Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Week 7: Travel & Talks
This weekly entry is being posted a few days late. My Fulbright responsibilties have kept me -- crazy busy. Mostly I have been occupied preparing for five fairly major events at which I was asked to speak for an hour or more... Two of these required traveling to Tranuvanamparam over 100 miles away. Kris and Shaman came along for this trip, which included playing one day as tourists visiting Kanniyakamari which is the southernmost tip of India.
Imagine being on the from the top of a five story hotel, looking east to see the Bay of Bengal, south to the expanse of the Indian Ocean, and west to view the Arabian Sea. Here is where all three bodies of water converge! People from all over India come to see the spectacle of both sunrise and sunset over saltwater to the east and west. A massive 133 foot statue of the famous tamil saint/poet Thiruvalluvar stands on a rock island nearby, along with a shrine to Vivekananda which commemorates this swami who was the only Hindu to attend the World Religious Conference in Chicago in 1893. The photograph here shows the view of these two monuments as seen from the balcony of our hotel room.
Amazing, yes? Very few westerners come to Kanniyakamari as it has no air connections and (as we found out) train and bus transportation can be quite a challenge.....
Memorable (to say the least) was our having to wait over 3 hours to get onto a bus from Kanniyakamari to Tranuvananapuram (a bus which was supposed to leave every hour) and the over 3 hours on the bus we did board, which had so many in it that not one additional person could possible squeeze on (sitting or standing). In fact, the wait was complicated as six buses arrived within a hour of each other -- with the impatient crowd literally storming them one by one, occasionally scrambling in through open windows to secure a seat! It was only after the crowd became smaller (at the sixth bus) that we were able to get on (with gratitude) and secure three seats. So we learned that one way for a family to grow more closely together is to sit packed so closely that our butts seemed to sweat together! Kris, Shaman, and I definately will remember that ride!
For the few of you who may be interested in what I was asked to speak upon, here is a listing of the events from this last week: 1) on Tuesday, 1/12, to an audience of 175 future high school teachers at the St. Thomas College of Teacher Education: U.S. EDUCATION & GANDHI; 2) on Wednesday, 1/13, as the final keynote conference speaker to an audience of about 100 at St. Alphonsa College: RECENT TRENDS IN TERRORISM: A GANDHIAN PERSPECTIVE; 3) on Thursday, 1/14. for nearly three hours of sharing with a graduate school classroom full of journalism students at the School of Communications in Kottayam: GANDHI: A WESTERN PERPECTIVE; 4) on Monday, 1/88, to an audience of 60 at the University of Kerala: THE GREEN MOVEMENT: GLOBALLY & IN THE U.S.; and 5) also on Monday the 18th (the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in the U.S.), for 20 former Indian civil servants, military officers, and retired diplomats at Kerala International downtown in Tranuvananpuram: GANDHI & MARTIN LUTHER KING JR..
Today, I am told to expect coverage regarding the GREEN MOVEMENT talk of yesterday -- including an article in the english language newspaper (THE HINDU, with national circulation). Hopefully I will not be too seriously misquoted! In any case, we all look forward to catching the train north to our small town of Pala. It will be good to have two nights rest in our own beds before flying off to the War Resisters International Conference in Ahmadabad on Thursday. Drawing an attendance of nonviolent activists from all over the world, the WRI Conference should be a major highlight of our time abroad. Major keynote speakers include Arundato Roy (auther of award-winning novel, THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS). So: stay tuned for our blog entry next week!