Archive for the 'Trends' Category

In search of the Indian hipster

Aastha Atray Banan and Gunjeet Sra in Open:

When he was a student, Shardul Sharma, now 33 years old, would go to Delhi’s Chor Bazaar to buy T-shirts for Rs 20 from a pile of clothes. They had been sent over as charity all the way from the United States and had somehow found their way to the markets of Old Delhi. When the internet was still young, he would often log on to Pitchfork, a website that some consider the last word on independent music. It introduced him to bands such as The Stooges, The Kinks and The Fall. The last of which led him to read The Fall by Albert Camus–a novel about a man’s fall from grace. Sharma hadn’t realised all this made him a hipster until he visited the Wikipedia page for ‘Hipster’. He figures his stock market job would’ve disqualified him for the label. But he seems to fit the bill. He has a room full of LPs and wears band T-shirts with skinny pants, vintage Adidas sneakers and big geeky glasses. He likes what he calls ‘alternative’ music and movies.

Amit Malhotra, a 26-year-old visualiser, is so averse to technology that he hand-writes all his documents. He also has the geek glasses and satchel that are the staple of hipsters. He is obsessed with vintage art and fashion; most of his clothes are from thrift shops. He wore a dhoti to the London Fashion Week. He doesn’t label himself a hipster because he doesn’t want to align himself with the majority. “The hipsters here follow trends like their life depends on it and that is completely wrong. You can’t be a hipster if you have to make a conscious effort,” he says.

None of those who use the term ‘hipster’ seem entirely clear about what it means. According to the aggregate wisdom of Wikipedia, to which Sharma turned for clarity, ‘hipster’ refers to ‘a subculture of young, urban middle class adults and older teenagers that appeared in the 1990s… associated with independent music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility, progressive or independent political views, alternative spirituality or atheism/agnosticism, and alternative lifestyles’. This is such a wide definition, it sounds like a complicated way to say ‘non-conformist’. More:

Social media magnification

“Domestic violence and the victimisation of women is not new in our male-directed societies, what is new is the degree to which its magnification through social media can spread solidarity, and potentially trigger policy change.” Kunda Dixit in Nepali Times:

The street demonstrations in Kathmandu against recent rapes and murders of women would probably not have made it to the #2 news on BBC World on Saturday morning if it hadn’t been tagged to the anti-rape protests in Delhi. And that story wouldn’t have been the #1 item if the protests in India hadn’t snowballed due to outraged citizens on social media leading the charge. As the protests grew and continued in India, it fuelled print and TV coverage, and the chain reaction attained critical mass.

In Nepal, protests over the robbery and rape of a 20-year-old woman by immigration and police broke into the public consciousness last month because of the role of journalists and cyber-savvy activists. Left to the traditional media, the story would probably have died quietly like many other rape stories before. It was a tipping point because the crime involved immigration officials who looted the young woman and a policeman who, instead of protecting her, turned predator. Pending murders and disappearances of women in Kathmandu, and the cases of two young women who were burnt alive by family members in Banke and Bara at about the same time, added fuel to the fire. The protests in Kathmandu would possibly have happened anyway, but saturation coverage in the Indian media about the Delhi rape also helped sustain the public’s interest in Nepal.

These were not isolated crimes. Rape has always been endemic in Nepal, it’s just that women press charges more often now and the media reports it. It is also a cross-border phenomenon because we share similar patriarchal value-systems with northern India. At the time this story was breaking in Nepal, a piece by Satrudhan Shah and commissioned by the Centre for Investigative Journalism detailed many cases in the eastern Tarai of victims forced to marry their rapists by the community, police and even gender rights activists. The story was published in Annapurna Post in Nepali, and as ‘Rape for Ransom’ in English in Nepali Times. More:

The business of love

Anindita Ghose in Mint:

Siddharth Mangharam met his wife of three years, Simran, at a party in Bangalore over a platter of Roquefort. “Most couldn’t stand its pungent flavour but there was one attractive woman who, like me, was really enjoying the sharp cheese,” says Mangharam. “That got us talking for a whole hour about our shared passion for cheeses. This serendipitous interaction led to us ultimately getting married a year later.”

Mangharam, 37, is now in what he calls the “business of catalysing serendipity”. A business management graduate whose first start-up, Peek, is into cloud computing, his second helps educated, urban singles connect with each other. Mangharam, CEO, Floh (Find Life Over Here), co-founded the singles network in May with Simran and two other partners to address the gap in premium dating and matrimonial services in India.

The model works like this: Members recommended by existing members enter the network (www.floh.in), and groups of 15-20 singles are “curated” for themed events such as vintage car rallies or wine tastings. Based in Bangalore—with plans to expand to other cities in India—the nine-month-old start-up has a revenue model based on subscription and event fees. Floh has a few hundred members in its network already, while more than 2,000 are on waitlist.

In March, when the New York-based “group dating” start-up Ignighter.com set up offices in India to handle unprecedented traffic from the country, it highlighted a niche market that was waiting moony-eyed at the altar to be addressed. Founded in 2008 by three 20-something men who’d sought to set their dating website apart by enabling members to set up group dates, they’d unknowingly hit a bumper market with India. By 2010, they had over two million Indian users. While the safety-in-numbers idea of going out with a group of strangers of the opposite sex hadn’t found too many takers on home ground, it had sparked in India. More:

 

Pak bans dirty texting: just say no to monkey crotch

Shivam Vij at firstpost.com:

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has banned 1,795 expletives on SMS, ordering telecom companies to filter out SMS-es containing these offending words with effect from 21 November 2011. The letter includes a list of 1,109 English words, more pornographic terms than expletives, and another 586 Urdu words which are more colourful sexual expletives of the standard South Asian kind rather than the plain garden variety pornography.

A letter from the PTA, dated 14 November and signed by its Director General (Services), Muhammed Talib Doger invokes the “Protection from Spam, Unsolicited, Fraudulent and Obnoxious Communication Regulations, 2009″ to pass the order.

The English list is here and Urdu here

The Pakistani Twitterverse was on fire last night as the two lists make for hilarious reading. The English list begins with A.S.S. and ends with yellowman. Some words sound harmless (crap and crappy), others bizarre (Jesus Christ, flatulence, murder, monkey crotch). Many are commonly used obscene words (“FUCK YOU”) and care has been taken to account for alternative spellings (biatch, muthafucka). More:

In The Express Tribune:

Medical terms to be banned:

Athletes foot

Breast

Condom

Flatulence

Intercourse

Period

Premature

Tongue

Herpes

Daily usage words to be banned:

Deeper

Fairy

Fingerfood

Hole

Hostage

Harder

 

How yoga won the West

More than a century ago, Swami Vivekananda Americans with his ideas. Ann Louise Bardach in The Sunday Review of The New York Times. Bardach is a writer at large for Newsweek and is working on a biography of Vivekananda:

The party planning is in full swing throughout India. Never mind that the big day, Jan. 12, 2013, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vivekananda, is more than 15 months away. Not too long ago, Vivekananda, a household name in his homeland, was famous here as well, as the first missionary from the East to the West.

If you’re annoyed that your local gas station is now a yoga studio, you might blame Vivekananda for having introduced “yoga” into the national conversation — though an exercise cult with expensive accessories was hardly what he had in mind.

The Indian monk, born Narendranath Datta to an aristocratic Calcutta family, alighted in Chicago in 1893 in ochre robes and turban, with little money after a daunting two-month trek from Bombay. Notwithstanding the fact that he had spent the previous night sleeping in a boxcar, the young mystic made an electrifying appearance at the opening of the august Parliament of Religions that Sept. 11. More:

The rural-urban divide

For the first time since 1921, India’s urban population goes up more than its rural. Yet, Census 2011 doesn’t even begin to capture the harshness and pain of rural upheaval, writes P Sainath in The Hindu

Is distress migration on a massive scale responsible for one of the most striking findings of Census 2011: that for the first time since 1921, urban India added more numbers to its population in a decade than rural India did?

At 833.1 million, India’s rural population today is 90.6 million higher than it was a decade ago. But the urban population is 91 million higher than it was in 2001. The Census cites three possible causes for the urban population to have risen by more than the rural: ‘migration,’ ‘natural increase’ and ‘inclusion of new areas as ‘urban.’ But all three factors applied in earlier decades too, when additions to the rural population far outstripped those to the urban. Why then is the last decade so different? While valid in themselves, these factors cannot fully explain this huge urban increase. More so in a census in which the decadal growth percentage of population records “the sharpest decline since India’s independence.” more

New Delhi and Bangalore among worst cities for driving

According to IBM’s 2011 Commuter Pain Study:

Mexico City: 108

Shenzhen: 95

Beijing: 95

Nairobi: 88

Johannesburg: 83

Bangalore: 75

New Delhi: 72

Moscow: 65

Milan: 53

Singapore: 44

Buenos Aires: 42

Los Angeles: 34

Paris: 31

Madrid: 28

New York City: 28

Toronto: 27

Stockholm: 26

Chicago: 25

London: 23

Montreal: 21

The annual global Commuter Pain Survey, which IBM released yesterday, reveals that “in a number of cities more people are taking public transportation rather than driving, when compared with last year’s survey. In many cities, there were big jumps in the percentage of respondents who said that roadway traffic has improved either “somewhat” or “substantially” in the past three years.”

The index is based on the following factors:

  1. Commuting time
  2. Time stuck in traffic, agreement that:
  3. Price of gas is already too high
  4. Traffic has gotten worse
  5. Start/stop traffic is a problem
  6. Driving causes stress
  7. Driving causes anger
  8. Traffic affects work
  9. Traffic so bad driving stopped and
  10. Decided not to make trip due to traffic.

Read full IBM survey here

Pakistani military still cultivates militant groups, a former fighter says

Carlotta Gall in The New York Times:

The Pakistani military continues to nurture a broad range of militant groups as part of a three-decade strategy of using proxies against its neighbors and American forces in Afghanistan, but now some of the fighters it trained are questioning that strategy, a prominent former militant commander says.

The former commander said that he was supported by the Pakistani military for 15 years as a fighter, leader and trainer of insurgents until he quit a few years ago. Well known in militant circles but accustomed to a covert existence, he gave an interview to The New York Times on the condition that his name, location and other personal details not be revealed.

Militant groups, like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen and Hizbul Mujahedeen, are run by religious leaders, with the Pakistani military providing training, strategic planning and protection. That system was still functioning, he said.

The former commander’s account belies years of assurances by Pakistan to American officials since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that it has ceased supporting militant groups in its territory. The United States has given Pakistan more than $20 billion in aid over the past decade for its help with counterterrorism operations. Still, the former commander said, Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment has not abandoned its policy of supporting the militant groups as tools in Pakistan’s dispute with India over the border territory of Kashmir and in Afghanistan to drive out American and NATO forces.

“There are two bodies running these affairs: mullahs and retired generals,” he said. He named a number of former military officials involved in the program, including former chiefs of the intelligence service and other former generals. “These people have a very big role still,” he said. More:

Also in NYT: Pakistan’s spies tied to slaying of a journalist

Obama administration officials believe that Pakistan’s powerful spy agency ordered the killing of a Pakistani journalist who had written scathing reports about the infiltration of militants in the country’s military, according to American officials.

New classified intelligence obtained before the May 29 disappearance of the journalist, Saleem Shahzad, 40, from the capital, Islamabad, and after the discovery of his mortally wounded body, showed that senior officials of the spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, directed the attack on him in an effort to silence criticism, two senior administration officials said.

TV bed: too hot and warm

From The Telegraph:

Calcutta model Dimpy Ganguly, who became Mrs Rahul Mahajan through a televised swayamvar, walked out on her husband yesterday alleging domestic violence but he claimed today she was back in his bed.

“Right now, she is in my bed, sleeping and I am lying next to her. I gifted her a puppy for her birthday this week and by the time we celebrate our first anniversary next year, I will gift her a Pappu (child),” he said. “Many channels have approached us for shows where we feature as a couple. You will soon see us working together in a television project,” he added.

In the early hours of Thursday, Dimpy fled the Mahajan home in Mumbai’s Worli after she was allegedly roughed up by Rahul, son of late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan.

Dimpy’s cellphone remained switched off on Friday but she was quoted as saying: “I received an SMS on my cellphone at about 3am and Rahul suddenly got violent after he couldn’t read the message because the phone’s keypad was locked. He slapped, kicked and dragged me by my hair. I called up a friend who took me away from Rahul’s house at dawn.” More here and here

India: Morning after pill brings sexual freedom

Saritha Rai at GlobalPost:

Bangalore: At Sundeep Medicals, a busy drugstore at one end of Bangalore’s prominent Brigade Road, two teenage girls breeze in and ask for the iPill, and then argue over whether they should buy one or two.

“Buying emergency contraceptives has become like buying candy bars,” said Shreyansh Sankhla, who owns the store. They sell so fast, said Sankhla, that he ran out of stock last month and could not replenish as the distributor had sold out too.

Fifty years after the pill heralded women’s sexual emancipation in the West, emergency contraceptive is becoming a new phenomenon in India. Despite fierce opposition from conservative quarters, morning-after pills are available without a prescription and presage a different kind of sexual empowerment in this fast-changing country.

Aditi, a 21 year-old call center executive who did not want to give her last name, said the use of iPill and Unwanted-72, both one-pill emergency contraceptive brands, is rampant among her colleagues and friends. They no longer have to depend on their partners using condoms. More:

Yoga for foodies

From The New York Times:

The past decade has produced thousands of new foodies and new yogis, all interested in healthier bodies, clearer consciences and a greener planet. Inevitably, the overlap between the people who love to eat and the people who love to do eagle pose has grown. In 2007, a combination yoga studio and fine dining restaurant, Ubuntu, opened in Napa, Calif.

Yoga retreat centers now offer gourmet cooking classes and wine tastings; New York yogis trade tips about which nearby ashrams (Anand) and studios (Jivamukti) serve the best muffins.

But not everyone agrees that the lusty enjoyment of food and wine is compatible with yogic enlightenment. Yoga purists say that many foods — like wine and meat — are still off limits. Others, like Mr. Romanelli, say that anything goes, as long as it tastes good. The debate is exposing rich ores of resentment in the yoga world.

“The culture of judgment in the yoga community — I call it “yogier than thou” — is rampant, and nowhere more than around food,” said Sadie Nardini, a yoga teacher in New York. (“Yogis” are those who do yoga, teachers and students alike.) More:

Yoga guru sets up base on Scottish isle

From the Times:

baba_ramdevBaba Ramdev attracts thousands of devotees to his open-air yoga sessions, from political powerbrokers and business barons to their drivers and maids. Now he is branching out from his spiritual headquarters on the Ganges to a tiny island in the Firth of Clyde.

This month the superstar swami, one of India’s most charismatic and controversial gurus, will attend a ceremony on Little Cumbrae to mark the start of his new project, the creation of an “international base” for his expanding yogic empire.

Little Cumbrae was bought recently for about £2 million by two Scottish devotees of Baba Ramdev, Sam and Sunita Poddar. The couple, who moved from India 32 years ago and made a fortune running care homes, are renaming it Peace Island. Within 18 months it is hoped that Peace Island will start welcoming pilgrims to retreats, where they will practise strict vegetarianism, stretching routines and circular breathing exercises. More:

The man who started the Bikram yoga craze

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMSwxt74H1s

Bikram Choudhury loves Bentleys, bling and shopping, making him the true spiritual guru for the consumer age. In the Times:

I have a 10-pack! Still I have a 10-pack!” The Beverly Hills “bad boy” of yoga, Bikram Choudhury, who owns a fleet of 40 Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, and has a global army of acolytes sweating it out to his copyrighted “hot yoga” sequence at temperatures of 40C, is keen to prove he has defied his 63 years. The diminutive mogul leaps up like a coiled spring from the sofa of his luxurious Park Lane suite – black candyfloss ponytail bouncing beneath a trilby concealing his bald patch – and yanks up his disco top to reveal a yoga-trim torso and chest stubble (he teaches only in Speedos and a radio mike: perhaps he shaves for aerodynamics).

Sufficiently famous to ditch the surname, Bikram is his very own poster boy. He insists he never gets sick, doesn’t sleep (no, he hasn’t been to bed, having just had “a kind of party”) and doesn’t eat – well, just a little protein in the late evening. But, then, the Calcutta-born yogiraj may not even be 63. “I don’t say my date of birth,” he smiles enigmatically. But it’s on your website – 1946. He won’t budge. “I feel 20 years old,” he declares emphatically. Bikram Yoga, now with more than 4,000 studios and rising worldwide, is seen by its legions of devotees as a cure-all. Andy Murray raved about it after taking it up this year – the toughness helps his mental strength, he says. The Williams sisters practise it, as do all the New York Giants. And Lily Allen. And Madonna. And, erm, Peter Mandelson, who has been on the phone. “He wanted me to make more yoga schools,” Bikram deadpans. “Since he’s been doing my yoga, he write me that his life changed. He feel everything so clear, he could do things much more faster.” Phew. More:

The latest yoga fad: Doggy yoga (aka doga)

“Dogis” sleep better and are more chilled, apparently. Aids available are Om balls and chewable, squeakerless Shanti Sticks (bodhitoys.com). Barking.

New Delhi goes gaga over Obamas’ puppy

portuguesewaterdogs

Emily Wax in the Washington Post:

Forget India’s month-long national elections, the global financial crisis and terrorism. In recent days, the capital has gone crazy over Bo, the first dog of the United States. Even Bollywood film star Salman Khan has placed an order for a Portie, according to the Hindustan Times, which ran a headline that read “Delhi’s Doggie No.1.”

The energetic, black-haired dog — a relatively rare breed — has to be imported here from Europe, the United States or Thailand, prompting concerns that the animals might be drugged for the long flights or smuggled in illegally. Including airfare and various permits, a Portuguese water dog would cost an Indian buyer about $2,000, said Satish Chhillar, a veterinarian.

That’s as much as India’s recently released Tata Nano, said to be the cheapest car in the world.

More:

America’s immigrants

From The New York Times:

Indians are the best educated newcomers from overseas. Somalis are the youngest and poorest. Immigrants from Jordan and Bangladesh are most likely to be working in sales and office jobs.

Those are among the findings of a profile of the nation’s foreign-born residents, legal or illegal, released this week by the Census Bureau.

Over all, the profile indicates that Latin Americans and Africans account for a greater share of the nation’s immigrant population than they did five years ago. In 1990, 22 percent of the foreign-born residents were from Mexico. By 2007, 31 percent were.

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Bollywood-style dance classes drawing big crowds

An AP report from Denver:

Drawn to the lavish dance numbers in films from India, or just bored with their gym workouts, people are flocking to Bollywood-style dance classes that mix traditional Indian folk dances with hip-hop moves. And the U.S. exercise industry is taking notice.

Long enjoyed by young people of Indian descent, and common in big cities on the coasts, Bollywood-style classes are popping up in regions of the country where Indian cinema is new and there aren’t as many people of Indian descent.

Fans of Bollywood – an informal term for Hindi-language films, often romantic musicals – want formal instruction in the style marked by foot-stomping dance numbers that put folk moves and hip swings to pop beats.

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Bollywood stereotypes

Bollywood stereotypes have always been magnified versions of ourselves. In tracking 10 that have changed, Jerry Pinto tells us things – both encouraging and alarming-about our society. From Tehelka:

heroThe more Bollywood changes, the more it stays the same. That’s one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is to admit that it is the popular culture of note in this country; that it is still patriarchal and insensitive to issues of gender and sexuality and community, but that it has also been forced to change.

For example: When did you last see a Bollywood daddy come to the head of the winding staircase in a wine-red robe and declare, “Yeh shaadi nahin ho sakti”?

When did you last see a Bollywood mummy grab her son by the arm and, in a voice flooded with tears, implore, “Mera suhaag bacha lo beta”?

When did you last visit a villain’s den with a resident crocodile, a pool of pink acid – or even a pole on which to twirl the hero into submission?

When did the heroine last throw herself on the bed and weep because she had been offered a blank cheque on her happy bir-day?

When did the hero last spread his legs, bend one knee, point into the sky and yodel?

More:

Yoga bends the globalization stereotype

Matthew Hennessey at Policy Innovations:

Are you stressed out? Do you suffer from psoriasis? Think you might be pregnant? Depressed? Overweight? If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, perhaps you should try yoga.

Yes, yoga-the consensus cure-all prescribed by experts, neighbors, doctors, online magazines, and strangers the world over. At a time when no one seems to agree on anything, yoga has emerged as a rare counterpoint to globalization’s tarnished image.

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Matchmaker, matchmaker…

New sites are trying to connect people based on criteria such as geography, profession and marital status. Anushree Chandran in Mint:

Mumbai: Online matchmaker SecondShaadi.com (Shaadi is Hindi for marriage) was launched by Pahwa Knowledge Business Solutions (KBS) Group last year, targeting the potentially lucrative remarriage market of people who have been divorced, separated or widowed and are looking for partners with a similar background.

In another example of hyper-targeted online matchmaking, GovtShaadi.com was founded by Strikeone Advertising to help government employees find spouses. Strikeone also has a site called BPOshaadi.com meant for people who work in business process outsourcing firms.

And sites such as Metroshaadi.com and Metromonial.com are appealing to city slickers to find prospective partners in their city.

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It’s all in that ‘extraa’ letter

Neelam Virjee in Mint:

It worked for Singh is Kinng, but didn’t for Maan Gaye Mughall-e-Azam. Not the cast nor plot, not timing nor distribution. It’s the extra letter.

Numerologists have played a role for some time as consultants to Bollywood actors, directors and film-makers who leave nothing to fate and readily add, subtract or rearrange the letters of movie names-or their own-if the alignment somehow casts good fortunes. Now, with Bollywood becoming more organized as a sector, it only makes sense that numerologists are following suit.

At least two of the top practitioners are looking to set up schools to perpetuate numerology and capitalize on the popularity of the claimed science, fanned by a combination of superstition, desperation and the relentless pursuit of success at the box office.

Sanjay B. Jumaani, the reigning king of numbers who engineered the spelling of Singh is Kinng, which set a Bollywood record this month by grossing $15 million (Rs65 crore) in its opening weekend, is planning to set up a teaching institution in the next year as a way of ensuring continuity of the science.

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Bush’s tailor in Bangkok

AP report in IHT:

Jesse and Victor

Jesse and Victor

Thailand: U.S. Secret Service agents have knocked on the door of a hole-in-the-wall shop run by two turbaned Sikhs to take delivery of a special package for visiting President George W. Bush – five Egyptian cotton shirts in blue and white.

Thousands of miles from Washington, the Bush family has stitched close ties with the tailors, who over the years have turned out clothes for not only the current president, but his father and other family members.

“This time, I don’t think he will have time to have a suit made,” said Victor Gulati of Rajawongse Clothier. “Besides, we would have to remeasure him.”

Click here and here for more, and here for Jesse & Victor’s Rajawongse Clothier site called Dress for Success:

India’s new corporate jet set

Neeta Lal in Asia Sentinel:

India’s newly rich are acquiring that increasingly contentious totem of the western corporate world, the executive jet, in record numbers. At a time when it is becoming de rigueur to be concerned about the carbon footprint – the contrail of greenhouse gases that jets that spew across the stratosphere — India’s 100,000 high-net worth individuals, those with more than US$1 million in assets, are snapping up spiffy aircraft at mind-boggling prices for their personal and business use.

Until very recently, corporate jet travel was a rarity in Asia overall as tightfisted titans eschewed private aircraft as an unnecessary frivolity. That has started to change, with India and China at the forefront, giving succor to manufacturers such as Cessna, Bombardier and General Dynamics and others as the US and Eurozone economies start to flag.

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Biting the bait gets a whole new meaning

British tourists pay 100 pounds to watch endangered lions kill tethered cattle in India’s Gir National Park. Dean Nelson has the story in the Sunday Times.

British tourists are paying more than £100 to watch endangered Asian lions kill tethered cattle at an Indian wildlife reserve.

According to local officials, some visitors eat lunch at dining tables as they watch cows and buffalo being devoured. Animal welfare groups have expressed outrage, saying such gruesome displays break the law and are not only cruel to cattle but also put the lions in jeopardy by bringing them closer to humans. They blame western tourists for encouraging the practice.

According to conservationists, the shows are being organised by tour guides and farmers in collusion with junior park officials. Only about 360 lions survive in India from a subspecies that once ranged from Greece through the Caucasus and into China. It is now confined to the Gir national park in Gujarat, western India, where the incomes of villagers depend on frequent sightings.

more

Death Metal and the Indian identity

When writer Akshay Ahuja transported a guitar to India, little did he know he was being led down a rabbit hole to a vibrant subculture by a group that styled itself the Cremated Souls. From Guernica:

It was near midnight on the eve of India’s independence, and I was at a concert called Freedom Jam, held at a club on the outskirts of Bangalore called only The Club. Watching the band perform from beside the stage, I noticed a girl with a nose ring. My grandmother’s nose was pierced when she married at thirteen; her nose ring was a sign that she adhered to a certain traditional image of Indian womanhood. For this girl, however, the ring indicated that she was not just westernized (such girls simply chose not to get their noses pierced) but a member of an alternative community that existed outside the mainstream of westernized Indian youth.

Essentially, the nose ring had traveled to the other side of the world, assumed a fringe rather than traditional meaning, and then come back to India, where it now has two different meanings. Such dual gestures exist in America, but they usually have one sincere and one ironic meaning-trucker hats on truckers, for example, as opposed to everyone else. In India, however, both meanings are perfectly sincere, both carry conviction.

Our group had left late for the show, stopping at a store on the side of the highway for a few bottles of whiskey. When we finally pushed through the turnstiles and found the promoter, all they could get was the 4 a.m. slot.

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Beyond Bollywood, is Indian fashion going global?

Suzy Menkes in International Herald Tribune:

Models at Lakme Fashion Week, Mumbai

Models at Lakme Fashion Week, Mumbai

Mumbai: With voluptuous bodies and a sultry glamour, the models looked like a mirror image of the front row movie stars. Flamboyant dresses held together with crystal straps seemed destined for Mumbai’s cinematic royalty. By the time the designer Manish Malhotra took his bow surrounded by slicked males and sensual women, the finale could have been a poster on a Mumbai billboard.

But this red carpet moment was only one act in Lakme Fashion Week. For Indian fashion is aiming to go beyond Bollywood and on to the global stage.

This vibrant city, its spirit caught between the energy of New York and laidback Los Angeles, is determined to establish itself as India’s hot and hip fashion capital. It may be competing with Delhi, the country’s political epicenter, which held its own fashion week earlier this month, but the Lakme show (named for the beauty giant that is the main sponsor) is showcasing fresh talents.

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Slum visits: Tourism or voyeurism?

Some tourists are trading museums and monuments for shantytowns and garbage heaps. But critics say these tours are exploitative. Eric Weiner in The New York Times:

dharavislum.jpg

Michael Cronin’s job as a college admissions officer took him to India two or three times a year, so he had already seen the usual sites – temples, monuments, markets – when one day he happened across a flier advertising “slum tours.”

“It just resonated with me immediately,” said Mr. Cronin, who was staying at a posh Taj Hotel in Mumbai where, he noted, a bottle of Champagne cost the equivalent of two years’ salary for many Indians. “But I didn’t know what to expect.”

Soon, Mr. Cronin, 41, found himself skirting open sewers and ducking to avoid exposed electrical wires as he toured the sprawling Dharavi slum, home to more than a million. He joined a cricket game and saw the small-scale industry, from embroidery to tannery, that quietly thrives in the slum. “Nothing is considered garbage there,” he said. “Everything is used again.”

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Online Scrabble craze leaves game sellers at loss for words

In The New York Times, Heather Timmons reports from New Delhi on the Scrabulous craze. The Calcutta-based creators of the game collect about $25,000 a month from online advertising.

scrabble1.jpg

The latest bane of office productivity is Scrabulous, a virtual knockoff of the Scrabble board game, with over 700,000 players a day and nearly three million registered users.

Fans of the game are obsessive. They play against friends, co-workers, family members and strangers, and many have several games going at once. Everyone seems to love the online game – everyone, that is, except the companies that own the rights to Scrabble: Hasbro, which sells it in North America, and Mattel, which markets it everywhere else.

In January, they denounced Scrabulous as piracy and threatened legal action against its creators, two brothers in Calcutta named Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla who run a software development company. Both Hasbro and Mattel said they were hoping for a solution that would not force them to shut down the game.

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Through a lens, virtually

The biggest and commercially viable names in Indian entertainment are putting their money in full-length animation movies. Suruchi Mazumdar in The Indian Express.

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A warrior stands atop a medieval tower. His sword glistens and his majestic robe flutters in the wind. Then he dives in slow motion and takes on his enemies who die minutes later after some death-defying stunts. That’s Tamil superstar Rajinikanth, looking 20 years younger in his next film Sultan-an expensive animated full-length feature to be made by the actor’s daughter Soundarya Rajinikanth.

Sultan is among many animation movies currently being made in India. The culture that began with 2003′s surprise hit Hanuman, a cutesy 2-D cartoon for kids, has moved on to an adult genre with films like Sultan and other mainstream Bollywood productions like the Ajay Devgan-and Kajol-starrer Toonpur Ki Superhero, Yash Raj Films’ Roadside Romeo and Karan Johar’s Kootchie Kootchie Hota Hai (an animated remake of the blockbuster Kuch Kuch Hota Hai).

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Finding Manhattan on India’s real estate map

 Aruna Viswanatha in Mint:

In the US, the trip might take more than a day, but in Bangalore, anyone can hop from Tribeca to Brooklyn, stop off at the White House, and head out to Melrose in just a few minutes.

The miraculous journey unfolds in a new housing development in Bangalore’s Electronic City named “Concorde Manhattans”, which sits on prime real estate across from a Wipro Technologies campus. While location is the major draw, developer Concorde Group is also betting that its American naming scheme will help attract Wipro’s globetrotting employees. “Manhattans is a brand associated with grandeur,” said the company’s marketing manager Alok Mishra.

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Questionable wisdom of being politically correct

We do live in times where political correctness can take bizarre overtones. Namita Bhandare in Mint.

So, I’m wondering: is it OK to be sexist but not so OK to be racist? I ask this question not in the background of Hillary vs Obama but maa ki vs monkey.

Now, if you’ve ever sat in a DTC bus in Delhi, you’ll be pretty familiar with the maa ki lexicon. In its expanded form, it refers not to motherly love but to a rather delicate part of her anatomy. Harbhajan Singh has admitted to referring disparagingly to Andrew Symonds’s mother (and I’m sure Zinedine Zidane has some thoughts on this), which, in some strange way, is less offensive than if he had called him a monkey, an animal that is venerated and even worshipped in India.

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