Posts tagged “bombay”

Maximum Story

I’ve mentioned Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta in a previous post, but thought it was worth its own post now that I’ve finally finished it.

We learned about this book on our 2006 trip to India, but it took me over a year to finally get to it.

The book is Suketu Mehta’s collection of stories from his return to India after 21 years. He’s an insider and an outsider all at once. He shares his own experiences (say, in trying to rent an apartment, or get his kids into a decent school) but also picks a number of different subcultures (life in the slums, commuting, gangsters, Bollywood, sex workers, homeless artists, religion, politics, law enforcement) and goes deep. He develops intense relationships over time and tells the stories of the characters he encounters, many of whom live outside the norms that most of us could tolerate. He goes deep enough that as a writer, he’s pulled into writing a screenplay for a Bollywood film.

Although he goes into these subcultures as individual forays, many of the threads overlap (Bollywood and gangsters, the police and politics and religion, etc. etc.) and collide and so a more complete portrait begins to emerge.

I really appreciated having my own experiences contextualized by the author’s similar (if much more extreme) personal experiences and subsequent explanation, and then the opportunity to see so much further into the city, as an icon of Indian life. This is classic participant-observation. What’s the Hindi word for gonzo? How’s about gonzoti?

There’s a lot of exuberance about India nowadays and I think that needs to be tempered with some other perspectives. It’s not necessarily an easy place to live, work, visit, or develop.

Hitler’s Final Days

Hitler Cafe
Originally uploaded by Poagao.

This MetaFilter thread has lots of the needed jokes but also many other examples in the US and elsewhere of dictator kitsch, or at least questionable political (in)sensitivity in the naming of restaurants.

And today we learn they are going to change the name of the restaurant.

I’m still facinated by the different cultural norms this exposed. In the West we’ve been laughing in confused outrage over how some cartoons could upset Muslins. But the paper yesterday had a quote from a student who said basically “Hitler was a bad man, but that doesn’t mean I can’t eat the food here.” It’s ludicrous until you stop for a minute – the connection we draw between eating at a place named after Hitler and belief or support for his actions is not necessarily a universal one. Any more than cartoon images in a Danish newspaper are understandably offensive to us.

India pics posted to flickr

I have completed the mammoth task of editing and posting all my Asia pictures to flickr, with the completion today of the set from India (Mumbai and Bangalore). Previously: Bangkok and Hong Kong. All told, about 650 pictures.


I’ve written two long pieces (and many smaller pieces on this blog) about our trip. An article for Core77 here and a more personal assessment here.

The process of taking time and reviewing the pictures with increasing distance from the event is pretty interesting, giving me a chance to reflect and revisit, to see things that I certainly didn’t see at the time I opened the shutter, and through the interactions on flickr, to gain insight and clarifications about things I observed but did not understand, especially with the pictures from India, where a pretty good dialogue has emerged (seen in the comments posted on the various pictures in that set Oops, not any more). The document of the experience is scattered, the interactions are scattered, but as the publisher of this content, I’m personally at the hub of all of it, so I’m taking full advantage. But clearly technology (even the ability to take several hundred pictures on a two week trip) is enabling some powerful behaviors; we know this, of course, but stepping back and noticing it is always pretty cool.


Bombay Sapphire, anyone?

Low-cost airline pilot ‘tried to fly drunk’

An Indian low-cost airline suspended a pilot after he was found drunk shortly before he was due to fly an aircraft with about 100 passengers on board, officials said on Wednesday.

The surprise Tuesday check at Mumbai airport — India’s busiest — threw up several minor violations of safety norms by airlines, including an instance of a pilot in another low-cost carrier trying to fly in a T-shirt because his only uniform had gone to the laundry.

“threw up several minor violations” is an interesting choice of words.

Bombay Sapphire, anyone?

Asia trip

Excited to see a bit about Hong Kong in the travel section of today’s New York Times. Since we started planning our trip, there hasn’t been much coverage or advice of the places we’ll be going in January, as we travel to Bangalore where I’ll be speaking at the Easy6 conference. There are books and lots of web resources, but still always cool to see something in the Sunday paper as you plan a trip.

We’ll be going to
Hong Kong (obviously) for about 4 days
Bangkok very briefly
Bangalore for about 4 days
Mumbai for about 4 days

and then an unbelievable journey home – it’s just travel all the way back, we won’t be chunking it up as with the outbound portion. I can’t imagine how destroyed we will be upon our return!


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