Holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi
India is the land of paradox and contradictions: ostentatious wealth and extreme poverty, deep-rooted tradition and modernity, religion and secular consumerism. Although this isn’t quite related to Bollywood, I wanted to comment on this conflict that I found omnipresent in Mumbai and around the nation. Every time I am impressed by how progressive Mumbai seems to have become, I am reminded just how much this modernity does not permeate the whole of the city and of the nation. It is still very much a country still learning how to straddle its classes and its worlds. It is common for people in Mumbai to have a daily maid who does the cleaning, cooking, washing etc. The standard monthly rate the maids charge is 1500 rupees, roughly $30. It is also common to possess a driver that can navigate the mean streets of Mumbai. He is always on call, and can work late in the night and early in the morning for hours on end. His standard monthly rate is about 7000 rupees, or $155. Then I think of the top restaurants and nightclubs in the city, where a standard drink can cost $20 and entry $60. Lakme Fashion Week draws international designers and the Indian Premier League draws international cricket stars in a nation where baby-throwing festivals still exist in the rural villages. People sleep in the streets outside of Shilpa Shetty’s new club named, unpretentiously, “Royalty,” and Fashion Week spends 10 million rupees on alcohol alone for the Grey Goose Lounge.
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