Thursday, 19 February 2009

mumbai and most vulnerable populations

i have not been taking enough photos. it is tough because i am just sitting in meetings all day, so it seems kinda silly to get photos. but now there are things i wish i would have captured.

like the place where i got my ayurvedic massage and my wild goose-chase for a tailor etc. but i have what i have and i have a week left. so, i will do better.

this is the view from my hotel window in mumbai
it is weird to be living in the lap of luxury and look out over slums
i hate it actually

i am traveling with diana, the senior gender advisor in the office of global health at USAID
she had friends at the conference from all over and let me hang out with them
we decided to brave mumbai traffic one night and go to where the shopping and food was good

flat stanley on his way to colaba
(liz's neice is doing a flat stanley project and i offered to give him a tour of india.
he seems to be liking it.
he is quite adventurous!)

mumbai sky
bobmay police headquarters
i have memories of this place from my first visit
it is a long story that involves:
horse back riding on the arabian sea, chariots, danger, and a castration

we went to the taj hotel. the one that had been attacked in november.
it looked like nothing had happened
except for this memorial
it was pretty crazy to think of what happened in there
i remember when the attack happened i thought,
if i was in india for work, there is a good chance i would have been in one of those places
and i know how it is, you are just doing your own thing
and then suddenly people are shooting and stuff
i can't even imagine

security is much much much tighter now.
every hotel searches cars and bags and everything
it is kinda ridiculous though how we are always behind the curve
anyway . . .

the memorial

the plaque reads:
The Tree of Life is the most ancient cross cultural symbolic representation of the universe's construction. It can be seen to dwell in three worlds - a link between heaven, the earth, and the other world.

it is related to immortality and the essential dualism of the world and hence is a perfect symbol of our salutation to all the innocent and courageous guests and staff of the Taj, citizens of Mumbai, security forces and firemen who lost their lives in the tragic events of November 26, 2008.

We stand united in grief at their passing away and will forever be inspired by their bravery and sacrifice.

(then in small print)
this is not a permanent memorial and will be moved to its final resting place in due course.

Before i leave the topic of the terriorist attacks, i'd like to point out that the bodies of the dead terrorist are still in the morgue. the indian muslim community is denying that they are actually muslim and will not give them burial. tom friedman wrote a compelling piece in the NYTs this week about it. he makes such a fantastic point about how not honoring, or owning this behaviour the muslim community can regain its stature in the world as a loving and Good promoting faith. Please check it out!

the gateway to india

outside the taj and near the gateway
elimara, sarah, kathy, teabelly, and diana

shopping for glasses

we ate at cafe leopold
it wasn't really our intent to do a terrorist attack pilgrimage, but it happened like that
it is kinda weird because the places they attacked are the places that a westerner just happens to migrate too.

cafe leopold has been attracting travelers for 150+years.

this is the only mention of the attacks at the restaurant
we had a fabulous dinner and we all felt better after eating!

we decided to go to the train station:
victoria terminus
it was so crazy to go back to these places.
12 years ago
i had eaten my first breakfast in india at cafe leopold
and walked over to victoria terminus with my backpack to make my way to madras (chennai)
i got totally bamboozled there. they sold me a ticket to hyderabad and that was all so i got kicked off the train in hyderabad.
it is a long story
anyway, it was cool to be back
see how much it has changed, and feel how much i had changed

because we are all about gender, we had to hop on the ladies only train
obviously the guy getting on the train didn't notice that he was in the wrong car.

can you see me?

i had to use the potty
these are the toilet-wallahs.
they take 5 rupees from you to let you go to the bathroom
they took 10 rupees from me
but they were good sports about flat stanley

she is chewing lots of paan

these cops were a bit worried about my camera
sometimes they don't want you to take photos in the train station
i showed them what i was taking photos of and they cracked up
then i asked if i could get a photo of them
as you can see, they were quite enthusiastic

we then left the next day for chennai
i am finally getting over the jet lag -- kinda

here is a talli i ordered
ridiculously good!

then we had meetings yesterday (most vulnerable populations workshop)
and in the afternoon we had a site visit to a place that provides
health care and social support to male sex workers and transgendered sex workers
in chennai

they danced for us

performed a skit that trains people to use condoms all the time
and explained to us the challenges they face.

many of the male sex workers are married
i talked to one who was about to get married. i asked him if his fiance knew that he had sex with men.
how will marriage change your life
"i will give up sex with men"
"is that realistic?"
"well i will not do it as much"
yikes. he has no intention of telling her
and my guess is she will never know, but he will continue to supplement his income through male sex work.

that makes her quite vulnerable to disease without her knowing. it is a tricky population to target. anyway.
i am glad that they have a place where they can learn to live safer lives, feel loved, and hopefully get out of the business.

the USG visitors with the clients.

last night i was supposed to go to dinner with some friends but got feeling so crummy i just went to sleep
i slept hard for 9 hours, and i think i might try sleeping again.

1 comment:

Annie and Doug said...

Awesome! I have you on my google reader, but for some reason your pictures were not showing up. I really loved your essay on coming back to India for the second time. You put into words, feelings that I am sure are very hard for anyone to describe. Love you!