India elects the first woman President. Pratibha Patil, most recently Governer of of the western desert state of Rajasthan has just been elected The President of the Republic of India. While outgoing President APJ Abdul Kalam retains popularity he was unwilling to continue for a second term, political considerations led to a considerable struggle for who would be India's next President. Primarily a figurehead, the new head of state, Ms Patil does not have her country's unanimous support or approval diluting the landmark achievement for women in India.
The conservative city of Rajkot (Gujarat, India) received something of a shock this week when Pooja Chauhan, 22, stripped to her "inner-wear" and walked through town, brandishing a baseball bat. She was protesting against the mental and physical harassment she's had to endure at the hands of her husband and in-laws for dowry, and for having borne a daughter, and also to denounce the local police's inactivity despite her repeated complaints. Controversy, video, her side, follow-up.
After Kwai Chung Caine and the Phantom - The Sadhu - the story of one man's choice between his spiritual oath and his human instincts. Brought to you by Virgin Comics. PDF of first issue.
Not cringing enough? This gallery of photos of street dentists in India should solve that problem for you.
Ryan Lobo is a photographer and writer who's work shows you an unique glimpse of India and other places.
The Wagah border, that separates the countries of Pakistan and India, is the scene of some very eccentric pomp and ceremony during the lowering of the flags on either side, and the opening and closing of the gates of the opposing forces.
Being a huge fan of the late, great Mr Harrison, I was hunting around youtube and found this video of a sitar lesson... which led me to this stunning performance by Ravi Shankar on Dick Cavett's show. [Previously]
Bombs exploded outside the Mecca Masjid today as people were offering their Friday Prayers. Out of the more than 8,000 worshippers present, a total of 12 have been reported dead, and 50 injured. Also, this comes in the wake of the violence that has been taking place in the State of Punjab.
The Daily Dump [video] is an open source design for a terracotta home composting unit that aims to provide manifold benefits - for potters, for homemakers, and also for civil society, particularly in a country where waste removal isn't as regular or reliable a service. How to's here.
The Idol Thief "Vaman Ghiya operated one of the most extensive and sophisticated clandestine antiquities rings in history, and he had grown rich in the past three decades by smuggling thousands of Indian antiques to auction houses and private collectors in the West."
Unusual ways of getting high: deliberately being bitten on the tongue by a cobra; injecting spider venom.
Proceedings against MF Husain have been stayed in India's Supreme Court. A painting by the celebrated Muslim artist, apparently depicting Mother India as a nude, led Hindus to bring an obscenity case and proceedings to seize his Mumbai property were initiated. However his lawyers moved swiftly to frustrate the action, transferring the property into his son's name and then seeking the High Court ruling. Hindus have taken offense at previous paintings by Husain, depicting Hindu deities in allegedly obscene ways. Others disagree.
Shaadi mubarak! The most beautiful woman in the world was married today. Aishwarya Rai and Abshishek Bachchan, two of India's most popular actors, tied the knot in Mumbai, amid tight security. While a comparatively modest affair, it was not without drama. Oh, you weren't invited? Well, you can still watch the bride and groom dance -- with the father-in-law, too.
Introduced to Western culture by the Beatles in their single Norwegian Wood, the sitar has featured prominently in North Indian classical music for centuries. Princeton-based computer scientist Ajay Kapur updates the instrument with his ESitar, an audio and video controller that uses gesture input (PDF) and machine learning algorithms to facilitate joining the computer with Ajay in his sitar performance. Undergraduate engineering students at the University of Pennsylvania work from the other direction, building RAVI-bot, an award-winning, self-playing robotic sitar (YouTube) programmed to generate music from classical Raga scales and melodies all on its own. For those in the Philadelphia area, be sure to check out a live performance of RAVI-bot at the local Klein Art Gallery.
Three million long-haul truckers traverse India's 8,000-kilometer highway network for months at a time. According to studies, more than two-thirds of those men are having frequent unprotected sex, and it's a big problem. Seena Taan Ke is a campaign that's underway to create AIDS/HIV awareness among the truckers, featuring Bollywood celebrities as well as Hollywood celebrity Richard Gere. It's a good thing for a good cause. Well, up until Richard got a little frisky onstage and planted some kisses on Big Brother winner/Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty. Crowds of Indians are now burning effigies of both Gere and Shetty in protest. "Such a public display is not part of Indian tradition." said the spokesman for Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata. Well, so much for AIDS awareness for truckers.
FabIndia becomes a Harvard Business Case study It's a brand that does not advertise. It, in fact, celebrates the success of its copycats. And now Fabindia, the craft-conscious enterprise, is a Harvard Business School (HBS) case study. "Founded in 1960, Fabindia makes the cut for being an example of a corporation that does not just aim to do well, but does good too. "A strong mission can be both an opportunity and a constraint on the growth of a firm," points out Dr Khaire. However, the private retailer's unique value proposition has not come in the way of it being recognised as big brand today. And this in spite of the fact that Fabindia has never advertised, points out Dr Khaire."
The Problem of the Rupee. Starting off as a silver-based unit of currency by the 15th century ruler, Sher Shah Suri, the Rupee (wiki) has had a long and chequered history encompassing most of Asian and East-African colonial history. Issued by the British, the French, the Dutch, the Japanese, the Portuguese, the Germans and even the Danish, the rupee as a brand-name existed far beyond India, Pakistan, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka Seychelles or the Mauritius. (more inside)
Vande Matram, written by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, and not Rabindranath Tagore (as is sometimes believed), is the National Song of India, and not the National Anthem (which is another misconception).
The Traffic Police of Mumbai (formerly Bombay, India), one of the most densely populated and traffic-ridden cities in the world, are becoming media savvy. They post billboards, answer traffic complaints sent via sms and have even started a scare campaign against drunk driving that places bloody drink coasters in bars. They are definitely taking their jobs seriously. And so far, some Mumbaikars seem pretty happy with their work.
It is spring here in India, and Ugadi (the Spring Festival) is being celebrated with much pomp and ceremony throughout the southern part of the country. In Maharashtra, the same festival is referred to as Gudi Padwa.
Indian police smell pretty. Police in an Indian province are airing a new strategy for crime fighting and community relations: "Police in India’s Western state of Gujarat are to wear new uniforms impregnated with the fragrance of flowers and citrus to help improve their image."
Super Indian: Superhero comics from the culture that invented the genre. Check out Nagraj (and Nagrani?), Tiranga, and Shakti. The somewhat less muscular Chacha Chaudhary. And... whatever is happening here. Meanwhile fun British rich guy Richard Branson brings you Indian-themed comics Ramayan 3392 A.D., Snake Woman (another Naga), Devi and The Sadhu. previously. Dishoom!
When will Indians and Pakistanis release such a video on YouTube?
Fantastic dancing and singing.
It seems apropos today to post about Bollywood and its style of romance and love. Songs are often the equivalent of a bedroom scene, a fact I didn't believe until it was pointed out to me that there were numerous instances of extremely suggestive songs followed by pregnancy. Bollywood also uses songs to arouse patriotic fervour, a trait that master music director A.R. Rahman takes to new heights with his release of the classics Vande Mataram [Motherland, I salute thee] and Jana Gana Mana [India's national anthem]. But even before him, there were classics of public service advertising such as "Mile sur tera hamara..." a fuzzy video but inspiring nonetheless of the myriads of voices and languages spoken in India. Other loves that hindi cinema celebrates through its songs is that of a mother for a child, god, love across cultural boundaries and what is politely termed as "conjugal love".
Kumbh Mela. Currently under way in Allahabad, India, the three-yearly Kumbh Mela festival is the largest gathering of people on the planet, as up to 70 million Hindus converge to wash away their sins where droplets of the nectar of immortality are said to have been spilt when the gods & demons struggled over it. Of perennial interest to foreigners are the hordes of sadhus (often naked, ascetic holy men) who attend, not always without incident. Recently, however, an Australian historian has cast doubt on the supposedly ancient nature of the mass gathering, suggesting that it was largely invented as a way of circumventing British control following the unsuccessful Indian Mutiny of 1857. [reg for final link: mefi / mefi]
Everyone’s got one. From the boys and girls who go to school, to the working women and men of India, who depend on the Dabba Wallahs to bring them their meals. The margin of error for these tiffin carriers has been clocked at an astonishing 99.9999999%, which has earned them the Sigma 6 rating, and has made them popular in other parts of the world.
Bollywood Dreams. Bollywood in a nutshell: Bollywood is the name given to the Bombay (Mumbai)-based Hindi-language film industry in India. Bollywood films are colorful, crammed with singing, dancing, loads of costume changes. In the past there were often absurd and hilarious take-offs on Western films or superstars, such as the Beatles, Michael Jackson , Elvis,70's music and hair styles. Spectacular collection of Bollywood posters and vintage original poster art for sale and t-shirts. Stats and faqs. The history of Bollywood, brief chronology [pdf]. The main actors, images. The main actresses, images. Some of the renowned songs and the singers who sang them. Bollywood song lyrics and audio at the excellent Music India Online. [more inside]
As two more villages are relocated to create reserves for Project Tiger in India, each family will be offered two hectares of land, a house and 100,000 rupees or approximately $2200. But is this a sustainable solution for anti poaching measures? At Ranthambhore tiger reserve in the backward district of Sawai Madhopur, poaching has been controlled but pressure on the park remains as long as the seven relocated villages are unable to find alternate sources of long term income and other resources. When seeking food and shelter, saving the tiger is the last thing on their minds. Witness the slaughtering of the rare gorilla in Congo for food recently until the rebels were convinced to stop. Local needs versus long term ecological preservation will continue to be issues unless alternate viable solutions can be found.
“We work, we do not steal” is what the Rickshaw Wallahs have to say about it, whose means of livelihood the Kolkata assembly plans to ban soon, but hasn’t figured out an alternate source of income for yet. Meanwhile, the good old rickshaw has been finding a new home abroad, albeit one of a more novel nature. (More on the state of Transportaion in India, and a World Bank perspective on the facilities provided by the subcontinent. Plus, some more images of the Rickshaw.)
The UKs Celebrity Big Brother provokes a diplomatic incident after bullying and alleged racism in the Big Brother house. At the center of the furor are Shilpa Shetty, massive bollywood film star, and Jade Goody, a previous Big Brother content famous for being a previous big brother contestant and her odd views on geography. Both Jade and Shetty are now up for eviction, with the formerly popular Jade being widely expected to be evicted. She could face trouble on the outside, where already an anti-bullying charity she represents has dropped her. Meanwhile Shetty has become favorite to win.
The top ten stories you missed in 2006, according to Foreign Policy magazine. Items to concern the reflexive partisan from all parts of the spectrum. Cut 'n paste inside.
While you compose that incisive comment, or scour the blogs for an interesting post, or photoshop your latest masterpiece, or whatever you do on your computer, perhaps you'd like to do it to the mellifluous strains of some enchanting Indian vocal music. Learn more here. Listen to more Indian music of almost every type (including historic film music from decades past) here. [previously]
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.