Have yourself an underwater Christmas

During my time away from modern telecommunications, I became a PADI-certified open water and deep water diver. It was a somewhat expensive, incredibly rewarding Christmas(ish) excursion. I find diving to be a near perfect combination of the exhilaration of exploration and the relaxation of meditation.

I also couldn’t waste an opportunity to commit journalism and reported a story on the nascent dive industry in India, a country where most children are never even taught to swim. There’s beautiful unexplored water here which, of course, creates some tension between divers, the environment and, of course, local fishermen.

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Essentials: eggs, vegetables and cell-phone minutes

Traveling today, so here’s a Madagascar flashback:

Essentials: eggs, vegetables and cell phone credit

Bare necessities: food and communication

In Tolagnaro, if you’re not a farmer, if you don’t fish, if you don’t work at the Rio Tinto mine, you probably have a small market stall.

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Holiday Special: Get a post card from far away…

Friends and readers:

I’ve been far more in touch with life back home (to the point of disrupting my sleep schedule) than I thought I would be. But as I depart Tuesday for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which officially will be the most remote I’ve ever been, it’s entirely possible that I will be abandoning electronic communication for a while.

As such, now begins the 2009 Mazaa Post Card Bindaas Giveaway. Limited time only. I promise everyone who sends me their address now will receive a wicked cool post card at some point in the near future.*

Send them via e-mail: ajadhav@gmail.com. Include an update on you and yours. (To qualify, you must do so, even if you already have previously.)

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Of beaches and elephants

Since I read about the Andaman and Nicobar Islands almost eight years ago during my first backpacking trip in India, they’ve been third from the top on my list of destinations. I knocked off No. 1 (Cuba, and specifically Havana) and No. 2 (Madagascar) this year, so I’m going for the hat trick.

I leave next Tuesday via overnight train to Calcutta. From Calcutta, I fly to Port Blair, once home to the prison used by the British for undesirables during the heady years leading up to Independence.

I’ll be there for almost four weeks roaming about; I plan to return to the mainland by ship, a three- to four-day journey.

I’ve got a full list of story ideas to pursue, some of which will almost certainly be jettisoned once I feel the siren call of island life.

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Harley rumbles into India

For the last week and a half, I’ve been working a story about Harley-Davidson’s attempts to enter the Indian motorcycle market. Here are shots from a posh launch party in Mumbai, a Sunday morning ride through the city and a portrait of Delhi’s leader of a motorcycle club.

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The other side of Mumbai

The human traffic on Mumbai roads

The human traffic on Mumbai roads

India’s economic development is evident in the high rises of Mumbai, the Western stores, the fashions, the clubs, the growing comforts of the middle class, the increasing number of cars on the road, the jobs, the development of tech hubs, the improvements in infrastructure. The idea of “India Rising” has become almost a cliche catchphrase.

The World Economic Forum here in Delhi trumpeted high growth rates and continued economic expansion; a new India is indeed flexing her muscle globally.

But there remains a major question about just how much of that trickles down to the other half (or truthfully vast majority) that still lives on less than a dollar or two a day.

A poignant reminder, as I cruised the streets of Mumbai: a brother and sister begging from motorists at a stop light. The sister never looked up; she just murmured and held out a hand. A man, presumably their father, barefoot and covered in burns, asked for alms a few cars up.

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New India knows how to party


Tote, at Mahalaxmi Racecourse

I went to an American product launch party in Mumbai this weekend, for an assignment that deals with India’s economic ascension. I’m not giving more details, in part because I’m still chasing this story.

But you get an idea of a high-end Mumbai shindig and India’s new money.

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Today I saw the sky…


The first blue sky I've seen in Delhi

Delhi is a dusty, smog-ridden place that is permanently presently under construction. Again.

Combine that with cooling weather and temperature inversion, and in almost two weeks, I hadn’t seen blue sky. Until this afternoon, just for a bit.

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Ronald and Tommy do India


Khan Market, in Delhi, a new and old city

It’s been more than five years since I was in Delhi, India’s capital. It’s at once a very old and very new city. It is and isn’t how I remember it.

This afternoon, I had a meeting at Khan Market, a favorite shopping center of expats and middle-class Indians. It has all the hallmarks of old India — still loud, a bit cramped, stores and traffic are chaotic, you might get run over by a motorbike and you can spend four hours shopping for saris and bangles.

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Things Africa taught me

I’ve now arrived in India and am getting settled and spending a little time with family in Pune. I’ve also been coming up with a list of lessons learned from seven weeks in Africa. In no particular order, here goes:

  • French, that language I really thought was useless, is so not useless. Especially if you’re in Madagascar in non-tourist towns, trying to report and the only people you meet competent enough in English to be a translator are either employees of the company you’re writing about or  activists in the community.
  • mudReef flip flops are awesome. Seriously. Reef. Write it down. Best sandal I’ve ever worn. Damn near the best thing I’ve ever put on my foot. For example, when I accidentally stepped into two and a half feet of quick mud and lost a flip flop (again, thanks Sara from London, for a great laugh), I immediately paid the local who pulled me out another 500 shillings (a little more than $7, probably his weekly wage) to get back in the mud and retrieve my flip flop. (Dear Reef, I’m hoping for an endorsement deal. “Backpack journalist in Third World swears by Reef sandals.” Sounds good, no?)
  • I like parentheses.
  • Eat bananas. Leg cramps suck.
  • Save some bananas for the lemurs.

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