Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Where is Coimbatore, India?

Today the church prays for the district of Coimbatore, in Southern India, which I learned, when trying to find it, that it is also referred to as “the Manchester of India” for it’s industrialization and textiles.

 

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The map is from Google Maps.

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May 27, 2016 Posted by | Faith, Geography / Maps, India | 2 Comments

Swapnil Chaturvedi: Private Excretion

There really are everyday heros, if you have the eyes to see. This man is bringing dignity to the poor, who have no place to pee and poop privately. He left a fine job in the United States to start a campaign to provide private toilets for the countless poor in India who live without any toilets at all, and are forced to perform their daily functions in public.

Swapnil Chaturvedi’s life had all the trappings of the American dream — a college degree, prestigious engineer job, wife and daughter.

But when he returned home to India in 2007 after four years of living comfortably in the U.S., he was horrified by the country’s lack of basic sanitation, and decided to leave his cushy life behind to help, Mental Floss reported.

Fifty-three percent of Indian households defecate in the open, because they don’t have access to working toilets — a practice that leads to malnutrition, stunted growth, poor cognition, disease and other hampering conditions, according to the World Bank.

Even when there are toilets available, many locals decline to use them because they’re not vented properly. Women and girls often choose to defecate outside because the communal restrooms aren’t secure — leaving users vulnerable to getting harassed and attacked by onlookers.

“Men often gather around toilets and if we ignore them they try to touch and feel us,” Afsana, a young resident of Bawana, told CNN-IBN.

Women like Afsana are the reason that Chaturvedi has committed to his work.

“If somebody asked me why I started this business, there is only one reason: for women’s dignity,” Chaturvedi said in an interview about his company.

In 2011, he launched Samagra Sanitation –- a program based in Pune that works with existing communal restrooms and incentivizes locals to change their hygiene habits.

The company improves ventilation, accessibility and cleanliness in communal bathrooms. It also turns locations into community centers that offer rewards program for users, among other perks, to inspire people to take advantage of the facility, according to the company’s website.

Samagra, which is a Gates Foundation grantee, dubbed its program the “LooRewards Model.” It has already gotten involved in three slums in Pune, providing services to more than 3,300 people daily.

But Chaturvedi says he’s just getting started. He wants to see his program expand to help more than 50,000 people daily, which is why he launched an IndieGoGo campaign in the hopes of raising $50,000 to achieve his goal.

“We can live without Facebook, we can live without smartphones,” he said. “But we cannot live without relieving ourselves.”

To contribute to the IndieGoGo Campaign, click here

April 2, 2014 Posted by | Character, Charity, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Health Issues, India, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Social Issues | 2 Comments

Where is Barrackpore, West India?

Today the church prays for Barrackpore, In West India:

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March 1, 2014 Posted by | Faith, India, Lectionary Readings, Spiritual | Leave a comment

“Look How You Look When You are Leering at Me”

Wonderful new awareness video out of India:

December 24, 2013 Posted by | Cultural, ExPat Life, India, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Middle East, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

“if You Can’t Prevent Rape, You Enjoy It”: Ranjit Sinha

The Chief of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation said this! Was he snorting cocaine in a drunken stupor? Of course he is apologizing, but his careless remark demonstrates the sentiments buried deep in his culture’s heart – it’s only women. Not worth much, not like us men.  Outrageous.

 

Ranjit Sinha

 

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s top police official apologized Wednesday for saying, “If you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it,” a remark that has outraged women across the country.

Central Bureau of Investigation chief Ranjit Sinha made the remark Tuesday during a conference about illegal sports betting and the need to legalize gambling. The CBI, the country’s premier investigative agency, is India’s equivalent of the FBI.

Sinha said at the conference that if the state could not stop gambling, it could at least make some revenue by legalizing it.

“If you cannot enforce the ban on betting, it is like saying, ‘If you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it,'” he said.

The remarks have caused outrage across India, which in the past year has been roiled by widespread protests following the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi.

On Wednesday, Sinha said that his comments had been taken out of context and misinterpreted, and that he was sorry if he had caused hurt.

Angry activists, however, called for his resignation.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat said Sinha’s comments were offensive to women everywhere.

“It is sickening that a man who is in charge of several rape investigations should use such an analogy,” Karat told reporters. “He should be prosecuted for degrading and insulting women.”

The New Delhi attack on the young woman last December caused nationwide outrage and forced the government to change rape laws and create fast-track courts for rape cases. New laws introduced after the attack make stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment a crime. They also provide for the death penalty for repeat offenders or for rape attacks that lead to the victim’s death.

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, India, Interconnected, Language, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Work Related Issues | 3 Comments

KUWAIT: 67 THOUSAND RESIDENCIES CANCELLED IN 2012

67,000 is a staggering number. I would be interested in seeing a breakdown of the extraditions by nationality and occupation.

From Google News and Migrant rights.com:

Following its recent crackdown on undocumented migrants, Kuwait has revealed important information regarding the numbers of migrants who have left the country or were deported during the year of 2012. According to a statement from the ministry of social affairs, 67 thousand migrants lost their residencies in Kuwait last year. 28232 of them were deported, 38 thousand of those who left the country and did not return for over a year, and 739 of migrants who passed away.

Two weeks ago, UAE’s The National published an important report on Kuwait’s crackdown on migrant workers. Kuwait plans to reduce its foreign labor-force by 100,000 every year when migrants make two thirds of the country’s 3.8 million population. Officials claim this will help reduce the pressure on public services in response to complaints from citizens on having to wait for a long time in order to get to see a doctor or finish some paperwork. Kuwait’s unemployment rate affecting citizens does not exceed 3% yet the country wants to stop future labor migrations and to depend on “interior labor market.”

Since April, at least 2000 migrants were deported from the country for traffic violations. The ministry of interior affairs thought this policy will help reduce traffic. Many migrants were advised by their embassies to stay at home. Recently, a decision was made to deport migrants after committing their first major traffic violation. The ministry stated that they were able to collect 9 million KWD in 40 days during the months of May and June as Kuwaitis and migrants lined up to pay their traffic tickets.

August 5, 2013 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, India, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Moving, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Statistics, Values, Work Related Issues | 2 Comments

Reports of Sexual Assault Increasing in India: Warning Issued

Another Woman Who Should Have Known She Was in the Wrong Place? She’s in her hotel room – near the Taj Mahal . . . is this another case of being in the wrong place in India? You’re not safe in your own hotel room? The manager of the hotel comes to your room to wake you for a wake-up call???

20 March 2013

Tourist balcony jump: Hotel manager and guard in court

A hotel manager and guard accused of sexually harassing a British tourist who jumped from a hotel balcony to escape have appeared in court in Agra.

A lawyer acting for hotel manager Sachin Chauhan said his client denied the charge and he had been trying to wake the woman up because she had asked for an early morning call.

The 31-year-old British woman was injured after jumping on Tuesday.

The Briton has been giving her statement at the court.

Initial reports suggested the woman told police she asked for a wake-up call at 04:00 local time and was offered a massage by the hotel owner when he knocked on her door.

She said the man would not leave so she locked the door and jumped from her balcony to the level below, injuring her leg, before fleeing the hotel.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the British High Commission in India said UK consular officials in Delhi had spoken to the woman and local police.

The Foreign Office recently updated its advice for women visiting India, saying they should use caution and avoid travelling alone on public transport, or in taxis or auto-rickshaws, especially at night.

It added that reported cases of sexual assault against women and young girls were increasing and recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas and cities showed that foreign women were also at risk.

Police arrested six people following an alleged gang rape of a Swiss tourist in Madhya Pradesh state last week.

The woman was attacked with her husband as they camped in woodland near a village in Datia district.

The arrests came as India’s politicians prepared to debate a new law against rape, following the outcry over the fatal assault on a female Delhi student last year.

March 20, 2013 Posted by | Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, India, Living Conditions, Travel | Leave a comment

It’s Your Fault if You Assume You Are Safe: Indian Officials

Horrifying. Disgusting. At the very least, if you are an official and tourists are gang raped in your area, keep your mouth shut. If you must say something, tell the visitors how sorry you are this happened to them. Never, never, never suggest that they should have ASKED if they were safe, NEVER blame the victim for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You just look really, really ignorant.

These crimes will keep happening as long as there is such a preference for male children that there are not enough mates for the males once they mature. They will keep happening as long as men are not taught, as children, that women are to be equally respected.

Swiss Gang Rape Victim, Husband Partially To Blame For Attack, Indian Officials Suggest
The Huffington Post | By Cavan Sieczkowski

Posted: 03/18/2013 12:13 pm EDT

Officials in India suggested that a Swiss tourist and her husband are partially to blame for an alleged attack and gang rape in a remote wooded area in Madhya Pradesh last week. They said the couple did not inquire about the safety of the region.

On Friday, a Swiss woman and her husband pitched a tent in a forest in Madhya Pradesh while on a three-month cycling excursion, according to the Associated Press. Around 9:30 p.m. a group of men attacked the couple, beat up the husband, tied him to a tree, gang raped the wife and robbed the pair, police said.

During a press conference on Sunday, police spokesperson Avnesh Kumar Budholiya suggested the tourists are partially to blame for the assault because they chose to travel that area without speaking to local police, the Independent reports.

“No one stops there,” Budholiya said. “Why did they choose that place? They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They would have passed a police station on the way to the area they camped. They should have stopped and asked about places to sleep.”

Another official also appeared to place blame on the victim and her husband.

“The rape of the Swiss national is unfortunate but foreign travelers should inform the police about their movement so they can be provided with adequate protection,” said Umashankar Gupta, the Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh, according to The Times. “They often don’t follow the state’s rules.”

Madhya Pradesh reportedly has one of the highest rates of crimes against women in the country, a fact the Swiss tourists were unaware of, according to the Times of India.

“They apparently lost track and took a wrong turn and decided to halt for the night by the side of a village brook little realizing that the district with 85:100 men to women ratio is not the safest place for women,” a senior official from the region told the newspaper.

Six men have been arrested in connection with the most recent reported gang rape, CNN reports. The victim, who was hospitalized after the attack, claims four of the men raped her. The other two reportedly robbed her and her husband. All six appeared in court Monday.

The most recent attack comes just three months after a 23-year-old woman was gang raped and beaten on a public bus by five men in New Delhi. The defense lawyer for three of the accused placed some of the blame on the now-deceased victim, saying a “respected lady” does not get raped.

Blaming a female victim of a sex crime is common in India because of a woman’s role in society, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“This is the mentality which most Indian men are suffering from unfortunately,” Ranjana Kumari, director for the New Delhi-based Centre for Social Research, told the newspaper. “That is the mindset that has been perpetrating this crime because they justify it indirectly, you asked for it so it is your responsibility.”

March 18, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, India, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Women's Issues | 1 Comment

START with Sea of Poppies, by Amitav Ghosh

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I recently wrote a book review on River of Smoke, by Amitav Ghosh, which held me spellbound, so riveting that I had to order Sea of Poppies, which is actually the first volume of the trilogy. I had heard a review of River of Smoke on NPR and although it was written as the second volume in a trilogy, it can be read as a stand-alond.

Yes. Yes, it can be read as a stand-alone, but it is so much easier, I can state with authority, if you read them in order. Once I started Sea of Poppies, I also discovered an extensive glossary in the back, several pages, a list of the words, annotated with suggested origins, and it adds so much color to an already brilliantly colored novel. Much of both novels uses words from many cultures, and words that have been formed by another culture’s understanding of the words (some hilarious). If you like Captain Jack Sparrow, you’re going to love the polyglot language spoken by ship’s crews from many nations trying to communicate with one another. It can be intimidating, but if you sort of say the words out loud the way they are written at the beginning, you begin to find the rhythm and the gist of the communication, just as if you were a new recruit to the sea-going vessels of the early 1800’s. I loved it because it captured the difficulties encountered trying to say the simplest things, and the clever ways people in all cultures manage to get around it, and make themselves understood.

Sea of Poppies starts in a small Indian village, with one of the very small poppy gardens, planted on an advance from an opium factory representative, thrust upon the small farmer, with the result that most small Indian farmers converted their entire allotment from subsistence foods to poppies. Ghosh walks us through an opium processing factory, which is a little like walking through the circles of hell. We meet many of the characters we will follow in River of Smoke, and learn how this diverse group bonded into one sort of super-family through their adventures – and misadventures – together.

It is an entirely engrossing work. Sea of Poppies was short listed for the Man Booker award, and was listed as a “Best Book of the Year” by the San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and The Economist. The theme is the opium trade, leading to the Opium Wars, with China, and is a chilling indictment of how business interests manipulate a population’s perceptions of national interests to justify . . . well, just about anything, in the name of profit.

The theme is woven through human stories so interesting, so textured, so compelling, that you hardly realize you are reading history and learning about the trade, cultures, travel, clothing, traditions, religions, food, and motivations as you avidly turn the pages.

I can hardly wait for the third volume. Get started now, so you’ll be ready for it when it comes out!

March 3, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Friends & Friendship, Gardens, Health Issues, India, Language, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Political Issues, Social Issues, Travel, Women's Issues | , , , , | 2 Comments

Amitav Ghosh and River of Smoke

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The National Public Radio website recommended this book as one of the best historical fiction reads, and I had never heard of it, so I ordered it. I ordered it in spite of the little voice I had in my head reminding me that this was the second in a trilogy, that the first is Sea of Poppies. I was too eager. I wanted to jump right in, and the review said it could be read stand-alone. I had read Ghosh’s Glass Palace a couple years ago for book club, loved it, and was eager to read this one.

With a raging cold and no possible way I can be around humanity, it was a good time to start. Just picking up the book, it has a dense feel. Once you start, it is like being suddenly in a whirlpool, drowning in new words, characters who have more than one name and more than one identity, whirling between England, Mauritius, Hindustan, Gujerat, Hong Kong, Macau and China, whirling between cultures and professions and trades, but oh, what a ride.

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It would have been helpful to be reading River of Smoke on an iPad, where I could poke at a new word and it would give me the meaning, but in truth, you can guess a lot of the meaning of the vocabulary from the context. The seafarers all speak a language sort of like Jack Sparrow, a pidgen language filled with simplified grammar and with words from many nations and cultures. It forces you to slow down. It’s worth it. It would also be nice if you could poke on a place-name and have Google Earth show you where it is. There used to be a website called Google Books, and you could put in a book and it would show you the places in which actions in the book took place; that would be particularly handy reading this book, provide context in place-relations.

But reading slowly is it’s own reward. This book has depth, depth of character, depth of textures and senses, and depth of morality. I love a book like this where you can smell the smoke drifting over the water, where you can smell the sewer and bloated animal corpses floating outside the foreign hongs of the Canton traders, you can feel the textures of the textiles and see their colors, you can taste the exquisiteness of Macau cuisine and you can hike in a Hong Kong not yet settled by anyone, Chinese or foreign.

The scope of time covered by the major part of the story is short, although there are years of back-stories for several characters. The period is 1837-8, during which the Chinese Emperor decides to put teeth in the long established edict against opium trade to China. The edict had been in place, but not enforced, and China watched her citizens sink into opium addiction and lowered productivity. The traders were making fortunes – shiploads of money. Opium was grown in India and shipped from there to China.

When the ban against shipping opium into China is announced, many traders believe it is just another attempt to attain greater bribes on the part of the mandarins, and decline to obey. There is great debate, and while it is lively in the book, it is based on documents from that era, many of the arguments word for word. Traders stood to loose a great deal of money, in truth, it would ruin most of them to lose their shipments.

There is a side story I also like, that of the botanical trade between China and England, and the importation of many of the garden plants we take for granted today, which were unknown until sent from China. Camellia – one of which is the plant for tea, did you know that? Roses, azaleas, orchids – many many familiar plants would be missing from our gardens were it not for their introduction during this period.

Ghosh gives us disparate characters of many cultures and upbringings, and slowly weaves them together, each one tangential to all the others, some closely interwoven. It is a fascinating read, and I can’t wait for the next volume. I may have to go back and read Sea of Poppies while I am waiting.

January 30, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Character, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Fiction, Financial Issues, Food, Friends & Friendship, India, Living Conditions, Poetry/Literature, Political Issues, Social Issues, Values, Work Related Issues | , , , , , , | Leave a comment