For tips on frugality, look to India

December 19, 2008

Anand Giridharadas in the International Herald Tribune:

In India, nothing cannot be recycled. AP

In India, nothing cannot be recycled. AP

The truly frugal segment friends and associates into two camps: those who merit their money and those who don’t.

Cellphone calls may cost a cent a minute in India, but why call people who only rate a text? Why text when you can make a “missed call”? Millions of Indians dial and quickly hang up, hoping for the other person to call back and foot the bill.

Your upholstery is not for everyone. Sofas fray and stain; there is, in the final analysis, a cost per posterior. So cover your sofa with bed sheets and remove them for only the best behinds.

So, too, with crockery: Buy a set of expensive plates and keep it in a case where your friends can see them while they eat from the cheap plates you actually set before them.

When eating out, order soups fractionally: a certain number of soups split by a certain number of people. Start with “one into two,” the realm of Indian beginners, then graduate in time to “three into five” and “six into seven.”

For entrees, count the diners at the table, subtract one and order that many dishes – which, for a table of four, saves 25 percent over the one-person-one-dish norm.

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The maneaters of Kittur

November 15, 2008

Aravind Adiga‘s second, Between the Assassinations, is a more genuine, convincing novel about an India of disparity and ugliness. Chandrahas Choudhury reviews the book in Mint-Lounge:

adiga_bookThis year’s Booker Prize winner takes us once again into a savage and cruel India.
In one of the stories of Aravind Adiga’s Between the Assassinations, a book that follows his Booker Prize-winning The White Tiger but was apparently written before it, we see a quack sexologist, Ratnakara Shetty, on his way to the dargah to sell his goods. As he approaches the site he comes across the familiar Indian melee of pathetic supplicants-beggars, lepers, the handicapped, including one especially grotesque specimen with a stump of a leg and “little brown stubs like a seal’s flippers” for arms. Ratnakara Shetty leaves behind this “sorrowful parade of humanity” and walks on. Soon he is surrounded by yet another group that throbs with pain and despair: those afflicted by venereal disease.

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Indians look to America for a new accent on English

October 28, 2008

AFP report from Mumbai at The Smart Set:

In India, speaking English with an American accent is no longer the preserve of call centre workers. Children, business people and the elderly here are now seeking a US twang.

The phenomenon has spread from the Indian offshore operations boom in the late 1990s to a wider cross-section of society, whether to help them get on in business, communicate with family State-side or just show off.

In Mumbai, arguably India’s most cosmopolitan city, a number of language schools have sprung up offering accent coaching. Mumbaikars are also trawling the Internet looking for tutors to teach them to talk like Uncle Sam.

[Photo: Students at the Just Talk Institute language school in Mumbai. AFP]

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Call centers are fodder for India’s pop culture

October 21, 2008

Rama Lakshmi in the Washington Post:

A scene from "Hello," a Bollywood film about the lives of India's 2 million call-center workers.

A scene from "Hello," a Bollywood film about the lives of India's 2 million call-center workers.

In a training session at a suburban call center, groups of fresh-faced Indian recruits jettison their Indian names and thick accents and practice speaking English just like the Americans do. They have hesitant conversations with imaginary American customers who complain angrily about their broken appliance or computer glitch.

The instructor writes “35 = 10″ on the board, as though he is gifting the recruits with a magic mantra.

“A 35-year-old American’s brain and IQ is the same as a 10-year-old Indian’s,” he explains, and urges the agents to be patient with the callers.

That is a scene from “Hello,” the first Bollywood movie about the distorted and dual lives of India’s 2 million call-center workers.

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Yoga bends the globalization stereotype

October 9, 2008

Matthew Hennessey at Policy Innovations:

Are you stressed out? Do you suffer from psoriasis? Think you might be pregnant? Depressed? Overweight? If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, perhaps you should try yoga.

Yes, yoga-the consensus cure-all prescribed by experts, neighbors, doctors, online magazines, and strangers the world over. At a time when no one seems to agree on anything, yoga has emerged as a rare counterpoint to globalization’s tarnished image.

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In India, the paradox of ‘choice’ in a globalized culture

September 12, 2008

Anand Giridharadas in International Herald Tribune:

A worker removing English signage in Mumbai on Aug. 26. (AP photo)

A worker removing English signage in Mumbai on Aug. 26. (AP photo)

Mumbai: A decade ago, the world hurtled toward a calendrical crisis, and India seized an opportunity.

An affliction called the Y2K bug impended. Thousands of Indian techies were marshaled to repair the software glitch. The rest is outsourcing history.

The outsourcing boom craved English speakers. Hole-in-the-wall “academies” from Kerala to Punjab began to sell English classes for a few dollars a week. A colonizer’s language was recast in the minds of many young lower-income Indians as a language of liberation, independence and mobility.

A decade hence, Indians who have achieved that mobility may struggle to understand the newspaper headlines in Mumbai in recent days. They tell of brigades of young men shattering the windows of shops and restaurants whose signs declare their names only in English, not in the regional language Marathi.

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From matters of the flesh to the stars, India finds a way

August 30, 2008

Anand Giridharadas in International Herald Tribune:

Mumbai: In India, vegetarianism is not a passing Bohemian fad.

For 200 million or so people, it is an ancient means of purifying the body and pacifying the mind. Meat-eaters are widely believed to be aggressive and unclean. When Gandhi sailed to England to study, his caste excommunicated him for fear that he would succumb to the pleasures of the (animal) flesh.

Today, thanks to globalization, you need not visit Europe to be tempted by flesh. KFC and McDonald’s and Pizza Hut outlets beckon to a swelling middle class. (Guess why they’re swelling.) Fancy restaurants tantalize diners with sea bass, lamb shanks and duck confit. Children find meat-eating cool. Young executives want to fit in on business trips overseas.

How is a family to preserve its vegetarianism in a flesh-eaters’ world?

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The India that is NOT changing

August 8, 2008

Anand Giridharadas in International Herald Tribune:

MUMBAI: Here in the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, the doyen of this city’s hotels, what you think of the new India may depend on whether you are the person having soap squeezed onto your hands or the person squeezing the soap.

In every men’s washroom at the Taj is a helper. As you approach the sink, he salutes you. Before you can turn on the tap, he does it for you. Before you can apply soap, he presses the dispenser. Before you can get a towel, he dangles one. As you leave, he salutes you again and mutters: “Right, sir. O.K., sir. Thank you, sir.”

Step outside, and you see sedans reeking of new affluence. Sleeping inside are drivers, many of them asleep because they work 20-hour shifts, waking up at 6 a.m. to catch a train, taking the boss to and from work, then to his dinner, then to drinks, then dropping him home at 1 a.m. and taking a taxi back to the tenements.

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