Thursday, September 17, 2009

No Longer in India

I am no longer in India and in the process of converting this blog space into a blog that is more relevant to my current location and interests.
Thank You

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Country Am I In? or Hong Kong Highlights

Landing in Hong Kong after a 5 hour flight from Mumbai, the first thing I was struck by was the cleanliness of the city. You could eat off the pavement! There is no trash anywhere in Hong Kong, except in the trash bins. Everything is also very modern looking, the buildings are all glass and metal, and almost nothing looks more then 20 years old.
I was met at the airport by my friend Swati, after a long bus ride through the city, I was welcomed into her house by her family and especially her mom. This was amazing. It is always nice to stay with people in a new city, but it also gave me a lot of time to practice my Hindi since Swati and her family are Indian and their first language is Hindi. So my visiting gift of Indian methi (sweets) was greatly appreciated, but this also meant that I ate a lot of Indian food and spoke a lot of Hindi in Hong Kong.
After trying to get over some intense jet lag Swati and I went to explore Hong Kong city, as we traveled around the markets we used our Hindi skills to discuss prices of bags and shirts. It was kind of like having a secret language, we would decide what we thought the price should be (or what we were willing to pay) and then tell the shopkeeper in English or Swati's Chinese. This made bargaining much easier.
Being shown around the city by Swati, her friends and her family, I spent a lot of time talking in Hindi and trying to remember where I was. I woke up in the morning to Swati's mother and brother watching the news in Hindi (thanks to Star World TV), but would venture out into a city of mostly East Asians, which looked nothing like an Indian city. So it was a bit of a confusing experience, although also clearly a good one.
During the trip:
I ate a lot of Chinese food on my own, according to Swati's family, Chinese food "has no taste," I think everyone had a good time. By the way when I asked what, "no taste" meant, I was told it was too light and not spicy, so basically it does not taste like Indian food. Which after a year in India, was exciting to me.
I also took a lot of pictures, everyone in Hong Kong carries a camera, even people who live there, Swati pointed this out to me on the first day. That was actually kind of nice, because it was never inappropriate to take a picture.
And because Swati and I are the kind of people who cannot sit still and do nothing, I hiked, walked and boated my way around Hong Kong, seeing, not only the city parts, but the country/village parts too.

Monday, August 3, 2009

No Longer in India but Still Blogging

I am no longer in India but I will continue to blog about my travels in Hong Kong and New Zealand.

Last Day in India

As the last hours of my time in India go by, I have decided to use my final post while in India to make a list of the things I will miss and wont miss from Mumbai and India.

I will miss:
All of my friends who are amazing, including my crazy air hostess/ flight attendant flatmate, the women who brings me food, my very nice landlord
Pani Puri (if you have not had it, you have to try it)
The craziness that is Mumbai (endless traffic, tons of people, strange smells)
The Mumbai commuter trains
Watching the rain out my window
The food
The sea front
My gym (rubbing elbows with Bollywood stars, some of whom go to the same gym I went to)
Speaking Hindi
When the Indian national anthem is played before the movie at the theater
The IPL and cricket mania
The random amazing things that happen
Kingfisher beer

What I wont miss:
The pollution
The poverty
Sometimes getting sick from food
The fact that the doors on the Mumbai commuter trains don't close (its dangerous)
Strange white people/ other ex-pats
Lecherous men
The censors who censor movies
Kingfisher beer (I cannot wait to drink something different!)

India, I will miss you, and I hope I can come back soon. There are many things wrong with you and life is not easy, but I am rooting for you to succeed.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Best in Media During My Year in India

As this year in India draws to a close, I thought I would take some time to discuss media related things that happened this year. Basically the following will be a list of interesting media events or a version of a best of list.

Best Bollywood Films I saw when in India this pasted year:
1) Dev D
This movie is not so much "Bollywood" as it is "parallel cinema" (Indian movies that usually do not have the singing and the dancing and have a small budget, roughly the equivalent of an indie film in the USA). The film is an undated version of (based on) the book Devdas, which has been adapted into films by Bollywood in the passed. This version taking place in the present with Devdas now called Dev (played by a wonderful Abhay Deol). Not only is the film beautifully shot, but engrossing, well written and tackles some not so nice events and things that affect India and the world. The film is gritty and dark and reminds me of Easy Rider, not because its narrative is in anyway similar but because the film's music, cinematography, and mood make the film. Dev D was hailed as a new kind of Bollywood film when it came out, lets see what comes after...

2) Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!
Another not so much Bollywood film, and again staring Abhat Deol a Lucky (he had a good year). This film centers around Lucky, who is a con man and thief. An off color comedy, the film is memorable for its zippy dialog, great actor performances, and fun portrayal of Delhi culture.

3) Luck By Chance
A conventional Bollywood film, but a good one. Great dance sequences, interesting plot (even if its on Bollywood's favorite subject: itself), and memorable characters, make this movie about the pit falls of Bollywood and fame a great watch.

4) Dostana
Bollywood is out in full swing in this film, everything is glossy and bright, and all the actors are incredibly good looking (or at least half naked). Although, it looses itself after intermission this film is funny and enjoyable and follows two guys who pretend they are a gay couple to be able to live in a fabulous apartment with a hot girl. The movie has some good laughs (if you are not too pc about everything), but the gay jokes are certainly not any worse (maybe even better) than American movies. As always Kiron Kher steals the show as one of the "gay" guy's mom.

5) Fashion
Okay I will be honest, I am not in love with this movie. It's pretty much, ok. But it stars a woman (she is not purely someone's love interest or a prop) and an almost all female cast. Its themes are not innovative- girl wants to become a model- the industry is not very nice- she gets famous- turns into not nice person- does she become nice again and reclaim her career? But it's entertaining enough, well done and has some good moments and well played "evil" characters.
Enough of the movies, lets look at some other media achievements:

Best Media Events (mostly TV):

1) The Second Season of the IPL (Indian Primier League)
Think Major League Baseball but with Cricket played 20/20 style (See previous Blog on the IPL). The second year/season of the IPL was great TV magic, although all the games took place in South Africa and not in India because of the elections, it was still fun to watch the action. Who knew Cricket could be this much fun. All I have to say is: Go Mumbai Indians!

2) The Elections
Every 5 years India goes to the polls in national elections, this year the Congress party won an unprecedented victory over everyone else (BJP, Communist party etc). The elections were everywhere in the media (especially on news channels and there are tons of news channels), Rahul Gandhi is the new media darling and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is really that short.

3) Rakhi Ka Swayamvar
This TV series staring Rakhi Sawant (a sexy TV and movie actress), is modeled on the Bachelorette (the American TV series). Here some strange guys try to win the actresses heart with strange tasks and family visits. The season (series?) finally is on Sunday, who will Rakhi pick? Will the guys pick her over the money? What does this mean for the institution of marriage in India?

Best advertisements:

The Idea mobile service campaign. These ads usually feature Abhishek Bachchan as a "normal person" who comes up with ideas that use the mobile phone as something that can create change. For example people voting on a proposed government construction project via phone. The ads are fun, up lifting, and different.

The Bajaj motorcycle ads featuring a genie, who grants a guy a house, a wife and a motorcycle. Its funny, and well done.

Most overrated advertisement and media thing:
Vodafone mobile service Zoozoo campaign. These ads featured strange looking characters doing stuff, that was irreverent and funny but ultimately pointless.
I am sure I have missed something, but this is what I remember from a year in Indian media.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monsoon Survival Guide

It has now been raining off and on (often heavily) for a number of weeks, and so the monsoon is in full swing. Thus, I thought I would write a short list of things that can help anyone survive the monsoon in Mumbai:
1) You will get wet, deal with it. Basically there is not much you can do about this except never leaving your home. It will rain very hard and your umbrella will not be very affective, or your umbrella will break, or you will be on the train and get wet, or a car will splash you, or you will have to wade through a large puddle or flood because lets face it, the drains here are not always so good or might not exist. Once you understand this fact, the monsoon becomes more manageable.
2) To help you survive these incidence I recommend wearing sturdy sandals outside. These sandals should have straps so that they do not fall off your feet and grips on the bottom, such as Teva-like sandals or hiking sandals, in India these are called floaters. These will make puddle wading infinitely easier.
3) Get the numbers of your near-by chemist (pharmacist) and grocer because they will deliver necessities to you and then you don't have to go out and get them, someone will bring them to you. But remember to tip, it is raining outside so be nice.
4) Do not wear white or clothing you care about in a downpour. Obviously it will get wet and could get ruined, and while this is Mumbai, I don't thing you want your own wet tea-shirt contest going on.
5) Clothes take about 2 days to dry (no one has driers) after washing them so if you need to wear something specific for a specific event or day, keep this in mind.
6) Get an apartment/room (like mine) with a nice large window so you can sit with your flatmate, drink a beer, and watch the rain come down, it is both beautiful and good bonding time.
7) Don't drink the puddle water.

I hope these tips will help you survive the monsoon if you are ever in Mumbai during the monsoon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Good Times on the Ladies Special

Earlier today I was heading back to Bandra, where I live, from Grant Road in South Mumbai. Since it is always faster I went to the Grant Road train station to take the train back to Bandra. As I waited for the train, I realized that there were a lot of women on the platform, more then usual, and realized that the next train coming was the "Ladies Special" a train consisting of only "Ladies Only" cars. This was good news because that meant that the train would be less crowded, and I could get on to any car, instead of one of the three ladies only cars in a normal train. I got on the train and found a seat. It began to rain harder, and the women in the car began to close the windows of the train. If you have never been on a Mumbai commuter train, there is no AC so the windows are open, although there is a grate there, so to stay dry, the plastic/glass window has to be pulled down from its open position. Most of the windows closed but the one in the isle I was sitting it did not. About 4 women sitting closer to the window tried to close it to no avail. So everyone sat there getting a little wet. At one stop a bunch of the women got off the train and I moved over to the seat next to the window. One of the women said, you will get wet, but I said its only water. I was going home anyway so I did not care if I got wet. In the monsoon you always get wet, so once you are okay with that fact, it does not matter. But I thought I would give closing the window one more shot. So I pinched the locks together on either side of the window, and it slid down, pretty easily, the window closed! I looked at the women sitting across from me rather surprised, and she clapped and said oh good job, and the women next to me touched my arm, and murmured in appreciation. All the other women in the isle smiled and said I must have good luck with windows. They all looked so happy and greatful. I smiled back. The whole incident made me feel so happy and illustrates some of my favorite things about Bombay: the insane number of people in this city, the fact that they generally get along, and the totally crazy (somewhat dangerous) train system that links so many people together and allows you to meet the most amazing people (in this case women) who just make your day better. In a city of so much poverty and hardship, the little things like closing a train window, or giving someone you seat make it a little better for everyone.