n.34 February 2011

India’s illiterate widows, with no spouses to speak for them, are perceived as inhuman. Many are cast out of rural homes by in-laws who either no longer wish to support them or see their presence as bad omens. Stripped of all dignity, many see no choice but to head for the holy city of Vrindavan, dubbed “The City of Widows.”. Once there, they spend their waning days chanting for pennies and living in squalor. . If such a scenario seems improbable in 21st century India, think again.

Most global observers dismissed Burma’s recent national elections as a sham. Though democracy advocate and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi was released, the country’s ruling military junta worked to tighten its grip on power by creating a dummy parliament. . Though Oslo-based dissident and broadcaster Kihin Maung Win is skeptical about dislodging the military any time soon, that doesn’t stop him from insisting on a message of national reconciliation.

Slovakia’s burgeoning capital is gradually taking on a new look, one which combines centuries of history, a 20th century dominated by socialism, and more recent pressures of the private sector. Banks and office buildings are going up. Stretches of the Danube waterfront left abandoned for decades are being filled in by new structures inspired by a Western architectural vision. . But who said a shopping center can’t fit into a city’s master plan?

A bus trip from the Montenegrin capital Podgorica and Sarajevo means traveling across ethnically-charged landscape. It also means listening to adamant young Serbs convinced Bosnia needs to break apart yet again. . But once in Sarajevo, traces of old multi-ethnicity return, again suggesting that the only salvation for the Balkans is a trip back to the future.