Welcome to Delhi

Today is the start of the third full day of our time in Delhi. We’re all still feeling the heavy effects of travel, jet lag, adjustment to new foods, and plenty of stress. The faculty team has settled into our lodging for the Delhi portion: we’re in a guest house, which is generally quite nice, but we have a man who basically lives in our living room as a cook/general servant. We’re all struggling with the awkwardness of having this man living in our place and the different expectations of service… Meanwhile, Kelly–our South African faculty member, who had a root canal when she was back in SA getting her visa, again–seems to have an abces… So we’re getting her more antibiotics.

Yesterday was our first full day. The students had our first class of CUI where we focused on research methods, including listening to the “Yellow Rain” radio-lab broadcast. You should check it out, it’s pretty challenging, but a good illustration about how research and the quest for truth can do a lot of violence to people along the way. It’s something I need to think more about too. Then in the afternoon we had an introduction to the history of Delhi, particularly in the context of partition and then the students headed out on their first neighborhood day in India. I went with a group to “the center of power,” walking with an activist guide from the India Gate to the former governor general’s residence, now presidential palace and the various ministries on either side. It felt like the climactic final stage of giganicism of the beaux-arts city planning age, like the National Mall, but vaster and with far less to do or see around it. It’s actually generally pretty amazing how New Delhi, the colonial city barely feels like a city at all. The streets are surrounded by walled compounds offering hints of lush interiors. Pedestrian facilities and mixed commercial uses are very poor.  We also visited a designated protest area, a sort of surreal experience, like our “free speech zones” but even farther from the center of power. As our guide said, the people are “free to bark like dogs” and people pay about as much attention. But we hear that the protests around corruption and women’s rights will be starting up again next week with the return of the parliamentary session, so that should be interesting for some of our students who are interested in women’s political organizing.

Today we are staying in to catch up on sleep and work while the students go on walking tours of the old city. I’d normally love to go but there is just so much else to do! We’ve got a lot of grading for one, and need to prep some of our assignments and our courses for next week, aaahh!  🙂

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