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Archive for February, 2009

The Mumbai Suburban Railway. Mumbai’s arteries, veins, and capillaries rolled into one functional hunk of steel. Even after living in this bulging metropolis for so long, I am continually amazed by the efficiency of its semi-antiquated local rail network. This is not a network built to help, say, a quaint German hamlet go about its daily business. This is a network that carries upwards of 10 million bodies – approximately 60% of Mumbai’s population – up and down its slender archipelagic body on a daily basis. Her compartments (yes, Mumbai’s train system is feminine in my eyes) do not try to please the occasional tourist’s camera lens; they are designed to take space efficiency to the next level. Similarly, the majority of her stations are not aesthetically pleasing in any conventional sense; rather, they are giant containers through which daily passengers… well, pass. But then again, what do you expect from a train whose body parts are called dabbas, or “boxes,” in Hindi? (more…)

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100 giggling women, all looking for a relaxing night with the girls. 85 mobile phones on silent mode. 62 cups of Diet Coke. 43 buckets of caramelized popcorn. 12 packets of tissues, for those with particularly high levels of internal emosonal attyachar.

And 1 standard-issue chick flick, with correspondingly standard-issue character clichés, “funny enough” situations, tear-jerking moments, and happy endings.

From the beginning of time — or at least since Meg Ryan began acting — this genre has tried to help young, Western(ized), heterosexual women escape from real-life boy drama for 120 minutes. These movies give the audience a non-controversial, entertaining, and relatively mindless mirror to society, as the filmmakers perceive it to be at the time. The audience is expected to consume every drop, relate to it, occasionally quote from it, and eventually forget about it. (more…)

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What characterizes the “New India” ? You know, the new breed of fashionable, educated, gently rebellious youth who earn their own money and often live in rented apartments? In terms of items this group consumes, I would say Cafe Coffee Day, Orkut, Ghajini-inspired caller tunes, Friends (oh sorry, F.R.I.E.N.D.S), chunky jewelry, iPod Nanos, Pink Floyd (for the engineering crowd at least)… and now, it seems that emergency contraceptives like Cipla’s iPill and Mankind Pharmaceutical’s Unwanted-72 can be added to the list.

(Note: For this post, I’ll focus on the iPill as opposed to Unwanted-72, though both companies appear to have similar philosophies) (more…)

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Trust this week’s Economist to seamlessly link animal behavior to the political decision-making process (for the record, I have been spotted waxing poetic about The Economist’s cutting insight, breath-taking worldliness, and amazing dry wit). If you have a minute, check out Decisions, Decisions, an article in their Science and Technology section.

The article essentially synthesizes a few recent scientific experiments with appetizing social animals like worker bees, cockroaches, and ants, and briefly discusses potential implications on political bodies like the European Parliament. It’s fascinating, really — across these species, scientists have found that the best decisions are made by a group of independently-formed opinions, and that leaders heavily rely on trust from all those “below” (in terms of social hierarchy). An imposed decision from a singular source, regardless of how informed s/he may be, has not proven to be as powerful as a group of moderately-informed bodies. Sorry, Chavez.

None of this is particularly revolutionary in the world of politics (does ancient Greece ring a bell?), but I like the reminder that independent opinion formation is an indispensable element of the democratic process. And that democratic decisions can be made and inculcated into a group even during the implementation process.

I’m curious to know how — if at all — these theories can be baked into Obama’s economic stimulus plan, which, last I heard, wasn’t receiving quite as much Republican support as the Dems envisioned. And how (again, if at all) these theories can be used to give the UN a bit more bite. Ideas, anyone?

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Remember that song by Aerosmith, Pink? As in, that which is the color of passion and today just goes with the fashion? Every word in that song rings true right now, given India’s latest hyper-publicized movement (crusade by modern “netizens” ?), the Pink Chaddi Campaign.

Quick background, for those of you who (a) live in different time zones; or (b) live in this time zone, but under a very large, soundproof rock: The Pink Chaddi campaign began, as most important things in life do, as a Facebook group. It was created by the Consortium of Pub-going, Loose, and Forward Women, which came together as a response to attacks on women in pubs around the country, most notably in Mangalore, Karnataka. These attacks (which I believe included both physical assault and sexual molestation) were carried out by volunteers of the Hindu extremist group, Sri Rama Sene, in response to what they believe to be an outright “attack” on Hindu culture – that is, women frequenting pubs. The leader of this group, Pramod Muthalik, supposedly apologized for the attack itself but still “insisted it was done to save our mothers and daughters.” He has apparently threatened similar attacks if women continue acting in such a “non-Hindu” manner. And like-minded extremist groups, who characteristically get a little feisty around this time of year, have threatened to force any boy and girl found holding hands on V-day to get married. Wow. Just wow. And by the way, great measure for population control. No wonder China has higher GDP growth.

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based on links my friends have been sending me, it seems like many have been sharing their thoughts on the newest film that appears to be able to walk on water. but oh well, a barrel can never have too many monkeys, can it?

oh slumdog millionaire, that which can part the seas, bridge the gap between the first and third world, and reiterate our 2008 pep rally favourite: “yes we can.” that which showcases “the real india” in a way “real indian directors” never would dare. that which allows starry-eyed liberal American college students to empathize with the poor in the comfort of their dormitories, and nod their heads with true understanding.

sorry, that last statement was a bit cynical, even for me. (more…)

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Hello world!

hello anonymous, ambiguous, androgynous cyberspace!  so i’m new to blogging, but am enthusiastic to learn the rules.  i like thinking — and now writing — about a lot of things, from economic development to social entrepreneurship to public health initiatives to literature to film to urban environments to animal behaviour.  oh and pop culture.

so about me… i’ve been living in mumbai, india for almost 3 years.  i’m working in microfinance (well, kind of).  i like books.  i like people (for the most part).  i like stories.  i like music.  i like travel.  and i like writing, though i’ve always been a bit intimidated by the art.  starting this damn thing was actually my new year’s resolution, so let’s see how well i keep up with it :)

so, hello.  and hopefully this isn’t one of those “<kiss kiss> so nice to see you” hello’s, but a real, sustained, bellowed greeting.  ok that sounds a bit scary, but you get the point.

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