There are some great touches here, including the (predictable) Indian bureaucrat bemoaning the hurdles to progress posed by "Democracy," the Korean engineer who's taught his Indian cook to make Kimchee, as well as the women hired by the highway project, who carry wet cement on their heads from the mixer to the road. All in all Waldman makes a compelling case that the project is "going to change the face of India," while also acknowledging that it produces as many problems as it solves. (Though in the end, there can be no question that the highway is needed)
In terms of the writing, my favorite bit comes near the end:
The face of West Bengal, home to 28 years of Communist rule and acres of green rice paddies, was already changing. Three satellite townships were being built near the town of Bardwan, which would be only an hour from Calcutta when the new highway was complete. Residents would commute, as they did from suburbs across America.
If the highway was enabling the middle class to migrate out of cities, it was also encouraging the poor to migrate in. Beneath a crosshatch of elevated highways on the edge of Calcutta, thousands of rural Indians had burrowed in, constructing homes, creating businesses. Dung patties dried on the highway's underpinnings. Yellow taxis sat in rows. A whole civilization within, or beneath, a civilization, had hatched.
Dal bubbled over a wood fire in the single room, constructed from wood and jute bags, that eight men shared. Bal Dev Rai, a 40-year-old from the state of Jharkhand, had called the room home for five years. He drove a bicycle handcart, sending money to his wife and daughters, returning to his village at harvest time. For him and his fellow bottom-dwellers, the improved highway meant a nicer roof over their heads.
Read the whole article (and look at the multimedia feature), here.
Update: Part 2 of the series -- on the booming Indian auto industry -- is here. Interesting tidbit: 800,000 personal automobiles were sold in India in 2004, with the number for 2005 expected to cross 1 million. At that rate of growth, and given that Waldman states that there are 23 million autos on the roads currently in India, the number of cars jamming Indian highways and city streets will double in the next 10 years!
Update 2: Part 3 of the series here; Part 4 of the series here.