Thursday, January 10, 2008

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year everyone!!! What’s the window period for wishing people a happy new year I wonder? A week? A month? Who knows. HAPPY NEW YEAR anyways!!

There is so much going through my head right now that I want to discuss- The Bhutto assassination- repercussions in the subcontinent, New Hampshire and the farce that was Hilly Boy’s tears, India v. Australia cricket controversies, My suicidal poptart Brit-Brit- to name a few- but I will spare you for now because an update on my life is due (before I start ruminating about the world as a whole). PS- speaking of poptarts- who remembers my obsession with strawberry poptarts and strawberry milk prior to 9am Organic Chemistry every day of sophomore year? That’s right- everyone.

I just returned having spent December in basically the Guam of India. No, really. I was in Gadchiroli (which to Indians is akin to joking around about Timbuktu), a region in the northwestern-most tip of the state I live in, Maharashtra (map on left). It was actually pretty cool- I took a flight to the ‘city’ of Nagpur which is the dead center of India; in fact, there’s a small strip deemed ‘zero mile’. Take that, Eminem!

On a serious note though- Gadhciroli is also a hotbed for the Naxalite movement- which is an insurgency within India that not many Indians know of! They are basically a revolutionary communist group that belongs to various trends of Maoism. They have carved out a guerrilla zone in the underdeveloped tribal area of eastern Maharashtra in the last two decades. It was during the 1980s that the Naxals entered from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh with the slogan 'liberation against state repression.' They managed to establish rapport with the local poverty stricken tribals by regularly visiting their villages. These days however they have just transpired into becoming goons that blow up communication towers, bomb government buildings, and target government officials- with no set purpose in mind. Don't worry, I was safe wherever i went- I would either be on a motrocycle (yes) with a village person, or incognito on a bicycle- and looked like a normal village girl. A non malnourished, tall village girl that is, lol.

The name of the organization is SEARCH (Society for the Education, Action, and Research in Community Health). It was started by a doctor couple- Abhay and Rani Bang- nicer people I have never met. After completing their medical education and subsequent MPH at Hopkins, they decided to return to India- and work in the remotest, economically poor, and infrastructurally backward part of their home state of Maharashtra (where I am from as well, hence my interest in going there), which was the district of Gadchiroli. It is a demographically interesting mix- on one hand, there is your run of the mill rural farmer population that earns their living working in rice fields (earning a meager $100 a year or so), while the other half is populated by the adivasi people of the Gond Tribe. The latter indulges in paddy farming as well but are poorer than any other sub-group I have seen in India; yet remarkably socially progressive.

The actual SEARCH camp is in the middle of a freaking jungle (peep the video at the end- taken by a visiting spine surgeon on an elephant. I won’t say more, just see it for yourself and we will discuss).

Let me provide a little background on what the Gond tribe is for future context- These people don’t speak a lick of the state’s language- Marathi; they have their own dialect that sounds more like Telegu than anything else, probably because of the proximity to the Andhra Pradesh border (sorry whites if you didn’t understand this sentence. Moving on). The women wear sarees with no blouses (calm down boys- seeing shriveled OLD ladies in this state will reverse what you are feeling). They wear that chunky African looking silver jewelry around their necks too, which I wanted one of. Their diet consists mainly of using bamboo in any way possible. In fact, their ‘specialty’ is this red paste that they eat with most meals- upon asking what the ingredients were, I was informed that it was a red ant paste. I still wanted a taste, but I thought to let these poor people enjoy whatever sustenance they had available without hungry Apoorva attacking. That brings up a funny story though- I despise Indian masala chai with a passion. Never drank it at home- matter of fact, can’t even stand the stench of it. At every house in every village that I visited due to my project (details later), I was offered water (which hi hello I don’t need cholera/diarrhea thank you very much) so I politely declined, food- (which hi hello these people toil 18 hour days to make ends meet, I don’t want to steal their food), so CHAI was the only saving grace. No joke, I would drink about 9 cups a day because I didn’t want to offend Indian hospitality. BLECH.

Upon reading this last paragraph, I realize how disjointed all my thoughts were communicated, but whatever- there are so many little things that I want to add, that a little disjointing doesn’t hurt. Anyone here double jointed though? I was thinking about that the other day while watching these contortionist twins on Ellen and how it creeps the shit out of me.

One of the social customs of these tribals that amazed me and made me draw parallels to the West was their tradition of ‘Gotuls’, seen on the left. So when young women and men ‘come of age’ aka hit about 15-16, they are sent to this special hut in town where they live together etc (emphasis on the etc) and choose who they want to marry. Interestingly, if one young tribalette gets knocked up by a tribal boy, and then she later decides she wants to marry someone else- it’s not frowned upon! In one case, this girl told me that when she got married to someone else, her ex danced in the wedding procession (along with the child she had with him), but cried so loudly and for so long that she had to go calm him down and then continue to get married. How fun if that happened in any of our marriages, haha.

The SEARCH camp is set up to be very tribal-friendly. Gondis are very intimidated by government run hospitals with their many floors and confusing signs, as well as the fact that doctors and nurses are dressed in white (which is the color they adorn their dead with before cremation), so according to them- how can we trust someone to give us life when that’s what our dead wear? They also tend to travel crazy long distances in the rain/heat/bitter cold by FOOT, so when they are turned away from hospitals due to strict visiting hours, they get disenchanted. So the Bangs designed this health care camp with all these cultural sensitivities in mind- and came up with a masterpiece. Their OPD (outpatient department) is set up to look like a Gotul, little huts around it accommodate family members of patients- complete with their kind of stoves to cook on etc. As for me, since this camp attracts ridiculous amounts of international attention (as it should), there are great living arrangements for students/visiting doctors etc. In fact, there were 2 other girls there- Leena from California and Alivia from Minnesota. You would be proud to know that we performed the Soulja Boy in front of people and made Baby Bash’s ‘Cyclone’ the theme song of the people that worked there, hahah good times.

The entire staff at SEARCH consists of the Bang doctors, their son, Anand who is also a doctor, and another doctor named Sushma. The rest are researches, counselors, lab technicians, nurses, administrative staff etc who live on the premises with their children (who were the most adorable things in the world and would pluck little flowers and bring them to me every day- in turn I had to spin each one of them like a helicopter over my head for 5 mins, yeeesh). Although I was there for a short period of time, there was a definite sense of community and importantly- fraternity that I experienced and loved. Some people found that feeding me is all I need in life to smile, so would make me anything I requested much to my joy. So amidst all these interactions, learning, overall immersing myself in community health- I found a sense of fulfillment that I have never felt in any job that I have had. Look at me talking like I’m 58 year old. But real talk- I recommend an experience such as this to everyone if interested- no amount of lectures in classrooms, reading in textbooks can teach you as much as you will learn by spending time with people there. This was the basic premise behind why SEARCH was started- “Go to the people, live among them, love them, listen to them, learn from them, begin with what they have, build on what they have.”

Work at SEARCH concentrates on maternal and child health (my main interest), and they have an amazing success story- They have successfully reducedthe infant mortality rate by a staggering 75% by implementing a simple low-cost home based neonatal care project. The global IMR is near 4 million, with 1.2 million of these in India itself. In the tribal area, the parents of a newborn hold off on naming their child for the first month of birth because they are not expected to survive that long! The underlying important factor in SEARCH’s mode of work is that of using human potential within villages to do so. They train VHW’s (village health workers- one seen above) to attend to newborns and treat asphyxia, birth infections, hypothermia, jaundice etc- and also train TBA’s or trained birth assistants as midwives. These women are illiterate village women, and to see them knowing how to (proudly) use oxygen masks, breath counters, administer sepsis medications (with antibiotics such as co-trimaxazole, gentamycin), jaundice injections, and even teaching mothers how to breast feed- is simply astounding. And the cost per mother-newborn served? $7. That’s it. Now the task is to scale this up to a state level, then eventually national level- incredibly exciting stuff that I am honored to have been able to see first-hand. In fact, I will be going back at the end of February through March or so for a 2 month mini-project that I can spearhead on my own. Can’t wait!

Other than that, life is pretty good- saw Shivani and Akhil at their 324th wedding reception, so that was fun (plus she got me SWEDISH FISH!! So I love her for that- not that I didn’t already)! Champ is still the best thing that ever happened to us- made me believe in love at first sight etc. I can’t wait to be done with these damn applications though, because then I get to enjoy some down time especially with some of you coming to visit soon! (not you Tommy, I’m still mad at you).
NOW FOR THE VIDEO I WAS TALKING ABOUT:
video

Random Photo Gallery:

Dish TV in the village, a 2 week old baby and her (?) mother, a lady at the water pump, clothes washing station outside the home, baby cows!




Monday, December 10, 2007

Hello Goodbye

Remember meee?!

Yeah I suck as you all have repeatedly told me due to lack of updates. And guess what? Get used to more silence from me- I'm headed in a couple of hours to this tribal healthcare camp of sorts in the middle of nowhere. Soooo basically no internet/phone for 2 weeks. Here is a link to the place- it's run by Hopkins folk so i should be safe :)

Promise to write in MUCHO DETAIL once i return (I will be keeping a journal while I'm away) on the 26th, then head off to see Shiv and Akhil get married for the 567th time on the 28th.

Merry Christmasssss everyone, I'm so sad to be missing all the festivities. Make sure to drink extra eggnog for me, play under the mistletoe for me, and sit on Santa's Lap for me (except, don't drink too much eggnogg and THINK you are sitting on Santa's lap- that can be a tricky situation as i learnt some years ago).

Love Love Love and Ho Ho Ho




Ps: Here is my our new puppppppy!! He is less than 2 months old and is the love of our life:




Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Someone feed me


Diwali season is upon us in the motherland and bears much resemblance to Christmas in terms of festivities, family bonding, gifts, diabetes, and fat merry men (well, only if my uncles come home on Sunday- fingers crossed). This also means entertaining superfluous visitors at home who drop by at any time of day or night convenient to them. That’s one thing I love about India- never been one to dislike oodles of company, I love the fact that people drop in unannounced all the time. Apart from giving me the chance to perfect my perfect daughter act, there’s always some element of anxiety that follows as I wonder what they have brought me (usually food, yay!)


This afternoon however, was muy diferente. Homeboy rolls in circa afternoon time and decides to drop a book off for my father (I am immediately not impressed since he brought no food, not even one little laddoo. How I love laddoos. The big yellow ones. Yum :) ). Turns out, he is one of the leading gynecologists in India (yes, HE. Ew) and heads the state’s doctors council. I naturally involve him a conversation surrounding medicine and public health. Over the course of our dialogue, I grew visibly infuriated and started to debate with him to the amusement of my father. Some of the topics were- how he belives that public health is akin to sanitation work- it’s not a real discipline, people who cannot get in to medical school choose public health as a last option, and my favorite- HIV/AIDS is not an issue in India, only 'those Africans' need to worry about it.


Scenes of fight club/gladiator and my taekwondo class were running through my mind as this man spewed his 18th century ignorant bullshit on me- thinking that I would have nothing to retort (given my apathetical generation). I told him about the basic constructs of what public health is, how I chose not to go to medical school, and how India has surpassed South Africa in having the shameful distinction of largest population afflicted with HIV (in pandemic proportions, really). He left soon after my spirited (I thought) argument, although I left out much of what I wanted to say out of respect for the ancient man. As any Indian, I started talking (fuming) about the man as soon as his car hit the driveway (don’t lie, whenever you all went to dinner at some uncle/aunty’s house, you all started to talk smack about everything about them with your parents the second you sat your ass down in the car. It’s ok, it’s innate in you and I. Embrace it).


I have known the general ennui in India with regards to public health for a while now. In a country where kids’ grades determine whether they become bankers or doctors- not personal propensity or desire; where a female is expected to get married before the age of 25 (or else something is wrong with her); and where the general attitude is not to do anything proactively like work out civic, domestic, environment problems and expecting the government to handle it (and later blame the government for every single existing problem); I’m not surprised. But the minute respected, educated, and worse yet- influential people start making ignorant comments such as these, I am appalled. If these people have no concept of some of the glaring health and social issues facing their own country, how is the layman supposed to understand?


I have always been surprised by the lack of general awareness of public health problems in India- be it communicable killers, like HIV/AIDS, or preventative diseases like malaria, TB, diarrhea- to non-communicable ones like diabetes and heart disease. There are embarrassingly few national institutes committed to this cause, while international funding and interest abounds. The first of its kind- masters in public health is just being introduced in the country via 7 national centers in the next two years. Seriously?!? It took this long to realize specialized policy-makers were needed? In the West, it’s popular- trendy even to be interested in a career in public health, while here, the concept is alien, yet the MOST pressing. So many students like myself are involved in projects within the subcontinent, while its own children do not realize the urgency. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is pouring truckloads of cash into the subcontinent in research initiates, while the new supposed ‘richest man in the world’- an Indian, Mukesh Ambani has undertaken no such endeavor to reverse cash flow for a change although his Reliance industries is worth billions.


The mindset of people is what needs a make-over, in order to trickle upwards to the government and important policy-makers, but I don’t know how. I see commercials almost daily from Bollywood celebrities and cricket players telling mothers to take their child to get vaccinated. People attribute this media blitz to the negligible rate of polio now and are busy patting themselves on the back for it. So is that the impetus Indians need? Sachin Tendulkar telling me to do something or else he will beat me up with his willow bat? Shahrukh Khan telling me to take my kid to a local doctor for his OPV or else he will shoot bullets at me with his meticulously lasered dimples? Oy ve.


Bah this has been depressing, yet cathartic for me. I am not sure if I should even post this, but whatever I don’t care at this point. I am tired and hungry. And you know that combination makes me a very cranky girl. Before I leave, shoutout to little homie down below that kept me company as I wrote this in my room. And no, he wasn’t this big- it’s just a really zoomed in picture. Bye!




Wednesday, October 31, 2007

God of Small Things

As I was sitting at my desk doing work, I suddenly got a fantastic whiff of my favorite smell in the whole world (no, I don’t mean Indian man B.O). Rain! The monsoons are over and the hottest month of the year is coming to a halt (trust me, you never want to experience ‘October Heat’), so this anomalous rain is like a muse for me and triggered my need to write! Some of my most cherished childhood memories in India include getting drenched in the rain, standing on Marine Drive (in Bombay) overlooking the Arabian Sea and squealing as I got hit in both directions by the crashing waves as well as thunderous rain, and generally acting a fool. Now when it rains, I think it’s safe to say we all run to find shelter in the absence of umbrellas in case our hair might frizz (girls (and guys)- I KNOW!), or clothes get wet and see-through, we catch a cold etc. (i.e: Most recently when we ran like fools after getting our hurr did for Shiv’s wedding). Next time it rains, I promise to do a Bollywood-esque rain dance. In a white sari.

PS- i also felt the need to write about heat to rub that fact in as i know you all are freezing your little tushies off :D (or big tushies, whatever i am not going to name names).

Speaking of Bombay, since my last trip there, I have been overwhelmed with the ‘smallness’ of things around me. Some things in mini sizes and quantities are great- puppies, travel accessories, my aunt’s ‘milkshake’ (don’t ask), dresses, shots. Some things in mini sizes are just annoying- loofahs, people (read: midgets and girls in clubs), small food portions when you are hungry and then you order three of them and the waiter looks at you like you are crazy and is making a mental note to ask the chef to at least use ‘I cant believe its not butter’- well you know what, sometimes, a girl GOTTA EAT!!! Sorry. Where was I? Ah yes, small things.

All these things are at least acceptable, but when EVERYTHING around you is tiny, you start to feel like Gulliver. I slept over at my cousin’s place the other day, and the bed was as tall as my knees. Now I am no Amazon woman by any means (that would be Truly Tyler- hehe love you), so this was baffling. My coffee was in a mug comparable to the size my dolls used to entertain their tea party guests with. Bananas are about the size of my thumb (at least I have freakishly long fingers). Even stairs are smaller in size I swear, which leads to there being more of them. All this leads me to believe that I either need to lay off the meth, have become too accustomed to the genetic engineering of fruit, or that these sizes have evolved to accommodate the smaller sizes that Indians come in and hence their appetites and appliances. Even at my own home, I have to lean very low to brush my teeth in the sink, heat something on the stove etc- it’s all just built for those of a smaller build I suppose, which leaves me to needing a chiropractor at age 22.

I conclude hearkening back to my ‘foolywang’ post and would like to add a couple things/phenomenas if you will that I have observed lately that make me question so much yet love everything that is India:

  1. Men holding hands with other men without being gay in the least bit. Let me ask the men reading this blog- would you walk around town holding hands with your buddy? Like I mean intimate hand holding- fingers intertwined and such. As Lil Wayne says, ‘no homo’. My brother and I have always had a great time pointing this business out to my mother who laughingly reprimanded us and vehemently supported their apparent ‘innocent friendship’. Now I am not suggesting that the entire male population of India is secretly gay, but homosexuality in India warrants its own post.
  2. This is my new favorite thing to watch for as I am in the car- In Pune, most people commute on motorcycles. Some nice friends on these motorcycles decide to help conserve their bicycling friends’ energy by giving them a ride. How it works is that some champ on a bicycle has one hand on his handlebar, and the other on his motorcycle friends’ shoulder and doesn’t pedal- he just uses his friends momentum to ride along. Priceless.

    Maybe these guys just really want to hold hands but cant since they are on the move? Who knows, I tried getting pictures of this many times but alas, those blighters are too fast for me.

    On that note, I am off- Happy Halloween everyone!!!! Hope you enjoyed my painstakngly festive colors :) How I miss Halloween at Fells Point, Theta parties and watching Chelsea carve pumpkins!!!

One love.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Special Delivery!

I have been freaking out pretty much all day regarding my future plans- school, career, marriage (hah) etc (It’s really great to be living with your parents, you should try it! 2 thumbs up, Siskel and Ebert style. Wait Ebert died. Roper maybe? Ahhh I’m losing it) so I take this welcome break to updated you my loved ones.

My data collection part at work is done! I reached the sample size I needed to (and then some), so now I am left to analyze my results. Since it was a qualitative study (with q/a format- not necessarily multiple choice), it is really hard to wrap my head around all the different responses and form a logical ‘conclusion’. I’ve been having flashbacks to Biostats courses- and let me tell you- they don’t help! Quit Hopkins NOW. I kiiiid, Blue Jay till I die. While I am being a super nerd, let me tell you how incredible the new Microsoft Office is. Effing unbelievable, and I don’t usually get aroused by technology, but writing research papers on it is now fun. OK done.

Once I am done with writing my paper, I’m looking to get it published in the ICMR Journal (Indian Center of Medical Research). Turns out the folks at NARI were actually impressed by my study and want to convert it into a nationally funded study that they will develop over the next couple years. Holla! Guess I wasn’t building sandcastles at high tide (that was a good one, admit it).

My next project is a child malnutrition study, and is modeled after a simple test called the Bangle Test, done in the ’70’s by two WHO guys to test the indicators and incidence of malnutrition in certain populations (half of the world’s child malnourished population is in South Asia). Apart from weight, measurement of the child’s mid-arm circumference is what I will be using to detect malnutrition. The normal mid-arm circumference is fairly static (15-16 cm) from 1-5 years of age- while that of a malnourished child is about 12.6 cm. In the bangle test, a bangle (used because it is very cheap and easily replicable) with an internal diameter of 4 cm is used. If a child’s mid-arm circumference is below normal, the bangle can be easily pushed up the arm- thus implying malnourishment. After this mass screening process, I can isolate children in need of nutritional supplements and proceed onward. Interesting, right? More on that when I begin, can’t wait AND I get to work with kids!

Since I have been writing my paper/ busy being pampered while being sick, I noticed the ease at which a person can live in India (if they can afford it). I don’t just mean the army of maids and chauffeurs, but the expedient delivery of things from groceries to clothing! Not only groceries, but fresh fish, chicken etc too. I wanted to watch a movie, so my mom called the DVD guy to come deliver the movie. I wanted McDonalds, that was delivered to me by a guy in a red and yellow moped. My bloodwork had to be done, the lab guy came home to do THAT, along with the doctor who brought along prescription drugs (Heaven forbid I had to go to the drugstore to get my meds!) If I wanted to buy sarees, the guy from my mom’s store would come in to display his collection. My manicure/pedicure ladies can come home as per my convenience while my dad’s massage guy comes home every Sunday. My brother would even get liquor delivered home with one simple phone call (why waste time in the pre-game if we ran out of booze?) Are Indians just lazy? Elitist? Classist? Ignorant? Or is it a bigger issue- that of surplus manpower. We do have a population of 1.2 BILLION people, and homeboys/girls need to make paper, and do these things HAPPILY. C’est la vie I guess, I’m not complaining too much although it bothers me a little. That reminds me, I have to fire the guy I hired to type my blog for me while I dictated. He never showed up, and now I need a new manicure! Maybe the my cabana boy feeding me grapes and spritzing my face with cool mist can take over? Someday I might conduct an experiment to see how long I can last by not leaving my house, and what I can get delivered. Kind of like the guy who ate at McDonalds everyday for a month to see what health problems he would aquire. What a jackass.

One a final note, I am pleased to announce (thanks to Tiffany) that Johnny Legend is in the studio recording his third album. I don’t think you understand how much JOY this brings me, almost brings me to tears really. That means that next fall-ish I will be a VERY happy girl (also hopefully accepted into a good MPH program) Oh also, Ace of Base and AQUA are reuniting for new albums respectively. Discuss. I am elated. I am celebrating by listening to ‘I saw the sign’. CLASSIC.

Bye ya’ll I miss you too much. Sadly that’s the one thing I would love, but can’t get delivered to me: My lovely friends!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Gotta have faith!

Good morning everyone! Crazy amounts of work, family play time, and schizophrenic internet connection are to blame for my lack of updates, but who am I to make excuses?

I have decided that I am one of those people who eats a shit ton of chocolate when I’m stressed. I didn’t think I qualified considering I am not a 400 pound woman who needs a cord to help me walk from bed to bathroom. But, I have consumed so much in the past hour itself that the golden wrappers have made a golden blanket on my bed. 4 years at Hopkins have not caused me as much stress as the Indian cricket team. I cannot believe I stayed home from work to watch what is possibly the worst cricket performance my team has singularly displayed against the Australians (and trust me, there have been plenty to pick from). That aside, it gives me time to update you all, so I’m not going to complain.

This is a pretty fun time to be in the motherland- September to December is full of festivals, celebrations (AKA more food, yesss). For the first time in a long time, the Hindu festival of Ganesh has coincided with the Muslim month of Ramadan. In a country where you hear so much about Hindu-Muslim riots of late (the Bombay bomb blasts of 1993, or Gujarat riots of 2001), it is touching to hear stories of Muslims breaking their fast with a bite of modak (a popular sweet (that I heart) distributed during the Ganesh festival). I was in Bombay a couple of weeks ago, and in a remarkable case of non-brattiness, I decided to take a cab to commute. The tire got punctured, and I had to switch cabs. It was about 6:20 and my new cab driver was an old, sweet looking Muslim old man. He hesitated to take me in, but sensing my distress (I was hungry, surprise surprise) he let me in. Turns out, he had to break his fast at 6:30 and had been fasting all day long. I felt really bad for him and offered him water that I had (silly Apoorva, he was hungry- not thirsty!) He decided to stop the car, hobble out, pray in a makeshift mosque, grab food and get back in the car in a matter of 10 minutes. He then proceeded to offer food to a girl sitting in another cab (how he knew she was Muslim, I don’t know), but she had fruits which she in turn offered to him. I don’t know why I’m telling you all this story, but I was very touched by his commitment to his faith and compassion for a fellow faster.

In an international display of faith and solidarity of another kind, I was enraptured by the pro-democracy protests in Burma led by the country’s Buddhist monks. I have been a long admirer of Aung San Suu Kyi, and it was an incredibly poignant moment in the revolution against the tyrannical junta when the monks arrived at the house where she has been under house arrest for the past many years. But are protests and demonstrations the most effective form of getting your voice heard and change underway? Tough question- especially when it happens at your own doorstep.

A couple nights ago, we were all asleep at home circa 2 am. I thought I heard voices at the gate, but I assumed it was just another one of my recent lunatic dreams (that’s another story in itself). Turns out, it was a group of about 200 students that were upset with the slow pace of renovations of their dorms. There was more to this story in terms of political aggression against my dad etc, but that’s beyond the scope of this blog at the moment. Thankfully, there were enough security guards present at the gate and didn’t allow the demonstration to continue up the driveway. There were media persons present, complete with cameras recording every moment; urging the students to ‘scream louder’, ‘agitate MORE’ just to have a juicy news story. Everything is resolved now, but it truly begs the question of the drivers for change. Are demonstrations the only way to get your point across in these days in the developing world? Screw developing world, I think we all witnessed the protests against Ahmedinejad’s speech at Columbia last week. We in America tout our freedom of speech etc and have a God-complex over the developing world. Many might applaud Dean Bollinger’s verbal attack on the Iranian President, but I think the victory was Ahmedinejad’s. He knew what he was doing and saying. He knew that unequivocally (in his mind) stating that ‘there were no homosexuals in Iran, etc would appall the ‘developed’ world’ (god I hate that word), and spur an onslaught of debates and hence publicity for HIM! That said, one must consider the cultural context and dichotomy present in thoughts around world, which the East and West just do not accept of the other. There was nothing but ludicrous statements one after the other in his speech, and we must just take it for what it is- foolywang material (yess the word has made a comeback). On the bright side, the protests and debate shows that democratic process is alive and kicking, but is nonetheless disconcerting when it hits this close to home (in my case, literally)!

In non-political news, I am currently listening to Kanye’s new album (albeit a month late), and I must say I am impressed! He is one intelligent cat, and the way he weaves current affairs and pop culture in rhymes is uncanny, I especially like ‘big brother’ and ‘champion’. I went into the store yesterday to buy it (My internet- which doesn’t exist at the moment- has firewalls that don’t allow me to download music, egad) and realized that this was probably the first CD I bought after the spice girls’ 3rd album Spice World. No joke. Actually no, lies, I bought their greatest hits. Nevermind. Point being, I had to ask around for where his CD was in the store, because I was blinded by all the ‘Curtis’ paraphernalia (by the way, I conclude that Fiddy is quite possibly THE most unfortunate looking em-effer I have ever seen, second only to Yoda). Amazing, I think India is the only country where Fiddy’s album probably outsold Kanye’s. Figures as much, crappy cars that do not sell in the overseas market are dropped with fanfare for the Indian consumers, much like good ol’ Curtis’s album.

Speaking of music, explain to me why the Black Eyed Peas and Akon of all people are performing in various venues in India? Actually a more appropriate question is WHO are the foolywang folk showing up to their shit? I will say this though- I am looking forward to my girl B’s (Beyonce, gosh) concert later this month. Shit is going to be hot.

I have a lot more to write, obviously since I haven’t written to you all in 2 weeks. Knowing your attention spans rival that of fruit flies, I will spare you and promise to write more upon my return from Bombay this Sunday. Peace outside kids, and pray for my cricket team, will you? Love love love you all!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Want some apaw?

I know, I know it’s been a while since I have updated this piece. My apologies, since I know how you all await what I have to say with bated breath. Ok just kidding, I know you all just want another reason to shirk work.



Lately, I have noticed the sudden surge of non-browns living in my vicinity. Since I live on a university campus, there is always random hippie Russians, Germans etc milling around (instead of finding showers to bathe their dreads in). However, crazy amounts of Asians have taken over the city/country. Historically, the Chinese have been in India since the 1800’s- working in sugar, steel mills as well as being in the shoe-making business (nail salon operating and pirating DVD’s came muuuch later hah). They have all been concentrated in the Eastern part of India though (Calcutta mainly, since India shares a (porous) border with China), so I was surprised to see how many have settled in Bombay/Pune. Not only that, they have foolish Indian accents (I’m being racist, I mean there’s nothing unusual about their Indian accents- they are Indian after all, but it still cracks me UP). I went to a Thai restaurant with the mother dearest (TERRIBLE Thai food btw, hell of in drunken noodle withdrawal, someone please fedex me Bangkok Bistro stat), and the manager/owner guy talked to us in Marathi slash English slash Thai and then offered me an apaw (haha any rush hour fans out here?) Chinese food here is bangin though, spicy and deelish. Little street carts that advertise “Chinness Chikans” with pictures of cross-eyed dragons are aplenty, but eating there will probably give you the HIV (I really shouldn’t be making those jokes anymore seeing my current job), but are cute to look at.

I’m guessing a lot of Indo-Chinese unions are also taking place since there’s a lot of cute kids frolicking the streets. There’s also suspect children being born to Indian parents- case in point: The recently crowned Indian Idol (yes, go ahead and laugh- I watched AND voted. Fuck you, die. Don’t EVEN get me started on Dancing with the Stars- Indian version. Bananas) looks Asian, very suspect. Also, one of my uncles also looks like Shinzo Abe (Japanese ex-PM). Equally suspect. Let’s not get into that, or I will get my ass kicked.



In other news, I have been captivated the past week with cricket action. And no, I don’t mean the fobs playing on the quad at Hopkins (I’m still bitter about the time they refused to let me play, benchods). The World Cup was being heavily contested with the victory belonging to India of course. Like every Indian, I was pretty much glued to my television, and lived life in between various matches. All of you laugh at me on a daily basis due to my obsession with the sport so can I just say how AMAZING it was to be in an environment when it was OK to be a fob? The final was between India and Pakistan and obviously the mood was electric. Offices closed down early to let their employees get home in time, schools are virtually closed, even stores are locked down because of the lack of business they will be receiving (but they also want to be home, eating their khakra and watching the match). My dad was hilarious- he had a speech to deliver for a British delegation visiting India- he hurried through it and left to ‘make a phone call’ when he really just peaced out to watch the match. Awesome.



Speaking earlier of borders between India/China- the most obvious (and contentious) neighbor of India we hear about is Pakistan. So no doubt, when these countries face each other on the cricket field, it is no longer about cricket, it’s about national sentiment and pride. The minute it became clear that India was going to bring the cup home, you could hear fireworks going off EVERYWHERE, followed by people mobbing the streets usually and having impromptu dance parties. Little street children immediately think business and seize the opportunity to capitalize on people’s patriotism and sell little Indian flags on the street (I have purchased some in my day).



Sadly, lines of patriotism and religiousness (is that even a word?) get blurred sometimes and people equate India/Pakistan sentiment with Hindu/Muslim conflict. I don’t want to get into that messy debate now (my mother has been yelling at me to get dinner for about 10 mins now), but I heard a really great quote recently from some poet (wow, descriptive) about the union between Hindus and Muslims (but really, any religion is relevant). Knowing my short-term memory, I can’t recall the exact quote but it’s something to the effect of: In India, we celebrate the point union of 2 lakes that make rivers, or 2 rivers that converge into the sea together since days of yore (Not sure when yore is, but ancient I suppose). So why is it that we do not hold sacred the unions between different religions in the same vein? Hopefully that makes sense in English (it was originally in Urdu, and the meaning might be lost in my translation). I think it is SUCH a beautiful concept, don't you?



Time to make like a tree and leaf, I leave you to enjoy a picture of my winning boys :)