Category Archives: essay

“Should be fantastic as long as we survive the journey”

Yeah boy, straight up reportage. Work it.

GANGTOK, 13 Sept: The Autumn 2010 Rickshaw Run kicked off in Gangtok on Sunday, with 71 teams from around the world gathering to begin a 3500 km journey to Jaisalmer, Rajasthan armed with little but their wits and what they can carry in a three-wheeled auto-rickshaw.

The Rickshaw Run is a charity event organised by the League of Adventurists International, a British company headquartered in Bristol which runs four other similar events throughout the developing world. The Rickshaw Run was first held this past April and is going to be held three times a year, in the spring, autumn and winter. The first run ended here in Gangtok, and now those same auto-rickshaws are to used by new teams setting out in the opposite direction.

Taking a variety of routes through northern India and Nepal, the teams have two weeks to reach Jaisalmer. The Rickshaw Run is not a race, however, and there is no winner except the group who managed to raise the most for charity, currently a group called Arm Chair Loaf.

Each of the teams must raise at least 1000 British pounds (about Rs. 70,000) for one of two sponsored charities: FRANK Water Projects, which funds clean water facilities, and Maiti Nepal, which works for to project Nepali women and girls from trafficking and domestic abuse. Those teams that raise more can also donate to an additional charity of their choice.

A team from the United States, whose rickshaw was named “Raiders of the Lost Tuk” after the classic Indiana Jones film and the colloquial name for auto-rickshaws in Southeast Asia, raised around US$10,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. One of the team members, Jim Matheson of San Francisco, has type 1 diabetes.

“I’m more excited for this than I would be for my wedding day,” said Brianna Limebrook from Boston, the leader of the “Raiders” team.

The 175 participants met with their vehicles Sunday morning in front of the Tourism Department office at MG Marg, where the Sikkim Police Band performed and tourism officials spoke to a crowd of gathered onlookers.

Many of the teams wore colourful costumes or outrageous uniforms with themes to match their artfully decorated rickshaws. One team of three stood out in the crowd with a set of neon coloured suits: one green, one orange, one pink. Another was making the journey dressed in black-tie tuxedos and sneakers covered in shiny black tape. Despite their bombastic outfits, however, the racers expressed a very down to earth mixture of excitement and nervousness.

“Should be fantastic as long as we survive the journey,” said Sweyn Alsop from England, a member of the tuxedo team. Mr. Alsop added that he wished his tux was a rental.

“Probably the silliest idea we’ve ever had,” said Mark Burton of London.

Even as the event organisers made their final speeches, some of the teams were still scrambling with preparations, like packing last minute snacks and filling their vehicles with petrol.

When the mass of rickshaws finally set off, however, the scene was a bit anticlimactic. The teams were allowed to head down the hill only a few at a time, so as not to disrupt the busy Sunday traffic. As the crowd dispersed, a few stragglers remained, stymied by engine trouble and key mixups.


The Drizzle and Daydreams of Pang Lhabsol

Rabong means “wet goat,” and few names would be more appropriate. The jeep ride from Gangtok took us through hill mists and showers, in and out of low hanging clouds. When we arrived the whole town was dripping, globbed by watery mud, run by rivulets flowing through the cracks in the streets, enshrouded by a thick white fog that gives everything within thirty meters a delicate and blurry glow — and obscures completely everything else. As we picked our way down the slick hill to the press seats, I was entranced by the ghostly spectacle of a radio tower, which faded into nothingness at its peak like some djinn-built babel ladder to heaven.

It was the first day of Pang Lhabsol, the annual Bhutia festival worshipping Mount Kanchenjunga and for little Rabong one of the biggest events of the year. The three days are packed with sports competitions, cultural programmes, religious ceremonies, development exhibitions and general merriment. The inaugural programme featured an address by the Chief Minister and a series of traditional tribal dances, to be performed on Rabong’s famous and now rain-slick volleyball court.

Coming from a society that has boiled away anything resembling traditional dances or tribal garb in the melting pot of history, and that probably wouldn’t be very interested in that kind of group identity even if we had any left, I must admit that I find these sorts of cultural demonstrations a little odd and not particularly exciting. With the overpowering dampness that had descended on Rabong that day, the whole endeavour seemed especially sad and banal. I didn’t realise the extent of it, however, until the first group of dancers shuffled out onto the court, shivering in their bare feet and colourful but sleeveless garments. You couldn’t see them. The fog was too thick. Barely thirty feet away, the dancers were pale will-o-wisps, bobbing in and out of the overtaking grey. Here dozens of residents and visitors had turned out in the rain to watch these dances, and all the detail of their clothes, all the precision of their hand movements and the coyness of their narrative smiles — all of it was lost in the dull depths of the cloud.

But as I looked around, expecting the audience to be filled with faces of disappointment, or at least resigned boredom, I saw none of that. Certainly the crowd was less than comfortable in the chill and the damp, but still they stared loyally into the fog, watching the dancers move and occasionally adding some sharp shout to the twangy, upbeat music. We went amongst the audience to ask how they were feeling, getting positive and carefree replies. And when we departed mid-programme to explore the other Pang Lhabsol festivities, we passed more coming to join the audience — young children and bent elders incredibly climbing up the many, many steeps steps from the bazaar to the Mane Choekerling Complex.

We found a similar enthusiasm in town. Though the moisture had turned into drizzle, and the drizzle into rain, residents and visitors still crowded the streets, eating or shopping or making their way to the programme above or just generally milling about. Festive little lights were strung overhead, and through they remained unlit the coloured wire still brightened the muddy scene considerably.

The Pang Lhabsol celebration in Rabong this year was marketed in part as a great event for monsoon tourism, so we were quite excited to spot what appeared to be two genuine monsoon tourists coming up the main road. Ruth and Yussef Habibi, a British couple, were visiting Rabong after spending several weeks volunteering at a school in East Sikkim. The two hadn’t known about the festival before arriving but considered the timing fortuitous and were keen to check it out. We asked how they were liking their “monsoon tourism experience,” and the couple replied that they were enjoying it, appreciating it for what it was — but weren’t likely to want to come back for a second go next year.

At the covered exhibition compound many stalls were still empty on the first day of the celebrations, but there were plenty of poorly lit displays of crafts both traditional and contemporary: seeds, shawls, handbags made from denim jeans and cheap good from Thailand. These last had been brought by a Bangkok resident named Yocshai, who, after previous visits to the the North Eastern hills, was contacted to bring his wares by a member of the celebration’s organising committee. Yocshai, more than anyone else we talked to, was dissatisfied with how things were going — not so much because of the rain but because of how slow business was going. Still, he hoped things would pick up over the next two days and said he wouldn’t rule out further trips to Sikkim in the future (if not to Rabong, then to Gangtok).

Wet and tired but somehow vaguely impressed with how the little festival was turning out, we took a taxi back to the Mane Choekerling Complex to catch the end of the cultural programme, not wishing to trudge up those endless stairs. And as we pulled into the muddy parking area, our driver, Anmol, told us how he felt about the whole event. According to Anmol, the celebration this year was actually better than it has been in past years — in fact because of the rain. More rain meant more people like us, willing to skip the stairs and spend Rs. 100 on a cab. The weather had to be working for someone, I suppose.

Mountains, perhaps more than any other entity or object worshipped by the myriad religions of the world, are things you can see. They are huge and imposing in their sheer size and physicality, and of course that’s what makes them worthy of reverence. I don’t know whether one could normally see Mount Kanchenjunga from Rabong, but that cloud-cloaked day of still and bulbous mists nothing was visible. The idea of worshipping a mountain that one cannot see seems to me both ironic and profound. It takes a certain perseverance, and maybe that’s what kept the residents of Rabong so chipper. Maybe that’s what made them willing to walk up a hundred stairs to watch a dance show they couldn’t even properly see. Maybe we’ll just call it faith.

Fighting for Women who Fight Back

This last week Time magazine published as its cover photo a picture of a mutilated Afghan woman: as punishment for running away from abusive in-laws, her ears and nose had been sliced off by her husband on the order of the local Taliban judge. The woman, Aisha, is only 18. The photo sported the caption “What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan.”

This is a somewhat disingenuous argument given the staggering complexity the military and geopolitical situation in Afghanistan, but it is one that I admit to have made myself, and often. The Taliban are without a doubt some of the most evil men on the planet, and I shudder at the idea of leaving the women of Afghanistan forever in their hands. But as the Afghan debate putters on, two thoughts have come to me to quiet this particular line of reasoning. First, barring politically impossible solutions like airlifting the country’s entire female population to asylum in the West, there is increasingly little that the United States and the world can do make Afghanistan a stable, liveable place for anyone. And second, inexcusable institutionalised cruelty against women is not unique to Afghanistan. It is a global phenomenon.

In Afghanistan girls are splashed with acid to scare them away from attending school. In Pakistan women are buried alive by the dozen for daring to want to choose their own husbands. In Africa female genital mutilation continues apace amid international outcry. In Saudi Arabia intellectuals argue seriously about how thick a rod may be used when beating a disobedient wife. In China female infanticide is an epidemic. And here in India honour killings are a terrifyingly reality in both Hindu and Muslim communities, despite the law and significant affirmative-action measures being passed to empower women.

East/West. Developed/Developing. Secular/Religious. No, with women more than half the population, the division that matters most is between the feminist and the misogynist.

Thankfully, here in India at least, some women are fighting back — most spectacularly by forming violent vigilante gangs to rough up men who abuse or take advantage of the fairer sex. The most notable of these groups is the gulabis in Uttar Pradesh, whose 20,000 plus members wear bright pink saris and carry intimidating bamboo sticks. When a member finds herself threatened, the gulabis gather to scare the perpetrator straight. Sometimes they mobilise for more dramatic operations, such as in 2008 when the gulabis stormed a power station where workers were demanding sexual favours to turn the lights back on.

Often their simple presence and sheer numbers is enough to make the bad guys think twice, and the more the gulabi organisation grows the more the authorities attempt to bring their feisty commander, Sampat Pal Devi, into politics. In this respect, however, the gulabis are the exception, not the rule. For many of India’s female gangs, escalation means more violence, not more legitimacy. In 2004 hundreds of women gathered to hack to death a serial rapist who had escaped conviction. I must admit: there is a certain grim appeal to rebellions of this sort. In situations of extreme injustice the lynch mob can feel so right.

As titillating as it is, however, vigilantism is never sustainable. Inevitably groups like this go from beating up violent drunks to beating up anyone who drinks. From there warlordism is just an elegant dance step away. And more to the point, vigilantism shouldn’t be necessary.

A better model might be the one gaining momentum in Bangladesh. There gadget-wielding “info-ladies” bicycle around the countryside, collaborating with a call centre in Dhaka to diagnose skin diseases or identify crop-killing pests, advising better, science-based solutions to a variety of agricultural, domestic and health problems that often afflict the nation’s rural poor. This puts them in a perfect position to, say, advise women on what legal recourse they can take against abusive husbands: most men, even in the misogynistic religious establishment, don’t dare cross these keepers of such essential knowledge.

There are lots of ways to fight back, with sticks or with smarts. As hesitant as I am to support any movement that uses violence, I admire the gulabi for refusing to accept sexist an misogynist traditions and instead mobilising for their own empowerment. These are the women who can wrest a society from the small-minded conventions of abusive men. And if we want to make the world safe for girls like Aisha, these are the women we have to fight for and with — starting by making those bamboo sticks obsolete.

If women had the support of strong institutions, if they had wealth and education and freedom of movement, if they had careers and political influence — well, then the developing world wouldn’t need groups like the gulabi and their less scrupulous sister gangs. And if the women of the developing world had all these things, not only would they be safer but the rest of us would be more prosperous as well. Holding down half your population is never a smart, and countries that deny women education, legal equality and opportunity for social advancement can never compete in the global economy.

Despite the obvious economic advantages and the — in my mind anyway — equally obvious moral imperative, there will still be those that oppose feminist reform of the developing world. Many cling to the familiar traditions and mores of old cultures, but there is no virtue in traditions of oppression. Many see utopia in the revival of more rigourous ancient ways, but in practice their only policy is ruin. These movements — including the Taliban — must not be tolerated.

Even if geopolitical circumstances drive America to withdraw its military from Afghanistan, we should redouble our efforts to bring an end to misogynistic societies. It is, quite simply, the right thing to do.

Commonwealth Costs and Casualties

As the Queen’s Baton jogs around the country, as athletes stretch and train, as October approaches, the media coverage and public criticism of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, to be held this year in New Delhi, has reached a fevered pitch. Every free news cycle seems to reveal new scandals damning India’s preparation for the games as too expensive, exploitive of workers, shoddily constructed and generally bad for the country. The disappointments have been trickling in since India first bid on the 2010 games in 2003, and now they form a torrent that threatens to drown out the genuine pride and excitement that many Indians feel at hosting such a prestigious event. However, little mention is made of the exposé that did the most to blow the lid off this whole chest of failures.

The 77 page report — pithily titled “Whose Wealth? Whose Commons?” — was compiled by the Housing and Land Rights Network [HLRN] of the South Asian region of the Habitat International Coalition and released in May 2010. Researched and written by Shalini Mishra, Shivani Chaudhry and Miloon Kothari, the report unravels the official claims about the Games to devastating effect, and it places the cost in the context of India’s larger struggles as a developing economy. It is a meticulously referenced piece of research, citing hundreds of sources from national and international press coverage of this and previous sports mega events to raw data obtained through Right To Information applications. And with the total financial and human cost finally laid out to plainly, one can’t help but ask: are these games worth all this?

But we are getting ahead of ourselves, for the HLRN report starts at the beginning, with the bidding process that won India the games in 2003. According to the report, “India’s decision to bid for the Commonwealth Games 2010 was neither transparent nor democratic.” The decision appears to have been made by the Indian Olympic Association [IOA] and top government officials without any public debate or discussion in Parliament, and then approved ex-post facto by the Cabinet in September 2003, after the bid process was well underway. In contrast, the bid by Hamilton, Canada — Delhi’s main competitor for the 2010 games — included documentation of an opinion poll showing that 87% of Hamilton residents supported hosting the Games. No such poll was performed here in India, and yet the IOA’s bid document still stated that “the entire nation supports the cause of the Games.”

When India won the games, the excitement was dulled by accusations that the IOA had, in desperation, bought the necessary votes with a US$7.2 million provision in its bid gifting US$100,000 to the Commonwealth Games Associations of each of the 72 member countries. Scandalous though such claims may be, let us skip to the chase, for US$7.2 million — or about Rs. 32 crore — is absolutely pocket change compared to the enormous financial costs of hosting the Games.

The initial projected cost of hosting the games came to Rs. 1899 crore. The HLRN report gives the government the benefit of the doubt and tracks all the different factors that may have increased the costs unexpectedly, but even with these considerations such an optimistic estimate looks patently absurd. Now, with the games almost here, the official government estimate is Rs. 10,000 crore, with independent experts claiming that the real cost of the games will in fact turn out to over Rs. 30,000 crore. And of course as the financial burden of the Games skyrocketed, the projected revenues the event would return did not scale accordingly and instead remained a highly ambitious Rs. 1780 crore.

Where does all this money go? A good chunk is being spent on free travel, luxury accommodation and tourist trips (a free visit to the famous Taj Mahal!) for all the CWG participants and organisers, which the IOA generously and unprecedentedly offered in its bid. More goes to “beautification” projects in select parts of Delhi, which include running beggars, vendors and other poor citizens off the streets — or else rounding them up and trying to ship them back to their supposed states of origin. Enormous sums are being spent on sports infrastructure: building new stadiums and renovating old, training facilities, the Games Village. Despite an initial proposed expenditure of Rs. 150 crore, the government has already reported spending Rs. 3390 crore just on the stadiums. The tragedy is that, if the 1982 Asian Games are any precedent, these stadiums are likely to remain mostly unused after the CWG have ended.

Money like this has to come from somewhere, and indeed we can see that many noble projects are now finding themselves strapped for cash. Funds for the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan were reallocated to help pay for the Commonwealth Games, just to give one example. In March the Government of Delhi announced that it had no money for new projects next fiscal year. Meanwhile rent, taxes and the cost of living for Delhi residents have all jumped significantly in the last several years.

With so much being spent on construction for such a high profile event, one would assume that the labourers would at least receive generous compensation for their efforts to help make India’s dreams of global prestige come true. Of course, such assumptions would be wrong. The HLRN report cites numerous sources that show that the tens of thousands of day labourers are being paid less than the legal minimum daily wage, and often after working for 12 hours or more a day to meet deadlines. They are given no time off, no travel allowance, no safety equipment, and are housed in completely inadequate living conditions. Child labour is being illegally used on CWG sites, and migrant workers from other states are being denied their legal protections. The families of workers who have died in construction accidents have not been compensated. And, of course, female labourers are being paid significantly less.

Meanwhile hundreds of thousands more have been abused and displaced by the construction of CWG sites and the beautification efforts to make New Delhi a “world class city” in time for the Games. Countless urban poor have been evicted, legally or illegally, to make way for new infrastructure and CWG sites, and most of these people are resettled into poor, improper living conditions far away from city services. Mobile “courts” have been established to round up and “try” thousands of the city’s impoverished beggars, forcibly moving them to camps outside the city for at least the duration of the Games. And even as slums are being bulldozed to “beautify” the city, the influx of migrant workers drawn by the CWG construction and the displacement of people from their long established homes is, ironically, increasing the size of Delhi’s slums as a whole. Given the city’s similar experience with the 1982 Asian games, as well as the experiences of dozens of cities that have hosted sports mega events like the Commonwealth Games or the Olympics, none of this should be a surprise — but that doesn’t make it any less tragic.

The NLRN report often points out that all of this, the decadence of the games and the exploitation that results, is happening in a country that is home to 40% of the world’s starving poor. Around half of India’s women and children are malnourished, with 5000 children dying of malnourishment every day. 37% of Indians live below the national poverty line. India’s sanitation is ranked as the second worst in the world, after China. On a variety of global development indicators, India always ranks in the bottom third. The report is filled with helpful and merciless “perspective” boxes that compare the huge cost of the CWG to, say, the paltry Rs. 60 lakhs spent every year to provide shelters for Delhi’s homeless, or the Rs. 100,000 crore needed to provide legitimate food security for all of India’s billion plus citizens.

So given the tremendous economic and human price of the Commonwealth Games, and all the pressing domestic problems that India has to deal with, the question that naturally springs to mind, and that the NLRN report asks over and over, is of course: why on earth does India want to host these silly games anyway? How could sports possibly be worth this much?

Obviously there is no satisfying answer. Because the Games will help India develop a genuine sports culture? The HLRN report cites authoritative international studies that prove that hosting mega sports events like the Commonwealth Games or the Olympics has historically done very little to generate a sustained increase in sports participation in a country. Because hosting the Games will transform Delhi into a world class city with impressive infrastructure? Unfortunately most of the infrastructure developed for the Games has been, according to the report, “hurried, expensive, poorly planned, environmentally unsound…and in violation of norms and planning processes.” Because the Games will increase India’s international prestige and standing in the global community? Sadly, the way the world’s economic and political elites measure things there might actually be a little something to that, but what media event can outweigh the shame of leaving hundreds of millions in crushing poverty?

Sadly, though the media can’t get enough of the scandals and disappointments surrounding the CWG, the big question — the “why” — isn’t getting all that much attention. Neither is, oddly enough, this explosive NLRN report. Many outlets have reported on the NLRN findings, but few have bothered to give credit where credit is due. In India’s sensationalistic journalism scene, too many reporters would much rather make it look like they like uncovered these shocking figures on their own.

NOW! wrote to the NLRN, asking how they felt about the media response to their efforts. Surprisingly, the staff was rather upbeat.

“Everyone wants to take credit and everyone wants exclusive stories! So yes, while journalists do use our report and findings and cite it as their own work, there are others who have cited our report. So we try and look at the positive side of the picture, as much as possible! Hopefully [our report] is having some impacts on the government and decision-making authorities of the country!”

If even those who research crushing poverty and labour exploitation for a living can stay optimistic, maybe there is hope. And now that India has shown itself willing to spend such huge sums on something as insignificant as a 12 day sports competition, perhaps a genie has been let out of its bottle. When the IOA went to London to bid on the Games, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee reportedly gave them a “blank check” to win the bid, no matter the cost. When the games are over and the Queen’s Baton has moved on, perhaps we should demand the same “blank check” approach to India’s bigger problems of hunger, health, education and poverty. Those are the issues that deserve “blank check” treatment. Those issues are more than just fun and games.

Notes on a Monsoon

It is thick into the monsoon season here in Sikkim, a time of great beauty and great inconvenience. Today I mean to go down to Sikkim University to speak to some visiting academics, but I was already soaked by the time I got to the main road. I waited futilely for a taxi to 6th Mile, but the few that bothered to stop for me were unwilling to go that far. And the rain was picking up, so I pulled my coat tight and shuffled back into the office.

I don’t mind the rains, usually. Even the monsoon has its patterns, and most days you can count on it raining in the late afternoon, leaving my mornings clear to go to the bazaar and my evening walk home muddy but tolerable. Even walks in the rain don’t bother me much. I have a vintage 1970s trench coat that had once been my dad’s, and I fancy myself quite the journalist in it, striding through the storm. For no particular reason I refuse to buy an umbrella.

And the season has its perks: the clouds. They layer the valley in the morning in ways that a prairie boy like myself could scarcely imagine. They roll up through town a clean white mist, obscuring past too many meters like the fog of war. Last night I opened my window and was shocked to see my own silhouette projected by lamplight deep into the thick cloud outside my room.

This year we are getting a proper monsoon, which is often especially crazy in Sikkim. A couple days of wet can quickly penetrate the soft Himalayas, loose the soil and cause landslides all over the state. But proper monsoons are good, since the glacier-fed rain here slides down the hills to water a huge swath of northern India. The storms, though they wash out roads and tumble power lines and leave the whole city a muddy mess, are necessary to rice agriculture in Asia. Even in Bangladesh, a country half-destroyed by floods several times a year, rural people perform weird little rituals, like frog marriages, to encourage the monsoons to come.

But then, it is hard to know what “proper” weather is anymore. With Pakistan underwater and Russia on fire, the sky has a certain sinister sheen to it these days. Sikkim feels it keenly, as our precious glaciers get smaller every year. Water in the subcontinent is on a terrifying time limit, and Sikkim will be the first to know when it runs out.

Rain is the kind of thing that I can always write about. Rain is primordial and perennial, but still constantly contemporary. It is beyond our control and yet, these days, its excesses feel like our own fault. And, yes, it makes my nose run and ruins my white canvas shoes. But a wet world feels infinitely more alive than a dry one.

I expect I’ll keep writing about rain, occasionally, when I feel compelled to write but have no topic at hand. I have to. It’s in me, somehow: the sky and the clouds and everything they do and everything beyond them. I am an up sort of person, even when it is pouring down.

A Sample of My Reporting

I don’t do that much straight up reporting for the daily edition of NOW, and when I do I don’t usually post it here, since it doesn’t have much interest outside of Sikkim. But today I thought I’d put up a little sample of the kind of stuff I occasionally cover and what my straighter news writing looks like.

Storytelling project to create 100+ meter digital art banner
GANGTOK, 10 Aug: A creative collective called the Indigenous Storytellers Network kicked off a new project in Gangtok today that plans to create a 120 meter long digital art banner — the longest of its kind in the world. The Great Sotry-Wall Project banner will be stitched together from several pieces of cloth and will feature 120 separate tribal stories told with a combination of photography, art and text. The group hopes to display the banner for several days at MG Marg starting 25 September before taking it on a six month tour around Sikkim and the rest of India.

After their kick-off event at MG Marg this morning, the group moved to Rachna Books in Development Area, which will serve as the team’s headquarters as it designs the banner over the next several weeks. The team will be assisted by students from Greendale Secondary School in Tadong, who will contribute photos, artwork and stories. The project is also open to any members of the public that wish to contribute, assist or simply observe the group’s progress. Next week the Network will set up a multimedia exhibition at Rachna Books, including a film festival.

By using new forms of media and attracting attention through the banner’s extraordinary length, the Indigenous Storytellers Network hopes the project will introduce a new generation to a variety of traditional tales and folklore — especially from tribes in Sikkim, whose stories are expected to make up 70% of the banner.

“Folklore is at the heart of any indigenous society. Each story contains a vital message, some moral, some scientific, some spiritual,” said Salil Mukhia, one of the project leaders, this morning. “Losing a story isn’t just losing culture. You lose a great deal of traditional knowledge.”

The project is expected to cost seven to ten lakhs rupees. The Network hopes to find most of this funding by offering space at one end of the banner for sponsors to print photos or logos. Individual sponsors can reserve a spot for Rs. 300, organisations for Rs. 1000.

“We want to do the fund raising in such a way that people feel involved in the creative process,” said Karma Choden Bhutia, the group’s spokesperson.

The Network has received confirmation from the Limca Book of Records that the banner will likely be included in the 2012 edition as the world’s longest piece of digital art. ‘Digital art’ usually refers to images created or manipulated by software such as Adobe Photoshop.

Most of the stories on the banner will be creation myths, many of which were collected at the Confluence 2010 ‘collective-sharing’ event held here in Gangtok last month.

“It is about remembering who we are and where we come from,” said Prakash Chettri, a chief prefect at Greendale Secondary School and part of the student group contributing to the project. “In other words, our origins.”

What I Did When I Couldn’t Find A Job

Check it out, everybody! I have a piece in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education about “going global” in a bad job market.

As you know, I had a rather unusual solution to my post-graduatino unemployment. I moved to India. It was the right move for me at the time, but I also think moving to the developing world to wait out the depression can work for many Millennials. It is a pretty favela chic way to handle things, but thems the times we live in. And no matter what age you live in, having a broad global perspective makes you a better worker and a better person.

So check it out, and tell your friends.