Dr. A’s Glasses

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Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s iconic glasses were the theme of the day for Team CJAM. Yesterday, we got a green light for our concept and we now had 2 days to pull it all together in time for the final presentation on Friday. By using Dr. A’s glasses as a symbol for our awareness campaign, we could tie the Indian constitution to the cause while also speaking of Dr. A’s vision for equal human rights.

The tactic for the day was to divide and conquer: Hannah, Nicole and I visited Pune in the morning while Ali and Sonali stayed behind to prepare for filming at Dehuroad. The Pune goers spent a long hour and a half on the train to get into the big city. We were on a strict mission to print templates of Dr. A’s glasses and gather art supplies for our group’s video. Oddly enough, the first print shop we visited was on Dr. Ambedkar Road. His presence was felt via an elevated full length bronze statue of the great man which overlooked the busy boulevard of pedestrians and auto rickshaws. Following our errands, we managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Naturals for fresh scoops of chiku, mango, coconut and almond ice creams. If there is one thing I’ll be craving once we’re home in Canada, it will be Naturals!

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In the afternoon, the team at Dehuroad began filming footage for our video. We wanted to involve as many members of the cantonment areas as we could, bringing together different communities and age groups. In our video, we wanted our local actors to literally and metaphorically share Dr. Ambedkar’s vision for equality. This was done through the passing and wearing of his iconic glasses. In post-production, we will cut the video to make it appear as though the actors are passing the glasses through space and time to another person in a different setting! Throughout the filming process, we were swarmed with community members hoping to take part or get a closer look. It was a great success. We now have momentum and tomorrow we will head to the great city of Mumbai for video and sound editing.

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A City Within a City

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When we think of a slum, a few issues immediately come to mind: poverty, high population densities, poor sanitation and infrastructure, etc. It does not occur to us that a slum can be an incredibly self-sufficient environment where community and industry thrives. Families living in slums are multi-generational, having a legacy that reaches back over 150 years; they call it home.

During our 2nd day in Mumbai, we were treated to an eye opening tour of the Dharavi slum, literally a city within a city, with Reality Tours (thank you, Nano!). With a population of about 1 million spread out over 2 square kilometers, Dharavi is considered one of the most densely populated slums in the world. It is also the most industrious. Dharavi is unlike the cold, dark slum depicted in the film Slumdog Millionaire. This area is in fact colorful and bustling with life.

The recycling industry, which receives recycled wasted from all over the state of Maharashtra and the city of Mumbai, is the most fascinating aspect of Dharavi. Used plastic cutlery, children’s toys, detergent containers and other plastic products are sorted and made into smaller pieces. They are then melted, dyed and reformed into long rods which are cut into small plastic pellets. This raw material is resold to plastic manufacturers. Plastic is just one of the numerous raw materials recycled in the area, along with aluminum and cardboard. It was interesting to see that no factory workers used safety gear even in the most dangerous environments. Our guides explained that though they are provided equipment free of charge, it is considered inefficient and promotes a certain weakness in the wearer.

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Following our visit to the slum, we went back to Bandra West for lunch and shopping. The group decided to go to Elco, a vegetarian restaurant that specializes in Indian street food. This was a treat since most street food could be potentially unsafe for our Western stomachs! Every dish that the group ordered was a treat for both the eyes and our taste buds. We indulged in Chole Bhature (a massive inflated fried dough served with chickpeas and yogourt), Uttapa (the Indian alternative to pizza served with dipping sauces and broth) and Sev Puri and Dahi Puri, both derivatives of Pani Puri which we first tried during our Bollywood film night. Whereas Pani Puri is a stuffed hard shell, Sev Puri is flat and layered. Dahi Puri was covered in a refreshing and tangy yogurt.

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 A visit to Fabindia, as well as its home wares outpost, was what we needed to get our shopping fix for the weekend. The girls bought harem pants and caftans and the guys bought kurtas (collarless shirts) in an array of lush textiles. On our way back to Malavli, we made a pit stop at a roadside McDonalds. This was a necessary visit in order to experience the cultural institution in an Indian environment, complete with paneer burgers and curry powder to shake with their famous fries.

Student Bio: Matthew Sabloff

Name: Matthew Sabloff

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Major: Graphic Design

About Me:

I am a 3rd Graphic Design major, originally from Montreal. I moved to Toronto from Montreal as a stepping stone towards gaining new experiences, wether it be professional or social. The Design Abroad program to India is the ultimate opportunity to experience a culture that I am deeply interested in while exercising my skills in design.

I have not yet had the opportunity to approach graphic design, or design as a whole, as a problem solving activity which could ultimately provide social impact. Travelling to India to participate in this program will not only impact the communities that I hope to come to experience and be a part of, but it will influence change in myself. I truly have a passion for my field and for travel; this trip will give me the ability to experience both on a social and ethical level that I could not achieve on my own accord.

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