Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thoughts from Gandhi

I had no idea how incredible visiting Gandhi's house of 20 years in Ahmedebad would be. I read a biography by Gandhi many years ago and was inspired by the words I read. I read them from the cozy comforts of my bedroom and until I actually visited India did I truly understand so much of what he struggled for, sacrificed, and accomplished. He was destined to live a successful and wealthy life and yet he chose to fight for justice in India. He gave up everything and in turn changed the world.

My favorite part of visiting his house was not seeing the original artifacts that he owned or even the walking cane that he walked with. No, it was sitting on the ground and spinning cotton. Many pictures were captured of Gandhi sitting in the same exact spot that I sat, doing the same exact thing that I did. I sat there and had a patient man teach me how to slowly spin the wheel and yet concentrate on your other hand while you slowly pull the cotton onto the wheel. Gandhi would do this to take his mind off of everything else going on in the world and to remind himself of what so many people in this world do by spinning cotton.

I found myself completely engrossed in what my hand was doing. I wasn't thinking about the friends I had sitting in front of me snapping many photos or any stresses I had. No. I was simply focusing on one task only: spinning. I love that I sat in the same spot he did and did the same thing he did. One of my favorite quotes that I later read in the Gandhi museum we visited was this: "I am mostly busy making sandals these days. I have already made about 15 pairs. When you need new ones now, please send me the measurements. And when you do so, mark the places where the strap is to be fixed-- that is on the outer side of the big toe and the little one."

Wieden & Kennedy

Wieden & Kennedy was an incredible advertising agency we visited in Delhi. I vividly remember driving along a side street to the agency and there on the side of the road was a small fire next to a large mound of trash. Beyond the small fire was a stream that ran along the length of the road and I could see someone shaving as we passed them in our cozy bus. I couldn't believe that such an incredible agency was nestled here along this street where inside the walls of the agency such brilliant minds collaborate to create such brilliant work. This image of driving along this street and then walking into a completely different world than the one we left outside, is something that truly defines India. The rich and poor aren't segregated in where they live, they are mixed everywhere. In the book titled, "We are like that only," Bijapurkar describes this low income that I keep seeing, "At the botton of the pyramid there are 600 million people who earn less than what the World Bank defines as poverty levels. However, collectively, they account for a market opportunity of US $367 billion (in 2008), which is approximately double that of Singapore..." When we walked into W&K's office and they began there incredible presentation, I knew that they knew this concept so incredibly well; I could feel it in there work.

One of my favorite marketing campaigns that W&K created was for a Nokia cell phone that provided solar energy to recharge the phone, a flash light connected to the top of the phone, and had a no slip screen in case you sweated while on the phone. All of these features were specifically targeted towards the lower income class. When looking at many of the advertisements that W&K created for India, they went even further by using local artists and musicians for their ads. This agency knew its consumers in India so well and successfully markets products to them. This agency respects its employees and the creative environment space that they work in. Inside their agency W&K hosts an art gallery where different local artists are featured throughout the year. You could feel the energy and the hard work that comes from this agency. Those couple hours visiting that agency continue to this day to inspire me in my lifelong career goal to create meaningful messages that impact others lives and in turn somehow change the world. Thanks Wieden & Kennedy for bringing that dream back to life.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Children: The Same in Every Culture

Traveling to India reinforced this idea I see so apparent in this world: children are the same in every culture. When they are young, they have one thing in common that they love to do: laugh with a curious spirit. So many times I would walk by children on the street or see them from the window of our bus, and I would see huge grins on there face. Children remind me of the simplicity in this world. A child doesn't know until a later age that they are born in a certain class or even what there skin color is. Those first years of there life they simply are a blank canvas waiting to be painted by the world and the ones around them.

I passed by this group of girls and had to capture there smiling faces. I said hello to them and they said hello back to me and were curious about me. Children everywhere are curious. I asked them there names and now can't remember. I told them that my name was Kelly and I heard them try and pronounce my unusual name for their ears and giggle in return. I don't know what social class these children came from, who there parents were or what they will grow up to be in 2o years. I do know that children love to be loved wherever they are in the world. Seeing this smiling group of girls in India reminded me of that.

Perfection in Service

Something that I tell almost every individual that I speak to about India was there service. I was blown away by how many individuals there were for a service that I was used to in the United States that only required one individuals. An example of this was any restaurant we ate in, instead of having one waiter for the table, there would be five individuals who would be attentive to my every need. At first, this concept made no sense to me. But as I started looking at how many people there were everywhere, how this country makes up 1/6 of the world's population, I started to grasp why this occurs. Individuals were cheap labor there. In a job where we might here in the West demand minimum wage, there in India, they could offer a low paying amount and find somebody who would do it. If not- well, they would move on to the next individual who would take there job. Labor is cheap in India and for the first time I saw and grasped that.

A beautiful example of this was at the first hotel we stayed at in New Delhi, The Hyatt. This may be one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in. Not because of the room size, or comfortable beds, or lovely shower. No, it was the service. Indeed, this was a five star hotel, but I could not believe how incredible the service was. My favorite story to tell is our daily buffet breakfast.

The Hyatt's buffet breakfast is like nothing you could imagine. There was a food there for everyone. If you were from any part of the world, this buffet had something for you, which made it incredibly fun for those individuals who love having variety. My taste buds were in heaven each morning. Add to that the fact that we didn't eat a lunch and weren't served dinner until about 7:30, my mission each morning was simple: eat as much as I could physically eat. With this buffet, that was not even close to a problem.

I decided that the best way to start off my morning was with some eggs. They had some unusual assortments of eggs that had been prepared and I decided to ask for scrambled eggs. "Of course ma'am," was their response. Within a minute, scrambled eggs were delivered to me along with a marsala dosa, which is a traditional thin pancake like southern Indian breakfast item. I could get used to this.

By day three, the same chef would see me walk into the buffet area. Sit down at my table and order my usual marsala tea, and by the time I stood up and walked over to his egg station, he had my unusual request for scrambled eggs ready on a plate for me. I was blown away by that kind of service. Perfection in Service.

Dehli Belly

A movie advertisement that was displayed all over India while I was in India was an ad for a movie titled, Delhi Belly. What Delhi Belly refers to is the common sickness that many travelers get when they travel to this part of the world. If you take a bite of something or drink even one sip of something that has a bacteria in it you are not used to, most travelers end up spending a lot of quality time with their porcelain toilet for at least 24 hours. Delhi Belly is that sickness in your belly that so many foreign travelers can't avoid when they travel to India.

I captured this photograph on our first full day of touring in Delhi. I simply loved that there was a movie out called Delhi Belly and I loved the fact that the tagline for this movie was, "Shit Happens." Perfect. So honest and so true. I couldn't have said it better myself. The irony in this photograph is that I took the picture my second day in India and that the McDonalds was nestled directly below this advertisement. My irony will shortly make sense.

Somehow I went two weeks without any stomach issues. Amazingly my stomach processed all of the usual foods that I was digesting and was good to me. I couldn't imagine if I had to see the Taj Mahal and was running to the bathroom with Delhi Belly every 20 minutes. I would have been miserable. I went two weeks without any huge stomach issues and I decided on our way home in the Delhi airport that it was a good idea to eat McDonalds. I settled for McDonalds after looking at the other options: Dominos pizza, chinese food, and a cafe. To this day I am not 100% sure what triggered my stomach. It could have been the chicken wrap (with no lettuce), the french fries, or the diet coke (no ice) that I ate. Or it could have been every single one of those. 20 minutes later, I had Delhi Belly... And it did not go away for an entire week.

I love that I captured this photograph at the beginning of my trip. It was almost like a premonition or foreshadowing of what was going to soon happen: Delhi Belly from eating McDonalds.

Grooming In the Streets

As a kid I ran through sprinklers in our front and back yard and would consider that my shower for the day during summertime since I never wanted for the day to end of for bedtime to come. I had never thought about how my silly playtime of running through water sprinklers could be the norm for someone else. On our walk through Historic Ahmedebad, I captured this woman washing her clothes in the street after she had just finished washing her hair. I later saw a man shaving through a window as I walked by. He didn't flinch or look at me. He simply continued shaving as if that happened everyday to him and I was just another person taking his photograph. In Hy Mariampolski's book titled, "Ethnography for Marketers," he discusses that, "Images normally reflect society's strictures of self-presentation and representation, shared forms of perception, and established conventions about what is worthy of being recorded."

So many people in this country groom themselves in the street and from Mariampolski's perspective, it is because the people want to be recorded and remembered that way. Or even a quote from the book, "Mother Pious Lady," describes the grooming of one's hair in India so well: "To oil one's hair in the midst of squalor and despair is for hope to keep its head above the swirling, muddy waters of circumstange; it is a sign that the belief in one's ability to shape one's future still survives." Whatever social class you are a part of, grooming is still a high priority, which was apparent in this picture I captured. This woman used water that was running right into the streets and used that to clean herself. It's such a simple thing that so many of us take for granted and my 8 year old self running through sprinklers could never have fully grasped until now.


Unusual and vivid colors are everywhere in this country. When I walk through a market full of spices and dried fruit, or I see women hanging clothing on a clothes lines next to their house, vivid colors fill my eyes. Even the dyes used on the hand carved stamps for their fabrics are new colors to me. Maybe the colors I have seen before in the U.S. Maybe I had seen them before. But for the first time, I notice them. I see them and truly realize how authentic and beautiful it is to see the color turquoise next to a gray background. Or the color pink on a woman's sari amongst a cobble street. I love this photograph I captured of a woman and her child on a balcony. Amongst the neutral background of her house's color she pops out to me. The colors on her and surrounding her are what draw me to capture this photo and try and record this beautiful image of her holding her child. The colors are what I love in this country.