India Insight

Elsewhere in India: Maria Sharapova wins hearts, minds of cameramen

November 11, 2012

Here’s some more news that we found in the Indian press over the weekend and would like to share with you. Rather than present stories of great national importance, we would like to highlight some of the items that you are less likely to see in world news reports. Any opinions that the author might express are surely beneath contempt, and are not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters.

Tennis pro Maria Sharapova visited India. Gushing ensued. “The 25-year-old, here to announce her partnership with UK-based real estate company Homestead, sported an infectious smile throughout the interaction even though the lensmen could not get to focus enough of capturing the blonde beauty. ‘Well, it is just the hair and make-up you know. I don’t wake up looking like this,’ quipped Sharapova when a scribe called her pretty. Here only for a day, Sharapova said food and culture was something she would take back from India. ‘I arrived last night and asked the chef what should I try of the Indian food. I had a dosa which tasted really nice. I wanted to have this great Indian experience. There is so much energy in the city, I have been in some quiet areas recently, resting. I really like the culture and people. You all have been really welcoming.’” Final score: love-love. (NDTV)

Mulayam Singh Yadav’s interests spread wider than wrestling or politics. He is also a lover of poetry. “For more than 35 minutes, Mulayam Yadav analysed the content of the book, ‘Yatharth ke Aas Pas’, written by a Congress leader, Chandra Prakash Rai. “This collection of poems on some very sensitive issues like girls, female foeticide, loneliness, loss of faith and other human emotions must be read by everyone,” he said. (The Indian Express)

Starbucks pays its workers a mere 25 pence an hour at its new India stores, below the country’s official living wage, according to The Mirror. “Under Indian law, restaurant, hotel and cafe owners are only required to pay their staff 17p an hour, or £6 a month. But the Indian “living wage” – the amount people need to eat, drink and pay the bills – is set at 67p an hour. When our investigators visited the Mumbai Starbucks they found cleaners were earning just 25p an hour – about £2 a day. And even the baristas who serve coffee were being paid only 56p an hour, less than £5 for a day’s work.” Starbucks declined to comment. (The Mirror)

You can get a bigger payday from being trapped in an elevator. Mumbai’s Ambassador hotel is paying 200,000 rupees ($3,657) to six guests who were trapped in one of its elevators for two hours — 18 years ago. The hotel argued that it did not bear responsibility for the trapped guests, who used the facilities at their own risk, and also argued that the elevator operator had not maintained the lifts properly. Otis Elevator Co argued that indeed it had, and had urged the hotel to shut down the elevators for three weeks for maintenance.(CNN-IBN)

I wasn’t crazy about the peach and blueberry wines that came out of New Jersey a few years ago. Whether Shillong will find a wine that transcends the grape remains to be seen. That said, the 10th Shillong Wine Festival is featuring wines made from sohiong (blackberry),  strawberry, pear, peach, pineapple, ginger, dates, guava, sohphie nam (myrica nagi), plum, passion fruit, watermelon and mulberry, as well as coffee, orange, coconut, tomato, hibiscus, rice, celery and green tea. (The Telegraph)

Airlines reportedly are jacking up prices for Diwali. One woman looking to book a last-minute ticket to Kolkata was quoted a fare of 50,000 rupees ($914). The normal fares tend to run about 6,000 to 8,000 rupees, or $110-$150. “Calcutta-bound flights had witnessed a high before Durga Puja too but it was nothing compared with what is happening now. Aviation sources confirmed that the demand for tickets is traditionally higher before Diwali than during Durga Puja.” Adding to the trouble is a shortage of seats after Kingfisher stopped flying, according to Anil Punjabi of the Travel Agents Federation of India. (The Telegraph)

Diwali might be hell on airline passengers, but it looks pretty good for shareholders in publicly traded companies. “Some of the listed companies, including computing device maker HCL Infosystems, are offering up to 20 per cent Diwali discounts on their products like laptop and tablet computers and also some free gifts – exclusively for their shareholders. HCL Info has written to its shareholders that it is offering these special offers to celebrate Diwali festivals as a mark of its ‘gratitude’ for their support.” (The Hindu Business Line)

The campaign against public urination and defecation continues. “A civic body in Rajasthan has announced a Rs.500 reward for students who raise awareness against peeing in public by blowing whistles and beating drums when they see a person in the act.” One could argue that it’s hard to embarrass people if a) they already do it in the open, and b) so many people do it that it’s unexceptional. I’ll leave it to someone else to make that argument. (The New Indian Express)

Diwali time means that it’s firecracker time. As someone who had a hole burned through his shoe, his sock and part of his foot by a July 4 firecracker tossed into his car in Washington, D.C., I feel compelled to share these fireworks and firecracker safety tips with you. (The Hindu)

Shai Venkatraman writes about the difficulties that professional women face in India when they want to rise through the ranks yet raise a family. Nobody seems to disagree, based on this story. “‘Here, if you are pregnant you won’t be hired easily,’ points out a Mumbai-based headhunter who spoke on condition of anonymity. ‘Why would someone hire you knowing that you will be on leave after six months? When I interview women candidates I ask them upfront about their plans to start a family.’” And here is one more excerpt: “A Mumbai-based banker, who also does not want to be named, had spent four years with a leading bank and stuck it out for two years more after her first child was born. Finally, in 2009, she stepped down as associate vice-president. ‘When I came back from my maternity leave, I had a lot of pending leaves which I would take when my child fell sick. But that was an issue,’ she says. ‘I would manage my clients from home, but that was not good enough as my male peers with kids were in office 12 hours a day. I was denied a promotion despite meeting targets. My boss would say things like, ‘Why do women have to work? I tell my wife she should stay home.”‘” (Mint)

Go ahead, eat the chicken, Bangalore. Fears of catching bird flu reportedly cut a 60 percent hole in chicken sales in the city, but the outbreak of H5N1, or avian influenza, apparently struck only one location. (Deccan Chronicle)

Police are targeting Amway India executives in Kerala, and may make arrests after a Kochi-based housewife accused the state distributor of the makeup sales organization’s products of cheating her. Amway relies on direct selling, in which customers take on Amway wares — cosmetics, jewelry and more — and then try to enlist new buyers. (Deccan Chronicle)

Citizens of Pakistan who want to visit India for upcoming cricket matches between the two countries’ teams will have to get visas. This order from the Home Ministry comes after 12 Pakistani men who arrived for the November-December 2007 cricket series apparently never went home. (The Hindu Business Line)

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