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.
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.