Thursday, August 31, 2006

Things I like (or learned to like), sometimes even love, about India

On Wednesday, August 31, 2005 Air India Flight 112 brought me to Indira Gandhi International Airport. I landed here with the intent of living in India for a year. And that I did. And I'm actually still here.

Tomorrow I'll focus on the negative side, but for today, let's talk about the good.

India has many things to offer for all tastes, and if you don't think things too seriously it can give you quite a rewarding adventure.

Now to the list!

1) The landscape. India is a large geographically diverse country with mountains, deserts, beaches, hills, plains, and anything else you may want. India affords you a breath-taking scenery and many times unspoiled by modern development.

2) The food. Though I readily admit that "Indian" cuisine is not my top favorite. Some of the regional dishes are absolutely phenomenal. The seafood in West Bengal or Konkan food is divine.

3) The textiles. The artistry of woven fabrics is amazing. The colors and textures that are created attest to the rich craft heritage. Some of the sari work is incredible.

4) The history. India is old. Really old.

5) The people. The passion, friendliness, warmth, and hospitality is a deeply rooted cultural trait. (be warned that you will find "the people" in the negative list also).

6) The extremes. At times it feels that this is a country of absolutes. Absolute poverty vs. Absolute wealth. Absolute right vs. Absolute wrong. Black vs. White. Good vs. Evil. Britney Spears vs. Christina Aguilera. No room for gray areas. Extreme development in the same block as abject poverty. It's quite fascinating.

Hum, I know there is more, but how does one verbalize it?

Monday, August 28, 2006


Pronunciation: 'nän-'se-kw&-t&r also -"tur
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin, it does not follow
1 : an inference that does not follow from the premises; specifically : a fallacy resulting from a simple conversion of a universal affirmative proposition or from the transposition of a condition and its consequent
2 : a statement (as a response) that does not follow logically from or is not clearly related to anything previously said
3 : a really funny and clever comic strip.

EVERYONE BLOGS! It's a fad, it's a trend, it's the live memoirs of the information age. But sometimes, a lot of times, its filled with crap.

I blog because my friends and family are spreadthroughoutt the globe, and I use this medium to share my personal experiences, my exasperations, and my joyous moments. Kinda like meeting the girls for coffee, only the cafe is a data-stream spreading through the planet.

Though I have not been faced with blogger's block yet, I have found myself with too many things to share, and too little time to do it adequately. So what I end up doing is throwing some random pieces of stream of consciousness into, at times, meaningless phrases. In hopes that the people thatIi am speaking to can decipher my message.

I most say though, as cathartic as it may be to be able to vent out my feelings in a public pseudo-journal I miss the interaction and conversations that you get with actually speaking face-to-face.

What is the lesser of the evil shrinking the global village or disconnectingourselvess from some of the basic tenets ofhumana nature - companionship, physical contact. Can an online community provide the same support systems as a tangible one?

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Pearls Before Swine is witty, sarcastic, and rudely reminds me a lot of me. As a former resident of Calcutta I feel obliged to share this Sunday's strip.

Please join me in a round of giggling.

I must say though, that cows in Indian overall, not just Cal, are pretty damn cocky. I think they know no one is going to do anything to them, so they get away with doing what ever they want.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A year in the Third World

As I sit in the mall tapping in to the free Wi-Fi enjoying my chocolate croissant and skim latte I can't help but wander how have I been able to survive in a developing country away from all the comforts I had grown accustomed too.

Damn I have been in India for a year! (just shy of two weeks but close enough).

The past 11 and a half months (minus 10 days in Hong Kong) have definitely had its share of trials and tribulations. There quite a few things I hate about this country (every country has something) and quite a few that I love, and countless others that I really miss from back home.

But to me the most important thing is that I have actually done it. I have been able to step out of my protective bubble and thrown myself into a new environment and survived. Kudos for Andy!

The French emigre, Claude Arpi, wrote an article titled, "10 things I hate about India" after living in the country for over 30 years. Like him, I feel there are way more good things than bad. Unlike him, most of my complaintsts are superficial.

My friend Lauren (who was part of the same fellowship that brought me here initially - and a NY Italian) had this to say on her last day in the country:

"Leaving India tomorrow and although I love India it is really time to just get the heck out of here. I am tired of the crowds and the traffic, tired
of hitting my head on everything b/c its all made for short people, tired of malnourished children or people with 2 or more serious deformities hovering all over the street asking for money, tired of being stared at by gross men, tired of yelling all day every day and just plain tired.

There are some things I really love about this country though. Here is my top 10 (well, 11) list:

11) You can bribe your way out of anything.

10) If you are here long enough you make sounds with you butt that you never thought possible.

9) Mob rule wins every time. There are so many freaking people that if you get even a small percentage of the population to agree with you that's a damn lot of people.

8) South Bombay socialites excluded, people are not afraid to eat.

7) In a city like Bangalore with 6 million people there are still cows meandering in the middle of the road.

6) Cleaning toilets, sweeping floors, ironing clothes and swabbing floors are seen as work- real work, like it should be. And you usually pay someone to do it.

5) Salman Khan, a famous Bollywood actor, ran over a few homeless people and walked away scot-free, but then shot an endangered animal and went straight to the slammer.

4) The world is your toilet and nature is your piss pot.

3) Someone who dances like a back-up dancer from a 1985 Michael Jackson video can be a top hip-hop dance teacher in Bombay with over 50 loyal students.

2) Although India men scope foreign women like recently released convicts from Rikers, you have to laugh at them because an overwhelming majority have uni brows, belts with 2 feet of leather hanging off, pants hiked up to their belly button, and shirts with color combinations that can't even be explained by color blindness. Trust me, I've met men in middle of nowhere in Nepal with more fashion

1) The leader of the largest political party in India, who runs and
controls a lot of the shit going on around here, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, is

In the end, there is not much one can do except "you take the good, you take the bad and there you have, the facts of life!"

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Why the fuck do I bother!?

I think everyone has one of those days (or weeks, or lifetime) where they wonder why the hell they picked their profession, "what was I thinking when I thought working in {INSERT CHOSEN CAREER} would be fun?". The following video gives me my doubt for the day.

I have been working in HIV Public Health for 10 years this summer (started way back when with TCRS and the FL HIV Hotline) and sometimes I wonder what has it really made any difference. God knows I didn't go into it for the money, but I don't want to think I wasted a decade of my life either. Yes I am a minuscule (microscopic really) piece of the the overall Global HIV Industry, but still...

I have had one or two heart-warming moments. Most notably my work in Cambodia with the Commune Council of Pursat. In December 2004 they commemorated for the first time World AIDS Day, and held village level education, awareness, and mobilization events, mixed with fun, food, music, and dance. This was a direct result of work that I was involved in. This is the kind of stuff that makes you feel good about yourself.

But then you hear things like what happened to my friend Pat down in Florida. Last year she told me the story of a 16-18 year old kid hitch-hiking down US 1. He had made it as far as Port St Lucie, FL (just north of Palm Beach)all the way from Georgia. The young lad was on his way to South Beach, Miami to get HIV.

That was his plan - To Get HIV.

He wanted HIV because he had a chat friend who had told him how he was positive and he was being given: food, rent, and medical treatment. All for free. "And of course now with these great new drugs,you can lead a normal healthy life and not have to worry." UGH!!!!

If this the kind of mentality that we have to deal with after 20 years of fighting the epidemic. Why the fuck to we bother!? I say from now on its survival of the fittest. If stupid punk ass kids like him, don't want to listen. If they refuse to pay attention and choose to play Russian roulette with their life, who are we to stop them.

On an interesting sidenote:


Obesity Seen as a Sign of Prosperity

South Africa's AIDS epidemic is driving a new health crisis in the country as women, fearful of appearing to be HIV positive, are becoming obese in record numbers.

SOURCE: The Independent, 14/Aug/06
Full text:


Sometimes you just can't win.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's still freaking raining!

Ok, so monsoon was cute and all when it started. The temperature dropped, the pollution dropped, yes it was mucky but it was a small price to pay. But you know what, enough is enough! Ugh!

I'm not a wimp when it comes to rain. I'm used to 6 month long hurricane seasons. But at least we get dried once in a while. I've gone through two umbrellas already and it doesn't seem to be letting up anytime soon.

And the worse part is that some of my clothes are getting this oh-so-not-cute mold thing growing on them. Luckily its on only a few pieces, but still! What the fuck is that about!?

I miss the sun :-(

Thursday, August 03, 2006

An epidemic of jock itch

Its not bad enough that pissing in public seems to be the national past time of the average Indian male, but I swear that there is more crotch grabbing, scratching, re-adjusting, and just plain holding on to than it is necessary.

As a penis-wielding male, I do understand the need for the occasional adjustment or light scratch, but I try to do this in some subtle way (adjusting your walk for example). I fail to comprehend, however, why 60% of the men that I pass on my way to work (yes I counted, I wanted to be scientific) had their hand on their package.

Either a) the Indian lack of open honest communication about anything sexual combined with 85% of men who are not circumcised has produced a nasty case of dick rot due to poor hygiene; or b) Indian men are insecure about their manhood and are afraid that they dropped it somewhere on their way to wherever and want to make sure it is still there.

What is one to do? The polls are open, solutions await...