Apr 8 2010

The Taxi Takes video on Worldfocus- Give your Take

A video about Sameena, a female taxi driver in Mumbai was recently published by Worldfocus. Here is the link to the piece.
The video can also be viewed here:

There are several interesting comments on the site which I have decided to copy and paste here to allow the discussion to continue and evolve. And in light of the rulings in France by Nicolas Sarkozy and his Government there is a lot to be said about this Muslim lady and her decisions. Go ahead and give your take!

04/01/2010 :: 02:47:09 PM
Secretary Says:

One day she will learn that wearing a burka is similar to being branded with a large M on her forehead. It took a long time for American slaves in the 1860s after Americas civil war to lose that feeling of being a slave. So will this lady to get rid of the past and step into the world where she can be free. She is very brave to put her face on the world stage since she is going against her fellow Muslims belifs.

04/01/2010 :: 04:53:59 PM
Steve Says:

I am fully aware of oppressive, patriarchal history and culture that led to various head coverings and “hiding away” of women. And before I came into contact with so many women who wear head covering, I probably would have said precisely the same thing as “Secretary” above.

But, while I still believe such coverings are oppressive, I also see that the actual lives and narratives of the women I know who wear them completely contradict the idea that this oppression has been fully successful.

I know proud, stubborn, fully empowered women who– for their own reasons — do not feel it to be a contradiction to wear a head covering. Or, if they do see the contradiction, many of them seem so comfortable and confident in their independent identity, that they simply live with the contradiction.

This does not mean that I am comfortable, either with the contradictions or with the head coverings themselves. I know the history that they represent.

But if and when various cultures evolve past the need to hide and imprison women and cover their faces, it will not simply be the removal of those head coverings that will lead to full liberation as human beings.

I’m afraid that internal struggle is not so easily and directly related to external garb.

04/01/2010 :: 08:58:14 PM
David Jamadar Says:

Change are slow but inevitable. As time passes either we adapt or get left behind. I never like to see women wearing that covering is hides their true beauty. And when you can see really see things. I think that women soon would realize that the world is moving on. These small clips about independent women makes me feel proud.

04/02/2010 :: 11:02:10 PM
Azizah Says:

Lovely, I love this, women getting employed, owning business and taking economic independence. Cheers to the future!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook

2 Responses to “The Taxi Takes video on Worldfocus- Give your Take”

  • marc Says:

    I live in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country where, though it is not obligatory, many Muslim women choose to wear headscarves (locally called Tudongs)covering their hair, ears and throat. Many perhaps do so out of ‘peer pressure’ merely to conform to some perceived cultural norm.

    My own personal opinion is that, from a purely aesthetic point of view, it is a pity to see these women covering their natural assets.

    This is a dangerous form of reasoning, based purely on my own personal preferences. I could just as easily apply the same reasoning to say that it is a pity women cover their shoulders or cover their legs or… i think you see where this is going – it’s a slippery slope.

    I used to live in Europe where, though it is not obligatory, many women choose to smear coloured pastes over their faces and paint unnatural colours on their eyelids, cheeks and lips. Many perhaps do so out of ‘peer pressure’ merely to conform to some perceived cultural norm.

Leave a Reply

Mar 24 2010

Was the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai, ‘India’s 9/11′ ?

When India was attacked on 26th November 2008, news anchors and journalists started calling it ‘India’s 9/11.’ This film examines this terminology and the links between 9/11, 26/11 in Mumbai, Iraq, Afghanistan and Modern terror. The conversations between taxi drivers and their passengers in Mumbai taxis delve into these larger issues. A tragic terrorist attack, a lapse in security, the loss of the top Anti Terrorist Squad officials who were investigating the so called ‘Hindu terrorist’ attacks in Malegao lead the people to voice their notions of larger conspiracy theories at a time when the Mainstream media mentions none of this. These are not authoritative voices but perspectives like yours and mine on the events which affect and shape our lives. They are short takes, 140 characters long tweets in taxis, between real people riding in a taxi, in a city that experienced extreme violence, terror and loss.

The current poll on The Taxi Takes has a majority of 50% who say it should not be termed India’s 9/11 and 34% in favor of the Mumbai attacks being termed ‘India’s 9/11. However there are also a small 8 % who are not sure which hence makes this a rather balanced undecided poll.

Watch the film and cast your vote. But more importantly I urge you to listen to the common voices on the streets of the Mumbai Metropolis and gather a sense of where the Mumbai terrorist attack of might figure in the larger scheme of current happenings in the world. Please give your take and comments below.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook

2 Responses to “Was the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai, ‘India’s 9/11′ ?”

  • Watch Hindi Movies Says:

    nice blog post about this subject. this makes me ask a question though, so i dont really understand the relation of this topic and your entire blog. it just doesnt go together. But nontheless i found it very readable. Cheers, Rizwan

  • Vida Streeby Says:

    Well, that is my first take a look at to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a brand new initiative in a regional community in the exact same niche. Your blog supplied us valuable information to work on. You’ve done a marvellous job!

Leave a Reply

Oct 20 2009

More about Mumbai

It’s important to understand Mumbai and what it’s all about. Recently a fantastic fifty reasons were penned down by Kanika Parab & Mansi Poddar on CNNGo about why Mumbai should be considered the greatest city in the World. The list includes six features which play a relevant role in ‘The Taxi Takes on Terror.’

So at number three there is the Famous Ladies Specials which even got press in the New York Times article I posted. Yes it’s good for Indian women to have a hassle free commute.Though I think woman, all around the World have commuting stories of alarm and horror that they could share.

Leopold Cafe, and it’s distinctive charm and toughness is at number 24. I know that people still throng this bar and the 26/11 attack didn’t make any dent in it’s popularity. In fact more people probably go to see the bullet holes and shattered glass now more than ever.

And at number three we have the taxis! The ‘kalee peelee’ or black and yellow cabs which are fun and noisy, old and sacred, tarnished and decorated, sturdy and yet unfortunately slowly leaving the landscape of the city. The Government has passed a law that forbids taxis that are older than 25 years to stay on the streets. So the iconic Fiat taxis are being replaced by zippier Omnis, Santros and Marutis. But you’ll get to see a lot of these soon to be vintage classics on The Taxi Takes. So stay glued:)

The ‘dhobhi ghats’ of Bombay are a historic place where the laundry of Bombay comes to be washed at row upon rows of stone wash pens. A ‘dhobhi’ is a washerman and nearly two hundred ‘dhobhis’ will wash clothes together at any given time. I met two of these ‘dhobhis’ who have been washing clothes in Bombay as part of a profession that has been passed on to them by their grand fathers. At one point when the taxi driver and two washermen were talking in the taxi, I chuckled to myself thinking I really had an incredible slice of the working class! So at number 37 we have the Dhobhi ghats.

Haji Ali , the miraculous floating Dargah comes in at number 43. Built in 1431 by Sayed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, a rich Muslim merchant it is one of the most recognizable structures off the coast of Southern Mumbai. I have some wonderful footage of the taxi driver Jamid Ali standing near the mosque , by the water’s edge as the sun was setting behind him. He sang a song he had written in dedication to his mother, who died when he was nine. I’ll put a clip of him on his profile page eventually.

The last reason was because there were so many holidays in Mumbai. Due to it’s multi cultural, multi ethnic and secular nature India houses every religion in the World. So at any given time of the year Indians can expect to have a holiday celebrating either a Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Parsi, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain tradition.

The other reasons are also fun, brilliant and definitely worth a read for anyone who has heard of Mumbai but never been there. A great city in a wonderful country. More on Mumbai later.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook

Leave a Reply

Sep 25 2009

Hollywood and Media- Creating reels about the real Muslim.

One of the notions I wanted to explore in the taxi dialogues was perceptions about Muslims. It’s a tough one to deal with and can come across as being ill informed. However I wanted to give the chance for this topic to surface. There is a shot of a young Hindu driver, Ram Singh asking an old Muslim passenger with a white beard this question. He asks, rather apologetically but also with a hint of curiosity, “If you don’t mind my asking, why does it seem that all terrorists are Muslims?” In fact any taxi drivers removed symbols of their faith after the 1992 – 93 communal riots in Bombay.

A taxi driver displaying symbols of his faith. Something which changed after the 1992 - 93 communal riots in Bombay.

So the taxi drivers and passengers both had some prolific comments to make. But they didn’t look at the media or cinema and how it creates images. Post 26/11 there has been enough media bashing in India and Bollywood isn’t critiqued enough by the masses anyways. However Bollywood’s grand daddy Hollywood has surely come under the radar.

Yesterday I came across this gallery about Muslim celebrities in Hollywood. There are some fine men and women featured. But there seems to be an underlying current that their work is or should be directly connected to their faith. I think it may or may not be. In the case of ‘Allah Made me Funny’, it’s perfect to use humor to break down stereotypes and perceptions. The moment you laugh or don’t laugh about something, you either realize your beliefs on something or change your take on it by the simple act of laughing.

I also came across a great event at The Asian Pacific American Institute at NYU. It will be held today, the 25th of September between 6 and 8 pm at Tisch. Dr. Jack Shaheen is having a screening of his documentary, ‘Guilty Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs After 9/11′ followed by a Q and A of his work.
Go to http://www.apa.nyu.edu/ to RSVP. It’s open to the public.

And please keep commenting on the blog itself and not on Facebook :)

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook

Leave a Reply

Apr 26 2009

Back in Bombay

I’m back in Bombay. The last time I was here was 2 months back researching for ‘The Taxi Takes on Terror’. I prefer Bombay to Mumbai, just like I think I might even prefer Mumbai to Delhi now. Many factors and feelings go into that comment, especially since I’m back in my country after a year and a half of being away. bluewall2 So I’m spending a lot of time socializing with taxi drivers. I recently hung out with Mohammad Sameen. Last time I was here he had dropped me home from Colaba and on the way recounted his experience of being at VT terminal when the terrorists opened fire. He unknowingly drove from one venue of attack to the next and could have encountered bullets at any point. This time when we met, he insisted on buying me a ‘cold drink’, synonymous with a fizzy soda drink in India. We drove around the Nariman point area and he stopped to show me sights as if I was his niece visiting. He pointed out the room at the Oberoi which had seen some serious hostage action. The room was like a big open wound amongst the other curtained windows. I could see workmen working inside under bright lights with cables dangling out the window. I took some shaky footage with my handycam. Zooming into a far away window without a tripod has to be shaky. That same evening I waited patiently while sipping a Café Mocha at a Barista near Regal cinema, looking out expectantly as if for a date. At one point a taxi driver standing next to his shiny black and yellow cab looked straight at me and I thought, this must be Sahdev Singh. I met Sahdev’s brother, Ram Singh on my previous visit and some of his prejudiced comments about Islamic terrorism intrigued me to take his number, which in fact turned out to be his brother Sahdev’s number. On calling I found out that Ram was visiting his village, but that Sahdev was also a taxi driver. So I decided to interview him, which explains why I nodded back at the man next to the taxi, picked up my coffee and walked out. I sat in the front seat with him and we drove around Colaba and The Taj. I told him about my project and asked for his help. But like many other drivers he seemed more concerned about making a living for his family than solving the matter of terrorism. He also was not too kicked about being filmed, a response that you rarely get in India’s Bollywood capital.mirrorview I might be mistaken, but all the drivers I talk to, the majority of the Hindu drivers, seem complacent while the Muslim taxi drivers want to try to do their bit to remove misconceptions about terrorism and identity. One driver, Haridwar Gupta, even asked if I was Muslim. I had asked him if he thought it was right for the police to arrest 50 muslims only after a blast took place. When I told him I was bought up a Hindu he wanted to know what caste I belonged to. When I tried to explain how I think caste only tends to divide humans, he proudly told me he was a Brahman and that his son had refused to eat even an egg one time when the doctor recommended it for his ill health. So I continue to have conversations in cabs in search of the ideal taxi driver for my project. Someone who has experienced some form of terrorism, is chatty, likes to be filmed and wants to be part of The Taxi Takes. Tomorrow I hope to meet Sushma, a female cabbie who drives the Priyadarshini taxis in Mumbai. The second time we spoke she said she was working and I naturally assumed driving. But it turns out that this smart lady works as a graphic designer too. Maybe she might have some inputs to give for the title stickers I plan to get made for the back window of a Mumbai taxi. My inspiration is the incredible taxis you see on the street strutting around like adorned and embellished elephants at a colorful Indian wedding. The Creative Review team had a similar idea for their April issue cover. jamid11 On my first trip I met a charismatic and intelligent young taxi driver, Jamid Ali. He had already been on Meter Down and it was thanks to Kabi that I met him. It was on our first meeting itself that I decided to take out my camera and test the concept and my equipment for this project. Here I’ve edited a short clip from the footage I shot with him and his passengers. The second clip I am working on also features Jamid Ali and the focus of the conversations is ‘Jihad.’ Jamid Ali pretty much came up with the questions on his own after I told him what my project was about. He asked his passengers what according to them is the meaning of ‘Jihad’ and if there is a link between terrorism and religion.


Post to Twitter Post to Facebook

5 Responses to “Back in Bombay”

  • Robin Locke Monda Says:

    Hi Vandana:
    I’m glad you’ve started this blog. It’s great to read about your thinking process and your impressions of the people you are meeting. Like the photos a lot. And, of course, the sharing of video bits. Keep on going!

  • Martijn Says:

    It’s really wonderful that you have returned. I really like how your narrative and film attempts to capture the richness of participants’ accounts and then you can later explicate them with theoretical accounts of terrorism. Also, you are in the middle of naturally occurring ‘revelatory events’, which stimulate interpretive insights and the systematic analysis of additional data. You are providing great ‘perspectives in action’.

  • AndrewBoldman Says:

    Hi, good post. I have been woondering about this issue,so thanks for posting. I’ll definitely be coming back to your site.

  • Derekp Says:

    I think i’ve seen this somewhere before…but it’s not bad at all

  • admin Says:

    Thanks Robin and Martijn. It’s taken me some time to get the hang of blogging I think:) I am looking at my footage now and will soon start posting more video. Where have u seen this before Derek?

Leave a Reply