A year-in-review

2009 kinda kicked ass

2009 kinda kicked ass

This past year pretty much rocked. And the New Year came in fine manner.  No kisses, but a bonfire amid the palm trees (above), new friends, lobster, a decent cigar (thanks, C!), champagne and even the Harry Connick, Jr., band playing Auld Lang Syne at midnight (never leave home without the iPod).

I meant to post this sooner, but here’s a little look back at my new life (as chronicled on this blog):

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Why I’m out here, reason No. 1

harleyscreenThere were many reasons why I called it a day in St. Louis and hit the road. Let’s talk about one in particular:

The decline of the American foreign correspondent corps. Sure, the Bigs will continue to pay for top-shelf international journalism. But the papers just a rung or two down on the ladder (indeed, most of the Top 100) should still have bodies in the field across the oceans but don’t, the Post-Dispatch included.

So their readers miss global news. And not just the big international crisis — death, mayhem, flooding, war, locusts, Olympics, genocide, plague — stories. They miss knowing the impact of their local decisions, their local companies, their local products, their local families.

That led to my journalistic model: sell locally focused, international stories to these papers on the cheap. Today, finally, I’ve proven my model, if only once.

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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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I’m not kidding. I think I’ve fallen in love.

My lady, my goddess, my love

My lady, my goddess, my love

I’m not gonna lie. I have a problem. Call it an addiction. Or better yet, an obsession.

Since moving to Delhi, I have fallen, and fallen hard, for the chicken tikka roll.

Grilled skewers of marinated chicken with sliced red onions and masala wrapped in romali roti. It practically haunts my dreams.

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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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Nothing like a little sea breeze in your face

drivesea

The ocean at Mumbai from the back of a Harley Davidson

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New India knows how to party

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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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The end of Bombay? Or the beginning of a new chapter?

I'll let you decide what the tagger means...

I'll let you decide what the tagger means.

Mumbai is India’s cosmopolitan, metropolitan First City. Delhi is the country’s Washington, D.C., but Bombay (as Mumbai was formerly named) is New York.

I’d argue that nowhere are India’s economic development and cultural changes more evident than in Mumbai. It showcases the new India — modern, Western, affluent, influential — morphing out of the old India — impoverished, chaotic, colorful, British.

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