Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ganpati is Over

Recently, I have been so busy that I missed most of Ganpati (I even missed the India-Pakistan Cricket Match--although Ganpati probably makes more sense to me than cricket).

So on the the last night of the festival, I went out to Juhu beach at 1am to see if there was anything still going on. By the time I got out there at 2am, there were still thousands of people crowding the streets and dancing. I stopped by the 24 hour cafe at the J.W. Marriott Hotel--but it was so incredibly boring there. And expensive. People pay a lot of money to make things boring, I've realized.

Right, but as I left the Mariott, I realized that I was stuck walking in the pouring rain, because the roads were completely clogged, and no rickshaws were available at all. Already soaked in seconds by the monsoon, I waded out into the ocean, where these 20ft tall Ganesh statues were being carried into the surf, held aloft by huge crowds of people. And all over the beach there were these broken limbs and pieces of brightly painted ganesh statues that had washed back onto shore. Everyone was covered in red pigment and shouting "Moryia!" Yet, it was raining so hard it was sometimes hard to see, with all the water in your eyes. Radical!

See, everyone puts these decorated Ganesha
Statues in their houses, and people come by and say prayers. It is weirdly similar to having a christmas tree, actually. Except that everyone eventually immerses their Ganesh Statues in the ocean, instead of burning their xmas trees in the back yard (well, if you are from ohio).

Ganesh riding on an eagle-->

Making traditional Ganpati Sweets...
I thought their coconut grater was really interesting. You sit on this board, and rub the coconut on these metal teeth... but I think it is the only kitchen tool that you have to sit on to operate.

Animatronics show starring ganesh, Ram, Hanuman, and Shiva! -->

Sunita Williams, the Astronaut, was HUGE in India. So maybe it is no surprise to see this space themed Ganesh... RIDING A FLYING SAUCER!! (With a windmill behind him??)

Watch the mildly psychedelic Space Ganesh Action show, here:

Space Ganesh was actually part of a Women Power installation for Sunita Williams

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Happy Ganpati!

This week is Ganpati, the celebration of everyone's favorite elephant-god, Ganesha. I strongly encourage you to enter the heaven at this devotional website where you can light some candles for Ganesh and do a virtual pooja.

This is the week when millions of Mumbaikers will take enormous statues of Ganesh and immerse them into the sea. Some are nearly 40ft tall!

I don't have any videos of this YET, but I did put together a video from Krishna's Birthday Celebration 2 weeks ago.

The video also features my first motorcycle ride in Bombay, a truck that is filled with more people than live in most apartment buildings, and ... DEVOTIONAL GLITTER GRAPHICS!! I love glitter graphics on myspace, and who knew they would achieve sacred status? When I was living in the hotel Shubhangan, I used to love watching this devotional television channel, though it would come on only after midnight. Honestly beautiful, though definitely smile inducing to westerners.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Street Tattoo

Now if you really love heavy metal, what better way to show it than to get a tattoo? (Or a blood-bourne pathogen, for that matter...?)

There were tons of these tattoo ladies at the Bandra Street Fair (which is right outside my house, and involves tens of thousands of people). Their tattooing device was powered by a chain of 6 D-Cell batteries that had been taped together.

Then thousands of Hindus and Catholics ascend the steps to Mount Mary Cathedral where they say a prayer and burn a candle. They buy candles to burn in the shape of their prayer--everything from body parts, babies, rickshaws, and airplanes.

And this kid was selling bubbles for rs5, in the form of old film canisters filled with soap water with a wire twist as bubble wand.

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M E T A A A L L L !!!!

Perhaps reflecting the over-the-top nature of most things in India, the most popular youth music in India is Heavy Metal. AC/DC, Perl Jam, Metallica, and Rage Against the Machine are some of the most popular bands. So the other night, I went with some friends to see the "Woodstock of India," Independence Rock XXII, which was sponsored by Nokia's new line of music phones. It was mostly original music, but every band was required to play 2 covers. I saw just as many mobile phones held aloft to record songs as I did Slayer t-shirts, which were numerous, believe me.

This particular band is Boomerang, from Nagaland, where Bryant is originally from.
You'll see the crowd shouting some really really bad words--the crowd was expressing their displeasure at the guitarist, who had popped a string and paused the concert to retune.

Later in the night, the members of the crowd amused themselves by starting enormous mosh pits. They'd line up in rows, holding shoulders, and run headlong into the crowd, as a means of making the pit bigger. While it was weirdly not connected to the music, as such, it might have partially explained the extremely low ratio of women to men.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Electronics Shopping in the Monsoon

Already missing Bryant and Shibin (who left last night), I've posted a video of us shopping for the electronics of the Sewing Machine Mobile Phone Charger. This was down on Lamington Road, which is composed entirely of small, random electronics stores. So bazaar! ;)

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Dude ... do we have to go back?!

It seems like yesterday when we all landed in Mumbai not knowing exactly what to expect for the following 10 weeks. The information overload in the first few days, India's mobile market analysis, brainstorming for projects, struggling with BREW to develop our prototype, demo-ing the prototype to get feedback, then long hours troubleshooting the simplest of voltage regulatory circuits for the sewing machine because we couldn't get the right amount of wattage ... looking back I know that this is going to be the most memorable and valuable learning experience. It has been a treat to work in this team. Many thanks to Qualcomm, Fran Abrams and her team at UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering corporate relations for putting together this opportunity and this team.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Wheels a turnin

As things wind down, we're giving great presentations to well receiving audiences. Nikhil Jain and Rohit Kapoor has been very supportive from a Qualcomm standpoint - Fran Adams and her team of corporate relations has been great in getting us in touch with CalIT2 and UCSD. And Tata (Indian Company) has been supportive of our projects as well and hope to continue these on in some form through their corporate channels. Our projects may have life after we leave India! We really have to thank everyone that has been involved in our engagement here in India. It's been a hectic week - finishing up the prototypes and trying to savor my last couple days in India. It's sad to leave this country without knowing exactly the next time I'll be able to witness motorcycle-trucks, elephants in the streets, eat Indian biscuits, build sewing machines, watch amazing Bombay sunsets, and sit in petrifying rickshaw rides.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Commuting in the Monsoon

I thought you would like to see what our commute is like in the morning. Not only is it way better than NYC gridlock, but I also think it would beat most Disney rides in terms of adventure and adrenalin.

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Some of the more critical parts used for the sewing machine mobile phone charger include the cap from a bottle of WD40 and my elastic hair band, both used to turn the motor.

We finally made the voltage regulation circuit by buying a Rs50 car charger off the street and ripping it apart. Hawkers accost us every day, when we are stuck in traffic, trying to sell us these Nokia car chargers.... who knew they would ever be useful!

So it seems like one of these things could be hackable out of parts available even in relatively small villages...

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The Middle Class in India

Lili just sent me a great article on the Indian Middle class... See, we got into an argument recently on whether India has a middle class.

I said that of course it did, because obviously an upper class exists (like the crazy people who drive BMWs during Bombay rush hour), and so does a really low class, composed of the millions of people in the slums (40% of Bombay lives in "Informal Housing," like this cozy roadside dwelling).

So obviously everyone else, in the middle, must be the middle class. But to Lili's point, this article shows that this "Middle Class" is only 6%-20% of India, echoing the government statistics which show that 77% of India lives on less than 20 rupees a day. That leaves 3% for the super wealthy (since India apparently has more Billionaires than any other country, other than the US and Russia).

The article also gives an explanation of the caste system in India, with regards to economic success. Worth a read.