Saree: the Sartorial Symbol of India’s Cultural Diversity

This article was commissioned by Sputnik International:

A saree is an ethnic attire of women in India and also in some of its neighbouring countries. This dress comprises primarily of a seamless piece of cloth, about 8 meters in length, that is worn in over hundred different traditional styles across different regions of the Indian subcontinent.

The saree is an element of the cultural representation of Indian women. It’s considered as a graceful garment that flatters all body types in a sensuous yet elegant manner. A sari can be a two or three piece set worn with a blouse and a petticoat. The main drape is typically 4.5 to 8 meters in length and 2 to 4 feet in breadth. It’s wrapped around the waist, just below or above the navel. In fact there are varying cultural norms about weather or not the navel should be exposed.

Some people consider it immodest to bare the navel. While others may argue that it should be left uncovered, following the belief that all life emerged from the navel of the Supreme being.

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Tea in India is as Varied as the Country’s Culture

This article was commissioned by Sputnik International:

India is the second largest producer of tea in the world. Teas originating from different regions in the country each possess unique attributes owing to the differences in geographic and climatic conditions. There is an equivalent diversity in the way tea is prepared and relished across the nation.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that India is a nation of tea drinkers, considering that the domestic market consumes about 70 percent of the tea that is produced in the country. And India is the second largest producer of tea in the world, behind China. Furthermore the Indian tea industry is making a push to expand tea export to China from the current figure of nearly 30 percent of tea imported by China.

Meanwhile in India, tea is a part of daily routine. People drink tea at regular intervals for refreshment and it’s often accompanied with a hearty dose of snacks and conversations. Tea is offered to guests as a preferred welcome drink. At homes, kitchens rarely runout of tea leaves. At work, people hang around tea vending machines to take a break. Anywhere you go you can easily find a place that serves tea—from roadside tea stalls to iconic Irani cafes—tea joints serve as rendezvous points. Tea culture in India is so pervasive that the current ruling party had employed a pre-poll campaign titled ‘Chai pe Charcha,’ meaning ‘discussions over tea,’ in order to reach out to the electorate.

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Higher Input Cost, Consumer Ignorance Impede India’s Organic Mission – Analyst

This article was commissioned by Sputnik International:

India has the highest number of organic producers in the world. The policy makers in the country have repeatedly expressed commitment to sustainable agriculture and the government has established various schemes. Despite all this, organic farming in India is not yet a successful endeavour.

More than 30 percent of the organic producers in the world are from India, according to the latest edition of the World of Organic Agriculture report published by the reputed international organizations FiBL and IFOAM. The country has registered a significant increase in organic agriculture land and has reached among the top 10 countries with the largest areas of organic land.

The Indian government acknowledges that the international demand for Indian organic produce is on the high. The Union Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Minister, Radha Mohan Singh said at a recent organic farming convention that, “During 2016-17, India produced 15 lakh tonne organic produce, where in, the export volume was 3.64 lakh tonne with value of Rs 2478 crore whereas the domestic market size is estimated at Rs 2000 crore which is expected to touch Rs 10000 crore in the next three years.”

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Stereotypes about Indian women overlook their diverse socio-cultural background

This article was commissioned by Sputnik International:

World over there is a notion that women are oppressed in India. This is a gross generalization as the status and identity of women vary across the diverse socio-cultural strata in the country. We spoke to women from different states of India to find out about their own unique situations.

Any mention of Indian women evokes images of ethnically dressed, dusky and demure beauties. One might also recall a handful of achievers who’ve earned international acclaim in fields as varied as modeling and business. In general it’s perceived that women are marginalized and oppressed in India. This notion is at best incomplete if not altogether incorrect. The reason being that India is a multilingual and multi-ethnic country and the socio-cultural frameworks that define the status and identity of women, vary across different regions in the country.

A Bengali woman has a different upbringing from that of an Odia woman. A Sikh girl has greater access to resources while growing up than another girl from Uttar Pradesh. A Malayali lady has financial aspirations that are in stark contrast to another lady from Bihar. Although most of India follows patrilineal family system but there are living examples of matrilineal societies in Meghalaya and Kerala. The reality is that any Indian woman faces the same issues as any other woman in the world, be it gender equality or crime against women. They navigate through their circumstances within the context of their own unique norms and ideologies.

Sputnik spoke to several women from different regions and states of India to capture the essence of their socio-cultural identity. The questions we posed were about the social norms and cultural ideologies that they grew up with. We asked them whether they thought that  they are empowered or marginalized, dominant and independent or subservient.

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Indian Female Farmers Strive to Overcome Era of Marginalization – Oxfam Manager

This article was commissioned by Sputnik International:

In India, NGOs have been working to raise awareness about gender disparity in agriculture and to empower women farmers through mass-scale community mobilization drives. As a result, many success stories are emerging that speak volumes about the fortitude of women in asserting their rights against all odds.

In India’s eastern state of Bihar, women farmers have employed an innovative initiative of running and managing paddy sapling banks. They use an accurate scientific technique to cultivate rice saplings, just in time, and ready for transplantation. Village Square, a public-interest communications initiative focusing on rural India, reports that these women are earning a respectable livelihood by selling the saplings to small and marginal farmers.

This story emerged from the Muzaffarpur district, which was earlier in news due to a horrendous case of sexual abuse of women in a shelter for the homeless. Given that the rural landscape of India has earned notoriety for oppression and marginalization of women, such a success story is a source of inspiration for many.

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Indian Techies Riding the Blockchain Wave, With or Without Cryptocurrencies

This article was commissioned by Sputnik International:

Blockchain developers in India see merit in working along with the government’s policy of encouraging the technology but shunning cryptocurrencies. Startups are deploying blockchain solutions across industries, though they believe that an open approach to virtual currencies will further the benefits.

Blockchain technology has been gaining favor in India. The Indian Government and its regulatory bodies have shown encouraging attitude towards innovations in this field, but have repeatedly warned against cryptocurrencies. There have also been a number of reports about bitcoin related scams. Considering that bitcoin uses blockchain, there is an apparently convoluted scenario of one geeky thing called bitcoin-that has been labelled as ‘ponzi schemes,’ versus another equally geeky phenomena called blockchain-that promises operational transparency, efficiency, and above all – trust.

Experts in the field clarify matters by explaining how blockchain and Bitcoin are two different entities in their own right, even though they have been used in conjunction.

“Blockchain technology is an innovative mix of public key cryptography (invented in the 1970s), cryptographic hash functions (born in the 1970s) and proof-of-work (invented in the 1990s). Bitcoin and other similar cryptocurrencies are one of the use cases of blockchain technology. The Indian Government understands the distinction between cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology,” says Rohas Nagpal, co-founder of Primechain Technologies, a blockchain startup.

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Ice Cycling Feat on Baikal by Two Indians

This article was commissioned by Sputnik International:

Photographs by Nitin Gera

Nitin Gera from New Delhi and Anirban D Choudhury from Kolkata spent a fortnight riding mountain bikes on the frozen Lake Baikal in March this year. This was a unique expedition considering that Indians travelling to Siberia in winter is unheard of, let alone ice cycling.

It was a quest for adventure that urged Nitin Gera and Anirban D Choudhury to take a break from the agreeable subtropical climate of their homes in India and experience the solitude of Siberian winters. In March this year they packed their mountain bikes and supplies for a self-sufficient ice-expedition to a land that feels like a remote destination to an average Indian tourist.

Starting from Listvyanka, at the southern tip of Lake Baikal, they biked parallel to the western coast till Bugul’deyka, where an early onset of springtime thawing made ice cycling any further an extremely risky proposition.

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