Posts made in November, 2010

Hmm, maybe I am auto-tweeting even while off Twitter? Sorry!

Posted by on 25 Nov, 2010 in Lifenotes | 0 comments

As you know, I'm off Facebook and Twitter this month. But I'm still blogging. One of my blogs, posterous, has this handy feature where it automatically shares post links across my social networks. 

But it's not supposed to do it automatically. However, I'm pretty sure, anecdotally, that it did retweet this post.

So I edited the settings and I thought I'd fixed it. But I just did some more blogging today and yesterday, and judging by the number of viewers Posterous reports on this post, I think I may be still doing so. I don't want to go on Facebook or Twitter to check (strictly no access!) so I thought I'd abuse this apparent defect to make sure anyone following my Facebook or Twitter understands that I am not actually using those services this month, it's just the wiring of the tubes!
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Posted by on 25 Nov, 2010 in Travel Bites, Writers' Corner | 3 comments


As the morning sun seeps in, I look out over the city. From the 15th floor of Le Meridien Ahmedabad, I see a vast slum below – ramshackle tin huts strewn with tires and tarpaulins, criss-crossed by an irregular grid of dusty lanes, where the impoverished residents wile away the long hot days. Three goats trot aimlessly across an open wasteland between the shacks and the river. At the river’s edge, a man squats, tissue paper in hand, and does his business over the edge of the steel-fortified riverbank.

Glancing back around my hotel room, I notice the dazzling silver platter where three rosy apples sit, perfectly reflected in the sunlight. Below the 24-inch HDTV, my drawer is still ajar. Each pair of freshly laundered socks is neatly folded in a cardboard sleeve, proudly bearing the hotel insignia.

I feel a sudden contempt for those who built this palace of Western opulence right next to a shanty town. Then a pang of guilt for enjoying the provided creature comforts like the king-size bed and the rooftop pool. But this initial culture shock subsides, and as the week progresses we discover another side to India. Saturday comes – our first day off – and we hire a car (driver included). We visit the spectacular Shaking Minarets, where devout worshippers remove their sandals and wash their feet in special troughs before entering the Mosque.

The many temples are islands of calm in a city of chaos. At Teen Darwala, a street market is in full swing. A swarm of shoppers engulf the road and we slow to a crawl. A woman in a bright green and pink sari walks alongside us, balancing an oversized bag of rice on her head. From a rickety trestle table, a moustachioed man sells pulses, spices and dried fish in assorted plastic tubs. Two young men in bold yellow and blue shirts cross in front of us, chatting. One has his arm draped over the other’s shoulder, an unfamiliar sight yet clearly platonic. A wizened grandmother leans out of her balcony overhead, hanging vibrant red, orange and purple clothes on a washing line. A gust of air delivers a tapestry of smells – exotic spices and the enticing aroma of barbecued meat, mixed with diesel fumes, human sweat and a faint odour of bad drains.

As we leave the centre, the crowds dissipate and vehicles take over. Tiny green and yellow motor-taxis rev past rainbow-painted trucks, darting like wasps from lane to lane. Horns beep all around us, short sharp bursts and chirps that say simply “I’m here,” not “Get out of my way.” Family-owned shops with hand-painted signs are replaced by four-storey office blocks with plastic facades of primary colours, like the handiwork of a child with a new Lego set. An astonishing array of vehicles passes by, from bicycle-powered flour trucks to donkey-pulled wooden carts. Most common is the family motorbike – father in front wearing the helmet, wife in the middle, sari flowing in the wind, and two children hanging on at the rear, grinning.

We come to a standstill on an old concrete bridge. A young girl of eight or nine stands by the roadside, naked but for a pair of red shorts, with a pail of water beside her. As I watch, she dips a shirt into the pail, wrings it out and lays it on the railing to dry. I am transfixed – but my lack of reaction disturbs me. Shouldn’t I be appalled at her destitution?

It’s not until a couple of days later that I understand. She wasn’t starving or malnourished.  She wasn’t begging. She hadn’t given up on life. She was smiling and completely at ease. For her, it was routine. I realize that in India, people make the best of what they have – no obsessing over material wealth. Poverty and happiness, hand in hand.

That night, I look out from my hotel window with new eyes. I see that the “slum” below is anything but. The populace sit outside their homes on plastic chairs and sacks of rice, illuminated by bare bulbs strung like fairy lights between the rooftops and the overhanging trees. A fire crackles as they cook dinner. I can just make out the chatter of conversations and shrieks of delight from children at play.

 I am a victim of my own prejudice. This is not a slum as I’d imagined it from African famine appeals and geography textbooks. These proud Indians are well-dressed, happy families with a roof above their heads. I’d imagined the streets of India piled with rubbish, people stricken with disease. Instead I find them filled with vibrant colours and smiling faces. As the sun sets, my eyes are opened.

Author’s Note: This was the second piece of writing from my non-fiction course. The assignment here was to write about a defining or pivotal moment in your life and write about it. At first I was a little stumped, the only pivotal moments I could think of were too personal to share – then I remembered how India had given me a totally new perspective on poverty – as well as encouraging me to question my prejudices. I’ve written about India before, so the challenge here was how to do justice to all those experiences in under 800 words. More on what I learnt in the comments.


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Why I write

Posted by on 24 Nov, 2010 in Writers' Corner | 1 comment



View this on Posterous

Here is the first of several pieces of writing I have produced recently. The assignment was fairly simple, just to write down what draws you to writing and what you hope to get out of the course. It wasn’t too hard, and the word count felt about right – but it was a useful exercise to lay out why I write. Writing is something I have been increasingly drawn too over the last year and I thought this piece might be interesting to share to add context to my blogging.


I’ll add some comments to this and each of the pieces I publish regarding my reflections on it.
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A selection of my writing

Posted by on 24 Nov, 2010 in Writers' Corner | 0 comments



As a follower of this blog (if indeed there are any) you might have noticed I haven’t written here much lately. And I haven’t written much for my other written labour of love Human 2.0 either. So what have I been doing – especially while I’m off social networks? Surely that would have given me more free time? Well I had hoped to write more here – but much of my time has been taken up by a different sort of writing – assignments for the Non-Fiction writing workshop I have been doing at Thomas More Institute. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. The assignments have challenged me as a writer in new ways and have undoubtedly improved my writing. So I thought I’d publish a few of the things I’ve written here, along with some brief thoughts and comments on what I learnt from them.


I’ll use this post as a header post and update this post to add links to the pieces as I publish them.


(Image CC by Tom Swift)

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On the decline of language…

Posted by on 12 Nov, 2010 in My Stream | 0 comments


An insightful Friday afternoon wordplay…

Credits to Ronnie Bruce for the animation and Taylor Mali for the poem.

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