Professors are trickling in. Some will trickle tomorrow.
On the way back from the airport Arun Bala held forth on what it was like to grow up in Singapore in a family of Sri Lankan Tamil immigrants. Singapore had been severely deforested during its colonial times — mostly for timber, I think. The landscape was strangely drab and brown for a tropical island where you should have had cockatoos jumping around in the canopy and fruit bats nipping at ripe jackfruit. There was a tree-planting drive in the sixties — but the imperatives of the modern, globalized economy took over, and the city is now – in my opinion, having worked a bit there — just an extended airport lobby. Arun quoted a scholar who had once said that the city was ‘plastic’. It used to be a city full of flowering trees, Arun said, but flowers tend to fall, and when cars drive over them, cleaning the city becomes difficult. So to respond to Singapore was, in a way, to respond to what is modern, industrial, controlled. Sri Lankan Tamil is somewhat sing-song. How’s the Indian economy doing? Are those rice-fields? Are those tiled roofs? Stephan Bocking, meanwhile, was content to watch the landscape go by, and Stephen Healy and David Miller behind spoke about cricket, like good Australians…
Oh, there was much more. The two Canadians, Stephan Bocking and Bernard Lightman, were likely jet-lagged. First time in India for Stephan. He spent a day in Delhi of all places but seems to have survived.
We’re certainly looking forward to hearing them speak. The participants, meanwhile, have arrived as quietly as mice in a kitchen at night, and we hope and presume they haven’t called us because all’s well. And that they use their free time to explore the place, maybe go up and down the coast, along backwaters and rivers full of fish.