Off Season Tourist - India Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta
Two weeks in India, 2003 Notes from the Off Season Tourist
Calcutta Headlines
Intresting news items from Calcutta newspapers.

Nuclear Costs
Although this is not actually a news headline, it was a non-fiction eye opener. Gosh's 1999 book examines the nuclear strategies of India and Pakistan and at one point looks at the Sachian glacier which was not originally on the 1948 Line of Control between the two countries because it served no strategic purpose.

In the 80's mountaineers started to develop maps and plan expeditions to the high Karakorams. They came through Pakistan to do so and so concerns of 'cartographic aggression' were made by India and a massive development of military posts was begun, by both sides.

Almost noone on this front line is injured through gunfire but from the enemy of the terrain and temperatures below 40 C. About 1,000 men per year (about the size of an infrantry batallion) are thus injured.

The basic equipment for each soldier is about 60,000 Rupees which, in 1999, was the average Indian can expect to earn in one year. Supposedly one piece of flat bread, which should be about 5 rupees max., can be calculated as 450 rupees on the glacier - this is the country's average monthly wage!

Finally, the cost of defence in this tiny glacier of no strategic value is equivalent to the entire cost of India and Pakistan's nuclear programmes combined. One tenth of the country's entire defence budget goes to this one area.

As a closing thought re: nuclear strategy. Should a nuclear war occur, the fallout would be absorbed into the snows of the Himalaya which provides the natural water sources for rivers almost all of South East Asia. The range of impact would be devastating far beyond the points of impact.
27th of July, 2003 — Source: "Countdown" Non-fiction book by Amitav Ghosh

Too many people for the land
We learned that Kolkatta has about 13 million people in a 1380 sq. km. area. Couldn't find on the web how big New York, with just under 9 million people, is in geographical size, but it doesn't feel like it is much bigger. The one thing that is not in question is the fact that there is not enough green land per person in Kolkata. Compared to an international standard of 7 acres per 1,000 residents Kolkata has only 0.45 acres of open land for every thousand residents. About 50% of all of the city's grassland is located in the Maidan (a park in the heart of the city where noone lives) and between 400 and 500,000 residents are street dwellers.
15th of July, 2003 — Source: The Telegraph Online

Wife Burning
In just one month, there were three cases of wives 'committing suicide' by burning themselves alive. Each article begins with the declaration that this is a suicide, but ends with the fact that husbands, brothers in law or parents in law are in custody. It used to be legal for a husband to kill his wife if he needed to take another and bring in more dowry money, or get more land. Although the practice is certainly not legal, the fact that marriage does still bring material wealth to the husband is obviously a cause for concern. In one of the three cases listed, one man had a previous wife who had disappeared. In another of the three, the family had entirely wiped clean the crime scene so that there was no indication that a fire ever took place in the kitchen. In the last case, a woman was supposed to have hacked her female children to death and then self-immolated.12th of July, 2003
11th of July, 2003 — Source: The Times of India

Poly bag ban
There had been some discussion and there has been a huge campaign in the city to ban polythene bags. Finally the city voted to ban small 20 micron polythene bags in its endeavor to remove the problematic plastic. In a country where monsoon drainage is vital and polythene has a history of clogging drains this is held to be an important move. This does also reveal one aspect of life here that had not been considered before. Rubbish is not put out in polythene bags here. Instead is it dumped raw into city bins, the rotting contents of which are then transferred by hand onto carts where they are then thrown into the back of truly awful smelling garbage trucks. Eventually people will probably be fined for using them.
23rd of June, 2003 — Source: The Telegraph

Girl Marries Dog!
Okay, so this doesn't sound any different from the fake headlines or the extreme tabloid papers that we all try to read at the checkout counters of the supermarket. Well, Kolkata does not have supermarkets and the newspaper headline is not a tabloid one. Only 60km outside of Kolkata, following tribal beliefs that, when a child's first teeth come through in the top of the mouth that is a bad omen, the only way to ward off danger is for someone to marry a dog. In this situation a 9 year old girl was chosen to protect the village.
21st of June, 2003 — Source: The Times of India

Selling a child
In 1985 a groundbreaking story of a family that sold their daughter for 40 Rps. to buy food for the remaining family not only made headlines, but also had politicians making promises to the family and other like them. Almost two decades later the situation remains unchanged. The family is in greater debt than ever and even the man who purchased the girl is in horrendous debt also.
21st of June, 2003 — Source: Economic Times

STDs
When we first saw the STD signs all over the country, were were not quite sure what they were for; we knew that these were not shops for sexually transmitted diseases. It turns out that these are telephone booths. When you wish to make a call you can go to a booth, which is quite literally a room in which you sit and make a phone call. However, in the paper today it was reported that the other STD acronym may not be too far off. For any where from Rps. 50 to Rps. 150 per hour ($1 to $3) it has been discovered that people rent the booths for sex.
20th of June, 2003 — Source: The Times of India

Classified salespitch
The classified don't just let you sell things, but if you post an add then you can get a cassette tape of undefined music. I can here those ads writing themselves.
18th of June, 2003 — Source: The Times of India

Liquidation sale
There is nothing strange in liquidation sales, but it does seem odd when they are for villages! Lands with teak trees, Barren Lands, lands with 1736 coconut trees, lands with 103 mango trees and 3 villages.
15th of June, 2003 — Source: Economic Times

Looking overseas
An article that seemed pretty straightforward had an odd ending. It started by criticising the city for not doing a better job of keeping things clean. the city is falling into disrepair. The solution, in the journalist's opinon is to have more corporations shell out money for the development of brand name parks. There were others who had restored monumnets and a few who are sponsoring the installation of computerised traffic lights (for the city has less than 40). This all seemed okay until the end quote about railway stations, "Look at stations abroad, where people can browse books, sit at coffee shops, or simply stroll around." Until I went to Howrah station I had no idea what to expect. Hundred of people sitting on the dirty floor and with only a few badly stocked stalls in which to buy snacks and water.
14th of June, 2003 — Source: The Times of India

The Puhuchka wallah
I just loved the name on this one. There is a section in the newspaper dedicated to reminding people about all the things that are bad for your health or are not working well in the city. I had just been walking the streets and had seen these puhuchka wallahs, although I knew not their names. They sat in front of two huge metal pots covered with cloth. Their hands held under the cloth. This article just wanted to remind people that the puhuchka wallah's practice of dipping his hand in the tamarind water he sells is unhealthy!
13th of June, 2003 — Source: The Times of India

Don't fire anyone
This is a communist state and there is a social norm here that people should be employed even if there is not enough work to distribute among all of those who need to work. There was a case of 3 men who left their work in a tea planation for three days. The manager fired them and when they did return, their friends and coworkers agitated to have them reinstated. Upon his bicycle journey home, this very low level manager was attacked by the three men and five friends with machetes. They hacked him to death. Strangely, this was the exact plot of a Bruce Lee movie that we just watched the other day (only it was an ice factory not a tea plantation.
13th of June, 2003 — Source: The Times of India

Indian English
I love alot of the the phrases that appear slightly outdated in journalism here. For instance, "Guni Duby, alias Nak Kant, a local rowdy, walked up to [a businessman], whipped out a gun and fired." I love that they give the immediate drama of the situation and make no indication as to whether the known assailant is in custody or is even being looked for!
12th of June, 2003 — Source: The Times of India

Very physical self defence
There were twelve dacoits (members of a gang of armed robbers) that raided a home and the family was there at the time of the raid. They refused to give the theives any support and eventually the husband and his two brothers attacked the thieves with sickles. I had thought this would be a rural article, but it was the house of a very wealthy businessman. I wonder why they had sickles lying around the home?
12th of June, 2003 — Source: The Times of India

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