A Year in India

To Quote
October 24, 2008, 6:40 pm
Filed under: Day to Day | Tags: ,

Today, our water-delivery man and I got into a fragmented bits-of-English/bits-of-Hindi conversation.  As I live in a largely Muslim neighborhood, we spoke about the number and treatment of Muslims in different areas of the world.

As the conversation came to an end, he said to me, “Muslim, Hindu, Christian – not mattering.  Our hearts, our blood, the same.”


October 22, 2008, 11:30 am
Filed under: In the Field | Tags: , , ,

… And speaking of interactive learning, the slum kids who attend Christel House School recently put on a Founder’s Day Show.  It involved song, dance, and theatre drawn from several different Indian cultures.  I was blown away by how excited the student performers and the student audience were.  It was a real tribute to the value of arts education.  You’ll see how talented, engaged, and cute these kids are in the following little video montage:

October 21, 2008, 6:53 pm
Filed under: In the Field | Tags: ,

One of the goals of my project, Digital Equalizer/Adobe Youth Voices, is to create interactive learning environments so that students become more engaged and grow to think critically.  I’ve noticed that something as simple as projecting past AYV films in a classroom grabs the kids’ attention.  The method works because the videos are visually stimulating, youth-produced, and focused on social issues to which the students can relate.

In addition, though, there’s something about the “feel” of turning a rundown, virtually empty classroom into something of a “movie theatre.”  One of my favorite film professors at Duke (who happens to be Indian) often lectures about the fact that watching a movie is not about the film alone; it’s also about the space in which you see it and the people with whom you watch it.  The combination of these factors creates that inexplicable, “something-in-the-air” movie experience – and it’s one that’s clearly taking place during our AYV screening sessions with the youth.

Concert, Bengaluru Style
October 18, 2008, 1:32 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: , , , ,
Pre-concert sunset

Pre-concert sunset

Last night was one of my best nights in Bangalore yet.  I went with my coworker Chandan and his friends to watch a famous Bollywood film singer, Shankar Mahadevan, perform at the free Times of India music festival.  We arrived at the concert at sunset and staked out a spot in the venue’s overgrown field.  As the band went through its sound-check, I met and mingled with Chandan’s friends.

Shortly after, Mahadevan appeared and sang several high-profile Bollywood songs (including an Indian version of “Pretty Woman,” a few songs from India’s current favorite “Rock On,” and an amazing back-and-forth voice/drum imitation between him and his percussionists).  The crowd surrounding me sang along the entire time, yelling, whistling, and dancing all over the place.  There was a sense of energy, star idolatry, and community (the audience ranged from age five to sixty-ish).

The crowd

The fans

As the concert came to a close, rain began pouring down.  It was magical.  Drenched, we all jumped the barrier separating us from the VIP section, something Mahadevan had been requesting security to allow since the very beginning of the show.  The music took an odd turn from Bollywood to techno, and we rushed towards the stage, climbed onto plastic chairs, threw our arms to the sky, danced like crazy, and chanted through our laughter “where’s the party tonight?” and – yes – “Hindustani! Hindustani!” along with the music.  It was a funny, random, memorable night.

Jet Airways Drama
October 17, 2008, 10:36 am
Filed under: Culture | Tags:
Jet Airways protest

Jet Airways protest

Yesterday, India’s Jet Airways laid off nearly 1,000 people.  In a mix of political unrest, mass protests, and “tears in my eyes” language from the airline’s chairman, Jet reinstated all of the employees this morning.  Looks like the political pressure and the protests trumped the company’s economic needs.

The buzz around Bangalore is that this kind of action is typically “Indian” in nature.  That is, the fear of public unrest often overrides what might be practical (ie, economically sensible).  This approach has immediate benefits for the people who would’ve been left jobless, but the question remains whether it’s a positive, efficient step as Jet looks farther ahead.  (This perspective might be too American too apply in this country, though!)  Maybe, then, the question isn’t whether or not these people should have been laid off, but how companies like Jet should approach retrenchment (eg, development of a better policy for tranisitoning people out).

“Back when dancing in B’lore was allowed …”
October 16, 2008, 8:54 pm
Filed under: Culture | Tags: ,

Shocking: the Bangalore dance ban

October 9, 2008, 4:28 pm
Filed under: In the Field | Tags: ,

One of the video topics that the students at Vivekavardhini School proposed during a brainstorming session:

… On a semi-related note, Barack’s pulling even farther forward. And my absentee ballot made it!