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Showing posts from January, 2011

The Dutch government WANTS YOU to party!

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The residential street of Gashouderstraat seems like any other in the Netherlands. There is a play space at the corner; houses have large windows and cycles lean precariously against anything resembling a post. A few potted plants scatter the footpath. And then it starts to unravel. A herb garden emerges on the sidewalk and we are told that we can access sage to thyme for our evening meals. This community garden effort has government backing. Nothing transforms a space as public gardening – an innovative strategy to create ownership of public property. Although seemingly an oxymoron, the idea of keeping things “public” requires certain privatization or belief in appropriating spaces as ones own. It’s been working across cultures, especially as a means of urban renewal in areas from the Bronx in New York to out here. After all, a sense of ownership comes with responsibility. You live a little longer here and the stories start to emerge of how a boy of 11 collected signatures from this …

Does Culture fail to Shock?

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When moving to a new country, there is much talk about “culture shock,” where inadvertently you discover that not everyone has heard of Shah Rukh Khan, forget Koffee with Karan Johar; where walking is interpreted as a sign of your cycle having been stolen and where Nutella wins over peanut butter as a choice of spread. But the truth of the matter is that this is not really a “shock” to the system as for it to jolt you, it has to confront you immediately.

In fact, momentum and pace is at the heart of such eureka moments, which, contrary to popular belief, creeps up on you at the most unexpected of times or perhaps never! You could be walking by the Marijuana Museum in Amsterdam everyday, oblivious to the fact that there is, after all, a museum on this much-adored weed. This term “culture shock”, although a cliché, is in fact barely representative of what one goes through when one shifts geographies. After all, we don’t just travel with our material luggage, we move with our well-encas…

Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the cheapest of them all?

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Today’s world is the world of consumerism. “Access,” even in the most economically disadvantaged areas is less about the basics. In fact, there is a thin line between what constitutes as necessity versus luxury. The farmer wants a mobile to listen to Radio1 94.3; the housemaid in Bandra wants a TV to watch her favorite soap opera; the watchman in Electronic City aims to get a car one day. With India’s massive consumer base of a billion strong, the economy of scale as a perennial cliché kicks in as predictably as ever. So there is nothing new in the fact that new technologies can become accessible at a faster rate in emerging markets than its western counterpart. What is new however is that products today are being developed from the start to be accessible – in one word –CHEAP. Patience is a thing of the past apparently. The new consumer has made the economy of scale redundant here.

The burgeoning middle class laps up the Tata Nano, the people’s car at $2500, an unprecedented figure …

When in India...swami style reflections in 2011

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I left India 16 years ago. With every annual visit back to my hometown, Bangalore, there is a new version of the past created. The past becomes highlighted when the present changes. And changes are aplenty. Roads are constantly being expanded with colossal pillars for the fast train emerging smack in the middle. The guts of Bangalore are being opened up for the NammaMetro, “our metro” fast train, designed to control and digest the 7 million strong city residents. There is constant talk of the “center” being moved, given the construction of luxury gated communities and IT parks along the outskirts of Whitefield to Hosur road, with the future rotating around the new airport shaped after much championing for a new global image for this hybrid city.

And hybrid city it is as 60% of the residents come from across the country and NRIs (Indians who settled in the West) are making their way back to etch their place in this perceived dynamic market and simultaneously be close to their aging par…