Archive for May, 2010

India: The Pimped Out Rickshaw

Posted on May 28, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Business, India, International.

MUMBAI, India — I tell the driver where I’m going and then duck into the auto rickshaw’s passenger compartment. I rummage through my purse, looking for my iPod to block out the honking on Mumbai’s busy streets. I put on PRI’s “The World” and settle in for the bumpy ride ahead. But as the news begins to play, I notice something is off.

In front of me, attached to the back of the driver’s seat, a pouch made of sparkling red and black faux snakeskin holds a selection of the day’s Hindi newspapers. I glance down at my seat — matching snakeskin. I slowly look around the rickshaw and notice a first-aid kid, a small fire extinguisher and containers holding tissues and a notebook and pen. Red and blue floral fabric with rug-like fringes decorates the top. An angle statue holds up the meter, speakers line the back and two silver vases with plastic flowers sit on a built-in dashboard above the steering wheel.

This is one pimped out rickshaw.

“Very fancy,” I say to the driver, Aresh Ghatge. He laughs and nods his head.

“This is my BMW,” Ghatge says a month later when we meet in Bandra, a Mumbai suburb. Ghatge’s wearing loose white cotton pants, matching top and traditional leather Kolhapuri sandals, named after a town about 400 kilometers south of Mumbai. A brass triangle-shaped badge reading, “Mumbai Cab Driver 144702,” attached to his keychain hangs from a buttonhole near his collar. “I treat my rickshaw like it’s my first wife,” he says through a translator. “I want to make it comfortable for my passengers, like a home.”

India’s financial capital is a booming, fast-paced city that — despite its overcrowded trains and exorbitantly expensive housing — attracts much of the country’s hardest working and most innovative young people. Aspiring actors and dancers leave families behind, rent out tiny rooms in far-flung suburbs and scrounge for auditions as they hope to become Bollywood’s next biggest star. Young men with little to no education set up their own mini shops selling the palate cleanser paan or the local snack pani puri.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

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Twitter in India: Are You Following the God of Cricket?

Posted on May 12, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture, India, International, Media.

MUMBAI, India — A cricket star took India by storm last week when he joined Twitter and began racking up followers at the rate of almost 4,500 an hour. Within the first 24 hours, Sachin Tendulkar’s following reached almost 80,000, sparking a media frenzy and countless tweets about the so-called god of cricket joining the social networking site.

Local Indian publications pounced on the story, and the following day, the Mumbai Mirror splashed across its front page: “Sachin Breaks Record With Tweet Nothings.”

Everything from which personal photographs he uploaded to how his follower statistics compared to other Indian celebrities (he outdid Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan’s day one) became fodder for an article.

The reaction stems from India’s obsession with cricket, Tendulkar and, increasingly, social media. “India’s love for cricket verges on the pathological,” Jason Overdorf wrote in GlobalPost in March.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

Follow Hanna on Twitter.

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One Mother’s Story: A Casualty of Three Delays

Posted on May 11, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Health, India, International, women.

DIBRUGARH, India — One night in late March, about 24 weeks into her pregnancy, Sulekha Lohar woke feeling ill. Sharing a bed with her husband and two young sons, she felt her chest pounding and her legs swell. She began convulsing. After about an hour, her husband, not knowing what to do, decided to seek help from his parents.

Too poor to own a phone, Bhangru Lohar left his wife in bed and rushed from his humble home with a tin roof and mud floors down a dark, dirt path of the Ghorijan Tea Estate in upper Assam, past the piles of firewood, bamboo fences and homes of other tea workers, to his parents’ house. He woke his father, Rama Lohar, who woke the neighbors, and the men decided to bring Sulekha to the tea company’s health center, according to Bhangru and Rama, who independently told the Pulitzer Center this story.

There are three ways in which necessary treatment for pregnant mothers can be delayed that increases the chances of a maternal death, according to maternal health specialists. The first delay can occur when the mother or family first decides to seek appropriate medical care for a pregnancy or labor complication.

Continue reading on the Huffington Post.

This reporting was sponsored by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Learn more about this reporting project.

Follow Hanna on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Hanna_India

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Three Wives, 10 Kids Is Enough

Posted on May 3, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Health, India, International, women.

TENGATOLI, India — The air crackles as a team of medical staff and crew walk across a peanut field, lugging a big generator from their boat into a village of 850 people. Near a collection of thatchroof homes, the crew sets up a projector on the dirt floor of a small bamboo structure that also serves as the community’s schoolhouse. Well, it occasionally serves as a schoolhouse. The teacher lives on the mainland, a three to four-hour boat ride away, and only makes the journey along the Brahmaputra River to Tengatoli village in lower Assam to teach once a month. Sometimes once every two months.

Barefoot children and mothers holding infants trickle into the school-turned-cinema hall. The boat staff, part of a boat clinic run by the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research with funding from the Indian government and UNICEF (see previous blog post on C-NES and the boat clinics), show a video on maternal and child health, including the importance of family planning.

Some of the video clips are in Assamese, and even though many in the crowd only speak Bengali, the language barrier does not seem to dissuade them from watching. Many who live on this island without electricity or televisions have never before seen a video.

One of the women watching is Anuwara Bezum. Dressed in a vibrant yellow, orange and red sari, she wears her head covered, an assortment of bangles and a nose ring. Bezum, who does not know her age but thinks she is about 30, grew up in a village on the mainland. Like many of the girls in her community, she got married at 12 or 13. She left her family and friends and moved to her husband’s village on the island. Bezum had her first child at around age 15, she says as she slowly rocks her fourth and youngest in her arms. This baby will be her last, she says through a translator.

Continue reading at the HuffingtonPost.

This reporting was sponsored by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Learn more about this reporting project.

Follow Hanna on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Hanna_India

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