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« When Amma Came to New York City (Norman Costa) | Main | Ugly Renaissance Babies »

November 28, 2011


thanks for sharing; I really liked the emphasis on the "people" of Delhi without the moralising message rather just a reflection on their common humanity.

@ Ruchira:

I don't know why I kept putting off watching this film. Finally, I downloaded an HD copy and sat down to relax and enjoy what I expected to be an interesting view of a great city, and learn something about a part of the world that is far away.

As did Zachary, I thank you for sharing. It is a beautifully done, even artistic rendering of its subject. Unlike Zachary, I found it highly moralizing, but in a way that was appropriate, direct, creative, and effective. I am bothered by the film, and I have to think about it.

South Asians are no more virtuous or corrupt than other peoples. It is my understanding, however, that government and judicial administration in India are especially corrupt.

I was surprised to see the references to the suicides of farmers, in this documentary about urban poor. I had been following stories of this for the past two years. The film suggests that lack of profitability is what drives farmers to take their own lives. By the way, the method of choice is to drink rat poison - a plentiful commodity among farmers.

A more complete story includes the collusion between corrupt local officials and greedy, morally vacuous peddlers of genetically modified seed. Farmers are forced to buy only GM seed at multiples the cost of previously successful non-GM seed. This means that they borrow more money to be able to plant. The rationale is that the GM seed was 'designed' to produce a more resilient and bountiful crop. This is true, but not for the climate, soil, pest, and environmental conditions where it will be planted. The wholesalers have warehouses full of only one type of GM seed and push the only product they have, even though it is geographically unsuited.

Yes, the farmers commit suicide because farming is not profitable. It is not profitable because the crops failed from GM seed that was known to be inappropriate for the area.

As I am disgusted by the corruption of government administrators who should know better, I am awed by the people who fight to survive and maintain a sense of dignity and family, and even optimism.

In the early years of Lyndon Johnson's 'War on Poverty' they made a fundamental mistake in believing that anti-poverty is something you DO TO POOR PEOPLE. Things changed for the better when they understood that it was something you DO WITH POOR PEOPLE. I am not going to suggest that those who develop and administer programs for urban poor in Dilli should include poor people in the process. Why? Because they wouldn't dare.

For so many even within Dilli, Dilli dur ast (Dilli is a long way off). Thank you for sharing this poignant film with us. It is really hard to find the words to comment on this right after watching it, except to wonder when our governments will come to their senses when it comes to the poor and see how much they can contribute if everyone works together.

The person at the end spoke about holding on to khwaab - dreams. We have seen the sad alternative(s) to dreams. I am awed, like Norman, to see the optimism in some of the people who are trying to survive in a place that keeps pushing them out. It's more than some of us more fortunate have, at times.

I am glad you all were suitably impressed by this short but telling commentary on India's urban poor, just as I was. The images and the voices here were not terribly new for me because I have long been aware of this reality, having grown up in the place. Delhi is a sprawling megapolis of millions of people living strikingly divergent lives. But it is also true that since the 1980s, the chasm has grown at a dizzying rate. The young man who lives in a tent in Old Delhi says that a person needs at least 10,000 Rupees (about $200) per month to lead a decent life in Delhi and own a home. He has no idea! That is the daily rate of a room in some of Delhi's good hotels and an upper middle class family can easily spend that amount for a meal for six to eight people in one of Delhi's high end restaurants. The rich were always privileged. Now the Indian middle class too is doing very well. But that is not the whole story although the idiotic Thomas Friedman would have you believe otherwise.

Norm, you are right about the farmers. Many of the itinerant, homeless workers in big Indian cities were farmers in their old lives.

Naveeda, indeed the distance between Delhi and Dilli may not be much when measured in miles; sometimes they lie next to each other. But they are still a world apart.

The only thing that I should add about India which may be different from the conditions in neighboring countries like Pakistan is that Indians are after a long time, optimistic about their future. Things are moving in the right direction incrementally although the pace of progress for the poor is woefully slow.

I think the smiles on the faces of the little ones at the end said it all. The parents and grandparents looked faintly grim or tired or resigned. Would they have been better off starving in distant Malda, or Sultanpur, or struggling to live in an inhospitable city where their sole worth is as workers constructing the mansions of the rich? So many lives, and yet the main premise is the hope that despite all their current tribulations, they still believe in a better life for their children.

Don't we all?

@ Sujatha: Like!

Well said, Sujatha!

And yes, Ruchira! I wish that optimism in India existed in Pakistan as well. And that the power of the people went beyond railing against the mullah-military-media complex in writing, or alternative media. That revolt is a slow and painful process.

From Pakistan:

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