Life in Jagdishpur, Uttar Pradesh, India

I am staying in the TERI office building (cum guesthouse) for the duration of our training program in Uttar Pradesh (UP). More on the training in a separate post soon.

UP is hot and flat. The high temperature has been above 100 every day I’ve been here, and 115 degrees today. It’s literally baking and hard to think if I’m not under and AC and a fan. Of course, the AC goes out constantly throughout the day, so I have a permasweat on my forehead and sometimes all over.

Here is Alyssa in our first shared bedroom – now we’ve moved to the first floor and share with V as well. It’s somewhat crowded, but we don’t spend any time in the room all except for sleeping, since we’re busy with the training or other jobs upstairs all day and evening.

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Here’s  where we eat our meals. There aren’t any fans in this room so it’s pretty steamy.

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Here is where the cook makes the magic. He is a vegetarian cook, which is great for me! I enjoy his food, and haven’t been sick here at all – going a week without some sort of stomach issue is practically a first for me in India. For breakfast, we usually have paratha (lightly fried bread) and some vegetable. My favorite is anything other than aloo/potato- I just get sick of rice, bread, and a starchy vegetable on top of that. In India, when people say “veg” (as a dish or filling) it’s usually potato. I’m not used to thinking of potato as a vegetable back home!

For lunch, we have dal, rice, chapati, and some sort of veg (yes, you guessed it, often potato). For dinner, there’s dal, rice, chapati, and some sort of veg. Sound familiar? Good think I like this food! Yesterday we had some truly amazing mangos from a nearby market and now I’m determined to have them every day both to be healthy and because they are really like candy.

And yes, the TERI building has an LPG stove (this is a stove blog, after all). This means there is no cooking smoke filling the building, except what spills in from outside.

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Here is the view from the second story. The building faces a new construction site where workers toil in bare feet and bare heads through the hot day carrying and laying bricks.

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This is one of the restrooms in the building. There are no western toilets, so it’s all squatting. The showers work in 2 of the bathrooms, and the other only has a tap for a bucket. No water heater here – and none needed! A cool-ish shower is a treat in this heat. There aren’t fans in the bathrooms either, so they can also be quite sweltering.

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The building opens onto a large open air hall on both floors, with reflective windows to the interior rooms.

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This is the stairway in the open air hall. I’m particularly fascinated by the giant gap between the metal lattice – it would be quite easy for me to jump down through the railings if I wanted, let alone a child! Thankfully, there aren’t kids running around here.

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Lucknow

Flew into Delhi, took a 9 hour train to Lucknow. We were surrounded by babies screaming on every side, but (jet lagged) we slept and slept.

 

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In Lucknow, we were very fortunate to stay in an Army guesthouse as a courtesy of the friend of one of the members of our team. These officer’s quarters were truly wonderful – it’s amazing what a difference AC, a hot shower, and a nice bed makes. Alyssa and I shared the bed – the cost for the room was less than $5 a night – what a treat.

We went for a run in the morning that almost ended in trouble – apparently, non Indians aren’t allowed to run through the area (since it is military owned) and we were stopped by many guards on our way home. Fortunately, there were no consequences other than a call to our team mate – “Do you have two Americans? Tell them to go back to living quarters.” – which we had already done.

In summary – Indian Army families are given very posh living estates (rent free, I think like American military families) and the residential areas are very, very nice. However, not a place for exploring.

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After doing errands to acquire materials we need for the survey, we made a stop at the Bara Imambara for some quick sightseeing. What a place! Signage at the site was very poor (we assumed it was a palace), but wikipedia tells me that it was built in 1784 as a mosque built for the purpose of Azadari (a specific type of mourning). The entrance, below, was magnificent (weather was 90 plus).

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V, D, and A pose in front of the mosque.

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The building complex is covered with hundreds (surely thousands) of these little peeping holes – or “breads” as I like to call them, since their top half often looks like a slice of bread.

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A royal bath was fed by a natural spring. Many beautifully carved windows look down…

 

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And finally, the most exciting part – a labyrinth! The complex has a labyrinth – we figured it must have been for defense, even though it didn’t really seem to go anywhere. However, if wikipedia can be believed, it didn’t serve a very functional purpose. Here is the view from the top of the labyrinth looking back towards the entrance:

 

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One of the side walks of the labyrinth – there are many narrow, dark hallways leading off on the left. It was pretty creepy, especially with voices bouncing off the walls. I would have been quite uncomfortable if I hadn’t had my trusty headlamp with me (luckily I never take it out of my day bag, just in case!) and it really helped me negotiate the steep, twisting steps and and spot where other people were.

All in all, it was great! In the center of the labyrinth is a large open chamber that contains a tomb.

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After a nice lunch, we headed to the field site. Our field partner, TERI, has a guesthouse where we will be staying. I had set pretty low expectations for the site, and I was very, very impressed with what we found. The building looks quite new, has fresh and colorful paint, AC units in the bedrooms, and an office with wifi (enabling me to submit this post). There is a cook who made a delicious meal of dal, eggplant curry, fresh chapati, and rice. It was great to have some nice, simple, homemade indian food.Once again, A and I are sharing rooms.

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We are going to transform this bedroom into the training room for the survey training this coming week – move out the beds, move in rows of chairs, and put up chart paper on the wall for taking notes.

I’m very happy to be here. We have a ton of work to do before we begin the training, but it’s only a few days away. The heat is really intense, so again, having AC is a treat I had completely not counted on, but makes a huge difference. To stay cool (and yet proper), today I wore a very thin cotton dress purchased on a previous trip to india with traditional indian light cotton pants (a loyal blog reader was curious). It’s not appropriate to show any ankle or too much arm – I may need to wear 3/4 sleeves when we get to the field sites, not sure yet.

Tomorrow, we’ll start the day with an exercise walk to learn the lay of the land, then spend the rest of the day preparing for training, getting equipment, finalizing changes to the survey.

And I’m back!

Apologies for the radio silence – but rather than detail everything that has happened since my last post (which includes a short two week trip to India), I’ll pick right up with where I am now.

I arrived in Delhi this evening completely excited for a summer of research in India. With me are D and A, two fellow Duke graduate students. We will be launching the baseline survey for our USAID-funded project on improved cookstove adoption and correct use. Since D and A haven’t lived in India before (although they have lived extensively in other developing countries), I’ll get to help them adjust to everything that is India- a role I am looking forward to. One of our PIs will also be here for two weeks to direct the training of the field team, so I will have a much larger group of fellow researchers than in the past!

I can’t wait for delicious Indian food every day. I can’t wait to start running again – which I’m determined to pick back up in India after losing my routine in the US. I can’t wait to see what adventures are in store. I can’t wait to see the two project areas where I’ll be splitting my time this summer – Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. I initially wavered between excitement and resignation about this trip (since I would be gone the entire summer), but have fully embraced the decision to be here and to learn as much as possible and really dig into the work. I’m determined to make some progress writing papers while I’m here as well. With any luck, I’ll be able to gradually improve my Hindi as well, since it is the primary language in these two project sites, unlike the areas I have spent time in on my last two India trips.

I’m spending my first night in the second nicest place I’ve ever stayed in India (following some 5 star old hotel in Moussorie). It’s a guest house run by one of our field partners, and it is such a wonderful treat. Everything is clean, there is AC, and (even though it looked too nice to host any) my bed bug check brought up nothing remotely suspicious – the mattress if the most spot-free I’ve seen in India.

Here’s to a good night’s sleep and a summer to remember.