Friday, June 30, 2006

Lord Help me...

For the past two weeks getting internet access has been harder than finding a virgin at an all girls catholic school. Though I have finally moved into my happy new office space (yey!) getting things to work has been a painful ordeal (boo!). During the same time I have been trying to get internet connected at my house. The thought of being able to work from home and avoiding the traffic enticing me to shell out the installation charge and deposit. However, 2 weeks, 3 phone calls, and 4 'different people coming to my house' later. I have yet to have working internet at home (or at the office).

Currently I don't know who to blame (because of course it is someone's fault). I'm torned between blaming karmic forces torn asunder by the monsoon or the fact that all of the good engineers have left India and all we are left with are the drags which did not seem good enough to get a job abroad. Either or it's the same. I still don't have reliable net access. But I keep getting promised that it will be up and running soon. Sigh!

Monday, June 19, 2006

On Traveling

As most of you know I have done a fair bit of jet-setting my young'ish age. And I can say that India by far is the most patience trying place in the world when it comes to trying to get around. Be it bus, taxi, rickshaw, train, plane or automobile (unless its your personal car). Traveling in India is test of endurance.

Granted the maxim "you get what you pay for" holds more truth in this country than in others, but the headaches are from a systemic level.

Case in point, I went to Kolkata this weekend to finish getting the rest of my things so I can finally finish settling into my new life here in Mumbai, and the airport was utter chaos. From the check-in (for having been colonized by the British for 200 hundred years you would think the concept of orderly queuing would have seeped in), to the stampede at the security check (I've seen brawlers be more civilized), to getting on the plane (apparently Indian believe that if you don't hurry on board the plane will leave without you), to getting off (along the same line of though as previously if you don't hurry off the plane it will take off with you still in it). And I still had to come back!

I love going new places or revisiting familiar ones, but I just really hate the getting there. Maybe as I age (and get more impatient) I realize that the journey IS NOT as important as the destination. The journey is the trial that makes you worthy of the destination.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A matter of perspective

It is fascinating to me the assumptions that we make sometimes. I agree that we all base our world view from our individual experiences, acculturation, positions of power and privilege, etc. But it still strikes me when I hear/see evidence that goes against, my pre-conceived notions.

I admit that I am superficial, as a matter of fact, I pride myself in it, because I know that my particular level of superficiality is benign (I don’t starve myself to fit into a body concept, I don’t openly discriminate against ugly people, I don’t make fun of people to their face when they don’t know how to dress).

That being said, I admit that I did find it extremely fascinating that the burqa was not mentioned at all by Muslim women during interviews on the needs of the female Muslim community.

Western believed theoretical symbol of oppression aside, I just honestly do not know how they survive underneath those portable ovens. I can barely manage in my light linens in physically pains me (I don think I sweat more) when I see these women walk around as if nothing was wrong covered head to toe in black – most of the time synthetic – OVER their clothes. Maybe Muslim women are just built stronger.

I agree that there are other more important priorities in the empowerment of Muslim women, but do you not think you would be more comfortable in that voting booth in some shorts and a tank top?

New York Times reported in Push Journal
SOURCE: Push Journal,

Political Equality is Seen to be More Important Than Gender Equality

Muslim women do not think they are conditioned to accept second-class status or view themselves as oppressed, according to a survey released by the Gallup Organization.

The survey, "What Women Want: Listening to the Voices of Muslim Women," is a part of The Gallup World Poll, which plans to survey 95 percent of the earth's population over the next century.

According to the poll, conducted in 2005, a strong majority of Muslim women believe they should have the right to vote without influence, work outside the home and serve in the highest levels of government. In more than 8,000 face-to-face interviews conducted in eight predominantly Muslim countries, the survey found that many women in the Muslim world did not see sex issues as a priority because other issues were more pressing.

When asked what they resented most about their own societies, a majority of Muslim women polled said that a lack of unity among Muslim nations, violent extremism, and political and economic corruption were their main concerns.

The hijab, or head scarf, and burqa, the garment covering face and body, seen by some Westerners as tools of oppression, were never mentioned in the women's answers to the open-ended questions, the poll analysts said.

Concerning women's rights in general, most Muslim women polled associated sex equality with the West. 78 per cent of Moroccan women, 71 per cent of Lebanese women, and 48 per cent of Saudi women polled linked legal equality with the West. Still, a majority of the respondents did not think adopting Western values would help the Muslim world's political and economic progress.

The most frequent response to the question, "What do you admire least about the West?" was the general perception of moral decay, promiscuity and pornography that pollsters called the "Hollywood image" that is regarded as degrading to women.

At 97 per cent, Lebanon had the highest percentage of women who said they believed they should be able to make their own voting decisions, followed by Egypt and Morocco at 95 per cent. Pakistan was lowest, at 68 per cent.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

On male bondage, err, bonding

I wanted to write something on the level on non-sexual same sex intimacy that goes on in India for a while, but never seemed to get around to it. But, Sonia’s blog entry on scared straight boys got me motivated enough to write a few words.

One of the things that I enjoy the most in India is the bonding that happens within men (and I assume women). You see men holding hands, leaning against each other; I have even seen them resting their heads on each other’s laps and stroke their hair. And though I do not deny that sex does occur between heterosexually self-identified men, for the most part these interactions are not sexual in nature. It is just a normal part of male bonding.

I attribute this to the fact that in a country with a high level of gender segregation, men and woman socialize separately (for the most part). When you predominately socialize among same-sex groups, but still have the innate need for physical intimacy, for human touch, you lean on your friends to satisfy that need. What is wrong after all with men hugging!?

The sad part is when you notice a socio-economic divide on this behavior. The upper classes with a higher sense of western sensibilities seem to be more “homophobic” towards same-sex physical closeness. “That is SO gay after all!”

I do think that something the west can learn from this is that it is ok for men to touch. Holding hands, leaning on each other, hugging, does not a fag make. If it gives you wood, and you have the sudden urge to get down on your knees and service your buddy, THEN you should start to wonder if you may be displaying homosexual tendencies.

There is so much more than can be said on this, but I will leave that for a nice conversation while we play with each other’s hair.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A few weeks back my friend David stopped in Mumbai on his way back to Mexico after working in India for the past year. On his last day we did a bit of meandering through downtown Mumbai as a partign glimpse of India. It was sad, but I must say I enjoyed speaking Spanish the whole time, something I have't done in eons. And it was fun getting staired at for blatantly and loudly speaking a foreign tongue on mumbai's streets :-)

Eating Pan, totally Indian, totally gross.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

On the Weather

Hallelujah I have survived the heat!! Now we shall see if I make it through the monsoon.

It has been raining in Mumbai for the past 48 hours, but apparently this is not the monsoon, rather it is the pre-monsoon showers. What the f%$k!? Though everything is gross and mucky and traffic is backed-up and streets are semi flooded the one good thing I have noticed so far is that it is NOT insufferably hot. Yippee! Dampness aside, it is actually quite pleasant. Who would have thought it!?

I must say though, the peak of the heat (Apr-May) was physically painful, soul draining, and down right nasty. I cannot believe people put up with it year-after-year it really is mutilating. And I had the extreme privilege (sarcasm duly noted I hope) to experience summer heat in four different cities. Ahmedabad was the worst for shear high temperature, but Kolkata was the most disgusting with its lovely mix of high humidity and high temperatures (and my god is it hard to look cute in 40 C and 80% humidity). Thankfully Mumbai was not awful. It was bad, but almost tolerable. I guess there is something to be said for being a coastal town, granted I am no where near any beach like area.

I must say thought, what made all of summer worth it was the mangoes. Yum! Indians do go crazy for their mangoes. With varies species of mangoes touted over others (I honestly lost track of which is supposed to be the King of mangoes). But it is crazy in how many places mangoes appear. Mango Pickle, mango chutney, mango drinks, mango ice cream, mango soy milk! And points go to the non-Indians who knew that paisley prints are an old Indian patterned based on a mango. Does anyone out there know if there is a mango festival that I am missing with a crown mango princess? If there is not one, I think we need to start one. I am thinking food stalls selling deep-fried-mango-on-a-stick.