26 December 2010

In which I find myself unexpectedly proud of Delhi University's library

As a research scholar, I have to spend a lot of time in libraries. Until I tried to use  university libraries in Delhi (to study Indian history, no less), I had no idea how easy I had it back at Columbia. My success rate for finding useful books here is pretty grim, but last week I discovered Delhi University's digital books projects—and it's nothing short of amazing.

20 December 2010

Gay Pride on the March in India

Across most of the world, gay pride events are held during the summer. Here in Delhi, the third annual parade took place on 28 November. Apparently people fainted from the heat when it was held in June last year.

It's not just the date that's different in India. The progress of gay rights is moving at a dizzying speed since a Delhi High Court decision in July 2009 overturned the quaintly worded law banning "crimes against the order of nature." In just over a year, being gay has gone from a criminal act to something that can at least be discussed in the context of other rights guaranteed to Indian citizens. But like so many other things in this deeply contradictory country, there is no easy correspondence between gay identity here and in the West.

[Photos and video here.]

14 December 2010

Conan in India

Conan O'Brien's new show has been on the air for just over a month. I don't like Conan as a performer (though he is a superb writer), and I probably won't watch the show. Still, the AmEx commercial that aired with the premiere caught my attention. It features Conan careering around Rajasthan in India, delightfully butchering Hindi as Indians call out "Ko-naan! Ko-naan!" The bright colors and stunning backdrops of Rajasthan are on display as Conan races around looking for silk. Of course you can read this as Orientalist blah blah blah, but because of Conan's self-deprecating demeanor, it's all in good fun. The people at Ogilvy & Mather, one of Madison Avenue's renowned firms, made something so elegant that it's jarring when the American Express logo finally appears.