Someone put the magazin “mom & me” on my bike

mom & me


…so what does that imply? In India, you are not supposed to believe in coincidences. “Everything happens for a reason,” people tell me all the time. Or: “This happened because you wanted it to happen. You chose this way once, even if you don’t remember it now.”

The good thing though: This means I also can achieve everything if I project it. Just have to figure out how….




Every child needs a teacher

…but in India 1.2 million teachers are lacking, according to the Global Campaign for Education. Another 700 000 are the so called para-teachers, recruited mostly by the community, at less than the regular teacher’ wage to meet the demand for basic education within the limited financial resource available.

In fact India has a ‘right to education’ act that was launched in 2009 and the first deadline was last month. But there is still a long way to go, because without qualified teachers education for all cannot be achieved, says Shigeru Aoyagi, Director UNESCO New Delhi. He also was concerned about the huge number of school dropouts, the pupil teacher ratio, the absenteeism among teachers and the quality of them.


The Organisation Pratham found in their latest study ACER (Annual Status of Education Report) that “levels of reading and math at every level were not only poor but declining in many states”. In 2008, the proportion of children in standard 3 who could read a standard 1 text was under 50%, which has dipped about 16 percentage points to nearly 30%, it says. A child in standard 3 has to learn to do two digit subtraction, but the proportion of children in government schools who can even recognize numbers up to 100 correctly has dropped from 70% to near 50% over the last four years.

The real downward turn came when the ‘right to education’ act was introduced – so nowadays there are many more children going to school, but learning less. “It must be acknowledged that there is a national crisis in learning”, the authors of ACER write. And again it is the poor who suffer: Private schools are relatively unaffected by the decline in learning levels. No wonder a common perception in India is that in most government schools, children only get a free meal a day, but no teaching.


So far I didn’t find much street art in India. When I thought I did, I often had to realise it was clever advertisement. And the other pieces I saw in Hauz Khas were painted or taped or sprayed by europeans who visited Delhi.

But then I found this great stenciled graffiti in Mumbai. The artist, Tyler, said in an interview with “Mumbai Boss”: “The girl with a knife behind her back [was inspired by] a lady in Versova who used to sell boiled eggs. I love animals but I also like to eat chicken. It’s about how greedy people are. They kill people for their own advantage.”

stencil by Tyler

Falling for Mumbai

How could I not fall for this city when I first came here? Maybe I didn’t eat enough street food in Kalbadevi. Or it was because I forgot to spend the evenings at the seafront. Or perhaps I didn’t watch an adequate amount of movies. Or I missed the opportunites for just watching the busy citizens when they roam around the streets.  Well, this time I did.

A big Thank You

…to the person who – with only knowing me for one evening – gave me the keys to his flat so I could stay in Mumbai’s lovely Versova, meters away from the beach. I owe you one.

Versova beach

Edward Theatre -> Edward Talkies

The building once must have been splendid. But the magnificent plaster on the balconies is crumbling, pidgeons are flying inside the theatre and leave excrements on the chairs, and the missing stones in the mosaics on the floor have been filled with concrete. The surrounding buildings are encroaching on the Edward Theatre in Mumbai, and the gate, wrought iron between columns, looks dwarf-like. Someone put a wooden sign on top, written not in English like the hewn in name of the theatre, but in Hindi: Edward Talkies.

Edward Talkies

It now is a cinema for the rickshaw-pullers and day labourers, an escape from the hard work for fruit sellers and people who load and unlaod trucks. Prices are low, a ticket starts at 18 rupees (25 cent), but on the balconies women are not allowed, because the stairs are steep and when they step onto their saris, they could fall down the steps and over the low handrail into the depth.

The heart and hands of Edward Talkies is Sanjay, the manager who cares for every wish of his costumers. As his father used to do this job before him, Sanjay grew up in the green rooms just behind the screen that are leftovers from the time when people were acting on stage. Directly after school Sanjay would sneak into the hall, collect the coins people threw at the screen back in these days, eat his lunch and dinner in the cinema chairs, and when he fell asleep, customers would pick him up and bring him to bed.

SanjaySo he knows all the Bollywood movies – and he also lives a live as tragic as a character in one of them. When Sanjay was still a school boy, he fell in love with his teacher. Knowing that it would be inapropiate to propose to her, he waited until the 10th standard – and got slapped for it. He again failed in 12th standards. Three suicide attamps followed.

But finally he won her over, despite the fact that she was 18 years older and despite the different economic backgrounds of their families. But the next blow followed. Because of her age, they can’t have children, Sanjay says. “My life is a tragedy.”

Searching for 100 Years of Indian Cinema

100 years of Indian CinemaThis year the Indian Cinema is celebrating it’s 100th birthday.  It was on the 9th of May 1913 that India screened its first ever full-lenght feature film, Raja Harishchandra, in a theatre in Mumbai. And even though the label Bollywood – merging the city’s name which was previously called Bombay with Hollywood – was created much later in the 80s, and despite the fact that India has many other regional movie scenes like Tollywood and Kollywood, I hear many talk about the “centenary of Bollywood”.

Given the common amount of passion for Bollywood all over India, the huge emotions and dreams the people share, this historically wrong expression might have it’s justification. Because across the country, men and women, rich and poor, speaking a babel of languages, adore the same Bollywood films. For all Indians alike, cinema is an escape, from rising prices, corruption, power cuts and general chaos.

Film City

To get a feeling for the 100-year-long cinematic journey, I flew down to Mumbai and went straight to Film City, a huge arid area at the bottom of the hills just north of the metropolis. Along the streets that wind through the shrubby land, rest fake cities. Or fake palaces. Or halls in which everything is fake. It’s all just wood and glass wool and long bamboo canes to support the facades.

Where a shooting was going on, the guards were vigilant. But in some others places I was able to sneak in and walk around. Even though I was aware of the structure, I often thought everything were in fact for real. Then I touched a wall to assure myself it wasn’t. But a moment later I again fell for the illusion.

face city

This area, which is the heart of the world’s biggest film industry, is also home to the acting school Whistling Wood’s. There I found three students who explained to me how important movie stars are – not only for them, but for their brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, grandparents and great-grandparent. A 19-year-old girl told me: Whereas acters are looked up to all over the world, and everywhere they function as role models, here in India they are gods.

rich and poor


Whereever you go, they are part of your life, another student explains: Lines from the movies are used by everyone, billboard and poster feature the actors, promoting cement as well as estate agencies and government schemes, and whatever the stars wear in a movie becomes the trend of the season.

“No matter where you are in this country, you can always strike up a conversation with anyone, often with just two words, or even one – Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikath,” says a film critic.

Cooling off

Unfortunately Delhi doesn’t have public swimming pools. And so far I didn’t befriend the people with the big farmhouses on the outskirts of the city, who’s water areas I always see from the plane. But the expat community knows a trick: we ask the five star hotels, if we could stay for a day at the pool.


Feet are for dancing

trip areaIt was clear that the night would be a great one  when the first sign we saw after the entrance into the Blue Frog read: Trip Area. Franzi and I poked an ear in and we heard Goa.

Apart from this indoor dance floor there was a live area, set in the patio of a mediterranean style  white-washed compound. Up on the rooftops were the dubstep and the electronic floor with enough space to go on the rampage. Unfortunately most people stood stock-still – and that even when rock bands were playing so hard that a 5 by 3 meter glass front behind the mixer shattered.

Do I have to say more? Maybe that a storm slowly built up and the wind blew in our hair while we danced on the rooftop and the light effects played in the moving leaves of the trees.

Even the toilet signs were great!

Even the toilet signs were great!

Among Rockers

deep purple tribute

Somehow I couldn’t imagine Indians are dancing to electronic music. Or playing Ska. Or love hard rock. But they do! I just haden’t found these guys so far.

This changed when a friend last week heard some rock pouring out on the street in an urban village of Delhi. She followed the music, discovered a practicing room, got to know the extrovert frontman and accepted his invitation to be his guest at the concert on friday night. Sure I had to come along with her.

It turned out to be a Deep Purple tribute. In fact it was a major jam session, where the composition of the band changed with every second song or so. I didn’t know anyone on the stage, but according to the cheering crowd, everyone of the announced musicians is a legendary artist in India. Here are some of the dozen or so musicians: Rahul Ram (Indian Ocean), Vehmon Ibrahim (Millenium), Desmond Powell (Bandish) and of course the organiser and amazing entertainer Dean Punkh.

I had never seen so many bearded men in India. And such long male hair. One of the fotographers even had the sign of the horns tattooed on the back of his hand. But what the rockers didn’t do was bouncing around and headbanging. So next time I know I can come in sandals or flip-flops.

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