Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mumbai and Rajasthan

After Goa, Rachel and I headed to Mumbai, the city which will be my home for 4 months starting in February. Reaching in the early morning at the usually crowded CST train station, we were greeted by taxiwalas wanting us to take their cab and views of the glass with bullet holes in it from the terrorist attack only a few weeks before. We then headed to my friend Raj's house (where we would be staying). Once there and greeted by Raj we had some tea, coffee and chapatis and a shower, we went to see Raj's office at Idea Domain. This is one of the sites I will be working at in Mumbai. After that it was off to Bandra (the cool suburb- think Brooklyn- not actually a suburb) of Mumbai to be trendy and get lunch. After walking around, eating and doing some show shopping, we met up with my friend Priya's brother, Dhruv. He showed us around Bandra, took us to see the Bollywood actor Shahruh Khan's house, and to the beach front where the cool college kids hang out. After that it was off to a Magnet (a wall mart-like Indian store) where you can get everything you need to do some shopping for a party Raj was having that night. Magnet was fascinating but not bigger then a "normal" American supermarket, it is apparently also on illegal land that is suppose to be used for a mill not a store so it is there illegally.
After Raj's party that night and a trip around the touristy parts of Mumbai, a Lonely Planet walking tour of the interesting old buildings, a view of the Taj Mahal Hotel and its current reconstruction post terror attacks, and a visit to the best bakery in Mumbai, we hoped a train to Jaipur for the Rajasthan leg of our journey.
What struck me about Mumbai was how nice people where, and helpful, they were thankful that Rachel and I were in the city and touring around (despite the terrorist acts), and were eager to show their resilience and unity in the face of such acts. There were many signs on billboards and bumper stickers on cars with statements of a unified Mumbai against acts of terror, very reminiscent of similar signs after 9/11 in NYC. In general Mumbai is an easier city to get around then Delhi, there are nice sidewalks and less staring and eve teasing by men. Also women tend to dress less conservatively (which is good because it is going to be so hot there in April and May, and I want to be able to wear some skirts that end at the knee and not the ankle.

Now Rachel and I have met up with the Fulbright group. We have toured Jaipur and are now in Jodhpur, the beautiful and friendly blue city. But more on that later...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


After switching apartments (and trying to find a permanent one) for two weeks and having access to no reliable Internet, I am finally out of Delhi and on vacation with my cousin Rachel in... Goa! Yes Goa, the beachy and touristy part of India were there are a lot of old hippies in thongs (especially men who might want to consider a change of wardrobe) and Israelis. Except this year it seems to be pretty empty all around. Even the people trying to get us to buy stuff tell us that the prices are really really low because no one is here. Well okay, but it still seems high to me... Anyway, the empty beaches and not so party like atmosphere mean that we are getting a lot of snooze time on the beach but not a lot of raves. This is okay since nether of us are big ravers. So its actually been really low key and nice to sit around and do nothing. A nice switch from running around trying to get work done in Delhi while trying to find an apartment. I am happy to have nothing to do. Our next stop is Mumbai (Bombay) for a few days and then it is off to Rajasthan. I apologies for the lack of pictures, I will do my best to post some images when I am back in Delhi, even though I still have no Internet in my apt, hopefully it will work from the Internet cafe down the street. Fingers crossed because there is nothing like sunbathers and a cow together on the beach!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Work, Work, Work

This week was an amazing research week for me. I attended three focus groups for one of the agencies I am working with, to test a new beauty brand. The participants for these groups were middle class India women, some were married and others were not not. But the groups were all in Hindi and I understand most of what was said!
Other than being in Hindi, focus groups are run a bit differently here than the ones I have attended in the US. Here the people running the focus groups come to the participants (especially because these participants are young women). So the groups are held in a person's living room (basically someone rents their house out for a few hours to hold the focus group there, get paid to do so, and serves the participants and interviewers snacks and tea) and in the same neighborhood as the participants live. This means they do not have to travel far, so they spend as little time away from their family as possible, and are allowed to attend the groups, since many families do not like women traveling by themselves around Delhi. Also since the focus groups are in a house, the women are more comfortable. The home is women's space. An office building is a male space, and would be uncomfortable for women participants, as well as far away. I cannot go into the questions asked as they are for the agency I was working with. But the groups were facinating, and just interacting with this group/demographic of women and hearing what they had to say was enlightening and great for my research.