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.