At the end of a whirlwind trip (Lucknow -> Mumbai -> Dubai -> London -> Italy -> Austria -> Germany -> Saudi -> Lucknow) to Europe for my friend’s wedding (with some snowboarding tagged on the end), I found myself to be the only female passenger on my final flight from Saudi (where I’d spent 8 hours overnight in the airport lounge listening to amplified prayers). I was sat next to a friendly Indian doctor working in Saudi who talked nonstop, kept asking the hostess for more food and insisting I eat half of it. This continued until I was so full I had to refuse at which point we almost had a fight and the talking stopped. Indians love to talk and find it hard to eat alone.
And so I was back in Kanpur to my new home in the jungle, just awakening from it’s brief cold spell, dotted with bright pink orange and green flowers opening themselves up to the increasing warmth of the sun. This was a beautiful time to be in the campus, full of blooming tropical vegetation, and I was continually enraptured by my surroundings as I roamed beneath great trees with branches spiraling and twisting overhead. The creators of this beauty were still hard at work, crouching on their haunches weeding flower beds, creating protection for freshly planted trees or standing around discussing how to arranging new pot plants to flank the neatly trimmed pathways.
There had again been changes whilst I was away, this time it was the introduction of electricity meters (along with their bills) for “each and everyone” (a well loved phrase over here). Previously these had be subsidised by the government, but there has been a decrease in funds to the ever expanding IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) which are still multiplying in number throughout India (one of which I am in). These institutes were originally set up to create world-leading engineers for India, but unfortunately most top graduates are snatched up by companies like Google and Microsoft to work abroad. Coincidentally, the CEO of both these companies are IIT-ians.
This time round I threw myself into campus life and took art classes, Hindi classes, writing classes and even signed up for “conditioning” with “adventure club”. The latter equated to sprinting around a sports field and up and down giant stairs every morning at 6am until we were recreating the Ganges delta with our sweat. The training is for the group to go on a trek in the mountains in the holidays, but sadly I won’t have time to join them this year, so I am just torturing myself for the fun of it.
I had tried yoga, but found the big hall filled with people mostly dozing on their mats, whilst the teacher recited halfhearted instructions in Hindi sat on a chair in a woolly hat, less than inspiring, and rarely enough to break a sweat. I have never been a morning person, but I am used to exercising regularly, and it looks like the heat will give me little alternatives. The best bit is the walk home through the lanes just as the first light is glimmering through the trees, spreading its warmth over the new day, and catching sight of a peacock heaving its heavy form off a nearby perch and taking flight, its long busy tail quivering behind.
Work was also progressing, my colleague from Bristol and I finally finished a paper we’d begun working on before I left for India and I was half way through another with collaborators from Kanpur. So there was hope.