Archive for January, 2010

Chasing Ambulances in Mumbai

Posted on January 31, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Health, India, International.

Here’s my GlobalPost article on the lack of emergency services in Mumbai.

MUMBAI, India — Dr. Saeed Ahmed gets a call – a patient at Noor Hospital in South Mumbai needs to be transferred to another hospital with better medical equipment. The doctor, his assistant and driver load up into the ambulance, turn on the siren and head downtown. A similar scene could have taken place in New York.

But there is one glaring difference: During the approximately 30-minute ride not a single car, taxi, bus or person moves out of the way for Dr. Ahmed’s ambulance.

Not one even pauses.

Continue reading here.

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Sundresses vs. Abayas in Mumbai

Posted on January 31, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, women.

Here’s my blog for True/Slant about wearing a strapless sundress in Mumbai. It was not a pleasant experience.

A woman in a face veil and long black abaya sits on a bench on Carter Road in Mumbai. Only her eyes are visible. A man in jeans and a t-shirt lies on the bench with his head in her lap. She gently massages his face.

They spot me, walking along in a strapless sundress. The woman playfully puts her hand over her partner’s eyes to shield him from this Western woman with exposed shoulders and protruding collarbone.

I play with my iPod and pretend not to notice. I pretend that I am not considered dirty and provocative.

Continue reading here.

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Facebook, Orkut and the Caste System

Posted on January 26, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, Media.

India’s ancient custom of caste has made its way into the modern world of social media. Here is my GlobalPost article on how caste plays out on Orkut and Facebook.

MUMBAI, India — A man who goes by “hemant” types out a question: “Are you embarrassed that you are from the scheduled castes or scheduled tribes?”

One by one, members of the online community of SC and ST, which compose the lowest castes and groups in India, begin responding:

“Rajni”: “No my dear i never felt ashamed due to my caste.”

“Mr”: “When I was an innocent school-going boy, I feel embarrassed to reveal my caste due to discrimination and my helplessness, later during my college days I started coming out of the closet and was very aggressive to those who criticize me.”

An apparent outsider, “Arun,” responds: “You people cannot compete on your own. You people do not have strength of character, therefore you people are ready to bow your head down and beg. Beggars cannot be choosers. You are low caste because you people compromise on your self respect.”

Continue reading here.

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Matheran: A Retreat from Mumbai Madness

Posted on January 20, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, travel.

I found a beautiful, quiet place to sit outside and relax. And it only took me six weeks, a taxi, two local trains and a “toy train.” Check out my travelogue with photos for True/Slant about visiting a hill station near Mumbai.

Some friends and I recently took a day trip to Matheran, a hill station about 100 kilometers from Mumbai. Let me clarify a few nouns in that sentence. I went with Yehia Houry, a young Lebanese man who recently moved to Mumbai to work as a fellow for the Acumen Fund. We met in line — no, not online — at the Indian consulate in New York when we were applying for visas last November. This was the second time I had seen him in Mumbai, and even though the first was work-related, two encounters definitely counts as a “friend” when you first move to a city.

The other “friends” I went with are British backpackers who have taken a year off to travel around India and Southeast Asia. (Yes, they do carry backpacks.) This was the first time we had met, and I probably won’t ever see them again, but I am knew here — and happy to claim as many “friends” as I can.

Continue reading here.

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Not for the Squeamish — Bathrooms in India

Posted on January 18, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, women.

I wrote an essay for GlobalPost about my personal experiences using bathrooms in India. During a short trip to a rural area of the country, I had no option but to pee on train tracks, use “bathrooms” that had neither a toilet nor a hole, and share a restaurant’s restrooms with an army of spiders.

Sanitation is a pressing social and public health issue in India, especially for the women here. According to Emily Wax’s Washington Post article, more than 600 million Indians — about half the population –  don’t have access to toilets.

Here is a view on the toilet situation from a Western perspective. Would love to hear what you think.

I took an overnight train to central India after Christmas and what struck me most was not the scenery (it was pretty dry) or the livestock in the streets (though I do love baby animals). It was the bathroom situation.

The restroom on the train — and I didn’t take first class — was surprisingly not disgusting. It was relatively clean and even had soap in the dispenser. That is more than I can say for many of the restrooms I have visited in Mumbai’s restaurants.

I was impressed. Until morning came.

Continue reading here.

Follow me on Twitter here.

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Mumbai Is Hard, Until It’s Not

Posted on January 6, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, travel.

In addition to writing for GlobalPost, I will be blogging for True/Slant from India. Here is my first piece. It’s on what it’s like to live in Mumbai.

When you move to a new city, people constantly ask you what you think of it. You need a line, a quick response that works for both locals and foreigners that can be communicated in person or via twitter. It should honestly encapsulate how you feel but not terribly offend those who call this foreign land “home.”

When I lived in Burma, one of the world’s least developed and most repressive countries, my line was, “Life is fascinating.” My comment quickly conveyed that various aspects of living under a military dictatorship were a bit shocking, without making a political statement that, depending on whom I was speaking to, could be problematic.

Continue reading here.

You can also “Follow” me on True/Slant. Please do. I only have five followers so far, and two of them belong to my immediate family.

And on Twitter here.

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Mumbai Parsis divided on intermarriage

Posted on January 3, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture, India, International, Religion.

My first article for GlobalPost from India has been published. It’s a profile of the Parsi community here.

MUMBAI, India — A group of about a dozen young Parsi professionals gather around a table at the Parsi Gymkhana or social club at Marine Lines in Mumbai. They drink Pepsis and snack on toast topped with akuri, a spicy mixture of scrambled eggs and tomatoes, as they wait for others to arrive.

“What’s up, homies?” says 23-year-old Peshotan Kapadia as he makes his entrance. Sporting a goatee, jeans and T-shirt, Kapadia — like the rest of the group — looks like a typical modern young adult.

But despite the modern scene, the group’s underlying purpose is a reflection of their traditional beliefs: to foster marriage between young Parsis.

Continue reading and see the photos here.

Follow me on Twitter here.

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