30 June 2008

Another window elsewhere

I'm looking outside another less colourful window for the next five weeks so my blog will be temporarily interrupted. Please visit again soon!

28 June 2008

Read the sign!

Outside a temple in Chennai.

The garbage here won't I throw.

Hmm... despite this, people garbage throw the here!

Yet someone always seems to be sitting here! (Mylapore, Chennai)

Senior Citizens Park, Defence colony, Bangalore.

'ONLY' is a favourite word in the Indian vernacular. As in:
"I'm from Bangalore only." or, "I came this morning only."

At the Tibetan monastery in Bylakuppe.

The Laughter Club meets here every morning from 6:30 to 7:30 (only)!

10 June 2008

Not so fair

The cashier at the supermarket handed me a small tube of a type of cream. “Oh, another freebie,” I thought. Often when you buy certain products a sample of something or other is on offer for free. This time the bottle of shampoo I was buying was offering a free sample of this cream. I had a closer look. It was a tube of ‘Fair and Lovely’ fairness cream. I handed it back to the cashier, who it took it back with a smile and said: “Oh, you don’t need this, Madam!” I had to laugh because in Europe, my olive complexion is considered dark, but here I get comments like: “That colour you’re wearing looks so nice on your fair skin!” That goes to show that everything is relative, even skin colour.

It’s hard to ignore the importance put on skin colour in India. I hear all kinds of comments around me like: “You’re looking dark, are you sick?”, which I find funny because in the West, paleness is considered to be a sign of ill health! “Oh, you got so tanned!?” was my dance teacher’s reaction hinted with disapproval after I came back from a holiday. Again, this contrasts with the popularity of sun beds and tanning creams in the West!

Beauty salons offer skin-whitening treatments and creams like Fair and Lovely are very popular. I don’t know if they work or not, but it’s a shame that attractiveness and even social mobility seems to be linked with skin colour. This is the message anyway which is conveyed by magazine advertisements and television commercials which invariably feature very pale-skinned models and actors. You don’t have to look further than the matrimonial ads in the Sunday paper to see the value placed on skin-colour: potential marriage partners are described as ‘very fair’, with a ‘wheatish complexion’ or ‘medium colour’.

Ads for Fair and Lovely used to run on television but this soon stopped when there were protests against their overt ‘insulting’ and ‘racist’ messages.

Here’s an example: a young woman goes to inquire about a job with her father. She’s wearing a sari and her father is dressed in traditional clothes. A very pale-skinned woman dressed in white at reception gives them a once-over and pretentiously tells them that they are a ‘modern beauty company’. As the young girl and her father turn to leave, the receptionist makes a snide comment about the girl’s appearance. When they get home, the father looks through his Ayurvedic texts for a recipe for fair skin. Fast forward to the future and his daughter is now much more fair-skinned and dressed in chic western clothes. She goes back to the same company but this time she turns heads and the same receptionist is suddenly speechless when she sees her. Suddenly she’s disembarking from an airplane to meet a crowd of television cameras. She’s an instant star thanks to Fair and Lovely Ayurvedic formula.

Watch the ad here:

Ads for Fair and Lovely do still appear on television but they are less explicit. However, the girl always somehow becomes a big star at the end, surrounded by cameras and admirers:

01 June 2008

It's official: the monsoon is here!

Image courtesy of bri vos.

It's been raining every evening for the past week or so, but the papers kept announcing that the monsoon was to "arrive soon". It seemed to me that it had already started, but apparently these rains were only 'pre-monsoon showers', as the 'official' monsoon traditionally starts on June 1st in the south-western coastal state of Kerala, before moving northwards.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After a week or so of this, today's The Hindu newspaper finally made it official: "Expect rain for five days a week in the next four months", read the headline.

Accompanied by thunderclaps and strong winds, the south-west monsoon arrived in Karnataka on Saturday, just as the Meteorological Centre in Bangalore had predicted, three days ahead of its usual schedule.

Having set in over coastal and south interior Karnataka, the monsoon will spread to north interior Karnataka in three days.

The India Meteorological Department in Delhi on Saturday declared the arrival of the monsoon in Kerala and parts of Tamil Nadu and will officially declare the monsoon in the State on Sunday, said the Director of the centre in Bangalore, A. Muthuchami.

For the next four months most parts of the State, including Bangalore, can expect rain at least five days a week and a welcome break from rising temperatures, which are expected to dip to 28 degrees, said Dr. Muthuchami. The State would receive normal rainfall (82 cm) this monsoon in the next four months, he added...

Photo © The Times of India

The onset of the monsoon is always eagerly awaited and then welcomed enthusiastically once it arrives after the heat and humidity of the summer months. But the rains also bring a fair share of problems with flooding, traffic jams and falling trees...

Meanwhile, the monsoon entered with a characteristic bang in Bangalore. It rained continuously in the evening in many parts of the city. The lack of preparation by the city administration was reflected in the fact that almost all arterial roads were flooded, throwing the weekend traffic out of gear. Many residential localities reported flooding and rainwater entering the houses.

Due to an overflowing storm water drain that cuts across the Kengal Hanumantaiah Double Road, traffic movement was almost blocked on this road. Flooded roads affected vehicular movement near the Dell office on Koramangala Inner Ring Road as well.

Gusty winds that preceded the rains uprooted many trees. A huge tree was uprooted on Miller’s Road near CSI hospital blocking traffic for more than two hours...

Summer is now over and the monsoon has officially begun. Tomorrow schools are due to re-open and a new academic year starts for students. It's time to dig out the umbrellas and watering the plants will no longer be a daily chore!