Urban Stories website - Life & Living in Mumbai

I just received an email about Urban Stories website via the Sarai Reader list

Urban Stories: A Collection of Graphic Essays on Mumbai Posting 6 Please view updates,pics and works in progress at

THE project is taking shape.. and so far, learnt a lot about the city, good and bad. Most of the last week or so, its been either the rain or the riots in Mumbai, so just been stuck at home. With regards to graphic design, its been satisfying to actually have the time to work and experiment.. To try and break cliches, playing with colours and forms.

Currently, each graphic essay is a stand alone piece.. covering a range of topics from sexuality to urban identities to architecture.. (stil workin on them..)What needs to be done is linking them up, making them part of a cohesive whole with text and classification (temporal aspect). That should take shape once all the pieces are ready.. Looking at about 18-20 pieces right now, some are very detailed, some not so detailed.. with the post modern view especially evident in the text/ typo on each piece.. I see the final presentation also as something that one can experiment creatively with..

Though for a project like this, reseach has been very specific to each piece..nevertheless have learnt a lot about the city..mainly photography and print media reserach have been key.

Hope to upload finished pieces in the near future..and get feedback to further refine each graphic essay.

MSF plea for new AIDS drugs to be registered and available in Asia

This article is about MSF (Medecins Sans Frontiers aka Doctors Without Borders) claim that American drug manufacturer Abbott Laboratories are allegedly denying patients in Asia access to an improved version of the AIDS drugs lopinavir and ritonavir. These are apparently "important second-line drugs for people who have been on treatement for several years. The new version of the drug has advantages over the old version, including lower pill count, storage without refrigeration, and no dietary restrictions."

"According to MSF, high temperatures and regular power failures are making storage and use of the older drug - the only one available - unreliable. And although the UN recently identified India as the country with the highest number of people liviing with HIV/AIDS in the world, the new version of the drug is not for sale."

According to the article, apparently, it's not for sale as it wasn't registered in 'developing countries' and without being registered, it cannot be sold here. The old version of the drug is not even available in China (or the new version) because the drug company has not marketed to this country. Countries such as Thailand which also has high temperatures (30C most of the year) would also benefit from the new version of the drug. The old version of the drug is no longer available to the US market - MSF Thailand rep calls it a "second-best product" and I can understand his point. The drug company IS distributing the new version of the drug in Africa, but it seems that this only happened after a time consuming set of procedures were followed.

I took a look on the MSF website for more info and found a few articles here, here and here but I couldn't find specific information about it's release in India but there was an article about the drugs not being released in Thailand anytime soon so that's bad enough in itself. most of the MSF articles were about African countries. so perhaps India isn't counted as one of the 'developing countries'. still I think if the drugs were not available here and they obviously need to be, then they should be!

Over the last week there have been a couple of articles speaking about AIDS in India - one said that India has the largest population of people outside of Africa infected with HIV/AIDS. I read in one of the Sarai Readers that many people here have not even heard of AIDS so they are trying to educate more people. on the tv the other night was an ad for the Heroes Project in Delhi / India. from their media campaign page :

Media Campaign

The Mass Media Campaign seeks to create widespread awareness on HIV/AIDS, promote positive attitudes towards people living with HIV/AIDS, and influence groups to change high risk behavior that make them vulnerable to the infection. It will use a series of public service announcements (PSA), online and print content, television and radio programming as well as several educational events to do this. In order to best address HIV/AIDS through the various mass media, Heroes Project has developed a strategic communications approach to address diverse groups such as sexually active men, married women and youth across all levels of society.

One of the main objectives during the course of the mass media initiative is to expand and coordinate the campaign with a range of media partners. Areas of association and activities within these partnerships include amongst others:

* Pledging airtime/space for release of PSAs, which will be available rights-free to all.
* Developing original programming formats.
* Incorporation of HIV/AIDS storylines into existing programs such as serials, reality shows and documentaries.
* Support for journalist programs and enhanced news and editorial coverage - employee sensitization.
* Orientation workshops for creative content development.


the UN AIDS website released a report - here's a media summary listing some numbers - has the full report and more info.


Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa has just over 10% of the world’s population, but is home to more than 60% of all people living with HIV—25.8 million.

In 2005, an estimated 3.2 million people in the region became newly infected, while 2.4 million adults and children died of AIDS.

In 2005, some 8.3 million people were living with HIV in Asia, including 1.1 million people who became newly infected in the past year. AIDS claimed some 520,000 lives in 2005

update 10/07/2006

ok, I don't feel as bad now about the decision making policy of the Times newspaper editors on what should be front page news. the front page of the Times International this morning had the article "Latest AIDS treatment is a daily pill" and spoke of the new drug being available in India shortly. I don't think it's the same as the one MSF are referring to, but hopefully it'll be of some help to the people here.

Khakranagla village - prositution is the tradition for women here

I can't find the online article for this one yet.. will search later this week and re-post if they upload it.

A Rajasthan village where prostitution is tradition
by Saira Kurup / TNN
from Sunday Times of India, New Delhi
July 9 2006
page 7

" Bharatpur: Khakranagla village is only about 200 km from Delhi. Yet, the village is a microcosm of rural India - ramshackle houses, non-functional primary school and no health care facilities. Electricity arrived here just two years ago. But what makes it different is that it's inhabited by a number of families of the Bedia caste who have, for long, been identified with prostitution.

Traditionally, Bedias and Nats were dancers in Rajasthan and MP. Being entertainers, it was customary for the women and girls to perform for feudal lords. When the zamindari system was abolished, they lost their patrons. Over time, a number of Bedia women were compelled to take up prostitution for economic reasons and the men lived off their earnings.

Adolescent girls are initiate into the family 'tradition', while their brothers become 'agents'. They may practice locally, on highways, or in big cities such as Delhi and Mumbai as bar girls or in brothels. Marriage is rare for the girls, but once married, they aren't permitted to take clients.

According to Prof K K Mukherjee, former head of department of social work, DU, "There are 91 families in Khakranagla. Of these, 75 are of Nat, bedia and Guijjar castes - 46 of them engage in sex work." Mukkherjee heads an NGO that's trying to prevent young girls from taking up prostitution in eight villages in Bharatpur district.

In a 2004 study of sex workers in India, which he undertook on behalf of the Department of Women and Child Development, Mukherjee found that the number of Bedia sex workers in Delhi's red light area, G B Road, was increasing. He attributes this to loss of livelihood, established networks and men's interest in continuance of the system because of easy availability of money.

Classified as a Scheduled Caste, Bedias may be deemed poor. But in Khakranagla, there are signs of a consumerist lifestyle coming up - multi-storied houses, linoleum floors, young girls in capris and mobile phones.

However, more than the need for income, the community is worried about social ostracism. Villagers say they don't receive ny benefits of the reservation policy. Ravinder Kumar, an unemployed graduate, says, "The moment they (employers) see the Bedia name, they set aside our job applications." Kumar says no person from the village has been able to get a job with the Rajasthan government. Bedia children are taunted and discriminated against in schools, he adds.

Kumar's brother Om Prakash, a former panchayat samiti member, says, "Don't give us money. Give us work. Give us our own leader. We don't have any political representative to speak fo us." He asks, "Why are we being stigmatised when there are other castes doing the same work?"

They claim that mindsets are changing - some girls in the village have got married, while some 80 young girls from nearby villages study at a residential school run by Mukherjee's NGO in Roopvas village. There are parents too who want daughters sheltered from their lifestyle.

But gaining social acceptance is another battle altogether. "

wow. my mind was racing whilst reading this article. it's just SO FOREIGN to me. for a start I don't understand all the different castes here in India and why, in this day and age, that they are still around. when you talk to people at work they say there's no caste system any more, but they each know what caste they are from.

just the fact that these women have had to support themselves and men from prostitution and pass this on to their daughters is crazy to me. plus the fact that villagers are discriminated against for being Bedia and cannot get work. there's just so many things worng with all the things mentioned in this article! and perhaps it is naive of me to say that, after seeing how some people live here in Delhi, but it shouldn't be this way!!! and I'm surprised and disheartened that locals here don't put an end to it. it can't all be the government's fault as seems to be the case (or at least they are blamed) for other conditions.

I'd like to find out more about the NGO that is working with the women and people of the village. googling the village name returns no results as does searching for the Professor's name and NGO.. I'll try contacting the paper for the journalists name, perhaps they know the name of the NGO.

and another thing.. how ironic is it that this article in the paper lies next to the 'Check Mate' dating and matramonial advertisements, and a couple of columns next to an ad for Ganga International School where "your child is our child" and "SUNCITY Jaipur" - "A contemporary township that's ready to create history". under the article is an ad for "Canton City" - "A luxurious township"


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in the news this weekend - 7-9 July 2006, Delhi Times of India

The Times of India reported a few stories today that caught my attention.. I don't get time to read the papers during the week and I never really read them at home in Australia or even UK, but here in India I've been catching up with local news and reading (incredulously) some of the articles over brunch on the weekends. (split over a few blog posts so easier to read)

first up, "Powerless : Delhi's Worst Crisis", an article describing the powercuts over the past weekend and how it is causing problems in some of the local suburbs which were without power anywhere between 8-15 hours! interesting that the article mentions the problems started last monday - I've been here since april apart from a week back in sydney and it's been happening since I've been here, albeit for a few minutes at a time.

Water supply too down to a trickle - this problem seems to be happening everywhere. Delhi's meant to be drenched in monsoonal rain at this time of year but so far there's only been a few showers. Today was drizzly, so perhaps the rain is on it's way, though a couple of weeks ago the papers were saying the monsoon had been cancelled in Delhi this year.

This article was interesting - basically it came down to the availability of infrastructure in Delhi and Mumbai, with a growing number of high tech / IT companies setting up offices in Bangalore as well. The two main methods that companies use to operate in India are (1) ..."through a branch, project, liason office etc. These offices engaged in trade, research, consltancy, trade promotion, etc, could also remit their profits outside India". and (2) .."through joint ventures or 100% wholly-owned subsidiaries. Once registered and incorporated as an Indian company, they are treated like any other company."

Will the office ever die?

This was another tech/business article about working from home now and in the future. It's an issue in Mumbai at the moment. Due to the monsoon, many people had 2-3 days at home last week as the city was flooded and they could not travel to work.

another crazy thing is, that the fluffy articles such as the ones above can be found on the Times of India - Delhi website (even if they are cut-down versions compared to those in the printed paper), but the ones which I think are of more importance such as the villager women & prostitution and lack of aids medication for Asia are not found on the site. perhaps I'm not searching hard enough or they were sourced from an external source which doesn't allow publication on the internet, or they were summarised to 'fill' the paper? who knows. has more photos of other headlines in the papers this week

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tell me about living in bangalore (er.. I mean delhi ...)

a friend recently said via email... tell me more about living in bangalore..

well, I'm actually living in delhi at the moment, but it's close.

here's the reply - I fear it sounds really negative. I don't mean it to - I think I was tired and needed a rant. anyway.. there's differences in culture here that I'll probably never fully grasp..


bangalore was ok, I was there for about 3 months all up - 1 month
there then a couple of weeks back in uk. living in luxury hotels so
it's not all bad. the people are nice. I'm in delhi now - have been
here since april apart from a few days back in sydney. india has what
we refer to as 'indian stretchy time' which is what people work to
(similar to some pacific countries). the people cannot say no to you
(or westerners in general) & they do the head nod which is distracting
sometimes. you need to know how to phrase questions a few ways to get
the correct answer otherwise they'll say they can do things but have
no idea what you were just talking about. apart from work, we've been
to some of the tourist spots and walked and driven around some of the
suburbs and city. we went to the old delhi markets which are pretty
cool but a tad overpowering! the spice is so strong in some parts of
the spice markets - you walk down little alleyways with your eyes
watering. the men work pretty hard - the scene reminds me of that Neal
Stephenson book - I think it's cryptonmicon (I _still_ haven't
finished it, but finished snow crash on the plane back to uk - I
remember u recommended them a while back - great books, I agree!)
where he's talking about the coolies carrying poles with the money
bags (it's at the start - I could be confused though). they don't have
big poles in the labyrinth of alleys but have these long wooden
trolley-wheelebarrows which the bales of spice are stacked upon. they
maneuver them so deftly! u need to get out of the way though as they
don't stop and I almost had my toes sliced off a couple of times. the
thought of having to goto an indian hospital or bleeding in the dirt
kept me alert though. I have some pics and video, but it just doesn't
quite capture the whole scene - the smells for one thing! I need to
try that new smell capturing thing boing boing was talking about the
other day - be great for remembering things!

wheelbarrow/trolley pics: has some pics has a few hundred more
;) (too many to look at - I need to sort them better one day)

it's an adventure to even walk to the shops here. the smells in the
streets are so bad in some places. there must be unwritten rules about
which side of the footpath you need to walk on - not the one with the
ditch is the best guide. people stare at you all the time also. I
hardly look twice at tourists at home but here people stare for a
while so it's a bit strange. after a while you don't notice it as
much, they always ask 'which country' 'is this your first time in
delhi' and 'how do you like india'. they love to hear I'm from
australia - usually there's a cricket question. (lots of stereotypes
are true in the small talk!) there's so many poor people around - you
cant go anywhere without seeing them. it's amazing how the people
live. the paper calls the little collection of huts/slums 'hutments'
(like apartments but huts). some have sheets of plastic as a roof with
twigs and bricks stacked on top to hold it down. it almost looks like
a large birds nest on the roof. they reuse anything they can though -
very resourceful! also from what I can tell they have these amazing
communities. even when we're driving past you can see people talking
with each other. I think they need to - it's weird, I hardly know any
of my neighbours in flats I've lived in but these people seem to know
everyone. I guess you need to to survive and everyone helps out. you
see them bathing in the street, living on footpaths, sometimes
sleeping outside with no covering over them (probably cooler this
way). power is stolen left right & centre. overhead power lines are
another birds nest. apparently in each hutment community there's a
person who's task it is to provide power for the group. so they throw
up a cable and hook onto the overhead wires and connect it to a
transformer then feed the other huts. every now and then the council
comes past and cuts the line they've thrown up, then after they leave
they do it again. there's probably a whole network of lookouts to let
them know it's powerline cutting day and they probably have all these
spare cables stacked somewhere ready for after the next visit.

there's also crazy stuff with the goverment and power regulations in
general. each day and night the power goes out across the whole city
in a series of brownouts which rip across the city like a mexican wave
in a football stadium. it's off for a few minutes each time. the
papers about a month ago reported how there was a new rule that all
businesses and homes needed to turn off their power at 8pm each night
to save draining the city. this was delayed about a week, then they
reported again that the decision had been 'reverted' (everything is
'reverted' here instead of cancelled - 'please revert the needful' or
'please do the needful' cute terminology). this will actually help our
project a lot as each night every stb will be rebooted a few times so
that'll probably sort out half the problems you see at customer's
houses! tonight the power's gone off 4 times already and I've only
been in the hotel for about 3 hours since leaving work.

then there's the buildings and DDA (delhi development authority - a
contradiction in terms if ever there was one) land and rulings.
there's lots of spare land with bush scrub - would be great if they
built some public housing here for the people in the hutments and on
the streets. buildings take a long time to be built - there's a
shopping mall which was near the other hotel we were staying at. it
was just a shell of a building but had taken 2 years to get that way.
the zoning had since changed and it was deemed that 5 storeys was too
high so building has stopped while the developers try to clear the
papers so they can continue. there's squatters living in it now. also,
there were other shopping centres (these are a new concept to delhi)
which were half knocked down for similar reasons - they were deemed
'illegal buildings' as the area was zoned as residential. in delhi
zoning is either residential or commercial - I mean it's not like
people like to have shops near where they live or anything!! there's a
few km of roads where the buildings/shops are now illegal businesses
and are pending being knocked down. there's other areas where they've
knocked them down, so the shop vendors just moved back in after the
workmen left. so now they sometimes have no roof, or side wall, or
front wall or big holes in the walls. dirt floors. piles of rubbish in
the footpath in front. it's crazy! people here don't seem to notice.
the papers talk about things with rose coloured glasses and talk about
the busy roads or businesses. or use half the paper copy for the
matramonial ads (sunday special edition) - it's like they're selling
cattle instead of looking for husbands/wives for their kids. sections
for caste, location, even disability. 'caste no barrier' in some even
though officially there is no caste system here, though someone's
forgotten to tell half the people.

arrhhgghhh! I should stop now, have ranted long enough. I've become
jaded I think - it's just sad to see some things here and sometimes
it's easier to pretend you have blinkers after a while which is really
bad (but seems to be how most richer/middle class people here live) -
there are some nice places (like the lotus temple which has the most
amazing acoustics and looks like the sydney opera house with petals
folding inwards rather than outwards). the people are mostly nice -
nice to westerners at least. I feel like I've been very negative about
the place. it's just different and amazing to me that 1 billion people
live like this and think it's normal. it makes me remember just how
fortunate I was to be born in aus and to have the opportunites I've

anyway, I might post this to the blog instead of bombarding your email
with war & peace. then wait for the negative comments from visitors
for being too negative and not focusing on the 'beautiful india' /
'incredible india' they see in the photoshopped ads on tv ;)

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some words, phrases and sayings in india (hindi)

it is told in all the villages & towns :
"every 1 mile the water changes in taste and every 4 miles the language
and accents change"

there are different words for these in each dialect. in Northern & Eastern India people generally speak Hindi and English. In Southern India people speak languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalum and English - they don't usually like speaking Hindi, they prefer English over Hindi.

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1 minute recording of Bahai Lotus Temple in Delhi, India

Watch the video Attached is a 1 minute recording of inside the Bahai Lotus Temple in Delhi, India taken on 30/04/2006. Sounds never cease in Delhi - the traffic and the people, so finding a quiet spot is like an oasis. This building has amazing acoustics - the sounds of coughs and whistles vibrates through the space. It was a really nice place to sit and relax on a really hot afternoon. I hope you enjoy it.I recorded it using a Sony MiniDisc and a cheap pc mic. has images/info about the temple

I've emailed this to the organiser of the Quiet American website - - they have 1 minute recordings from people's holidays from around the world.

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the elephant in vasant kunj

well maybe u do in delhi from june onwards, but today was my first elephant-in-the-street-sighting, so thought I'd share some pics.

the driver stopped the car so I could take the photos. I think he got a fright as I started getting too excited saying "there's an elephant, an elephant!" - tourists hey...

I need a faster camera though - missed the good shot of his head. was too busy watching him walk past.

people were giving me funny looks from the side of the road - same old same old to them I guess..

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