Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mumbai's urban infrastructure -- "like new" equals broken

This is how roads are “upgraded” under the World Bank-funded Mumbai Urban Infrastructure Project (MUIP). Note that this picture is an “after” picture, not a “before” one. This is the arterial Swami Vivekanand Road in suburban Mumbai. The paving is a couple of years old at most. The day I took this photo (Thursday, November 27, 2008), the broken curb was visible because there wasn't a car parked on it.

Mumbai's roads routinely get dug up by utility and phone companies for laying or fixing broken cables -- companies with no expertise to dig or rebuild a dug road. But then the Mumbai municipal authorities don't seem to know their head from their ass either. Result: senior citizens are under virtual house arrest (because the streets are too tough an obstacle course for arthritic knees and because curbs are non-existent or intermittent at best), and people who must walk/drive to go about their lives die when the road caves in. It's happened before, and it's going to happen again.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is the civic-mindedness of Parsis overrated?

Probably not - they're still better-than-average citizens as far as I can see. But you know that Bombay / Mumbai has gone to the dogs when even Parsis start behaving like this:

Mumbai's streets are filthy, filthy, filthy, lined with unspeakable and unidentifiable things. That stuff gets on your shoes. Someone is going to sit on the seat where this commuter has put her shoes. She knows it. There are trilingual signs on the walls of commuter trains, particularly in the first class compartments (which this is), saying, “Please do not put your feet on the seat”. I took this woman's picture from the neighboring compartment. Later I heard her talk on her cell phone, and which is how I knew she was Parsi. Parsis have long been considered Bombay's most civic-minded citizens, and yet here she is, embodying much that is wrong with this city and its people.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Racism is alive and well in the age of Obama

From today's NYT:

Racially segregated proms...are, by many accounts, longstanding traditions in towns across the rural South, though in recent years a number of communities have successfully pushed for change. When the actor Morgan Freeman offered to pay for last year’s first-of-its-kind integrated prom at Charleston High School in Mississippi, his home state, the idea was quickly embraced by students — and rejected by a group of white parents, who held a competing “private” prom. (The effort is the subject of a documentary, “Prom Night in Mississippi,” which will be shown on HBO in July.) The senior proms held by Montgomery County High School students — referred to by many students as “the black-folks prom” and “the white-folks prom” — are organized outside school through student committees with the help of parents. All students are welcome at the black prom, though generally few if any white students show up. The white prom, students say, remains governed by a largely unspoken set of rules about who may come. Black members of the student council say they have asked school administrators about holding a single school-sponsored prom, but that, along with efforts to collaborate with white prom planners, has failed.

Full story