What's New in India
Slumdogs Live On
As most people probably know by now, back in 2008 a British film with a modest budget of $15 million and a cast of virtually unknown Indian actors broke box-office records worldwide and catapulted Mumbai to international fame. Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle's rags-to-riches story of a young man from a Mumbai slum who wins the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire became the ticket to Hollywood for the film's young lead actors, Dev Patel and Freida Pinto.
Pinto, once a struggling model from Mumbai, has since graced international magazine covers and can be seen in Woody Allen's 2010 film You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger and in Trishna, Michael Winterbottom's 2012 take on the British classic Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Patel was recently seen in M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender, though the box office was not impressed with the film, and in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel alongside a roster of seasoned stars.
Perhaps the item most piquing the interest of fans, however, was the fact that after Slumdog, Pinto broke off her engagement to her former beau in Mumbai and has since been romantically linked to Patel.
The Commonwealth Games
In October 2010, Delhi played host to approximately 6,000 athletes from 71 countries who descended on the national capital for the Commonwealth Games. The event was a sort of coming-of-age for India, as the country had never before hosted an international sporting event of this magnitude. An estimated $1.94 billion was spent on revamping Delhi's existing stadiums and constructing new ones and on accommodations for the athletes. A similar amount was spent on building and improving roads to facilitate transportation, including revamping Delhi's public transport system, and building a new airport terminal.
The overall expenditure on the Games far outstripped the initial estimate, and corruption charges marred the run-up to the event, but fears that the Games would be mismanaged were largely unfounded, and the 11-day event went off without too many hitches. Soon after the Games concluded, the government announced a high-level probe into the corruption charges, and Suresh Kalmadi, the president of the Indian Olympic Association, was forced to step down.
The Symbol of the Rupee
In 2010, the Indian government sent out a message about the growing strength of the Indian rupee against global currencies like the dollar and the euro by unveiling a new symbol for the rupee. With the symbol, a unique blend of the Roman "R" and the Devanagri (or Hindi) script "Ra," the Indian rupee joins the US dollar, the euro, the British pound, and the Japanese yen in having a distinct identity.
As part of the process, in 2009 the Indian government announced a public competition to create the symbol, and more than 3,000 people sent in their suggestions. D. Udaya Kumar, a professor at the elite Indian Institute of Technology, sent in the winning entry; he explained that his symbol "is a perfect blend of Indian and Roman letters" and that the design was inspired by the Indian tricolors "with two lines at the top and white space between." Although the new symbol will not be incorporated into currency notes, it will be added to major scripts and used in all official communication.
Delhi's Swanky New Airport
In 2010, India's busiest airport got a much-needed upgrade: the new Terminal 3 was unveiled at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport. The swanky glass and steel terminal is larger than Madrid's T4 and Heathrow's T5 terminals and is expected to handle 34 million passengers per year—even more than Singapore's busy Changi airport. The T3 gives India's airports, infamous for their chaotic layouts and spartan facilities, a timely facelift. In addition to 168 check-in counters, and the ability to handle jumbo A-380 aircraft, the T3 also has sleep pods, a variety of restaurants and bars, and a large duty-free area.
International fast-food chain McDonald's was among the first global brands to set up base in India, way back in 1996. Over the ensuing years, they've tweaked their trademark products to better suit the Indian palate, and you won't find items like the McAloo Tikki (it has a potato cutlet in place of a meat patty), the Chicken Maharaja Mac (the Indian version of a Big Mac, with two grilled chicken patties, tomatoes, cheese, and spicy mayonnaise), or the Paneer Salsa Wrap anywhere else in the world.
A host of other international brands have since climbed on to the India bandwagon, including fast-food outlets like Domino's and Subway. Popular Spanish high-street fashion brands Vero, Moda, and Zara unveiled stores in Mumbai and Delhi in 2010, and denim manufacturer Diesel opened a store in Mumbai. And Starbucks' plan to bring its brand to India is finally set to materialize by the end of 2012; stay tuned for the whereabouts of your next latte.
Indian Art Booms
Indian art is becoming better known in the international art market, and the works of modern Indian masters have been fetching record prices at art auctions. In June 2010, for instance, veteran artist S.H. Raza's Saurashtra, a large acrylic on canvas work, was snapped up by a buyer for a staggering $3.5 million at a Christie's auction in London. The sale set a new record for the amount paid for a work of modern Indian art at auction. Other artists, including M.F. Hussain—called the "Indian Picasso" by Forbes magazine—and others have found favor with international collectors, and the Indian art market is expected to continue gaining recognition and renown.
Recycling isn't new to India, by any means. Indeed, recycling has been going for many decades, with ragpickers collecting paper, plastic, and metal waste that's then sold and resold up the chain of industry. Bottles and tins have always been reused until they break; newspapers are saved and resold, or used as insulation. The recycling of cow dung for fuel, building material, and many other uses has been going on for centuries. More recently India has become a center for recycling electronic waste. The country's own rapidly growing economy generates more than 50,000 tons of e-waste, and other countries have been sending their electronic waste to India as well—despite bans that prohibit the export of hazardous waste from rich countries to poor ones. In India most e-waste is dismantled and reprocessed by hand, without protective gear to guard against toxins such as lead and mercury that are known to be harmful. Something to think about.
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