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 just.one.more.thing. 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.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Safdarjung's Tomb

Well, I intended to fill this space with a week's worth of whinging, but I've decided I'd rather eat cold cereal. So, instead of reading paragraphs full of my complaints, you can spend your free time looking at photos from my weekend instead.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Going there.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Afraid to ask.

On the way home from the NAI today, I spent some time thinking about the feasibility of my dissertation topic. If my committee had tried to persuade me to take a different tack, would I have done so? I guess they could have failed my proposal, that would have sent a clear message. I'm just now wondering--did they let me go off and research this topic because they actually believed I would find a way to make it happen, or did they just not want to argue with me about it? I'd love to know, but...see title.

The other historians at the archives seem to have clearly delineated resources for which they are hunting. As an example, anyone doing a dissertation on disease and epidemic and how it relates to nationalism, resistance, colonialism, etc., would have no problem finding material at the NAI. The Home Records indices for the beginning of the 20th century are saturated with discussions on plague, epidemic and famine.* Similarly, if I wanted to construct on argument about definitions of "assault" as it relates to class, caste or position in early 20th c. India, I would have pages upon pages of assault records to scrutinize.** I spoke to someone today who is working on marriage laws and citizenship, and she seemed pretty upbeat about what she's finding in the Home Records.

Anyway, what I think at the end of today is that the big idea behind my research--the production and mobility of knowledge--is a good one. I think I made it really difficult for myself, however, by trying to base my argument on 5 sites of production, when there are only archival records available for 1 of those five (those records are in Bikaner, not Delhi). I should have chosen five science laboratories with clear construction and production records, not some obscure 18th c. monuments that apparently few people even noticed in the landscape. So, my idea's good, my application of it--not so much.

When I was paging through indices today, I noticed a lot of records about bicycles ("petition to let peons ride bicycles while in service") and typists/typography. I'm not sure why they jumped out at me, other than the fact that there were several of them, spanning across many years. When I was getting my bag out of the locker at the end of the day, I glanced down at a stack of research notes another fellow had placed on the table while stowing his own bag. It was a list of Home Records he was intending to consult, all of which pertained to bicycles and typists. I'm mystified by the connection, but it must be an important one, given that it came to my attention twice in one day.

[Interruption: Kush just brought me a bowl of hot pasta! I think they feel sorry for me with my cold.]

Well, tomorrow, I have another idea for another approach. We'll see if it works.

*Based just on my research today, I can say there is a great dissertation to be written about the policing of religion through restrictions placed on Hajj pilgrims because of the fear of the spread of disease. I also found, but did not read, a discussion about the possible spread of the plague during the Coronation Durbar of 1903--all the people required/requesting to pay their respects to Edward VII threatened to bring disease to Delhi with them. A real concern, or a method of policing motion?

**For the record, in 98% of the entries I saw today, only the European involved in the assault--whether the assailant or the recipient of said attack--was given a full name; the opposing party was generally listed as "a native," or "a coolie" or "a peon." Welcome to the colonies.

Monday, January 05, 2009


Head cold. Cry for me.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

How to Make a Living.

Orchard labor, thinning (Tonasket)
Parking office clerk (WWU, Bellingham)
Cabin girl, guest ranch (Montana)
Cashier, Jack in the Box (Seattle)
Reference Assistant (UW, Seattle)
Translator/Interpreter (Seattle)
Temp worker (Seattle, multiple corporations)
Office Assistant, Seattle Indian Health Board (Seattle)
Medical Receptionist, Seattle Indian Health Board (Seattle)
Side, Herfy’s (Bellingham)
Campus Security officer (WWU, Bellingham)
Desk clerk, YMCA (Bellingham)
Day prep worker, Taco Time (Bellhingham)
Teaching Assistant, Art History (WWU, Bellingham)
Teaching Assistant, Art History (USC, Los Angeles)
Note Taker (USC, Los Angeles)
Green ceramic ware cleaner (Tonasket)
Teaching Assistant, Art History (UO, Eugene)
Night Janitor (UO, Eugene)
Translator/Proofreader (UO, Eugene)
Temp worker (UO, Eugene)
Billing Clerk (UO, Eugene)
Customer Service Rep, Symantec (Eugene)
Teaching Assistant, History (UO, Eugene)
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Friday, January 02, 2009


For the past two days, I've been helping another Fulbrighter settle into life in Delhi. I'm not doing this out of any sort of obligation to help out other Fulbrighters (although we all seem to be doing that), but because he's a friend from my first Hindi program in Jaipur. I tell you what, that A.I.I.S. thing--if you think you want to do research in India, get started with A.I.I.S. language programs right now, because these are going to be the people who are with you for your graduate education and beyond. Those people in your local cohort? Not so useful over the long haul if they are all Americanists. I run into fellow A.I.I.S.ers all over the place, in India, in Paris, in London, at conferences in the U.S., everywhere.

There's nothing like helping out a newly-arrived American to demonstrate to yourself how much you've learned since your own arrival. I've only been here three weeks, and already I was able to act the expert and help my friend get a mobile phone (the easy way, not the way I did it), find his new hotel, find lunch, find water, find a new flat, all of this. My Hindi has dramatically improved over the past three weeks (I think my Urdu lessons in Hindi are helping), and my geographical knowledge of south Delhi has broadened unbelievably. It's also just comforting because I can see that my friend is exactly where I was three weeks ago, absolutely desolate about 9 more months spent away from home. Another Fulbrighter (former A.I.I.S.er) talked me off the ledge my second day in Delhi, and now I can do the same for someone else.

Anyway, that's all just to say that I'm in a slightly different place today than I was three weeks ago. Still far from happy, of course, and desperately wishing to go home. Still annoyed that all this lipservice to diversifying the academy is just that--empty talk that doesn't address the structural issues that ensure "diverse" students can't make it through to the end (why should anyone be forced to spend an entire year abroad with no possibility of going back to the U.S. for a visit, especially when that person has two small children back home? How does such a travel ban make for a better academic?). Still concerned about the cough I've developed from the winter pollution, and still incredibly frustrated by my 100% non-productive time at the archives. But...no longer in danger of shooting myself with chachaji's rifle.

This post didn't take the direction I thought it would when I started writing it. I was going to talk about Ganeshji, who lives in our staircase. I spent a lot of quality time with Hanumanji the last time I was here, trying to work through a lot of frienship issues I was having (am probably still having, I'm not good at interpersonal relationships). In this house, Ganeshji is the deity at hand. And I suppose he is the more appropriate deity for all those doctoral students who should be focused on their dissertations and not on their social life. So, I'll try to be more respectful of his little round belly the next time I walk by him, and hope that the respect becomes mutual, and he helps me work through all the research and writing problems I'm facing while I'm here. But I think I should probably stay in touch with Hanumanji, too, because one thing that has become really clear to me over the past three weeks is that I'm not going to make it through the next nine months without my friends. So, please, Hanumanji, let me be smart enough and patient enough and kind enough to keep these friends, because right now, it's not just that I need them, but that we all need each other. Namasteji.