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June 28, 2008 / calebdresser

Sardar Vallah Bhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology

The IRRI site office at which I am doing my research is on the top floor of the Biotechnology college here at Bhai Patel University, so I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time around the campus and in the adjoining fields, where our research plots are. The contrast with Cornell is striking, to say the least – I’ve gained a bit of extra appreciation for the education we are so lucky to receive there. Editorializing aside, here is a little portrait of Uttar Pradesh’s province’s newest ag/tech university.


With little rain as yet and few students returning until August, the concrete and stone of the University blends seamlessly into the dry dust of the plains. Although there are plenty of people around – this is India, after all – the halls and balconied walkways feel empty and purposeless. A walk around my level of the Biotech college reveals that most of the rooms are completely empty, a layer of dust on the floor blown in from the nearby fields. Labs and classrooms and offices sit unused, without furniture or equipment or anyone to care. Unfinished infrastructure abounds, such as this bathroom I stumbled on during one of my afternoon walks.


 Yes, thats right, pink tiles in the mens room. The attitudes here are quite different from those in the States, the insecurity about gender lines much less. Handshakes can last for quite a while, sometimes for the entirety of an introduction, and I often see men holding hands as they walk down the street. It seems to be a normal part of friendship here; I see married and unmarried men holding hands, and even people agreeing on a cooperative business arrangement. It seems to be a pleasant symbol of connection – they just haven’t been brainwashed by a culture focused on its phobias.

Sardar Vallah Bhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology is still very much under construction. Although the plan is for seven colleges, so far there are only two, one for Agriculture and one for Biotechnology. The college of Engineering is currently a half-built skeleton crawling with workmen. Each college is housed in a single structure, a sprawling fractal of elevated outdoor walkways and rooms radiating from a central courtyard. Rooms are mostly lit with natural light, and so some corners are rather dim, but I do have to admit that it is worth foregoing the lights in order to provide power to the ceiling fans and AC. The architecture is pleasantly breezy, but also feels oversized and unwieldy, like switching back to Duplo blocks as a kid because its your brother’s turn with the Legos. The thick concrete-over-brick construction and the airy design combine with the emptiness to make a rather contradictory but nonetheless amusing impression on the newcomer.


Outside the college, Bhai Patel has many hectares of farmland, some of it for research and some for production of crops and fruit. I find the mango trees and herb gardens a pleasant addition to the landscape, for our research plots are breathlessly hot and dusty except when they are ankle deep in brown muck. We’ve had only a couple of rain showers in the last three weeks, and the weather here remains hot and muggy, despite the fact that its raining in Delhi, in Haryana, even in the village a few kilometers up the road. Seems we’re the last place in the whole subcontinent to get the monsoons…




Leave a Comment
  1. Amy / Jun 29 2008 5:37 pm

    That’s quite the ambitious construction plan 🙂 Are there lots of people moving into the area because of the new jobs?

    Btw, Alberta’s amazing… I could easily spend a month here.

  2. Becky / Jun 30 2008 5:02 pm

    mmmm faucetless sinks…

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