Archive for the ‘Jonathan in India’ Category


Jonathan: End of the road!

May 10, 2011

After four months, I am finally returning to the United States.  As you are reading this, I may even be on my way.  I will keep this post short, for any insight will not come in these last few days.  I have lived in a major metropolis, in a small town, worked with village youth, designed a youth group curriculum, and seen much of the Himalayan foothills.  Today, as I write, I am in McLeod Ganj, the capital of the Tibetan Government in Exile.  All of these experiences have shown me new and fascinating iterations of India.  I have been challenged in ways I never expected, seen sights both inspiring and disturbing, traveled to places rarely seen by those from the West, and been immersed in highly contrived westernized experiences.  I have witnessed the challenges left for poor Indians and the incredible growth of the middle class.  The past few weeks since the program end have, however, been a different India altogether.  The India of backpackers and vacationers.  While necessary and fascinating, it too means that it is time for this trip to end.  The sun is setting on this experience, and I am ready to move on to the next adventure.  But more on all that in a moment…

Here in McLeod Ganj, I have seen yet another iteration of India.  As the capital of Tibet in exile, the community has both a distinctly different feel to it than anywhere else in India, but also a different set of standards.  This is not the conservative environment of Rajasthan, but rather a place defined by a different ethos all together.

Claire and I met up with some friends from our program, which has been fantastic, and together we went on a day hike to some beautiful mountain views (including hail!) and a waterfall with ice cold waters quickly flowing.  We too have walked the grounds of the main temple, and learned much about the Free/Save Tibet Movement.  There is, of course, more to write, but my mind is in many places right now.  McLeod, Rajasthan, and the US.

I am not necessarily ready to be back State-side, but I certainly am ready to settle into something new.  Seeing new parts of India has been fantastic, but wherever in the world it may be, it is time to begin settle down instead of this limbo-land.  And with that, I say a final Namaste to India on 10 May at 10:30pm local time, and will arrive in the US on 11 May at 4:25am.


Jonathan: Current Events & Travels Across North India

May 5, 2011

The world is a changed place from when I left America on 1 January 2011, and while I’ve worked to keep up with current events, the reality is that it has proven to be incredibly difficult.  Indian news sources in general, but especially the English-language Times of India, are notoriously biased, inaccurate, and sensationalist.  (There are too many examples to count, and we’ve lost track of all the ridiculous headlines, but they typically involve disparaging remarks about those deemed immoral or ‘bad’ by Indian society, including by not limited to Pakistan, people who are accused of committing crimes—but before the case has even reached court, and anyone engaging in activities which flout social conservative norms).  Their international coverage is embarrassingly brief, and often composed of a brief update on Libya, Pakistan, and an American celebrity (Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and Lindsey Lohan are favorites).  And yet, the changes of the last few days will have a dramatic effect on both my exit from India and my entrance into the United States.  

Osama bin Laden is, of course, dead, although one wouldn’t have known it here in Shimla, the quaint tourist town in Himachalal Pradesh in the foothills of the Himilaya.  Here, where middle class and wealthy Indians come to escape it all, life seems to go on largely uninterrupted.  However the Indian news network tells a dramatically different story happening in the halls of New Delhi government buildings.  From before partition, India and what would become Pakistan have long existed in a field of tension.  Since 1947, when they were split and soon thereafter given full independence from the British, they have fought wars, slung slurs, and generally been volatile neighbors. In our post 9/11 world, but pre-Osama’s death, the Indian government had accused Pakistan of harboring international terrorists (a claim rooted the tense Line of Control in north India between Pakistan and the Indian state of Jammu-Kashmir).  Today, with the news of bin Laden’s death so close to a Pakistani military outpost, a depressingly self-congratulatory “I told you so” game is emerging with all the rhetoric and vitriol one can expect from feuding nations.  It is, of course, impossible to say how this will affect India, the world, Americans abroad, or Pakistan for that matter.  But I can say that we are following events closely, taking the situation seriously, and assessing what changes, if any, need to be made to our itinerary.  As of now, however, all seems stable and safe.

Before any of this had even happened, however, Claire (my travel partner) and I were traveling across the breadth of north India from Darjeeling to Shimla — both British Hill Stations meant as summer refuges from the sweltering heat and the tremendous chaos of urban India.  Located in upper West Bengal, in an area currently trying to gain independence as the State of Gohrkaland, Darjeeling and its surrounding villages could not be more different from the flat-lands below.  Cool, clear, and unpolluted, the foothills of the Himalaya are quiet and quaint.  Siliguri, the town situated at the base of the hills, is, by contrast, polluted, muggy, tropical, and busy.  It is here that after a short jeep ride, we began the journey.  Spending one overheated night in a strange and moldy hotel, we left for the airport in nearby Bagdoga and flew even father east into into the heart of India’s Northeastern States (the region wedged between Bangladesh and Bhutan) and looped back to Delhi.  If Silliguri had been muggy, Delhi was an oven, and the heat literally baked us as we walked off the plane onto the tarmac. From there we caught an overnight train, bunking under the din of fans and screaming children as we traveled north yet again to Kalka.  From there, we caught a second train into the mountains along a line deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Sight (the beautiful views confirmed its status), arriving in Shimla.  From there, we caught another taxi, rode an elevator up a cliff, and finally checked into a hotel around.  And thus, after 24.75 hours, Claire and I had finally arrived with a total of five modes of transportation (jeep, taxi, plane, train, elevator).  Six if you count our weary feet.

But it is not the mere act of traveling that I think is interesting, but rather the commentary it was on modern India.  We flew SpiceJet, a recently founded super low cost airline in India meant as an competitor to the Indian Railway network (the traditional heart of Indian public transit and a system first developed by the East India Company).  It has, along with the Indian airline industry in general, demonstrated not just the rise of Indian middle class but also the increasing interconnectivity of a vast country of over one billion.  A journey that would have otherwise taken 30 hours (West Bengal to Delhi by train) now takes just two hours.  In a land struggling with its sense of national identity after all, India is a land of many peoples, languages, religions, cultural-traditions, and landscapes, the plane has the power to revolutionize the way India perceives itself.  After all, we left the tropical West Bengal with its vividly different culture (and different language, Bengali), for the Hindi-speaking northern region.  More than that, however, is the reality that to reach the airport, we had to ride out of the mountains by jeep.  The airport in Bagdoga is the only aviation access point for upper-West Bengal and the whole of the state of Sikkim — yet another example of the schizoid nature of Indian capitalist expansionism. From there, we rode the train, India’s transit lifeblood, in Sleeper Class, the affordable option for most of the middle class.  Families, businessmen, college students, and two very exhausted American travelers all slept on sweaty vinyl mattresses, our hands jutting out of the barred windows for a semblance of cooling breeze.  From there, however, we transfered to the Kalka-Shimla line, a storied journey built by the British to escape the Delhi heat.  More spacious and luxurious than the average train, it is a poignant reminder of the British Raj and its complex relationship to modern India (and modern Indian infrastructure for that matter).  It was they who first envisioned the rail network, but it was Indians who built it and the state of India who has since expanded and maintained it.

If ever there was a journey to stimulate the brain!  For now we enjoy Shimla…


Jonathan: Darjeeling!

May 2, 2011

I write while sipping a black tea here amidst the fresh, cool, mountain air of upper West Bengal. I am in Darjeeling, the hill station established by the British to escape the brutal summers of central and southern India.  Like them, and middle class Indians today, we too escaped the heat and dust and came north, where we are surrounded by the most incredible beauty.  After a final sweaty day slogging through the 110F heat of Delhi, the cool mountain air, scarfs, jackets, and winter hats of Darjeeling were a welcome change.  The thin air contributes to its breathtaking quality.

Darjeeling was an important location for the British as it grew exquisite and fine black teas which are still world renown.  We have visited Hindu and Buddhist temples, sat in awe of the tremendous mountains, and visited a tea garden.  More is to come, but alas, who knows the next time internet will be available for a post.  One cannot write about Darjeeling, because it is the mountain views which are the real draw.  And thus, pictures…

Claire at a tea tasting of local brews

Tea fields at “Happy Valley Tea Estate”


Jonathan: Eating Beef in Hindusthan (and other adventures)

May 1, 2011

In many ways, Rajasthan is viewed as the heart of ‘Old India,’ that storied conceptualization, and often times anachronism, which has also gone by ‘Traditional,’ ‘Historic,’ or the less flattering and profoundly damaging ‘Backwards.’  This, of course, all comes from the fact that Rajasthan is deeply conservative and has maintained many cultural practices from its history as the Land of Kings (i.e. not East India Company) during British colonial rule.  Venturing just to the north, Delhi seems a world away, perhaps an India away, and has been a fascinating picture into another iteration of Twenty-First Century Bharat (yet another Hindi name for India).

Delhi, as the nations capital a city-state, is largely an intersection of different India.  With close to 13 million people, it is a sprawling metropolis with an ancient heritage.  Perhaps the Metro provides the best demonstration of Delhi’s (pronounced Dilli in Hindi) complexity.  Begun in 2001, the Metro is a rapidly expanding and changing the way that the city functions.  What could once be a 300/- rupee (or more) ride across town is now a just 30/-.  The train stations are spacious and clean, bright, cool, uncrowded.  The train cars are large, well lit, and smooth.  While they become incredibly packed during the evening rush hour, they remain curiously calm and quiet.  While the chaos swirls uncontrolled above, Delhi underground is an oasis.  Two cars in every train are reserved strictly for women, and female attendants guard the entrances to enforce the rule.  While I am wedged between the bulging belly of Bhai Sab (trans. ‘respected brother,’ a term used to describe any middle aged man not actively cheating you) and the lanky arms and legs of some hapless young office worker or student, my female companions are resting in luxury, chatting away with Dadi-ji (respected grandmother) about the best places to buy samosas.  But all that aside, it is during the off hours that the most interesting images emerge.

The trains by no means show the breadth of Delhi — after all, they are unaffordable to most migrant and day laborers — however they do show interesting social phenomena amongst the middle class and some of the working class climbing the class ladder.  The most noticeable is the clothing.  Muslim men, young and old, wearing kurta and skull caps.  Young workers in Indianized western clothing (bell-bottoms, wide-brimed stripped button-downs).  Professionals in ties, polos, jeans, khakis.  Most striking, of course, are the women: sarees, soots, but also tee shirts, mini-skirts, and with short hair.  I have seen the forearms and calfs of women, a sight that after four months has come to surprise me.

They all mix in Delhi, where street signs come in Hindi, Tamil, English, and Urdu.  Where one can eat foods from across the breadth of the Sub-Continent.  Where the calls to prayer come in various languages and various times of day for various reasons.  India is too called Hindusthan in Hindi, but it has never felt less apt to describe this country of diversity in language, culture, color, skin, and history.  This, of course, brings me to the shocking title of this post; well, shocking if you’ve been dodging cows for the last four months.

Opting to leave the insane hustle of Delhi’s tourist area behind, with its seedy hotels, cast of characters, and constant din of tourists being cheated (Real Pashmina scarfs for 1000/-! Silk sarees for 7500/-!  Train tickets to the Moon, just 100/-!), we chose a hotel in the small Tibetan Colony just a little off the beaten path.  Called Manu ka Tila, the small neighborhood is the local heart of the Tibetan refugee community.  With just a few hotels, a smattering of (delicious) Chinese restaurants, and a collection of shops who sell primarily to Tibetans and therein lack the brash character of so many other small business owners and cart-wallas, it is a fantastic refuge.  It too, I should add, has beef.  Beef like I’ve never seen before.  Beef that costs less than the vegetable means.  Beef that costs less than chicken!  BEEF!  Pardon me if I sound crass, or giddy for that matter, but it is truly a site for an omnivore such as myself.  Do not be mistaken, vegetarian Indian food is perhaps the most amazing I have ever eaten, but the novelty of eating COW, in Hindusthan, will not wear off easily.

The colony itself is fascinating.  With few tourists, it is a bustling, distinctively Tibetan community all its own.  A new India, no more or less valid than that of Rajasthan.  Perfect Hindi is widely, if not predominantly spoken.  Some wear north Indian clothing of kurta and salwar kameeze, many wear trendy western gear.  At times, it looks, smells, and feels much like my recent trip to Beijing (quite a feat, given that Tibet is both geographically and culturally far from the Chinese capital).  Each morning, as I walk through the market, Buddhist chants are played live throughout.  Monks, in their maroon and yellow robes, are everywhere.  Punjabi parantha are served on carts next to noodles and chowmein.  But it is just one of the interesting iterations of India and Delhi; others have proven themselves.

On our first day, we decided to head towards Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque built by the Mughal Shah Jahan.  A sprawling and beautiful red-sandstone complex, its large open space for prayer is the spiritual meeting place of thousands of Muslims each day.  It’s minarets are so large the call to prayer reverberates throughout those in the temple complex at five o’clock.  Muslim sites in India are always, what I find to be, a manageable chaotic: throngs of people going about their days through the general insanity which comes with thousands of people crammed into streets too small for cars.  Hindi sites are often overwrought with pushy salesmen selling poorly made tourist goods, the shop-wallas grabbing, pushing, and yelling.  Mosques, by contrast, have throngs of worshipers, salesmen, tourists, and local mingling together; largely respectfully ignoring each other under the constant din of chatter.  Outside Jama Masdid one can find silk scarfs sold near to severed goat heads, elderly women bickering with the vegetable salesman next to men in wire frame glasses playing backgammon.  It is a booming place with a relative and contradictory serenity.  It is in this context which I had my second encounter with meat in Delhi at one of the local institutions, Karims, known for its Mughali cuisine.  I still have not figured out what exactly Mughali cuisine is, but I do know that I ate a lot of chicken and mutton, and that “Goat Brains and Rice” was on the menu.


Jonathan: Challenges to social change in India and why western feminism is partly to blame

April 22, 2011

The program is now over, the final photographs taken, and the first batch of MSID students have left Jaipur for Mumbai on a southern extravaganza.  In just a few hours, I too will leave Jaipur, but for Delhi instead, where I will spend a few days until my flight on 25 April 2011 to Darjeeling, the tea capital of India in the shadow of the Himalaya. As we all begin our departures, some for America, some for new iterations of Hindustan, we have been focused on assessing the wild adventure we have just partaken in.  To be frank, I am not ready for the semester to end.  My last week in Railmagra was one of the most important to me in my whole time in India.  I became comfortable, confident, ever more able to address the needs and issues I was confronted with.  I finished writing the curriculum, but the adventure was far from over.  There remains much work to be done: translation, implementation, ownership.  More than that, it felt disingenuous to leave the experience after so little time: one month is not enough for community change.

I have grappled with a lot in the last few days, questions of privilege, identity, and culture. Asking myself the question: Why does it always seem to be a ‘culture’ vs. ‘justice’ debate?  What does that mean and how can I responsibly address it?  At its core, the curriculum, Power and Effort!, is about justice.  But to have the dialogue, it challenges the Indian NGO structure to do something it struggles with: actually act on its radical belief structure and develop a truly Indian dialog.

Rajasthan is a deeply conservative state, and India a conservative country.  The basic reality is that its insistence on the family as Center predicates a social structure which cannot challenge itself.  Consider the following script:

Me: What are your feelings on caste?

Them: It is a social evil, I do not believe in it.

Me: Will you marry outside your caste?

Them: Of course not!  It is my culture!  I would be lost without my caste.

Me: Do you have inter-caste friendships?

Them: No, my family will not allow it.

Me: Would you consider a friendship?

Them: No, my family will not allow it.

And thus, caste is replicated, strengthened, and enforced.  Until young people confront their families, demand relationships, and flaut the oppressive social norming, than true change cannot occur.  It is not that they are offended by the caste structure — I am sure they are — rather it is that they are unwilling to stand up against other social structures of social control and demand change.  Saying you believe in justice does not make the world just.  In fact, I believe it is a form of violence against the marginalized community one claims to stand in solidarity with.

I, of course, saw this pattern replicated time and time again in the village while working.  A professional commitment to ending early marriage, dowry, or arranged marriage, yet a lack of follow through to confront these issues.  I saw trained “Gender Educators” and HIV advocates merely replicated oppressive structures in their own families.  They could talk for hours about the abolition of arranged marriage, but they could be actively arranging one for their son or daughter, or be entering one themselves.  They could extoll about the ways that domestic violence against women is intimately linked to alcohol abuse, but not say a thing when their older brother drunkenly beats his wife every night.  Everyone was arrested by a profound inability to take a true stance.  As someone who has sacrificed much not only to be who I am, but also for the work I believe in, I cannot excuse these action: Saying you believe in justice does not make the world just.  Standing up to injustice even if you compromise your own social stability is the only way to create change.  It is the only way change has been made.

It is not as if people are not doing this.  I have met countless Indians who have dedicated their life to flouting the norm for the betterment of society.  Who have chosen to reject injustice and have taken the plunge.  Many have lost the safety and security that going with the flow allows, but they recognize the need to do so.  This phenomenon is not unique to India: spend time in a social work classroom and you too will see those who are willing to enter into Justice on a professional level, but not a personal one.  And thus, the question becomes, what to do about all of this?

It is my core belief that the problem does not only rest in the inability or the unwillingness of NGO workers to stand up for what they believe in.  Rather, I think it is directly related to the way conversation around gender justice developed here.  In short, and with few frills, I think that the gender discourse is too western.  It is not Indian enough for the average Indian, or even the activist community, to feel a connection to.  Instead, it uses a western conceptualization which developed in the classrooms of American Women Studies programs of a different era.  Many are familiar with the stories of western feminists telling those in the developing world, “I am here to save you!”  They rode in on large white stallions and instead began to alienate the very communities they sought to ‘help.’  The attitude gave little attention to local culture, local structures, to justice.  It was a damaging experiment, and I believe one of great lasting effects.

Today, transnational feminism and post-modern ideologies have begun to address this, but the reality remains, the Indian dialog is not Indian enough.  It is easy for many to extoll the values of, but difficult for it to be practiced by even the NGO worker.  This is not because any of core beliefs or claims made my the current conceptualization of Gender Justice are necessarily wrong, but rather because it did not develop here.  Rather it transplanted the vocabulary on the west into the culture of the sub-continent.  It is the vocabulary, not the message, which is flawed.  Until Indians can feel that their social movements are true to them, then no change can occur.  Saying you believe in justice does not make the world just.  Standing up to injustice even if you compromise your own social stability is the only way to create change.  It is the only way change has been made.  Developing a dialog is a process of empowerment, of ownership, and of capacity building.  It is the first step in the process.


Jonathan: What I’m Reading, What I’ve Read

April 20, 2011

I’ve been averaging about a book every two weeks while I’ve been here, and it is time to share.  The books I’m reading and the books I’ve read.

What I’m Reading:

The Namesake (Jhumpa Lahiri) – FICTION
The life of a first generation American with a funny name attempting to negotiate Bengali and American culture.  Sound familiar?  The writing might not be great, the but the story is fantastic.  There too is a movie of the same name.

What I’ve Read:

Indian Summer (Alex von Tunzelman) – NON-FICTION
One of the most engaging history books I’ve ever read, it tells the story of the fall of the British Raj during the summer of 1947.  Perhaps most interesting, however, are the deep and uncompromising analyses of the key players: Nehru, Ghandi, Jinnah, and Mountbatten.  Amongst the delicious and alarming gossip: Louis Mountbatten’s wife Edwina and Nehru were engaged in a deep relationship (perhaps physical, perhaps not), Ghandi praised the Nazis for their determination and resolve, and Jinnah felt uncertain with the Muslim nature of Pakistan at the very moment of partition.

Midnights Children (Salman Rushdie) – FICTION
Perhaps the most important Indian writing in English, Rushdie tells the story of India through the curious life of a man born on the midnight of Indian independence.  His use of magical realism is genius, after all the real India is partly magical and absurd.  The writing is fantastic, the story engaging, and the insight profound.

God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy) – FICTION
Another Indian writing in English, the novel focuses on christians in Kerela, examining issues of caste, class, religion, and Naxalism (the Indian brand of oppositional communism which borrows heavily from Mao).  I found the writing and characters to be a bit melodramatic, but it is an excellent quick read.

In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India (Edward Luce) – NON-FICTION
The writings of a British journalist, the book examines modern India in relationship to recent changes in politics, economics, and culture.  Providing a sharp critique of those who view India simply as spiritual (yet without denying that it does influence it), Luce examines the successes of India’s managed globalization, along with the tremendous challenge that come with being the largest democracy in the world.  It is particularly insightful for those who have examined China’s rise (for which I recommend Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler).

Pedagogy of Hope (Paulo Freire) – NON-FICTION
I didn’t read it here in India, but I’ve re-read passages since I’ve arrived.  Borne out of Friere’s experiences with adult literacy programs in Brazil during the mid-twentieth century, the book examines education as a process of revolution, transformation, and justice.  It is one of the guiding books of my ideology, and has heavily influenced much of my work (including the “Power and Effort” curriculum for Jatan).

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (Audre Lourde) – BOTH and NEITHER
Audre Lourde’s biomythography has nothing to do with India, but does tell the story of a first generation American with Caribbean roots seeking community and justice in New York City.  Coming out of feminist and queer theory, Lourde’s book is tremendous and beautiful.

And a movie…

Udaan (2010) (Directed by: Vikramaditya Motwane)
As an introduction: Bollywood movies, while fun, are notoriously superficial.  New wave Indian cinema seeks to address the vapid, escapist, nature of the Indian film industry through more subtle and poignant pictures attacking social problems in a more responsible way.

Just a quick aside: there was a seminal moment in Indian film in the mid-twentieth century when it became abundantly clear that films approaching social issues were consistently flopping at the box office.  The reason, of course, is that if you are a poor rickshaw-walla or village farmer, the last thing you want to watch is a film about a village farmer who becomes a poor rickshaw-walla.  Wet sari dances and shoot-em-up scenes are much more appealing. But moving on…

By far my favorite Indian film is Udaan, the story of a young man attempting to reject social norms and expectations to enter commerce or engineering and instead pursue his dreams of drawing.  Less of a coming of age story and more of a tale about the breakdown of India’s most sacred institution, the family, it is the movie that every Indian knows about but has not seen.  It won a number of awards, and is internationally available (yes, even on Netflix).

If you are interested in a quick comparison of substance, check out the Bollywood film Three Idiots (or 3 Idiots, but the grammatical error irks me), which essentially approaches the same issue but with less punch, more love story, and a catchy soundtrack.  It is, however, one of the most popular movies in India, an excellent example of typical Bollywood fare, and a lot of fun.


Jonathan: Goodbye, Jatan Sansthan

April 15, 2011

I have reached the end of the second chapter in my story of India.  After six weeks, I am preparing to leave Railmagra and Jatan Sansthan for a quick seminar in Jaipur, followed by nearly three weeks of traveling.  But more details on that at the end of this post, for now it is time to reflect on all I’ve learned and done here.  I’m pretty sure I start every post on this blog with struggling with where to begin, but you must believe me this time — I am forcing myself to somehow summarize and contextualize an experience which is still unfinished.  It is necessary, however, to first explore issues in migration which I’ve come to learn much about, and follow that with a short description of the work I’ve done here, now that my curriculum is completed and in the final editing phase.

Rajsamand District, as I’ve mentioned before, is a community in transition.  With estimates of labor migration as high as 50% in some villages, it is a place that is confronting globalization in a way I have not yet completely understood.  Railmagra, where I have been living, is an interesting case study in this phenomenon.  As an important transportation hub it has developed into a relatively bustling small town with an active fruit and vegetable market, plenty of sari shops, a 2:1 population to juice stand ratio, and most necessities that are unavailable in the smaller surrounding villages.  As a bustling local hub, it has come to develop into an important intersection point between the smallest of villages and, well, the rest of the world.  Globalization and changing patterns of migration mean that many young men migrate to find work (some estimates as high as 48-52% of a village population).

With this, of course, comes a significant number of effects.  In theory, families begin to see increased income (although the realities of exploitation negatively affect this to some degree) and expanded opportunities.  But much more frequently, these (mostly) young men experience injury, poor health, occupational hazards, substandard living conditions, and a number of other hardships.  Their sisters and wives also experience migration.  They may be able to attend school with the added income, and many find their power and control in household decisions expand without men living there full time.  What’s more, the money that they may make if they work outside the home is within their control.  This, of course, is all tempered by the fact that the primary income generator is far from home.  Pregnant women, for instance, may lack any support, emotional or financial, as they attempt to navigate complex systems and structures which they know little about.  They may be forced to work outside the home to supplement an unexpectedly meager remittance or if their husband, son, or father is injured (this, of course, being very different than if they chose to work outside the home).  They may be exposed to STIs including HIV if their husband does not use protection while working far from home or is exposed to an unsecured blood supply after injury.  Both men who migrate and the women in their lives and communities are profoundly affected by migration, and it is irresponsible to make any evaluative statements about it: migration is a part of their lives, improves it, and sets them up for great hardship.

As a testament to our changing world, this is all conducted under the umbrella of globalization.  As men travel outside the home, some just a few hours to Udaipur, others many days away to Mumbai, they come in contact with new Indias.  New clothing, new ideas, new technologies.  This has a curious effect on village life, especially for women.  As George (2006) notes, the increased exposure that is provided to Indian men may change their own attitudes and style of dress, but it too breeds insecurity that they are losing their ‘Indian-ess.’  They thus place their fears onto the women in their life and demand even more strict adherence to cultural traditions.  Indian men confront their own insecurity about loss of culture not by addressing it directly, but rather by focusing even more strongly upon the maintenance of women’s roles.  In a feminist dialogue based around agency and choice, this clearly brings a number of thorny issues to mind. Read the rest of this entry ?

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