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June 8, 2008 / calebdresser

Landed (on my feet)

Things are looking very good here. I arrived last night, and quickly found the driver from IRRI – it was very nice to have a trustworthy person to meet me, as you hear some horror stories about catching taxis from Delhi airport. We also eventually found William McCaffery, one of Peter Hobbs’s other students. He will be working on an organic farm north of Jaipur, but is staying with me at the International Guesthouse adjacent to the IRRI offices here in New Delhi for the next couple of days.

The NASC complex in which we are housed is a hub for agriculture research – there are offices for CIMMYT, IFPRI, and several other international centers, in addition to the nearby Indian Agricultural Research Institute. All of the buildings are very elegant, made of tan sandstone with red accents; the feel is that of a mansion or castle, with columns and gardens and numerous guards in berets at the two very large gates. The support staff is also large and visible – being the privileged visitor when I come here will take a little getting used to, as its certainly not my usual style. The old British influence is still alive, it would seem.

William and myself, with the IRRI-India offices behind us, to the left of the columns.

We received a very warm welcome from Dr. J.K. Ladha and Dr. Virender Kumar, when we finally found the IRRI office. After meeting briefly with Virender, we were ushered into J.K’s spacious office. We talked for a bit, and I introduced William. A man appeared with delicious tea in fine cups and saucers. They have made preparations for my research project – facilities for nematode extraction are being set up in Modipuram, where I will be living and doing most of my work. In addition, they have found a potential collaborator for the nematode identification; I have a meeting tomorrow morning. We mentioned that we could not charge our laptops – J.K. pressed a button, a man appeared, disappeared, and reappeared with electrical adapters for the Indian wall plugs. It looks like IRRI will also lend me a cell phone for emergiency use; they are very kind and generous. On the whole, it very good meeting, and many of my initial concerns have been laid to rest. The whole arrival process has been seamless – I am thoroughly impressed with the operation they are running here.

After lunch and siesta, William and I took a walk outside the compound, north up the road toward New Delhi proper. I knew to expect it, but it still made an impression when I saw my first cow, calmly grazing from the left lane of a divided thoroughfare while cars swerved around it. Further along, we found ourselves on a street corner with a few curious children asking us questions – thank goodness William knows a bit of Hindi! Soon quite a crowd gathered, perhaps twenty friendly faces and some shy but adorable kids peeking around signposts and walls. One or two motherly figures stood in the background looking reseved but chuckling nonetheless at our mannerisms and William’s pronunciation. Children kept running off to find their friends, and the crowd swelled. Eventually, some of the children explained they wanted us to take a picture, then quickly crowded around to look at the tiny display on the camera. People eventually lost interest, and wandered off, as did we – supper time was approaching. Nobody asked for money, nor tried to take anything – we checked afterward. Thats a new one for me with children on the streets of a big city like this. They were simply sociable and curious and friendly. If anyone is aware of any overtones or things to pay attention to that we didn’t pick up on, feel free to leave me a note; it seemed such a positive experience!

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