India Insight

“Homelands” exhibit in Delhi examines identity through art

Indians give high importance to the concept of identity and kinship, especially in a land that is home to hundreds upon hundreds of different languages and ethnic groups. Indian curator Latika Gupta explores this theme in “Homelands”, an exhibition of works by 28 leading contemporary British artists, all wrestling with the idea of what “home” means in the 21st century.

The artists whose works are displayed include four Turner Prize winners, Jeremy Deller, Richard Long, Grayson Perry and Gillian Wearing. Work by World Press Photo (2007) winner Tim Hetherington, who was killed in Libya, also is on display.

“I wanted to see what it is that makes up our idea of what our identity is. Is it our language that we speak? Is it the place that we come from?” said Gupta. “The exhibition really hopes to raise a set of questions rather than provide answers.”

The theme of the exhibition holds special relevance to Indians, Gupta said.

“Most of the works in the exhibition, the themes that the art addresses, find complete resonance with us here, especially questions of language, family ties, communities, religion. These are the things that we most often use to define ourselves as Indians,” she said.

The exhibition features more than 80 works of photography, painting, print, video and sculpture drawn from the permanent collection of The British Council. It runs at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Janpath, until Feb. 14. It will go on display in Kolkata in March, Mumbai in April and Bangalore in the last week of June.

Responsibility or censorship: why Bollywood should pick

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters Corp.)

The mother and father of the 23-year-old Delhi gang-rape victim were cremating their daughter’s body around the same time I discovered Honey Singh, now lately known for his notorious song, “Ch**t,” or “Cu*t.” The song revolves around the singer’s vision of satisfying a woman’s lust, followed by beating her with a shoe and then moving on to other things.

While India convulses over its people’s shameful treatment of women, its inadequate rape laws and questions about how to change an entire society, Singh’s star has been rising in Bollywood. The industry apparently likes what it hears.

from India Masala:

Mumbai’s Oktoberfest takes place under the stars

(The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not represent those of Thomson Reuters)

It wasn't Munich, but try telling that to the hundreds of Mumbaikers and expats (including some wearing lederhosen) who gathered at Mahalaxmi Race Course on Friday night, sipping imported Bavarian brews from hefty beer steins, determined not to let geography get in the way.

Noticeably absent were the big beer tents typically associated with the event, which in previous years had sheltered guests under a welcoming canopy. But no matter; the mood remained festive well into the evening, as a lively band crooned German folk music and Western covers, and guests dug into an Indianised version of an Oktoberfest spread, with jalapeno chicken sausage served alongside schmorbraten, illuminated by the glow of brightly lit trees.

Shiv Sena, shutdowns and double standards

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thomson Reuters)

Shutting down cities seems to be the Shiv Sena’s new pastime. A week after forcing a shutdown in Mumbai to mourn the death of its leader Bal Thackeray, the right-wing party set its sights on Palghar, a sleepy town 90 kilometres north of Mumbai that finds itself at the centre of a debate on freedom of speech.

It all started when Shaheen Dhada, 21, updated her Facebook status, complaining about Mumbai’s shutdown following Thackeray’s death on Nov. 17. Dhada and her friend who “liked” the post were arrested and Shiv Sena workers were accused of vandalizing a hospital run by Dhada’s kin.

Is Kasab’s death enough closure in the Mumbai attacks?

“If you hear the sound of a bullet, kneel, and if you have to move, then crawl, don’t run.”

Those are not the first words you want to hear when you arrive to cover an assignment — but then this wasn’t just any assignment. I was at Nariman House in Colaba to cover the attack that came to be known as 26/11.

On Wednesday, four years later, that story finally got some sort of closure, after the lone gunman captured during the Mumbai attacks was hanged. But for those who were a part of those dark days of 2008, whether real closure will come because of this one act of justice is a tough question to answer.

Mumbai a ghost town as Thackeray looms large in death

(Tresa Sherin Morera and Henry Foy contributed to this report. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

It didn’t take long. The news of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death came at 4:30 p.m. India time on a Saturday, a working day for many in Mumbai. Thirty minutes later, my neighbourhood was a ghost town.

Shops were shut, and taxis stayed off the road. On any other day, my street would have been teeming with people, buses and vegetable vendors, but on Saturday, it was strangely deserted.

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

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)

Elsewhere in India: girls, mobile phones and slapping your tormentors

Here’s a short roundup of regional news in India that attracted our interest this weekend. Any opinions expressed by the author are no doubt ill informed and ridiculous. Aditya Yogi Kalra contributed to this post.

Another politician, another reference to women being the root of all man’s troubles. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh blamed “girlfriends, bikes and  mobile phones” for the rising number of road accidents in the state.  ”It’s a common sight to see youngsters driving two-wheelers while talking on cellphones which often leads to accidents. Youths should avoid such habits,” Singh said. (PTI via CNBC-TV18)

Shivakumar of Uliyakovil, Kollam, was arrested after promising to marry a woman, but demanding that she sell one of her kidneys first. “The victim was identified as Manju (alias Chinchu). Police said Manju had lodged a complaint in 2009. The operation to remove her kidney was conducted at KIMS Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram.” Shivakumar reportedly abandoned Manju, and took the kidney, which he sold for 1 million rupees, or $18,289. (TNN)

Civics clashes with religion as women face bans from some Indian shrines

(The opinions expressed are the author’s own, and may not necessarily reflect those of Thomson Reuters)

Mumbai’s Sufi shrine Haji Ali Dargah Trust has barred women from entering the sanctum that houses the tomb of the Sufi saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. The reason: authorities said that they saw a woman visit the tomb in inappropriate clothing.

This might not be entirely surprising. The mosque and dargah – or tomb – sit on a tiny island in the waters off Mumbai that is connected to the mainland by a tiny causeway. It is one of Mumbai’s most well known tourist attractions, and many people from India and other countries walk past the mendicants and beggars, some of whom are missing limbs and often chanting, on the causeway to admire the architecture and the view.

Starbucks arrives in India, gains spice, loses flavour

(Warning: there’s barely a lick of reporting in this blog post. Opinions are the author’s only, and almost certainly are wrong.)

Take a look at the items on the menu at the new Starbucks coffee shops in Mumbai, which opened this week in a joint venture with India’s Tata Global Beverages Ltd. As Megha Bahree and Margherita Stancati show you at The Wall Street Journal’s India blog, they include a series of curious “fusion” items:

    murg tikka sandwich tandoori chicken sandwich tamarind peanut chicken calzone the Konkani twist (it’s a long puff, Bahree and Stancati report)

I know that there are no other coffee shops or restaurants started by western companies that sell quite the same things as these, but as I discovered earlier this year while looking for lunch in Delhi’s Connaught Place, this is a representative sample of the style of food that you’ll find. That goes for Dunkin’ Donuts, Cafe Coffee Day, Barista and so on.

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