The Little Town That Time Forgot
Monday, June 11th, 2012

David Stairs Auroville’s “symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection,” the Matrimandir Pondicherry, former French colony of India, has an interesting history. Like the former Portugese colony at Goa, now one of the most chic destinations in India, Pondicherry was not a part of British India and, therefore, did not become part […]

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

David Stairs The central idea of old Indian civilization, or Indo-Aryan culture, was that of, dharma, which was something much more than religion or creed: it was a conception of obligations, of the discharge of one’s duties to oneself and to others. —Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India Woman on a Pondicherry street Each morning […]

Day Market/Night Market
Thursday, May 31st, 2012

David Stairs My Mother used to shop at five different places, less out of vendor loyalty, which disappeared in America in the ’60’s, than to get the best price. Most of her retailers had grown to large conglomerates; gone were the independent grocers, butchers, and pharmacists of the mid-century. Flowershop at night, Mallesvaram

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

David Stairs “If the machinery craze grows in our country, it will become an unhappy land. It may be considered a heresy, but I am bound to say that it were better for us to send money to Manchester and to use flimsy Manchester cloth than to multiply mills in India.” —Mohandas Gandhi, Hind Swaraj […]

All Hail the Autorickshaw!
Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

David Stairs Motorcycles are the primary means of personal transportation in Bangalore. Every intersection is clogged with dozens of bikes and scooters impatiently waiting to break away when the light turns green, and when it does… off they roar like a swarm of angry hornets!

Jugaad Formalism
Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

David Stairs “The search for form demands an investigation into values and qualities that Indians hold important to a good life.” —Charles and Ray Eames, The India Report, 1958

Visit to a Coir Mill
Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

David Stairs Febin standing by a pile of rope I just returned from a week in Kerala. On Monday morning April 2nd I was passing through Alleppey when I noticed a coir mill, or rope-making factory. Remembering that this was a rope-making region, I asked our driver Febin if we could stop at a mill. […]

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

David Stairs “May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in […]

Death in India
Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

David Stairs Gone, but not forgotten (image courtesy of Deepa Mohan) Although the idea of reincarnation may have arisen independently in several places, India is justly famous as the land that most fully embraced the concept. All of the major Indian religious traditions embrace some form of the idea. In Hinduism, the cycle of transmigration […]

Lorry Land
Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

David Stairs I thought I knew trucks. After all, growing up in America, land of monster 56′ long behemoths, every boy wants to be a truck driver at some point. I vividly remember a trip along Interstate 80, the most intense truck route in the U.S., when there were so many trucks and seemingly only […]

The Unbearable Messiness of Commons
Monday, March 19th, 2012

Sumandro “Commons are forms of direct access to social wealth; access that is not mediated by competitive market relations.” – Massimo De Angelis, The New Commons in Practice: Strategy, Process and Alternatives, Development, 2005, 48(2), 48-52 Men gathering cattle fodder, Yelahanka In the interview with The Ugly Indian published previously here, the explanation of the […]

540 rupees = $11.00
Sunday, March 11th, 2012

David Stairs I thought it was malaria. I had all the symptoms: headache, chills, fatigue, fever, sweats, dry cough. My first three weeks in country I’d been living near a swamp, and the incubation period seemed right. No matter that Bangalore is not in a malarious zone, my son was alarmed. We’d lived in Africa […]

Brushin’ Up B’galore
Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

David Stairs “Indians do not have the same civic sense as, say, Scandinavians. The boundary of the space you keep clean is marked at the end of the space you call your own.” —from Maximum City by Suketu Mehta The Commons are a topic of concern to contemporary Indians. Whether talking about road safety or […]

Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?
Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

David Stairs Anantapura Road Demarcating property lines, that most European activity, has taken over the world. When I was a child in the ’50s, the adjoining backyards of my neighborhood were open. I remember running with my friends through the neighborhood like wild horses, viewing the world from an interior point of view unimaginable from […]

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

David Stairs Cement trucks parked along Doddaballapur Road Every environment has its signature building material. In Africa, rammed earth and thatch were, for centuries, the default until they gave way to bricks and mortar. I’ve always thought of North America as the wood construction capital of the universe, due to its wealth of forests. The […]

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

David Stairs Editor’s Note: With this posting we launch our Indian Journal category of D-A-P India. For over thirty years, ever since seeing Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy in the 70’s, I’ve dreamed of being here. As is often the case, I made it elsewhere first, to Africa, which was a good buffer. Uganda has many […]