Tuesday, March 3, 2009

O, Kolkata[

This is a mightily clever-titled post.

I am in Kolkata for the Fulbright conference, where there are papers on camel-breeding and Hoysala temples and protecting Nepali policemen from aerosol exposure.  Its actually pretty fun.  The conference is fairly all-consuming, plus they feed us 3 meals a day, so there's not much seeing the city.  I can tell you it's a long ol' ride from the airport, and that from here to the Barista is about five minutes, in which time I go from uber-schwanky hotel to people sleeping on the sidewalks almost immediately.  I think there's a Metro.

The one dynamic about the conference is that there are Student Researchers who are mostly just out of Yale, it seems, or some other undergrad program; there are the Hays Doctoral Research folks like myself, who are sort of 29-40ish, and then there are the 'Senior Researchers' who are all tenured, along with visiting lecturers and alums.  We divide up into stratae fairly quickly and mostly stay that way.  I've been hanging out with the Persianistas and the Old Iranian Philology guy, who says that if we count languages he's forgotten he knows 18.  I was humbled.  He's been at Harvard since he was 18, which probably accounts for something.

I also saw a really great paper on landmark Indian trees.

I am always a little surprised when anyone else finds my research interesting, and its not particularly well-suited for powerpoint presentations to general audiences, so I did a fairly long bit on saying thank you and explaining why I'm so happy to be a fulbrighter.  My grandfather was one, and for as long as I can remember my mom's been telling us about being in Denmark when she was little--or, rather, about being in hospital in jolly Olde Englund with scarlet fever.  I got Mom to send me some photos from her Fulbright, plus talked some about how helpful it is to have family along when it comes to the Fulbright mission of promoting mutual understanding.  Here's what I showed 'em, and a synopsis of what I said.

In academia we have a certain mercenary quality inasmuch as we have to take whatever funding we can get, and I am of course very grateful to have the money, but I'm particularly proud to be a Fulbrighter.  My grandfather was a professor,

 as was my grandmother (I sat next to a guy on the plane coming here whose sons both graded from Guilford College), and in 1953 they got a Fulbright to go to Denmark with my mother and her brothers.
My grandfather, first row in specs and bow tie, was on the faculty of a history department in some Danish university.

I also wanted to give my colleagues a chance to see the similarities and differences between a 1953 Denmark Fulbright and a 2009 India.  For instance, no Indian Fulbrighter comes on one of these:

On the other hand, there is no Fulbright without oxcarts:

And don't we all have at least one over-eager and slightly eccentric faculty member somewhere around?
And there was one more but I don't have it here, but I said the point was that it made an impression on my mother, and while my father and she never got a Fulbright, my mother did run an International Exchange program for social workers, and so I grew up with a series of Nepalis and Indians and Dutch and Cypriots and Japanese staying summers in my house.  And I got the basics of mutual understanding--that you are like me, but you are also not like me.  And now I have my Fulbright [and here's where I start to CRY in front of my COLLEAGUES, gorsh!] and my mom came to visit me, and here we all are:

Then I talked about Buddhist Confession and a necessary methodological shift in Buddhist Studies.  I know,
Not Interesting.
My colleagues thought it was though.


Grandpa George said...

Splendid!! I am so proud of you and delighted for you.

ehirunner said...

Thanks, pop. and btw, there are social workers here.

don't take any wooden nickels...