June 21, 2008
I am leaving for Delhi tomorrow and I am pretty nervous right now. Usually I am calm and collected before a new adventure, but this one is a bit different. I think it is because of how much I have heard about India, but how little of the culture I have experienced. All of this aside, I cannot wait. I know I am about to embark on the trip of a lifetime. Thank you once again CSAS for giving me this opportunity.
Project Abstract- Lainie
Dastkar utilizes modern day grass-roots development to empower women across the country to be self-sustaining through the production traditional crafts. Over my stay with Dastkar I will use my artistic background to work directly with artisans and Dastkar to strengthen product development by incorporating their traditional Indian skills and motifs with contemporary design. My work will take place in New Delhi along with trips into the field to further my understanding of the production and culture behind each art form. I will document my findings photographically in the form of a photo journal to visually demonstrate the efficiency of Dastkar’s development and sustainability, all of which will play an integral part in my senior project, examining the magnitude of local development through the arts to empower and economically stabilize communities.
June 06, 2008
No problem! = Nine Problems?
No problem! = Nine Problems?
I think the most common phrase I hear whenever I ask for something in India is “No problem!” At first, I thought that is how they are taught for dealing with customer’s requests. However, I got to realize that not only the workers at supermarkets or stores use that, but also ordinary people use it a lot: to the point of being too much. The problem is that after shouting a generous “no problem”, there is no follow up action to meet my needs.
I was standing in line of the supermarket and I wanted some changes; I needed RS 10bills to use for auto-rickshaws. I asked for RS 10bills and the clerk said “no problem!”, but instead he gave me RS 20 bills. I asked him for RS10 bills, pointing at the RS 10 bills under the cashing machine. He generously said no problem and started packing up for the next customer.
In another incident, I asked for chicken curry at a local deli and the owner brought out mutton curry. Although I just could have taken mutton, I was afraid that the mutton was not lamb, but other suspicious meat. Consequently, I asked him for a change in the menu. He waved away me good bye saying “no problem!” I was so caught off guard and asked him for a refund. After arguing and waving me away and asking me to take that mutton curry, he thought I would just take away the mutton curry I guess… But I persistently heckled him for money and made a big scene out of that place. People gathered up and I got the refund.
It is funny how that when I am experiencing problems and asking for some alternative options, many people yell out “no problem” and try to shoo me away. Evne within the people who spoke perfect English had these ‘symptoms’; the No-problemitis affected UPS people too and they seemed to always reply with the same ol’ no problem when I asked them to expedite the taxes and documents processes. I think that is just how the way it is. I now think that “No problem” means actually “Nine problems”, as No stands for nine in Hindi. “Welcome Customer, Nine Problems!”
June 05, 2008
Weekend Adventure: Mounica
May 23rd till June 5, 2008
Finally, I have internet access again! It feels so good. For the past few weeks, Jane and I have been working at the Karantaka State Pollution Control Board and we haven’t be able to get access to internet except for 15 to 30 minutes in the SVARAJ office before we head off to work. And to make matters worse, Jane and I have to share one internet connection for that 15 to 30 minutes which usually gives me barely enough time to write a few hurried responses to some of my urgent emails.
A lot has happened in the past two weeks. We got an opportunity to go on weekend adventures, explore Bangalore in the evenings and go out to eat for dinner. But first I’ll start talking about Tirupathi.
We went to Triupathi two weekends ago. We took an air conditioned chartered bus at 1:30 and arrived in Tirupathi at 8:30. It was imperative that the bus was air conditioned, I think I would have suffocated from the heat had it not been. It took us about one hour just to get through the congested city traffic of Bangalore but after that all I saw was wide open plains dotted with palm trees and rolling hills in the distant horizon. Jane fell asleep a few moments after the bus started rolling and was sleeping for most of the trip (b/c of her motion sickness) so my only diversion was to watch the scenery outside. As we moved from the state of Karnataka into Andhra Pradesh, the flat landscape turned into a hilly, rocky terrain. Also, I started being able to read the signs on the side of the road as we transitioned from Kannada to Telugu.
When we finally arrived at Tirupathi, we could see that the temple and the walkway up the mountain to the temple was lit up with bright white, blue and yellow fluorescent lights.
It was muggy and humid, weather that we have yet to encounter here in the more temperate Bangalore. My cousin picked us up from the airport at the foot of the mountain and we drove up to the top through a winding, stomach churning, narrow road. The driver had to honk his horn every time we made one of the sharp, blind turns to ensure that we wouldn’t interfere with oncoming traffic. By the time we reached the top, met up with my aunts and found a restaurant to eat dinner at, it was past 10. I ordered a dosa for dinner. A dosa is like a paper thin, savory and crispy crepe that is served with spicy chutneys and a lentil soup. My dosa was wrapped up like an upside down ice cream cone and it looked very whimsical. After dinner, my cousin, Jane and I explored some of the shops in the area and got home a little past midnight.
We woke up at about four in the morning so that we could make our “darshan” time in the temple. We arrived at the temple at around 5:30 or 6 and were able to get through the queue very quickly. For the walk from our hotel to the temple we weren’t allowed to wear any shoes because we were on sacred ground. All my relatives went barefoot but Jane and I were too squeamish so we wore socks. Our wait in the line to get into the temple was extremely short, we had to wait less than an hour to get into the temple, but there was so much jostling and pushing. Even at 5 in the morning, the temple was overflowing with people waiting in line for a darshan.
The central chamber, which houses the statue of Lord Venkateshwara, is entirely made of gold that is intricately decorated with floral and abstract designs. It was so beautiful but I couldn’t take a picture of it because cameras and cell phones are strictly prohibited on temple premises.
After going to the temple, we visited another holy site that is uphill from the temple itself. It is called “ Sri Vari Padalu” and it is where Lord Venkateshwara was supposed to have set foot on Earth. The site is marked by two stone carved feet decorated with yellow turmeric and bright red kumum. The carving is protected by a stone pavilion while looks out onto a beautiful view of the seven rolling hills that surround Tirupathi. This was my favorite part of the Tirupathi visit, especially because this site wasn’t very crowded or overflowing with people.
As soon as it began, our Tirupathi trip was over, we had to get on a bus to head back home at about 11:30 in the morning. We arrived back in Bangalore at 5:30/6 and started unpacking.
After coming back, we had to collect our second set of water samples from Veerapura Lake, the Industrial area and the village and begin our analysis. The analysis of the second set went surprisingly fast. Jane and I worked very quickly and with the help and guidance of our supervisor at the PCB we were able to finish the analysis within approximately four days. This also gave us some free time to go explore Bangalore on the weekend. This past weekend we went to Lal Bagh gardens. Lal Bagh mean “Red Gardens”, nothing about the gardens was very red but one has to assume that when they were originally commissioned by the Mughal ruler Hyder ali, the gardens were red. Some of the attractions of Lal Bagh include the green lotus ponds, the giant clock, the glass house, etc. I was most excited to see the lotus ponds, lotuses are my favorite flower. I wanted to pick a lotus from the pond but I was stopped by the knee deep mud that I would have to wade through. Luckily, as we walked through the garden I found a lotus that had been thrown away near the foot path. We also saw banyan trees, eucalyptus trees, palms, a rose garden, bamboo, etc.
PS: Happy World Environment Day!
You can look at pictures of Lal Bagh and Tirupathi at :
June 03, 2008
More time for fun - Jane
Auto (rickshaw) rides are the most fun way to travel. They're fast and bumpy and kind of like a video game. If there was a way to get rid of the pollution and the honking, I would wish we had some back in Ann Arbor. They would be especially useful when travelling between North and Central campus in a hurry. In fact, I wonder what the Chem building would look like with a line of autos parked out in front. Another interesting observation is that Bangalore auto drivers don't know where all the streets are because it's such a large spread out city. So it's important that you know the directions of how to get to your destination or else the driver will have to stop on the road and ask pedestrians for directions. This doesn't turn out very well usually because people either can't communicate the directions effectively or there is a language mismatch. Bangalore residents can speak Kannada, Hindi, Telugu, or Tamil. And of course English.
My favorite part about exploring Bangalore is the street markets. I especially enjoy walking on 1st main street, where several floral booths are setup. The entire area smells of flowers. For an idea of what one of these booths look like, visit: http://www3.moe.edu.sg/edumall/tl/digital_resources/ss/images/little-india-flower-shop.jpg. Then imagine what a whole street lined with these little shops looks like. Last night I walked around 1st Main Street, just a few blocks away from our apartment, and went shopping. It must be back to school season because several shops were selling school supplies and backpacks. Shopping is usually a slow process. I hang around and wait to hear what other people are buying and paying before I start to bargain for something.
Mounica and I are close to finishing up the water analysis at the PCB lab. We should be done with analysis by Thursday. Then we just have to do a second round of interviews, write up a report, and give a presentation. We still have a little under 2 weeks before we have to leave.
This weekend a family friend of Mounica's came to hang out with us. We visited the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens, Science/Tech Museum, and Caveri Emporium. The Lalbagh gardens had a huge lotus pond. We also got to climb up tree vines which made for some great pictures. The Science/Tech Museum was a larger version of the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum. There were several new and interesting exhibitsI will upload pics after getting back to the U.S. and post the link on the blog (only a few minutes of internet each day).
I love reading about everyone else's experiences on the blog. The entries also made Mounica and I so very thankful that we are working with SVARAJ. Everyone here is always friendly and supportive. So if anyone decides to come back for another summer, or knows a friend who wants to intern in India, SVARAJ is a great organization to work with. Also, I can completely relate to "the stare" that so many people have been writing about. But I think that when people stare they are mostly curious or surprised. It also reminds me of how nobody does this in Ann Arbor because it's such a diverse town that people who "look different" are the norm.