No toilet, no bride – but what happens after the party?

If you don’t have a toilet at home, you might not get a bride in India. In a silent revolution of sorts, Indian women across the country, especially in rural and semi-urban areas, have a single condition before they agree to a match – the groom must have a toilet in his home.

The “No Toilet, No Bride” campaign, initiated by the government, is co-opting young women to bring in much-needed social change. Across the country, more people have access to mobile phones than to toilets.

Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research, one of the NGOs involved in the campaign, says it has succeeded in certain areas. “Lack of basic hygiene at present is very much a marginalised farmer’s practice,” she says. “There are affluent communities with land and concrete houses who are now building toilets.”

An interesting campaign, but question is what happens after the bride’s purchasing power is greatly (completely) reduced, ie. after marriage? Installing toilets (especially where central plumbing is not available) is not a one-off thing, but requires a long-term construction and maintenance (of course you could argue the same for marriages, but well, that’s not what happens all the time)…

Read the full article at guardian.co.uk

My backup plan in case my visa got rejected

Ethnic cooks are exempt from India’s visa rules requiring somebody working here to earn more than $25 000 per year.

Thanks for the visa – however FRRO this is how you made me feel today

After receiving my message of renewed visa at 9:45 am, I had to stay until 1:30 pm only to know that I had to come back another day with more papers in order to get it actually stamped.

8:30 am at the FRRO part 2

P1772

The Afghans clearly “own” the FRRO. They have divided the seats of the waiting section into a male side and a female side (there is no such official division as far as I know), and they are trying to enforce it stringently.

One of the ladies has been talking about moving me (in pushto) for the past 5 min. Not one being big on such appropriation of public space by any group I am stubbornly remaining in the seat I sat in when I came.

8:30 am Foreigners Regional Registration Bureau

P1746

I am glad I am not a national of Afghanistan – then I would be number 100-something, being “other national (non-Afghan)” I am just number 18.

Nanos, communal tension and kites

I’ve always been quite fond of kites. I remember that I used to think it was a pity that there seldom was enough wind where I grew up to really support any intensive amount of kite-flying. That’s a problem that Ahmedabad in Gujarat definitely didn’t have. In fact, Ahmedabad (as many places in north India) has a holiday (as in day off work) completely dedicated to kite-flying. I decided that this couldn’t be missed.

Arriving with the night train from Delhi, I was met by a big sign saying that this was the home of the Tata Nano – you know that car of cheapo-fame that the Tata group set out to produce a couple of years back. The factory was originally to be constructed in Singur in West Bengal, however after farmer’s started protesting due to what amounted to a forced landgrab by the West Bengal state government, the Tata’s decided to move the factory here to Gujarat. Farmers and workers in Singur, having been displaced, had their land & livelihood taken away for a pittance, as well as been ditched on promised jobs never created, are still facing the fall-out of these incidents.

The Tata factory is not the only industry to open in Gujarat, indeed, it’s one of the richer states in India, and it’s something that can certainly be felt in Ahmedabad. Outside of the older areas of the city stretches great boulevards with restaurants, clubs and manicured parks. One person who’d like to lay claim to these “achievements” is Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat. This jet-setting politician has been heavily courting foreign investment and has become a bit of a poster boy in for “industrializing India” in investor’s eyes. When I was there he was just about to host “Vibrant Gujarat” a conference bringing together politicians, businessmen and investors from all over the world in Ahmedabad. Even the Economist gave him a rosy sheen recently

However, Modi also represents the very darkest side of this supposedly friendly and manicured place. Gujarat, home-state of Gandhi and the place where his ashram was located, have seen some of the worst ethnic tensions in recent years in all of India. In 2002, over 1000 people (mostly muslims) were killed in religious riots. Modi, who represents the far-right party BJP party and have been linked to paramilitary RSS, oversaw these horrific events and seems to have not only let it happen but sometimes even incited and/or facilitated these events. He has since taken measures to fudge the as of yet unfinished inquiry into the events. This is a picture of Modi that you might miss if you’re reading foreign press – and while it might be comfortable to look straight ahead at the well tended avenues and “developed industries” you don’t have to go very far to find slums of displaced people (again mostly muslims). 

So, what about the kites? Well, I did do quite a bit of kite-watching, but I must admit that tracing the strict separation between Hindu and Muslim districts and slums, as well as imagining the tensions and destruction that must have been there while visiting mosques and muslim meat-markets had me a bit distracted.

Romanian new wave?

Media_httpwwwweirdsci_aifoa

Maybe something to explore!

I quite like

A very rough translation:

Coming from the wrong part of the yard, from the other side of the track

I grew up with gypsies

playing accordion

wanting to tell my future

while my dad emptied a bottle of explorer [cheap vodka]

taught myself to play guitar and those chords

djangos quintett playing from the grammophone

with second hand suits in the closets

and brass bands live every night in the garden

it started out good but then the problems came

stepped in the shit early, and the tax bill

i mean the responsibilities

rights

governments

the justice system

the likelihood is small, the unemployment office admits

maybe one should change name or

sell the mobile home or

knock out the gold tooth or

but some time the prejudice must be caught up with

You can call me an outsider

because i didn’t do what the others did when they

did what people did back in the days

no, im not the neighbour above

but the old lady calls the cops every time and says that i make the noise

comes from the right part of town

thats the problem

i grew up in the nicest neighbourhoods

my dad is a designer etc.

my other dad is already late

myself I was a kid and adopted

so my school time was very hard and complex

because my classmates thought it was wrong that

and the teacher was soon to get her pension

not their fault that

things turned out the way they did

according to recommendations from the holy scripture

johans dad “watch out, he’s the anti christ!”

according to miss teacher who tried to explain it sure

maybe we should have shot’er

or carried her out of th’re

now she’s dead and lies in the urn

but in some way the words still live on

the house peace, or something like that

I barely have any time to listen to your criticism

not Lykke Li

but pretty happy [Lycklig]

so lady please give me a chance to listen to my music

but no

Not “when in rome”

If the spoon is made of silver I”ll take it when I get there

they told me so many times

so thanks but no thanks, ill find the exit

but everything is just a dream

I’m swedish, I mean, I just go past the line

I’m even a man and I have a higher wage

as long as I don’t sit around with no job

I like the opposite sex

So kid I’m hardly what you call a fag

But kid I might be what you call slow

cause I don’t understand what you’re saying even if I hear you

(Translated by notwist from Reddit)

Got your Jodhpurs on?

As I’ve mentioned before, I spent New Year’s eve and day traveling and staying in a city in Rajasthan called Jodhpur. For those who might be into horse-riding, Jodhpur is indeed the origin of the classical rider’s pants called Jodhpurs.

It’s also a pretty city with an imposing fort and pretty winding lanes full of blue colored houses. The blue color is indigo, and it was traditionally reserved only for Brahmins, the highest caste in the Hindu varna system. Eventually however, the indigo fashion spread to residents of other castes as well. According to some guide book it’s supposedly good to keep away mosquitos as well as to keep cool. 

The fort in Jodhpur definitely deserves mention, as it had been beautifully set-up for visitors with an audio-guide that is one of the best I’ve taken anywhere (normally audio-guides leave a lot to be desired). This guide was a great aid in doing what I love best when in historical places – trying to transport my imagination back to the time when the place was in use. Apparently the last maharaja and his family had taken quite an active role in restoring and making their family’s heritage available to the rest of the world. And though there was something quite patronizing in his voice when he spoke about his role vis-a-vis his subjects in Jodhpur, I must admit that maharaja had done a good job of making the fort an accessible piece of history. 

Of special note was the recording in the audio-guide of the grandmother of the current maharaja speaking about the experience of leaving purdah. Purdah was the practice of keeping women completely cordoned off from men only allowing them to be seen by their husbands and certain servants. In fact the entire palace, with it’s covered windows was designed to make complete purdah possible. Women would only be able to follow the life of the outside court through the slits in the windows. As grandma narrated you definitely got a feeling for how odd it must have felt to leave purdah and suddenly start living uncovered in the open. Not that neither she nor her family had to live any kind of harsh life – they still had the modern Umaid Bhavan to house them, and seemingly they didn’t experience any hardship when money was concerned. 

Beyond blue-houses and fort, Jodhpur did have some great culinary treats such as saffron-lassi and great Rajasthani curries (none of which I quite remember the name nor ingredients of)…