caves). No dearth of good hotels either, and ofcourse there are good rail and air connections.

Here is the first photograph. The city was surprisingly clean though not at all places. But the dirty spots were nowhere as dirty as Mumbai’s

 

 

This particular picture is of a poor part of Aurangabad.

 

This is one of my favorite photographs as it shows the youth doing what their forefathers did. Tend to cattle. In jeans, not in dhotis or pyjama kurtas.

 

We came across many such brightly painted houses, a sign of prosperity.

 

And look at this. A sign that promises to teach you English. It says: Pay only when you learn English, not before. The small print on the other side of the building says (not in pic) says: Learn English in one month!

People were scurrying, almost like they do in big cities. And almost every shop had a bright red public phone.

 

We wondered at the scene below (the cops will put you behind bars in Mumbai) and our cab driver explained that everyone was in a hurry these days. So unlike ten years ago (he said). People didn’t want to wait for the next cab, no not even for a minute. These jeeps were shared cabs and their frequency had increased ten-fold but people were still in a rush …

 

The well dressed people of Aurangabad

 

Motorcycles were a common sight (they are in fact they quite common in most small towns). There were women riding scooters too (unfortunately couldn’t get a picture) and that took me by surprise. Again it was our cab driver Ramesh who enlightened us. Aurangabad girls (he said) have become very ‘bold’ and ‘free’ and according to him it was partly because of the new companies which have come to town. New companies have brought in outsiders and an influx of a new culture. He made it a point to tell me that the Shiv Sena had made sure that more Hindus settled in Aurangabad as it was originally a Muslim dominated town. But now he said the Muslims just own the shops… (!)

Well, Shiv Sena may be playing politics here but people don’t speak Marathi. Almost everywhere we went people spoke Hindi, and sadly the Hindi they spoke was a broken slang version of the real Hindi spoken in the north. When we asked them why they spoke Hindi, even at times with each other, they just shrugged and smiled.

 

There was one sight that was very common all over Aurangabad and I am sure it is so in all small towns. Child labour.

I saw kids working everywhere, in shops, in hotels, on the streets, in markets, in rubbish dumps. There were many I didn’t see…the ones who worked in sweat-shops. This is not something you will see so openly in big cities.

Overall though I was impressed with Aurangabad. This wasn’t the small dusty town I expected, but a thriving throbbing city bursting with life.

Related Seeing/Reading: Ajanta caves photo feature
The cave temples of Ellora
Aurangabad caves, Bibi-ka-maqbara and the Daulatabad Fort – photo feature
Aurangabad in pictures
Other travel articles with photos

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39 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2007 9:08 am

    Nita,

    These are lovely pictures. The one where everyone’s almost falling off a jeep caught my attention. I shudder when I think of the consequences if even one of them were to fall. But I guess they’re “trained” enough. Something like the local trains in Bombay!

  2. November 13, 2007 9:18 am

    The best snap is “The well dressed people of Aurangabad”.. waiting for bus.. and that kid asking you lift!

    Wonderful & Hearttouching post.. made me to remember my childhood.. Thank you.

  3. oemar permalink
    November 13, 2007 10:05 am

    Good collection and topic… but dont you think maintaining a small town is much easier than a metro… I mean I was amazed to look at the pics from Vishakhapatnam (AP) that my friends brought….

  4. amreekandesi permalink
    November 13, 2007 10:58 am

    Great pics, and a thought provoking post!

    People keep running after big metros, which are already bursting at the seams. The smaller cities are the perfect go-between the very rural and the very urban India.
    You get pretty much everything you might want, without the headaches of traffic, pollution, power (the electrical one), politics etc.

    I would think that having 20 smaller better developed cities would be better for the country than having 4 big ones whose infrastructure just buckles down under the weight of so many people.

  5. November 13, 2007 11:27 am

    Nita – these are really good pictures and show an orderly life typical of small towns everywhere. I am wondering though what the population of Aurangabad might be, to get a feel for what life there might be there as compared to my life here in a Canadian small town of 75,000 souls. It is child labour that is not a fact of life here in Canada, vis India. Here our population experiences protracted aldolescence well into the twenties and even thirties, so to realize that children of 9 or ten years of age would be employed in family businesses, makes me think of how much more mature chidren in India might be as compared to our young ones. Are the opportunities for education more limited in small towns?
    The picture of the people hanging off the jeep is frightening. So obviously public buses are not so common in small centres.
    By the way, my mother in law was born in Indore and lived there for the first four years of her life. G

  6. November 13, 2007 1:30 pm

    Ruhi, these guys seem to be experts but somehow I have a feeling that accidents do happen but that no one is bothered! We know the value of life in India!

    Bharath, so you noticed that little kid! I thought he was cute too!

    Oemar, I guess you are right. A smaller population means less people to dirty it!

    Amreekandesi, I don’t mind living in a small town…the only problem would be the fact that people are conservative.

    Suburban, India is a crowded place as compared to Canada. The population of Aurangabad is 1,414,918 and I guess that’s pretty high by the Canadian standard of a small town.

  7. November 13, 2007 1:31 pm

    Interesting aspect, and nice pix to see for someone like me who has not seen all this….
    What about the food? How can you write a blog post on a town without giving us pix and descriptions of that??

  8. November 13, 2007 4:44 pm

    I’ve just traveled through a lot of such small towns in eastern UP and such prosperity is nowhere to be seen. While I applaud the citizens of these areas for their good work, I’m also appalled by the regional disparity.😦

  9. November 13, 2007 5:05 pm

    “Aurangabad girls (he said) have become very ‘bold’ and ‘free’ and according to him it was partly because of the new companies which have come to town. New companies have brought in outsiders and an influx of a new culture.”

    I suspect the liberation of women most anywhere is closely correlated with their ability to earn an independent income, so the taxi driver is perhaps pretty close to being right that the key is the new companies which have come to town.

    By the way, Rambodoc is right — what about pix of the food? And the beer! Don’t forget pix of the beer! 🙂

  10. November 13, 2007 6:54 pm

    Vinod, parts of India are desperately poor. In fact I saw poverty in many small places even in West Bengal. Small towns in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh on the other hand are thriving!

    Rdoc, the food wasn’t anything special.You get far better food in Mumbai. It was in fact fairly difficult for us to get a decent meal at a reasonable price! Either it was fancy hotel food or very average restaurants. We did not try the maharashtrian thali at any place as we get fairly good thalis in Mumbai. So if you want good food, come to Mumbai!

    Paul, the problem with small towns is not the infrastructure but the attitude! People can be awfully conservative and most of the women we saw were covered up from tip to toe!

  11. Vikram permalink
    November 13, 2007 7:14 pm

    I guess I could launch into a rant as to how you “big city” people are completely unaware of what is happening in the rest of India….but that is for another day. For now let me point out that more than half the companies you mentioned have been in A’bad for the last 10-15 years (some have even been started here). In that sense A’bad has always been a industrial hub, only something that never got prominence, mainly due to the politics of the times (or so I think). Which sort of leads into why people here speak “broken Hindi”. A’bad was a by and large a part of Nizamshahi state, briefly ruled by the Mughals in the 1600s, (Aurangzeb died close to A’bad) till 1960 and hence the lingua franca was Dakhani, a dialect of Urdu spoken in the Deccan. Over the years, this along with the Hindi spoken by non-Maharashtrian, non-Muslim traders that moved into A’bad post Independence, has morphed into the Hindi of Aurangabad (my theory, you probably won’t find any references).
    Aaj ke liye itne fundae kaafi hain, enjaay!

  12. Vikram permalink
    November 13, 2007 7:22 pm

    btw, nice pics.

  13. wishtobeanon... permalink
    November 13, 2007 8:08 pm

    Nice post. I liked the ‘tree coming out of the house’ picture. I don’t think thats a rare sight where you see trees inside houses or is it?

  14. November 13, 2007 8:39 pm

    Thanks Vikram.
    You explained the language thing very well! A completely new insight!

    WIshtobeanon, thanks. Well to see trees coming out of houses is pretty unheard of in cities although there is one place in Mumbai where a tree in the middle of the road has not been cut (at least it hadn’t been when I saw it last). I would love to have a tree in my house but no one does it as everyone wants to save every inch of space in the city. In any case I would have to build a bungalow to do it and perhaps people have….but builders of flats will not.

  15. November 13, 2007 9:32 pm

    I am pointing on a particular area only:-

    I hail from a small town located 60 km from Jamshedpur and just wonder why this city cannot be an IT hub. After visiting Pune I found that it’s very similar to it. Though much cleaner than it as it is termed as ‘Steel City-Green City-Clean City’. Few years back when Ranchi was made Capital of Jharkhand, I wondered why..! even though Jamshedpur having more facilities and better infrastructure. But, later thought might be due to keep it away from politics.
    IT pros from Bihar, Jharkhand will prefer to work at Jamshedpur if an IT park open there and not 2000 kms away from home.

    Some time ago talks between Mittal and Govt failed too to open a Steel company… may be due to sleeping Govt., Naxal issues or TATA interfering the game to save itself or something else…

  16. lekhni permalink
    November 13, 2007 9:46 pm

    I have seen pictures of cities in Iraq, in Morocco and many other countries. It’s surprising how similar they are to our Indian towns. If the language on the storefronts did not give it away, you would never know this was not India you were looking at.

  17. November 14, 2007 1:28 am

    The mushiness of the quaint town, the cellphone toting youngsters (or oldies for that matter, no age biased here), the mobike laden streets aside, Indian small and large towns have a long way to go. There are quite a few in a lot of stats in central and western India that have the ability to grow quickly, but for, probably countless rational and irrational reasons, fail to do so.

    Also the rift between the towns and neighbouring townships is so vast, and further so with rural India that it would be highly presumptuous to not look at the big picture.

    Lastly, I can’t help but agree with Rupesh. The TATA-Birla-Ambani’s have been systematically ruining the nation. There is so much they have done to jeopardise development in relatively rural areas (including towns) that a complete blog (I don’t mean a post) needs to be dedicated to their treasonous acts.

  18. November 14, 2007 1:29 am

    Couple of things I forgot to add. Nice pictures, though it looks like a dusty old town to me!!

    And pardon the exaggerative language, but I stand by what I have said, just with milder language.

  19. November 14, 2007 1:48 am

    Thanks for the photo tour of small town India. In the United States a small town may be a couple thousand people and have no traffic lights.

  20. November 14, 2007 1:52 am

    Is it really progressing? Which way?

  21. marcelinopena permalink
    November 14, 2007 2:18 am

    AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME blog!

    thank you so much for having this up…i just saw it on the homepage of wordpress

  22. November 14, 2007 3:56 am

    Once again your have written an intriguing post and the photos really showcased what you expressed in it.

    I live in a very small place where the population is less than 4,000, where there are no street lights or sidewalks and no “industry” to speak of. Therefore, when I here you call a place like Aurangabad “a small town ” I grin from ear to ear.

    Thanks so much for continuing to develop my knowledge of what your country is like. I really appreciate the education that your posts provide.

  23. mara permalink
    November 14, 2007 9:01 am

    Nita, I am constantly looking for sources to link to so that more women may become aware of their sisters situations in other countries. The information you provide on your blog has been one of the sites that I feel comfortable referring them to. Thank You for continuing to let us see things ‘through your eyes’. We need much more of this perspective. mara

    http://hermyourvillage.proboards107.com/index.cgi

  24. November 14, 2007 1:20 pm

    Ramesh, I agree Jamshedpur is an ideal town, a model for any in India. I have read several articles about this. I am not sure why Jamshedpur still remains very much a Tata haven though. I will have to research this subject before I can answer you. But it is a fact that industries go where the government welcomes them with incentives so one will have to look at what the state government is doing to encourage investment in jamshedpur, the cost of land, availability of power etc.

    Lekhni, I guess generally speaking most of the pics could be remniscent of small towns all over the world.

    DD, true, the industrial barons are constantly wheeling and dealing with the government babus but ofcourse there is never any hard solid proof, but yeah it goes on. These guys influence policy decisions. Finally if an area does not develop I would blame the state govt. more though…

    Brian, a place with that few people in India would be a village and with fewer people than that, a hamlet. A village might have electricty and water (some are better developed than others) but good roads, hospitals etc would be a far cry. No question of traffic lights I guess…!

    Rajiv…the industrialisation of Aurangabad…

    Marcelinopena and Mara – thanks.

    Timethief, I guess there must be no traffic lights because of less traffic…in India a place with such few people will have no traffic lights either but it will be very underdeveloped as compared to a similar sized town in the US. As I mentioned in response to Brian’s comment, people would consider themselves lucky if they have electricity and water. But we have a lot of power cuts in rural areas so people in such small places suffer. There is a tremendous shortage of doctors too!

  25. November 14, 2007 1:23 pm

    @suburbanlife:

    I forgot to address your point on child labour. True, some kids who work do not go to school but some do. But there is pressure on them to work at home too. For example the boy who comes to my house to pick up clothes for ironing (he is 14) goes to school and helps his father in the evenings and full-time during holidays. But ofcourse the very poor drop out much more, not so much because of the lack of schools but because of poverty.
    The problem is that there is a certain section of the population which believes that educating their kids is of no use as they won’t get jobs anyway! Actually they are not far wrong as a lot of the education in India is not vocation oriented and even graduates at times lack the skills to get a job. To add to it, the govt. schools here are pathetic.

  26. keralaviews permalink
    November 14, 2007 2:59 pm

    You seems to be bent on breaking the rule that horizontals should be horizontals. It may occasionally add to the effect, but at other times destroys the balance and harmony of the picture.

  27. November 14, 2007 3:11 pm

    @keralaviews:

    Are you under the impression that I am a professional photographer?🙂 I am flattered ofcourse…but I have no idea what you mean. I have a aim and shoot camera and prefer to simply click on a scene I like. No intention of taking my skills any further at this moment. also on my blog very wide pics cannot be placed due to the design constraints, if that’s what you mean. I have to trim to make it fit. The main idea is: get the message across.

  28. November 15, 2007 3:30 am

    Nita, one question – might be a bit off-topic:
    I have recently read that Aurangabad is being paited pink (for the sake of reducing violence). Most of the privat as well as official building are supposed to have that peaceful color. I saw one picture only.
    It is true? 🙂 thanks

  29. November 15, 2007 7:23 am

    @axinia:

    No, there is nothing like that. It’s just that red/pink is a favourite colour here but there were lots of houses which were green too. And commercial buildings had been painted in dull colours.
    And true, Aurangabad has seen tensions between Hindus and Muslims but it has been a peaceful town for quite some time.

  30. November 16, 2007 1:25 pm

    Nita,

    As much as I hate to admit it, perhaps the big corporations aren’t entirely to blame (though I won’t go around absolving them in a hurry either). But having said that, I vote once in 5 years, but I buy commodities a lot more often, and I feel it as necessary to make a political stand regarding those companies that hinder the “bottom line” of the nation. And there is such a thing known as Corporate Social Responsibility, or so I have read in some books!!

  31. December 12, 2007 3:20 pm

    well future of aurangabad it is very brite.Aurangabad is in world top 30 fastest growing city.lots of industry ,retail&real estate is coming.Upcoming international airport will give boost.around 10-12 mall coming 6-8 multiples.8 sez is coming & 2 IT sez each of area 100 acrso very shapr rise is expected

  32. rahul permalink
    January 24, 2008 9:13 pm

    i hv sme superb snaps of my city aurangabad. i red ur article n people’s comment on my city. wanna put some highlights on the brighter side od it. let people see what exactly aurangabad is. how to post snaps…?

  33. January 24, 2008 10:58 pm

    Alas Rahul it is not possible to post snaps in comments. However if you are keen for some of your snaps to be shown, I can add it to my main post and give you credit for them. If you do choose to send me the snaps (my email id is on the right sidebar) please do not send more than two.
    Thanks.

  34. aadil permalink
    March 29, 2008 9:57 pm

    i m aurangabadi n proud of waht aurangabaed is today n wasw tommorow

  35. April 3, 2008 8:28 pm

    What I meant is that you should not tilt the camera while taking the pics unless you are trying for some special effect. If your pic shows the horizon, for example, it should be parallel to the base of the pic. I am writing this now because I saw your shot of Mahabalipuram temple and then only looked at your comment. The temple appears to be tilted to one side like the tower of Pisa. You can correct that by rotating the frame by a few degrees using a photoediting software and cropping the sides. Such small tricks are worth learning even if you have no intention to be a photographer. It would come handy when you make freelance contributions and if the editor asks for a pic to go with it.

    yes I am familiar how to use the photoshop. I do it when I feel in the mood, not always because I don’t have the time I’m afraid! in fact what you suggested is very very basic and I can do more complicated stuff! I not just crop, I shift, I merge, and I combine colours, pics etc etc!🙂 And I have been doing freelance and sendign pics to go to with it for years…now you can say I am semi-retired and do the blog as a hobby. 🙂 i am not a perfectionist when it comes to the blog, sorry! But thanks for your interest.🙂 – Nita.

  36. zeeshan permalink
    June 2, 2008 8:30 pm

    its gr8 2 cee tht u hve covered d abad.well i proudly says aurangabad is fastest devoloping city in asia.in 1992 population was mearly 6 lakh but it has crossed above 20 lakhs thx to industries .ours airport will soon be getting international status .nascom has put abad in follower city list .but sad to d development would have more gr8 then its now due to lack of political interest .but anyways cm has promised tht abad would in top 10 in 2 years so more crackers to come .finally aurangabad zindabad

  37. ameyawaghmare permalink
    September 9, 2008 1:11 am

    Goood to see Aurangabad here!I’ve stayed here from childhood,and currently blog form this place itself.🙂
    City has some good prospects industrially,but lesser than Nasik and Nagpur any time.And yes,people are conservative,but the liberal effects of Mumbai-Pune are taking place slowly.😀
    English is not used that frequently,but Marathi is.And Hindi which you have encountered is the Hyderabad’s accent of Hindi!
    You may find good roads,a few clean areas,and particularly CIDCO will give you the feel of a metro as all malls/multiplexes and outsider public prefers this.
    Most of we folks flee out for jobs outside,to Pune and Mumbai preferably.
    Truly this blog seems a wide angle view of India!
    -Ameya Waghmare

    Ameya, thanks and welcome to my blog…it is not often that I get visitors from Aurangabad. – nita.

  38. February 17, 2009 12:22 pm

    well topic

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