Archive for March, 2010

Fair Trade in India

Posted on March 29, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Business, India, International.

AMRAVATI, India — Rajendra Panja Kadu lives with his family in a small, humble home in a farming village in central India. He works three jobs — farming his two acres, milking his water buffalo and working as a laborer on others’ farms — but Kadu, like millions of other Indian farmers, can barely make ends meet.

Kadu earns about 60,000 rupees ($1,300) a year and must rely on government ration cards to help him buy food, he says as he sits on his wooden bed. Mounds of cotton puffs waiting to be sold peek out from under the bed. Large sacks of soybeans lean against one wall. Paintings of Hindu gods adorn another.

When Kadu is low on cash, he must borrow about 10,000 rupees a year from moneylenders, who he says charge him a 5 percent monthly interest rate.

The farmer, who lives in Ghodghwan village in Amravati district, says he continues farming despite the difficulties because he has no better options. “It is my business. It is my job,” he said. “I don’t know anything else.”

Continue reading here.

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Drinking and Driving in India: Party On

Posted on March 25, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Business, India, International.

MUMBAI, India — Paras Turakhia, 26, earns enough money in Mumbai to have bought his first car — with his own sound system, iPod dock, “the works” — and employ a full-time driver.

But every Saturday, when Turakhia gets ready to spend a night on the town, he leaves behind his driver.

India is a land known for its nosiness, and Turakhia’s driver is in “constant contact” with the young man’s family, neighbors and business relationships. If Turakhia or his friends get a little sloppy one night, his driver is likely to spread the news around, the young man says.

Enter a new market opportunity in New India.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

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Bollywood, Here I Come

Posted on March 24, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International.

MUMBAI, India — I get ready in my air-conditioned apartment in Mumbai. Eyeliner and shadow, two coats of mascara, foundation, blush, powder and just a little more eyeliner. I put on my grandmother’s pearl earrings and my fitted Banana Republic dress that falls far above my knees but fully covers my back and chest – sexy but conservative. This is India, after all.

One more look in the mirror. Not bad.

I have not acted since my middle school production of Alice in Wonderland, and I’ve never modeled. But life in Mumbai – especially for “fair-skin” foreigners – works differently.

Soon after I arrived in India a talent scout spotted me at a coffee shop, took my photographs and said she’d call if her company thought they could use me. I did not hear from her for three months and tried to put it out of my mind. I’m more than just a pretty face anyway, I said to myself, who cares if they don’t want me.

Then, out of nowhere, I get the call. She wants me to come for an audition for a commercial. Make sure to wear your red glasses, she tells me, they’re funky.

You mean it wasn’t my high cheekbones and deep brown eyes? Oh, well. I do agree – the glasses are cute.

Continue reading here.

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Murder of Muslim Lawyer Angers Community

Posted on March 18, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Crime, India, International, Religion.

MUMBAI, India — When Shahid Azmi was 15, police gathered outside his home in a slum area of Mumbai. As he, his brothers and mother huddled inside between the bed and cupboards, his older brother Arif recalls, police stoned the home and fired shots over the windows.

Shahid had a front-row view of Mumbai’s 1993 riots in which mobs of Hindus burned down homes, destroyed businesses and killed hundreds of Muslims as police looked on. His brother said Shahid also saw officers storm a Muslim home in their Shivaji Nagar community, drag women out of the apartment and try to rape them in the street. He witnessed an officer tell a Muslim neighbor to run, only to get shot by another cop.

Another brother, Khalid, recounts Shahid’s life as he sits in Shahid’s former office in Mumbai’s middle-class suburb of Kurla. Shahid had become a lawyer, representing Muslim Indians he considered wrongly accused of terrorist charges.

Last month, three armed gunmen entered this office and shot Shahid dead at point-blank range. He was 32.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

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Facebook in India: Who Doesn’t Want to Know Everyone’s Business?

Posted on March 18, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture, India, International, Media.

It takes a little getting used to living in a place where everyone thinks they have a right to know all of your business. About a month after I arrived in Mumbai, I was at a dinner party, and my friend mentioned to the crowd that I had gained weight since I got to India. Everyone directed their eyes at me, looked me up and down and then decided this was a grand conversation topic, worthy of further exploration. They took turns asking me about my diet, my exercise regimen, and of course, how much I weighed. In pounds and kilos. Before-India (BI) and After-India (AI). By the end, the host was directing his housekeeper to fetch the scale, so we could all see exactly how much the newly arrived American had gained after a month of eating Indian curries.

Tunku Varadarajan has a great piece in the Daily Beast arguing that Facebook is becoming so popular in India because Indians are so damn nosy. Facebook, which just announced it will open its first Asia office in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, has seen its users in India grow from 1.6 million in early 2008 to over 8 million. Varadarajan quotes Columbia University digital media professor Sree Sreenivasan who says social media was made for Indians.

Continue reading my blog on True/Slant.

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A Visit to Guhagar, India

Posted on March 15, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International.

Mumbai’s summer has arrived. It’s now hot, sticky and the amazing fresh figs are no longer available. I left the muggy city for a couple days and went to Guhagar, a coastal village about 300 kilometers south of Mumbai. Check out my photo essay on True/Slant.

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Caught Up in Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday

Posted on March 7, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, Religion.

Last week, I went with my housekeeper to her very poor community in eastern Mumbai to see how Muslims here celebrate the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday. We intended to wait in her neighborhood until a procession of trucks carrying screaming, chanting young men and children made their way around the city and then ended up in her community, where we would greet them. Instead, we climbed into the trucks and went along for the ride.

Read my GlobalPost story on what it was like to celebrate the holiday as a Jewish American.

MUMBAI, India — My housekeeper arrives at my apartment early. As she cleans, she rushes me to get ready. She tells me I should wear Indian dress today. “There will be a lot of men, not good,” she says. “You know, men’s eyes …”

I put on a salwar kameez, show it to Chandbi and she nods in approval. I go to slip on my flipflops, and Chandbi’s face turns to horror. “You look nice in Indian dress,” she says. “You are going to wear those?”

I change into leather sandals, and Chandbi puts on her headscarf. We catch a rickshaw to go to her home in Parkside, a poor community in eastern Mumbai, to see how the anniversary of Prophet Mohammed’s birthday is celebrated here.

Continue reading here.

Go here to see my photographs from the festival.

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