A Taste of India

Jan. 26, 2011, 4:43 p.m.


I was in India over the break traveling with friends and visiting family who live there (I went to Delhi, Agra, Kolkata and Pune). I made a few videos to share a glimpse of India with Daily blog readers. Below is a map showing where these cities are and four videos: the first is in Delhi, the second at the Taj Mahal in Agra, and the third and fourth are in Kolkata. The video quality is pretty bad (old camera and poor director’s skill – apologies in advance!).



*This video shows a busy street just outside the Red Fort in Delhi. One thing that is striking about busy streets like this is the diversity of users: one road will have cars, trucks, buses, auto rickshaws, rickshaws, bicyclists, motorcycle drivers, pedestrians (including school children, as you’ll see!). The only thing missing here is a cow! (And you will still find them on some roads if you visit…)

You can also get a sense of the diversity of economic activity in a big city like Delhi – street vendors on the sidewalk, manual laborers carrying goods, rickshaw wallahs moving cargo, business people. You don’t see it in the video, but when cars stop in traffic there will almost always be people, mostly children, approaching the cars either begging or selling small things. You also see single motorcycles carrying three- or four-person families. India is growing, but much faster for the most wealthy and the diversity of life, both in terms of socioeconomic status and culture, is stark.



*A look at the Taj Mahal. The video does not come near capturing how beautiful it is in person!



*A man chopping off the top of a coconut so we can drink the water in downtown Kolkata.



*A look around from the rooftop of my family’s home in Kolkata (we live on the third floor of the building). At the end you see a girl, Shilpi, who has worked in our home for several years and is now like part of the family (she surprised me by coming up while I was filming!). Shilpi is my age and I’ve seen our lives evolve in parallel over the past seven years. She will probably get married in the next year or two (an arranged marriage) and she wants to go back to living in a village in West Bengal. My aunt insists that she should at least be capable of being financially independent from her future husband, so Shilpi has been taking beauty and sewing classes in Kolkata and even sells some of what she sews.

Labor remains cheep in India and it’s very common that middle class homes will have someone helping to cook or clean. And many simple things get outsourced: for example, I have yet to hear of an Indian middle class family doing the ironing themselves – in our home, once the clothes are washed and hung out to dry they get sent a block down the road where an ironing man has a small outdoor shop and irons clothes for families in the neighborhood.

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