Archive for October, 2010

In Mumbai, Finding the Perfect Fit

Posted on October 31, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture, India, International, travel.

Walk through a market in Mumbai, and the brilliant colors, intricate designs and variety of fabrics on sale at even the smallest stall will captivate you. India’s clothes — like the countries’ bangle-clad women — sparkle and dazzle.

And luckily for travelers, with its low cost of labor and raw materials, Mumbai is an ideal city to have high quality clothes made at a fraction of what they would cost in the West. Here’s a short guide to finding your perfect fit.

For custom-made formal wear, try the designer Rahil Raja (B-205, Raj Mahal Building, Off Yari Road, Versova, Andheri West; 91-986-724-3355). Mr. Raja specializes in making traditional Indian outfits like saris and tunics with Western touches such as ruching or asymmetrical necklines. When he designs Western evening gowns, he often uses Indian fabrics.

“I kind of blend both to create something more contemporary and chic,” said Mr. Raja, who also designs costumes for Bollywood productions. His eveningwear creations begin at 10,000 rupees (about $220) and take about 10 days to make.

Continue reading at NYTimes.com.

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Behind Mumbai’s Conspicuous Consumption

Posted on October 31, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture, India, International.

MUMBAI, India — In a city where the majority of people lives in slums, the world’s fourth-richest man has built a 27-floor house.

It is an act most global media outlets have touted as a symbol of India’s robust economy on the upswing. News outlets have pointed to the dramatic increase in the number of billionaires (69) and a rapidly growing middle class. A McKinsey Global Institute report predicted that India’s 22 million middle-class urban households could increase to as many as 91 million in the next 20 years.

But inside India, the response has been more varied. Some news commentators have called Mukesh Ambani’s mansion, which cost $1 billion and is the most expensive in the world, distasteful and even vulgar.

From the average Mumbaikar, however, there has been very little resentment despite an awareness of the contrast between this one home’s splendor and the rampant poverty that surrounds it.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

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Cost of Calm in Mumbai

Posted on October 26, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Crime, India, International.

MUMBAI, India — Each night, after his mother goes to sleep in the kitchen and four other relatives curl up on the living room floor, Fazal leaves his tiny house in North Mumbai to find a little space for himself. Often, he can find a decent night’s sleep on a bench outside near the Jogeshwari East neighborhood market.

But one night last month, Fazal did not sleep so soundly. Five policemen shook him awake. They arrested him and detained him at a nearby police station for what seemed like no good reason, said Fazal.

Fazal Ahmed Shaikh, 21, said he spent three days in jail, silent and fearful of the police and his cellmates. He stayed in his cell with bugs of “all sizes,” he said, until the police eventually released him. Fazal was never charged with a crime.

Fazal, who wears his shaggy black hair swept across his forehead and sports the flicker of a goatee, was one of 7,000 people arrested in Mumbai ahead of a controversial court case ruling in late September. Mumbai authorities, fearful the verdict would spark riots, used Section 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code to detain people they suspected might disturb the peace, according to Mumbai’s Additional Commissioner of Police Deven Bharti.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

Follow Hanna on Twitter @Hanna_India.

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Sherpa Who Scaled Everest 19 Times Feared Dead on Climb

Posted on October 25, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under International.

A famed Sherpa guide was last night feared dead after being struck by an avalanche while nearing the peak of the 7,129m Mount Baruntse in eaastern Nepal.

Chhewang Nima was leading an expedition of seven people, which included some British climbers, up the mountain when he was struck by the avalanche as he was fixing ropes, his agency said last night.

The accident happened when he was less than 100 metres from the summit. The other members of the team dug the snow but were unable to find him.

Mr Nima, a married father of two boys aged about 10 and 12, is well-known among the professional climbing circuit and well-respected within his own community for his achievements in scaling the world’s highest mountain.

Continue reading at the Independent.

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Mumbai Zoo Vs. Botanical Gardens

Posted on October 19, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, environment.

MUMBAI, India — An elaborate city plan to revamp Mumbai’s zoo into a world-class animal park has angered environmentalists who argue the project will damage the city’s 149-year-old botanical garden, in which the zoo resides.

Concerns over the fate of the garden’s trees have prevented the $105-million project from moving forward.

“The whole face of the garden will be changed,” said MR Almeida, a plant taxonomist and former vice president of the Bombay Natural History Society. “It will never be the botanical garden anymore.”

In the middle of an otherwise congested and polluted city, the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan-Zoo feels like a lovely, green oasis. Towering trees — some 300 to 400 years old — form canopies under which visitors stroll through the grounds. Lovers gather on the well-manicured lawns. Birds fly overhead, their chirping a welcome change from Mumbai’s incessant honking.

Enclosures, most small and barren, dispersed throughout the park hold a lone hyena or a couple hippopotamuses. On a recent afternoon, two thin elephants stood behind a moat — chained to the ground — swaying back and forth. Until the zoo is upgraded, it cannot bring in more animals. The ones that remain tend to be old and are dying off.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

Follow Hanna on Twitter: @Hanna_India

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Bandra Diaries: What’s in a bikini wax for an Indian woman?

Posted on October 14, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture, India, International, women.

MUMBAI, India — Swati Karan prefers to wear one of her many colorful salwar kameezes, the traditional Indian tunic and loose pants. She says they’re comfortable, and her mother tells her she looks best in them.

But six days a week Swati, 26, pulls on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt or button-down and begins the two-and-a-half-hour journey to work. Though born in a small village and now living on the outskirts of Mumbai, Swati has arguably one of the most modern jobs in all of India — though it may not be the most glamorous. Swati works at a beauty salon giving young women Brazilian bikini waxes.

Swati lives in a one-bedroom apartment with nine family members in Dombivli, a suburb northeast of Mumbai that is only slightly calmer than the city itself. Every morning, she walks 15 minutes to the train station, past women on mats selling fresh vegetables and busy stalls offering everything from fried samosas to plastic buckets.

Swati waits with the other women on the train platform to secure her space in the ladies’ compartment of the train, standing room only. She takes the train for an hour to Dadar, where she transfers to another train on to Bandra. There, she waits another 30 minutes for a bus to Pali Hill, a posh Bandra West suburb known for its tree-lined streets and Bollywood mansions.

And finally, Swati arrives at work: an upscale beauty salon where men in designer jeans get manicures and women in three-inch heels have their hair straightened. It’s a far cry from her home back in Dombivli, but in her black eyeliner and kitten-toe heels, Swati fits right in.

In a place as dynamic as Mumbai, sometimes old and new, Western and Indian, coexist in parallel universes. Other times they occur within the same person at the same time. On a daily basis, Swati lives amid these layers of modernity and tradition.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

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Mumbai’s Jewish Culture: Small but Unique

Posted on October 11, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, Religion, travel.

I’m going to be writing for the NYTimes.com’s travel blog. Here’s my first piece, with photographs.

With at least seven synagogues, each with its own unique design and history, Mumbai has no shortage of Jewish sites to visit. But given the city’s tiny Jewish population, trying to get a Shabbat minyan at each poses a bigger challenge.

Sitting in the office of the Magen Hassidim Synagogue (8, Mohomad Shahid Marg, Agripada; 91-22-2309-2493), Abraham Samson and Daniel Soloman Waskar, the synagogue’s president and manager, recalled the community’s golden years in an interview conducted before the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During the British era, the synagogue, with its high ceiling, upper level for women, hanging eternal light and tebah (the Sephardic term for the bimah, the elevated central prayer area) would become so crowded that people would gather at the door.

Beginning in the 1950s, though, most of the city’s Jewish community left for Israel or the West. Mr. Samson and Mr. Waskar rattled off each member of their family and where they now live. “Now from my family,” Mr. Samson said, “nobody’s here.”

Continue reading at NYTimes.com.

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