Look out, it’s an immigrant and his child!

meanddad_colorado

Immigrant families make this country better despite the every effort of our racist, mendacious, power/wealth/other-grabbing Dirtbag Clown-in-Chief. Happy Father’s Day.

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Dear @Facebook: Eff your faux concern for the world

Hey Zuckerberg et al.:

Today, you asked* me whether I agree or disagree with the statement “Facebook is good for the world.”

I checked the box for disagree.

Then you asked me for that ultimate neoliberalcustomerservice good — “feedback.”

Here you go:

Maybe once upon a time, you** were good for the world. Heavy maybe. But quickly you turned my identity, social connections and friendships into commodities. And you’ve worked hard to embed yourself in social life so thoroughly that I struggle to cut you off from me (note: it’s not the other way around). And you’ve made a religion of an apolitical, careless theory of rampant interconnection via digital “sharing” (shot through with bro-ish techno-optimism, #peakneoliberalism). And your creed has managed to threaten actual social relations, politics (e.g. democracy from the U.S. to India), communities (especially the marginalized) and the very planet we live on.

Huzzah, Facebook. Well effing done.


*Your survey methods are shit.
**I can distinguish between good people who work for Facebook and you as a networked, Pinocchio-ish “thing” that adheres to an ideology and behaves (or wants to) like much more than just a digital puppet.

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Five years ago

drinkdeep

We drank gangajal, walked seven times around a ritual fire and promised, among other things, to follow each other forever.

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I think about lineage this time every year

A sharp dressed family

A sharp dressed family

It’s been 15 years to the day since my father died. His father (far left above) outlived him by a few years; Dadiji, his mother (second from the left), by nearly a decade.

Mom (holding me), Anna (held by Dad) and I continue our lives, but everything changed. His death was a timeline break for us all.

Miss you, Dad. And your dapper suits.

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Going to the lakeside ’cause we’re gonna get married

walkingup

If you’re sneaky, you don’t need permission to use one of the best venues in town

It’s been four years since our flashmob wedding at the lake in St. Louis’ Forest Park. Bapre how lucky I was that she said yes.

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Cycling isn’t free; we’ve got to pay for it.

Sweaty riding on a stationary trainer

Sweaty riding on a stationary trainer

Yesterday evening I set up my bicycle on a stationary trainer outside the most popular pizza restaurant in Berkeley. The line always stretches out the door in the evenings, so it offered an opportunity pedal and sweat (lots of sweating) and talk to people about cycling and explain why I’m riding 320 miles in June to raise money for cycling advocacy. I’m slowly learning the importance of creative fundraising, so that was pretty easy math: good pizza + quick-moving but never-ending line = captive audience.

So I set the trainer resistance to roughly the equivalent of riding up a three-percent grade and just pedaled. I barely got off the bike for 2 hours and 43 minutes. As I said, lots of sweating.

All the while, hundreds — literally — of people waited in line patiently for their pizza and most of them read my sign about how giving money would make cycling easier for them and for all. If someone really stared, then I’d engage them in more conversation. I took brief breaks when kids (or one man) wanted to pedal my bike for a bit.

And I raised $52.

I’m thankful for the generosity of strangers, but I of course overheard some dismissive comments. For example, one young man remarked to a friend, “I don’t know why he thinks I would give to that. Like, why should I pay money for something that’s free?”

I wasn’t there to argue so I let that one go; but it’s worth a bit of discussion, because, well, cycling is not free.

First, and most obviously, cycling infrastructure requires significant funds to pay for planners, architects, engineers, constructors, etc. plus the actual materials. No one thinks that road (re)construction or parking garages are free; neither are lanes, trails, bike racks, bus mounts and all manner of other facilities for cycling. Second, behind all of that material development of cycling as transportation is another expensive process — the education, advocacy, debate and discourse that create cycling as a viable, safe, equitable and sustainable form of mobility. That’s the cost of the work done by NGOs like Bike East Bay, for which I’m raising money.

Of course, that all seems reasonably obvious. But the fact that cycling development does cost money and yet a fair number of people treat it as essentially free is problematic for a few reasons.

First, and this is most obvious, it means that cycling infrastructure will rarely ever been provisioned privately. This stems from cycling infrastructure’s role as what social scientists would call a public good. It’s difficult to exclude or privatize cycling infrastructure (though certainly not impossible) and there is not a clear consumption that takes away from someone else’s consumption. In other words, the “market” will almost always undervalue it precisely because it profiteering is difficult. In property regime theory, that guy on the sidewalk — the one who said he wouldn’t pay for cycling — becomes a “free-rider.”

A second problem compounds with the first, because cycling as a whole — not just material infrastructure like lanes or racks — constitutes a public good. That’s because there are tremendous spillover effects of as more people cycle. In short, society as a whole benefits from cyclists. Cycling improves individual health, reducing burdens on a stretched healthcare system. Cycling also improves public health — primarily through a lack of pollution-based transportation — so that air we all breath is improved. Cycling of course reduces climate change causing emissions — burn fat not fuel! — which will otherwise have cascading detrimental effects on ecological, social, economic and political systems. Cycling also can improve communities by literally increasing the number of eyes on the street moving at speeds slower than the auto-transit car; cyclists are more able to notice when something is “wrong” from a pothole to a home invasion. Cycling is actually fun and can serve as a critical if overlooked source of individual and social happiness, through activity, parks, adventures, etc. Cycling often benefits conservation and preservation in that trails and parks tend to provide additional motivations and protections for green spaces. Cycling benefits also multiply more-than-linearly — i.e. they snowball — as ridership increases, because the more people that ride, the easier it is for others to ride.

A third problem exists in the social inequity that arises when cycling as treated as free. Of course, it is not and so often more affluent people, groups and communities will inevitably find ways to pay for cycling; they may have more political pull and will draw disproportionately more from limited government funds. They may also be able to contribute to private initiatives in their immediate area. Cycling is sometimes intertwined with gentrification as new developments treats cycling infrastructure, active transport and other new urbanisms as luxuries that attract premiums. In short, poor and political marginalized neighborhoods are often less cycling-friendly precisely because they have less ability to pay or advocate for this thing that people treat as free even when they can see it isn’t.

Finally, because the “market” is unlikely to fully value all these benefits of cycling and because we live in an era of government defunding and retreat — a political project of the free-marketers — the development of cycling culture and cycling as acceptable mobility is held back in ways the chief “competitor” to cycling wasn’t. Consider that the automobile became widespread amid government spending projects over decades such as the unfurling of the interstate system and suburban development models, aided by governments; even today massive amounts of federal infrastructure dollars go to projects that benefit drivers to the exclusion of others. Cheap fuel is an official and historical government policy. Car manufacturers are treated as too big to fail. But cycling is trying to come into its own precisely at a time the government is pushed by political ideologues to not spend on other public goods, Parks and public lands are under assault; sustainability and climate change mitigation are black listed topics; research on spatial inequity is actually something the government is trying to disallow. Simply put, cycling has a steep hill to climb.

So while it’s a critical and long-term political project to grab back the reins of government and refocus taxing and spending priorities on projects and programs that can serve so many, in the meantime civil society is desperately needed to fill gaps and fight for all the good that cycling can provide.

And that’s why I’m raising money for Bike East Bay and the cause of bicycling and sustainability. Because, no, in truth, the benefits of cycling are not at all free. They MUST be paid for, by us all.

To support me in this, click here.

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I lean on the shoulders of women

I lean on the shoulders of women. And, yes, as a man in a White patriarchy too often I stand on the shoulders of women. That must be shouted (or blogged) at minimum. More to the point, that must be fought now and for all time to come.

I say this today, because it’s International Women’s Day. This day has meaning and history rooted in socialism and a fight against capitalism; this day is a reminder of the contributions and power of women. Unfortunately, it also gets washed over in international institutional liberalism — as though the U.N. celebrating a day for women (or refugees or water or parrots) is at all sufficient to make deep structural change to a patriarchic capitalist world system that systematically devalues women (and refugees and water and parrots).

In the contemporary conjuncture globally and locally with the rise of alt-right, alt-fact, White Male, Pro-West, fascist (and fascist allied) Trumpian politics, International Women’s Day has particular import as women globally have called for a strike. And that should be a big fucking deal. For more on why, check this.

(In my current home of Berkeley amid my radical and feminist and Marxist and non-categorizable geographer circle, a women’s strike of course resonates. I’ve certainly been party to discussions about the meaning of the strike, what is the best way to observe its spirit, what good it will do, logics, modes, justifications, etc. That there is a strike and that it may have some meaning for some is not in question. I don’t know if that’s the case elsewhere. I suspect that calls for a strike will reverberate less or may be heard less in places where one is, for example, further removed from the Jacobin (read: self-critique of academia’s more than occasional echo chamber). That said, I grew up and worked quite far from academia for many years and I still have friends well outside my current academic bubble. I also suspect there will be some critical, awesome strikers in those places as well.)

In recognition of this — that women widely are hearing and responding to a call for a strike — I want to highlight, mostly for other men, the ways in which I, as a man, lean and stand on the shoulders of women.

Sure, I stand on the shoulders of men, too. But by and large, those men are recognized for it. They are often paid, and paid better than their female counterparts, for it. They are more likely to be heard and listened to. Less likely to be judged in myriad ways. Less likely to be frowned at or be told they’re being bossy or high strung or up tight. No one will ask if it’s their time of the month. People will make misogynist jokes and not worry if they might feel slighted. No one will try to grab their pussies. No one will dismiss them when someone tries to grab their pussy. Those men are less likely to be asked to labor without pay, to raise children, take on burdens, to cook or to clean, to be professional and domestic, to be told to look nice/look sexy/watch your weight/sit up straight, to always be everything/and. They are less likely to told be to play by the rules of another. In our world historical society, they — men — will be more respected and valued and that respect and value will spool upon itself. The world will remains built for them, men, me included.

To my critical, radical, feminist friends deserve more and yet are given less credit: I know this blog post — a stupid little vain blog post — changes very little. Maybe it allows me a few tears out of debt and love. But I have to add my voice some how. So this is a start. In that regard, I apologize if I’m mistaking or reducing or essentializing or otherwise poorly critiquing the patriarchy. I’m trying but I will always need your help, which is to say, I will still ask for your labor.

In recognition of the world historical rigging of the game — LISTEN, MEN! — I’m incompletely cataloguing the women who I have known personally who deserve some fucking credit. (This remains a fraught exercise as I’m going to forget plenty of folks in my scattered brain. And that forgetting is sign of patriarchy. See how insidious it is.)

To be clear, this isn’t some happy, warm, fuzzy, Mother’s Day, Hallmark card sentiment. This as an angry shout out to the women who in tangible ways and through close proximity have propped me up and supported me — a man — while being systematically devalued and challenged at every step of the damn journey, in ways that I never will be.

That includes my mother, Deborah Jadhav; my sister; Anna Jadhav Gimeson; my grandmothers, Mohini Jadhav and Helen Hopper; my godmother, Mary Rader; legions of aunts, mausis, chachis, fuas and mamis, both by blood and love.

That includes my teachers from way back but certainly the particularly encouraging and enthusiasm-coding high school teachers Linda Machroli, Barbara Fuson and Judith Rooney. And Ms. Crow, my chemistry teacher, whose first name I cannot now remember (see, I forget in part because I’m allowed to forget).

That includes my undergraduate journalism professors including Jennifer Follis and Nancy Benson and not the least one who took me under her wing even when I was just a high school upstart, Dana Ewell.

That includes my editors and senior journalists who gave me chance after chance, taught me ever more what it meant to ask questions of power and put words into sentences with meaning. Even as an intern: Peggy Bellows, Doreen Marchionni, Niki Dizon, Kathy Best, Judy Rakowsky. The big shots at my first job: Ellen Soeteber and Cynthia Todd, and a little later Pam Maples who broke the world of journalism open for me. And especially Jo Mannies who blazed a big giant trail through sports journalism and then political journalism when it was still only boys on the damn bus. Jo, especially, who gave me undue respect as wide-eyed “new media” punk on the campaign trail and then still would bake me zucchini bread without walnuts. Because of course being one of the best political reporters of your generation was never labor enough for Jo, who with such a loving heart, stepped into an old gendered role of den mother.

That includes American University professors, who gave me the respect owed a colleague and told me time and again that I could think (while also teaching me to think) — Judy Shapiro, Robin Broad, Rachel Robinson, Eve Bratman, Garrett Graddy, Karen Knee, Malini Ranganathan (in some kind of chrono-semester order with a little post grad school). And I won’t even start now with professors here at Berkeley, people with whom I read, with whom I have dinner, with whom I struggle to write or think fast enough to keep up.

That includes the legion of women friends and colleagues who have stood with me, argued with me, shut up so I could yammer, shut me up to drill insight into my brain, rode bikes, raised glasses, cried, hugged, protested, played ninja, gave silly nicknames and faced down life with me. Those who also have written and studied and analyzed and taught with me (also often teaching to me). Those who do so even now. Already have done today.

That includes my best friend, the love of my life, my female partner for life, Ishani Sinha.

The list could go on and on. And of course it doesn’t include the countless women who came before and those who are still here today, but who I don’t know personally, who I only read or read about or will never read or read about.

The list will go on and on. Into the future. For the rest of my life. Because I — like every man — will continue to lean and stand on the shoulders of women.

And I pray and will fight — today I will strike as well — so that they, the women I have known and still know, also might now and then lean and stand on mine.

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A storyteller chef and his Fiat, now at rest

My chauffeur

In 2002, I took a semester off from college to backpack in my father’s homeland, India. In the middle of a February night, I stumbled out of the Mumbai airport to be greeted by so many sights, sounds and smells of India — and Sam Uncle.

Samuel Sadashivrao Jadhav, 70, was my father’s immediately elder brother. He died 10 January 2017.

Born in October 1946, Sam Uncle worked as a traveling marketer and then manager for a paint company for a period spanning India’s post-independent, nearly autarkic decades through liberalization, globalization and the birth of neoliberal politics and economics on the subcontinent. He also attempted pre-medicine studies during the 1960s (we think) in the U.S. before returning to India to pursue work in business. He married a Goan Catholic woman and had one son, Alan Atul Jadhav, 33.

Uncle had a knack for stories, for salesmanship, for negotiating a deal and for putting up a fight. As family yarns often go, many tales were hazy, some details were fudged or perhaps even spun from whole cloth. Did Uncle really hide in the back of a car during his father’s military hunting trip and then shoot a tiger or leopard in self defense? Yet such stories were told with zest, laughter and maybe a pint or tumbler, and at the least a good meal.

Ahh, meals. Sam Uncle was also a family chef of sorts (palak dal, uthapam, poha, pav bhaji, drooldrooldrool). Even when he could afford a cook, he handled meals himself. Often simple yet still some of the best cooking I’ve encountered.

I grew up in the U.S. force-fed Indian food several nights a week when my friends had Hamburger Helper and Betty Crocker, and like most dumb kids I didn’t appreciate what I had. Sam Uncle’s cooking fixed a fair bit of that. He also reinforced Maratha snacking pride (hello, wada pav and bhel puri).

As I remember him, he also loved his car. Traveling for work, a “four-wheeler” in Indian parlance had been a perk of early business success and something of a status symbol, many years before such were commonplace among the middle class in India.

It was in an old fiat in 2002 that Uncle picked me up at the airport; I was enamored with that car, which I appreciated as a classic, even though it was probably more a rustbucket than chariot.

Almost immediately, we were on a harrowing road journey to Pune, where my dadaji and dadiji lived and where my father was born. This took us up through the low mountains at Lonavla (also place of history for our family) and back down to the plains where Pune sits as the once summer capital of the British Bombay Presidency.

Folks who remember the Mumbai-Pune route before today’s expressway will know this wasn’t exactly a trip you wanted to make in the dead of night. Ever-confident, Sam Uncle took it at speed, whipping around turns and weaving through a traffic of lorries, motorbikes, other cars and cattle carts. The road grades were steep, and even he admitted doubts halfway through the trip about whether his little Fiat could make it. I white-knuckled the whole way.

We eventually arrived safely, and that trip entered both Uncle’s and my archive of family stories. Above is a photo from the more relaxed daytime, return journey.

That three-month sojourn in 2002 remains seminal for me; it brought me closer to my father, my father’s family and a country that would become my own. (For example, Dad learned to e-mail so he could “explain” India to me on a daily, digital basis as I traveled.)

As I bombed about the country, I began to sense a life, people and history that, until then, had been cobbled together in my mind from figments of imagination, family lore, Encyclopedia Britannica, news clippings and hazy memories of a brief childhood visit (no Wikipedia or YouTube at that point).

But Dad would die in a car accident later that year, leaving me seemingly untethered to an India I had only just “discovered.”

samuncle

On a whim, I returned for backpacking — another semester off from school — in 2004. And I thankfully had Sam Uncle waiting for me. After the death of my father, he enabled my continued travels and (re)clamation of place and heritage (alongside mom who made the whole thing financially possible).

Uncle would again provide my base of operations when I visited for three weeks in 2008. And when moved to India more permanently in 2009 as a freelance journalist and teacher.

I don’t know if I would have made my “Desi turn” without Sam Uncle around. I don’t know if I would have met the love of my life, Ishani. I don’t know if I would have found new avocation in life from encounters with Indian social ecology and a dangerous national development complex.

Simply put, Uncle held fast as my yoke to the subcontinent, remaining in suburban Pune whenever I would take time to visit, with food and drink and conversation (and sometimes argument) and advice.

In retirement. he remained in Pune, taking up the burden (a bit jealously to be sure) of caring for sick family members in years-long declines. He also mobilized, cajoled or browbeat on behalf of a budding church community in suburban Pune that inherited land and monies my grandfather had set aside. Sam Uncle himself never overcame stress, fought too much, sometimes grew angry, I think, that his own life was not more peaceful.

I can certainly remember cheer and smiles and happy times interspersed, but Sam Uncle never found a truly peaceful sunset in life with his newspaper and cup of tea or tumbler of gin. He had built a retirement bungalow in a remote exurb of Mumbai but he never managed to live there. His final year saw the death of his wife from cancer and the discovery of his own cancer (in addition to mounting issues with his diabetes).

There were some highlights at the last. His son Alan became engaged (and will be married soon). His cancer appeared to be in remission. Immigration to Australia, along with his son, dangled as a final, bright possibility.

But his death came suddenly. Despite his health overall, none of us saw it coming so soon. The doctors say that a lung infection taxed him enough that other systems, worn weak, simply gave out.

After several days in the hospital, he fell into a coma before doctors diagnosed a brain hemorrhage. Uncle died on 10 January 2017. He was buried near his wife a day later.

He rests now, finally.

Shaadi

Shaadi

Making bhaji

Making bhaji

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Help! I’m biking 300 miles to fund sustainable cycling and transportation advocacy

A photo stop during a 42-mile training ride in October

A photo stop during a 42-mile training ride in October

Dear family, friends and strangers:

This summer I’m going to cycle 300 miles for a good cause, and I need your help. Let me explain:

In August 2016, I began a PhD program in geography at the University of California at Berkeley. I study human-environment relations in cities and the ocean. On the side, cycling forms a personal and intellectual pet project.

Most of you know that before I moved to California, I lived in India and witnessed some of the great environmental challenges of our time. I have seen first-hand the devastation of both wilderness and urban greenscape, on which people depend for life and livelihood. I have biked and jogged in smog-choked cities where life expectancy drops by years because of toxic air quality. I have sweltered in drought made worse by climate change and walked in villages and neighborhoods where wells continue to run dry. And I have worked for small NGOs that fight for sustainability, conservation and protection of livelihoods linked to the environment.

These issues are hardly limited to the Global South. Industrial pollution weighs heavily on neighborhoods in U.S. cities and even the countryside (often disproportionately hurting minorities and the marginalized). Close to my home in California, drought threatens both farmlands as well as urban drinking water. Of course, most of us, urban or rural, practice lifestyles that generate staggering amounts of waste and greenhouse gases. And now, the current political turn in the U.S. threatens to set back environmental protection by decades.

I try to confront mounting environmental challenges through a personal commitment to cycling — for my daily commute, for exercise, to run errands and for fun. I know I’m lucky in that my circumstances permit me to primarily cycle everywhere (with some supplementary public transit). I don’t have children. I don’t play a string bass or carry power tools. My work is flexible, and no one expects me to wear a suit. I have large thigh and calf muscles.

To make it easier for others to ride a bicycle, I’ve now joined a national charitable campaign called Climate Ride. In June 2017, I’ll be pedaling close to 300 miles along the California coast, all the way from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo, to raise money and awareness for bicycling and sustainability.

I’m asking for your encouragement, support, and, yes, sponsorship. I’ve set a personal fundraising goal of $7,001 and I’m going to need help from a network of family, friends and even strangers.

I’ll be riding on a team funding Bike East Bay — an important NGO that works toward sustainability and active transportation around my home, the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay. Money I raise helps Bike East Bay educate and advocate for better bicycle infrastructure and protections on the very roads that I ride.

You can make a secure online donation on my personal fundraising page (here). You’ll automatically receive an acknowledgment, and I will be notified of your support. If you’re not comfortable donating online, you can also donate to me directly and I’ll contribute on your behalf.

What do you get by donating?

  • First and foremost, you make a real impact. Climate Ride donations constitute Bike East Bay’s single largest funding stream. Your dollars mean more cycling lanes, more education, more advocacy, more protection. Again, Bike East Bay quite literally makes my life safer every day.
  • You also get a chance to participate with me through my sweat. I am incredibly lucky to have the flexible life needed to dedicate time and energy to months of training. I’ll happily endure muscle pain or an inevitable crash on our behalf. Your contribution means you ride vicariously. See the above photo from my first-training ride in October
  • Regular updates from my training, adventures and snafus. Laugh when my cycling shorts split open; be ready to write a lawmaker when you hear about my crash because of horrendous traffic signaling.
  • As a special bonus, folks who contribute $50 or more will receive a set of high-resolution, print-quality landscape photos from my ride through coastal California. Think iconic Highway 1!
  • Finally, you can answer my own challenge to donors. If I reach my fundraising goal, I promise to turn one of my big ride days into a full “century,” voluntarily tacking on about 30 more miles. That’s 100 miles of sweat and tears in a single day!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me (see the upper right sidebar of this page).

Thank you, in advance, for your help. Let’s do this together.

Adam

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Seven times around that fire

offering2

Four years ago, the most wonderful woman and I circled a fire seven times.

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