My Favourite Word

my favourite word infographic venn diagram

Cleaning Up

Cleaning up
As some of you may have noticed, the site is a shambles. Sure, it looks okay, but it’s now cobbled together from a pre-existing theme, ever since my old theme wasn’t going to work with the new Drupal upgrade. Since updating I’ve been inundated with comment spam. This is ironic, since I upgraded Drupal because I was getting comment spam.

So for the foreseeable future, I’m shutting off comments on this site. Sorry about this. I’m hopping on a plane in less than twenty-four hours and do not have the time to deal with this right now. The site itself needs a total overhaul at some point soon, but hopefully comments will be back long before then.

In the meantime, you can contact me by mail (allvishal at gmail) or on twitter.


Choosing the Right Camera Travel Bag

Any photographer, be they professional or photo-enthusiast, will tell you that taking care of your equipment is one of the major concerns of the hobby. After all, it just wouldn’t do to show up and be in the position to take a great photo, and discover that your camera’s broken.

The delicate nature of cameras is something that has only been magnified in the move to digital. Where earlier light-proofing the film chamber was the biggest deal, now it’s keeping all the little electronics and tiny moving parts dust free and safe. Even the most rugged of SLRs is not something you want to toss around like a stuffed toy.

And so having a good camera bag is essential. I’ve just picked up one, and after tweeting about it (as one naturally does in this day and age) some people expressed interest in finding out more about it. After all, though there are a raft of products available to house your camera, it’s actually quite rare to find something that covers all your needs.

And my needs were more than just a padded box to house my Pentax K200D DSLR. I don’t consider myself one of those photographers who has tons of kit, but over the years I have amassed a fair amount. There is, of course, a camera (or in my case, cameras, as in addition to my DSLR I also carry around a Kodak C875 compact camera). Then there’s extra lenses for the DSLR, all of which need padded, secure casing for transport. After that, accessories such as battery chargers and extra batteries, extra storage such as SD or CF cards. There’s even stuff I don’t have yet that I plan on getting in the future, such as a tripod, external flashes, and supplementary accessories such as diffusers, gel packs and whatnot. All of these things add up.

And then of course, there’s the new technology, the reason I’ve been searching for just the right bag for ages now: a laptop computer. I first saw a camera bag that also had a sleeve for a laptop a year ago, but it was a prohibitively expensive Kata. I’ve seen cheaper ones since by Lowepro and Case Logic, but in each case they lacked something; either the laptop sleeve was not padded enough, or the placement of the compartments in the camera area just weren’t adequate or placed to my liking, or it just wasn’t comfortable to wear (a major consideration when buying a bag).

Today I picked up this one, a bag that seems to tick all the boxes for what I need. It’s small enough, first of all; smaller than a lot of the others I’ve seen, yet still able to take my bulky old 15 inch laptop. Then it’s black and therefore a bit more innocuous than some of the day-glo yellow and orange ones I’ve seen. It doesn’t scream “I HAVE A HUGE CAMERA AND LAPTOP INSIDE ME” to any would-be thieves, which is a good thing when travelling (the chief reason for getting one of these). It has several pockets on the outside , and all of them are secured under flaps or behind clasps — there are even ties for tripods and other oversize accessories.

Turning to the inside, and this is where the real action is. Each and every one of the black partitions in here are removable with strong velcro grips, which is a godsend for being able to arrange accessories and lenses. This, more than anything, is the reason I bought this unknown brand over other, fancier ones, all of which had limited flexibility (also it was cheap, about $50).

Once all the laptop chargers and extra hard drives and usb keys and general pocket lint are put in here, I can still imagine having space for expansion.

Now, I know most of you are probably thinking, “I still don’t want to carry around a large backpack with my laptop everywhere!” — and I know exactly what you’re talking about. I bought this laptop camera bag precisely for long transport. Overseas trips, weekend expeditions and the like. Instead of two or three pieces, I now have to deal with only one item of carry-on luggage at the airport. Of course, for day to day use, when you don’t need multiple lenses or chargers or other such things, I am still going to carry my trusty little shoulder-strap case. During afternoons out the big bag stays at home base.

All of this is fairly new to me, of course. If you’re careful then an ordinary messenger bag is adequate for securing your camera on an afternoon out (and in the case of smaller cameras, putting it in its softcase and dropping it in a handbag will do).

However, if you’re moving into the realm of DSLR photography, and going abroad or on a long trip, I’d definitely suggest getting a good, versatile, laptop camera bag.


My Awesome New Raygun Toy

I don’t mean for this journal to turn into just a documentation of whatever new toys I buy, but in this case I couldn’t resist putting up a video.

My House is Now Protected by Big Barda

Mums the Word

My new chrysanthemum plant

As is typical, I went to IKEA for one thing and ended up with something else. In this case, the one thing was a shower curtain (which I did end up buying, though I seem to have forgotten about it) and the impulse buy was a potted chrysanthemum plant.

It was beautiful. It was cheap. I mean, really: it cost less than a coffee at Starbucks. I’ve shied away from keeping plants at home since I live in an apartment with not a whole lot of sunlight. In Oman we used to live in a villa which had a fairly large garden, and perhaps in envy of those times I’ve never considered putting some in my new concrete jungle surrounding.

Recently, however, I picked up a little basil plant, and three months later its new leaves have been tiny, but at least it hasn’t died on me.

Next step, a trough-shaped planter for my sill, more herbs, and maybe even a few more flowering plants!


Like Fish for Parking Spaces

My mobile phone is a gadget that has many of its cool-circa-2005 features going unused in my hands. Hindsight tells me I shouldn’t have spent a small fortune on it — money that I could now be putting to better use (camera lenses and beer) — and that whenever I next buy a phone (i.e. whenever this current one conks off) it’ll be cheap, tough, and filled with features that were cool circa 1995. For I never use it for anything beyond the basics of mobile phone communication; voice calls and SMS text messages. I can’t update my facebook status, or twitter a tweet, make a scandalous desi MMS video that spreads like wildfire, or tell you how to get from one end of the mall to the other using GPS, and god knows when the massive tsunami that is the Google Wave eventually crashes into our always-on internet lives, it won’t be doing any waving whatsoever.

And I like this about it.

Every morning or so around eleven, just like today, I get a text message from my service provider. It’s always an ad for something, at least as far as I can tell, because it’s always in Arabic. I know it’s an ad because invariably there’s things like ‘25%’ and ‘sale’ written in English wedged inbetween the indecipherable Arabic words. It’s become something of a routine: hear the phone buzz, pick it up, delete the message after a cursory glance at the two English words in there, and get back to work.

I wonder if there’s some kind of database flag in the telco’s mainframe that can tell them I don’t really respond to cryptic Arabic ads, but given their usually stellar levels of customer service (look, sarcasm!) I don’t dare broach the subject lest I lose several hours of a day I could spend daydreaming about camera lenses and beer. And besides, what if they message me about an impending earthquake or extraterrestrial coup*? Surely they’ll put the relevant Richter scale measure in English? Or at least, ‘Dont Panic! Also the economy is just dandy!’?

* (Hey, I do live in Dubai. If anywhere, space aliens will land here first just to laugh at the awkward attempts at terraforming.)

An aside which brings me neatly to the half-deciphered subject of today’s ad burst. The one English word in the message was ‘mparking’ — and unless it’s a simple spelling error I’m guessing they’re going to introduce some way to pay for your hourly parking ticket with your mobile phone.

“Fantastic!” you’re probably saying. “It’s just what I’ve been waiting for! Soon I’ll be able to sync up my twitter with my GPS and get Google to wave at the parking meter to spit out a stub whenever I set my Facebook status to ‘finding parking’, my mood to ‘frustrated’ and my my latest selection to Pentangle’s ‘Hunting Song’!”

And you may well do that, but alas, my phone is neither capable, nor am I, so the concept (as I understand it) of getting out of a car, walking up to one of those bright orange sentinels in 45 degree summer heat, hunting on its surface for a phone number to text to, then texting to that number and hoping to get a parking stub afterwards, doesn’t exactly fill me with joy.

Technology baffles me sometimes. It’s not just the mechanics of a given technology itself (though that occurs often enough), but the rationale. Some advancements don’t actually make sense. Sure, if you’re a thoroughly modern man then you have several credit cards (and therefore, credit card debt), and have little to no cash in your wallet. Any cash you do have is only in denominations normally used to buy camera lenses with (and not beer), so a way to pay for your parking ticket with your mobile phone must be a welcome new innovation.

On the other hand, I have a couple of technologies that serve me well. The first is a small pocket sown into the right leg of my jeans and most of my other trousers. It’s not a very old technology — it’s practically modern — and like most modern technologies its use is niche and limited to the carrying of small, flat things. Individual breath mints, perhaps, or maybe even a compact vole.

The second one is much older. Positively archaic. Sometimes the best technologies were invented first. They’re elementary and seem crude, but they work, and what can be a complicated process involving waving, tweeting phones, can be boiled down to something as simple as dropping a small metal disc into a slot and picking up your stub.

Cash: it’s why we don’t barter fish for parking spaces anymore.


The Cat at the Cafe

Image of a white cat on a fence, looking down
Finding a decent cup of chai in Dubai isn’t as easy as one might think, so over the years I’ve compiled a mental map of places dotted around the city which serve cheap, strong, 100ml shots of the good brew. The number has dwindled over the years, with many of the cafes — usually attached to old petrol stations — being replaced by shiny new refurbished stations and their cookie-cutter MacDonalds and Burger Kings.

There’s a cafe in a far-flung corner of the city, almost out of it, which also serves a good, reliable shawerma and despite it being nowhere near my house, I end up there a couple of times a week, especially on weekends after a long drive.


It used to be next to a well-frequented petrol pump on a simple cross-roads, but a few years ago they tore up the entire intersection to make a new, super-twisty one, and the pump was shoved to an inaccessible corner. So now where it used to stand is an empty lot with scraps of insulation foam and destroyed cinder blocks, and ominous looking open holes in the ground. The cafe is thankfully not a part of the pump and has survived, its clientele now including several packs of young, uniformed sales assistants from stores in a nearby mall. Like me, they too come for the chai and the shawerma. Wedged between a highway intersection, a sprawling mixed-use development, a torn-down old building, and the desert, the cafe is somewhat typical of the state of things in Dubai now. Disparate elements suspended next to each other, not quite fitting together, but functioning.

But this story isn’t about the cafe and its mix of clientele, of Afghan big-rig truckers and Filipino store clerks, Chinese businessmen or Arabs in their super-tuned SUVS, or even of Malayali-Muslim young men serving a repertoire of chai, rotisserie chicken, zaatar tea, samosas and burgers. It’s about a cat.

Until the other day there were a couple of cats who hung around the cafe. One of them was a friendly girl with patches of several colours on her white fur. She would eat scraps of shawerma meat but little else, and didn’t mind being petted. The other was scared of everything and everyone and bolted at the first sign of movement towards it. There’s a couple more who range through the area, and all are sleek, thin, alley cats with wiry tails and keen eyes.

But the other day there was a new cat at the cafe. Grey in parts and on its striped tail, it stood silently at the edge of where the cafe met the ruins of the petrol pump, fur blowing in the chilll December wind. If the length and softness of the fur, and the bushiness of the tail wasn’t a giveaway, then the sheer wide-eyed innocence in its eyes was: This wasn’t a stray cat.

My father sat down on the kerb and petted it as we waited for our order, and it was not only willing but eager to receive, climbing halfway onto his leg soon after. I’ve seen this sort of thing before, and the story is usually the same: people live here for a while, get a pet, keep them fed in return for the company and the distraction, and then when they lose their job or get a better one elsewhere, look at the cost and hassle of taking their beloved feline or canine back with them, and then just let them go. Given the way jobs are dropping here, I expect to see a lot more pets on the streets in the next year.

Even a heartless, pet-averse person like me felt a little sorry for the cat. Half an urge crept up my spine, to just scoop the thing up, drop it in the car and take it home to something resembling its former life. But I didn’t, because I like animals far too much to put them in my dead, soulless apartment where the nearest tree is a block away.

Our sandwiches ready we left the cat there at the cafe and went home. I wondered if I’d ever see it again. Today I did. Still at the cafe, still welcome to my father stroking it. The other cats seem to have accepted it. When I lived in Oman a family of cats lived in our back yard, unoffical neighbours and a young boy’s companions and curiosities, if not pets. They were fiercely territorial, pouncing on anything feline entering the neighbourhood that wasn’t from there, house cats especially.

That the alley cats of the cafe had allowed the new house cat into their domain was a good thing. It had not been harmed or scratched, and seemed to be cheerful, if starved for the indulgent human attention that it must have got before. There were more than enough scraps to go around, I guess, and maybe, in cat terms, it got along with its new friends.

I wondered if, as a house cat, it had ever hunted for food. If it had ever caught so much as a locust, or been in any environment that wasn’t temperature controlled. As an alley cat, even an alley cat out here in the middle of nowhere, it might still get to do some of that. When I considered taking it back to my home I was looking at it as I might a lost child, a human child, unfamiliar with the ways of steet life. But this wasn’t a human, it was a cat, and who the hell am I to presume it needs a more human lifestyle?

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe tomorrow it’ll stray onto the highway and get flattened under a truck. Maybe there’s a little girl out there who’s wondering where her kitty went. Maybe it’ll have to fight and scratch and claw for its life with some other cat too. But I’m okay with that. It’s a cat. It’s living a cat’s life. I’ll just say hello once in a while and see how it’s doing.

It still looks a little out of place there, with its literally bright eyes and bushy tail. But like the arcane twists of the intersection, the spill of the desert, the cement-grey ruins of the once-relevant petrol pump, and the cafe with a light-up plastic palm tree on its roof and its eclectic menu and its even more eclectic clientele, it somehow looks like it belongs.


allVishal is now on Twitter!

allvishal on twitter image
I‘m not an early adopter. I’m not even a late adopter. So I’m probably the last person on the entire interwub who’s signed up to Twitter, but now I have!


The Landing Lights of Deepavali

picture of two Deepavali oil lamps, with modern electric lights in the background
So a few thousand years ago a guy and his wife set out for home after fourteen years of exile in the spiffy jungles of peninsular India, and having just rescued his missus from the clutches of a very bad guy with ten heads, he decided that he was totally entitled to the guy’s flying car for the journey home — spoils of war and all that. This being the days before the IATA and GPS, the folks back home tried to make things easier for their returning king (whose slippers were doing a fine job of running the kingdom in his stead, apparently) and lit up the entire city so he could spot them from the air.

Hang on — did Laxman have to walk home?

This is all largely conjecture on my part, of course, but it seems that interpreting Deepavali is the birthright of every Indian, just like Swarajya (or at least that’s what Lokmanya Tilak said. I wish he would have added, ‘…and ice lollies’). Just today I’ve heard that Diwali/Deepavali is apparently about the triumph of good over evil; that the lamps were lit in order to banish roaches and other post-monsoon insects; that Narakasur was killed by either Krishna or Kali depending on who you ask, and that this all actually about communal harmony and free trade.

Funny, I don’t think anybody noticed while they were gorging on their own weight in sweets. A Doordarshan News report on the consummate consumption of sweets enthusiastically begins, “You may be familiar with the feeling of throwing up after gorging on Diwali sweets…”

Ah, DDNews. Crap, but pithy.

I for one am happy with this mega economic downturn. It means that there aren’t as many crackers in the air because nobody has money to burn, and so the air is not full of smoke, and I am not dying of an allergic reaction to it. Yup, I don’t like firecrackers either. Tradition they may be, but wasn’t gunpowder invented by the Chinese?

Oh but that doesn’t matter. Communal Harmony, Good over Evil, Puking sweets etc.

In all of this, the asuras and rakshasas get a bad rap, as far as I’m concerned, their name becoming synonymous with simplistic demons, monsters and bogeymen. Sure, so Ravana enjoyed a bit of a kidnap and hostage taking, but it’s not like he was unprovoked. I mean, they did lop off his sister’s ears and nose, you know. And very little is said of Ravana before his path crossed with Ram. Nobody talks about how Lanka was a perfect city built by the devas — a veritable Atlantis — and that he merrily defeated them and took it over. Nobody talks about his ten-headed super-intelligence — face it, that whole golden deer ruse was, well, gold (but then, in the end he did get done in by a single arrow straight to the chest, so…).

Maybe I’m just an irate South Indian unhappy with these pesky northerners trooping down to our virgin forests, stealing our women (or lopping their ears and noses off) and enfranchising our vanaras and bears. Mostly I’m just sore that Rama, the purshottam, made off with the fancy-pants pushpak-viman and it was never ever heard from again. Maybe when he got back he just left the rule of Ayodhya to the slippers and went off questioning his wife’s purity (what to do — log kya keh rahe hai…).

Because if he had heeded the words of our illustrious politicians on this day he would know that Deepavali is about communal harmony and freedom, and that means only one thing: mass production! Why, by the time the Mahabharata came around the place should have been full of shiny flying vehicles.

Baby Krishna should have been holding up that mountain on his little finger whilst on his My First Pushpak Viman™.

Bheeshma should have been impaled on a bed of arrows on the side of his flying yacht.

I can see it now: Draupadi! Dushasan! In the air! Infinite chiffon saree unravelling as that crafty Kaurava orbits her on his personal Pushpy GT-R, cackling maniacally.

Of course, there is no evidence that Rama didn’t try to turn the pushpak viman into a mass transport means for the people.

They must have just built the factory in Singur.

Prince of Persia Revisited

screenshot of the original Prince of Persia
At the cusp of the 1990s, every home PC had to have one killer app installed. When you’d go round to a friend’s place and they’d show off their new Amstrad or IBM beige behemoth, the first question out of your mouth would be, “How did you convince your parents?” The second would be, “Do you have Prince of Persia?”

Jordan Mechner’s seminal 1989 game (published by Brøderbund) was the high watermark for computer games at the time, a title that combined fluid graphics, exquisite music and challenging gameplay into an astonishing final product. I remember the first time I saw it in 1990, on the PC of one of my parents’ friends. He fired it up for us, to keep us kids busy, I suppose, but I don’t think even he would understand quite the impact the next hour or so of play had on me.


Here was a computer game, until then just a kid’s thing with colourful graphics and tinny bips and bleeps for sound, only it was strangely adult-oriented. The character was humanoid and moved in a lifelike way (thanks to the rotoscoping animation process), the environments were grey and moody — unsettling, even — and there were no guns, no quick-trigger projectiles with which to fell waves of enemies. Come to think of it, there weren’t many enemies either, and the your character started with no weapons. Deadly spike traps, floor switches and a labyrinthine maze of a dungeon was all that lay between you and destiny. If only you could complete it in one single hour.

It’s amazing how well the original Prince of Persia holds up nearly two decades after its initial release. Sure, later versions cleaned up the graphics and gave our hero a makeover (out went the white pyjamas, and in came the turban and vest combo), but the essence of the game has remained intact in every version. The prince is still a tireless acrobat, leaping over pits and scampering up and down ledges. His swordplay is not the quickest — can’t expect much else from a street urchin — but there is an inherent pace and rhythm to the combat that was (and still is) uncommon among games, favouring position and timing over mindless button mashing. Many a heartbeat was skipped in the split-second that both his and the enemy guard’s swords arced through the air and I hoped that I was just that minuscule bit quicker.

I must admit that I never did finish the original Prince. My nascent curiosity about all things design was just forming (even though I wouldn’t realise it for another decade) and I spent most of the one hour of alloted time pootling around the first few levels, exploring every nook and cranny, seeing how it all fit together (I think I ran around the room telling all and sundry that I’d found the alternate way back to the intial starting point of the first level — you could never do that in Mario). I was fascinated by the spike pits that were perfectly harmless when you walked carefully past them — there’s more than one way to skin a cat — and by the mirror prince, by health replenishing and enhancing potions and the copy protection roadblock before level 2 (you had to drink a certain potion of a certain alphabet, a fact only knowable to people to had the game’s manual and had therefore purhcased the game properly).

Screenshot from the Opening sequence of Prince of Persia
Mostly I was enthralled by the cinematic nature of it; the sweeping opening music, the stark, simple gestures in the opening sequence. It was the first game I’d encountered that was trying to tell a story rather than a high score. It was the first time I’d seen blood in a game, and I recall with morbid fascination the first time I saw the prince chopped to bits by a steel-jawed door trap, his blood still oozing from its teeth. Looking back now, there was also that fantastic device of having the game played on non-scrolling individual screens; you never knew what was going to meet you on the next one!

Screenshot of Eric Chahi's Another WorldScreenshot of Delphine's Flashback
Prince of Persia spawned a whole genre of single-screen adventure games where the emphasis was on puzzle-solving and mood, and I was a huge fan of two of the most prominent Prince-inspired games, Delphine software’s 2D vector classics Another World (by Eric Chahi) and Flashback. As time passed and technology grew, the 2D side-scroller was rapidly losing its place in the world. It’s amazing to think that just five years after Prince of Persia was released, the original Sony Playstation debuted in 1994, ushering in the age of the 3D polygon videogame that is still with us. There was a 2D sequel to the game in 1994 (the lovely Shadow and the Flame), and in 1999 the flawed Prince of Persia 3D was released, but it wouldn’t be until late 2003 that the world would see a game worthy of the Prince of Persia name.

The orginial is still a classic well deserving of that status, and if you’ve never played it, you’re missing out.

Vogue India and the Offensiveness of Poverty

Allow me to rant.

Vogue India ran a photo-spread in their August issue featuring high-price luxury fashion accessories as modeled by people who — oh, what’s the word — are poor. This apparently caused some controversy. Mind you, these models were not just poor, but barefoot and missing-their-teeth poor. So poor that photographers from around the world come to India to take gripping, black-and-white shots of them in their state of bare-footed no-teethedness (sans Fendi clutch bag, of course), to highlight their, um, pooritude.

Now, frankly, I’m appalled… but not for the reason you think.

You see, I have no problem whatsoever with Vogue India’s photoshoot. I don’t care that they put 10,000 dollar accessories in the hands of people who make less than $1.25 a day (Who! Have! No! Teeth!). I don’t have a problem with these people being shown as poor as they usually are, except flashing a pair of designer sunglasses.

I do have a problem with people thinking that this is somehow offensive to the poor people. Oh, it’s offensive alright — it’s just offensive to people like you and me who buy and read Vogue (I have, and the Indian edition is quite nice). It’s people like us who actually know what a Fendi bag is, know that it costs 10,000 bucks and know that we’ll probably only ever buy a knock-off. It’s people like us who think poor people should only be seen in gripping, black-and-white documentary pictures in National Geographic or some exhibition.

Because — tell the truth now — you wouldn’t bat an eyelid at a young, skinny, urban person with a 10K bag in a magazine spread. Do you ask yourself, “Gee, I wonder if that model can actually afford that bag she’s modeling?” No, of course you don’t, because she looks like she can. She’s looks like a perfectly normal, upper-middle-class person who can afford a bag like that, or at least a knock-off. Heck, she can at least afford to eat badly all her life and then have her teeth fixed by a dentist, and isn’t that what’s really important? That she has great teeth?

How is a barefoot Rajashthani farmer any less of a viable fashion model than a size zero caramel-skinned Mumbai model who scrapes together her monthly rent? Because the latter fits in with your cushy world-view of how things should work?

I’m sorry, but a photoshoot in Vogue is neither going to solve nor exacerbate the problem of farmer suicides in rural India, so please don’t demean them (the farmers) by waving that flag around. And luxury brands are not tossing and turning at night in a moral quandary over how they’re going to sell their gold-dusted open-toed shoes in a market where poor people who can’t afford their brand exist. Last time I checked, there are people in the US and Europe who can’t afford it, and luxury goods are still for sale there.

Have you heard of this crazy new invention? It’s called Money. Works a little strange, but you’ll get the hang of it.

(see, told you this was a rant)

Of course, it’s not like Vogue is completely blameless. Firstly, they’ve dropped the ball by not crediting any of the models in their shoot (a courtesy they would show to most professional fashion models no matter how big or small). And when pressed for a response, the editor launches into some kind of biz-speak prattle about the ‘power of fashion’ and how they aren’t trying to make a political statement or save the world. Well, yeah, you’re bloody Vogue, we got that. But like it or not, a statement you have made, and it would help if you could have at least kept a well-prepared, intelligent retort ready for when this thing came up.

So, in summary:

– Fashion mag takes pictures of poor people with silly bags they could never afford.

– Everyone in a city gets upset that they’re seeing people they’re used to ignoring (except in gritty black-and-white shots) holding bags they secretly wish they could afford.

– People who can actually afford said bags are wondering where they can get that sexy ethnic turban the guy is wearing (HINT: Not at Louis Vuitton, baby).

– Creative types are wondering if the poor people are dirt cheap and where they can round up some for their latest campaign.

– Business people decide to comment on the issue by regurgitating every cliche in that last paperback on modern India they half-read on a plane once.

– All people born to be offended, are, and proceed to tack on their pet hot-button issue to things and generally tut and frown.

– As for the actual poor people, well, I have no idea what they think of the whole thing. Most of the people in the pictures are either smiling or bemused — bored, even.

I’m an outsider. I’m not one of them in the only way that actually separates us (financially), and on a cultural level I don’t think they give two hoots. I don’t care when some other middle-class Indian (as most models actually are) totes a Fendi bag in a photoshoot, so do they care when somebody (hopefully) pays them to do the same?

I’m not offended that someone did this. If anything, I applaud it (the photos are beautiful). I’m not offended that there are still poor people in the world while others can afford 10,000 dollar bags. Hey, I can afford tons of crap that other people can’t, and I still can’t afford a bag like that, so where on the levels of entitlement to being offended do I fall? I find all of this amusing and baffling and just a little bit sad.

Mostly, I’m just offended that you’re all still a bunch of idiots.