I N D I A  | 2008 - 2013


I spent nearly five years in Mumbai as a business writer for the Associated Press.  The AP has a generous idea of what constitutes a business story, so I got to write about all kinds of things: rat catchers, the 2008 attack on Mumbai, Sri Lanka after the war,many varieties of human enduranceand some of the people who were pushing this great, shuddering place somehow forward. These are a few of my favorites.

S O C I E T Y

 

MICROFINANCE: LENDER'S OWN PROBE LINKS IT TO SUICIDES

MUMBAI (AP) - First they were stripped of their utensils, furniture, mobile phones, televisions, ration cards and heirloom gold jewelry. Then, some of them drank pesticide. One woman threw herself in a pond. Another jumped into a well with her children.

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AS INDIA RISES, ITS RAT CATCHERS TOIL IN DARKNESS

MUMBAI (AP) — Sabid Ali Sheikh stands on a prairie of trash — old onions, excrement, animal bones — slowly rotting its way back into an earth riddled with rat burrows. Sometimes the ground gives way under his feet. It is after midnight, and Sheikh is after the rats. He listens for them. He tries to catch their red eyes 

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INDIA STATE GOV'T PUSHES MICROFINANCE PROSECUTIONS

MUMBAI (AP - The government of India's Andhra Pradesh state said Monday it would push prosecutors to move ahead with 76 criminal cases against employees of Indian lenders it believes were involved with driving overindebted borrowers to suicide. 
 

B O L L Y W O O D

“Slumdog Millionaire” took the Oscars by storm while I was in Mumbai. It was a magical story for the two kids, Azhar and Rubina, who grew up in a slum not far from my house, got cast in the movie and ended up walking the red carpet at the Oscars. I loved these kids and the story of how fame was _ and was not _ changing their lives. Their houses still got torn down. Their slum still flooded. And there in the midst of it all was Rubina, back from her trip to Hollywood, splashing in the fetid flood water with her friends, hurling fistfuls of mud and shivering with giggles.

 

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NO HAPPILY EVER AFTER EVER YET FOR 'SLUMDOG' KID STAR

MUMBAI (AP) - Rubina Ali's house is flooded with sewer water, and her feet itch. She's discovered a world of creepy-crawlies in the opaque gray water: scorpions, rats and slithery creatures with lots of legs. Two months ago, the child star of the hit movie "Slumdog Millionaire" was worrying...

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'SLUMDOG' CHILD STAR'S HOME TORN DOWN

MUMBAI (AP) - The 10-year-old child star of "Slumdog Millionaire" was awakened Thursday by a policeman wielding a bamboo stick and ordered out of his home. Minutes later it was bulldozed along with dozens of other shanties in the Mumbai slum he calls home. "I was frightened," said Azharuddin

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NO CLASS, NO CASH: 'SLUMDOG' KIDS MISS SCHOOL

MUMBAI (AP) - The slum kid stars of "Slumdog Millionaire" want a lot of things in life_new houses, a car, trips to London and Paris_but they aren't too interested in school. Ten-year-old Rubina Ali has missed nearly 75 percent of her classes and her co-star hasn't done much better 

B U S I N E S S   

 

TATA NANO IS A NICE CHEAP RIDE - TEST DRIVE

PUNE (AP) - To drive India's new $2,000 automobile is to consider all the things you thought you needed in a car but really don't.Engineers stripped away everything they could on Tata Nano, which goes in sale in India next month. There is no cup holder, glove box, or clock. The upholstery is gray vinyl, which you may think you've seen

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INDIA'S RETAILERS, FARMERS FACE UNCERTAIN FUTURE

MUMBAI (AP) - Ashok Kokane sits amid his strawberries at Mumbai's Crawford Market with a handwritten ledger across his knees and a fan of dirty 10-rupee notes at his left hand. Above him, torn tarps speak of worn out effort. The lazy, dust-encrusted ceiling fans are far past cleaning. There is a sense of timelessness here,
 

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LAND WARS BEDEVIL INDIA'S RUSH TO INDUSTRIALIZE

SANAND (AP) - It doesn't look like he's won much from industrialization. Take his face, weathered beyond his 30 years, or the earth stuck to his bare ungainly feet. Jaisar Khan Pathan, one in a long line of farmers, is simply too scrawny.    But Pathan, and scores like him who live in the shadow of a new factory
 
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P R O F I L E S

NANDAN NILEKANI

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ID'ING THE MASSES MAY SOLVE INDIAN IDENTITY CRISIS

MUMBAI (AP) - It's a problem of mind-boggling complexity: How do you identify 1.2 billion people without documents, who sometimes rely just on word of mouth to establish who they are? The man tasked with solving this problem is outsourcing guru Nandan Nilekani, who rose to prominence as a founder of Infosys
 

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                  AJAY PIRAMAL

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INDIAN TYCOON HAS TONS OF CASH, NOWHERE TO INVEST

MUMBAI (AP) - Ajay Piramal is sitting on a mountain of cash. Yet the billionaire Indian tycoon, working in one of the world's fastest growing economies, is struggling to decide what to do with the money. The problem isn't opportunity, he said. It's India. "Every large investment, there was no transparency,"
 

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         GIUSEPPE MOZZILLO

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ITALIAN FINDS INDIA IS A NICE PLACE TO MAKE CHEESE

PANCHKULA (AP) - It was an average sort of beast gray, thick shouldered, with fat curling horns spotted from the window of a moving car. But to Giuseppe Mozzillo, who grew up outside Naples in Italy's buffalo mozzarella heartland, the animals dotting the Indian countryside looked enticingly familiar.
 

C O N F L I C T

 

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SRI LANKA WAR REFUGEES FACE UNEASY HOMECOMING

BATTICALOA (SRI LANKA) - Three years ago, Vairamuttu Bavani left her home in eastern Sri Lanka to attend her cousin's wedding in the north. She didn't make it back until September. Trapped by the civil war, Bavani, a Tamil, lost six members of her family and both her legs to a bomb.

SRI LANKA STILL WAITING FOR IT'S PEACE DIVIDEND

PUNANI (SRI LANKA) - Inside, there are no victims, no killers, and no questions. There are only bright white lights and the click-clack of sewing machines in this new garment factory in war-torn eastern Sri Lanka. Outside, the land is littered with memories from the island's  

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MUMBAI GUNMAN DESCRIBES INDOCTRINATION IN PAKISTAN

MUMBAI (AP) -  An Indian court that heard a stunning confession from the lone surviving gunman in the Mumbai terror attacks put a gag order on his latest testimony a message to his handlers in Pakistan and a description
 


    REPORTING FROM INDIA

    Shortly after I arrived in Mumbai, ten     young men stuffed dried fruit, Nokia
    phones, AK-47s, grenades, pistols  
    and ammunition into their  
    backpacks and  sailed from Karachi
    to a fishing village  not far from my
    office.

    They fanned  out across the city,
    killing  164 people  in a three-day
    siege.  I  watched people  banging
    on the  windows of the  burning Taj
    Mahal  hotel, trying to  escape
    through  windows that would  not
    open.  Firetrucks could not get too  
    close  because of the bullets.

    I broke the story of how India’s
    leading  microfinance company, SKS
    Microfinance, covered up its role in
    borrower suicides as it pursued
    breakneck growth ahead of its
    IPO. SKS pushed loans onto poor
    borrowers and then used tactics so
    aggressive to collect the debt that
    one  woman jumped into a well
    with her  two children. Neighbors
    spotted them  hours later, dead,
    clothes billowing in  the water.

    I met children who thought that  
    having rat bites on their heads was
    normal. I wished very much that I
    could write as well as Katherine Boo
    did in “Behind the Beautiful
    Forevers.”

    I stood on the jelly-ground of a
    dump  and tried to get a young
    man to talk  about his ambitions in
    life. He had  none _ beyond getting
    a regular job  with the city catching
    rats, sometimes  with his bare
    hands. He was wearing  flip-flops. I
    was worried about sinking.  It was
    near midnight and very dark.  Where
    he lived, people still talked  about
    bubonic plague.  A few hours  later,
    he loaded a bloody sack bulging
    with rats into a rickshaw. We
    followed  in a car and watched as
    the rickshaw  driver pulled over to
    puke.

    I got to test-drive a Tata Nano. I
    went  to Sri Lanka after the war, met
    a  Buddhist monk with the arms of a
    soldier who lived in the jungle, and
    was accused of being a terrorist. I
    met  an Italian guy who moved to
    Haryana  and opened a mozzarella
    factory in a  dusty field outside
    Chandigarh  because he realized
    Indian buffalo  looked just like the
    ones outside  Naples. I watched
    Michelle Obama  dance on a
    presidential visit. I learned  how to
    prepone meetings and do the
   needful. I loved India.























 

 

 



 

   BOOKS ABOUT INDIA I LOVED

    Behind the Beautiful Forevers
    Katerhine Boo

    Maximum City
    Suketu Mehta

   Pink Sari Revolution
   Amana Fontanella-Kahn
   Arzee the Dwarf
   Chandrahas Choudhry
   Bombay Then, Mumbai Now
   Jim Masselos, Naresh Fernandes

    India: A Million Mutinies Now
    V.S. Naipaul (1990)

   Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story of    
   Bombay’s Jazz Age

   Naresh Fernandes

   Shantaram
   Gregory David Roberts

   A Fine Balance
   Rohinton Mistry

   India After Gandhi
   Ramachandra Guha (2007)

 Amar Chitra Katha comics



 

 

  great LOCAL NEWS SOUCES

   Scroll
   http://scroll.in/ 

   The Hindu
   http://www.thehindu.com/

   Mint
   http://www.livemint.com

   Quartz India   
   
https://qz.com/india/

  Economic & Political Weekly
  http://www.epw.in/