A Year in India

March 25, 2009, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Indian Development | Tags: , ,

I recently received some noteworthy advice from Kshithij Urs, a friend who has worked in India’s development space for 15 + years. He’s currently Karnataka’s Regional Manager for Action Aid India, an anti-poverty agency. During a conversation about my experience as an American doing social work in India, he told me the following:

1. Unlearn what you’ve learnt. That is, don’t stick to the way you’ve been taught to understand society.

2. Do as much research as you can about India’s caste system. It deeply influences modern Indian culture.

3. Think about making media to mobilize communities. Documentaries are often made to raise awareness about social injustices but are targeted at audiences that are not undergoing these injustices. What if we were to make a documentary to raise awareness within a community undergoing an injustice? Could it inspire them to take ownership of their situation?

Thoughts to ponder.


Another Reason to Love India
March 23, 2009, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Day to Day | Tags:

… Fresh pomegranate from my fruit vendor across the street for 25 rupees (50 US cents).  Whole Foods prices are going to be quite a shock when I return stateside this summer.


Moonlight Trekkers
March 12, 2009, 7:02 pm
Filed under: Travel | Tags:
Sunrise at Nandi Hills

Sunrise at Nandi Hills

If there’s one thing certain about my India experience thus far, it’s that it’s perpetually full of random adventures.  Last weekend marked one as such.  To celebrate my friend Shalin’s 25th (and his upcoming return to the US, boo), a group of us spent a night in Nandi Hills, a rural area 70km north of Bangalore.  After work on Friday, we drove (using typically Indian landmark-based directions, i.e. “turn left at the Kannada sign with red writing,” “turn right at the Banyan tree,” etc.) to a lodge in the hills.  After a home-cooked meal and lots of birthday cake, we sat around talking, drinking, playing Taboo, and dancing (or, um, watching Shalin and Val dance).

Around 3:30am, we left the lodge and began our 1½-hour hike up a dimly-lit path, through tiny old stone temples, past starry viewpoints, through scraggly greenery to the top of the hill.  We staked out a spot at the hill’s edge and waited in the pitch black until the sun slowly began to rise.  With the sun, our moods turned the kind of giddy that reminds me of childhood.  We spent the next hour or so admiring the view, doing “yoga,” and taking lots of photos.  After the trip back down, we groggily ate our breakfast.  Our drive home was met with sleep.  It was quite the memorable send-off for Shalin.

More photos (courtesy of a certain Ms. Rozycki) here.

Making Movies
March 5, 2009, 12:32 pm
Filed under: In the Field | Tags: ,

For the past month, my students have been shooting their short documentary projects.  Our goal is to have each school/NGO produce one 5-7 minute documentary and one photo essay by the end of April.  The film topics include slum life, electricity wastage, and elders’ childhood memories.  We’ve shot footage in places ranging from schools to slum homes to shops to the bustling streets of Bangalore.

Vivekavardhini students during production

Students shooting at a local park

What has become apparent during this past month is how exciting this experience is for the youth.  For them, school usually means sitting in a classroom and listening to by-the-book lectures.  The Adobe Youth Voices project allows them to get out of their classrooms, work in teams, and actively learn.  This type of learning may seem normal to a US audience, but it is pushing all kinds of boundaries here in India.

Shooting at a student's slum home

Shooting in a student's slum home

More new photos here.