They’re portable, economical, and helping more than 800 million Indians cast ballots in this year’s election.
Read more. [Image: Sivaram V/Reuters]
This week Hindus around the world celebrate Holi, the Festival of Colors. Holi is a popular springtime celebration observed on the last full moon of the lunar month. Participants traditionally throw bright, vibrant powders at friends and strangers alike as they celebrate the arrival of spring, commemorate Krishna’s pranks, and allow each other a momentary freedom — a chance to drop their inhibitions and simply play and dance. Gathered here are images of this year’s Holi festival from across India. See also India’s ‘High’ Holiday
HYDERABAD, India—To get to Bandosingh Hazaari’s bhang shop you have to follow the gods.
In the maze of nameless alleys in Dhoolpet, a working-class neighborhood in the southeastern Indian city of Hyderabad, enormous fiberglass figures of Hindu gods and goddesses peek out of temple doors and between buildings. It’s a part of the city that’s known for creating and selling these 30-foot avatars, which are used in festivals and parades.
It’s also known for selling bhang—cannabis leaves that are crushed, mixed into drinks and sweets, and often served during Hindu holidays like Holi, the celebration of color and spring. During the festival, which falls on March 17 this year, crowds gather in Indian cities to throw colored powder and water on friends and strangers, leaving the streets tie-dyed and the air hazy with ribbons of rainbow dust. In a country where possessing and selling cannabis is generally prohibited, and where levels of cannabis use are low relative to other countries, it’s one day of the year when consuming marijuana is socially acceptable. There are even Bollywood songs extolling bhang’s virtues.
Read more. [Image: Reuters/Amit Dave]
To outsiders, the loud, aggressive world of heavy metal might seems like an unlikely place to find progressive politics. But any metalhead worth their leather can attest that the genre has often commented on society’s ills. Black Sabbath railed against the Vietnam War, Nuclear Assault offered apocalyptic visions of Reagan’s ‘80s, Sepultura howled scathing condemnations of the treatment of indigenous tribes in their native Brazil, Napalm Death addressed government failures and corruption, and more recently, Cloud Rat roared about sexism and urban blight atop a grindcore soundtrack. Thrash metal, in particular, has a long-running habit of tackling sociopolitical subjects with its rough barked vocals, wailing solos, and frenetic shredding.
In both a geographical and cultural sense, Mumbai seems about as far as one can get from the California Bay Area where the thrash-metal movement reached its apex. But the Indian band Sceptre offers proof of just how widely this style has spread. Inspired by their American forebears in Exodus and DRI and the music of classic German thrash bands like Kreator and Sodom, Sceptre recently celebrated its 15 anniversary, and is distinguished as one of India’s longest-running metal bands. Their latest recording taps into their genre’s liberal-leaning ideological tradition in a way that’s refreshing and urgent in modern India.
Age of Calamity is a concept album that deals with the plight of women in Indian society, and all proceeds from its sales will go directly to benefit a girls’ orphanage in Mumbai. Its haunting cover artwork was created by Indian artist Saloni Sinha, and depicts a weeping woman cradling her head in her hands, surrounded on all sides by crumbling walls and grasping shadows. It’s a powerful image, and in keeping with the theme, the band chose to work with a female artist.
On January 13, India completed three years without a new case of polio. Six days later, the country conducted the first of two annual National Immunization Days. After 29 years of slogging away at this campaign, health workers were rejoicing this time when Immunization Day arrived. For the partners in polio—Rotary International, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control—polio’s end in India is the start of a new effort to push for routine immunizations throughout the country. Successfully eradicating polio can translate into better care overall.
Dr. Sunil Bahl, technical advisor to the National Polio Surveillance Project with WHO, refers to the polio program as the “gold standard in microplanning,” which will now serve as a blueprint for other immunization campaigns. The polio program in India built the meticulous infrastructure necessary for vaccinations. Now it’s being applied to measles, rubella, hepatitis, and tuberculosis.
Read more. [Image: Bikas Das/AP]
Registering babies at birth may be a routine, almost automated process in the United States, but it’s a rarity in some impoverished nations in both South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new report released on Tuesday by UNICEF. In all, there are nearly 230 million children in the world who are nameless and stateless. And they may languish in anonymity for a good portion of their early lives.
Living without any proof of your existence can be a major challenge. The associated paperwork is often necessary to secure healthcare, education, and other basic rights. And children who don’t have identification are also left at higher risk of displacement, exploitation, and human trafficking. In the chaos of war or disaster, reuniting children separated from their family can be difficult, if not impossible, without proper documentation. And with no formal proof of age, marriage, military service, and employment may all become a reality much sooner than appropriate.
Read more. [Image: Stuart Price/United Nations]
Listening to caregivers from other countries, it’s easy to feel exasperated about U.S healthcare. American hospitals are filled with good people trying to do good work, but at every turn the system of misplaced incentives gets in the way of good patient care.
Indeed, the most pressing problem with American healthcare is that it is too wasteful.
Read more. [Image: Tsering Topgyal/AP]
Last week, I joined Shaadi.com, India’s oldest and most popular matrimonial website.
Call it anthropological curiosity; call it a metric of my own narcissism. Call it acclimating to the Indian single life after coming of age in the West, where India is often seen as a country of arranged marriages and impenetrable glass ceilings. If there’s truth to caricature, then call my joining the online matrimony network a modern-day leap onto a bandwagon of millennia-old social custom.
“Shaadi” is the Hindi word for wedding; Shaadi.com is, intuitively, a wedding arranged via the Internet. It’s one of more than 100 Indian websites that comprise the country’s thriving online matrimonial market, where an individual can browse for his or her ideal spouse among a catalog of potential candidates organized by the personal information that apparently matters most: religion, caste, income, fairness of skin, family background, and so on.
Read more. [Image: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters]
An ongoing debate about the quality of outsourced code prompts a look at the country’s precarious economic and educational picture.