Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A changed perspective on Bombay/Mumbai

I first visited Bombay (before the name changed) 12 or so years ago during a visit to India. It overwhelmed me, and led me to avoid it at all costs thereafter. Crossing the street terrified me, the multi-level slums horrified me, and the sheer density of the place stunned me. The airport was horrible with no place to eat, or sit, and no provision for checking in in the middle of night as necessary for many international flights.  So I hadn't been back until this weekend.

What a difference living in Bangalore makes!

Now, Bombay seems like an organized, modern city, still with tremendous poverty, but far less terrifying. There are stop lights that people stop for, there are even walk signals that seem to work, there are taxis around to get, there are lane lines on the highways (and people heeding them), and there were fewer folks begging me for money that I would encounter on a downtown shopping area in Bangalore.  I didn't dare venture into the train station, where the density would still frighten me, and the slums still sicken me, but overall I found the place to be much more tolerable, and far more forward looking than Bangalore.

Here are some pix. I'll post more commentary later.

Yes, there are lots of slums, here are some:
Some beautiful, if decrepit, old buildings:
Very dense housing.
The cabs in the city are everywhere. Little autorickshaws aren't allowed in the central part of town.
Another old building.
Skyscrapers in the background.
The Jewish synagogue.
Organizing the lunches for delivery.

"Flying over" more slums
A shaded bus stop, with a bench.
McDonald's delivery!
Cricket on the lawn.
More buildings going up.
Older housing stock.
The door of the synagogue. Sorry, I'm not able to cut and paste it to go along with the other picture of the rest of the building.
Practical shared transportation. 
In short, an enjoyable quick trip to Bombay, except for my time at the Brazilian consulate general, the reason for going. No visa granted. Oh well. But that is a much longer story, and it will have to wait for another day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mango Season!

Mango season started in late April, and will last through June. Many types, many forms of selling. Mangos get used in raw form for cooking and pickles, and the ripe ones get eaten or pureed into pulp and juice. We live near a mango grove located on the University of Agricultural Sciences campus (where Amartya also plays soccer). These are Alphonso mangos, the king (or queen) of mangos, many of which get packaged for export. Here they are still about 2-3 weeks short of being ready for consumption. Other varieties are out in full force.
The grove.
In front of a stall selling the Raspari variety.
Lots of mangos.
Here is a setup in a grocery store. You can see the Alphonsos (these shipped from Maharastra, one state north) in boxes, labelled "export quality," with three other kinds also seen here -- different sizes, colors, shapes, and slight differences in flavor and texture.
When we are in Niagara Falls we go visit apple and peach orchards, so here's Amartya in the mango grove. Below you see the mangos hanging from the tree. They are likely to be orange/yellowish when they get plucked.
There is a large wholesale market near our house, hopefully I'll post pictures of that sometime soon. There are trucks around, although the largest of them can't be on the road during the day.
Trucks transporting mangos. The men who load and unload travel on top of them.
Don't you wish you were here to eat some of these mangos?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

License plates

While many many things are regulated here, there is not a standard requirement for license plates, other than your number be shown and that it be white (except for taxis or other for hire vehicles, which are yellow). As seen in the examples below, people take artistic license.

How would I even be able to tell the police if this bike hit me?

No consistent font, language, size. KA is Karnataka, the state in which Bangalore is located. AP is Andra Pradesh, a neighboring state. Note that even the numbers are written differently in Kannada, the local language.

Some random thoughts on election coverage

Election results were announced today, so I watched a few hours of coverage. I am limited to watching, well, understanding really, the English language coverage, although I tried to at least watch some of the other languages too. The size and diversity of India comes through, and several things jump out:
-- the strength of regional parties is impressive. I keep wondering what language these folks, that often try to form coalitions in Delhi, use to talk to each other;
-- the graphics used are less colorfully informative than they would be in the US. For example, you have lots of GIS type district and state maps, but instead of the whole district being colored in (like in our lovely red and blue in the US), you get a little dot with the color. Given that the map is generally quite small on the screen, as it takes up maybe a third on the left, with the TV host in the top right, flashing numbers in garish info=garbage graphics, and then the crawling ticket, it is hard to take it all in.
-- the analysis seemed okay, better than the coverage during the campaign I thought.

In terms of the outcome, Congress seems quite strong, which should allow for more forward movement. My hope: serious education reform.

Cricket in the cage

While Amartya really misses his little league baseball team, he has taken to cricket. On the grounds of our office complex there is this lovely green space, and it has a cage that is perfect as a batting cage.
Someone "bowls" to him, which would be "pitches" in the baseball.And then Amartya bats.
He seems to enjoy the socializing as well as the playing.