Archive for 'Culture'

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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For India’s Jews, Passover Is a Balancing Act

Posted on April 1, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture, India, International, Religion.

MUMBAI, India — As our rickshaw whizzes down a dark alleyway, I can just make out a Star of David painted on a shop’s cement wall. The Kosher butcher in Thane, a northeastern suburb of Mumbai, specializes in mutton and chicken. In a land where most consider cows holy, it rarely sells beef.

We turn left and arrive at the synagogue, ready to celebrate Passover. We have been delayed, but the seder has not begun. (“Indian time” and “Jewish time” mean the same thing — late.)

Built in 1879, Shaar Hashamaim is one the oldest synagogues for India’s Bene Israel Jews. Legend has it the community, considered one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel, arrived in India 2,000 years ago when a boat of Jews fleeing persecution in the Galilee got shipwrecked off the Konkan coast. Seven couples survived, and multiplied. Like Jews the world over, the community acclimated to the local culture while maintaining its own traditions and rituals.

Continue reading on 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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Love and Sex in India: Why Some Indian Men Can’t Take a Hint

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

Here’s my GlobalPost article on courting cultural differences in India. Ask just about any foreign woman here about her experiences with Indian men, and she’ll go into a long diatribe about these guys who call and call and call. And call. What some consider flirting, others perceive as harassment or even virtual stalking. Here’s my look at why it happens.

MUMBAI, India — Cristiana Peruzzo, 35, describes herself as a short, slim, relatively plain looking Italian woman. “I like myself,” she says, “but I don’t consider myself a sex bomb.”

She would date in Italy, but she never got a tremendous amount of attention.

Then she moved to Mumbai.

Continue reading 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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A Makeshift Synagogue and Me

Posted on October 8, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture, Religion.

I am not sure what my family or my synagogue did to me while I was growing up, but I have such a soft spot in my heart for my religion. I don’t think I believe in God, and I can never keep the stories of Jacob and Isaac and that coat of many colors straight. And yet, put me in shul with a congregation singing Hebrew prayers to the tunes I recognize from my years at Temple Beth Shalom or my summers at Camp Eisner, and I melt. I want to do nothing more than smile and enjoy the music with my friend or family member sitting next me. Yes, I admit it, I become one big ball of cheese.

As of sundown tonight, it is Yom Kippur, the most important time of the year. Between last week’s Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, God writes the book for the upcoming year. He decides who is going to have good things happen to them, and who is going to have bad things happen. And so during the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, Jews say sorry to all who they have wronged over the past year. They think about what they did, and who they hurt, and how they sinned, and they ask for forgiveness. (Or at least that’s how I remember my dad explaining it. Feel free to visit factcheck.org.)

And then, on Yom Kippur, when it’s the final hours before God seals the deal, Jews pray and pray and pray, asking God’s forgiveness for their sins. Jews fast both to atone for their sins and, according to the rabbi tonight, because they have no time to eat since they are so busy praying.

Since Yom Kippur seems all about one’s relationship with God, and since I don’t think I believe in God, it would seem logical that I need not celebrate this holiday. I could skip it. And I almost did, for many good reasons. I just started a new job and didn’t want to upset my boss by taking off a day of work. I like to eat and am a really bad faster. I went home for Rosh Hashana last week and didn’t want to schlep another two hours home this week.

But then there’s that whole God-deciding-the-year part. Yeah, just in case, I should probably make sure I’m on his good side.

I hurried home from work, did the candles prayer (are you supposed to light candles on Yom Kippur? Why not – always a nice touch), filled up on two plates of stir-fry and rice with my Buddhist Burmese husband as I pretended not to notice that the sun had already gone down, and hurried off to meet a friend at the synagogue.

Well, “synagogue” is stretching it. My friend and I went to a service for Jews in their 20s and 30s who live in New York City and don’t belong to their own congregation. It’s a brilliant idea – a way of giving people a chance to celebrate the High Holidays even if they don’t belong to a temple or can’t afford the high High Holidays ticket costs.

Given the non-profit nature of the idea, the chosen location for our services was not exactly high class. It was a big empty space in a building on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. Construction ladders leaned against the walls. The windows were all boarded up; some had black sheets hanging on them by a thread. At one point in the service we heard a loud thud as if a piece of construction had just fallen down. The congregation chuckled.

And yet, despite the lack of proper heating or comfortable chairs, despite the absence of a congregation of families who grew up with one another, despite the loudspeaker near my seat that kept having technical problems and buzzing at inopportune moments, it was one of the more beautiful Yom Kippur services I’ve been to.

The rabbi made dorky jokes that were totally endearing. And then he went into short sermons about what Yom Kippur represents, and how you can make it meaningful in your life. He talked about the need not to develop new values but instead to reevaluate your life so you are living out the values you already have.

A young woman with a beautiful voice served as a cantor. One of my closest friends, who also has a beautiful voice, sat next to me singing along to the prayers.  We sang in Hebrew, and read in English.

Listening to the prayers, I remembered my years in Hebrew School reciting those lines. I thought about my family, and the countless holidays I have spent with them. I thought about sneaking out of services at the Concord to run around with my younger cousins. I envisioned my mom and sister chatting during a service in our local temple, and me being embarrassed and repeatedly trying to hush them up.

Now that I am older, and my family members live in different cities, I know that I have to make my own congregation and will likely spend many more services without my parents and big sister. And yet, even though it’s sad to know that we can’t be together as much, nothing brings me emotionally closer to my family and my childhood than praying in a – makeshift – synagogue on a High Holiday. I know that my mom is doing the same in Monroe, my dad in Westchester, and my sister in DC.

When people find out that I strongly identify as Jewish, they often assume I believe in God. To them, that’s what being religious is about. To me, it’s much more than that. What about all the God stuff in the text of the prayers? I usually just gloss over that. I focus on the music and the memories and the lessons about how to live life. And most important, about my family. I think about the role Judaism has played in shaping who I am, about how it has taught me to value learning and helping others. I think about how even sitting with a congregation full of faces I don’t recognize, I feel like I belong. To me, that is religion at it’s best.

And just in case there is a God, I will try my hardest not to eat until sundown tomorrow. I want to make sure only good things are in my Book of Life profile.

This has been cross-posted on the Huffington Post.

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Oped in Hartford Courant

Posted on August 26, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture, Media, Politics, Religion.

Check out my personal essay in the Hartford Courant this Wednesday. It’s about driving cross country and learning about the presidential campaign and American culture from the radio shows along the way. It was on the Los Angeles Times/ Washington Post wire and also ran in the Chicago Tribune.

My husband and I just finished driving from our home in Los Angeles to my parents’ in upstate New York because I will be taking a job on the East Coast. The trip was a great success: We slept in a budget hotel each night and never got bed bugs — just one night with a spider — and we made it to New York without crashing or getting a speeding ticket. More important, we learned about this country we live in, yet know so little about.

Neither of us had ever been to most of the places we visited along the way. My husband was born and raised in Burma, and I have never traveled in the South or much of the Midwest. We got to check out the vistas in the Grand Canyon, art galleries and jewelry shops in Santa Fe, beautiful brick mansions in Tulsa, Cardinal fans in St. Louis and cornfields in Illinois. But what was most interesting to us about our trip was listening to the radio.

Throughout the entire country — between Los Angeles and New York — we couldn’t flip through the radio stations without finding multiple shows dedicated to people talking about Jesus. Some were singing songs about him; most were discussing how their lives had changed since they had accepted the Lord into their heart. On one station a host was interviewing a child about which Biblical verse was her favorite.

Read more.

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Fun Times on Craigslist

Posted on July 14, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture.

My husband and I are selling some furniture on Craigslist, an activity that always leads to good laughs and strange stories. Here are some of the emails I have received in the past three days:

My favorite, from Tommy:

yo id like to buy that sweet papasan chair if you still have it. i can pick it up tomorrow.

A thoughtful one sent from Manuel after he and his family picked up the TV:

Thank you very much for the tv, this tv is what i was realy looking for. thank you again.

From Rhonda:

I would like to buy your plants. waiting to hear from you, thanks, Rhonda………(I will give them a very good home)

And, as always, ones that are a little off and therefore a little suspicious:

Thanks for your mail,i will like to make fast payment for this item,so i will like to send you certified bank check and once the check have clear at your bank my shipper will come for the pick-up at your place,so get back to me with the name to be on the check,your full address,state and zip-code and you phone number.

Get back to me asap.

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Doonesbury on Iraqi Refugees

Posted on July 10, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture, International.

The Doonesbury comic strip has long been known for its willingness to take on heated political subjects, and now it is addressing the Iraqi refugee crisis. And what do you know, the Iraqi refugee character is named Hanna, spelled correctly. Check it out here.

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Burmese Water Festival in Monterey Park, LA

Posted on April 17, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture.

These photos are from Thingyan (Water Festival) to celebrate the Burmese New Year. The festival was April 13, 2008, in Monterey Park, Los Angeles.

In Burma, all businesses, shops and restaurants close for the week to celebrate the holiday. Burmese society is typically conservative - except on Thingyan. Young people wear Western clothes, girls look sexy and all rules are ignored. Children run through the streets throwing water at anyone they can find. Or they wait by the windows of their apartment, ready to dump a bucket of water on the next passerby.

In Rangoon, teenagers and young people load up in cars or trucks and ride by stages set up in the streets with people spraying water hoses. Kids scream, sing, dance and try to find a police officer to taunt. Normally, being rude to a man in uniform would get you in serious trouble in this totalitarian country. But on Thingyan, anything goes.

Photos by Hanna and Aung Moe

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