Glimpses of Contemporary India


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Professor Sunita Bose
Department of Sociology and Asian Studies
Project Director, Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad

(Lecture notes available in downloaded PowerPoint presentation.)

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  • Kolkata is one of the megacities of India. This is a thoroughfare by a residential neighborhood in South Kolkata in the afternoon. Notice the cars – the taxi behind the bus in the foreground is an ambassador, a car that is Indian made. The design has not been changed in decades.
  • Still in South Kolkata – continuation of the same road
  • A rickshaw is a great way to get around short distances. Rickshaws have limited range and are not allowed to go beyond a certain distance, so most people use them to get around their neighborhood.
  • Vendors set up semi permanent stalls all over the city. Generally they take over a portion of the sidewalk to set up their business. Once a spot has been appropriated by a vendor, no one else is allowed to take that spot, even though they are not usually paying anything for it.
  • Flower sellers are common in all neighborhoods. Some of the flowers are for worship while the other are for decoration.
  • You can find everything on the streets of Kolkata, from clothes to books to food to even shoe repair.
  • This is a local bazaar. Sunday is a big grocery shopping day for people. In Kolkata, traditionally it is men who have to do the grocery shopping in the morning. Once they bring everything home, the women put things away and start preparations for cooking.
  • Durga puja (worship) is the most important of Bengali religious occasions. There are four days of festivities, presents are exchanged, and there is a general air of celebration during this time in fall (usually in October). The image is of Durga in the middle on her vehicle (a lion) about to gain victory in a battle against asura (a demon). Her four children (all gods and goddesses) are shown on either side of her.
  • A traditional open air mall in Kolkata.
  • The Ganges (or Ganga as it is known in India) is considered a holy river. Pilgrims bathe in its waters and the water is used during worship. Some parts of it are still quite pristine but most of it has now become very polluted.
  • Varansi is a major pilgrimage site for Hindus. The ghats (by the Ganga) are teeming with people, worshipping, bathing. Some ghats are also set aside for funeral pyres (pictures are forbidden at those ghats).
  • The evening prayer with lamps is called arati. Here, the priests are worshipping mother Ganga along with some other deities.
  • All parts of the banana plant are consumed in India. The leaves are used as disposable plates (much better than paper plates for the environment), the stem is used as a vegetable and of course, both ripe and green bananas are eaten as well.
  • The major staple food in India is rice. Women do much of the transplanting which has to be done by hand standing in ankle deep water.
  • Muslim woman embroidering sari. Many women do piecework for pay. Kachha houses (non permanent houses)
  • These are semi-permanent houses. The roofs need to be replaced frequently but the rest of the structure is solidly built of bricks and mortar
  • Puffed rice is a snack that is made from rice. The closest you would come to it here would be rice crispies.
  • Usually all family members work at making and getting the puffed rice ready for sale.
  • A village housewife. Notice the clay that the house is made of.
  • Many households in India, specially in rural India, are joint families with several generations living together.
  • NGO’s often work in villages to help with gender empowerment projects. In this village, the women were organized into teams and were receiving training for producing goods for sale. Under the leadership of some of the women, the families were also doing organic farming.
  • This is a Government primary school for children in the village. The children mostly come from poor families that would not be able to pay for schooling. Public (government) schools also provide free mid-day meals for all students
  • boys around a classroom table discussing the best growing medium for seeds.  The students learn in groups and make presentations. Bengali medium schools are usually much less expensive than English medium schools. The students here have to utilize common resources to learn science.
  • Another science experiment with a string and a balloon
  • Botany class – learning to identify vegetation
  • Mumbai is the financial capital of India.
  • Marine Drive in Mumbai is a beautiful drive along the ocean. Housing in Mumbai, but particularly along this street, are very, very expensive (comparable to NYC).
  • A view of rooftops in a crowded neighborhood. Most people do not use washers and dryers. It is common to see clothes drying on roofs like this.
  • Every neighborhood, all over India, has delicious street food.
  • Foreign tourists generally stay away from street food, but not our group.
  • If you ’re going to eat street food in India, it’s best to eat something that can be peeled and washed.
  • Monkeys are quite common in parts of India, specially if there is some tree cover combined with unwary tourists.
  • Stray dogs are common also, although most are not as well fed and happy as this one.
  • You have to escape to the countryside to see some greenery.
  • Glimpses of Contemporary India

    1. 1. Glimpses of Contemporary India   Professor Sunita Bose SUNY New Paltz New Paltz, NY Department of Sociology and Asian Studies Project Director, Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad
    2. 2. Basic Information <ul><li>Area: 3,287,240 Sq km </li></ul><ul><li>Population: 1,028,737,436 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Males 532,223,090 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Females 496,514,346 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  State with Highest Population </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Uttar Pradesh 166,197,921 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  State with Lowest Population </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sikkim 540,851 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  UT with Highest Population </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Delhi 13,850,507 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  District with Highest Population </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Medinipur (West Bengal) 9,610,788  </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    3. 3. Demographic information <ul><li>Rural - Urban Distribution </li></ul><ul><li>Rural 742,490,639 72.2% </li></ul><ul><li>Urban 286,119,689 27.8% </li></ul><ul><li>Number of Literates & Literacy Rate   </li></ul><ul><li>Males 336,533,716 75.3% </li></ul><ul><li>Females 224,154,081 53.7% </li></ul><ul><li>Total 560,687,797 64.8% </li></ul><ul><li>Urban 198,816,980 79.9% </li></ul><ul><li>Rural 361,870,817 58.7% </li></ul>
    4. 4. Kolkata
    5. 5. Gariahat Road
    6. 6. rickshaw
    7. 7. Street vendor
    8. 9. Cobbler
    9. 10. Market
    10. 11. Hinduism: Durga puja
    11. 12. Devi (Great Goddess): Main Features <ul><li>Consort of Shiva </li></ul><ul><li>Different names with different characters </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Uma, Parvati (peaceful) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Durga, Kali (fierce) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Durga: Great warrior killing buffalo demon (mahisha) </li></ul><ul><li>Vehicle: Lion </li></ul>
    12. 13. Shiva : Main Features <ul><li>Great Ascetic resides at Himalaya </li></ul><ul><li>Consort: Uma, Kali, Durga </li></ul><ul><li>Vehicle: Cow (Nandi) </li></ul><ul><li>Represented as a set of male and female genitals (linga and yoni) </li></ul>
    13. 14. Hinduism: Vishnu: Main Features <ul><li>Consort: Lakshmi </li></ul><ul><li>Four Arms with weapons </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Wheel (chakra) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conch Shell (Shanka) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rod (Gada) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lotus (padma) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Vehicle (vahana): Garuda </li></ul>
    14. 15. Dakshinapan mall
    15. 16. By the Ganges
    16. 17. Varanasi
    17. 18. Varanasi
    18. 19. Varanasi: Evening prayers
    19. 20. Banana plant
    20. 21. paddy
    21. 22. Rural Life
    22. 23. Semi pucca houses
    23. 24. Tapping Date Tree
    24. 25. Village chores
    25. 26. Making puffed rice
    26. 28. Mistress of the household
    27. 29. Kitchen
    28. 30. Generations of women
    29. 31. Rural Gender Empowerment Project
    30. 32. Village school
    31. 33. City School (Bengali Medium)
    32. 36. Mumbai
    33. 39. Street food
    34. 40. More Street Food
    35. 41. Cucumber vendor