Archive for June, 2009

June 24, 2009

A quick look at where I will be…

Click here to read more about InSPIRE and what kind of issues we will be covering.

P.S. I am excited!!!!

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June 17, 2009

A contemplative boat ride – musings on littering & identity

An hour-long ferry ride from the Gateway of India to Elephanta Island (home to an amazing array of caves devoted to Hindu deities…as well as a group of wild and evil monkeys that prey on tourists) gave me ample time to ponder.

This trip is constantly challenging my ideals of right and wrong, fair and unfair, good and bad. Let’s take the concept of littering. To me, it seems ingrained that littering = bad, but then I watch a father show his two young children how to unwrap their snack and gleefully throw the wrapper into the already polluted Arabian Sea. I am not here to judge or criticize anyone….just to note that such instances challenge my preconceived notions of right vs. wrong.  Is it dilluted accountability that makes people act this way? The sea, after all, washes away trash with the tide and it is never seen again by the perpetrator. But does that make it any less wrong? Or just easier to digest? (I know I’m guilty of this delusion at many times during the day) Or is it just that nobody taught this man that littering is bad? That trash in the ocean does not go unnoticed by its inhabitants…..

Life is full of assumptions.

Why did the man  selling tickets to Elephanta Island (15 rupees ($0.30) for Indians, 250 ($5.00) rupees for foreigners) assume that I wasn’t from India? Technically, if you look at my ancestry, I am. But I didn’t want to pick a fight…well actually, I couldn’t (not in Hindi at least) But how did he know? I didn’t say one word – just held up one finger for “1 ticket”. What about me prompted him to ask me where I was from? Was it because I looked him straight in the eyes? Was I dressed like a “foreigner”? Was my expression too open and inviting? Who knows. All I know is that I paid the foreigner rate of 250 rupees . It’s not about the money, it’s about the fact that even in India I am considered a foreigner. At best, a Non-Resident Indian (NRI). 

I feel like I have opened up Pandora’s Box (if her box contained questions about identity). Why are we so obsessed with this concept or defining or not defining ourselves? Why do we feel this need to belong to a particular group? Why do we let ourselves be herded into socially constructed identities? Does it even matter?

June 10, 2009

Midnight Infomercial

Sometimes I forget that a blog post does not need to be paragraphs long, gramatically correct, or particularly insightful. I’ve always wanted to blog more regularly but I never feel like my writing is adequate or my subject matter interesting enough. I break all blogging rules by thinking that way I guess. So, here goes 🙂

Midnight infomercial: Do you live in DC and want to be “in the know” about open mics, poetry slams, drum circles, and other fascinating events? Do the words “social justice, “activism”, “arts”, “youth empowerment”, or “education gap” resonate with you? (Trick question). Do you…Do you…..have a first aid kit handy?

Ah….it is getting late here and I am getting further and further away from making my point. If you answered yes to any of the questions above or even if you didn’t you should still check it. What’s it? My dear friend Jonathan Tucker’s new and awesome blog. Yes, that’s really his name and yes, he knows that there is a movie about him.

I encourage you to not only read his latest post about another friend of ours, Henry Mills, but to attend the events he is writing about. Guaranteed good time.  You should also check out his incredible poems including al dente, djali come save me (my favorite so far), national happy hour, pick me, and this rock.

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June 6, 2009

The White Tiger

Ah…..reading for pleasure. Something I haven’t done in such a long time (completely my fault). It is the combination of a long flight from Newark to Mumbai and jet lag that has resulted in me devouring almost 3 books in 2 days. Just wanted to share my thoughts and how they tie in with my first observations of India. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to India before but I finally feel like I am at a place where I can understand its subtleties and make some opinions of my own.

Observation #1 – If I had to sum up this country in one word it would be juxtaposed. Is that even a gramatically correct statement? More thoughts to come.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga – (thank D,P, and M for this wonderful gift). I started this book at the airport and finished it in the middle of the night in Bombay when I couldn’t sleep. Maybe I had high expectations because it won the Booker Prize last year and had a lot of hype in general, but I honestly wasn’t that impressed. There go my chances of ever getting him to be on NaanSense Radio….oh wait, there is no more NaanSense. Anyways, the book did hold my interest and it was written in a very interesting manner but i just wasn’t “wowed” by it. Basically, it is about this man who is re-telling the story of his life as he makes his way “up” in society to be a driver for a big shot in the city.  The book did, however, bring up some really interesting points about India and gave me a perspective on something I never thought about that much. I find myself wondering more and more about the lives of drivers and servants and cooks. I remember when I was young, I would come to India and be so taken aback by the fact that there were servants. This is when everything in the world was black or white, right or wrong, good or bad, and basically my way or the highway. This is also the time when we were learning about slavery in elementary school and I connected

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June 2, 2009

India Itinerary!

I’ll be in Bombay for the first 3 weeks visiting family. After that I will be away for 5 weeks doing InSPIRE (www.inspire-now.org) Here is our itinerary . I will post updates as often as I can (but I must admit, I am looking forward to being “disconnected” so don’t be surprised if it’s one epic blog post in August)

June 26 to July 5: Ahmedabad, Gujarat 

Introductions of participants and of the program. Orientation. Expectations. Cultural context. Meeting Indian-Americans who are involved with work in India. Introduction to ‘education’ in India. Introduction to ‘Gandhian’ thought. Experiencing the reality of the slums of Ahmedabad. Experiencing the ‘spirit’ of service being lived and feeling the power of relationships, love, and positive thought. Becoming inspired.  We will be staying at the Environmental Sanitation Institute (ESI) campus. 

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