Chak de India

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by Manie Bhatia

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AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A

AP Photo/Gautam Singh

Its a dog’s life (for most): Sayeed Mohammed, a disabled crab seller, who lives in Mumbai is disadvantaged thrice over: he’s poor, physically challenged, and being a Muslim, he’s part of the minority. His existence may not very different from Rani, the dog he’s interacting with. More than 40 per cent of India, lives on less than Rs 50 a day, with which they can barely feed themselves; let alone buy clothes, get an education or have access to clean drinking water and sanitation.

AP Photo/M. Lakshman

India is a religious and spiritual powerhouse; Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism was born here. Even though India boasts of latest technology and has made giant leaps to modernity its collective psyche still lives in its past. Religious rituals, practices and annual festivals bind Indians together. Hindu Gods number in the thousands; seen here is the head of the elephant God Ganesh after it had been immersed on the sea coast in Chennai.

Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Cricket: the color that everybody is painted in: There is no country that is so divided by caste, creed, color, religion, culture, language and cuisine as India. But one thing that glues and stitches the masses together inspite all its divisions is cricket. Young men are initiated into the game early on; on the streets, gullies, maidans or any other open space that can be found. Its not just a game or a pass time; its an opium fix that everybody craves, and gets, in dollops.

AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh

This ain’t no monkey business: Only 8 per cent of Indian labor force is organized! The rest are in the informal sector, where unemployment is high, and making a buck is difficult. Most of India lives in its villages and when finding work in the fields becomes tough the laborers move to the cities looking for work. This man, in Allahabad, tries his hand at making a living by making his pet monkey perform tricks and entertaining shifting crowds.

AFP PHOTO/ Sam Panthaky

Call me Krishna: In a land of a thousand plus Gods and rich tradition, India without doubt may have the most number of religious and cultural festivals in the world. There’s not a day that goes by without a festival being celebrated in some corner of the country; some are celebrated countrywide and a few, in specific pockets. In the picture Yeshvi Gajjar, 5, dressed as Hindu god Lord Krishna, strikes a pretty pose as part of the Janamashthami (birth day of Lord Krishna) celebrations in Ahmedabad.

AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A

Pots and potholes: This picture highlights two worrying facts for India; the number of accidents on Indian roads is the highest the world (135,000 die annually) and secondly, India faces a severe shortage of clean drinking water. Lack of proper roads, an inadequate civic sense and inefficient law enforcement meant that we have overtaken China with the worst record when it comes to road accidents according the the WHO. Water is a big worry, especially since 70 per cent of irrigation and 80 per cent of drinking water needs are met through groundwater resources that are rapidly shrinking.

AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool

Where I lay my head is home: According to UN-HABITAT, India is home to 63 per cent of all slum dwellers in South Asia, that’s a staggering 170 million. Nobody really knows the real figure of India’s homeless or those housed in inadequate conditions. That number could be upwards of 75 million. CRY (Child Relief and You) estimated that there are some 11 million children living on the streets, this number was reported in 2006, it could only have gone up. On the streets, they face the threats of gangs, disease and decreased chances of earning a livelihood.

AP Photo/Ajit Solanki

An Indian woman sorts red chillies at a field near Ahmadabad, India, Monday, March 7, 2011. Giving women better access to land, technology and other agricultural resources could reduce the number of hungry people by up to 150 million, said a U.N food agency report, released in Rome on the eve of international women’s day.

AP Photo

Everywhere you go in India you will see religion and its symbols. In this photo, a Hindu holy man and woman are both seen carrying a Trishul (a three-speared Buddhist-Hindu symbol). They are seen returning after bathing at Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, in Allahabad, India

AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout

Running riot: Riots and blockades are aplenty in a country that is transiting rapidly. The reasons for the underlying bubbling of hate and distrust ranges from economic disparity to that of religious disquiet. In this picture shot in Bhubaneshwar, a protestor jumps across burning tires, when hundreds gathered to block traffic and set fires in connection with a temple festival.

AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh

Powered up: India’s unquenchable thirst for power continues unabated and there aren’t enough sources to meet its demand. Nearly 300-400 million Indians have no power or suffer from large scale  power cuts (20 per cent of villages are cut-off from the grid). Not only is it unable to meet demand, it also faces issue with theft of power and distribution losses (nearly 30 per cent) due the poor quality of its power infrastructure. There are talks of nuclear power and other non-conventional sources of energy like solar and wind helping boost production and ease the power crisis. But, even that, may not be enough to keep up with the demand.

AP Photo/Prashant Ravi

Tightrope trick: A six-year-old tightrope performer in Patna quickly realizes that making a living in India, is quite literally, a tightrope act. India is second only to Africa when it comes to number of children below 14 years who work in hazardous industries for a living. Although the Constitution of India bans children below 14 from working, many industries (including diamond, fireworks and silk) employ them.

AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh

Urban watering hole: Elephants are synonymous with India and are symbols of pomp, religion, culture and power. India itself is often compared to the elephant, and is commonly referred to as such. Pachyderms can be found in temples, residences of erstwhile kings and national parks. India has the largest number of elephants in Asia.

AP Photo/Altaf Qadri

Get in line: India’s GDP may have grown between 8-10 per cent in the last decade, but the growth has not been equitable, and poverty levels continue to remain high. More than 40 per cent of India’s population are illiterate, lack proper shelter, have no access to proper drinking water or sanitation, and suffer from the absence of proper medical facilities. In this picture, Muslim devotees receive food at the Shrine of Sufi Saint Nizamuddin Awlia in New Delhi.

India, a country caught between intense extremities, is home to both Antilla and to Dharavi. The Ambani’s 27-storey house, Antilla, one of the world’s most expensive homes, was built at an estimated cost of $2 billion, holding 6 stories of parking, three helipads, nine elevators, and a ballroom of crystal chandeliers. Ironically, Antilla is located in the same city that houses Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world. Spread over an area of 175 hectares, it is home to over a million people, and affords only one toilet per 1,440 residents.


India is a country of many centuries. Our roads play host in equal measure to the Bentley and Ferrari, as they do to the lowly bullock cart and hand-rickshaws, still prominently used in many cities across the country.

India’s universities and placements boast of international standards, and the country is seen as an emerging new academic destination globally. Yet, India has one of the largest illiterate populations in the world, with the highest number of labourers under 14 years of age. A UNESCO report estimates that 72 million primary school children are not in school, with a staggering 12.6 million children engaged in hazardous occupations.

While millions starve in a country ranked second in the world for the number of children suffering from malnutrition, India also witnesses abject waste in abundance. Food is hoarded for price rise, until rot sets in, and is no longer fit for human consumption. And across the cities, marriage halls hold feasts, while beggars outside scavenge through the garbage, looking for another day’s sustenance.

Feminine divinity is omnipresent in India. Depictions of Sita, Radha, Durga, Laksmi and Kali range from mounds of mud, and wood carvings to paintings, bronze statues, and poetic verse. The goddess is the centre of sacred festivals, and cities adorn themselves to win her favour. Conversely, female foeticide in India has acquired almost genocidal proportions. Sex-selective abortion has grown into a Rs. 1000 crore industry, and India’s sex ratio is skewed to the point of 940 females for every 1000 males.

India is known for her love of food, and has variations in cuisine that far outnumber the states in the country. The explosion in restaurant culture varies from international fare, to traditional cooking that traces its roots back a hundred years. This segment of life is, like much of India, accessible only to a small margin, and the larger, poorer sections of the population find their comfort and sustenance in the unobtrusive chai stall. Found at every street corner, the sweet, warm brew is the source of energy and strength for the majority, as they get through another day in a hard life.

Cricket is the closest thing India has to a single, unifying experience. The children in slums share the same mad passion for the game as do the gray-haired gentlemen enjoying a match at the cricket clubs. The game lends itself to many forms, and gully cricket, in its most basic avatar, has been the initiation of many of India’s finest batsmen, who left the narrow lanes of their childhood behind, to play under the bright lights of the IPL, a professional cricket league whose brand value is now estimated at $3.6 billion.

India holds claim to 17% of the world’s population, and one-third of the world’s poor. The World Bank estimates that 41% of Indians live below the poverty line, in situations of abject scarcity. While the majority of us reading this have seen birthday celebrations, and gifts from family and friends, many in India are born on the streets, without medical help or sanitation. They are not celebrated; instead their births are a burden, and their lives are hardship, ignored by most, on the pavements of India.

Dhobi ghats, ubiquitous to India, are where the city’s laundry traditionally gets done. Clothes are handwashed by the hundreds, and hung on clotheslines, to dry under the sun. Against this, the concept of the laundromat is slowly finding its feet in the country. Self-service laundry facilities offer coin-operated washing and drying machines to do your clothes. However, the high cost of the laundromat means that it will be some time before the dhobis are ousted from their position at the top of the laundry pile.

India’s telecommunication industry is the fastest growing in the world, and among the most progressive telecom markets. With 851.70 million mobile phone subscribers and a network second only to China, India has truly embraced technology. Parallel to this, India also has the most widely distributed postal system in the world, with 155,333 post offices across the country. India also has the highest post office in the world in Hikkim, Himachal Pradesh at a height of 15,500 feet (postal code – 172114).

India’s rapid economic growth in the last 2 decades has made air travel accessible to the ordinary Indian. The entry of several low-cost domestic airlines has enabled the connectivity of more than 80 cities across India, and the Mumbai-Delhi air corridor is ranked among the busiest routes in the world. India’s rail network, far more extensive, covers a distance of 64,015 km, and is said to be the 4th largest network in the world, carrying 10 billion passengers annually. The Mumbai Suburban Railway alone constitutes more than half of the total daily passenger capacity of the Indian Railways.

The National Commission for Women describes water as the most commercial product of the 21st century. Growing populations and changing lifestyles have led to an increased demand for fresh water; while agricultural, industrial and domestic sectors push the water tables deeper underground. In many villages, women have to walk distances of 2.5 to 5 km to fetch water. This time spent in fetching this water is equivalent to 150 million women days, and translates into a loss of 1000 crore per year. In callous contrast, water-themed parks have been spreading across the country, with viral popularity. Almost blind to the way the other half lives, the parks are always packed, as young and old alike, revel in the thrill of a water fight.

India is fast emerging a key player in the global arena of biotechnology. In a knowledge-intensive, research-driven sector, India has the skills and facilities to far surpass the best in the industry. Meanwhile, the UN estimates that four children die every minute in India, from tragically preventable illnesses, with nearly 1000 children dying every day from diarrhea alone.

India’s vision of becoming a world leader in nuclear power technology, with ambitions to supply 25% of the nation’s electricity through nuclear plants by 2050, falls in sharp contrast to the whopping 35% of population that live without access to electricity today.

India, the world’s spiritual epicentre, sees a steady river of devotees seeking divine salvation, flow through its holy cities nearly every month of the year. They seek cleansing in her ashrams and temples, in meditation and communal living. Yet, India’s godmen have been mired in controversy and corruption, and the community’s repute has been stained by the murky legacy of its villains.

Courtesy : Yahoo


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