Friday, May 22, 2009

It's Gotta be the Protein.

I just spent an hour lying on my bed, mentally making and re-making the perfect turkey sandwich. A rather odd pastime for a vegetarian, don’t you think? Cold turkey, a little mayo, cranberry sauce, leafy greens, a hearty white bread, this is what I want to eat 4 times a day every day for the rest of my life. Well, occasionally my sandwich fantasy is interrupted by dreams of a bacon and cheese sandwich on a fresh bap, but I’m guessing a lifetime of turkey is a lot healthier than a lifetime of bacon.

I think this unusual yearning for white meat is a result of being sick earlier this week. Did you know that your digestive system actually needs a surplus of water in order to work? Unfortunately, any surplus H2O in my body this week went straight into my pillow and mattress during the night. I was sweating so much at night that I could easily wring moisture out of my bedclothes every morning, making a little pool of wasted sweat on the floor. My room has been—I think quite literally—baking me to death. It is on the top floor of the hotel, and is detached on three sides, so it gets full sun on at least one wall all day long. Plus, the water tanks are on my roof. They gather heat all day long, and release it into my room all night long. The AC unit in my room stopped working a couple weeks ago, and even though I mentioned it to the Hosts, they didn’t seem to really understand what I was saying.

I’ll spare the blogosphere the details, but on Wednesday afternoon, I was suddenly and dramatically ill. For about two hours, I was quite seriously sure that I was going into full renal failure. When I finally dragged myself downstairs to the dining room, I must have looked pretty damn bad, because Mr. Host instantly went to work on my AC unit, and Mrs. Host started pouring glasses of watermelon juice with black salt for me. I managed to add some daal and rice to my stomach, but mostly I just used what little energy I had left to become a two-fisted drinker: water in my left hand, salted melon juice in my right hand.

After dinner, instead of walking across the street to see the doctor, I went back to my room to rest. The floor of my room was so hot, I couldn’t take off my sandals for fear of burning my feet, and the AC unit (actually, the voltage stabilizer, not the unit itself) still wasn’t working. I decided to sit out on the balcony—it was so lovely outside, with a nice breeze. Well, as it turns out, the surprise was that it was still 113F outside. My room was so hot that it made a hot summer evening feel like cool spring. I think even Mr. Host, who was trying to get the AC to work, was shocked by the heat in my room. I had mentioned it a few times, but I think it just sounded like White Person Whining, not a potentially dangerous situation.

Mr. Host couldn’t fix the AC, so he unlocked the room next to mine for me to sit in, with AC going full blast. I was going to sleep there if my AC didn’t get fixed, but just as I was getting ready to go to bed, an AC technician showed up, played a bit with the voltage regulator, and voila! suddenly the AC unit came to life. And I’ve spent the last three days moving slowly, trying to recover, drinking water non-stop, and wishing my body would return to its normal state of being. It’s a struggle, because we are still dealing with three-hour scheduled power outages every day, so even if I stay only five hours at the archives, that is three hours in a small, hot room with no air circulation, in the heat of the day. I can’t drink enough to keep up with the sweat, really.

You have to wonder: is grad school supposed to kill you? I mean literally, and not figuratively, speaking? I feel like I’ve engaged in so much risky behavior over the past four years, in India and the U.S.: falling asleep behind the wheel while commuting, going to conferences with whooping cough, eating tainted food, drinking bad water, riding motorcycles without helmets, playing games with heatstroke, talking to strangers, riding with drunk autorickshawallahs, traveling with people I don’t really know, etc. I know getting a Ph.D. is supposed to be hard, it requires a lot of sacrifice, a lot of suffering and a huge amount of work and worry, but really, should I be dead by the end of it? Because that’s kind of the message I’m getting these days.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Not dead (yet).

It's hard to write in a blog when you have no electricity I think we still have electricity for more hours of the day than we don't have it, but it's getting pretty close to an even split. Up until this week, the power outages were numerous, but random. If there was a storm, the power went out for a couple of hours. If there wasn't a storm, the power went out for a couple of hours. Sometimes the power goes out for fifteen minutes, comes back on for two, then goes out for a couple of hours. Yesterday afternoon, the power went on and off and on and off and on and off and on and off and on so on. Annoying, but fine, okay, I live in a desert city with poor infrastructure, okay.

This week, we have mandatory, scheduled power outages, three hours every day. Yesterday, it was no power between 12-1:30 and 4-5:30. Today it was no power from 9:30-11:00 and 4-5:30. This regularly scheduled power outage doesn't stablize the grid. We enjoy this darkness, plus the fun described in my first paragraph. The problem these days is that Rajasthan isn't producing enough energy, so they have to siphon off electricity from Bikaner for three hours to send to nearby villages to give them three hours of power. That's all those villages will get for the day. All the cities in Rajasthan are having power siphoned. I think Jaipur might have 6 hour power cuts right now. In Ajmer, it is really bad because not only are they having 6 hour power cuts, there is a water shortage. Not just a shortage, but no water, period. So, it could be worse, I could be stuck in Ajmer.

I think my hosts are afraid I am about to fade out and die. They keep bringing me watermelon and ice cream for lunch. I'll take it!

Right now, I am 15 minutes from the next power cut, so I am stripping down to "take my rest." I don't sleep at all at night, it is simply too hot (yesterday it was cooler, only 115), so that fake nap in the afternoon helps keep me alive. I am drinking way too much bottled water. Sorry, environment, I'm not trying to kill you, it's just that I'm really, really thirsty all the time, and I need clean water. I will stop drinking bottled water when I get back to the U.S. I promise.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My fingertips and the outside edge of my right thumb have been really painful lately, like the nerve-endings are exposed. It took me a few days to figure out why, but I finally realized they were sore because they are burned. My laptop keyboard and touchpad get so hot they are starting to damage my fingers. My laptop has two internal fans, and it is sitting on top of a heat sink with three fans, but the heat still doesn't dissipate. It's just too hot in my room. Consequently, about fifteen minutes after I turn on my laptop, the heat starts leaking out through the keyboard. Not fun, not fun at all.

I think the Hosts worry about me being out here all by myself, because they invited me on two family outings last weekend. On Saturday night, we went to Laxmi Niwas Palace for dinner. You gotta love a dinner with a common denominator of butter: butter chicken, butter paneer, butter naan, butter roti, and a local vegetable. After dinner, we went to the only ice cream parlor in town and had butterscotch ice cream. Aside from the threat of heart disease, it was a wonderful night to be out. We ate outside on the lawn under the full moon. One of the nephews went with us, and he kept us entertained by disobeying every order given to him by Mr. Host.

On Sunday, I dragged myself out of bed at an ungodly hour (okay, 8 a.m.) and joined the family for a trip to a holy lake, Lake Kolayat (my photos). This is a pretty important pilgrimage lake, on par with Pushkar, only not so horrible to visit. It was hot, but really pretty. And all that water! I guess I have never seen lotus before, or I would have known before now how big they grow, right?

On the way back, we stopped at Gajner Palace, just to look around at the luxury. The Hosts are pretty concerned that I see everything there is to see, and this was worth a look. There is probably a lot I could write about these late 19th-early 20th century palaces, but you know what? My fingers are starting to burn. I'll continue this later.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Make Mine a Double.

Was I drunk when I wrote that last post, or what? Typos, weird grammar, repeated phrasing, irregular paragraph breaks...geez. I fixed the misspellings, but I think I'll leave the rest to remind myself of what it feels like at the end of a day at the beginning of summer in Bikaner.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Desert is Dusty.

It may be my imagination, but it seems to me that we're getting an awful lot of air traffic over Bikaner these past few days. Who is bombing who in my part of the world?

Aside from runs in the evening, I spend most of my time inside. It hasn't been as hot--it was only 109F today--but it can still be painful to be out in all the radiation. I don't mind burning skin, but even with sunglasses, my eyes can only take so much of the glare.
I'm only putting in five hours a day at the archive, for two reasons. First, that about takes me through the maximum amount of material they will let me look at in day. Second, it is physically uncomfortable to stay longer than a few hours. The room is okay as long as there is electricity to run the ceiling fan. They even brought in a window AC-unit, not that it does much good when there is no insulation, the windows don't shut tightly, and the door is left hanging open. Then, too, my back starts to hurt after about three hours, and I just have to grit it out for the last two hours of every day. The worse problem, though, the thing that really gets to me, is that there is no women's bathroom at the archives. There are two men's rooms, and a row of urinals out behind the building, but for women? Nothing. Today, I actually used the men's bathroom, but I got caught, so I guess I won't do that again.

Anyway, five hours max. I'm getting my work done, but I am mostly doing it in a heat-and-hunger-induced stupor.

Another thing that has been keeping me inside my room is the dust storms. Friday to Monday = four days of wind and dirt and heat, so pretty much stayed low the entire weekend. Well, on Saturday, before the late-afternoon winds arrived, Mr. Host took me to KEM Road to get a new pair of glasses. And on Sunday, we went to Deshnok to the Karni Mata Temple (AKA "the Rat Temple" photos here). Otherwise, I spend a lot of time practicing taps, cuts and rolls on the tin whistle, and obsessively messing up my Rubiks cube. It turns out that no matter how long I spend messing it up, it still takes the same 1 minute to solve the damn thing. That's not much of a distraction.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Much tired.

Well, this started off as a pretty lame day, but in the past hour or two I think maybe I managed to turn it around to at least only a *kind of* lame day.

I couldn't sleep last night because my brain was trying to pointlessly solve a couple of problems with my dissertation. One part of my brain was trying to figure out how to work around a problem with the first chapter of my dissertation, and another part was trying to figure out if I really needed to do research in Jaipur, and if so, when? A third part of my brain was yelling, WTF! GO TO SLEEP! I don't lose sleep often to thoughts about my research, so I guess I should be glad it was only one night.

Anyway, I woke up this morning tired and cranky, and that wasn't helped too much by having to eat another parantha for breakfast. I miss the days when they were being slightly lazy by giving me toast and jam for breakfast. Ate breakfast, tidied my room, discovered my autorickshawallah was not waiting for me as he should have been. Ordinarily, Mr. Host would just take me to work in this type of situation, but he's in Delhi, so I had to walk out to the main road to catch a lift. Not a horrible hardship, but it is 107 out right now (on its way to 113), and walking outside is not SO much fun.

And you know what? I only lasted two hours at the archives. I really needed a bathroom, and there is no working bathroom for women there. I wasn't having much fun, anyway, so I came home after two hours only just so I could use my bathroom.

Pretty lame, right?

I came home, sat down in front of my computer, and thought: "JR, you are so lame. You are in Bikaner to do research, not play computer games. Quit being so lame." So, I took a deep breath, brought up the web page with the phone number for the City Palace in Jaipur, and proceeded to try and call the director of the archives there. I don't know if you've ever tried to make a phone call in Hindi, but it can be pretty stressful. The first man I talked to was really nice and helpful, and gave me a second phone number. At that point, things went down hill, because the guy who answered the second phone call started laughing hysterically at my Hindi and passed the phone around to all his friends so they, too, could have a good laugh. Eventually, I got angry (long distance, yaar!), and they finally put me through to the director of the archives. Who was really nice, by the way.

To get permission to do research in Jaipur, I have to write a letter to the director explaining my research agenda, and then he will forward it to the princess, who will either approve it or not. If she does approve it, I guess then I write to SSRC and ask if I can go to Jaipur for a couple of weeks instead of spending my last three months here in Bhopal.

Speaking of SSRC, I spent some time working on the rough draft of my second field report after I calmed down from the phone call. It's not due until 15 May, so I think between that and the phone call (and two hours at the archives), I can say that I have been at least a little productive today. At least productive enough to upgrade my day to only *kind of* lame, don't you think?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Okay, not all people.

You might remember my first trip to India, and how miserable I was living with a host family in Jaipur. Or, you might not, because I didn't blog about it. Let's just say that at 39 years old, I was too old to have a host mother, especially a mother who didn't understand the concept of "allergic to milk."* I mention this now, because my experience living with, or at least near, families this time around has been much better. I really liked the place I was living in Delhi. My room was located in the front of the house, off the sitting room, I had a lot of privacy, and although I'm sure they would have fed me more, I only ate breakfast at home. I enjoyed my freedom, but I also liked it that there were other people in the house. The boys in the house were hilarious, and Mr. and Mrs. Host took very good care of me.

I like this place in Bikaner even better. I am living in a family hotel, so not with the family, but I eat my two meals a day in the main house, and I see and talk with the family members quite a bit. I have a lot of privacy and solitude, but I can also go down to the sitting room whenever I am bored and watch TV (but I have a TV in my room).

Nice things my host family has done for me:

Mr. Host was driving me to work every day, but then he arranged for a local autorickshawallah to take me there and pick me up in the afternoon. This is nice, because I don't have to walk out to the main road and try to flag down a ride in the afternoon.

I asked Mrs. Host if the local store would have soap (both Dettol and Pears), and she instantly called Mr. Host on the cell phone and told him to go to the store and get me soap. When he brought me the soap, he said I couldn't give him money for it, because family doesn't charge family for soap.

Mr. Host has been bringing me boxes of bottled water. Usually, I try to avoid bottled water because the empty bottles are bad for the environment, but I run out of clean water pretty quickly if I rely on the Aero water from the house. I am paying for the boxes of water, but only the marked price, not the "guest price" of 20 Rs. a bottle (which is how it is marked in my monthly budget).

Mrs. Host thinks that I shouldn't do my sightseeing in an autorickshaw, so she has volunteered Mr. Host as a chauffeur. He has taken me to the fort, already, and maybe this weekend we will go to the palace.

Mr. Host sent me a plate of grapes last night, and when dinner was slightly delayed today, he sent me a box of Tropicana orange juice.

Generally speaking, they are just very nice people. I'm trying to focus on this, because it is easy to get so irritated with all the unwanted attention on the streets and work myself into such a fury that I use twitter to declare that I hate all people except Roger Ebert. I often end up in my room at the end of the day just staring at the mattress (because I am flat on my face), praying no one else talks to me for the rest of the week. But, really, Mr. and Mrs. Host are being really nice to me, and it is good to know that I have friendly, helpful people just down the hall from me.

*In order to avoid this during my second trip to India, I stayed in a hotel, but not a family hotel. I really liked that experience, too, as my room became the "happening pad" where we all hung out, but I kind of like having a family nearby, too.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Feed Me, Seymour

At the risk of demonstrating that I am complete and total loser, I think I'll share the list I wrote up today at the archives. There's no AC at the archives, and we sometimes don't have electricity. In the mornings, there are frequently-scheduled power cuts from 9:00 to 12:00. In the afternoons, the power often cuts out for 5-15 minutes, just because. This afternoon, about 30 minutes before my day was scheduled to end, the power cut out. I was already hot, tired, and thirsty, and the loss of electricity just emphasized all those things. Instead of bursting into tears, I started to write a few encouraging words to myself in my notebook: "I can do this!" However, somewhere in between the first and second words, my brain switched off, and I ended up writing "I will do this:" instead. And my brain continued to shut down while my hand kept writing, and by the time the power came on 15 minutes later, I had entire list of things I will do, none of which had anything to do with my research or dissertation.

I'm going to share the list, not because I'm proud of it, but because I'm amazed by how quickly I went from "chin up" to "I'm hungry." Without any changes, here's what I wrote.

I will do this:

visit Washington
eat Nachos
go to Nashville
watch Food Network
pet the kitties
drink lots and lots of really cold water
sleep in my own bed
enjoy doing nothing but looking out at the landscape
have a bowl of popcorn with butter
make one batch of cookies
eat a big salad at Panera
eat another big salad at Outback
have an egg salad sandwich
try Alton Brown's recipe for deviled eggs
ask Catherine to make me some potato salad
ask my mom to make a phyllo tomato tart
watch random sporting events on television
grill salmon and vegetables
shoot baskets every day!
ride Catherine's bike
order a BBQ pizza with onions, thin crust, well done
go to Valpo for Thanksgiving
make grilled pineapple salsa and eat Nachos again
go on a hike

And then the lights came on, and I pretended to work while I studied my list in horror. Those are all things that I *will* do at some point, but nothing on that list is something I will do between now and mid-September (except possibly drink lots and lots of cold water). When I stop controlling my mind, it stops living in the moment and fast forwards to a point where this is all over. I'm not actively unhappy, and I'm learning stuff and doing things, but I think other people enjoy India a lot more than I do. Plus, I'm really, really hungry, all the time, so if you love me, send food.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Grad School Killed the Internets.

You know, I used to have a lot of internet friends. And by "a lot," I mean, "A LOT." In the early 1990s, my online friends outnumbered my friends from school and work by about 50 to 1. Maybe something closer to 75 to 1. Even after I stormed off Usenet, and IRC turned into an ugly monster, I had friends from a bunch of online interest groups: stamp collecting, model rocket building, drumming, sports. My e-mail address book is full of names of people with whom I used to correspond on a daily basis. Well past the year 2000, I could have written up a long list of friends that I'd met on the internet, some of which I'd since met in person, but most of which were strictly online friendships.

I bring this up because facebook recently drew my attention to the fact that I no longer have internet friends. My friends list consists almost entirely of people I met in person before establishing internet contact. Since leaving the U.S. my facebook friends list has finally become long enough that I had to create categories for my friends so I could keep up with them with as little cognitive dissonance as possible: "relatives," "Tonasket," "Seattle," "Western," "Oregon," "Bloomington," "Illinois," "Poulsbo," "Los Angeles," "India," and finally, "Internet." I can now see updates from all my friends in Bloomington at one time. (Mostly, this means I read about the weather in Bloomington from five different people, all simultaneously telling facebook that it is windy outside.)

Anyway, my point is, out of 100 friends, only 4 fall into the category"Internet," and only two of the four really belong in that category. I've had enough face time with the other two that I don't really consider "Internet" to be the right category for them, but I can't figure out where to move them. They don't fit into the geography onto which I've mapped the history of my social life.

How did this happen? I think some people would think this is a good thing, having more "real" friends and fewer "internet" friends, but I think it's not so great. I used to talk to people from all over the place, and now it seems I talk to people who are standing only in the same place I am at the moment. I think grad school had a lot to do with my internet fall off. I don't like to talk about my work, so I didn't, and that probably slowed some friendships down. I didn't have internet access in my first apartment in Illinois, and that probably had something to do with it. Using all my free time to commute during the school year, then going to India where internet access is unreliable at best, well, that probably had something to do with it. And then the big reason: I gave up all my hobbies when I went back to grad school, so reading about tin whistles or woodworking online is just a form of torture, since I never have the time to do it.*

It's really a shame. I used to talk to the most interesting people. I mean, not that the other 96 peope on my friends list aren't interesting, they definitely are. I just miss having the opportunity to cultivate online friendships. But maybe people don't do that anymore? After all, it's not 1991 anymore.

*If you want time to work on your hobbies, and they are portable, I recommend moving to Bikaner. When it is 105 degrees out, you can stay in your room and practice to your heart's content.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Three Days Only.

The last three nights have been spent over in Sadul Colony, attending the wedding of a complete stranger. Well, now that I've spent three nights with the family, I can't say that we are strangers, but still, this is not something that you would see happen in the U.S. "Hi, complete stranger, please come to three days of my son's wedding, including the family prayers. Oh, and have some whiskey."

When I was starting to make my research plans, one of my committee members gave me the e-mail address of a senior scholar at another university and told me to e-mail her and ask her for research advice for my stay in Bhopal. I did that, but said senior scholar replied that she had no helpful advice, but that I should e-mail another scholar in the U.K. and ask for her advice. So, I did that, and we made tentative plans to meet while I was in London, but that didn't happen. A month or so ago, I sent a follow-up e-mail asking if she could share her advice through e-mail. She didn't send me any advice, but she did do something better: she sent me the e-mail of an archivist in Bhopal and suggested I ask him for advice (are you following this? That's at least three e-mail addresses).

This wonderful archivist replied with many useful suggestions, but more than that, he responded with an invitation to his son's wedding, which was coincidentally in Bikaner this last weekend. Even more coincidentally, the U.K. scholar, who I've never met, also was coming to Bikaner for the wedding. So, Sunday night, I met U.K scholar and Bhopal archivist at a wedding of a handsome young man I'd never met before. Good times.

It was good times (whiskey aside). Two nights of essentially just hanging out, doing prayers, listening to music, doing more prayers, eating, taking photos. One night of walking (well, dancing) through the streets of Bikaner. I've only ever been on the bride's side of an Indian wedding, so walking with the barat was a new adventure.

I can say with some authority that it is very difficult to do a full day of archival work the morning after the third night of an Indian wedding. I thought I was going to fall out my chair this afternoon. No lie.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Can I take a nap now?

Quite suddenly, I'm exhausted. I don't know if it is just the move from Delhi to the desert catching up with me, or the fact that I'm not eating enough, or maybe I'm using my brain way more than I would like, but something is completely wearing me out. I felt it coming on a bit yesterday, and today it just overwhelmed me in earnest. I couldn't stay alert at the archives, and I finally called it a day at 3:00, about an hour earlier than I usually do. There is no AC there, and only one window, so the room gets pretty stuffy by late afternoon. I'm sure the lack of oxygen surely wasn't helping. Anyway, I am deeply weary, and wish I could just go to bed and sleep for a few days straight.

In regards to not getting enough to eat, I'm trying, I really am. There's nothing wrong with the food, and the hotel owner makes sure it's not super spicy. But after 2-3 mouthfuls, I feel like I just want to stop eating. At breakfast, if it is plain parantha, I force myself to eat two, otherwise, I let myself stop after one aloo parantha or sandwich. I have been forcing myself to eat two chapati every dinner, and along with that, forcing myself to eat something with every bite of chapati. That is, every bite has to have either veg or rice with it, I can't just dip it in the dal and pretend to eat more food that way. That is the Jaipur way of getting through a meal, but it's really not healthy. The food here doesn't taste bad (although you really have to like jeera to eat it), I just don't want it. Thinking about 8 more weeks of force feeding myself isn't very pleasant, but since that seems to be the only down side to living in Bikaner, I guess I can't complain.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Where I live.

The hotel in which I'm living has a website. More importantly it has links to photos of my bedroom, and the room in which I eat breakfast and dinner. Now you can imagine me in my space.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

When even the cows are staring.

The first year I lived in Jaipur, there was this stray dog that lived along Big Shopper Road in Rajapark. He was a special stray dog, in that every time I walked by, he totally lost his mind, racing after me, barking and snarling. The locals thought that was hilarious, and the other Americans didn't believe me when I told them about it, until one day a friend saw it happen. I don't know what that dog had against me, but he meant it.

Fast forward just about three years, and look for me in Bikaner. I will be easy to spot, not just because I'm the only white person on the streets, but because all the dogs and cows are staring at me. I am used to avoiding the human gaze*, but not so accustomed to bringing all of animal kind to a dead halt every time I walk by. It's as if the cows had never seen a foreigner before. This can't really be true, because I'm staying in a hotel listed in The Rough Guide to India, so surely other backpackers have walked these streets. Still, I seem to startle everyone every time I go outside, which is--let's face it--not all that often.

I did go out Junagarh Fort yesterday (my photos here), and I walked two blocks to buy some Bisleri this morning. The hotel owner gives me a lift to the archives every morning, and I go out after dark and walk in the park. That is enough outside time for me. It is already getting warm (98 degrees this afternoon, but dramatically cooling off with an evening thunderstorm), and that combined with the attentive fauna makes me want to stay inside. When I feel like being productive, I work on my Hindi vocabulary. When I feel like relaxing, I play the tin whistle or drum (thanks to Catherine, who brought me a set of Susato whistles and a pair of drumsticks when she visited me in Delhi).

So, that's the exciting life of a foreign researcher in Bikaner. Next weekend maybe I will go out to Lallgarh Palace, or maybe to the Camel Breeding Station. Tune in for more exciting news in a few days.

*I think we were at Purana Qila when Claire looked up and said, "Wow, I totally forget that everyone is staring at me. It's only when I deliberately look around that I notice that everyone is looking directly at me." You learn how to walk with your chin up but your gaze pointed off to the right or left so you don't have to actually acknowledge the fact that everyone is staring into your face.

Monday, March 30, 2009

New Home.

So, here I am at the edge of the Thar desert. While the city itself seems to be surrounded by sand and scrub, you can see from the picture above that I am living in a fairly typical suburban neighborhood in Rajasthan. It’s going to be uncomfortable on those days when the weather forecast is for “blowing sand,” but otherwise, it reminds me a lot of Jaipur (also unpleasant in sandstorms). The hotel (the Shri Ram, if any of you feel like sending me mail in the next 10-12 weeks) seems pretty comfortable. In fact, the only complaint I have so far is that I can’t figure out how to turn off the AC.

I stayed last night in Mandawa, and while you’d think the architectural historian part of me would have wanted to see all the havelis I could before nightfall, the freakazoid part of me voted for staying in my hotel room. I had low level anxiety attacks all day during the drive from Delhi to Mandawa, alternating with periods of intense sleepiness, and by the time I got to Mandawa, all I wanted was for no one to talk to me EVER AGAIN. Sadly, I messed that plan up right away by all-but-deliberately locking myself out of my cell phone. I swear, I thought, “If I do this, I’m going to disable my cell phone, and I don’t want to do that because today is the day I am scheduled to call my parents.” But I did it anyway, and sure enough, I rendered my mobile useless. In my panic to get out of my hotel room and find someone to unlock it for me—on a Sunday evening on a festival weekend, good luck with that—I caught my finger in the lock mechanism of my hotel room door. I stopped at the front desk to explain that I needed to find someone to unlock an Airtel phone, and when I looked at my phone, I thought, “Huh. It’s covered with sticky stuff. Why is that?” and tried to wipe it off. Really sticky, though. Then I realized my fingers were also sticky, and when I tried to wipe them off, I realized, no, not sticky, bloody. I had pinched my finger so thoroughly that I had torn the skin, and I had blood dripping from one finger all over the place. I was so focused on the fact that I needed to call my parents so they wouldn't needlessly worry that I didn’t even really notice that wow, my finger really hurts!

Anyway, for 50 rupees, the guys at the front desk not only fixed my cell phone, but bandaged my finger.

The drive from Mandawa to Bikaner only took a few hours, and it was pretty easy to settle in here. I think this is mostly a backpackers hotel, so they are used to freakazoid foreigners. It’s the off season for backpacking, though, so I seem to be here pretty much by myself. Just by asking I got a discount on my room, so I am paying considerably less for this place than I was paying in Delhi. Not sure about the food or laundry situation yet, but it will all work out.

Tomorrow my goal is just to find the archives, and maybe darken the door with my presence. No one has been able to give me an address for the place, so it could take all day just to get from here to there, wherever there is. By Wednesday, hopefully I will be fully registered, and by Thursday, hopefully I will be working. I don’t want to be too ambitious and invite disaster (although I checked my forehead this morning and it seems I will live to see another day), but I am optimistic.


Yesterday, we stopped at a Mid-Way for lunch. Predictably, a little boy materialized out of the bushes and tried to talk me into giving him some food or money or anything I had in my pockets. He was really funny, and really determined. After 20 minutes, I would have broken down and given him something, but I had nothing, no small bills, no candy, nothing. Finally, I opened up the Astronomy magazine I was reading and showed him the star chart in the middle. I tried to explain what it was, and I'm not sure he really got it, but when I asked him if he understood, he said, "Yes, stars, in the sky at night." I asked him if he wanted the star chart, and he said yes, so I tore it out of my magazine. It's difficult to learn to use a star chart on your own, but I like to think of him outside sitting outside his hut after dark, comparing the sky with the chart. I hope eventually he deciphers the puzzle and carries it with him the rest of his life.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

24 weeks, max.

Depending on how you manipulate the calendar, I either have 5-1/2 months to go before I go home, or I have 24 weeks left. 5-1/2 months sounds better right now, even if it includes the same number of days as 24 weeks.

I took two weeks of vacation while Catherine was in town, and we did a lot sightseeing, both within Delhi as well as in Agra and Jaipur (photos on Flickr). Catherine says she had a good time here, and I have no reason to think she's making that up. It was nice having someone to explore with. I was pretty careful to keep her out of danger, but on the other hand, I also took advantage of having someone else around to go look at places I normally wouldn't view by myself. Not sketchy places, but the more isolated parts of monuments, unknown corridors, things like that. I explore those places by myself, but it makes me anxious. When there are two people exploring, the anxiety is lessened.

Anyway, other than just enjoying each other's company, it was good to have her visit so she understands a little better what I mean when I say, "It is too hard to walk to the ATM today" or "I couldn't bear to get an autorickshaw today." I think she saw how much work my everyday life can take, how much frustration and unpredictability there is on my daily agenda. She also heard everyone tell me how horrible Bikaner is going to be, so I think (hope) she will be predisposed to sympathy when I start whining next week.

She also saw the good things--the flowers and the birds, for instance--so we can talk about that, too, when I feel like it.

Anyway, only 5-1/2 months to go. I'm ready to leave Delhi, much like I was ready to leave London. Three weeks from now, I'll be saying, "Damn, why did I want to leave Delhi?" the same way I said (continue saying) about London.

Enemy of Reason (TM)

Peter F. Dubuque
March 24, 2009

Peter F. Dubuque passed away by accident on March 24, 2009. He was 39 years old.

Born in Springfield, VT, Peter was raised in Billerica and attended Billerica Schools. He was a Malden resident for the past 10 years and worked at Harvard University as a Data Base Architect. Peter was also an avid photographer and loved the outdoors.

Peter was the devoted husband of Steven Kleinedler. He was the son of Harriet (Desmond) Dubuque and the late Gilbert Dubuque. Peter was the dear brother of Kimberly Campbell and her husband Al of Dracut. He is also survived by several aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held from the A. J. Spadafora Funeral Home, 865 Main Street, Malden on Sunday, March 29th from 12:00 - 4:00 p.m. Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend. Interment private.

In lieu of flowers donations in Peter’s memory may be made to Point

Steve's beautiful essay about his marriage to Peter.

John Scalzi's tribute.

Obituary from Bay Windows.

Steve's essay on "The Semantics of Marriage Equality"

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Strange and Empty.

The room doesn't look right without Catherine's suitcases standing in front of the bookcase. And even my stuff is looking a little thin on the ground, as I sent all my winter/London clothing back to the U.S. in said suitcases. I keep looking around, thinking that I am missing something, but I guess it is only that I am missing Catherine. Five and a half months doesn't seem very long when you are trying to get a lot of research done in an inefficient country, but it is an eternity when you are waiting for it to come to an end so you can finally go home.

This morning, when I logged on the computer to see if Catherine's flight was still scheduled to land in Chicago on time, I found an e-mail telling me that Peter died yesterday. [Erasure.] What a nightmare this is. I've been sitting here trying to find some words to write to Steve, not that anything I say could possibly help, but find myself overwhelmed with anxiety that something like this is going to happen to Catherine while I'm gone.

I told Catherine I wasn't going to be a wuss when she left, but I may have to take some time out to cry and feel sorry for the world myself after all. We had a really good time while she was here, and I'm sure one day soon these weeks will all be just hazy, happy memories, but for now, I'm doing my best to empty my mind completely. Think about nothing, feel nothing, be nothing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Daily Life.

Well, I admit it. I'm not a very good bloggist. You'd think I'd come home every day just bubbling over with things to tell, but that's just not the way my personality works. Not only do I want silence in the evenings in my room, I want it in my head. Sitting down and processing through my entire day isn't a relaxing pasttime for me. In addition to the limits of my own personality, I think it's true that daily life is pretty much the same no matter where you are in the world. You get into a routine, and stop noticing things around you on your way to work. Or, at least during this third stay in India, I've lost the ability to recognize what's different about my life here. Every once in awhile I look up and think, "Holy crap, I can't believe that!" but mostly it is all just so normal now that I don't even see it.

Catherine arrives tomorrow, and I will become a tourist again, so maybe this blog will gain some life spirit. As I was briefly reminded in Calcutta, being a tourist in India is a lot different than living in India. Touts are a lot more aggressive towards tourists than they are toward local white people, especially if you let yourself arrive in their own territory, in front of tourist monuments/sites. So, I think these next two weeks will have a different feel to them, and I will probably be yelling at a lot of people in Hindi to knock it the fuck off, because NO I DON'T WANT TO BUY ANY PUPPETS AND I HATE ELEPHANTS AND NO I AM NOT GIVING YOU JUST ONE RUPEE OR ONE CHAPATI OR ANYTHING AT ALL SO GO AWAY. Something to look forward to, I'm sure.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Stay off the streets!

I'm feeling unusually homesick today. It could be explained by the fact that I've been away from home for six months, but I think more likely it's due to the weather. The weather in Delhi has now caught up with the weather I left behind in the U.S. in September. Summer is arriving, with hot days and warm evenings, breezy but not cool. I feel as if I've done the whole weather cycle--had my fall and winter in London, then spring and (briefly) summer in Delhi, and now it's time to go home. Too bad about those remaining six months of fellowship work.

It is slightly dangerous to walk around outside right now--water balloons are being thrown at just about everyone on the streets. Kush has assured me that I can walk in the park across the street "aram se" (comfortably), he will not pelt me with a water balloon. Too bad I can't trust his school mates! Arjun Nagar is particularly bad, for two days now it has been a water balloon-based gauntlet. The narrow lanes and balconies are ideal for water sports. So, I guess I am mostly inside until after Holi (Wednesday). I don't mind water balloons, actually, but when they are filled with color, well, then I turn into a girl and think about how much damage is being done to my outfit.

Friday, March 06, 2009


Just back from a Fulbright conference in Kolkata (Calcutta). The plus side: the conference itself was really great. An unusual opportunity to spend time with 77 other Fulbrighters and listen to them talk about their work and life. A good mix of senior scholars, grad students, Ph.D. students, at-large researchers; fascinating to talk with those doing their research in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan right now. It would seem as if India is at the center of a burning ring of fire right now. The food was good, meals were a good opportunity to talk to new friends and old, the conference hotel was comfortable and served us well. The beds were *great*. The negative side: a lot of people seemed to be more focused on hooking up than they were on their work. Don't get me wrong, I think it's fine if they want to hook up. I just don't want to be part of that hooking up conversation, okay?

Most of my time was spent in the hotel, as they scheduled us quite tightly from Sunday eve-Wednesday afternoon. But on Wednesday, a few of us went out to do some touring (took a few photos, of course). It is in the 90s now in Kolkata, hot and bright and a bit humid. The heat felt particularly sharp as we wandered around the Victoria Memorial gardens. Somehow, we (accidentally) ended up down at a river dock. Since we were there, we went ahead and took a nice, breezy ferry ride on the Hooghly. We also spent a good chunk of time at the Park Street Cemetery, where we got a good feel for the colonial era (jungly, hot, dead at a young age), and wrapped it up with a trip to St. John's Church (not quite as successful as St. Martin's in the Field, is it?). A bit of a colonial-focused afternoon, but I didn't organize the tour. I feel like I've done enough organizing for one friendship, let the burden fall on the other person (people) for once. Next time (when??), I'll visit Tagore House. Plese count the parenthetical expressions for me.

Going to Calcutta was like going to the Punjab in the sense that in both places, I cannot speak the language most commonly associated with the area. The signs might as well have been in Panjabi for all I could read them. At one point, Claire and I thought we had deciphered a sign, but then the driver read it out loud for us. Turns out what we were taking for an I was actually an N. So much for our linguistical talents. Luckily, every single person I talked to spoke Hindi as well as Bangla. There is a large population from Bihar in Calcutta, so Hindi is the second language of the city.

Calcutta feels a lot more dense than Delhi. In terms of population, Greater Delhi and Greater Calcutta are almost equivalents: 14,000,000 for the first, 13,200,000 for the second. But Calcutta is a taller city, and although Delhi is full of what we might consider ancient monuments, popping up like happy surprises here and there, the urban fabric of Calcutta is quite a bit older than that of Delhi. Classicism was the architectural language of choice by the "Britishers," and even though many of the buildings have been heavily water damaged, or at least stripped of their colors, the columns and arches of streetside buildings make it clear that the base form is Neoclassical.

Arrived in Delhi to discover summer had beat me home by a day. Pradeepji is recommending I give the AC a try, but I think I can live without it for a few more days. It is going to be scorching hot in Bikaner--not looking forward to that. However, in Calcutta, I met another Fulbrighter who has been doing his research at the Camel Breeding Center outside of Bikaner, so hopefully he will be able to give me a few tips to make life in the desert more bearable.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Stress Involved.

I don't know. It's a long story, but the main point is really this: it takes a lot of nerve to get medical help in a foreign country. To begin with, you have to make phone calls that are only 1/2 in English, 1/2 in Hindi, and you can't be sure the other person is understanding you, especially given the habit of every person in India to yell "Hello! Hello!" into the phone multiple times instead of just saying, "Could you repeat that, please?" You have to find the doctor's office in one neighborhood, then find the lab for blood tests in a second neighborhood, and then the ultrasound office in a third neighborhood. If you don't have a car and driver, this means three or four separate autorickshaw rides, with the same number of fare negotiations, and the same number of attempts at communicating your destination 1/2 in Hindi, 1/2 in English. None of the numbering schemes are regular, no one quite knows where the offices are (although that doesn't stop them from giving directions), and you don't have the right phone numbers to confirm the addresses with the first doctor. The questions the doctors ask here are different from the ones they would ask at home, the forms are different, the medical records are handled differently, the expectations are different. To describe it all would take pages, and you wouldn't believe it, anyway. Suffice it to say that I'm glad my friend, Claire, was with me yesterday so at least I have a witness to my day. I hope this is the last time I have to consult a doctor in a foreign country. Maybe I learned a lot from this cultural experience, but I think I could have lived without that particular bit of knowledge.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Time to move on.

The route between my sector of Safdarjung Enclave and Hauz Khas Village (my photos here) runs through Deer Park. Yesterday, when I was walking along the path near the deer enclosure, I came across a couple of young men loafing in the sun. Just after I passed them, I heard one of them say to the other, "I know her. I saw her at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in the Mughal Garden."

Okay, there are something like 14 million people in Delhi, and I was at the Mughal Garden for one and a half hours only. What are the odds that one of the at-loose-ends boys in Deer Park would recognize me from my visit to the gardens? Clearly, everyone in this city knows me and my habits, so it's time to get the hell out of Dodge.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

On the third hand.

Getting back to that previous post on being the obvious white person, that same evening, my friend and I had a similar, but less happy, experience. On our way home from dinner, we stopped by the back autorickshaw stand at Defence Colony, and two of the drivers jumped up to try and convince us to use their services. Turns out that they already knew where we were going because they'd driven us both home at different times. Not sure what I think about autorickshaw-wallahs all over Delhi recognizing me, but I'm sure I'd feel better about it if those particular drivers hadn't turned out to be drunk. I think my friend had a more difficult time getting home because of intoxication than I did, but still, drunken driving on the ring road---yee haw!

I was just thinking about this because today at Sarojini Nagar Market, I walked up to a random driver and said I needed to go to Safdarjung Enclave. The answer: "Aren't you the one who usually goes to Janpath?" Yes. Yes, I am. He told me that he had driven me there before. I didn't recognize him, but once I was in the autorickshaw, I recognized his jacket because it had the word "ROCK" embroidered on it. I remember seeing it earlier and thinking it was kind of cool to have a jacket with the word "ROCK" on the back of it.

So, there you go. In Delhi, we're all just one big family, going all over the place with each other, whether we intend to or not.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Hm...what was the point of that last post? Oh, yeah: DON'T DRINK SPURIOUS WATER. I can say with some authority that if you do, you'll end up trapped in your room for several days running, afraid to stray too far from the facilities. It's not a pleasant way to pass the time. So, let's review, shall we? DON'T DRINK SPURIOUS WATER.

On Friday, I went to Rashtrapati Bhavan to visit the Mughal Garden. It is open to the public for five hours each day (except on Mondays) only in the month of February. This is one of those gardens we studied in my Rajput architecture seminar, and I could reasonably be expected to cover it should I ever teach a course on landscape/architecture in India. Friday was the day I had scheduled to visit the garden, so off I went, arriving just before noon. Long story of a beautiful garden with beautiful birds cut short, I ran into another American, and after a short chat, decided to hang out with her the rest of the day. We had a lot of fun: had lunch at a dhaba up near CP, went to see the Gandhi Smirti on Tees January Marg, Safdarjung's Tomb, and Qutub Minar. It runs completely contrary to my personality to suddenly go off into tourist land with a stranger, but I'm glad I did, as it was a pretty awesome day. It made me feel competent and knowledgable about Delhi, and I think it also helped my new friend feel more comfortable, traveling with a companion instead of trying to do everything solo.

Anyway, good day, but while we were at the dhaba, I ordered a fresh lime soda sweet, and they brought me a fresh lime soda salty. I don't know if you've ever had one of these, but it is basically like drinking sea water. I needed some regular water to wash it down. It must of been a day of doing things contrary to my usual behavior, because I bought a bottle of water. I usually just drink normal water, because it's typically filtered in restaurants. At this dhaba, I wasn't so sure, especially since we were seated in the kitchen and I could see there was no Aquaguard system or anything like that. So, I bought a bottle of Aquafina.

When I opened the bottle, it was overfull, and I even thought, "Oh, it looks like Neeraj [the boy who works in my guesthouse] filled this bottle!" Both Neeraj and Sonu fill my water bottles to the very top, but you know, bottle manufacturing plants don't do that. Clue 1. And then I looked at the lid of the bottle and thought, "You know, that looks like it's been glued." Clue 2. A smart person would have abstained from drinking the water, don't you think? But a fresh lime soda salty is horrendous, and I thought I needed to take drastic measures to save my taste buds. Big mistake. Sick by Friday night. A small recovery Saturday in the morning, sick again by late afternoon, trapped inside through Tuesday a.m. Such a dumbass thing to do.

So, just in case you haven't gotten the point of this little story, let me remind you: DON'T DRINK SPURIOUS WATER, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU SEE OBVIOUS SIGNS OF ITS SPURIOUS-NESS.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Spurious Water.

Don't drink it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

On the other hand.

There are a few good things to being distinctively white. For instance, last night, I was supposed to meet a friend for dinner at Sagar in Defence Colony. Half way there, I realized that we hadn't clarified which Sagar--North Indian or South Indian--and I had forgotten my mobile on my desk at home. Where would I meet my friend? Once at Defence Colony Market, I went to the North Indian Sagar, and when the door man motioned me inside, I asked "Meri saheli kahan hai?" ("Where is my girlfriend?"), and he replied, "Oh, she is standing by South Indian Sagar." So, it pays to be the short, round white person who always walks around with the tall, thin white person, because there are a lot of white people in Defence Colony, but the door man still knew who my friend was and where she was standing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


As it turns out, I've walked right by the entrance to a Lodhi-era step well every time I go to the USIEF office on Hailey Road. After spending some time with the satellite image feature of Google maps last night, I figured out exactly where it was, and stopped by today to take some photos. You can see it pretty clearly to the upper-left of the red "A" marking Hailey Road in the satellite view:

You'd think this would be a peaceful place: a seldom-visited, centuries-old architectural ruin in the middle of the embassy neighborhood of New Delhi. But, no. For one thing, like most monuments in Delhi, the stepwell is where teenagers go when they don't want adult supervision. A lot of snuggling, a lot of giggling, a lot of horseplay. Added to the shrill sounds of boys and girls trying to impress one another was the tremendous racket made inside the well by pigeons and bats. The deeper you go, the louder it becomes, like two aliens humming different songs underground. I could have sat and listened to this weirdness for a long stretch of time, actually, but the stares of the teenagers began getting to me before I even started my descent into the well.

Also, just as you would expect, a local fellow was hanging around inside the gate when I arrived, and he instantly offered his services as a tour guide. When I told him I wanted to explore on my own, he said that wasn't allowed. I pointed out that no one else was with a guide. True, he admitted, but he could show me things they wouldn't be looking at. I demurred as politely as possible, but insisted that I didn't need a guide. When I came back up from the bottom of the well, he jumped up and tried to talk to me again. I just shook my head, took some photos of the attached mosque, and left. He actually followed me out through the gate, asking for "baksheesh" and "tip". Seriously? I have to pay you now to get you to leave me alone? Please. It's an ASI-protected monument. If they want to me to pay an admission fee, fine, I'll play by the rules. But I'm not paying you to not give me a guided tour of a staircase, okay?

Anyway, my photos are now available on flickr.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Two Things Only.

I've just finished my first field report for SSRC, and I think it represents accurately my first two months in Delhi. The research process is incredibly slow and laborious, so the direction of my project hasn't changed dramatically; I'm still working on ideas I brought with me from the United States. Socially, I'm well-connected with local and American friends in the area, and other than transportation problems, which come and go unpredictably, I have absolutely nothing to complain about at the moment.

But that's never stop me from complaining before, and it's not going to stop me now.

Actually, not complaints. I just had two "interesting" experiences, and I'm not sure what I think about them.

The place I'm staying is full up this weekend, all three rooms rented. What this means for the two boys who work here is that when they have time for a break, there is no available television, as all the televisions are in the guest rooms. I was gone for a couple of hours today, and when I came home, Neeraj was taking a break, sitting on the floor outside my door, watching my television from a distance. Instantly realizing what was going on, I told him to stay put. I had planned on reading on the couch in the sitting room, anyway, so he might as well finish up the Amitabh Bachchan movie. But the young man of the house (I think he's fifteen), came over and gave him a "Come on, yaar!" speech and made him turn off the television. For all I care, he could have been sitting in my room enjoying the show from two, rather than ten, feet away from the television. Seriously, I'm gone so much that if he was going to snoop or steal or anything else, he would have have had 5 lakhs opportunities to do so by now. He can watch my television any time he wants to, especially since I NEVER watch it. Someone might as well enjoy it. But, no, he just moved off to sit in the dining room instead.

Just a few minutes later (and this is the second thing), another guest came out of her room to greet me. She was a PIO (Person of Indian Origin), but grew up in the U.S., now resides in Thailand. She asked me how I liked it here, and I said the usual (good winter chaat, nice weather, lousy transportation system). She seemed pretty distressed, and I had overheard a phone conversation in which she described the horrible experience she had had earlier in Delhi's over-crowded Metro. But it wasn't just that, as it turns out. She told me that she was here for a wedding, and that she thought it would be good to come "home," because in Thailand especially, she always feels like a foreigner. However, now that she's arrived, she feels like a part of her has died. For one thing, the upper middle class spending is out of control, and it seems as if everyone is flashing money right and left. I can see her point, as being in South Delhi is like watching the victory flags of neo-liberalism unfurl before your eyes. Multiple houses are going up on every block, flashy new SUVs are plying the streets, and everyone is staring blindly down at their Blackberries as they walk. But mostly I think she was trying to express how frustrating it is to always be marked as foreign, no matter where you go in the world.

So, the experience of the dislocated and the comparatively poor (Neeraj from Bihar, working in the kitchen and sleeping on the roof), and the dislocated and the comparatively affluent (PIO returning home only to find it's no longer, or maybe never was, home), all in the same five minutes. No clever wrap-up for this post, just the observation that maybe I shouldn't go out to the market on Saturdays, lest I open myself up to more complicated scenarios surrounding the process of coming home.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


I stayed up too late last night, counseling friends through various personal and academic crises. In the end, I don't think I helped anyone, and I woke up groggy and cranky this morning, so I probably should have stopped trying to be suppportive about two hours before I made the decision to knock it off.

The only exciting news for the week is that I saw a tree full of Yellow-Footed Green Pigeons when I was in Defence Colony on Monday. They are kind of awesome, but probably not worth an entire blog post.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

You are looking TOO GOOD.

I've somehow managed to string together nine days in which nothing traumatic has happened to me--I haven't been in an auto accident, I haven't fallen, I'm not sick, no one has driven away with my money in their hand, I haven't gotten lost. Of course, one of those days I worked at home. It's difficult to be traumatized while sorting bibliographic citations in EndNote. Also, of course, today isn't over yet. I might still go for a walk in the park, exposing me to the damning forces of gravity, but hopefully, I'll stay upright and uninjured.

Yesterday, I spent the day at the Delhi Zoo (NZP). You have to love a zoo at which the signs warn visitors about the animals outside as well as the ones inside the cages. At the gate, bags are checked to make sure you don't bring in food. I think this is supposed to protect the animals, and probably helps boost sales at the snack counter. However, if you're going to buy something at the snack counter, you have to be a lot quicker than the monkeys if you want to eat your snack. Case in point:

Aside from the monkeys, the zoo is really nice. It is on the banks of Yamuna River, and a lot of breeding flocks make their homes here, close to the water. The zoo's own water habitat is full of birds, especially waterbirds like painted storks, egrets and herons. The number of raptors is also impressively high, especially when they are headed straight toward your head (perhaps they don't like blondes?). Also, I saw a white tiger, which was it's own kind of awesomeness. Definitely worth the 50 rupee admissions fee.

Since I was in the neighboorhood, I went up to Purana Qila after I left the zoo. This is my second trip, so I was mostly just wandering randomly, taking photos when I felt like it, and not paying attention to much of anything. Mostly people left me alone at the zoo (except for the one billion plus school children who all had to say "Hi!" and give me high fives when they passed). At Purana Qila, people watched me more closely, starting with the women at the gate who tried to convince me to give them "a donation."

At one point, I saw a young man hovering nearby while I was taking a photo of the mosque dome. I kept my eyes down and tried to ignore him, but it was clear he wanted to talk to me. Eventually, I looked over at him, at which point he smiled and said, "Madam, you are looking TOO GOOD in your Indian dress!" I had to laugh and just say thank you. Not even ten minutes later, another young man wandered into my path. It was pretty clear that his group of friends (male and female both) had put him up to talking to me, so I just kept walking toward him to get it over with. And then he, too, said, "Madam, you are looking TOO GOOD in your Indian dress!"

I don't wear salwaar-kameez every day, but probably something like 5 out of 7 days, simply because I arrived here from London only with winter clothes. I had to buy some lighter weight clothing once I arrived, so most of my wardrobe this season is from Fab India. I don't think much about it, I wear what I have in my closet. But it seems clear that even if I look stupid in salwaar-kameez (my dupattas tend to turn into dirt rags by the end of the day), people generally appreciate that I'm trying not to look like a slob. And truthfully, while young women in Delhi usually wear jeans and kurta, women my age wear salwaar-kameez or saris. At least I'm dressing age appropriately most days of the week. And, hey, popular opinion seems to be that I am looking TOO GOOD for the first time in my life.

A few zoo photos here; Purana Qila photos [will be] here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

India's 60th Republic Day

(Photo courtesy of the BBC)
All of Delhi shuts down on national holidays. Few autorickshaws ply the roads, and most restaurants and shops lock their doors and take a break. In my neighborhood, even the laborers working on the new houses took the day off, the first break they have taken since I arrived in mid-December. No horns, no sabzi-wallahs yelling at us to "Come! Come!", no concrete being mixed, it was a wonderfully peaceful atmosphere to wake up in for a change.
Claire arrived at my place a little later than our arranged time since she couldn't find an autorickshaw anywhere in GK-1. At the last moment, she was able to chase one down, so we set off together to the Republic Day Parade about ten minutes after eight o'clock. We had to skirt the entirety of south New Delhi because the roads were closed for parade security. We eventually hopped out of the autorickshaw somewhere along Purana Qila road, and joined the crowds heading toward the parade route on foot. When pedestrians take over the roads, with no cars honking behind your shoulder warning you of their approach, well, that is a special day in the city. So, we enjoyed walking the empty streets with the other celebrants, stopping at various checkpoints to ask directions, and just making morning conversation.
I think we went through two metal dectectors, and a couple other lesser security checkpoints to make sure we hadn't carried with us any of the following: "any bag, briefcase, eatable, radio/transistor, mobile telephone and pager, tape recorder, camera, binocular, digital diary, palm-top computer, remote controlled car lock keys, arms and ammunition, thermos flask, water bottle, cigarette, bidi, match box, lighter, knife, razor, scissors, screwdriver, blade, etc.
Our bodies were searched pretty thoroughly, but also pretty cheerfully, since we were the foreigners with good Hindi. Claire went through this whole explanation for one of the women at security as to why we wear sunscreen (not just to stay pale and pretty, but because the sun burns us and we don't like the pain), impressing me greatly.
It took just over an hour to walk from Purana Qila road, pass through security, and find our seats. But what good seats! Our enclosure was almost at the intersection of Raj and Jan Paths, on the north side. So, not directly across from the President's enclosure, but within view of her seat. Even if we hadn't been able to see it, the parade announcer did a fantastic job of describing everything that happened throughout the day, and with such poetic language.
After the President's arrival (accompanied by horse regiment), the ceremonies opened with a 21-gun salute, which startled me even though I knew it was coming. The birds also did not like it. After this came the very solemn occasion of the Ashok Chakra awards. This year, an unusually high number (11) of Ashok Chakra awards were delivered--this reflects the numerous deaths of military/police leaders in the Mumbai attacks two months ago. I like to build my Hindi vocabulary, but found it sobering to learn the Hindi word for "posthumous" because I heard it eleven times during the ceremony.
The parade itself opened with a show of military might. Four helicopters flew overhead in formation, dropping rose and marigold petals. After this, precisely as scheduled, tanks, Bhramos missles, regiments in dress uniforms, floats displaying the strengths of each unit of the military, came down the parade route. In this part of the parade, our favorites were probably the camel cavalry (how do you make a camel walk in formation?), the Punjab regiments (good marchers, SHARP uniforms), and the bagpipers. There are a lot of bagpipers in India--who knew? There are also a lot of marching bands, the most impressive of which were the ones attached to a central military force (Army, Navy, Air, Central Police).
Some individual states had sent floats to the parade. A helpful young man sitting behind us identified all the regiments and all the floats for us. Assam had a really sweet one with a huge rhinoceros and an elephant. Many featured local architecture styles, clothing and handicrafts. Since many of them were dedicated to demonstrating what makes the state economy work, many also had depictions of tourism, complete with mannekins of white people in ridiculous safari clothes, or Indians dressed in blonde wigs and floppy hats with cameras. Priceless.
Some sectors of the national culture were also displayed on floats. For example, one float celebrated centuries of Indian astronomy as well as 2009 as the UNESCO Year of Astronomy.
The parade concluded with several flyovers. First there were helicopters, then troop transporters, bombers and refuelers, and then the big guys--the fighting jets--came over in formation. They split into three different directions and spun off into the invisibility of high altitudes. Claire was so excited (it really was quite a spectacle) that she clubbed me in the head. ("Dude! Did you see that?!").
Leaving the scene was much like arriving. Many, many people, all headed toward the main streets looking for transportation or just walking home. Finding an autorickshaw seemed impossible, so after wandering around aimlessly for awhile, we ducked into the one open restaurant we saw. I think it might have been the only restaurant open between Raj Path and CP, because when we came out after our meal, there were crowds of people waiting to eat. We took an expensive autorickshaw home, then crashed in my room to watch the most patriotic movie I own, Lakshya.
The government has posted a two-hour video of the parade and celebration for your viewing pleasure. English language commentary begins at 5:22, and ends at 22:30; starts again at 55:30, ends at 1:04; begins again at 1:09. There's a long section on the Ashok Chakra awards that's completely in Hindi. However, just that minute from 5:30-6:30 in this video gives a good idea of the atmosphere of the day. The tone of the English-language narration perfectly echoes that of the parade announcers. Formal, poetic, sincere. We couldn't see the ceremony depicted in the first 30 minutes or so of this video, but we could hear the military calls and bugles while we waited for parade to start.

Mighty, Mighty India.

You haven't lived until you've been sprinkled with flower petals by a military assault helicopter. Really.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Other Random Concerns.

  • When I came home after a weekend away, my room had been thoroughly dusted. I often leave my books in stacks on top of the shelves or on my desk, but apparently the maid doesn't like this arrangement. This weekend, she stood the three books that wouldn't fit on my literature shelf upside down and on end, on the top shelf, pretty much out of my reach.
  • It is really frustrating that I can't read Panjabi. When I am reading it alongside the Hindi and Urdu on the signs in Delhi, it makes perfect sense. However, once the companion Hindi is removed, it all turns into Greek (except I could probably figure out more of the Greek than I can of Panjabi). If I ever get lost in the Panjab, I'm screwed.
  • How much do you suppose I'd need to pay for a hotel room in Delhi with an American bed? My back is killing me after this weekend. I thought I had become accustomed to my bed here in Delhi, but it isn't helping my lower back pain right now.
  • You know that Vodafone commercial were the guy buys a diamond ring, and when he leaves the shop, the entire city is staring at him? The point of the commercial is that with Vodafone's very reasonable price of 10 paise per SMS, you can spread gossip efficiently and inexpensively. So, by the time the guy gets to the restaurant with his ring, his soon-to-be-affianced knows exactly what's up. Well, my point is this: this commercial shows EXACTLY what it is like for a foreigner in a town where many foreigners don't go. Staring, gaping, following, everybody knows exactly where you are, every second of the day.
  • Slumdog Millionaire. Eh...not so much. Parts of it were brilliant (the organized begging, the spurious mineral water, the empty hotel/development project, the unfinished building in Mumbai, the pathways through the basti). Most of it, however, was just a filmi remake of Salaam Bombay. Such a shame, the movie started out so well, and then just dissolved into a story about how we don't have to worry about the fate of the poor chaiwallah because he was pure of heart and very resilient, and therefore would turn out A-OK. No need to examine our own roles in creating the slums and allowing organized crime and oppression to thrive.
  • I'm thinking about abandoning my Urdu lessons. For one thing, they are expensive, and I feel like a walking bank machine these days. For another thing, my head is too tired to add another language right now. I know it's mostly just learning the script, and in theory, it will help me with my Hindi, but it feels like too much for me these days. I'm not here to become fluent in Hindi, anyway, the time for that has past. My Hindi is good enough for daily life, and right now I need to create some more space in my cotton-filled head for thinking about my real work.
  • Speaking of real work, today I found something that will help me not at all with my dissertation, but could form the basis of a later article on the restoration of the Jaipur observatory in 1901. It's funny the things I'm learning about India without even trying, just looking at catalogue indices. Do you want to know what's really irritating, though? The indices for 1850-1859 Foreign Department (R-Z) are completely missing, as are the 1903 Foreign Department indices. How can I do research without an index? It boggles.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Road Trip.

[I know my photo links aren't working. It's taking forever to upload this evening, so check back in a couple of days.]

I did my architectural duty this weekend and took a trip to Chandigarh. The friend who was supposed to go with me got sick at the last minute, so it was just me and the driver, Hukamji ("I will not give orders, Madam," he said when I was writing down his name, "you will give the orders."). He showed up promptly at 8:30, carefully set my bags in the outsize trunk of a shiny, white Ambassador, and off we went. This was a great adventure, as I'd only traveled toward/through Chandigarh on the train, and you can't see much from the train window. One reason I went to the expense of hiring a car was so I could stop and see a few architectural monuments on the way. I originally had a long list, but by the time I left the house, I had narrowed it down to one on the way to Chandigarh, one on the way back, and then three things in/around Chandigarh itself.

Okay. First, let me just say that the drive north out of New Delhi into Delhi is never much fun. The road isn't great, and there are a lot of development projects underway (metro, Yamuna river banks, mela grounds) for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. And then there is just the reality of traffic. My car came with seatbelts, but Hukamji had to slam on the brakes somewhere north of New Delhi, and the fastener popped out of the car wall. So, basically, travelling to Chandigarh with no seatbelt. Don't try this at home, kids! Luckily, Hukamji was a good, attentive driver. We saw one really bad accident, and I think even Hukamji was impressed by the car carnage because he said to me very solemnly that this was the result of "overspeed" and he would drive slowly-slowly.

The one place I wanted to stop on the way up was in Panipat, at the Kabuli Bagh (a few of my photos here), a garden/mosque first built by Babur c. 1527-26, and thus the first Mughal building in north India. And here is where we get yet another lesson on the difference between Seeing Like a State, and seeing from ground level. It looked so simple on the map: turn off the Delhi highway onto State Highway 12, drive straight until you see it. Yeah. Not so much. We must have driven through every bazaar in south Panipat looking for this place. Most of those bazaars were not planned with automobile traffic in mind, either. You would think this would be a somewhat well-known building in the town, but no, it's not. Big city, small building, no one knows anything about it. I admire Hukamji's dedication. Yes, I really wanted to see it, but by the time we followed all the mistaken directions given to us by people along the road, we ended up approaching the place through a swamp. I'm surprised we're not still stuck in the mud, really.

This place was interesting, though. Half the building had been restored, while the other half was left more or less untouched, leaving the structural elements visible. Most of the garden has disappeared. Only the garden immediately in front of the building has been enclosed within a protective wall. Outside the wall, houses have been built, and what must have been gardens are covered in trash and such (what can you expect, it's been almost 500 years since this place was founded). You can see a group of men sitting inside the entrance in some of my photos. When the requisite number of children tried to follow me into the mosque complex, these men chased them away. So, the kids followed me from outside the walls, catching me up at the entrance/exit.

We got into Chandigarh about 5:00, and I was in my hotel by 5:30. My hotel sucked, by the way, definitely not as advertised on the web. Seriously, I need hot water on a rainy, January morning. Really, I do. I won't put the name of the hotel here, because the internet has a way of blowing things out of proportion and I'd hate to put anyone out of business, but if you're going to Chandigarh, e-mail me and I'll give you the name of a better hotel. The television worked just fine, however, so I tried to force myself to practice my Hindi. Hukamji, who has perfect English, made me speak Hindi all day for practice ("If you try hard enough, you will achieve it"), so my head was pretty tired by the end of the day, but I gave it a go for awhile before turning in for the night.

The next day was touring in the Chandigarh area. The real purpose of the trip was to get a glimpse of the Secretariat complex. It is a bit difficult to get into this area right now, partly because of terrorism, and partly because it is just a bureaucratic process in the best of times. On weekdays, you have to take some sort of letter to Sector 9 in the city, and apply for permission. This wasn't possible for me, obviously, so I was just hoping to see the complex from afar. I first went to the High Court Museum (very awesome display on Bhagat Singh's trial), then Hukamji took me to the gate of the Secretariat complex. And this is the stupid part. I don't even like le Corbusier. Reading the Athens Charter or Towards a New Architecture makes me want to put a gun to his head and dare him to say But I was standing there, staring at the Secretariat, and I started to cry. I have no idea what that was all about. Luckily, I had a dupatta with me. Comes in handy for wiping sweat, drying tables, and hiding tears.

Hukamji was off to the side, talking to the guards about how we hadn't gotten permission for entrance, and I was listening and nodding (well, wobbling) my head as he talked, not really looking at them. The guard suddenly realized I was following their conversation. "You have Hindi?" Well, a bit, I admitted. I told him I was an architect (I've given up explaining about the difference between licensed and unlicensed, historian and designer), so Chandigarh is important for me. It was very good to me to be able to stand and look at the buildings.

I really was just making conversation, but they were so delighted with my Hindi they apparently felt the need to reward me. They told me I could walk down closer to the Secretariat, and once I got to the inner gate, those guards were also impressed with my Hindi, and they let me go even deeper into the complex. So, there you go, I accidentally played the "white woman speaking Hindi" card, and it got me into the Secretariat complex. No camera allowed, of course, but it was still awesome. I walked up in front of the Vidhan Sabha toward the High Court (saw the Open Hand), and then back down to the Secretariat on an exterior staircase of the Vidhan Sabha. It would have been good to apply for permission to photograph and explore the complex even more thoroughly, but this was good enough for me, and possibly even more memorable because it was all sort of haphazard and accidental.

It would be very much a crime to go to Chandigarh and not stop off at the Nek Chand Rock Garden (best deal in India for foreigners--10 rupees!). Part of this garden is a later addition to Nek Chand's imaginative creation, but still, it was beautifully green and wet and cool (my photos here). It must be amazing during the rainy season. Some of the sculptures were a little creepy, but most of the animal sculptures sported smiles, so they must be enjoying their stay in the garden.

So different from Aurangzeb's gardens in Pinjore, also a good tourist deal at 20 rupees (my photos here). Pinjore is just outside Chandigarh, at the base of the Himalayan foothills. It's only 20km, but even so, the climate of Pinjore was even cooler and wetter than that of Chandigarh. Since even in winter I am always warm, it was nice to spend a few hours in the cool breeze. As you can see from photos, only the central corridor of the Pinjore gardens has been maintained/restored. The side gardens are less polished, organized mostly around orchard rows of fruit trees and eighteenth-century walls. This was the most interesting part of the garden to me. If you look attentively, you can find traces of original water channels, tanks and paths under the overgrowth.

Sunday, I just walked around Chandigarh. I expected to hate Chandigarh, given my general attitude toward Corbu. It is often said that Chandigarh fails as a city because it was not built on a human scale and space was overly rationalized by the architects. Maybe this is true. I didn't interview any residents, so I don't know it it "works" or not, but as I was walking around, it occured to me that Chandigarh is a much more reasonable place to live than New Delhi. Many of the open spaces in Chandigarh are available for infill and multiple uses. If it is rainy, you can duck under cover in front of the planned shopping areas. Or you can pitch your tent in front of the same over night. You can add to the front garden, or subtract. New Delhi space, at least in the embassy area, is so policed that you really can't adapt it to your needs. If you tried to pitch a tent in front of the Turkish embassy, well, let me just say those fellows at the gates carry weapons. Maybe (probably) it is not easy to move from sector to sector for shopping-wopping if you don't have a car, but I'm not sure why you would need to leave your sector. At first I was all "Goddamit, my sector doesn't have any biscuits!" But then I realized I was only looking at the front line of the shops--the biscuits were at the back! Anyway, I'm not an urban planner, and I'm not a big proponent of massive, planned cities. But if you can plan a city in such a way that it can be adapted to different needs and desires in the future, I think that's the best you can do, really.

On Monday, we went back to Delhi via Sirhind so I could visit Akbar's Aam Khas Bagh. As other Delhiwallahs noted, the fog on Monday in this part of the world was stupendous. You don't know fear until you've ridden in a car with no seatbelts along the Delhi highway in the fog. It could have been worse, I suppose: it could have been night time. Still and all, it was a rough way to spend the early hours of the day. Thank god Hukamji was driving.

Perhaps because Sirhind is a small town with only one major architectural monument (unless you count those enormous memorial gates spanning the entry roads, and of course, the Fatehgarh Sahib gurdwara), we had no trouble getting directions to the gardens from the people standing roadside. Much like everywhere else I went this weekend, I could have spent a lot more time here. This will probably be the only Mughal caravanserai I will be able to see while I'm here, and it will definitely come in handy for the second chapter of my dissertation. I did spend a lot of time taking 125+ photographs (a few of them here), but it was a little spooky and I left before I really needed to do so according to my own schedule. The ruins were pretty much abandoned, except for the two little boys flying kites, and the three teenaged boys skipping school. The roofs to many of the chambers had collapsed, so it felt a little precarious, climbing walls and skirting gaping holes. Plus, there was a chamber of bats (I could hear them from some distance off, and one of the school-skipping-boys told me not to go in because of the animals). Overall, it looked like a good place for snakes to be living, and once the sun came out, I expected the snakes to come out to get warm, too. I thought maybe this was my over-active imagination, but when I ran my idea by Hukamji, he thought snakes sounded like a reasonable possibility.

It took a long time to get back to Delhi from Sirhind, and now I am exhausted. I think I've used up my energy and courage reserves. Even though I took the comfort route by hiring a driver, it's tough to get into a car with a stranger and head off into the unknown for four days. I had intended to go to Chennai for a long weekend in February, but I'm thinking now that maybe I'll just stay in Delhi where I'm comfortable and can sleep in my own bed at night.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why am I here again?

You know, sometimes the disparity between the outcome and effort put into something to produce that outcome is so great that I end up wondering just what the point of life is, anyway.

In my fifth week here, fourth week in the archives, I finally found a useful document. One useful document, and that made me very happy. Yes! Progress! But then I started thinking about how I could use said document in my dissertation, and realized it would help me write two sentences only, or three if I decide to be really verbose. Is that really worth sitting in a room to which I'm clearly allergic for four weeks? No.

I'm actually just mad because the smallest tasks tend to derail me, sending me into a crash of depression and anxiety. Example: I stopped to get my phone recharged so I can call my parents this weekend. I wanted a 501 rupee top up, but he talked me into a 666 rupee top up. Then he mistyped, and ended up topping me up for 999 rupees, but I only had 700 rupees with me. I can't even go to the ATM because I've made my maximum withdrawal for the day to pay my Chandigarh driver tomorrow a.m. I can't take any money out of that stash because I need to pay out at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning, and I can't guarantee an ATM in the neighborhood will be working tomorrow a.m. if I try to go out early and make up the 300 rupee deficit for the phone (only one out of the four ATM on my street was working this afternoon, but that's another story).

But here I am, and he's telling me I have to give 1000 rupees, and I am saying I only have 700, and he is saying, this is not a problem Pablo here can go to your house and get the 300 rupees from someone there. Or he can come over this evening and get the money. And I'm trying to explain in my stupid fucked up Hindi that no, he can't go asking my landlords for money, and I don't have the 300 rupees, the ATMs are broken, and NO, he can't go to my house anyway. And you know how red my face is by this point.

Anyway, someone else came over and started explaining it all to me in English, and I'm like, dude, I get what happened, but that doesn't change the fact that I only have 700 rupees, the ATMs are broken, and I'm going out of town tomorrow a.m. In the end, I agree I would bring him the 300 rupees on Tuesday, and I will, but I probably won't go back to the same place after that. A 300 rupee typing mistake will not turn me into a return customer.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I'm a little disappointed in myself for taking so long to piece together all the clues. Clue 1) Vandanaji spent the evening crouched in front of the heater, drying the mehendi (henna) on her hands. Clearly a special occasion is coming up. Clue 2) The neighbors deliberately start a bonfire on the front walk way. Clue 3) Vandanaji is wearing a beautiful suit this morning. Clue 4) Family breakfast is really late! Clue 5) Two pieces of barfi on my breakfast plate. Clearly it is a celebration!

But, I had to ask what it all meant in the end, because I couldn't figure it out by myself. The fire was for Lohri. We live in south Delhi, and many of our neighbors are Panjabi (it's like a page out of the young Darymple's City of Djinns, only not so derogatory). There were probably a lot of fires going on last night, I just didn't see them. The mehendi, sweets and suit were for Sankranti, the fasting for which starts at first sight of the moon the evening before. But it's the good (Hindu) kind of fasting--you can still have chai, fruit and juice, just not the solid types of food.

So there you go. I've seen my first Lohri fire, and eaten my first Sankranti mithai.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Figure Skating 101

  1. Republic Day. I can tell it's approaching because they've started putting the seats back on top of the bleacher frames lining Raj Path. I really want to see the parade or them beating the retreat, but I keep getting e-mails from the U.S. Government telling me how dangerous it is to do fun stuff in India. We'll see.
  2. Transportation. Last week was a really bad transportation week. I was in an accident--don't worry, the only person hurt was me, and I obviously lived to tell the tale--and I had a lot of hassle with autorickshaw drivers throughout the week. To the young man who tries to pick me up every afternoon at the intersection of Raj Path and Jan Path: listen, you're not doing yourself any good trying to force tourists to go to the bazaars. It just makes you look dishonest, and gives Delhi a bad reputation among foreigners. Knock it off.
  3. City of Djinns. Re-read it yesterday and today. I read it years and years ago, when it first came out, so I could barely remember most of it. It's much more interesting now that I know Delhi more intimately. I will say, the young Darymple didn't know a heck of a lot about architecture (hint: Taj is not the model for Safdarjung's Tomb). But it's been interesting reading, especially the post-Partition commentary. Much has changed in twenty years, but much has not.
  4. Chandigarh. Eric and I are going to Chandigarh on Friday, stopping in Panipat on the way up and Sirhind on the way back. Also going up to the gardens in Pinjore. I chose the hotel based on the description of the beds ("comfortable"), so I hope it turns out as advertised.
  5. Fire. I often walk in the park across the street in the evenings. While I was walking tonight, a family deliberately started a fire on their driveway. When I came around the corner, the family was standing around it, hands clasped as if they were all doing puja, while the fire burned 4' high. It was intense enough that I could hear the cracking and popping through my earphones. Not sure what they were up to, really, but I'd like to know what it was for.
  6. Italian. My favorite Italian restaurant is Stone, on the top floor of Moet's BBQ in Defence Colony market. I like eating outside on the terrace, where I can watch the birds all come to roost at the end of the day.
  7. Rab ne bana di Jodi. The poster was better than the movie, but Claire and I had fun, anyway. This is the first time I've ever had to check my bag at a cigarette stand on the sidewalk. I guess once a bomb goes off outside your theatre, you're a little jumpy about handbags. Still, a cigarette stand?
  8. I was complaining to Eric about my dissertation topic (rough summary of my concerns here), and he was trying to cheer me up. "Look," he said, "you could have stuck with colonial churches and cemeteries like you originally intended, but you probably wouldn't have gotten the funding you did. The archive is deep for those topics, they are very doable, but they are not very exciting. You got the funding because you're going for the triple, not the double, axel." "Triple axel!?!" I exclaimed. "Do you know how hard it is to land a triple axel? That's 3 and a half rotations!" "That's exactly my point," he said. "They expect you to land it. And you will." And this is where I explain: I use hockey skates. I can't even do a single toe loop in those things, much less a triple axel. My dissertation is going to crash and burn, sliding across the ice to crumple against the boards. Wait and see.
  9. Calcutta. In March, I have to go to Calcutta for a Fulbright conference. We are being given ten minutes to present our research. Ten minutes only. Good luck with that, that's not even a poster session.