Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India. Show all posts

Friday, July 10, 2015

Nigella at Dusk

First bloom of a plant in my city garden, grown from seed: Nigella damascena. Otherwise known as Love in a Mist. Perfect for a Friday night at dusk!

Actual flower is about 1.5 inches in diameter. Packaging says it is Persian, and is related to the Indian culinary and medicinal spice kalonji, but has a "more showy flower and seed pod." Plant is feather-like. Could be mistaken for a weed and took forever to come up. Probably needs a sunnier spot with more water.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Plakotiganites Meet Saganaki

Making my Yιαγιά proud: fresh, flaky flatbread cooked on the griddle, vegetarian and half wheat flour, from the Indian store, sprinkled with grated, salty Kefalotiri from Mediterranean Foods.
Fried the cheese side, which mixed nicely with the bread oils, and squeezed a little fresh lemon on top for Greek measure.
Whole abode smells divine!
Serving a decent French Bordeaux (mis en bouteille au chateau.) Funny enough, the Kawan brand uncooked dough (frozen, 25 flatbreads per package) is made in Malaysia.
A poor man's very rich and multicultural Friday night.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When Info Kills

In the U.S., anyone can file a Freedom of Information request to collect protected government information that can shed light on injustices. Here's an exceptional Wall Street Journal video telling the sad story of one activist in India who was allegedly murdered for the information he uncovered using the country's 2005 Right to Information law.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Indian Spelling Bees

Though Indian-Americans make up a mere 1% of the population, they have come to dominate the American spelling-bee circuit, says a story in today's Wall Street Journal about the South Asian Spelling Bee. Now the bees are carried live on Indian-theme satellite stations and are covered by Indian newspapers. Top Indian spellers are household names.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Queens Film Fest

A powerful film about minorities in Turkey, directed by Mahsun Kirmizigül, an apparently well-known musician, actor and film producer, opens the Queens International Film Festival in Astoria on Thursday, Nov. 12. A hat tip to the American-Turkish Society for being among the festival sponsors. There are scores of choices among the shorts, documentaries and features; below are my choices related to India, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Palestine and various religious and cultural themes I've blogged about. Several Hellenes are presenting their work. One of the main venues is the auditorium in the really cool, new Frank Sinatra high school for performing arts in Astoria, a public school partly financed by former local Tony Bennett. My picks:

My illustrious Astoria actor-friend Michael Malizia stars in a scary short that promised to be fantastic: That's Life.
I Saw the Sun Minorities in an Eastern Turkish village confront violence, an educational divide and displacement to Istanbul and Northern Europe. Feature, 90 minutes
Kerala the Cradle of Christianity in South Asia: Documentary, 34 min
Exarchia Culture Shock Snippets from the violent riots in Athens, Greece one year ago. Documentary, 12 minutes
The Same Blood Stories of immigrants arriving on Sicily's southeast coast. Documentary, 56 minutes
Palestine, Beer and Oktoberfest under Occupation A father-daughter team create Palestine's first beer, uniting 3 religions. Documentary, 43 minutes.
The Lonely Rabbit A furry critter is too shy for love, but hopes. Animation, 15 minutes
Skylight Mockumentary on penguins' plight. Animation, 5 minutes
The Beautiful People By two Chicago directors, about two irresponsible rich girls who lose their financing. Short, 16 minutes
Sultans of Bosphorus Does American soccer have a place in Turkey?
Random Lunacy Busking homeless family travels the world. Documentary, 60 minutes.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

WSJ India

The Wall Street Journal Asia is now being printed in New Delhi and Mumbai India for Monday to Friday delivery to subscribers and newsstands in major Indian cities, According to The Wall Street Journal Asia, founded in 1976, has a circulation of 80,090 (Hong Kong ABC, July-Dec 2008), and is printed at nine other Asia-Pacific locations. Click here for: subscription info.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Saw "Z", the 1969 film by director Costa-Gavras about high-level government corruption that pits thugs against intellectual-peaceniks. (See nine minutes of Z on YouTube.) Set in Greece, filmed in Algeria in French, it premiered right after right-wing colonels took over Greece. The militaristic guitar music, by Hadjidakis, is so familiar now, Maria Farandouri's husky voice somehow present (nice hair!), though the soundrack clearly features tabla too -- India hopefully won't be the next place for such a proletariat showdown, though history keeps repeating itself. Greece is paying the price for last fall's riots, combined with recession; tourism in Greece may be way down this summer. Olympic Airways is offering $500 round-trips from New York to Athens. Meanwhile, Turkey indicted 56 people Wednesday, including four-star generals, on charges of plotting to topple the Islamic-rooted government. The Wall Street Journal says Turkey's military intervened four times since 1960 to remove civilian governments. In "Z," the intellectuals' leader dies, but a young journalist produces the evidence to get the bad guys. The other hero is a comedic casket-maker; thugs bop him on the head on his way to testify, but he remains undeterred -- probably because his Greek mother brings him supper and vino in the hospital.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Blagojevich & India

Chicago is an ethnic potluck, so it was only a matter of time before an India connection popped up in the Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich Obama-Seat-For-Sale saga. The Chicago Tribune reports the restaurant India House in Schaumburg was the gathering spot where two Indian-American businessmen and a Blagojevich aide named Rajinder "privately told many of the more than two-dozen attendees that a fundraising effort was aimed at supporting Jesse Jackson Jr's bid for the Senate." What you might call the smoking roti. Why? Because in Fed allegations that Blagojevich tried to sell President Barack Obama's vacated Illinois Senate seat, prosecutors allege Blago might give "Senate Candidate 5" (Jackson) the seat because emissaries for #5 promised to raise more than $1 million for Blago's campaign fund. In a separate effort to connect the political dots between Obama and Blagojevich, Trib columnist John Kass wrote an excellent piece on Rahm Emmanuel's ties to Chicago power broker Jim DeLeo, who "is considered by some to be the real governor of Illinois" though he was acquitted of taking bribes to fix tickets in the Operation Greylord probe of judicial corruption around 1989. One witness at the trial: Outfit gambling boss Ken "Tokyo Joe" Eto, who, Kass writes, "passed cash to Jimmy via handshakes." Better than fiction!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cramming in Rajasthan

Some 40,000 young Indians make studying for college entrance exams a full-time, away-from-home job. The Wall Street Journal wrote about the science of cramming at Bansal Classes in Rajasthan, and all the businesses the conflagration of students has sprouted. If only American kids were this willing to study.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Holy Sex?

Read the New Yorker's recent, gripping tale about sex workers in the state of Karnataka, India. It's fascinating, though it lacks a greater economic and social context backed with well-placed statistics. The story does underscore the unrelenting belief that sex work, in some quarters, is the inheritance of the Goddess Yellama. Money is the end game, benefiting extended families, but it's never enough and the 21st Century price is death. Microloans charging 30% rates still can't compete with holy work. Says one woman, Rani Bai, AIDS "is not the goddess’s doing. ... If you come to her with a pure heart, she will take away your sadness and your sorrows."

Move Over, Sensex!

Dow Jones & Co. this week announced a new measure of India's potential: the Dow Jones India Titans 30 Index, a measure of the 30 largest, most liquid stocks on the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange of India. The widely-watched Sensex, the Bombay Stock Exchange's ranking, is up 55% from 12/31/2005, adjusting for dividends and splits, according to Yahoo! Not bad considering the free-fall in emerging market stocks so far this year. But the new DJ index, back-tested to the same date, gained 62%, according to DJ. I'm sure much guffawing will ensue on performance methodology. But it's noteworthy that the top names differ in each index. For DJ, Reliance Industries (power) has the largest weighting, while it's ICICI, the big bank, in the Sensex. In the press release Monday, my employer, Mr. Rupert Murdoch, said, "What the world needs is a trusted means of measuring this country's development and an index that can be used by investors around the world to track the progress of Indian companies and the Indian economy."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dow Jones India

Robert Thomson, editor-in-chief at Dow Jones and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, predicts "South Asia will be the Fleet Street of the the future" and laments that "India doesn't get enough coverage." So Dow Jones newswires is hiring a flurry of local staffers in India and the WSJ is sending two more reporters to India. Native speakers have an advantage, Thomson said, though in his best Australian accent, he admitted his early career required immersion classes in Japanese and Chinese. Thomson spoke before journalists assembled for the South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA) conference in New York this weekend, and was introduced by SAJA favorite Nik Deogun, who last week was named WSJ's new international editor in New York. SAJA gave out many awards; WSJ's Yaroslav Trofimov received the Daniel Pearl Award for a story on a murder tied to the caste system. Recent Columbia j-school grad and conferee Priyanka Pathak of Mint gets my award for the coolest beat: the business of religion, based in Mumbai. I visited Mint, a venture of the Hindustan Times and WSJ, in January, when the Sensex was still at a multi-year high. Editor Raju Narisetti told me at the time that Mint is admirably trying to be a "clear-minded chronicler of the Indian Dream," not just rah-rah, which some sources view as negative. Wish we had heard more from Mint. On blogging, Mr. Thomson joked: "Sometimes it's a person on a couch who has forgotten to take his medication [but] aggregators perform an important role."

India's Ag Crisis

The front-page feature in Sunday's New York Times shows the rigors of rice harvesting and speaks to the desperate conditions -- shrinking water tables, among them -- in which India's farmers struggle. (see "Growth Outstrips Agriculture.") I saw similar scenes while traveling in Tamil Nadu, in South India, where our driver swerved around poor farmers who, lacking machinery, used road traffic to separate rice from the rest of the plant. On a Columbia Business School visit to conglomerate ITC in Hyderabad, we met with the executive in charge of getting more computers into farm villages to boost crop prices and farmer wages. They call it e-Choupal. It's a complex problem because local market makers gouge local farmers, who we met in a village near Hathras, in the north. If you click on the "farming in India" link below, you'll see my other posts and links on the subject.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Poor in Gurgaon

Monday's New York Times features a piece on Gurgaon, and a self-contained living complex there. A string of interviews illustrates ironies. Those in the complex have private schools, power, water. The poor in surrounding shanties serving the complex suffer through blackouts, and lack proper medical care and education. The article states 25% of Indians live below the official poverty line of $1 per day, though no source is named. I thought the number was nearer one third. For me, this story lacked a punchline. Not that I argue with making readers acknowledge the growing contrast between haves and have-nots.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Rajasthani Girls

Police are investigating 21 doctors accused of aborting girl babies in Rajasthan, India, even though it's illegal to perform ultrasound tests on a pregnant woman to determine gender. The BBC reports that as many as 10 million girl fetuses have been aborted in India over the past 20 years. Womens groups in the state's capital, Jaipur, recently protested to shed light on the subject; families prefer boys given the cost to wed a daughter. One of India's many new television channels recently re-exposed the subject, a national issue we heard about on our CBS/Chazen Social Enterprise trip. In Hyderabad, we visited a Lifespring women's medical clinic where nurses displayed prominent illustrations explaining the fetus testing law (see photo, above.) Lifespring is partly financed by Acumen Fund and targets rural, poor women who typically face societal and familial pressure to abort girls.

Friday, May 2, 2008


NEW YORK, NY -- Saw composer Philip Glass receive a standing ovation at the Metropolitan Opera tonight at the conclusion of his 3.5-hour opera Satyagraha, or "Holding Onto the Truth." The entire opera is in Sanskrit with text from the Bhagavad Gita. While it premiered in 1980, this week marks its short debut at the Met. And it remains timely, as it parallels Ghandi's non-violent philosophy forged among Indians in South Africa in the early 20th Century with the rise of Martin Luther King Jr. Ghandi wrote a book called Satyagraha first. If you like Glass music, as I do, with its repetitive, techno wind twirls peppered with violins, then the opera's prose, puppetry and music offer a mesmerizing combination. (Libretto here) Glass spent quite a bit of time with sitar player Ravi Shankar in India in the 1960s, but there was no evident influence here. Newsprint played a prominent role in the staging, since the S. Africa Indians published their struggles in a popular paper. (Reminded me of the avid newspaper readership I saw in India.) Newsprint was in papier mache puppets, held up by the chorus for the projection of script, pulled across stage like giant ribbons by women in red-and-orange saris, and varnished onto the floor of the entire stage. Someone's got to buy newsprint! A few words from a blue-faced Krishna in a blue tux to Ghandi are applicable to the poor, those in war, or those facing examinations: "Whence comes this faintness on you now at this crisis hour? ... Give up this faint-heartedness. Stand up, chastiser of your foes!"

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Child Labor

The government of India says there are 12.7 million Indian children under age 14 who are working. The United Nations and child advocacy groups say the number is more than double that at 40 million, according to an April 18 Chicago Tribune article on India's child labor. The article lays out how working children help their families, and that Maoist rebels and hunger are sometimes the alternative if they stayed in their villages. The article says some advocacy groups are teaching kids negotiation and other business skills, and giving them access to micro-loans. Advocates, of course, encourage schooling. The article doesn't get into caste; some Indians can't imagine solutions to their poverty, especially if they are uneducated. Last night, a CEO who spoke to us Knight-Bagehots dismissed India's viability as a global player not because of poverty, but because of its feeble infrastructure. Seems it took him hours in traffic to get to a big-city meeting. Maybe I am just paying more attention, but India is rising on the radar.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Poets in India

Looking at the past always sheds light on the present. So food for thought: a new book, the journey of the beat poets in India, is being launched in New York this week. Deborah Baker's "A Blue Hand: The Beats in India" follows beat poet Allen Ginsberg and others through India. Baker, who speaks Bengali, captures the ways in which India and the United States have understood and misunderstood each other over the ages, says author Kiran Desai, who adds "a truly vivid, wonderful book." Baker's last book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography. She's married to writer Amitav Ghosh. Thanks to Columbia Journalism School Dean Sree Sreenivasan for the tip.

Farm & Fashion

India's wealth divide and rural crisis came up again last week when I spoke about my career at a lunch lecture for young students at LIM, a fashion school in Midtown. Fellow Columbia Journalism School master's candidate Vinod Jose, a Bollinger Fellow, talked about his exciting reporting career in India and on the subway on the way home, he passed on a fall 2007 white paper from The Hindu newspaper's rural affairs editor. The editor noted that hundreds of journalists were fighting for space to cover the Lakme India Fashion Week, where models posed in cotton garments, "while men and women who grew the cotton were killing themselves at a distance of one hour's flight away. But no one was writing about the second story. Hats off to Vinod; the Huffington Post is linking to his interesting blog on India.