Entries tagged "Mumbai"

I see white people

I see white people

I talk to the guy who tried to cast us as white extras in a Bollywood movie. This is a typical experience for white people in Mumbai. Taped in front of the Taj Hotel which was burned by terrorists last night who also seemed to be looking for white people.

#Mumbai synagogue pix. Reflections on the current terrorist hostage crisis and Muslims as the Jews of India

We visited the synagogue in Mumbai last summer. There are very few Jews left in Mumbai and the man who takes care of the shul told us it is difficult to regularly have a Minyan (10 males of age – this is an orthodox community). Most Indian Jews from Mumbai moved to Israel he said.

It was really cool to be in country that has no history, that I’m aware of, of persecuting Jews. On the contrary, Cochin in particular welcomed Jews. 

I’m amazed that the terrorists in Mumbai right now could even find Jews to hold hostage. They took over the Chabad there. Some hostages have been freed. Israel has just sent in rescue forces.

My time in India this summer gave me great hope that India could be a place that plays some role in connecting Jews and Muslims peacefully. There is certainly a time zone and economic connection between Israel and India’s tech businesses. For all of it’s internal issues India, especially the southern region of Kerala where we were all summer, has a long history of familiarity and peace between Muslims and Hindus.

In fact, the Muslim folks I met felt very familiar to me like the Jews of India: 

  • a monotheist culture that focussed on head covering, halal (like kashrut / keeping kosher),
  • intense focus on keeping things clean (small Muslim shops really stood out to me),
  • avoiding many physical representations  of God (Hinduism and Christianity both have that in common),
  • a minority mindset (for better and for worse) and a deep sense of cross-national  connection to others of similar faith/culture.
  • And I could have been imagining this part, but there seemed to be a similar vibe of intense family merg-y involvement mixing up loyalty, love, anxiety and driving each other meshugenah (crazy).

Perhaps something good will come out of all this horror in Mumbai right now. That city is relentless. And to get it to quiet down, ironically coinciding on American Thanksgiving (when Americans touch on a little of the gratitude I saw Hindu Indians practice all day long without trying) sure means something.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

I am one of few white people in Thiruvananthapuram

I’m glad to be in the “developing” part of the planet for the first time in my life.

The heat and the humidity have got me thankful to be wearing the kind of garb I would have derided as hippie while Stateside. Just the latest fulfillment of the prediction of my favorite sage (Mel Brooks’ 2000 year old man) “We mock the thing we are to be.”

Some impressions so far:

  • the most chilled out people I have ever been around: even in the face of pelting rains and a breaking ship out in the Indian Ocean, people seemed nonplussed.
  • coverage of education and test scores in major pages of the Mumbai paper everyday.
  • standing for the national anthem before the 3 hour Bollywood movie about love in 2050
  • waiting for and never seeing a kiss in said movie
  • having a 12 year-old girl tell me that she’s learning about global warming in school. I let her know she’s ahead of our President, “He doesn’t even believe in global warming.”
  • TATA should include an oxygen tank with every Nano
  • Almost no women on the streets in Mumbai.
  • teaching a nine-year old boy about melanin after he was amazed by being able to see my veins.
  • latest upmarket trends in Mumbai: Mexican food and jogging
  • public education is practically free at all levels for everyone
  • a shipping CEO pointed out to me that India was able to skip the manufacturing / industrial stage of economic development and go right to a service economy because of English fluency. A strange silver lining to colonialism I pointed out. The most opened/uncontrolled elements of empire outgrow and outlive them (Rome/roads; England/English+education; USA/Internet)
  • the guy who tried to recruit us as extras in a Bollywood film wanted proof that we were really married to each other. He didn’t think there were any lesbians in India and had never met one. “How many people do you have in this country?” I asked. “”1 billion,” he replied “Oh you have a lot of lesbians. A whole lot. It’s a huge, untapped market.”

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