Wednesday, October 20, 2010

French Strikes made easy

Stranger to France? Let me explain the madness (that's what I believe it is) going on here right now.

Government wants to introduce Retirement/Pension Reform, where retirement age will be pushed from 60 to 62 and the pension benefits will kick in from age 67 instead of 65. This is for people who work in the Private Sector in France.

Employees in the private sector cannot go on strike without much repercussions. Or so I have been told. And so, the French have this "system" in place, that allows citizens to protest without anyone losing their jobs. The employees in the public sector go on strike instead.

So the buses, trains, garbage disposal system etc, which have strong unions, go on strike to express the anger and frustration of the people working in the private sector. Though this time, some of the private sector employees have also joined in. Like those who work at the refineries & fuel companies.

BBC gives more updates about the matter...

So while you are stuck at the station, waiting for your train, go ahead buy some wine, cheese and baguette and enjoy relaxed life in France.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Let's Stereotype

When people find out I'm from India, one of the topics of conversation is about how different the place is from Europe/US or South America. Most people I have met have been very open-minded and ready to accept that their notion of India is probably very wrong. Generally, it is... and they have been great enough to hear me ranting about my own little version of how or what I think India is like. (Staying outside & meeting other Indians has made me realise that my knowledge and experiences in & about India are quite limited).

The thing that has begun bothering me is how this image of India (or any place) has propagated. See the photo albums of any person (read as non-Indian) who has visited India. There will be very few pictures of any monuments or historic/heritage sites. A lot of pictures of people in colorful clothing, pictures of busy markets and such. And then, pictures of "cute kids", mostly from the slums, or pictures of cows or animals on the road, or trash littered around.

Are we (= people of India) a museum? OK, I get it that you have never seen half the stuff happening here. But then if I come to the US and take a picture of a Steak n' Shake because there are none in India, why would I be looked at as an idiot? Why do so many people who visit India never find out about historical structures or the nature spots we have. Since I'm from Maharashtra, my examples are going to be - the forts built by Shivaji and the Marathas; the Ajanta - Ellora caves; the hikes in the Sahyadri mountains; the national forests/parks; the palaces built by different Mughal emperors and so on.

How many people who visit Mumbai take pictures of the CST train station? Or go to Elephanta caves and the Sanjay Gandhi National park? The Marine Drive is not as long or clean as the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, but trust me, it is a view you shouldn't miss.

Maybe when we visit some "western" country, we should try to capture the negative stereotypes. Like highlight how firefighters let a house burn in Tennessee, US. Or take pictures of dog shit over the streets in France. Or talk about how dirty the metro in Paris can be at some places. Or take pictures of the dirty subway in Rome. And talk about you can smell urine when you go down the stairs to the subway. Let us take pictures of the dirty, oily canals in Venice. When you go to Miami, ignore the great city-scape and focus on how easy it is to get drugs and talk about the crime.

I've heard that places in New York are dirty and littered too. Mention always how marriages don't last in the US even if it may not be true. Take pictures of drunken college parties and how you see people puking on the streets. Or marvel at how widespread smoking (tobacco and weed) is in France and how easy it is to get it. Marvel at how in a "modern" country like France, you will routinely see men peeing on the streets. Let's mock them because you cannot get anything on a Sunday and you are basically crippled. 

Just a bit of advice before you actually go do these things. I wouldn't recommend taking pictures of kids on streets because you might just be labeled a pedophile. And stay away from the homeless people you see in the US, and don't try to take their pictures, because they might knife or shoot you. It is better to try to approach the homeless and street kids in India.