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Category archive: India
Last night I was at the Institute of Economic Affairs for the launch of James Tooley’s remarkable book, Imprisoned in India: Corruption and Extortion in the World’s Largest Democracy.
Here are a few of the photos I took of him, talking about this book:
James Tooley is the guy who roams the earth, seeking out freelance educational enterprises, and also setting up several of his own. But then, he fell foul of India’s criminal justice bureaucracy, and got imprisoned for a while. Scary. And then he wrote a book about it. I have only read the bit at the end, because I wanted to know that James Tooley was okay. I of course intend to read the rest, and then do my bit to plug it.
Judging by last night’s performance, James is fine. But he is also haunted by the knowledge that many other victims of the same corrupt system are not as lucky, if that’s the word, as he was.
Both were effusive about the book, more than they had to be, if you get my drift.
The Q and A focussed, inevitably, on what is to be done, about the vast scale of the corruption in India. The mood of the room, although packed, was grim. My feeling is: you start by telling the story. You start by writing books like this one.
And the rest of us start by reading them.
The Evolution of Everything, pp. 181-184:
Evolutionary reform of education is happening. James Tooley, Professor of Education at Newcastle University, has catalogued - ‘discovered’ might be a better word - the fact that the poorest slums of cities, and the remotest villages, in countries such as India, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and even China abound in low-cost private schools. He first began studying this phenomenon for the World Bank in 2000 in Hyderabad in India, and has more recently followed it through Africa. In the cramped and sewage-infested slums of the old city of Hyderabad he stumbled upon an association of five hundred private schools catering to the poor. In one of them, the Peace High School, he found doorless classrooms with unglazed windows and stained walls, where children of rickshaw-pullers and day labourers paid sixty to a hundred rupees a month (about 90p-£1.50), depending on age, for their education. Yet the quality of the education was impressive. In another, St Maaz High School, he found a charismatic head teacher with mathematical flair who in twenty years had built up a school with nearly a thousand students, taught by a group of largely unqualified (but often graduate) teachers, on three rented sites, from which he made a reasonable profit. State schools existed, with state-certificated teachers in them, but many of Hyderabad’s parents were exasperated by the poor quality of the education they provided, and many of the private-school teachers were exasperated by the poor quality of the teacher training. ‘Government teacher training,’ one told Tooley, ‘is like learning to swim without ever going near a swimming pool.’
When Tooley told these stories to his colleagues at the World Bank, he was told that he had uncovered examples of businessmen ripping off the poor, or that most of the private schools were creaming off the wealthier parents in a district, which was bad for those left behind. But this proved demonstrably untrue: the Peace High School in Hyderabad gave concessions, or even free tuition, to the children of extremely poor and illiterate people: one parent was a cleaner in a mosque earning less than £10 a month. Why would such people send their children to private schools rather than to the free state schools, which provided uniforms, books and even some free food? Because, Tooley was told by parents, in the state schools teachers did not show up, or taught badly when they did. He visited some state schools and confirmed the truth of these allegations.
Tooley soon realised that the existence of these low-cost private schools in poor neighbourhoods was not unknown, but that it was largely ignored by the establishment, which continued to argue that only an expansion of state education could help the poor. The inadequate state of public education in low-income countries is well recognised; but the answer that everybody agrees on is more money, rather than a different approach. Amartya Sen, for instance, called for more government spending and dismissed private education as the preserve of the elite, while elsewhere in the same paper admitting that the poor were increasingly sending their children to private schools, ‘especially in areas where public schools are in bad shape’. This bad shape, he thought, was due to the siphoning off of the vocal middle classes by private schools - rather than the fact that teachers were accountable to bureaucrats, and not to parents. Yet the poor were deserting the state sector at least as much as the middle class. The lesson that schooling can be encouraged to emerge from below was ignored in favour of the theory that it must be imposed from above.
India was just the start for Tooley. He visited country after country, always being assured that there were no low-cost private schools there, always finding the opposite. In Ghana he found a teacher who had built up a school with four branches teaching 3,400 children, charging $50 a term, with scholarships for those who could not afford it. In Somaliland he found a city with no water supply, paved roads or street lights, but two private schools for every state one. In Lagos, where government officials and the representatives of Western aid agencies all but denied the existence of low-cost private schools, he found that 75 per cent of all schoolchildren in the poor areas of Lagos state were in private schools, many not registered with the government. In all the areas he visited, both urban and rural, in India and Africa, Tooley found that low-cost private schools enrolled more students than state schools, and that people were spending 5-10 per cent of their earnings on educating their children. When he asked a British government aid agency official why his agency could not consider supporting these schools with loans instead of pouring money into the official educational bureaucracy in Ghana, he was told that money could not go to for-profit institutions.
Suppose you are the parent of a child in a Lagos slum. The teacher at the school she attends is often absent, frequently asleep during lessons, and provides a poor standard when awake. This being a public-sector school, however, withdrawing your child goes unnoticed. Your only other redress is to complain to the teacher’s boss, who is a distant official in a part of the city you do not often visit; or you can wait for the next election and vote for a politician who will appoint officials who will do a better job of sending inspectors to check on the attendance and quality of teachers, and then do something about it. Good luck with that. A World Bank report cited by Tooley states despairingly that pay-for-performance cannot work in public-sector schools, and ‘dysfunctional bureaucracies cascade into a morass of corruption, as upward payments from those at lower levels buy good assignments or ratings from superiors’.
If your teacher is in a private, for-profit school, however, and you withdraw your child, then the owner of the school will quickly feel the effect in his pocket, and the bad teacher will be fired. In a free system the parent, the consumer, is the boss. Tooley found that private-school proprietors constantly monitor their teachers and follow up parents’ complaints. His team visited classrooms in various parts of India and Africa, and found teachers actually teaching in fewer of the government classrooms they visited than in private classrooms – sometimes little more than half as many. Despite having no public funds or aid money, the unrecognised private schools had better facilities such as toilets, electricity and blackboards. Their pupils also get better results, especially in English and mathematics.
Which meant he did it with two whole balls to spare and scored five runs more than necessary. Here. West Indies swept the board. Under 19s, Ladies, and now the Gents.
The name of the four-sixes man begins with “Br” and towards the end there’s “thwait”. So, this blog can feel some comfort. It’s only a game. Which is BMdotcom speak for: My side lost.
Or: Spoughts thoughts? You choose.
Sport (spought) has been good to me of late. Last summer, England won the Ashes. My local cricket team, Surrey, got promoted to division one, and also got to the final of the fifty overs county knock-out tournament. England then defeated South Africa in South Africa. England (a different England but still England) won the Six Nations rugby Grand Slam. And now (back to cricket again) England have got to the last four of the twenty overs slog competition, alongside the Windies, India and New Zealand. Few expect England to win this. But then, few expected England to get to the last four. No South Africa (beaten amazingly by England). No Australia (beaten today by India (aka Virat Kholi)). No Pakistan or Sri Lanka. But: England still involved.
Concerning the Grand Slam, the best thing about it was England winning all its games, but otherwise it was … a bit crap. The recently concluded World Cup, in which England did rather less well loomed too large over it. The World Cup featured no Six Nations sides in its last four, and when watching our local lads stressing and straining against each other you couldn’t help (a) thinking that the Southern Hemispherians would murder them, and (b) that a lot of the best Six Nations players seemed to be Southern Hemispherians themselves. I mean, what kind of rugby world are we living in when the most threatening French back is called Scott Spedding and was born in Krugersdorp, South Africa?
The Six Nations was worth it just to hear Jonathan Davies, a man whose commentating I have had reason to criticise in the past, say that a certain game is “crucial”, and that Wales have “matured”:
As for the twenty-twenty slogfest now in full slog, well, I have been rooting for England (England’s best batsman being a bloke called Root), but also for Afghanistan. You might think that as a devout anti-Islamist, which I definitely am, I would be rooting for the Muslim teams to lose. But actually, I think sport is one of the leading antidotes to Islamo-nuttery, and it is my understanding that the Islamo-nutters regard sport and sports-nuttery not as an expression of Islamo-nuttery, but rather, as a threat to it. Sports nuttery ultimately causes fellowship with the infidels rather than hatred of them, underneath all the youthful antagonisms which it does indeed inflame. It’s hard not to get pally with people when you play or follow games with them and against them, especially as you get older, and remember previous hostilities with fondness rather than anger.
So, in short: go Afghanistan! The Afghanistan twenty-twenty cricket team, I mean. Afghanistan gave England a hell of a fright and nearly beat them. And yesterday, they actually did beat the West Indies, even though it didn’t count for so much because the Windies had already got through to the semis and the Afghans would be going home now no matter what. But, even so, beating the Windies was a big deal, and the cricket world will have noticed, big time.
Here is Cricinfo, at the moment of Afghan triumph:
I love it when a T20 game really boils up, and they put “dot ball” in bold letters, the way they usually only write “OUT” and “FOUR” and “SIX” and “dropped”, or, as in this case, “an amazing, brave, brilliant running catch!”
And soon after that climax to the game, came this:
Chris Gayle is quite a character. Having scored a brilliant century against England that won the Windies that match and put England in the position of having to win everything from then on, his commitment to the West Indian cause is not in doubt, as it might have been had he celebrated like this with the Afghans without having done any other notable things in this tournament. He has quarrelled with West Indian cricket bureaucrats over the years, and has definitely seemed to have like playing for the Bangalore Royal Challengers more than for the West Indies.
His demeanour after today’s Afghan game is in sharp contrast to his lordly impassivity after taking the wicket of David Miller of South Africa, which reduced South Africa to 47-5, a predicament from which they failed to recover
One of the delights of virtually following this tournament is that it has been possible to watch little videos of dramatic moments, like the one of Gayle taking this wicket and then not celebrating very much. The graphic additions to this posting are merely screen captures. Clicking on them accomplishes nothing. But if you go to the original commentary from which I took my graphics, you can click on the little black video prompts, and get a little video of the drama just described.
Also: Happy Easter.
This combines two interests of mine, the use of containers to make buildings, and the use of colour, to make buildings look more colourful:
But is it serious? It shouldn’t be. Making a skyscraper by piling containers on top of each other makes no sense, because the ones at the bottom have to be able to support the ones at the top. And the ones at the top have to be very light. The idea of having all the containers of the same structural strength and hence the same weight is foolishness containerised. The ones at the top will be far too heavy for what they are doing and the ones at the bottom will be squashed flat.
And if you are not piling containers on top of each other, but are merely slotting them into an already constructed structure, then here’s a plan. Why not save bother by not using big, heavy, lumpy old containers. The simple fact is, containers are only useful for making regular old buildings of the sort of height that buildings used to be before they invented mechanical lifts and structural steel (even though containers are themselves made of structural steel) and reinforced concrete.
Besides which, it surely only makes sense to make a building out of containers if you can get some leftover containers on the cheap. There’s no way they could get that many containers by just waiting for them to fall off a container ship.
Police in India have a new weapon for controlling unruly protesters in the world’s largest democracy: pepper-spraying drones.
Yashasvi Yadav, police chief of the northern city of Lucknow, said on Tuesday that his officers have successfully test-flown the newly purchased drones with a view to better crowd control.
So, when will BrianMicklethwaitDotCom be linking to a story about how the protesters have their own drones, to attack the police drones with? Drones are not just the automation of aerial warfare. They are the potential degovernmentalisation of aerial warfare. I mean, how the hell will they stop this? Drones are ridiculously cheap compared to regular airplanes. It’s only a matter of time before no major political demonstratiion will be complete without a struggle for command of the air.
I wonder if people like Police Chief Yadav realise what they may be starting.
Incoming from Michael Jennings:
As of this morning, thirteen successive Australia v India tests have been won by the home side. Seven of these matches have been won (and hosted) by India, and six by Australia. If Australia win the remaining two tests in this series (which may or may not happen) this will be the fourth successive Australia v India series to be a whitewash to the home side.
He was talking about this game.
Cricket has been a bit of a wasteland for me lately, what with county cricket being in hibernation and England playing nothing but one day cricket, which they are rather rubbish at. They have been preparing for the forthcoming one day World Cup, by losing a one day series in Sri Lanka and then by replacing their captain. But the feeling among cricket’s chattereres is that sacking Cook will improve England, and one day knock-out tournaments are such a lottery that I will live in hope, for as long as there is any.
What is it with vegetarians and their veggie sausages and burgers? I’m a meat eater, but I don’t go around making carrots and sprouts out of beef.
This is also a good one:
I work in a call centre in Norwich and we’ve just been told our jobs are moving to India. I’m so excited! I’ve always wanted to visit India and with the salary they pay me I’ll be able to live like a Maharaja over there. Well done Aviva, keep up the good work.
Interesting piece about the rise and fall and rise of Viz, here.
As of right now, late afternoon, there is rain and wind outside my window, and not long ago there was thunder. That’s in London SW1. And yet over in St John’s Wood, there is a test match going on, and there is no mention of any weather getting in the way of things.
Oh, as if to prove me wrong, Nasser Hussain has just talked about how the rain is staying “east of Regent’s Park”, in other words travelling northwards from me. North east and Lords would be getting a little bit of moisture some time around now.
It’s very tense, with England 62/1 and chasing just over three hundred, with an hour and a bit this evening and then all of tomorrow, weather permitting. Ballance and Cook have put on fifty, with Cook batting like his life depends on it. Which it does. He won’t die if he gets out soon, but how well he does today and tomorrow could have a big impact on how he lives from now on.
NOT MUCH LATER: 80/4. Cook just got out, for 22. Ballance and Bell already gone. England are not playing at all well at the moment.
Yesterday, someone emailed or tweeted Test Match Special, saying that the Notts captain, Chris Read, could be drafted in, to replace Cook as captain and Prior (who is now dropping catches) as wicketkeeper. It may eventually come to that. Continuity of selection is all very well, but what if they continuously selected team keeps on continuously losing?
See this earlier piece.
One of my favourite computer functions is Screen Capture. For years, I didn’t know how to do this. How is “prt sc” screen capture? I used to just photo the screen. Then I got told, and more to the point, told at a time just before I found many uses for this procedure, and as a result, I actually got it fixed in my head.
So it is that I am able to capture fleeting moments like this one:
That was the passage of play that turned the game England’s way, today, on day one of the test match at Headingley. Sri Lanka went from 228-5 and motoring to 229-9, in nine balls. In among all this, Broad got a hat trick, but didn’t even realise and had to be told! There was then a little last wicket stand and they got to over 250, but the big damage had been done.
Here is another interesting moment, which is the moment when they show me all the guys who worked on Adobe Photoshop, while I am loading Adobe Photoshop.
But, the trouble is, when I do a Screen Capture while that is happening, it doesn’t work. What gets captured is the moment when Adobe Photoshop is finally loaded. Until then, I guess my computer is too busy loading Photoshop to do a Screen Capture. Either all that, or else I just wasn’t doing it right, as is entirely possible.
But instead of obsessing about what I might or might not be doing wrong, I instead simply photographed the moment, just like old times:
The reason I wanted to photo this was all the Indian names, in among the occasional regular American ones. Interesting. Where are they all based, I wonder? I’m guessing somewhere in the USA, but what do I know? Adobe seems to have a lot of places where they could be. And of course, if something like Adobe doesn’t know how to plug a global network of co-workers together, who does? From where I sit, these Indian guys could be anywhere. Even so, like I say, interesting.
A lot of the Americans I read on the Internet say that Obama is destroying America, and he seems to be doing as much as he can along these lines. But there is a lot of ruin in a country, and a lot of ruin in American. This screen shot suggests that at least parts of the good old American upward economic mobility ladder are working just fine.
There was a truly terrific cricket game today, in Mumbai, between the Mumbai Indians and the Rajasthan Royals.
Rajasthan got 189, which is a pretty damn good score in twenty-twenty cricket. But the Mumbai Indians had to do better than do better than that. They had to get their run rate above the Rajasthan run rate, by getting 190 in 14 overs and 3 balls. Which is ridiculous, impossible, crazy. So, they duly failed in their quest to get 190. After 14 overs and 3 balls there were: 189-5. They tried to run two off ball 14.3, to get 190, but instead they got just the one, and there was a run out.
Rajasthan Royals celebrate! They’re through to the play-offs!
But no. It then emerges - frantic messages and conferences on the pitch establish this - that if Mumbai’s new batsman hits his first and only ball to the boundary, the Mumbai run rate still climbs above that of Rajasthan, and Mumbai still can win through to the play-offs, at the expense of Rajasthan. The new guy does! He hits it for six! And Mumbai do win through!
Shiva Jayaraman explains:
In the calculation of net run rate (NRR), the final score, and not the target, is the relevant number. For Mumbai Indians, the requirement to finish the chase in 87 deliveries was only subject to their final score being 190. The chasing team, if they take a few extra deliveries to get home, can still push their NRR up to the required fraction if they manage to achieve a final score that is sufficiently higher - by finishing things off with a boundary.
Mumbai Indians, despite failing to score that all-important extra run off 14.3, had already inched ahead of Rajasthan Royals’ NRR when they had drawn level on 189. At that stage, Mumbai Indians’ NRR read 0.078099, while Royals’ was 0.076821. Had Mumbai Indians just run the single they needed for victory off the fourth ball, though, their NRR would have gone below that of Royals’.
Since they were using the extra ball, they would have needed to get their score up to at least 191 off that delivery. Running two was not an option, as they needed just the one run to win. So their only option was to hit a boundary.
But the story doesn’t end there.
However, had they played out a dot ball, they still would have not been out of it. They could have hit a four off 14.5 or 14.6 and still finished with a NRR better than that of Royals. If they played out three dots, they would have needed to hit a six off 15.1 to bump their NRR up above Royals’. If this had happened, Mumbai would have ended with a NRR of 0.080519 against Royals’ 0.074163.
I watched all this, and I swear nobody knew this last bit at the time.
Cricket meets The Onion. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the IPL games don’t mean anything.
In other cricket news, Kevin Pietersen had another horrible day leading his Delhi Daredevils to a crushing defeat, again. But Pietersen himself batted effectively, and when he gets back to England to play for Surrey, not only will he be wanting to be proving a point, but he looks like he might be capable of proving it. Especially given that he won’t be the captain of Surrey, and have to carry the can for Surrey now being so crap.
England, having recently dispensed with the services of Pietersen and then got an actual win in the first ODI against Sri Lanka, were today totally creamed, in ODI number two. Pietersen would not be human if he didn’t smile, just a little.
Actually, Surrey may be bouncing back from total crapness. Today, they had a half decent day, bowling out Essex for not much. Now they’re talking about Gareth Batty, the ancient Surrey spin bowler responsible for this, as England’s replacement for Swann. Well, Batty is.
Yes, Surrey just won a cricket match. I know. You don’t care. All you care about is football. But I have supported Surrey ever since I was a tot, while football doesn’t really grab me. I am not totally hostile to it. I like it when Spurs win, and I watch the World Cup. But basically, I just don’t find the regular things that footballers do, when playing football but when not scoring goals, very interesting. At school I was a goalie, rather than a regular football player, and I never became that interested in how the people out there in that big field contrived to make balls fly towards me and my goal. All I cared about was stopping them, which is nothing to do with most of what happens on a football pitch. It was more like fielding in cricket, or wicketkeeping (which I also did).
When I say I “supported” Surrey I don’t mean I actually went to any games, but I did follow them on the radio, and now I follow them on the Internet. And this week, for the first time in about two years, and after being relegated from Division One of the County Championship at the end of last season, Surrey finally won a first class four day county match, against Gloucester.
Day one saw a clatter of wickets, with Surrey, having bowled Gloucester out cheaply, throwing away the chance of a first innings lead by losing six cheap wickets themselves. On day two, Surrey’s first innings having ended with its customary ignominy, Gloucester were building a big lead, and I went into “only a game” mode. I forgot about it in other words. Later I remembered, and by then Gloucester’s second innings had been ripped to bits by Chris Tremlett, the fast and very tall bowler who went on tour with England to Australia last winter but was hopelessly ineffective. On Tuesday, for the first time in ages, he stopped being ineffective. If he carries on bowling like this, Surrey could end up doing as well as people said they would at the start of the season.
So, by the end of day two, Surrey were already starting their fourth innings, chasing 267 to win, and then came another huge surprise. I assumed they’d be four down by the close and would lose by over a hundred, such has been the awfulness of the post-Ramprakash post-Maynard post-that-other-South-African-bloke Surrey batting. Instead, by the close, Surrey were forty four without loss. Astonishing.
The next day was almost entire rained off, and Surrey made it to forty seven, again without loss. The final day, Wednesday, was sunny, and Smith, Surrey’s ageing guest worker captain who until recently captained South Africa, also come good at last with the bat and got a hundred. Steve Davies, after abandoning his wicketkeeper’s gloves in this game to concentrate on batting (thereby kissing any chance of an England return goodbye), and after a disappointment in the first innings, got sixty, only getting out in a final little clatter of wickets just before the end. The end was actually quite funny. Jason Roy and Davies both got out with only one more good clout needed to win it, and then the dot balls started piling up, as if speed of scoring was proportional to the number of runs still needed, with the Surrey score becoming ever more static even as victory beckoned. Asymptotic, I think this is called, as when a graph nearly gets to a particular point, but never quite gets there, even as it keeps getting ever closer. But a single occurred, and then a two was finally managed, and all was well. So. Hurrah.
In other cricket news, it seems that England’s cricket bosses continue to take their time about adjusting to the IPL. I have been telling these people that the IPL is something else again for years, but although I am sure that they are aware of my views, they still choose not to act on them. This guy agrees with me. Of the relations between the IPL and England’s cricket bigwigs, he says this:
If the hand of friendship is being extended there, it’s being extended on the quiet, far from public view. A cold-war chill persists publicly, perhaps hardened by the presence of the establishment’s own Voldemort, Kevin Pietersen, in Delhi. One of the many irks that led to his estrangement was his ardent advocacy of the tournament.
That was attributed to money, and only a fool would deny its role, yet Pietersen’s sharpened cricketing instincts also recognised other values: the chance to deliver under pressure in front of hysterical crowds; the opportunities it provided as a learning experience and an information exchange; the way it was driving the patterns and techniques of the sport forwards. To be isolated from the less attractive elements of IPL cricket was also to be isolated from its benefits. The other day Chris Gayle tweeted news of a dinner he’d had with Pietersen, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh. Maybe they didn’t speak about cricket at all, but maybe they did too, and imagine what a conversation that would have been.
Actually, Pietersen is having a wretched time of it in the IPL right now, captaining the Delhi “Daredevils”, who are now bottom. Well, someone has to be. Gayle is also not doing well this year, so far, because he is hurt. One of the ITV4 commentators recently described him as a liability to his team. Ouch.
Next year, apparently, the IPL will stop being free-to-view on ITV4 and will instead by on Sky. So, finally, I will stop recording all the games, as I have been doing, and can settle down to mining these past games for blogging purposes, on an “end of an era” basis. And apparently, it being a well known fact that Sky TV is the nearest thing to a World Government that the world now possesses, this means that the England cricket panjandra will be told to fit English cricket in with the IPL, and they will obey. That way, England players will be in the IPL, instead of just Pietersen, Sky will make more money.
Perhaps I’ll get out more and watch the IPL in pubs. Maybe I’ll get Sky, although my understanding is that Sky don’t do what they blitheringly obviously should do which is sell me all their cricket and nothing else for ten quid a month, or perhaps all their cricket and all their rugby union for fifteen quid a month. (Ten quid a month for one sport, five quid more for each extra sport.) I refuse to pay forty quid a month for sport the majority of which is of no interest to me. I can’t be the only one who doesn’t want football but wants other Sky stuff, but at present people like that are just not catered for.
This afternoon, the Big Bang or Big Blast or whatever, the rejigged English county cricket version of T20, begins. Instead of concentrating all the T20 games in one concentrated burst IPL-style, the Big Whatever will see T20s every Friday evening throughout the summer. It might work. Trouble is, it will be harder to get the best foreigners involved, if they have to be here all summer long just for one little tournament. We shall see. Aaron Finch, recent T20 tormentor of England, will be playing for Yorkshire, presumably only after he has completed his duties at the IPL. And a chastened Pietersen will have “a lot to prove” with Surrey, but is he now getting past it? With luck, greed will kick in, and he will want to hang on in there for the sake of his bank balance. If his mate Yuvraj Singh can do it, he will even now be telling himself, so can he.
(In the first edition of this posting I erroneously claimed that Finch would be playing for Surrey, when actually he will be playing for Yorkshire. Apologies. It tells you something about my subconscious that I began by spelling Yorkshire as “Yorkshite”.)
Finally. Well, yes, fair comment, but I had and I have my reasons.
One of the reasons there have been so many inanimate objects in these wedding photos so far is that I got there so very, very early. And it was such a lovely day, and such a lovely place. What was I supposed to do? Not take photos of stuff?
But another reason for the relative absence of people in these photos is that just shoving random wedding photos of people at a wedding and its immediate aftermath onto the internet raises the question of just how public a wedding is. Is it the business of the entire world? Not really. Not necessarily. (Think of the arguments that rage about who may and may not photograph celebrity weddings. These arguments are not only about money.)
So, are weddings entirely private? Again, not really.
A wedding is certainly not just about the Bride and the Groom. They are of course central to everything, and in modern, self-scripted weddings, we guests are often included in the proceedings by being told that we are “sharing” this “special day”. But I think more is involved than us merely sharing a basically personal ceremony. What these two people, and typically also their two families, are doing is proclaiming to one and to all that, as of now, things are different. The Bride and the Groom are no longer separate individuals in quite the way they were before this day. They are now, in whatever way they want to do this, a couple. Still two individuals of course, but also in it together. And they are not just saying this to each other. They are saying it to … everyone. We are now living a different life. Back us up, people. Don’t hit on either of us during marital rough patches. Help us to live this new life we are embarking on, rather than expecting us to behave like the singles we used to be. If you are a long time friend of hers, but don’t much care for him, make the effort to change that, and meanwhile, keep your grumbles about him to yourself.
In the past, holding weddings in public was even more important, because only if you had lots of witnesses could most of those directly concerned be entirely sure that the wedding had even happened. Public ceremonies, a marriage ceremony being only one such, were public ceremonies in order that everyone could then agree that they had happened, on that day, in that place, and that this or that, these or those promises had indeed been exchanged. In pre-literate times, public ceremonies were the nearest thing most people had to a collective record of events. They weren’t merely the principal form of public propaganda (although there definitely were that too); they were the public record.
As the old Church of England marriage ceremony puts it, right at the very start of the event:
Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; …
God, this congregation, this Man, this Woman. The congregation is no afterthought.
But exactly who, at a wedding these days, are the members of this congregation? In the internet age, is the congregation the entire world? Hardly. Yes, families and friends gather together to tell each other, and then to pass the word on to all their families and friends, that, as of now, they’re a couple and we will all help them to be a couple and to stay a couple. But what of total strangers on the other side of the world? Do you want random bods in faraway places to be told all about this event, and all about who was present at it, what they were wearing, and about how drunk they all got? Maybe you will be delighted to be telling absolutely anyone who cares all about it. But, maybe you will not.
So, in this next clutch of photos I have once again downplayed the individual portrait aspect of things, and concentrated on the kind of generic wedding-ness of the event. Ceremonial niceties, beautiful or quirky fashion statements, food, sunshine, music making, distant shots of brideness and groomness. But individual, recognisable faces? Once again, hardly any.
For me, the fact that, in my pictures of my fellow amateur wedding photographers, faces are so often hidden behind cameras is a feature rather than a bug, when it comes to showing my snaps, at least in theory, potentially, to total strangers. That’s basically why there are more photos in that collection than there are in this one.
Let me add another point on the anonymity front, relating to the sticking up of photos of people on a blog. Let me put it thus: I have quite a few subjects which I instruct Google to email me about whenever anyone mentions them on the big old www. One of these subjects is “face recognition”. I get a lot of emails from Google about that, often involving Google itself.
By now, the name and face of the Groom is not much of a secret to any friends of mine or of his or of both who care, what with him explicitly name-checking a couple of us guests for a couple of our photos (in this piece), my one being one of the sign photos I took beforehand. I did take quite a lot of portraits of people at the event itself, of course I did. But they will be thrown into the photographic bran tub that the Bride and Groom will presumably trawl through about once every decade, without casual internet passers-by seeing them. I may even have the odd trawl through them myself in the years to come. But as for the rest of you, you will have to make do with snaps like this:
As you can see, this is not just the ceremony itself. It is also the reception.
In 2.1 we see the Bride putting a ring on the Groom. And in 1.2 we see us guests passing … something along between us, but I already forget what it was. This was in accordance with some kind of Hindu ceremony that the Groom had read about on the internet and, if I recall what the Bride’s Mum said, we (i.e. regular Hindus) never do. So the Groom, no sort of Hindu himself, had invented an entire Hindu wedding tradition. Outstanding.
I particularly enjoyed the bit later on in the day (see 3.2) where the Bride and Groom, surrounded by musicians, were photoed together, at the far end of the lawn from the rest of us. I got no really good photos of this, but what I saw reminded me somewhat of this famous Jack Vettriano painting, of people dancing on the beach, attended not by musicians but by umbrella holders. I thought there were musicians involved in that picture, but I now reckon I was combining in my mind that painting with this one. Ah, it seems that the man with the umbrella was singing. So music was involved.
Setting Vettriano aside, one of the musicians told me that although they had performed at many weddings, they had never, ever been asked to do anything like that before. So it was a slightly special day for them also. Excellent.
The IPL (twenty-twenty cricket) is so far proving to be one of the best yet. Just now, there was this, from Amit Mishra, this being his last over, to win it for Sunrisers Hyderabad against the Pune Warriors, by 11 runs:
1 W 1 W W W
When Mishra went in to bat, Hyderabad were 44-6. Mishra got 30 and Hyderabad struggled to 119-8, which never looked enough, until Mishra got stuck in, and Pune panicked, as in really panicked, even more than they had already been panicking. At one point Pune were 101-4, for heaven’s sakes, needing just 19 more runs. So, last six wickets for seven runs. In the end, it wasn’t even that close!
As I keep on saying, the English really should be allowed to get in on this.
At least Eoin Morgan (Eoin sounds like Owen) is doing okay. He is the nearest thing to an Englishman making any sort of impact in this tournament.
At his talk chez moi on Friday Feb 22nd (see below) on How globalisation has made the world less rather than more homogenised, Michael Jennings intends to show us some photos. Indeed, he will be dropping by earlier in the week to make sure that the relevant technology can be guaranteed to work properly on the night. This may also require some creativity with the seating.
Here, in the meantime, are a few photos that he has emailed to me, together with commentary. Enjoy.
This is in Sukhomi, Abkhazia, a breakaway non-recognised state that is de jure part of Georgia (and is supported by Russia). Mango is a fashion label that grew out of a stall in the Ramblas market in Barcelona, and is now to globalised retail what the sub-prime market is to home ownership.
An interesting phenomenon occurs when there is a market for a particular international business, and that international business does not operate in that particular market for whatever reason: because the market is too small, too distant, too poor, too corrupt, or there are political problems. Clones of the business will often spring up. These can be particularly entertaining in places where there is no trademark law, trademark law is weak, or where it can be legally difficult to pursue claims from the owner of the trademark. This burger place in northern Cyprus in no way resembles Burger King. Obviously.
One of the most extreme cases in which this phenomenon occurred was in South Africa under apartheid. Many international companies boycotted the country, which in some ways was a modern country with a sizeable middle class, economy and legal system. (In various other ways, it wasn’t and isn’t.) South Africa in 1990 was therefore full of quite good clones of international businesses, that until then were constrained as to where they could operate, but faces competition only from one another at home. Post 1990, the international businesses that they were clones of entered South Africa in a big way, and the South Africans themselves were subsequently able to compete in the wider world. The South African clones weren’t good enough or rich enough to compete in the home markets of the major internationals, and have subsequently expanded into countries that are poorly served by the internationals for a variety of reason - this means Africa, parts of Eastern Europe, parts of Asia, parts of the Middle East. Politically dubious markets of questionable legitimacy a lot the time. One often finds South Africans and Russians side by side.
One could write an entire book about fake Apple Stores. The ones in China (this one is in Tianjin) are the most awesome. The entire story of international brands in China is itself fascinating. Everyone is there, because of the perceived size and importance of the market. Yet the country is far more chaotic, far more unstable, far more corrupt, for more authoritarian, has weaker copyright and patent laws and a weaker rule of law in general than many of the markets these companies would generally consider operating in.
India is more problematic in some ways: bureaucratic beyond words, and culturally difficult in ways that make foreign business models work less well, or at least require a lot more adaptation. (Imagine you are McDonald’s, and you are told that you are not permitted to use either beef nor pork in the food you sell). There have historically been limits on foreign investment. Supermarkets are only now in the process of being legalised. Very large companies can find entry to the Indian market - car makers or mobile phone companies. Medium sized companies - which is where most of the interesting stuff happens - find it much harder.
It’s going to be an interesting evening.