April 2013 Archives

This is absolutely depressing book I must say.

After reading the book, I just keep thinking about that there is no hope in Annawadi.

The book is not just about the poverty that Annawadians facing into. In my opinion, this book should be understood as the report of the corruption in India.

 

The author tells many different things in the book through Annawadians; religions, sex, corruption, poverty. What grabbed my attention most was the corruption because all other things are occurred by corruption.

 

For example, Asha went out to have a sex with a policeman on her 40th birthday. Even though her daughter, Manju, cried and asked her not to go, Asha went to meet the policeman. Asha needed policeman to help her out to cover all the schemes she is related to, and educate her only daughter.

Asha should not have inappropriate relationship with a policeman, yet it might be only way she can get what she needs for better life than anyone else in Annawadi.

 

Abdul's case demonstrates the corruption in India even cruelly.

Abdul was accused of Fatima's death and the trial was rather joke. Judges couldn't understand what people were saying, family of accuser couldn't even hear because they were sitting in the back next to the open window; traffic was too loud. It sounds just too horrible to believe that the justice system was performed so poorly. I just wanted to believe that this is a fiction. It is too hart to believe this kind of trials is really happening in the world.

Abdul didn't even do anything wrong, but he didn't get a chance to fully explain himself. If he had money, power, it would have been a different story.

In the corrupted society, you may get out of troubles if you have money.

The reason Abdul was accused of can't be justified. Fatima didn't like Abdul's family; they has consistent arguments and she was jealous because Abdul's garbage business was somewhat successful. Working harder to get out of Annawadi makes neighbors jealous.

The following quote from the book explained very well the situation most Annawadians face. They are not only fight against corruptions; people have power, but also themselves.

 

"Instead, powerless individuals blamed other powerless individuals for what they lacked. Sometimes they tried to destroy one another...Poor people didn't unite; they competed ferociously amongst themselves for gains as slender as they were provisional."(237)

 

I had an impression that Annawadi is excluded from the rest of the city of Mumbai. There is a justice system, but it doesn't reach out to the Annawadians. There is education opportunity, but it also doesn't apply to the Annawadians; every kid in the village goes to the garbage mountain instead of school.  There are people out there, but no one is willing to  help out Annawadians.  One of the injured scavengers died on the street. The man was hit by car, suffered from the injured leg, and looking for help. However, he was ignored and died. There was more incidents that dead bodies were found, but there was no investigations followed by. Although they know the name of dead body, it is marked 'unknown' and cause of death recorded as 'illness'.

 

Annawadians are completed ignored by rest of the city; even their deaths are not taken seriously. My mind is very heavy because I don't know what they can do to live better lives. It seems like that if you want to get into the middle class, you should navigate system of corruption very well.     

After finishing India Becoming, I found that the second half of the book is melancholy in comparison with the energetic, optimistic first half. While there are small mentions of the violence, pollution, and social upheaval that have come with India's modernization, these effects are on full display in the second half of the book. The nation's economic success was but a silver lining to the serious problems and shattered livelihoods depicted in the second half of the novel.


The damage inflicted upon the environment and the characters in the book are demonstrated to have a long reach. An example at one point details an art auction that was occurring in a city, while only a few pages later the author details piles of garbage as high as houses through which locals picked for food and scrap-within the same city. An unnerving part of this, and many other situations in the book, are that they are similar to many of the paradoxes seen in the US. A cow salesman watching his chosen livelihood be destroyed by global economic shifts can be compared to factory workers in many manufacturing industries in Michigan after 2008. A once confident worker in India's burgeoning IT industry suddenly finding himself out of work and being chased by debt collectors is a story that has been told in the US thousands of times in the past five years, all to familiar to those who hear it. It appears that India has inherited many of the problems the US has on its way to becoming an economic superpower.


But there are some problems that are unique to the country, that touch everyone there, rich or poor. One of the more ironic points of the story is one the author and his friend from the countryside visit a trash dump in the countryside, where thousands of pounds of garbage are burned daily. The scene Akash depicts seems almost apocalyptic.


"The landfill was bordered by denuded cotton trees and headless palmyras. They looked sickly...hanging over it all was a gray pall, a dense accumulation of smoke that lifted with every gust of wind...As Sathy and I stood on that terrace, we heard a series of pops; the methane gas emitted by tons of organic waste in the landfill was exploding. Each pop was followed by a burst of crimson and yellow flames." - Page 246


The environmental consequences of India's rapid consumption of goods were obvious, and affected everyone. Poisonous smoke from these landfills rolled through town and country, killing those who lived off the landfills, and making the author's children vomit. Waste from the cities lined the coastal regions, and destroyed beaches. Erosion from climate change and pollution had wiped out entire villages by the sea, literally swallowing homes into the water, and killing the fish that locals relied on for their food and commerce. Akash was in despair over these issues for some time, fearing that India was destroying itself from within, by striving for more and more things, which wasn't necessarily the best future for the nation. But after following his friends experiences through to the end of his book, he comes to a conclusion that the nation is much more complicated than can be depicted through clashing issues like economic well being versus the health of the nation.


The message Akash conveys to me at the end of his story is that India is very complex. What is good for one is extremely harmful to another. What I took from this book is that India is a nation on a journey, with an identity that is not easily classified, easily pigeonholed into a category by the rest of the world. The way the author depicts the struggles and successes of each of his friends in their efforts to adapt to, and thrive in, the new environment India offers, conveys that this is an odyssey not of the nation, but of the farmer, of the engineer, of the businesswoman, of the doctor. Akash describes this in his closing to the book:


"Many of those people wouldn't survive the turmoil. Their lives, and their way of life, would be shattered. So much was being broken in the new India. But I knew, also, that in those office buildings, in front of those computers and behind those glass panes, something remarkable- something inchoate, something full of promise yet still, in many ways, frighteningly undefined- was being built. A world was dying...and a new world was rising to take its place." -Page 309

Wrapping Up India Becoming

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"India didn't lend itself to easy judgments.  The central fact (perhaps the only incontrovertible fact) of modern India was change.  The nation was on a journey.  It was still sorting through the contradictions of a rapid, and inevitably messy, transformation. Who could say where the journey was leading?"

After having finished Akash Kapur's India Becoming, I feel that the book provides good insights to some of the problems and opportunities in the recent history of India; however, after following the stories of Kapur's friends - their struggles, successes and where they ended up -- the book comes down to the conclusion that no single conclusion about modern India can be made.  While some may say that in this sense the book might not be meaningful or revealing, I think Kapur ends the book as honestly as one possibly can. As humans, we have a tendency to favor compartmentalization; people depend on black-and-white categories that help us to make sense of things and give us a basis upon which to act.  In my own personal belief, I think that, for the most part, these categories oversimplify reality and prevent us from seeing things how they really are.  Kapur gives the reader none of that; instead, he shows his readers what India has meant and how its meaning continually changes through the people we get to know in the text. 

It may be worth mentioning that I was a bit annoyed by the optimism he spoke about in the end of the book.  This isn't to say I don't believe in optimism (au contraire!), but considering how dark the majority of the second half of the book was -- extreme poverty, devastating pollution, mob violence, death, etc. -- it seemed a bit strange to flip the bright optimism light-switch on us.  This is a bit ironic, as it appears throughout the book that he can be critical of the optimism, sometimes presented as naivety, that his friends live by. By returning to a passive state of optimism, Kapur finishes the book as if it were just a story instead of a complex reality.

He says,"I realized that evening that there was only one thing, really, of which I could be certain: I was lucky to be a part of the change, to be witnessing and living it every day...I was a privileged spectator, with a ringside seat at one of the greatest shows in history.  The show was still unfolding.  I resolved just to sit back, stop trying to figure out what I thought of it -- and enjoy it."

On a completely different note, there is one other quote that I feel was very relevant and telling of one of the attitudes of some Indian people in light of the change the country has experienced since the 90s.  

"And so, over the past decade or two, the narrative has changed: now people write stories about Indian upliftment, about a nation on the move, emerging from the shadows of poverty into the glitter of twenty-first-century prosperity.  This more cheerful India is real.  But...its reality didn't in any way negate the existence of another, far less cheerful, India.  I could understand why people were tired of hearing about misery...Still, I couldn't help feeling that we were replacing the old cliché with a new one -- that the new, happy narrative was just as simplistic as the old, depressing one.  

In that simplification lay the blindness of the nation.  I felt a kind of turning away, a refusal (or inability) to stare in the face of all that remained undone.  And I couldn't help feeling, too, that the blindness was a form of complicity -- that it was a way of consigning the poor to an immutable state of poverty, and that it was, ultimately, part of the oppression and injustice of modern India."

After reflecting on Kapur's revelations scattered throughout India Becoming, I can't help but feel in awe of how large some of the problems are in India, and how insignificant one person might seem as compared to the 1-billion-plus population in the country.  However, Kapur captures the importance of attitudes and how social action (or lack thereof) contributes to the state of any country.  He also exposes a human element in it all.  How nice it is to be naive and to focus on the good things, especially in a time when people are finally catching a big wave or getting a break in life.  Where do our social responsibilities for the lives of others lie?  When is it okay to be selfish? 

Overall, I would highly recommend reading India Becoming, because it gives a genuine feeling of what change in India has felt like in recent years.  It is both informative, but also 'sticky.'  The stories that Kapur chooses to tell speak for themselves, letting India speak for itself and exist without the bounds of categorization.  It's not a book that can easily be summarized, but it illuminates important ideas and thoughts about India as well as about capitalism, materialism, how success is defined in India and in the U.S.




Review of India Becoming - Part 2

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Although the first part of Akash Kapur's book India Becoming did include stories of both the positive and negative aspects of rapid change in India, the second part of the book plays heavily to the negative aspects even more. The author notes that it was, "a cliché to point out the contrasts and inequalities within the nation...now people write stories about Indian upliftment, about a nation on the move, emerging from the shadows of poverty into the glitter of twenty-first-century prosperity," (Kapur, 208). I believe that Kapur's India Becoming is so highly regarded by critics and readers because it doesn't fit into either one of the above boxes. Kapur tells stories of men like Das who have obtained financial security and risen out of former social castes, but doesn't neglect stories of pollution in the slums and violent goondagiris or mobs. I believe that India Becoming provides readers with a balanced look at how change and modernization have impacted the country and its people.
 

I believe that one of the biggest strengths of this book is that Kapur uses an assortment of characters from all walks of life to give readers a balanced view of the modernization of India. Kapur follows these characters over time, showing readers that every character at some point experiences both the good and bad of modernization. Taken together these contrasting individual stories provide insight into the big picture of modernization. Furthermore, stories can convey points stronger than facts or statistics. These characters help readers to feel an emotional connection to the changes that are happening in India.

On the other hand, I believe that one of the book's biggest weaknesses is that with so many different characters introduced, its difficult to follow individual stories. I often had trouble remembering which incidents happened to which characters, keeping me from seeing how each individual had personally changed or transformed over time. Also, I am curious if these dozen or so characters accurately provide a fair depiction of the opinions of the entire Indian population. Kapur often was introduced to characters through mutual acquaintances and the types of people willing to be interviewed and followed around for a book about change may have very different opinions or life stories.

Through this book I have gained new insights into the changes happening in India. I never realized that the garbage slums of India would be anywhere near mansions or middle-class homes. I was shocked that the author, who has written for highly regarded journals and newspapers, lived somewhere where the garbage fumes were so bad that his children got sick. As I mentioned in my last blog post about India Becoming, I found the "Americanization" of India a very interesting and troubling topic. Unemployed, avoiding debt collectors, Hari's story was so similar to other Americans that I forgot for a moment that it was taking place in India.

I would highly recommend India Becoming to anyone who believes there are two sides to every story and is interested in learning more about the many different effects of modernization in India. One of the most compelling quotes in the book is, "The central fact (perhaps the only incontrovertible fact) of modern India was change. It was still sorting through the contradictions of a rapid, and inevitably messy, transformation. Who could say where the journey was leading?" (Kapur, 307). No one judgment can be made about the modernization of India, only that the country is changing. I am excited that in three weeks I'll be able to witness some of these changes for myself and gain even more perspectives on the modernization of India.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

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     After reading the second half Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, I realized it was very similar to the first half. The book is incredibly powerful and emotional. One of the strong emotions that it presents is that of despair in so much of India. It is actually depressing in some way to read and there were several times when I wanted to just put the book down and not even finish it. But I think from that deep emotion change can develop and begin. I think Boo is working to get us to realize some of the issues with developing India throughout the book and is asking us to not only acknowledge that, but also to proactively do something to change that. I read quotes like:
 "I tell Allah I love him, immensely, immensely, but I tell him I cannot be better, because of how the world is."
and 
"It seemed to him that in Annawadi, fortunes derived not just from what people did, or how well they did it, but from the accidents and catastrophes they dodged. A decent life was the train that hadn't hit you, the slumlord you hadn't offended, the malaria you hadn't caught."

     It seems crazy to me that this is what people are living in in some parts of the world specifically India. I am not sure what I can practically do to make a difference but I want to. I just don't want to live the normal American life and at the end of it look back and be able to see that I lived the same way everyone else did. I want to make a difference and Boo inspires me and other readers to make a difference in a country like India. 
     One of the essential parts of the second half of the book is the continued view of corruption in the government. Reading about it, it is almost hard to believe that stuff like what Boo is writing about actually happens. The government in India can really be wrapped up in a single quote. 
"The Indian criminal justice system was a market like garbage, Abdul now understood. Innocence and guilt could be bought and sold like a kilo of polyurethane bags."
     Essentially I felt the first half of the book was written in a way to almost shock us, and the second half was written to convince us that everything that had shocked us was a reality to some person. After reading Behind the Beautiful Forever I know that my opinion on development in India, and India slums will be forever changed. I have had a paradigm shift and I hope that because of that I will have the opportunity to actually make a difference. 

Entry #6 Response to "Riot" by Shashi Tharoor

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Blog Entry #6

Nolan Hazard

 

"Riot" by Shashi Tharoor

 

            This book explores and reveals Indian society in a way that is completely unique.  It chronicles the mystery of Priscilla Hart's death through the accounts of a dozen or more characters, each of whom often recall contradictory accounts of the events leading up to and during the riot in which Priscilla Hart was killed.  Using newspaper clippings, personal journals, diary entries, personal letters, and clips of interviews, the author, Shashi Tharoor presents his characters with sensitivity and understanding, deftly bringing out the complications of a multicultural society.  Although this distinctive writing style was difficult for me to get used to at first because I found it tricky to keep the separate stories from intermixing, it added a lot of depth to my aggregate understanding of the story, and by the end of the book was one of my favorite aspects of the novel as a whole.

 

            Shashi Tharoor was born and spent his early childhood away from India in London, but then moved back to India as a youth.  I think the fact that he spent a part of his childhood in a European country and has experienced Western culture adds to his insight and passion for India's contrasting pluralistic society.  Tharoor is able to explore and reveal the ways in which love, hate, cultural collision, the ownership of history, religious fanaticism, and the impossibility of understanding the truth are intertwined throughout Indian culture in order to make it one of the most uniquely interesting countries in the world.  I found a quote from Tharoor on Wikipedia when I was researching his political career, which was mentioned on the back of the book, out of curiosity where he stated, ""The only possible idea of India is that it is a nation greater than the sum of its parts." I think this quote perfectly sums up India.  Its diversity is what sets it apart from other countries and gives it strength.

 

I would recommend this book for anyone, but especially people from Western cultures that are travelling to India or want insight into Indian Culture.   It is definitely not a light read, but you will be rewarded for sticking it out. 


the author


Riot: A Love Story-Jon's Book Review Part 2

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A jaw-dropping ending is all I can say! At the beginning, I never would have guessed the degree to which I was emotionally invested into this novel. It is so hard for me to comprehend that all of the tragedy in this book resulted from simple differences in religion. I can't quite wrap my mind around how two cultures can't seemingly coexist. For me this would be like the Catholics coming to attack the Lutheran sanctuary. I understand that much of this strife did occur in the United States several decades ago in the form of racial tension. But it is difficult to try imagine what that experience would be like.

I would like to assume that these tensions have lifted in India, but I know that that is not the case. It is unlikely that we will experience a riot as described by Tharoor, but it does make me appreciate the diversity that is present in India and how we have to be cognizant of it. I am surprised at how backward the marriage practices are compared to westerners. In America, we marry for love and to have a fulfilled life with the one we care most about with. In India, you marry for your family--to bring honor and recognition to your family. Personal desires are not a noble reason for marriage, and especially divorce. This was very apparent in this book. Lakshman tells about his conflict as he says, "I've contemplated turning my life upside down. I've agonized over the pain and disruption this would cause, to my family, my daughter, my work, my place in the world"(Tharoor, 217).

Riot: A Love Story, is a book that I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in the cultural dynamics of India. It offers many perspectives in the fictional lives of Indians with different roles and backgrounds. One of the main characters, Priscilla Hart, offers a great medium for a western perspective to experience the differences of India. She appreciates the culture that India has to offer, but at the same time challenges many of its norms. At the same time we get radically different views from Indians such as Lakshman and Gurinder. One is satisfied with living the Indian life while the other is not. The style the book is written in really helps embody the omniscient perspective. 

Behind the Beautiful Forevers Part 2

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  • "Water and ice were made of the same thing...But here was the interesting thing. Ice was distinct from - and in his view, better than - what it was made of...In Mumbai's dirty water, [Abdul] wanted to be ice. He wanted to have ideals...one of the ideals he most wanted to have was a belief in the possibility of justice" (218).

This quote, taken from the section when the protagonist is at one of his lowest points, gives a strong metaphor of integrity and justice in people interacting with and living in the slums. The book introduces several corrupt characters who never face the consequences of their actions. These people are casually introduced and affect the chain of events that make the lives of slum dwellers even more abject.

These three quotes do an excellent job of exemplifying this "casual corruption":

  • "When a new school opened in the pink temple by the sewage lake, many of [the children] gravitated to it, but it closed as soon as the leader of the nonprofit had taken enough photos of children studying to secure the government funds" (147).
  • "In the public record, Sanjay Shetty would be neither a vulnerable witness to a murder nor the victim of police threats and beatings. He would be a heroin addict who had decided to kill himself because he couldn't afford his next fix" (172).
  • "Of course it's corrupt...But is it my corruption? How can anyone say I am doing the wrong when the big people did all the papers - when the big people say it's right?" (228)

In a country with so many people and so much change in a short period of time, accountability is lost. It is easier for money to be slipped under the table and for paperwork of wrongdoings to be "accidentally" misplaced. However, these are not negligible crimes, because it is those like Abdul's family who, after running out of money to pay officers, suffer and never receive fairness.

 

For me, though, that is not even the saddest part of the book. In the second part of the book, three fairly prominent characters die, two by suicide. Kalu, Sanjay and Meena's deaths occur unceremoniously. One day they are trying to make a living, and next, they are not. The dejection of slum life is profound and unfair. All around the slum, India is developing and thriving. Just not for them.

  • "He saw nothing but his own bottomless grief, because he knew miracles were possible in the new India and that he couldn't have one" (153).

It is disheartening. My siblings, around the ages of several of the children in this book, dream about being actors and doctors and scientists when they grow up. Children in the growing middle class of India now have the capability to strive for similar goals. But even the high expectations of the characters in this book are mediocre and pitiful by comparison:

  • "Once, he had believed he was smart and might become something - not a big something, like the people who frequented the airport, but a middle something" (197).

 

Part of the problem was the effect of the 2008 global recession. I thought it was interesting how the effects manifested in the slums because my first thought was that a global recession would not have much of an impact on an Indian slum. However, characters feel the burden through declining prices on the recycled goods they collect for a living. Also, temp work in construction became even less reliable as a lack of foreign financing stalled building projects.  It is strange to think that my neighbor's job loss can be attributed to the same cause as Abdul's family's struggle with buying rice.

I definitely recommend this book. As Publisher's Weekly said in their review, "Boo's rigorous inquiry and transcendent prose leave an indelible impression of human beings behind the shibboleths of the New India." Developing such intimate relationships with these characters has awarded me an uncomfortably eye-opening perspective on the poverty in India. I feel motivated to do something about it, but I don't know what to do or say. I think this feeling can be summarized in this final quote:

  • "Sunil and Abdul sat together more often than before, but when they spoke, it was with the curious formality of people who shared the understanding that much of what was said did not matter, and that much of what mattered could not be said." (172)

The Bodyguard-Jon's Bollywood Film Review

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(I originally forgot to post this under the correct heading but here it is--I did post the other last night before it was due)


The Indian film that I watched was The Bodyguard. It was a 2011 Bollywood-style Hindi action film. When previously talking about Bollywood films in class, I never understood what Bollywood actually was. I am in complete understanding after viewing this film. Though I was completely lost in the actual--plot as the dialogue was in Hindi--the Bollywood style completely captured my attention. I now understand that Bollywood is synonymous with exotic song and dance incorporated into the plot.

            I was surprised at how unique the style actually is. I was trying to compare it to genres that I was familiar with but the closest similarity I came up with is a James Bond-Blades of Glory-Broadway musical. The humor I thought was very slapstick and blunt. The film was also overwhelmed with awkward camera shots and seemingly inappropriate use still frames and slow motion effects. But overall, I actually really enjoyed it.

            All of the songs were very catchy and the dancing and costumes were over the top! I am a huge fan of theater, and much of the film reminded me of old-school full chorus dance numbers set to a trance beat.

            Frankly though, I was a little surprised to see such an exotic showcase from an Indian film. From my understanding, India, as a whole, is more conservative than the United States. But The Bodyguard was actually quite risqué. This just seems to be a bit of a paradox in my mind.

            It would be quite interesting to experience a movie such as this during our travels in India. It could provide some fascinating incite in regards to the audiences reactions and how they connect with films. I had a hard time stifling my giggles through the whole film, but it proved to be popular in India by being one of the highest gross films.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gst2UTzz0pk

Film Response to Slum Dog Millionaire

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Nolan Hazard

 

            I decided to re-watch Slum Dog Millionaire for my film response because this movie provides an excellent example of the daily lives of the poor who live in the slums of India as well as the middle and upper classes of the people of India and how they come together to form Indian Culture in its entirety.  The film is the story of a young Mumbai orphan named Jamal who rises from rags to riches largely because of his lively intelligence and what he believes is destiny.  This movie follows Jamal's life as he grows up in the slums of Mumbai and eventually ends up on India's version of the hit show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

 

            The movie begins with Jamal about to answer the last question of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and the chance to win 20 million rupees.  However before he is asked the question he is detained by the Police and accused of cheating because the authorities claim that he is just a Slum Dog and there is no way he could possibly know all of the answers to the questions.  Through the movie, Jamal then recounts, through flashbacks, the incidents in his life that provide him with the answer to each question. 

           

            This movie contains heartrending images of people living in the streets. There are images of a woman crawling from a cardboard box, men bathing at a fire hydrant, and men relieving themselves by the roadside.  On the other hand this film depicts the world's largest middle class, in addition to its upper class.  There are millionaires, luxury cars, and luxury condos.  This film is able to bridge these two different Indias by cutting between a world of poverty and the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

 

The film uses dazzling cinematography, breathless editing, an award-winning soundtrack, and headlong momentum to explode with narrative force. There is very little that I would change about this movie, and most people and critics agree with me, as this movie was nominated for 10 Academy Awards in 2009, winning 8 of them.  I gained tremendous insight about Indian Culture from this movie because it shows how one person can transcend all social boundaries and rise from the slums of Mumbai up to the upper class of India. 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-UXbyj2cbY

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slumdog_Millionaire

 

 

English Vinglish

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For this blog post, I watched a Bollywood movie titled English Vinglish.

I think the first thing to note is the title of the movie, which is a play on the Indian phenomenon of rhyming words for emphasis. I have come across many Indians who rhyme words using the "V-" or "Sh-" prefix. For example, the word "apple" might be emphasized by saying "apple vapple" or "apple shapple." In American culture, we do a similar rhyming scheme, but it is used more for sarcasm or even resent, rather than general emphasis. In English, we use the prefix "Schm-" (i.e. "apple schmapple").

Anyway, back to the film itself. I thought the movie was cute and a good way to kill three hours if you're home sick like I was this weekend. The movie was about a married Indian woman, mother of 2, having to travel to America alone for a family wedding. The catch is that she knew no English. The movie depicts her struggles with not only the language barrier, but also her independence in general.

I liked that the movie was not the typical Bollywood forbidden love story, because I only have so much patience with those. This movie was also unique in that song breaks were limited to more of a movie soundtrack type deal, much more similar to an American film. Most Indian movies that I have seen break into song and choreographed dance at least 5 times throughout the movie, similar to a musical theatrical production.

I felt that the acting was done pretty well, and for what was meant to be a light-hearted film that teaches a lesson, it definitely served its purpose. I also liked that the movie was a mix between English and Hindi, and I didn't have to use subtitles! As far as recommending it, I would only do so if you have 3 hours to spare. This isn't a film that I would tell you to drop everything you're doing to go see. That being said, I'm not easily impressed by Indian movies, and this one held my attention until the end.

I'm curious to read the rest of the blog posts on this topic to see what you all watched and how you reacted!

Less than a month till we leave for India! :D


India - Closed for business

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The article I read talks about how equity capital is fleeing away from India and going elsewhere. Investors are selling out of Indian stock and putting it into what they see as "safer" investments. The author seems to think there are signs that India is closed for business. The reasons given: "protectionism, bureaucracy, shambolic infrastructure and corruption" (1). It also touched a bit on corruption, which reminded me of Leif's speech in class, so I found that part interesting.

            Red tape and lack of conformity in business regulation in India makes it difficult for new businesses to enter. This is unfortunate because it blocks growth that India could be experiencing. There is opportunity in India, especially with such a huge population, that they should make it easier for new businesses to enter, not more difficult.

            Once businesses jump through the obstacles and start operating in India, the problems don't stop. It is very expensive to conduct business in India. Incredibly, one of the biggest costs for new businesses is bribery. It's just how things work there. Being from America we're not used to that at all, but it is something that is overwhelmingly common in India and it is hard to get business done without it.

            One of the questions I had in reading this article, however, is about outsourcing. I have heard quite a bit about how Americans are losing jobs to companies outsourcing to India, especially call centers and similar work. I suspect it must depend on the business the degree of red tape that is involved.

            All hope isn't lost because businesses still see the potential in India. India does, however, need to change the way it conducts business if it wants to promote foreign investment. Hopefully they will figure it out and it won't be so much of an issue in the future.

The Bodyguard-Jon's Bollywood Film Review

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The Indian film that I watched was The Bodyguard. It was a 2011 Bollywood-style Hindi action film. When previously talking about Bollywood films in class, I never understood what Bollywood actually was. I am in complete understanding after viewing this film. Though I was completely lost in the actual--plot as the dialogue was in Hindi--the Bollywood style completely captured my attention. I now understand that Bollywood is synonymous with exotic song and dance incorporated into the plot.

            I was surprised at how unique the style actually is. I was trying to compare it to genres that I was familiar with but the closest similarity I came up with is a James Bond-Blades of Glory-Broadway musical. The humor I thought was very slapstick and blunt. The film was also overwhelmed with awkward camera shots and seemingly inappropriate use still frames and slow motion effects. But overall, I actually really enjoyed it.

            All of the songs were very catchy and the dancing and costumes were over the top! I am a huge fan of theater, and much of the film reminded me of old-school full chorus dance numbers set to a trance beat.

            Frankly though, I was a little surprised to see such an exotic showcase from an Indian film. From my understanding, India, as a whole, is more conservative than the United States. But The Bodyguard was actually quite risqué. This just seems to be a bit of a paradox in my mind.

            It would be quite interesting to experience a movie such as this during our travels in India. It could provide some fascinating incite in regards to the audiences reactions and how they connect with films. I had a hard time stifling my giggles through the whole film, but it proved to be popular in India by being one of the highest gross films.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gst2UTzz0pk

 

Comparing Business Articles Related to India

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Unfortunately, I was unable to watch a movie made in India.  That was my plan from the beginning, but I ran out of time and had to resort to writing about a few of the articles that were listed in the "additional readings" section.  Boy, am I glad I read the articles.  They were all unique and informative in their own ways.  I focused on three different articles; A Letter to Indian Grads, Facebook India, and Google Goes to India.  I wanted to compare and contrast the Facebook and Google article, seeing as they both relate to specific websites (or so I thought before I read them) and I wanted to read the letter to Indian grads because the title intrigued me and I wanted to learn more about this "letter."

I first read the letter to Indian grads.  The letter is so direct and gets to the point right away.  It almost has a negative feel to the entire letter.  I think of Tyler Durden in "Fight Club" when he says, "You are not special."  The letter basically says, "there are a bunch of things that you are going to do wrong as an Indian graduate entering the job market, but here are some tips to fix those problems early."
Most of these tips can be translated into Western Culture and business alike.  These tips include; speaking and writing fluent English, practice problem solving and thinking critically, ask a lot of questions, and take responsibility for your career while learning new traits.  All of these aspects can be utilized in American business, as well as Indian Business.  The most interesting piece of information was how passive newly graduated hires are in India.  Here in America, I always see young employees working hard and asking what to do right if something goes wrong.  I can see this as a reflection of Indian culture.  There is a hierarchy in the culture which I am sure translates to the business world.  It might be awkward or uncanny to ask questions to higher up people in the real world of India.  This article suggests that newly hired Indians ask questions and be more aggressive  while maintaining respect with the higher up people in corporate.  It seems like a very fine line that one must walk while entering the business world in India.

The second article I read was "Facebook in India."  When I was doing research on the infrastructure of India, I came across an article that said only 121 million people are connected to the web in India (as of late 2012).  Contrary to this article, my findings suggest that 59% of these 121 million people were connected through mobile devices like cell phones and tablets on mobile networks.  This article suggests that most users are connected via desktops.  I'm not sure which study is correct, but suggesting 59% mobile usage via cellphones makes more sense if you think about it.  This explains why Facebook has grown from 8 million to 65 million users in India in such a short time span.  Mobile networks aren't meant for large data usage like gaming or video streaming.  However, mobile networks are perfect for social media like Facebook.  As India's infrastructure grows and more people are able to connect to the internet, businesses should target Facebook and other social media websites as good sources of "big data."  This data can be used to find target markets of specific products in India.

The final article I read was "Google Goes to India."  I only want to touch on one specific part of the article that sparked my interest the most.  At the end of the article, it talks about how Silicon Valley is being transplanted to India (specifically Bangalore).  The article suggests that potential employees are asking the employers what the company can do for them, rather than the other way around.  This contradicts the first article I read (the open letter to Indian graduates.)  This article suggests that newly graduated students are asking too much, and the other article suggested that students aren't asking enough questions, or being assertive enough.  So which one is it?  Are people being too assertive, or too passive when coming directly out of college?  Just like any other news article, these can have their own spin on them, depending on the message that the author is trying to convey. I hope I can see corporate and business culture in India.  It would be a great lesson learned.


Facebook India

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     I chose to write my post on the article on Facebook in India. After I did the speech on Social Media in India I have become increasingly interested in the way Facebook is viewed in India. 
     Since Facebook placed its first employee in India in 2010 it has grown more than 800% with over half of India's internet population using it on a regular basis. This number is growing on a daily basis. There are certainly issues the company faces. India does not have the same freedom of press that we have in the United states, and it requires Facebook and other social media companies to take down with in 36 hours anything that is ethnically questionable, menacing in nature, etc. This is not only a difficult task, but also is frustrating to users as nobody who posts something wants it to be deleted. 
     I think that Facebook has the potential to really succeed in India. In fact I think that in order for Facebook to succeed I think it has to be successful in India and other similar culture. They will have to work through problems like the one above and deal with consumers with much less income, but being able to do this will enable them to develop a firm foundation in a country with 1.2 billion people. They will need to work with other companies and gain the trust of consumers, but I think after reading this article that they are up to the challenge. 

Defining India

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"What kind of country does India want to be? Does India want to continue down the path of rapid growth without regard for the social, cultural and environmental consequences? Or can India combine growth with justice?"

                                                  -Akash Kapur

Several of the articles I chose to read today addressed the challenges of "New India" - the development in India from 1990 until the present.  While the time from 1990 until today seems like a lifetime to many in our class given that many of us were born sometime around that date, I keep trying to wrap my head around the extreme level of change India has experienced in the last 20-some years.  In reality, 20 years really is nothing at all in the grand scheme of things.  I've seen some developments go up and some major historical events take place, but when I think about the type of development India is experiencing, I immediately compare it to similar developments in the U.S. and how these developments in the U.S. transpired over decades - I don't know what decades feel like.  Is India at a disadvantage that these changes are happening so quickly?   Can India adapt fast enough for these changes?

            I happen to be reading Akash Kapur's India Becoming right now, and so it seemed appropriate that I read the selected articles that he wrote. Kapur speaks to his audience as someone who experienced pre-1990s India and saw it change overnight as a young adult.  He speaks to many levels of how consumerism and materialism have taken India by storm.  He acknowledges the growth of India economically and the statistics in terms of the booming middle class.  To an American, these statistics are promising.  The problem is that many people don't look past the statistic to elements that are not yet so concrete and measurable.  How do we quantify cultural change and tumult?  How do these statistics about a booming economy translate to "social, cultural and environmental consequences?" (Kapur, "In Search of a New India).

Furthermore, I think that the capitalist ideologies brought to India by large, multinational companies may not translate well or adapt as planned to Indian society.  Mohit Chandra addresses this through his article, "An Open Letter to India'a Graduating Classes," in which he criticizes and challenges Indian youth from the perspective and needs of corporate business in India.  Interestingly, many of these challenges translate to differences between American and Indian cultures in terms of spoken language, methods of learning/education styles, and attitudes towards working and work environments.  For as quickly as companies have moved in to India seeking growth and the physical development that has changed the country, it doesn't seem to be enough to simply mold Indian mentality to be ideal for American capitalism according to Chandra.  The important point here is: Should Indian culture be aspiring to American business values?  I don't think so. 

India needs to adapt to its own needs.  India needs to solve some of its deeper-seeded issues - according to "India: Closed for business" this includes issues surrounding "protectionism, bureaucracy, infrastructure and corruption," - before it will fully be able to benefit from its current opportunities in order to truly compete with other global superpowers. 

Facing the Challenges of Indian Growth

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The substantial growth of the Indian economy in the past twenty years has been extremely well covered and documented. However, many of the articles that I read pointed toward problems associated with this growth in India. The most obvious problems are arising in the work sphere, but the underlying westernization of India is also producing unintended consequences that the nation continues to grapple with to this day.

The first article I read, A Letter to India's Graduates, outlines what employers are seeing in terms of weaknesses of new employees in the Indian workplace. The author states that new graduates in India are riding on the successes of their predecessors, and that employees are expecting more while offering less. While one perspective is that Indian graduates are becoming complacent and entitled by the nation's success, the article Google Goes to India offers a counter point to this, saying that companies in India don't take advantage of the optimism and entrepreneurial spirit of India. The point that lies at the heart of this is that companies that have expanded to India are experiencing similar motivation issues to those found in America in the last twenty years. It also seems as though company response to this is following a similar western dichotomy of imploring workers to work harder, or creating a comfortable, relaxing workplace in which to help these people work. However, these examples of westernization in the workplace are an example of a deeper change in the culture of the country itself.

The article  How India Became America discusses a paradigm shift of cultural goals in the nation. Whereas a previous mantra would be for one to "live simply", in the last twenty years, a focus has shifted to acquiring material wealth and striving for progress. This has brought many unintended consequences, such as increased crime rates in rural and urban areas due to more targets for crime, and less emphasis on respect of the community. The article In Search of a New India describes further in depth the physical and social consequences of "trying to beat the US at it's own economic game". This last article describes India's current precarious situation well, highlighting a drop in Indians' once invincible optimism, the ongoing agricultural problems of the nation, and ultimately a nation that will need to redefine itself yet again- as a nation of stable, sustainable growth, without the ill effects that have disenchanted the populace from it's undeniably swift economic uprising.

In short, India is grappling with many of the challenges America has dealt with in modern day business, but this is the result of a deeper struggle for identity by the people of the nation, who are caught between an old way of doing things, and the attractions and prosperity of a new open market economy-and all the problems that go with it.

Ladies VS. Ricky Bahl

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I chose an Indian romantic comedy movie; Laides VS. Ricky Bahl.

Ricky is a conman. He conned three ladies in the movie, and the three ladies got together to get their money back. The ladies decided to con him by seducing him. One of the ladies had an attractive friend whose name was Ishka. She agreed to con him, but Ishika and Ricky fell in love each other. As we see in Hollywood romantic movies, the story of movie is predictable-the movie was a happy ending. While I was watching the movie, I tried to feel India rather than focusing only to the love story.

            The three main ladies in the movie, each represents different types of women in India. Dimple is young lady, who has a wealthy family, lives in a huge house and drives nice car. She dresses sexy tank tops and skinny pants which we can easily see in the U.S. I think she represents current India; how much the modern India is westernized, and admires western life style.

            Raina is a successful business woman; she dresses very professional, and her house in Delhi is just like an upscale condominium in the big cities in the U.S. In the movie, she is very independent and even manages male employees. I am not sure how much the movie describes the reality of India, but it is interesting to see a female boss in Indian movie.                                     

            Saira is the one I imagined an Indian woman in India. She is representing a traditional India. She is quiet, and dresses conservatively. Even all three women get together, she always follow other's opinions and take a supportive role rather than acting a decision maker.

            What I liked about this movies was that the movie gave me a glance of current India; it seems like many people work for material success. Well, the main character was a conman; money wasn't avoidable subject. In addition, I witnessed the fact-money is power. There were a few scenes, the wealthy people hit, exploited, and ignored poor people, and it happened very naturally. This represents that the power of money is significant in India. 

             Furthermore, the back ground of the movie was very attractive. It shows a traditional market, developed city, and beautiful beach. It definitely made me even exciting about our trip to India. 

            Overall, I really enjoyed the movie despite its simple plot. The movie was too obvious, so I wasn't really excited about the story itself. However, the movie was still interesting and helpful to understand India. I actually think India is not much different from America- skyscrapers, achieving individual success. I might be wrong, but the direction of its change is definitely close to America. I can't wait to go to India to see those lively market place, cities, and witness all dynamic changes.

 

The movie is available at netflix if you have an account.  

Bollywood: Singing, Dancing, and Color

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After doing a quick Google search on the best Bollywood films available for streaming on Netflix, I settled on Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.  The International Movie Database described it as an underdog love story of "a nerdy-nice guy trying to impress a beautiful woman, who happens to be his wife due to an arranged marriage." I picked the movie based on the review's promise of colorful dance numbers and quirky romance, and director Aditya Chopra definitely did not disappoint.

The movie was filmed in Hindi, with English subtitles, but I found that the actors were speaking a mix of Hindi and English the entire way through. They used English phrases like "I'm sorry," "thank you," and "most beautiful" here and there, which was interesting. When I travel to Hong Kong, people mix English phrases in with Chinese too, and I think it is so cool that languages can fold in other culture's colloquialisms.

                One of the biggest differences I saw between this Bollywood film and Hollywood films I usually see are how the characters view love. In most Western movies, people generally agree that love is something they stumble upon randomly, or have to work at for a second chance. In this film, the main character Surinder and his love interest Taani treated love as destiny, and always felt talked about how god would either lead them to love or lead them to something better. They were not in control of their own love stories. Circumstances were always credited to a higher power.

                Another difference I saw came at the end. For the entire movie, Surinder was trying to impress Taani by pretending to be Raj, a charming dancer who brings love and happiness back to her life. When Surinder reveals that he was Raj all along, I pointed at the screen and said, "That would never happen in a Hollywood movie! She would be furious that he was lying all along, not happy!" I stand by that, too. In a Western movie, that would be the plot twist at the end, and it would take another ten minutes for Taani to realize that Surinder had her best interests at heart the whole time. But instead, Taani began crying tears of joy, and a hundred other dancers came on set for a cheerful and colorful closing dance number.

                Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. It is weird to think about arranged marriages and the implications they have in a modern world filled with so many love stories. The seven minute dance numbers were always entertaining and surprising. This definitely will not be the last Bollywood film I watch. 

For those of you who might want to watch the film, here is a link to the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QB2fZsBZGYs

Articles response

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          As I read through the additional articles, the theme that I most often saw was growth.  As we all know, India is the second most populous country in the world, yet they haven't been brought up to the speed that other super-power countries have been working at for some time now.  As I read through the articles, I picked up on a few common pieces as to why they weren't utilizing their full potential.

            The Indian caste system has made it very hard for families to gain knowledge and move forward in life.  In the past decade or two, many of these castes have gained a lot thanks to the westernizing of India, with all of the large corporations setting up shop there as well as the Information Technology boom.  The gains made have mainly been in more jobs being available, as well as a new "American" mindset that promotes optimistic entrepreneurial endeavors and capitalistic movements.  These gains have brought quite a few negatives as well.  More crime is occurring due to more money being available in lower castes, which isn't patrolled as well as the larger cities. People have been leaving their agricultural posts in hopes of finding new money elsewhere, which could potentially lead to an agricultural and environmental crisis.  To move its way into becoming the leading country in the world, India needs to have a better structure to encompass and balance all of these large scale changes within their country.

            Another point that India could improve in is its infrastructure.  There is so much potential that is growing through cellular and electronic business.  The movement in cellular use across India has helped businesses tap into so many more opportunities.  The increase in internet service over phones has allowed companies such as Facebook and Google to really flourish and come up with new, innovative ideas that they can test on this growing market.  While India is the perfect test grounds, it has its challenges.  A large scam in telecommunication structure companies and stock has set back India quite a bit in bringing 3G service to its population.  To be able to fully utilize the population, India will need to focus on completing its infrastructure and inform the population more about the benefits it will bring.

Challenges of Doing Business in India

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I first mentioned the concept of the "Americanization" of India in my blog about the book India Becoming by Akash Kapur.  After reading several of the additional articles that Holly posted (some of which were also written by Akash Kapur), I've gained a better understanding of the "Americanization" of India.  As American and European companies move into the Indian market, there are certain challenges the companies must consider. 


One issue that the articles raised was Internet usage in the Indian market. Companies need to consider not only which demographics of Indians use the Internet, but also what methods they use to access it.  There are currently about 100 million Internet users in India, most of which access the internet through PC's, but there are also more than 900 million mobile-phone users who will be gaining access to the internet in the next few years (Sharma).  With so many future mobile users in the Indian market, I think that it is important for companies to consider how to best optimize their websites for mobile devices.  This will be the primary way that consumers gain information about companies and interact with their websites.  As the Fortune article Google Goes to India points out, Indians will use the Internet to search for different things than Americans.  In many developed countries, the Internet is used to search for lifestyle things like movie times but that information is not available in India. Furthermore, people with access to the Internet in India tend to be wealthier.  Marketers will have to tailor their online advertising to focus on more luxury types of products rather than just basic commodities.


Another issue that the articles bring up is how inefficient many Indian companies' supply chains are.  It is "estimated that up to 35 percent of Indian fruits and vegetables spoil before they get to market, largely as a result of an antiquated supply system that includes many wholesale markets and middle men," (Bajaj).  In 2011, the Indian government eased retail rules for foreign companies allowing companies that only sold one brand like Nike and Apple to own 100 percent of their stores, and companies with multiple brands to own 51 percent of their stores.  An Indian partner owns the remaining 49 percent.  This new legislation makes doing business in India easier for foreign companies and is believed to help grow the retail industry and create a more efficient supply system.    


If you would like to learn more about the articles I read for this blog post, below are the articles that I specifically mentioned:

Bajaj, Vikas. "India to Ease Retail Rules for Foreign Companies." The New York Times 24 Nov. 2011. Web.

Prasso, Sheridan, and Sufia Tippu. "Google Goes to India." Fortune 29 Oct. 2007: 160-66. Web.

Sharma, Amol. "India, a New Facebook Testing Ground." The Wall Street Journal 19 Oct. 2012. Web.


IT Industry's shrinking growth rate

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When I think of business industries in India, I instantly think of an Asian version of our Silicon Valley. This mental image will have to updated, because the predominant IT field's growth has begun to level off. I signed up for a twitter account for this class - for purely academic purposes! - and it's been convenient to receive updates about events in India. I am following the Times of India and the India page of the Wall Street Journal. I find myself most interested in economic topics, although sometimes political events catch my eye as well. However, since we will be focusing on business while we are visiting, I think it is important that we make sure the impressions and heuristics we bring along are up-to-date, which is why I want to focus on the slowdown in the IT industry. It is unexpected, and I think it will surprise some people.

 Infosys is a large Bangalore-based IT company that is feeling the effects of the worldwide IT slowdown. Their stock dropped almost 20% in India, according to an article published two days ago on Friday (read here: http://www.cityam.com/article/infosys-plummets-worldwide-it-slowdown). Several articles in the Times of India have attempted to explain why hiring in the IT field is slowing down. According to TK Kurien, the CEO of India's third-largest software company, the problem is transition. For the past decade, India's successful predominance has been in manufacturing, and that focus is now shifting to services. Several companies like TCS, Wipro and Cognizant are responding to this shift by hiring less engineers. (More on what companies are doing in response in this article: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech/careers/job-trends/Why-Indian-IT-companies-are-going-slow-on-hiring/articleshow/18144706.cms) Some policy-makers are concerned that these employment downturns could diminish the middle class growth rates that India has grown accustomed to in past years. All in all, the concern is whether the stagnation in the IT sector will seep into other fields as well, but leaders of service-based industries are confident that India's GDP growth will not be impacted too severely.

 These findings have made me very curious about what companies we will be visiting and whether this information will have any immediate relevance. Also, as my twitter feed fills up with current events in India, I hope my preconceived notions of what I will encounter will become increasingly accurate. 36 more days!

Current Event: U.S. Aid to India drops by 16 percent

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By Nolan Hazard

 

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/finance/us-aid-to-india-drops-by-16-per-cent/articleshow/19555545.cms

 

http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/26/a-conversation-with-u-s-a-i-d-administrator-rajiv-shah/

 

 

            This short article, posted in the Economic Times, discusses the United State's Secretary of State, John Kerry's, proposed plan to reduce American aid to India by 16% for the fiscal year of 2014.  The total state department request is $91 million, which is 16% less than the actual fiscal levels from 2012.  This is the continuation of a trend that has emerged over the past few years.  In 2010, the United States total aid to India was $ 126.7 million, which dropped to $ 121.6 million in 2011 and then $ 108 million in 2012, and then was proposed to decrease even more to $ 98.3 million in the current fiscal of 2013, which ends on September 30.  United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, claims that the drop in Aid reflects a transition in the relationship between the two countries from a traditional "donor recipient" relationship to a "strategic partnership" between the two countries.

            I think that this article is very interesting because it shows that the United States believes that India has been, and is continuing to, make very strong headway towards becoming financially self-sustaining.  India has been growing economically by leaps and bounds for some time but is now becoming self-sufficient in many areas.  The article states that of the United States aid to India, the largest portion - two/thirds - is slated for health sector in India.  One anonymous official is quoted in the article as saying, "The biggest program is in global health. About $ 61 million is going to the health program. India still has quite a number of health challenges,".  This article is a positive report that India is improving and that it needs less global support, except for in the area of healthcare.  In another related article that I read, it proved that India still desperately needs help in the healthcare sector.  It read, "each year, about 1.5 million children under 5 years old die in India, which has the largest number of such deaths worldwide".  It claimed that preventable diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and malnutrition caused a majority of these deaths.  From the information that I was able to find relating to this article, I support John Kerry's proposal to reduce aid to India.  They do still desperately need help in the healthcare industry, although in many other areas they are proving to be able to take care of themselves.  This article is enlightening because it shows a few of the dynamics in the relationship between the United States and India.  The relationship is evolving, and I'm excited to see first-hand how the relationship is exhibited and permeated throughout the culture in India.


For this blog post, I wanted to check out the current happenings in India's visa policies, mostly because of my recent interactions with the Indian consulate. As some of you already know, until 2 days ago, next month's trip to India was in jeopardy for me (again). To make a long story short, after finding my previous Indian visa had recently expired, I had to apply for a new one. My application was rejected due to missing records of my naturalization. After much panicking, crying, traveling, and finally pleading with the Indian consulate, I was able to obtain my Indian tourist visa this weekend (whew!). Now, this got me wondering: if it was this difficult for someone who was born in India to get permission to visit, how hard is it for others?

When I came across this article, I chose to write about it for a couple different reasons. First, I saw that it took place in Amritsar, Punjab (my birthplace). Second, the topic of the article being the Indo-Paki border reminded me of the book I am reading for this class (Riot).

Basically, this article is describing the start of a facility that offers Indian visas to Pakistani senior citizens upon their arrival. The facility, called the Attari Integrated Check Post, allows Pakistanis over the age of 65 to obtain Indian visas in order to visit any family they had been separated from during the border battle.

This is major news because of the ongoing conflicts between the two countries, thus making it extremely difficult for each countries' citizens to get a visa for the other country. The launch of the facility, which was supposed to take place on January 15, was delayed because of the controversial killing of two Indian "border soldiers." Because of this, the second part of the agreement, which was making a similar simplified process for Pakistanis to obtain Indian group tourist visas, is still on hold.

I felt this article was significant for our learning of India because it is a perfect example of the country's modernization. Slowly but surely, it seems that India is attempting to improve cross-border relations that once had "turmoil" written all over them. Now that I am old enough to better understand this concept, I want to visit my hometown in India and see the border between these two countries that have been through so much.


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33 days to go! Get excited!

An economic view of India's growth

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            Despite India being one of the powerhouse nations in the world due to their size, they still require help to boost their standing in the world.  The USA has helped them in recent years past, but the past couple years we have been lowering our aid to India.  The USA has noted that India is growing well on its own accord; therefore the USA would like to change its partnership with India from being a donor to being more of a strategic partnership as the article notes.

            India's GDP currently ranks 9th in the world for GDP.  With the absurd amount of people living in India, though, it makes the amount of money there spread very thin.  Paying for things such as health care, or even a home, is a hassle for Indian people it seems.  With the amount of slums across the country, being able to circulate more money has been greatly improving India's quality of life.  This can be seen through the amount of the USA's donation going to healthcare.  According to the article, USA donations in recent years have had around two thirds of the donations go towards health care, which in this next year will amount to around $60 million dollars.

            Overall, I think that lowering the donations to India means that they are showing progress towards being able to hold its own when it comes to large scale issues.  While many people still live in poverty, the jobs and opportunities seem to be growing.  Hopefully a larger partnership with the US will come out of India's growth, which will bring more trading and more national money to India.

Article Link: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/US-aid-to-India-drops-by-16/articleshow/19556246.cms

I read an article from CNN that is a little dated (January 2013), but shows a good picture of the current state of affairs between Pakistan and India. 

The article discusses an attack by Indian military forces on a Pakistani outpost, where one Pakistani soldier was killed. However, the series of events leading up to that attack differs depending on who you talk to. Indian officials state that Indian troops were fired upon without provocation in a different area than the one in question- the Kashmir region, a site of a cease fire and Line of Control between the two countries that has been contested since 1947. Officials from Pakistan insist that the attack was an aggressive action by India, and that there was no such reason for them to shoot.

Public opinion in these matters seems to side with India, but in situations like this, both nations appear to act childish. If this were any other pair of nations, there would be little tolerance for this kind of behavior, but India and Pakistan have had transgressions like these at their borders for years. It makes me a bit worried that they both have nuclear weapons, particularly after their standoff in 2001-2002.

Link to the article:

As we learned from filling out our Visa application for India, the Indian people do not take too kindly to Pakistan.  Since the last time Pakistan and India had a war, a nuclear arms race has been occurring.  While Pakistan has made it a point to increase its nuclear arsenal rather rapidly, India has been moving at its own pace, focusing more on an overall military expansion instead of solely nuclear weapons.

           As the article describes, India's point of view on increasing its weaponry and defense is more of a statement of will and power.  India has a much more stable economy, which is a noted point in why they are moving forward as they see fit in a military sense.  This slow movement, as well as India's extremely low usage of weapons in the past, goes to show their sense of character when it comes to military excursions.  India looks to protective of itself, but will not attack unless they are attacked.  The military morals shown by India are something that I feel is very befitting for them, seeing as they have many internal country problems to fix as it is, such as corruption and high population.  By not making advances other than making sure they are protected, India has given them a high status amongst other countries, but Pakistan still remains a threat due to the history between the two countries.

                The Pakistan increase in nuclear weapons seems more of a quick fix for making Pakistan a world power, but they are digging themselves into a hole instead.  Pakistan needs more trading between India to help boost its economy, and by increasing their nuclear weapon arsenal, they are only giving off the vibe that they are trying to intimidate them while digging them into a deeper financial hole.  India in the end will prosper, but Pakistan only stands a chance if they try and make a statement on India, which in turn India would most likely destroy them.

                Overall, I feel that the increase in weaponry in both countries is for very different reasons, with Pakistan being the immature little brother of India.  India seems to be going in the right direction. By consistently being non-confrontational, they have gained the respect of many countries military's and will remain as a world power for years to come. 

Link to the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/05/opinion/global/nuclear-race-on-the-subcontinent.html?ref=india

Current Event-Corruption of Police

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           The most frequent topic I read about India recently is rape incidents. Although such incidents happen in many countries including the U.S., the treatment of victims is very different. In the U.S., we have a faith that the victims will be treated fairly by the police. In India, this may not be expected.

            A rape victim in India said, "I have no faith in the police. If you have money or connections, you can get justice. If you don't, forget it." One of the reason of frequent rape incidents in India can be found from its social structure; India is a male dominant society. However, more definite reason can be explained by corruption of police. Indian police officers are poorly paid which makes them easily susceptible to corrupt.

            Furthermore, there are not enough police; India has about 130 officers per 100,000 people, the second lowest among 50 country ranked by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Another structural problem mentioned in the article was that many low level officers pay recruitment bribes of a year's salary to get their jobs, so demanding payments on everything from routine traffic violations to major crimes becomes a way of life.

            I think the corruption of police is very important to understand current India because it is one of the most important tasks that Indian government should resolve. Many developing countries often experience such corruptions because new concept of society always collides with old concept. India is developing very fast and many changes happening. Police In India might have had privileges for a long time, but it has to be changed. Police exists to protect its citizens' safety. Citizens of India may not be able to expect the change in a day. However, many people are aware of the corruption of the police and begins to make a change. It will be interesting to see how the Indian government will deal with its corrupted police as the country develops.    

Read my article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/world/asia/for-rape-victims-in-india-police-are-often-part-of-the-problem.html?pagewanted=all

Recent Pharmaceutical Drug Ruling in India

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Given my interest in medical anthropology and the debate over intellectual property rights in relation to the pharmaceutical drug industry, I chose to cover some of the recent legal developments in India having to do with the cancer drug, Gleevec. Novartis, the producer of the drug, incited a large-scale, 7-year legal battle trying to extend the patent on Gleevec, claiming that the drug had been reformulated and significantly improved. The Indian Supreme Court's ruling against renewing the patent for the popular cancer-fighting drug ensures that poor patients will continue to have access to generic drugs for diseases like H.I.V. and cancer. 

The case itself was quite complicated given the history of patent laws in India. India began granting patents for medicines in 2005, but only for drugs created after 1995. The chemical in Gleevec was discovered in the early 90s, and was therefore not patentable in India. Novartis applied for a patent for Gleevec in 2006, claiming to have improved the drug, but this plea was finally denied as of April 1, 2013. This decision was based on the Indian Patent Act, which intends to prevent drug manufacturers from making incremental changes as a means to extend patents - a process known as "ever-greening." 

Particularly, this is an important event because India is currently the world's biggest provider of generic medicines, and its policies having to do with pharmaceutical drugs could potentially affect billions of people across the globe. The ruling gained attention on both extremes: health activists rejoiced in the decision; meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies were outraged, arguing that this decision could deeply harm future medical innovation. The New York Times reported, "The ruling comes at a challenging time for the pharmaceutical industry, which is increasingly looking to emerging markets to compensate for lackluster drug sales in the United States and Europe. At the same time, it is facing other challenges to its patent protections in countries like Argentina, the Philippines, Thailand and Brazil" (Harris and Thomas). The article goes on to question the global impact of this decision. If India stands by the needs of its patients before intellectual property rights, how will this stance impact similar situations in other countries? 

Personally, I find this debate really interesting. On a general level, I question where one can draw the line between the necessary safeguard of patent laws - ensuring profit on drugs that cost millions of dollars to develop, test, and approve - and the ethical duty to use these drugs to benefit those that desperately need them. While I tend to lean in favor of the humanitarian side, I also think there is a certain level of necessary safeguarding for the standards of pharmaceutical drugs that could be challenged if drug companies face significant losses over patent laws. Leena Menghaney, a patient advocate at Doctors Without Borders raises an interesting point in relation to this. She says, "The great thing about this ruling is that we don't have to worry about the drugs we're currently using...But the million-dollar question is what is going to happen for new drugs that have not yet come out" (Harris and Thomas). 

Bhattacharya, Abheek. "India Overdoses on Regulation." WSJ.com. The Wall Street Journal, 01 Apr. 2013. Web. 14 Apr. 2013. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324020504578396241127835124.html.

Harris, Gardiner, and Katie Thomas. "Low-Cost Drugs In Poor Nations Get Lift in Court." Editorial. New York Times 2 Apr. 2013, New York ed., sec. A: A1. The New York Times. The New York Times, 01 Apr. 2013. Web. 14 Apr. 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/02/business/global/top-court-in-india-rejects-novartis-drug-patent.html?_r=0.

Koppikar, Smruti, and Himani Chandna Gurtoo. "Cheaper Drugs on the Prescription. hindustantimes.com. Hindustani Times, 09 Apr. 2013. Web. 14 Apr. 2013. http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/Cheaper-drugs-on-the-prescription/Article1-1039489.aspx.
Recently the Indian government announced its plans to open all-women post offices in rural areas where large numbers of working women are available. The concept of all-women post offices is the first of its kind in the world. The post-offices are completely operated and managed by female employees. The Department of Posts just recently opened two all-women post offices in Delhi and one each in Mumbai and Hyderabad. The government plans to first open the post offices in urban areas and then slowly branch out to rural areas. The post offices are part of a government initiative to create more opportunities for women in the country. The Department of Posts believes that the all-women post offices will also attract more women customers.

Although my article is not a headliner in India's current news, I believe it does provide a deeper understanding of India's culture and the role of women. Women's rights have often been a topic of interest in India. As I have already seen in India Becoming, the modernization of India has changed the role of women in India. More and more women are beginning to move to the cities and join the workforce. Like in many of the stories in India Becoming, change often comes at a cost. In the book there seemed to be many situations in which the young female characters were thought of negatively because of their interactions and friendships with men. I am curious if all-female workplaces will help mitigate the negative perceptions of working women. I am also curious to see how Indians will respond to these new all-women post offices. This may be an important story to follow, especially if the post offices do expand into rural areas. It could allow Indian women more career opportunities without necessarily having to move to the city. However, is it considered an accomplishment for women's rights if special businesses and jobs have to be designed just for women? Do these all-women post offices really address the true problem and give women the equal rights they deserve?


Current Events- Jon

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http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/10/world/asia/india-drones-protecting-rhinos.html?ref=india&_r=0

Though my current event is not an epic political or cultural event, I think it embodies a really interesting aspect of India. India's wildlife officers are using sophisticated technology to help protect animals from external threats. These threats are human poachers that slaughter one-horned rhinos. 

In Kaziranga Park, remote controlled drones are being used to fly over the preserves and watch for activity that is endangering wildlife. This helps them protect the vast 185 square acre park. As reported, 22 rhinos were killed last year and 16 have already been killed this year.

Again, my ignorance is quite apparent when my first thought was "I didn't even realize India would care about these issues!" I need to get this third-world image of India out of my head and realize that there are highly developed parts of India that have the resources to take action in situations like these. The proactivity of the situation to prevent more deaths is a very noble one. It would be easy to forget about the rhinos and focus on India's other pressing problems such as rural poverty. 

I would really like to hear about more of India's initiatives regarding nature and animal life. I would really like the opportunity to maybe visit on of these reserves (hint hint). As an American, I value the need for preservation of wildlife, but it would be fascinating to hear from Indian perspectives from various backgrounds and to hear what they think. For example, I wonder if the impoverished would feel that India has more important issues to address than the declining rhino population. Or perhaps the Indian businessman, is he or she worried about being socially responsible and giving back to initiatives that aren't directly rooted in profit making? These are are interesting views that I am eager to explore more!

India, Iphone 4 Dumping Ground

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http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech/enterprise-it/strategy/Apple-treating-India-as-iPhone-4-dumping-ground/articleshow/19509290.cms 
     I chose to write my article on the way Apple is treating India as basically a last resort to get rid of any of the remaining Iphone gen 4 it has left. Essentially to do this they are offering a Rs 7,000 discount on a new Iphone 4 (Smartphones are typically about Rs 20,000). I think this has both pros and cons.
     I think it could be potentially a great deal for Apple and for India. Apple is able to get rid of remaining inventory and still make money on it. It is also great for the developing country of India, they don't necessarily have the resources to purchase the newest of the new technology and getting high quality slightly dated technology may enable them to continue to grow and still be able to afford the products.
    It also could be potentially a very poor decision for Apple and this is mentioned in the article. The Iphone 4 is three year old technology and if Apple is offering this as its new product while other manufacturers are offering brand new technology, the price difference may not be enough to convince Indians Apple products are worth it. It also presents Apple as a low cost option that is directly in opposition to its prestige pricing strategy that is its competitive advantage in the rest of the world. Essentially Apple needs to weight the pros and cons and make a final decision.

Response to Riot by Shashi Tharoor

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This book explores the ways in which emotions, politics, society, and religious fanaticism can change, and even end lives.   The main character of the story is Priscilla Hart.  She is a young idealistic American woman, volunteering with a female population control awareness program, who was killed during a riot in a small Indian town called Zalilgarh.  Her death is a complete mystery, so her divorced parents decide to come to India to find answers about how their precious daughter was killed.  However, the story is about much more than Priscilla's death.  At its essence it is a tale about the social, political, economic, and religious situation in India at that time.

 

One thing that I find interesting and really enjoy about the story is that it is told simultaneously through journal entries, interviews with journalists, conversations, and Priscilla's letters.   This allows me to read the story from different perspectives and therefore adds depth to my understanding of the story.  Nonetheless, at the same time I found it difficult at first to adjust to this method of storytelling because at first it was difficult for me to keep the different perspectives from intermixing.

 

At the core of this story is the divide between the Hindus and Muslims. Just from the first half of this book I have dramatically improved my understanding of the reasons for the riots in general, as well as the difficulties involved in convincing the opposing religious fanatics from making extreme decisions.  At its essence this book promotes religious tolerance for/from all of the religious factions in India.

 

Below is a quote that I enjoyed from Priscilla's scrapbook.  The poem is called "Christmas in Zalilgarh".  I like it because it has excellent detail and allows me to visualize what the town of Zalilgarh looks, smells, sounds, and feels like.  In addition it alludes to religious tension in the last two lines.

 

"Mists of dust on crumbling roadsides,

cowdung sidewalks, rusting tin roofs.

Bright-painted signboards above dimly lit shops.

The tinkle of bicycle bells, the loud cries,

Of hawkers selling vegetables, or peanuts, or scrap.

Red betel-stains on every wall

Compete with angry black slogans

Scrawled by men with a cause."

 


Riot: Shashi Tharoor Entry Part 1 by Sam Papas

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Shashi Tharoor's Riot: A Love Story is one of the most interesting books I have ever read.  This is due to two factors; (1) he creates a compelling story that describes Indian culture through a murder/mystery plot and (2) he does so by using a unique writing style.

I know we aren't supposed to summarize the book, but I feel the need to introduce a little background of the story to help you all understand Shashi's writing style.  Riot begins with a newspaper clipping, reporting that the protagonist (Priscilla Hart) had been murdered in the middle of a riot which broke out during a women's birth-control rights rally.  From here, the book is written entirely in journal entries, letters, interview transcripts, and newspaper articles.  The main objective of the book is to provide clues and (hopefully) reveal who killed Priscilla.

I found myself rereading many passages throughout the first half of the book because this novel feels more like a game, rather than a story.  I feel the need to try and solve this mystery rather than sit back and watch it unravel before me.  Reading this book makes me feel nervous because I have a feeling that if I miss a few subtle pieces of evidence, then I will not fully understand who is to blame for the murder.

Riot describes many differences between Indian and American cultures through interactions between Priscilla Hart and the other main characters.  Priscilla is an American born woman who was in India as a volunteer to help raise awareness to population control options, such as abortion.  Religion plays a large role in most cultural decisions in India, and abortion is a hot topic.  The vast majority of Hindu people in India choose the action that will do least harm to all parties involved, meaning abortion is only an option if the mother's life is in danger.  In contrast, Americans are evenly split on the topic of abortion.  Priscilla's embodiment of American ideologies is an interesting factor when trying to decide who the killer may be.

I wonder what kinds of living conditions we will be seeing while we visit India.  I always think of India as hot, over crowded, and dirty.  This can be contributed to Hollywood's depiction of India and its environment.  I always see slums on TV and I've never seen any modern infrastructure in any news stories.  I've seen pictures on the internet of people riding on top of trains due to the large number of commuters.  The book reinforces my generalization of India because of the descriptions of daily life provided throughout the book.  The following passage was taken from page 96:

"The heat radiates toward you in waves, as if some celestial oven is being opened and stoked in your face.  The traffic is torrent, raging rivers of vehicles and bodies in constant motion, streams of bicycles wending their way past thin cows..."

"And everywhere, people: half-dressed beggars with open sores clamoring for money." 

"...as flies buzz around everything."

I can easily see how this book may be difficult for casual readers to understand.  It is not written in a constant stream of thought, or in one voice.  As I stated earlier, the book breaks off into many segments of different writing styles.  To better ingest the material in this book, I related this novel to another book I recently read which had a similar writing style, called Twilight: Los Angeles.  Twilight is a book about the 1992 riots which were sparked because of the cultural differences between African-Americans and Caucasians in Los Angeles.  Both books are written without a constant narrator (or voice) throughout the book and both also dive deep into cultural conflicts between different ethnicities.  Reading Twilight prior to this book helped me quickly adjust to the flow of Riot.

A Review of Akash Kapur's India Becoming

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In the first part of Akash Kapur's India Becoming, the author recounts moving back to India in 2003 after spending the last decade studying and living in the United States.  While he was gone, the country experienced a technological boom and rapid urban development.  As Kapur personally tries to discover his place in the new India, he describes the stories of other Indians he meets who are also adjusting their lifestyles and trying to find their place in the changing society.  By doing this other readers and I are given a glimpse of modern India from the perspectives of young and old, male and female, rich and poor, and urban and rural.  What I find interesting about this book is that rather than take his own stand on the changes in India, the author uses the stories of other people to describe what the situation is really like. 

Development, change, and progress can obviously be good things.  Kapur tells the story of Das, a man of the lower Dalit caste, who was able to become rich from his land ownership.  Development allowed his land to be worth something, giving him the freedom to take care of his family and rise out of his predetermined caste.  Das tells Kapur, "this is the change I have seen in my life; this respect, this dignity I have gained,"  (41). 

There can also be a cost for change and progress, especially when it results in a loss of culture and identity.  A part of the book that I found very interesting and troubling was the "Americanization" of India.  As India's economy became more and more like the United States, so did its people.  Young Indians were given American aliases at work and given accent-training sessions.  The television advertisements even switched from English accents to American accents.  As I read this, I personally hoped and assumed that this "Americanization" of society was only happening in the cities.  However, this is not the case. A survey conducted by Coca-Cola found that "the chief goal of Indians ­- in both cities and the countryside - was to 'become rich'" (75). As I learn more about India and read the rest of the book, I'm curious to see if these things are true.

One quote that extremely strikes me comes from Leo, a 40-year old man reflecting on his younger friend Hari's transition to modern India.  He states, "Hari is doing great today - he's on top of the world. But sometimes I worry that the same things that make him happy today make him miserable tomorrow," (76).    Just as this is a question that I struggle with personally in my life, India will have to ask itself this question as it continues to progress and change.  

What is India Becoming?

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One of the advantages of staying on campus over spring break is to have the chance to get ahead on reading material for class. On the flip side of that, a downside to reading a book three weeks before it needs to be done is the fuzzy memory I get of it when asked to recall it. 

I just can't seem to win when it comes to these things.

Nonetheless, I read most of India Becoming in time for this book review. It has been an interesting read, and if nothing is a ponderous take on the current state of affairs in India.

The story itself is more a series of perspectives on different situations. Throughout the book, Akash Kapur points out many examples of the technological and economic progress India has made in recent years (the construction of highways, the explosive growth of Bangalore, and the fast paced life of young urban Indians), but also points the reader's attention to the consequences of this progress, through the eyes of many different characters that he follows during his writing of the book. From explaining rising crime in rural India through the eyes of an old landowner who desperately clings to an old village order, to a snapshot of the seemingly limitless opportunity of life in urban India as explained by Hari, everything Akash writes about, he writes about from every angle. This made me think for a long time about whether the "new" India is necessarily better for everyone involved, as the modernization of the country has caused just as many problems as it has solved. And while I can't elaborate on the second half of the book in the review of the first half, the final few chapters of the book really bring out the seeming pointlessness of this modernization, and the inequality it has created.

This book has made me think of life in Indiafrom a perspective I don't think most westerners get exposure to. It's helped me to take apart many of the signs of economic progress that we as Americans consider and take for granted to be positive things, and makes me take into account what exactly is positive about them, who is affected badly by them, and ultimately begs the question; Is said progress really worth all the pain it causes?

Price of Progress Behind the Beautiful Forevers

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  I had the opportunity to read "Behind the Beautiful Forevers," by Katherine Boo. The first half of it has been an incredible story. There are some parts that are difficult to read because of how vividly aspects of the book are described. What I really want to talk about is price of progress that is clearly displayed throughout the book. 
     I have often thought that it is a good thing that much of the world is continuing to become developed, perhaps even a noble thing that the United States is working to help other countries develop. However, after reading the book I have realized that there are serious downsides to development. Reading in detail about the huge amount of poor people, the corrupt government, the huge trash piles, and the hurting people was painful in a way. I was saddened when I read about government officials like Pawar who would brutally hurt people. The book says speaking of the police "the worst of the lot was constable Pawar who had brutalized little Deepa, a homeless girl who sold flowers." It made me want to be able to help yet know that I can practically do very little. 
    What really hit me the hardest was thinking about me in these peoples positions. Many of them had such simple goals here are some examples:

"she wanted a more hygienic home here, in the name of her children's vitality"

"What Abdul wanted was this, a wife innocent of words like pimp and sisterfucker, who didn't much mind how he smelled, and eventually a home somewhere, anywhere that was not Annawadi."  

"The grail of every poor person in Mumbai, a job." 

     Are these too much to ask. Shouldn't everyone be able to have these. I know that living in an undeveloped situation is bad, but some of these consequences are directly because of the development of these cities. Essentially Boo helped open my mind through the first half of the book to see everything that needs to be done and help inspire me to do it!

Riot: A Love Story- Jon's Reflection

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            Riot: A Love Story, by Shashi Tharoor, has provided me many insights into the culture of India. Whether it is their history or religion, I have been surprised and intrigued by many of the things that I have learned in the first half of the book.

            I am starting to understand the tensions between the Hindu and Muslim cultures. It is fascinating to hear the origins of this conflict and how it has been sustained over centuries and generations. It amazes me that there are still extremists acting violently in the name of their religions. There is a distinct pride about being an Indian. But there are varying views on what an Indian is. There is also conflict and feelings of betrayal in regards to the partition of Pakistan. Hindu Indians feel that their birthrights were taken from them. Pakistani Muslims feel that having their own Muslim state is their right. Then there are Muslim Indians that have nationalistic feelings for India but identify themselves as Muslims. It is hard for me to imagine experiencing this hatred and violence in daily life.

            The formatting of this book is very unique and has added a great deal of depth. I love having the omniscience of reading each of the characters journals and helping me understand their specific perspectives. It is especially interesting to read the contrasts between Priscilla and Lucky's views on topics such as arranged marriage. Lucky has trouble understanding the "love" that Priscilla describes because he was raised to be cautious of lustful feelings. Other western ideas such as Coca-Cola, birth control, and population control, though too numerous to elaborate on,  are additionally intriguing to follow. I also really enjoy hearing Guru speak with his colloquial phrases that I definitely don't understand, but find humorous anyways.

            Though the caste system is not a focus of the book, Lucky does recognize the differences between the privileged and the underprivileged. Though he has not experienced poverty, he must recognize daily as an officer of the government. A portion of his poem describes the inner conflict that results from this.

 

"Think of nothing.

Do not think of the starving infant,

parched lips mute in hunger,

sitting slumped in the mud,

his eyes fading before his heart.

Do not think

of the stark ribs of the skeletal cattle,

unable to provide milk, or hope,

in drought-dried lands of which

you know nothing."

 

Page 91

India Becoming

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I am reading India Becoming by Akash Kapur. It took me a few chapters to get into it but the book did end up grabbing me. What I like about it is that it is a nonfiction depiction of life in India now as it has changed over the past years. The author, Akash, grew up in India then moved to America. After several years living in New York he moved back to India. That is where the book starts. He focuses his writings around a few main characters that are willing to share with him their lives knowing that he is conducting his meetings and interviews for material for his book.

            The first several chapters are introducing readers to the characters that will be followed throughout the book. Akash does a good job of getting a variety of perspectives from older men to more youthful city dwellers. It is interesting to compare and contrast the opinions that village folks have with the newer perspectives of the younger characters. It makes it easy to see how much has changed in the last 10 or so years.

            My two favorite characters are Sathy and Hari. They illustrate my point above perfectly. Sathy is a middle-aged man and a landowner in a smaller village, Molasur. He likes his way of life because he came from well-to-do family and gets much respect. He says, "Most people in Molasur still remember the old ways, they know who I am, and they know how to behave. They know how to give proper respect" (26). In the city, all he feels is confusion and chaos. He is skeptical about the rapid change happening in India. He sees its advantages, but is wary of its downfalls. Hari, on the other hand, is a young software engineer who loves the busy way of life and is into the new city lifestyle and all that comes with it. Akash sums up Hari's personality, "Hari had lots of plans. He was always taking calls from headhunters, negotiating for a higher salary, considering new job offers. Like so many young Indians I met, he had great faith in the future. He felt he was living in the right country at the right time, working in the right field" (50).

            The end of part 1 wraps up nicely and makes the reader eager to learn what is to happen to all the characters. I remember hoping the best for Sathy and Hari and was excited to see what was to happen.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

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Seeing as I am doing my presentation next week on corruption, I figured it would be a good way to become knowledgeable in the term by writing a blog on it.  The definition of corruption is as follows; Impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle or inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means.  In Behind the Beautiful Forever's, corruption is very much a theme seen throughout the book, but is very noticeable in a few of the chapters that I have gotten through.  The main area of corruption is seen through interactions between Asha, a mother of 3 who hopes to become the Slumlord of Annawadi, and the Corporator of Ward 76, Subhash Sawant.  Asha is known in Annawadi for having connections with the Corporator, who has given her many job opportunities, such as a job as a kindergarten teacher, in return for massing the people of the slums to support the Corporator in polls and other such things.  Through these connections, corruption can be seen, such as through these couple of lines in the book:

 

"And when she had real control over the slum, she could create problems in order to fix them - a profitable sequence she'd learned from studying the Corporator." (20)

 

"Manju thought her mother looked wan, too, but this was possibly because Corporator Subhash Sawant - the man Asha hoped would make her slum boss - had been accused in court of electoral fraud." (50)

 

"As every slumdweller knew, there were three main ways out of poverty: finding and entrepuneurial niche, as the Husains had found with garbage; politics and corruption, in which Asha placed her hopes; and education." (62)

 

Through these sentences we can see how much of a role corruption plays, not only in the political side of things, but in the slums as well.

 

There are a few other things that I noticed throughout the first half of the book.  First, as others have already noted, the imagery put into the writing is very vivid. Something that I believe will be a great shock to me is actually seeing some form of slum in India.  I feel like everything that I picture is on such a smaller scale than what it actually is.  Second, I have trouble following some of the parts of the book because I haven't had the experience that the characters have gone through.  I can't relate to how Abdul works all day digging through garbage, or the reasons why Fatima set herself on fire.  After reading this book, I feel it will be very interesting to see how these people live first hand so I can understand better where they are coming from.

Book Review Part1: Behind The Beautiful Forevers

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The reason why I wanted to read the book is because I liked the title; Behind The Beautiful Forevers. It sounds almost like a religion-peaceful. The impression of the title is not about the present, but something else that can't be seen. I have not exactly understood the meaning of the title, but I am working on it.

            The first chapter of the book started with describing Annawadi-background of the story. This is how Annawadi described.

"Outside his neighbors' huts, some held together by duct tape and rope, damp rags were discreetly freshening bodies."(4)

"Sewage and sickness looked like life."(5)

           

            Annawadi is located near the Sahar Airport in Mumbai. The slum had been settled in 1991 by workers from Tamil state. They came to Mumbai to repair a runway at the international airport. After finishing the work, they decided to stay in the city rather than going back to where they came from. The story is followed by Abdul's eyes. He is a garbage sorter who is living in Annawadi.  

 

            While I was reading the book, I was able to picture how Annawadi looked like. The author's detailed descriptions of people and the village was so real for me to feel Annawadi. I pictured my imaginary Abdul who is standing mountain of the garbage wearing dirt colored shirt and pants, and there is luxurious skyscrapers, even higher than his garbage mountain, behind him.

            The first part of the book pretty much introduces people around Abdul-families and friends. All of them have their own issues from the past, and what the author focusing is that the people in Annawadi's changing lives along with India's fast growing economic development. So far, the book makes me wonder if the fast economic growing happening in India can guarantee the shining future for the Annawadians . It may not be simply answered. I am looking forward to seeing if Abdul's family can get out of Annawadi as they are hoping to find better life, but the prologue makes me nervous about Abdul's future. In the prologue, Abdul was chased by policeman, and I have a bad feeling that the poor Abdul might have to deal with something totally out of his control.   

Katherine Boo's "Behind the Beautiful Forevers"

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"Every house was off-kilter, so less off-kilter looked like straight. Sewage and sickness looked like life." (5)

"Being terrorized by living people seemed to have diminished his fear of the dead." (124)

  am a very visual person, which is why I am normally drawn to documentaries and photography when learning about other places in the world. There are not many books I have read that give my visually-geared mind such a vivid picture of its setting, and the fact that this story goes into deep description of slum poverty makes it all the more striking.  There have been a couple times when I have to remind myself that it's nonfiction, and it is always when standards of living seem too dismal to be real. I have witnessed sincere poverty before, but never on a large scale like this book describes.

 Bad lungs were a toll you paid to live near progress." (14)

 hat I find most interesting - and what I anticipate most about seeing - is the juxtaposition of old poverty with new development. This book has made me realize what a dichotomy India is pushing through as they build their global economy in the midst of millions of poor. When I went to Berlin, I saw a similar contrast between the cities reverence for the past and optimism for the future. I loved the historic and modern architecture intermixed on every street. I hope to see a similar type of clash in India because it makes everything more beautiful.

 Innocence and guilt could be bought and sold like a kilo of polyurethane bags." (107)

 hese are a couple of the things the first half of the book has made me consider. The book overall is fast-paced and hard to put down, which is why I'm writing this blog post the second after I finished part II. For a quick overview of the book, check out this two-minute video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xTNBeKxV5I

 Although contempt was a force that changed a person, being a waste-picker hadn't yet infected Sunil's mind, if he still thought memorizing "A is for Apple" might make some difference in his life." (68)

 "Then he cried for their futures, which it seemed he was able to predict." (131)

Questions of Culture and Progress

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In Part I of India Becoming, Akash Kapur begins by depicting his initial perception of progress in India in 2003.  Through his interaction with several people over the next few years, Kapur raises questions surrounding the cost of progress in terms of culture and identity.  Each individual's story raises a question of how the recent technological boom and rapid urban development in India since the 90s have impacted society at large as well as the relationships and meaning within the lives of individuals. Some of the topics he touches upon are: social structure, male/female relationships, gender definition, sexuality, growth of capitalism, development of individuality among Indian youth, inter-generational relationships, the impact of education, the dichotomy of urban versus rural life and the increasingly blurred boundary between them, the role of religion...The list goes on and on.  

By interviewing individuals from many different walks of life, Kapur creates an unbiased and interesting approach to the development of India as a country as well as a people. In a general sense, I gathered that there were many benefits to India in the changes since 1990.  Particularly, the technological development gave Indians (especially those from lower castes) something to aspire towards; development stood for something that challenged many negative and binding conventions that Indian society had previously known.  

Kapur explains, "For the first time - the first time in my life, but arguably in India's history, too - people dared to imagine an existence for themselves that was unburdened by past and tradition.  India, I felt, had started to dream."

However, with this newfound hope comes a very complex and confusing time of redefining what it means to be Indian, what it means to descend from different castes, what it means to be married, single, male, female, successful, etc.  As compared with the United States, where modernization and social change have taken place over decades allowing for clearer identities to be carved out over time, Kapur illustrates many of these changes happening in India overnight.  

Kapur speaks about the issue from multiple directions; however, I particularly found it interesting when he spoke about the impact of the ideals of capitalism and its impact on Indian society as a result of the business world:

"I wondered if India's new drive and sense of purpose, its optimism and self-belief, had to manifest, also, as a kind of ruthless and self-centered ambition.  I wondered if the new incomes and opportunities, the rousing sense of independence felt by so many young Indians, had to be accompanied by what I often felt was a shallow materialism and consumerism."  

He made it seem as if the younger working professionals (20s-30s) threw caution to the wind and just went with it, seeing opportunity and seizing it without thinking of its implications.  On the other hand, one forty-something-year-old man, Leo, questions it:

"'Nobody knows where this is all going,' he said...'These guys are just trying on roles, but they don't really know who they're becoming.  Hari is doing great today - he's on top of the world.  But sometimes I worry that the same things that make him happy today might make him miserable tomorrow.'" 

Truly, he raises an interesting question: What will the future hold for India and its people?  How will people benefit?  How will people suffer?  Just because one model of living is successful for a particular society, does that mean that it will be equally beneficial to another society that adopts a similar model? 

I would highly recommend India Becoming, not only from the standpoint of being very illuminating in terms providing a good outline of the recent changes that have taken place in India but also for the implications of change within India.  Have you stopped to think how change and "progress" impact the personal lives of a country populated by 1.2 BILLION people? How is progressed measured in India? 

Furthermore, Kapur made me think about what change means to me as a young person in the United States in terms of social advancement but also on a more personal level.  How has change positively or negatively impacted my family's story? How could things be different?  What direction is my life going given my position in society, and what are the expectations society has for me as a young person?


Too Indian to be American, Too American to be Indian

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My current impressions of India are based off of my personal experiences as well as some of my own pre-enrollment research. However, I find it difficult at times that, having grown up in two vastly different cultures, I am expected to be an expert on both. The harsh reality is that I don't know enough about either and most of my "smarts" can be chalked up to the "street" category rather than "book." The following represents what I currently know about India and how it shapes my expectations for our upcoming trip.

I think it's safe to say that out of my classmates, I have the most experience with Indian culture. However, India is a LARGE country with MANY subcultures, and my knowledge is limited. That being said, I know that India has many "official" languages, the two most common being English and Hindi. I can speak, understand, read, and write Hindi proficiently, but I have a feeling that with the locations we are visiting, I won't really need this skill. Even more dormant will be my knowledge of the Punjabi language and culture (except maybe with an auto-rickshaw driver in Dehli). Almost all of my time in India has been spent north of Delhi; the furthest south I have been is Bombay, and even there they mostly speak English. I know that the extent of my background could be very helpful in Delhi, but in Agra and Bangalore, I will be just as much of a tourist as any of my other classmates (unless of course there is a pop quiz on the national anthem...then I win again)!

As far as religion, I know that Hinduism is common nationwide, Sikhism is popular in the northwest, Islam is sprinkled throughout the country, and Christianity is more popular in the south. When it comes to cuisine, I have to say I stick to my roots and truly enjoy north Indian dishes. However, I do know of some south Indian dishes that might be fun to try in Bangalore. Economically, I know little to nothing about India besides the currency and the fact that it is RAPIDLY changing. I haven't been in 7 years, and I know I will be extremely surprised to see how far even the Delhi airport has come since then. When it comes to entertainment, I love Bollywood movies and music, and I perform Bollywood and Bhangra (Punjabi) dancing, but never anything classical.

In other basic knowledge, I know not to look anyone in the eye that is a) older than me, b) a male, or c) a stranger.  I know that my shoes, clothes, and skin will get dirty beyond belief, and I know it's probably a good idea to carry a toilet paper substitute and hand sanitizer at all times. I know that I'll want chai everywhere we go, and it will be readily available at every corner. I'm well aware that for at least one day, I will be on-my-death-bed ill, and then I'll immediately bounce back. I know I'll have to keep being reminded to guard my purse with my life at all times, and I know I'll be picked out by the locals as an "American" the second I step foot off the plane.

That all being said, there's one more thing that I know about India, and it's probably the most important: I don't know enough. I'm incredibly excited to go on this trip because it means something to me personally; I get to learn about my cultural roots first-hand. I am traveling with and open mind and using my prior experience merely as a guide. Most Americans classify me as Indian, and most Indians classify me as American, but I'm going to try to use this conundrum to the best of my ability on this trip.

47 days to go!

Shaffi Mather: A New Way to Fight Corruption

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http://www.ted.com/talks/shaffi_mather_a_new_way_to_fight_corruption.html

"A New Way to Fight Corruption" is a speech given by Shaffi Mather.  Shaffi Mather was a successful young entrepreneur who brought his family's real estate business to the forefront of the local market before moving on to take major positions at two of India's largest communication corporations: Essel Group and Reliance Industries. However, after experiencing a life-changing ride to the hospital with his mother, he decided to confront India's need for a dependable ambulance service. He chose to leave his career at Reliance and found 1298 for Ambulance, a for-profit service with a sliding scale payment system that has revolutionized medical transport in Mumbai and Kerala.

 The main message of the speech was the topic of corruption in India.  According to the World Bank estimate, 1 trillion dollars is paid each year in bribes, which is the equivalent of India's GDP.  Shaffi Mather began his speech by telling how he quit his job and became a social entrepreneur.  His first project was to create an ambulance system in India to transport injured people to hospitals.  Upon the success of that venture, he decided to create a company that would stop bribes by giving people who are offered bribes or people who are ordered to give bribes a number to call to fight the demand for a bribe.

www.stopbribes.org

The most interesting point of this speech to me was how driven this man is to fight corruption and make the world a fairer place.  He explained how we was successful in creating an ambulance system in India, and that now he is pursuing his primary goal in preventing corruption India.  I think he could have explained the business model for his Bribe-Buster service better, because I listened to it twice and was still not able to exactly understand the business model.

The speaker's delivery was engaging because his passion lends confidence to his speech which allows him to use natural, focused gestures with good posture and effective enunciation.  The only distracting part of his speech to me was his accent and the speed at which he spoke; it made it difficult for me to understand what he was saying at times.

The speaker's delivery style was a stark contrast to the traditional delivery style common in the Western world.  He spoke in a subdued way, his gestures were very controlled and minimal, and he spoke quickly without many upbeat tones.   His speech was distinctly Eastern in contrast with Dan Pink's speech because he was more controlled and spoke in a more subdued way with less visible "overconfidence".  I enjoyed his style of speaking because he spoke with passion, confidence, and genuinely cared about his mission. 



Harsha Bhogle: The Rise of Cricket, the Rise of India

Harsha Bhogle is known as "the voice of Indian cricket" because be is one of the country's most well known cricket commentator and columnist.  He writes a weekly cricket column for Indian Express and interviews top cricketers on ESPNStar's Harsha Unplugged.  He now applies lessons learned from cricket to the business world to help companies develop compelling business strategies.

Cricket and India go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Cricket is an easy game to play anywhere, due to its inexpensive tools and ease of game-play.  Cricket started getting big in India in the early 1990's, and they won the world championship in their first world cup.  Indian culture is not a nationally focused culture; cricket brought the company closer together as a nation due to its international success.

I love all types of sports, so this content was interesting to me.  I love seeing a sport bring a nation together as a whole, kind of like the 1980 Olympic hockey team.  It's interesting to note that India is not a very nationalistic culture.  This means that they all consider themselves parts of their individual states, rather than one whole country.  Cricket brought the country together after they won the world cup.  Again, I allude to the story of the United States and the 1980 Olympic hockey team; after we won the gold medal, we were closer than ever as a country.

His delivery is very good.  He uses correct hand gestures and emotions, and he also throws in a few witty jokes to entertain the crowd.  He spoke a little too fast for me to understand at some points and I found myself rewinding the video at certain points to review what he had just said.  He also skipped around from point to point and often referenced different aspects about cricket that I had not known.  I had to look up many of the terms and definitions he used for the game.

As I noted earlier, he speaks rather fast.  That is typical for an Indian speaker, and not typical for a western cultured speaker.  His accent got in the way at many different points throughout the speech.  Also, he skipped around in his story.  There was no beginning, middle, and end. There was a short beginning, a middle, a revision of the beginning, a tease of the end, a strengthening of the middle and finally a short conclusion.  It was very confusing to follow as a western cultured person.  I had to watch the video a total of about 3 times to fully understand the point he was trying to drive home.  Dan Pink's story was more compelling to me because I could connect with his story; Dan provides a great connection through humor and self-degrading jokes.  It was a little more difficult to feel Harsha's passion for the game because I do not know enough about cricket.  I would definitely recommend watching this video because it is interesting to see a different perspective on sports, even if it means having to watch the video more than once.

Shekhar Kapur: We are the story we tell ourselves

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http://www.ted.com/talks/shekhar_kapur_we_are_the_stories_we_tell_ourselves.html


The speech I watched was given by an Indian filmmaker and story teller by the name of Shekhar Kapur.  The speech he gives is about the art of story-telling; his idea is that the best way to tell a story is to get rid of his mind and go into a state of complete, utter panic.

                The speech Shakhar gives is about the many points of story -telling that makes a story great.  He goes on and on about how a story has multiple different stories when viewed from a different way.  His 4 story lines could all be correct, and even contradict each other.  His idea is that if presented in a contradictory way, a story could find a type of harmony that makes it something amazing. 

                Talking about story-telling and showing how it connects to each person in the world was a great way to get Shekhar's point across.  He was very Eastern in his delivery of the content.  He batted his way around the points he was making, never really saying exactly what he meant.  It was interesting to listen too, but I had to watch it twice to make sure I got what his main message was.

                Shekhar's delivery, on the other hand, was more western.  He made small hand gestures throughout, always staying within a few feet of his sides.  He paused quite a bit, and kept an even speed throughout the speech.  He did pace around quite a bit, but it wasn't to a point where it was distracting.

                While his delivery and content were pretty opposite when it comes to eastern vs. western, I would say that his speech overall had a more western feel to it.  He did have a point to make, and the only thing that kept him from saying it aloud was the fact that he went over his time limit at the end, which caused him to speed up and summarize his points.  

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