Monday, January 24, 2005

41% of world's poor live in India

Definition of Poor : 'Poor' here is defined as living below the global poverty line of US$1 per day.

This is the way ranking goes !!!

1. India 41.01 %
2. China 22.12 %
3. Nigeria 8.03 %
4. Pakistan 3.86 %
5. Bangladesh 3.49 %
6. Brazil 1.82 %
7. Ethiopia 1.82 %
8. Indonesia 1.49 %
9. Mexico 1.43 %
10. Russia 0.99 %
11. Nepal 0.78 %
12. Ghana 0.78 %
13. Colombia 0.76 %
14. Kenya 0.72 %
15. Mali 0.71 %
16. Madagascar 0.68 %
17. Burkina Faso 0.62 %
18. Mozambique 0.61 %
19. Tanzania 0.61 %
20. Niger 0.59 %
21. Zambia 0.58 %
22. Venezuela 0.51 %
23. South Africa 0.45 %
24. Cameroon 0.45 %
25. Zimbabwe 0.41 %

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Taxi : Mumbai, Kolkatta and Cairo





When I get down to Chatrapati Shivaji terminal airport in Mumbai and pay for my pre paid taxi, I am aware what lies ahead. First, taxi driver look at my slip and seeing Bandra as a final destination gives me either a vicious or an indifferent look. His disappointment is understandable. After being in a queue for more than 24 hours and hoping to get a foreigner or at least someone who would stay in far away place like Colaba. Mumbai airport black and yellow fiat taxi is even in worst dilapidated condition that that normally runs on Mumbai roads. Car boot is never good enough to hold an airborne suitcase but driver is ingenuous to have nylon ropes to hold it. Wind shield wipers are often not working but in the event of sudden raindrops, driver is adept in navigating potholed street with one hand on steering wheel and another one mopping the windscreen with his black brown cloth.

Kolkata ambassador taxi is special in their own way. Here with driver, there is a co driver like a cleaner in trucks. Additional person is a safety device against car hijacking. In addition of being made in Kolkatta, Ambassador has extra benefit of being only four wheeler than refuse to submerge in the pouring rains of Kolkatta. When it rains , everything gets submerged. I am not too sure if Kolkatta taxis carry any meter but Mumbai does have a meter that was calibrated decades ago. They all carry tariff card that gets updated every time gas prices go upward.

Cairo taxi is similar to that of Mumbai. Fiat make is common denomination with exception of few Russian Lada. Color however is black and white. Meter does exist but never operational. Mumbai is better in that respect. Taxis are everywhere , you don’t have to worry about securing a cab. Cairo driver would spot you from anywhere and would rush to you. Even you don’t want, he would honk and get your attention.

Price negotiation is very similar to Delhi taxi. If you are foreigner, you must start your negotiation with at least half to whatever he demands. Fare does depend upon not just the distance but also on the traffic flow. Cairo traffic is notorious for traffic snarls. It would take anywhere from 10 min to one hour depending on the traffic flow. Often taxi driver would assess you on your appearance, age, sex, nationality and Arabic skills and put forth his price. Do keep plenty of 1-pound and 50-piaster notes, as driver would always ask for Bakshish. Many times, driver would agree with your price but do not be surprised if he picks up extra passengers on his way. So be prepared to share the ride.

Like in Mumbai and Kolkatta, few taxi drivers here own their own cabs, and most must pay a daily fee to the owner that is the same regardless of how good a day the driver had. One thing is common among all Mumbai, Kolkatta, and Cairo taxis. They are all like traveling in a rusting metal box. If it is a summar, its sauna. In winter, you need to test your arms to pull windowpane down. Car suspension in most of these taxis is tattered over the years. Interior of car unholstery is worn out .Cairo drivers do not have to compete with their counterparts in Mumbai and Kolkatta in battling with potholed roads. and meandering cows.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

animal instincts


Giraffe Mother after 14 months of prganancy has just given a birth to baby in standing position, with 2 meter vertical drop. A normal delivery for Giraffe!!. Mama is happy seeing her baby look cute and healthy but as the time trickles, she is becoming anxious. An hour has passed. By now baby should have been on her feet and walking. Her efforts of making baby stand up is not yielding any result. Baby is struggling to get up and slips in the process. Mama is worried. She glances around and realise what she feared has turned true. A lone Hyena a few paces away is watching the events with evil intent. Now Mama becomes desparate, goading and cheering her baby but poor baby is helpless. Baby continues to slip while trying to stand up. Mama is getting restless unable to decide what she should do. Sly Hyena is howling, inviting his fellow beings. Mama Giraffe decides, the only way is to start straddling away from baby, inciting her baby to follow her. Nothing happens; meanwhile Hyena start making advances to baby- her fresh flesh smell is inviting ravishing Hyena. Seeing Hyena reaching her baby, Mama Giraffe runs back kicking Hyena. Hyena retreats at safe distance. Mama Giraffe stands helplessly at baby – throughout night – hoping for miracle to happen. But destiny has decided otherwise. Baby Giraffe has died during the night and with rising sun, hoards of Hyena’s are now circling baby and Mama. Mama knows that it’s beyond her might to defend her baby. She starts slowly retreating. Her eyes are moist with sorrow. As she straddles few paces – her eyes turn back to get last glimpse of her baby. All she can see is mauled grass with Hyena all over.

Lion is restless , he hasn’t got anything to eat for a while. Being ruthless, he turns his might to his baby offsprings. He is about to pounce on his creation, but Mother Lioness comes to the child’s rescue and defends them from King. Her roar says it all, mix of disapproval and fear. But she knows the writing on the wall. She better find food for her hubby to make her little ones survive. With pounding rains- nothing seems in sight, except herd of huge Buffaloes. She has no choice – either take on the might of buffalo or invite the wrath of her hubby – she chooses her target. With few menacing scuffles, she grapples giant buffalo from back. Lion is watching her struggle with the buffalo but doesn’t show any interest. The grapple continues- looks like Lioness is losing her battle. Lion squirms, perhaps his pride is being dented. He decides that it’s time for him to save his wife. He lunges forward , lying down, he wrenches buffalo’s neck with his hands . He is trying hard to throttle her. Buffelo is standing erect as if she has rooted her legs in the ground. By now she is bleeding from her neck and back but she is not giving up. Sight of their fellow buffalo bleeding all over, yet standing erect against brut force two lions , unnerves by-standing herd of buffaloes. They are watching this spectacle with mix of awe, fear and helplessness. Seeing one of their family member being mauled by two lions is unnerving but Buffalo’s refusal to surrender is making them see a glimmer of hope and pride. Buffalo is still refusing to surrender, bloodied and bruised but still erect. This sight alone must have rejuvenated all buffaloes. They start marching towards embattled buffalo in unison. Their eyes riveted on lion without any sign of aggression but mere disapproval. Seeing the fleet of mighty buffalo army, lion and lioness loosen their grip; start retreating and slowly running away from menacing army of buffalo. Mauled buffalo with bloody injury marks of lions stands erect. I wonder what must be going through his mind.