Holi festival celebrations in India
The Indian festival of colors, Holi, is celebrated on the full moon day in the month of March, marking the ceremonial beginning of spring and commemorating events in traditional Hindu stories.
Photos: Rajesh Kumar Singh, Altaf Qadri / Associated Press
‘Untouchable’ Indian woman becomes a tycoon: Dalits still face discrimination in India’s caste system, but Kalpana Saroj has worked her way up from poverty, becoming a manufacturing tycoon.
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Emerging from extreme poverty and pariah status to a position of strength and wealth has certainly been satisfying, she said. That fact that she is a woman — in a country ranked by the United Nations as among the world’s most dangerous places to be born a girl, given high female infanticide, inferior healthcare and nutrition — made her rise more extraordinary.
And although her ascent hasn’t been without its share of speed bumps or caste-related jibes, she said, she has tried to channel anger and frustration into getting things done.
“I’m aware people may still look down on me because I’m a dalit,” she said. “But even when I was very agitated, I never lost my cool, always trying instead to find my way out of difficult situations.”
Photo: Kalpana Saroj. Credit: Mark Magnier / Los Angeles Times
Alastang, India — Noori, reportedly the world’s first cloned pashmina goat, makes her public debut at a Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology breeding facility. Pashmina goats are prized for their fine wool.
Photo credit: Dar Yasin / Associated Press
At India bank, sex workers earn a little interest and self-esteem: In Mumbai, India, the Sangini bank in the Kamathipura red-light district serves only sex workers, helping them build their worth.
As Sangini sees it, sex workers with even a modest financial buffer are able to refuse clients wanting unprotected sex. And savings build confidence, providing the wherewithal to change professions if they choose.
Often, women will leave their passbooks here so husbands or pimps don’t discover and squander their earnings. Men can deposit but can’t withdraw funds without the woman’s permission, says Diane Cross, the charismatic social worker running the bank.
“If you’re saving, you’re not as desperate and can afford to make better decisions,” she says.
Photo: Sex worker Majda Shaikh, left, makes a deposit at the Sangini bank. Credit: Mark Magnier / Los Angeles Times
India snake charmers have identity crisis: A few lucky ones got their cobras and other serpents ID-chipped before the deadline. Others will have to lie low, which won’t be hard because their profession is as endangered as some of their snakes.
Graphic: How snake charming works. Credit: Raoul Rañoa / Los Angeles Times
Gun culture spreads in India: Indians own about 40 million guns, second only to the U.S. Rising incomes, along with crime and fear of terrorist attacks, have fueled firearms purchases.
Photo: A couple headed to their field in Noney village in January rely on a gun for safety in light of tensions before elections in India’s Manipur state. Credit: European Pressphoto Agency
Ahmadabad, India — Indian students of Swaminarayan Gurukul Vishwavidya Pratishthanam sit near a formation they made with lighted candles to welcome the new year in Ahmadabad.
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Photo credit: Ajit Solanki / Associated Press
In India, a secret garden that rocks: The Nek Chand Rock Garden in Chandigarh is populated by mosaic animals, Indian gods and other figures. What was one man’s illicit fantasy is now an attraction.
Over the next 18 years, he created a folk art retreat with echoes of Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona and Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers, the soaring Los Angeles fantasy made from steel rods. He says there was no particular spark — it was a project from the gods.
“It was just a hobby,” he said. “I didn’t think people would ever see it.”
But the low-level Indian bureaucrat’s gift for turning trash into treasure has since delighted millions of visitors to Nek Chand Rock Garden, a down-the-rabbit-hole fantasy world reached by paying 30 cents at a teeny window and then ducking through a small doorway.
Photo: Nek Chand’s knack for turning trash into treasure came in handy for this tableaux of repurposed broken bangles and porcelain toilets. Credit: Mark Magnier / Los Angeles Times
Irom Sharmila, pictured in New Delhi in 2006, has been on a hunger strike for nearly 11 years, in protest of a law granting legal immunity for Indian troops.
Force-fed by the government through a nose tube, she languishes in a guarded hospital ward here in Manipur state, charged with attempted suicide. This carries a maximum one-year sentence, so every year she’s released and rearrested.
… For 11 years, in addition to refusing food or water, she hasn’t washed her shoulder-length hair or cut her nails, giving her a look that scares children. She’s stopped menstruating. She cleans her teeth with cotton balls and practices yoga, paces the hallway, reads and writes.
Photo credit: Gurinder Osan / Associated Press
Some like it really hot: Northeast India’s ghost chile is the hottest commercial chile pepper on the planet, blasting in at 200 times spicier than jalapenos. And people eat it, though usually in small bites.
Photo: A vendor in the Women’s Market in Imphal, northeastern India, sells ghost chiles, one of the spiciest in the world. Credit: Mark Magnier / Los Angeles Times
The typewriter lives on in India: India’s typewriter culture survives the age of computers in offices where bureaucracy demands typed forms and in rural areas where many homes don’t have electricity.
Nearby, hundreds of other workers clatter away on manual typewriters amid a sea of broken chairs and wobbly tables as the occasional wildlife thumps on the leaky tin roof above.
“Sometimes the monkeys steal the affidavits,” Yadav said. “That can be a real nuisance.”
Photo: Repairmen work at New Delhi’s Chawla Typewriters. Credit: Mark Magnier / Los Angeles Times
In India, “cheer queens” opt for saris: The cheerleading squad for the Indian cricket team Pune Warriors takes a traditional-culture, fully clothed approach to motivate players and fans. It calls for complex hand waves and traditional dance steps in saris.
Photo: Cheerleaders perform during the Pune Warriors’ match against Kings XI Punjab in Mumbai, India. The Warriors introduced their traditional-culture, fully clothed “cheer queens” this year. Credit: Rajanish Kakade / Associated Press
India is on the verge of eradicating polio. A more effective vaccine and billions of dollars spent to spread the message and get children inoculated repeatedly is bearing fruit, with reported cases falling drastically.
Photo: A man crippled by polio walks through the village of Kosi, eastern India. Credit: Altaf Qadri / Associated Press