Sharing is caring

on a donated bedMany stray dogs in Delhi are not really stray. They live on the streets, okay, but they have poeple looking after them – who then boast about how caring they are. Most of the dogs seem to be well-fed and in the winter time they get blankets to sleep on, or they are even made to wear pullovers.

Indians also spent a lot of money to buy grains for birds. On some flyovers or in front of the town hall at Chandni Chowk, there are always dozens, if not hundreds of pidgeons – and even they can’t eat all the handouts, so that the ground is always full of grains. Other people feed birds of pray with buckets full of meat, for example around Jama Masjid in Old Delhi or at Lodhi Gardens.

I often wish these people would spent the money to buy food for the very poor who often live underneath tarpaulins just a few meters away from their doorstep. Or even as domestic servants inside their houses.

India’s many, but not properly qualified Young

Shashi Tharoor

Shahshi Tharoor speaking at the Gen Next Workforce Summit

India will have 116 million workers in the age bracket of 20 to 24 years, as compared to China’s 94 million, said Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for Human Resource Development, at the Gen Next Workforce Summit 2013, citing a prediction by International Labour Organisation (ILO). It is further estimated that the average age in India by the year 2020 will be 29 years as against 40 years in the USA, 46 years in Europe and 47 years in Japan. So, according to the Tharoor, this demographic fact has the potential to be the biggest competitive advantage of India in the years to come.

The charismatic political leader also understood to entertain his crowd. He said: “When my children were young  I was told that they were part of Generation X and today as we discuss debate  on the working environment of the next generation that is Generation Y, I wonder what the successors of the next few generations will be called, now that we are nearing the end of the English alphabets! Perhaps from Generation Y we will have a Generation Why Not?”


the media, trying to catch his every word

Tharoor went on, that the the quality and employability of the vast majority of the graduates in India is both seriously questioned. “I have spoken to CEOs who feel that once you get beyond the top institutions, the graduates they hire from the rest need a year’s remedial education—not on the job training, but a year’s actual education to make up for the deficiencies of what they have learned, or rather not learned, in College.” According to him, that is why Infosys has built a campus in Mysore and TCS in Thiruvananthapuram.

He is also concerned about the enrollment figures: 116% in primary schools, 69% in Class VIII, 39% in Class XI, and only 18% go to College. Students should be free to pursue formal education when they want it in life and the skills they want to acquire.  “This is an overdue need in a country where, for 3000 years, if you wanted to be a cobbler or a carpenter, you had to have a father or an uncle who was a cobbler or carpenter, because no one else was going to teach you.” To Shashi Tharoor, that is why there is a caste system and why sons and daughters of movie stars are movie stars – and the sons and daughters of politicians are politicians.

Onions on Rakhi

Today is one more of India’s oh so many semi public holidays: the Hindu festival Raksha Bandhan, or short Rakhi. Sisters tie sacred threads around their brothers wrists for their protection – so the bond between them is celebrated. Brothers in return offer a gift to their sisters.

Yashwant Sinha, a senior politician, said a couple of days ago: When my sisters come to me to tie ‘rakhi’ i will give them onions instead of Gold or Silver.


I did it – I bought some of the expensive vegetables.

Amidst soaring prices, especially in food, onions have once again become a symbol for inflation. Most Indians are using onions in basically every meal, and some form of bread with onion is regarded as a basic diet for the poor.

Besides their importance of being staple food, onions are also a yardstick of how happy Indians are when they go to the market. Local media are reporting that it’s inability to control onion prices had led the Bharitya Janata Party (BJP) to lose power in Delhi in 1998. Since then it has failed to return.

Now the ruling UPA coalition is under fire, because the volatile onion price climbed to 80 Rupees per kilogram (about 1 Euro). People started protesting on the streets, wearing necklaces made out of onions. In Jamshedpur in Jharkhand, a tyre seller was giving away free onions as a mark of protest against the rising prices.

The main opposition party BJP took the opportunity to catch some votes and sold onions at a reduced price of INR 20 per kg to slum dwellers in Bhopal. The ruling parties, in an attempt to secure their power, are selling onions through mobile fair-priced shops, for example in West Bengal and the capital. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit wants to bring down the prices to 25-30 Rupees.

Even imports from the unfriendly neighbour states Pakistan and China were considered – despite the ongoing ceasefire violations at the Line of Control. And newspapers are printing onion-free recipes (“No onion? No need to shed tears!“)

Onions are also trending topic on twitter over and over again. @prash_Shuks wrote: “Today no one is worried about rising prices of petrol, thanx to #onion policy of our govt.” And @anuradha_kush is lashing out on both, the onion price and the crumbling rupee: “What rupee is falling, rupee is falling? Look at the bigger picture. Even our onion is more valuable than their dollar.”

Germany goes to the polls – I already went

It’s done. I managed to – hopefully correct – put the Stimmzettel in the Stimmzettelumschlag, which then, together with the Eidesstaatliche Versicherung, had  to go in the Wahlbriefumschlag.


Phew! A couple of weeks ago I saw the voting in Bhutan. There people just had to press one out of two buttons.

Even more complicated than voting itself is figuring out how to do it when you are a de-registered german citizen. First I thought I could easily walk into the embassy on the 22nd of September, but when I asked, they transferred me to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Ministry issued a – very lengthy – notice, which on three out of four pages didn’t give away the valuable information I was seeking for. Only on the fourth page I found the crucial link for the application form.

The completed form then had to be sent – by mail of course, not electronically – to the relevant authority for “Eintragung in das Wählerverzeichnis”. The officials dealing with the case are the ones in the municipal body where one has lived before moving out of Germany.

Side note: Germans who never lived in Germany and don’t have any attachment with a place or bonds like a working place, have to vote in the native municipal of their ancestors. And who is working for a German Embassy, is according to that most connected to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and votes in the district office of central Berlin.

Now the letter is on it’s way. Given the time it took the application form to reach Berlin, the Wahlbrief might reach the Bezirksamt Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg von Berlin just in time.

The Menace

dog at Begumpur Masjid

Street dogs are just about everywhere I go in India (here pictured at Begumpur Masjid). Sometimes I wonder if there are more dogs or people living in my neighbourhood.

Obviously the dog population is encouraged by exposed garbage and slums. Plus the food voluntarily provided by all my neighbours, who are proudly telling me they take care of the dogs in the area (but don’t seem to look at the slum dwellers). Others even keep the animals as free-roaming pets.

The dogs normally don’t pose a menace to me – on the contrary, I find them to be laid-back, cautious and discreet (maybe  because they get so much food here?). The only problem seems to be that they are often lying in the middle of the sidewalk or street, blocking half the traffic.

Even when I accidentally stepped on one of them while marvelling at the houses in Leh, Ladakh, the dog only uttered a short sound and went off. No bite so far in my limbs.

Though I have to say I came close to injuries when a pack of stray dogs chased me on my bicycle the other night and I nearly bumped into a car because I was scared by their barking. So I frantically tried to kick one of the dogs on the nose and shifted the focus from the road ahead of me to their heads.

But now I learnt that India has the highest rate of human rabies in the world – in nearly all cases because they got bitten by stray dogs. Mass killings were forbidden some 20 years ago, now sterilization programs are carried out (or not, as I can daily see in the streets).

Now, there’s another international organisation who wants to help India: Mission Rabies, a project by the UK-lead charity Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS), is trying to vaccinate 2 million dogs against rabies over the next 3 years.

“Every 2 seconds someone is bitten by a dog in India and around 24 people a day suffer an excruciating death from rabies – over half of which are children”, Misson Rabies states on the webpage. So the task sounds challenging. But: Good luck!


Men’s work, women’s work

equal pay

Here the men are handling the machines and chisels and are definitely sweating more than the women who are carrying away some broken stones every now and then.

But according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) India is among the bottom 10 countries in the world in terms of women’s participation in the economy.  An average woman’s pay is less than one-third of the average man’s pay in India in the corporate sector.

As with so many other injustices in this country, there actually is a law aainst it. The Constitution recognized the principle of ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’ for both men and women, and ‘Right to Work’ through Article 39(d) and 41. But I heard of a European company which –  despite the fact that in the home country, employees get the same wage for the same work and qualification -, here in India doesn’t do the same, but hands much more money to the men. Because, according to the manager, it would go against cultural norms and traditions if they would apply the same principles.

Missing children, missing childhood

fate of children

A total of 90,654 children were reported missing across India in 2011, and 34,406 remained untraced, according to federal Home Ministry data. They could be abducted or they could be runaways, lost, abandoned – but they often end being targets of trafficking.

After being sold, they are pushed into forced, unpaid labour at homes, roadside eateries, farms and factories like embroidery and bangle making units, or absorbed into prostitution, the illegal organ trade or begging rackets far away from their homes where it is difficult to trace them.

If parents are not too scared to go to police, they often hear from the officers, the girl might have eloped with the neighbour’s boy. Boys could have run away for work or to purchase the dream of becoming a Bollywood star. Or conditions at home were not favourable for the children.

Even if  a case is filed: Most of the missing children come from poorer sections of society, largely urban slums and poor village homes. Their parents often don’t have a photograph of them – which makes it close to impossible to trace them.

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.

One man and 600 women

On International Women’s Day, German Ambassador to India Michael Steiner invited more than 600 women “from all walks of life” to his lawns. Many of them came – but to what end?

What could have been a nice idea in fact was a disaster, because no one seemed to have thought about what to do with these women once they were all greeted personally by the embassador with a super-glued smile.

To have at least one item one the agenda, the embassador entered the stage and uttered a sometimes trivial, sometimes embarrassing statement (when he talked about how he would love to be a women) – instead of giving his wife Eliese Steiner the advantage. Then actress and social worker Nafisa Ali Sodhi adressed some words to the women – but they weren’t translated.

And then – nothing. Most of the interesting women on the lawns weren’t accessible for me because they didn’t speak English and the interpreter that was promised to the journalists either didn’t show up or wasn’t locatable. So all we could do was looking at interesting dresses. Wow. (No wonder sports the official embassy website only a photo gallery and not an article.)

embassador's wife

Okay, there was one benefit: Everybody was allowed to take a picture with the embassador. Or at least with his wife Eliese.

A tiny buffet had been prepared to feed the crowds. But as many of these women came from very modest backgrounds, they tried to eat as much as possible. And there wasn’t much. When some of them started filling their pockets with sandwiches, the tables were empty after a couple of minutes.

The staff tried to bring in more supplies, whatever eatable they found. So in the end they offered Christmas stollen, a sweet german bread. And Christmas cookies. In march. Apparently leftovers from December that had been already been served to journalists in february – but we didn’t finish it.

Where’s home?

When I waited for boarding the plane today, for one second I thought I would fly back to Berlin. I would go out, dance the whole night and meet the lovely people in the city. Maybe facebook is to blame, because I was just reading what’s on and who is doing what this weekend.

Then I realised I’m going back to Delhi. To my flat. My home?

No. Normally I feel comfortable at a new place pretty fast. When I moved around Berlin, it was a matter of days to feel at home. But in India? From the beginning I survived the food and the streets, I fitted into the system, I managed everday life. But I don’t feel I connected to the place yet.

I assume it’s mostly the people (even though many other things give me headaches as well). In Germany and also in Chile most of my friends were/are male. I just get along with them better. But here every time I talk to a man he seems to think I want to go to bed with him. Western women are sexualized and it appears to me no other relationship than a sexual one is possible.

Sarah Elizabeth Webb recently wrote down her anger it in the Hindu: “Even if Western women are potentially more promiscuous, I assure you that this promiscuity does not provide blanket consent to every wide-eyed, staring man that approaches. It surely does not invite the disgusting sexual harassment, the inappropriate stares, or the “slip” of the hand while riding the bus.”

To answer above’s question: Karl-Marx-Stadt is my native place, Tettnang my home town, Berlin the city where my heart lies and Delhi the place I live since five month.

How I decorated my working place to not feel so homesick.

How I decorated my working place to not feel so homesick.

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