One-billion slum dwellers. An interview with Jockin Arputham who helped set-up Shack/Slum Dwellers International.
Hansdehar - rural life in India.
India's Outsourcing Problems One of the most controversial aspects of the global economy has been the newfound freedom of companies from physical location and the subsequent spread of outsourcing jobs. No country had embraced tech outsourcing with the passion of India. Of late, problems there are beginning to rise: engineers start a project, get a few months' experience, and then bolt for greener pastures, bringing a level of attrition that replaces entire staffs within the course of a year. Combine that with salaries in Bangalore that are rising at 12% to 14% per year and it is no surprise that companies are leaving India for a slew of emerging hot spots for IT outsourcing such as the old Soviet Bloc, China, and Vietnam. This comes as companies such as Microsoft continue to laud outsourcing and proudly proclaim that it is here to stay, and it looks as if Ho Chi Minh City will be the next Bangalore.
According to this site
- More than 700 Trillion BEEDIES or BIRI are smoked annually
- Indians smoke more than one trillion bidis every year.
- An experienced worker can roll 2,000 a day.
The 100 Most Powerful Women in the world has been an education in showing me the beauty inherent in strength, particularly when a woman has embraced her own sense of power. Look at these red lips, these kohl lined eyes, this frank face full of mischief. These are Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Heads of State, powerful government officials, CEO's and more. Just reading their bios tells you so much about who they are and what they believe in. Would a similar collection of 100 men offer as much to ponder over and respect?
With malice towards all, Khushwant Singh has been one of the most ascerbic tongues in the English language, particularly in his editorship of the venerable yet now deceased Illustrated Weekly of India. Filled with Goan cartoonist Mario Miranda's stunning illustrations, short stories, photojournalism, scholarly articles and humor, I miss the touch of Indian society it kept for desis abroad.
Amar Chitra Katha were the comics of my youth. Illustrated painstakingly with loving details, the immortal epics and stories of India going back over 5000 years were crystallized in these thin graphic novels. I will always remember Mirabai, for the romance between her and the god of love and war, Krishna. And Chanakya, aka Kautilya, author of the Arthashastra but better known to me for his Nitishastra - niti means political ethics. But other nitishastras include the famous Panchantra [pdf], the equivalent of Aesop's Fables for India, a textbook of 'niti' or the wise conduct of life.
It being the 5th of November and that… here's a bit of fireworks nostalgia.
The Festival of Lights, Good vs. Evil Diwali is the Hindu Festival of Lights that falls each year in October or November. This year, Diwali is on the 21st of October 2006. Legends about Diwali are many, from the story of Prince Prahlad, immortal in his faith in the universe to the story of Ram and Sita returning from exile to Ayodhya. My favourite is not a story so much as a snippet of what is actually said to happen tonight, not the mythology behind it. Lakshmi walks tonight, she is the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, and lamps [diya or deep] are lit and placed at hearths and entrances so as to help her find her way. Accompanying her is the elephant headed one, Ganesh, the remover of obstacles and giver of knowledge. Just welcome them into your home.
A case of Horlicks for 1,000 - 2,000 British Pounds (the lot description doesn't contains a mention of any actual Horlicks though). Horlicks has been around since 1883. Their early efforts at promotion included the invention of a condition they called 'Night Starvation'. As well as press, radio (they sponsored Dan Dare) and television advertising they also featured in the cinema at one time. These films, made by George Pál, are quite surreal. Although Horlicks seems to be made from the same ingredients as Maltesers, the company has pushed their product in India as making children "taller, stronger and sharper" - tying it in with the Superman Returns movie. Back home in England, Horlicks is made fun of despite the fact that it is one of the ingredients in a jolly nice self-saucing pudding.
IBM is laying off people in Burlington, Endicott, Rochester and Austin today. The presumptive reason is Indian outsourcing — some employees have posted that they were asked to train their replacements. Why hasn't this made the news?
Next step: English Video helping kids learn roman script
Congratulations! Pepsi-Cola's first woman CEO is anointed on the eve of her country of birth's Independence Day. As the US warns India not to ban Pepsi-Cola implying it may impede future economic progress, and India celebrates Independence from the British under heightened security alerts, one wonders how Indra Nooyi will navigate this press relations nightmare?
I've long felt that the U.S. of A. "jumped the shark" as a country when we rejected the Metric System. The price of gasoline would still be under a dollar (per liter). Yet, we'd drive less because a short 20 mile trip would become a long 32 km trip. Then there's the most important measurement of all [maybe NSFW animated graph], providing us with the joy of 12.9(!) while we try to ignore that Japan is .1 ahead of us and France is .1 more than South Africa. (And is that Korean average North or South?)
The tabla is the most popular and widely used drum of North India. Origins (embedded sound and mp3) of the tabla and tabla bols, the fascinating spoken sounds of the percussive beat. [more]
In news, this week, are reports of high levels of pesticide found in soft drinks brands from manufacturers, Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola prompting the nickname 'pesti-cola' from some journalists. This is not a new story, with cola sales badly impacted by similar findings three years ago. Not satisfied with the research results, company executives requested more studies - now the amounts of pesticide are even Higher. Company officials also claim that India has no food safety regulations - does this mean a reputable global brand can poison their customers? Ask Union Carbide.
Hijra, demi femmes du Pakistan, the Hijras of Pakistan, Eunuchs in Mumbai, and the stories of Neela and Laxmi: Various portraits of the third sex in the third world. (some NSFW) [more]
Blogspot, Geocities, and TypePad blocked in India. Indian ISPs, who had been ordered by the Indian government to block certain blogs, have blocked the entire blogspot.com, geocities.com, and typepad.com (by IP), rendering hundreds of thousands of blogs inaccessible in India. The block was ordered by the government apparently because terrorists were using blogs to co-ordinate their activities. Indian bloggers, upset at the blanket ban, have started a wiki to keep track of the situation. They have also created a mailing list to discuss the issue. Some prominent Indian bloggers are also tracking updates. Indian laws require ISPs to install filtering equipment and follow government orders to block sites, or the can lose their licence to operate. This is not the first time such an incident has occurred. In 2003, the government ordered a block on a Yahoo group that was supposedly anti-national. Indian ISPs ended up blocking Yahoo Groups completely. India's recently introduced Right-to-Information Act, which many bloggers are planning to use, gives the government 30 days to respond to an RTI request. In the interim, despite national and international coverage of the issue from the likes of New York Times (linked earlier), Washington Post, CNN, New Statesman, and WSJ (paid reg. required), these major blogging sites remain blocked.
The Diamond Age has arrived, but no one will admit it. Experts chafe at the mass-production of diamonds. The leading gem analysts refuse to rate them. Duh. "If we could succeed, at a small expenditure of labour, in converting carbon into diamonds, their value might fall below that of bricks." Capital, Karl Marx (previously)
Ladakh (Travelfilter) covers nearly 4,000 square miles and is separated from the Changtang wilderness region of Tibet to the east by a disputed line on the maps of India and China. It is also the land of vanishing dances. Some wish to learn from the Ladakh project. Others just travel and take photographs.
The ultimate in outsourcing. Welcome to India, where you can visit the Taj Mahal and get a new knee, all for under $10,000, airfare included. Of course, it's not just for Canadians whose health care system, while free, sometimes necessitates lengthy waits for important surgical procedures. The uninsured in the US and other nations are a potential market as well. And there's potential for medical tourism destinations in the US as well.
The Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York City, houses paintings by Nicholas Roerich, a Russian artist, who spent most of his life on the Indian-Tibetan border, creating evocative images of night and day in the Himalayan Mountains. (more inside)
Ganjifa cards have a history of more than 300 years. A pack of ganjifa cards consists of ninety-six cards; they are generally circular and made of ivory, tortoise shell, thin wood or hard board material. Dancing, hunting, worshipping, and processions are some of the subjects painted on the cards. Some more patterns: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. However, Ganjifa today is a craft in a crisis.
It's mango season in India! Thanks to a new agreement, Americans will be able to partake in the joy of Indian mangoes, but in the meantime, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a Florida mango. Get creative with recipes, try one with chili powder or salt and pepper (and no, MTV, it's nothing sexual), buy the mango lover in your life a splitter, or make a wish at a mango tree. (Hint: try South Florida.) Just don't eat (or burn) the leaves!
70 private cars, 50 000 kilos of flowers, 3000 candles, 65 000 yards of fabric. Those are just a few of the figures from the wedding of New York playboy and (wait for it) hotel heir Vikram Chatwal to model Priya Sachdev. Last year, Lakshmi Mittal (the world's third-richest man, according to Forbes) spent over $60 million for his daughter Vanisha's wedding. What kind of wedding does $60 million buy? A song-and-dance by Aishwarya Rai, among other Bollywood luminaries; ceremonies at the Tuileries and Versailles; and top chefs and designers at your beck and call. In 2004, the Sahara Group's Subrata Roy built three mock palaces on the edge of a lake in Uttar Pradesh; his sons' double wedding had 11 000 guests. Mr. Roy's company paid for the weddings of 101 couples (numbers ending in '1' are considered auspicious) who couldn't afford to get married, and also fed 140 000 poor people across the country (all as part of the festivities). All of this sound like idle gossip? The wedding business is huge in India; it's a $10bn business (and growing at 25% annually), and the demand for gold wedding jewelry, according to analysts, "helped lift the metal's price to a 25-year high last month." Appliance retailers offer discounts during weddings season; there are personal loans available for weddings; and there's even an entire mall devoted to weddings. As the Christian Science Monitor notes, the minimum a middle-class Indian family will spend on a wedding is $34 000. (The average American wedding? $26 327.) And who makes up the Indian middle class? "Those making $4,545 to $23,000 a year." More on Indian wedding traditions here.
Bush's "pepperoni" defence of outsourcing. "India's middle class is buying air-conditioners, kitchen appliances and washing machines, and a lot of them from American companies like GE and Whirlpool and Westinghouse. And that means their job base is growing here in the United States. Younger Indians are acquiring a taste for pizzas from Domino's, Pizza Hut..."
State of the World 2006, an annual research report prepared by the Worldwatch Institute, has just been released, with a special focus on China and India. Although Limits to Growth type predictions have had their critics, many of the stats and projections presented have a certain brutal inevitability about them.
Earth, Sea, Mountain, Man "Here, we feature heroes of the little, everyday histories, who exceeded the bounds of their petty existence in singular, lonely acts of nobility." reg req, bugmenot.
Aurore, a renewable energy (RE) service provider in South India has been designing and developing RE products like solar lanterns and street lights, arranging for microfinance to support installation in remote villages and winning prestigious awards for their work. Cleaner, safer and cheaper than fossil fuels, their business philosophy is grounded in a greater vision than mere profit.
Gaming Indian Wars. The Left Coaster has a good roundup of the conclusions drawn from the recent war games between the American and Indian air forces. The Indian fighter jocks were more than competitive, even responding to instructions from AWACS planes faster than their American counter parts. Are the Mirage 2000 and the SU-30 better planes than the F-15 or was the real reason that the Americans “lost” the war games because they were handicapped, and is this now being used as an excuse to get more money for the F-22 program?
Plant Cultures - central aim ... is to convey the richness and complexity of links between Britain and South Asia, through the story of plants and people
Bomb blasts in New Delhi. The three explosions seemed to target shoppers preparing for the festival of Diwali (previous post on Diwali here).
ITC Sangeet Research Academy - a guide and resource of Hindustani classical music
RealPlayer and Flash recommended
RealPlayer and Flash recommended
Upar Di Gur Gur Thinking about August Fifteenth, of course, leads us to thinking about the rest of the month. Coincidentally, the one man who arguably gave partition it's most enduring image was also as sure a victim of it as anyone else. And I'm sure he would have a very definate reaction to this. (A more exhaustive and bilingual edition here.)
Freedom at Midnight - At midnight, on the night of August 14th 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru claimed Independence from the British in New Delhi, India. 58 years later today, India along with China is in the mainstream news media as a "super power to be". While there is much discussion on how exactly all of this will play out in the near future, there are also some concerns as to whether this is nothing more than an updated version of the "burgeoning middle class of 140 million people" that sent numerous multinationals to unsuccessfully launch new products in this emerging market. However this tryst with destiny plays out, Happy Birthday India.
Tuesday, July 26th, 2005, was a wet day for the city of Mumbai, India (formerly Bombay), to say the least. Within 12 hours, it rained more than half the average annual rainfall. Upwards of 400 people are believed to have died, with more in adjacent regions. In many regions, the water rose as high as five feet. All transportation links to the rest of India were severed. Within the city, many commuters who left work, for home, on Tuesday evening, didn't reach home till Wednesday night. There have been substantial financial and ecological damages. The state apparatus was caught offguard and proven unprepared; the police were nowhere to be found, and the meteorological department found wanting with their warnings. The rumour-mongering of an incoming tsunami or cyclone also didn't help, as 24 people died in the resulting stampede. Alas, just as one is relieved that the ordeal is over, it appears there's yet more to come.
The Omkara Project "..the word Omkara meaning - ' the vehicle to cross the ocean of life ' Crossing this ocean is the journey that the mortal being must undertake in a lifetime and henceforth encounter the three basic elements of mortality - creation, preservation and destruction."
Nek Chand was working as a roads inspector in northern India in the 1950's. Around 1958, he began collecting materials from demolition sites and using them to create a secret place which would soon grow into a beautiful rock and sculpture garden. But it happened to be on a national land conservency, and in 1975 authorities discovered it and the garden was nearly demolished. However, by this time it had already grown into a twelve acre complex of interlinked courtyards, each filled with hundreds of pottery-covered concrete sculptures of dancers, musicians, and animals. Chand soon gained much public support and in 1976 the garden was sanctioned as a public space. It then continued to grow and today it is over 40 acres.
The atom bomb is 60. It's very popular now and becoming more so daily. The most recent nuclear nation to threaten to use theirs is China. The U.S, Europe, and the U.S.S.R. got through a half century Cold War without immolating themselves. Will South and East Asia be as successful and/or lucky in the near future?
Once again, Ayodhya seems to be the subject of activity. This time, no group has taken responsibility for the attack, and the motivation and religion of the attackers is unclear. What is clear? That L.K. Advani is back in action.
Chutney Music :"For these people, Chutney was more than just music (.asf files), it was their life, it was their culture. For a people twice removed from their native land, Chutney was their connection to the traditions they might have otherwise never known." [via]
The Baburnama Although Andijan has lately been in the news (NY Times, reg. required) as the site of riots against the US-backed government of Uzbekistan, its lasting claim to fame is that of the birthplace of Babur, the first Moghul Emperor. Babur authored the Baburnama, often credited as the first Muslim autobiography and an endlessly entertaining read. The book's bloody-mindedness (Amazon's statistically improbably phrases include girth dagger, Uncle the Khan, and turn over the fortress) is leavened by a remarkably humane voice. A must.
What Was True. From the mid 1950s through the early 1980s, William Gedney (1932-1989) photographed throughout the United States, in India, and in Europe, and filling notebook after notebook with his observations. From the commerce of the street outside his Brooklyn apartment to the daily chores of unemployed coal miners, from the lifestyle of hippies in Haight-Ashbury to the sacred rituals of Hindu worshippers, Gedney was able to record the lives of others with clarity and poignancy. Gedney's America is a nation of averted eyes, and broken automobiles, and restlessness, a place Edward Hopper would recognize, but so, also, Walt Whitman.
Mountain Voices. 'This website presents interviews with over 300 people who live in mountain and highland regions round the world. Their testimonies offer a personal perspective on change and development.'