Jan 18- My MLK Day in Mumbai

I am still unsure of the balance of the personal and the political here on my blog, but I am clear that the main purpose is to document my research on women in construction in India—my fieldwork, in the lingo of my trade. That might get tedious for you. I have witnessed the glassy stares of loved ones as I have passionately described the intricacies of implementing and evaluating best practices through multi-stakeholder partnerships. I lost the attention of more than a few a couple of months ago when I compared the Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues to the Tunisians who won the Nobel Prize for Peace.

So my thought on this at the moment is to put headers on sections so you can know what is coming and skip it if you like. I like to report chronologically and not topically and that means you could be reading an interesting—to all, I think—story about the cab ride I took this morning, followed by some notes on housing and research paperwork at TISS (the Institute that I am affiliated with) and then a meeting I had the Dean of the Social Work School.

So here is what happened today.

My morning cab ride

This was my first day going to TISS, the Tata Institute for Social Sciences, the university that is hosting me. I went to meet Jennifer at the International Office to get my paperwork going for my official research status with the Indian government (all called FRRO). TISS is in Chembur in the northeast section of the city and I have been staying in Churchgate in south Mumbai. It is akin to going to Queens from Lower Manhattan. I could take the bus or train but the bus is slow and the train involves a couple of changes so I decided to get a cab. The first two taxi drivers would not take me. I was not sure if they knew where Chembur is, but I remember when I drove a cab and did not want to take a fare to someplace distant where I would not get a fare back. It is like being paid for half the trip. The third driver said yes and off we went—for about five minutes. This was about 10 am and that is heavy rush hour because the Indian business day starts and ends later than the US. Something very ordinary happened and then something extraordinary. The ordinary thing is the driver went through a red light and crossed in front of a line of oncoming traffic complicated by about 30 pedestrians crossing in the street at the same time. The extraordinary thing was that a traffic cop stopped the driver and waved him over! The driver then started screaming at the cop and tried to drive away but had nowhere to go. As the traffic ahead moved, the cop stood front of the cab. The driver inched forward, the screaming continued from both cop and the driver, and then the driver cut across three lines of traffic and pulled to the side of the road. The left side. I am still getting used to that. Screaming recommenced unitl the cop walked away and then the driver got out and followed the cop. He turned back once, took the key from ignition and told me to wait. That is the end of the story. I waited a couple of minutes then got out of the cab to see what was happening. Neither the driver nor the cop were anywhere around. I tucked Rs.25 into the meter and went looking for another cab.

I got to TISS about 11 by way of a very unusual driver who actually asked directions twice.

New Place to Stay

I did a lot of paperwork with Jennifer, Zuzubee and the staff at the International Office. They were very helpful and gave me a really nice TISS bag. I am moving out of the downtown hotel on Wednesday and into the hostel at TISS. By “hostel” I mean the girls’ dorm. Triple room so I may have roommates but the most exciting part is that there is a locked cabinet where I can leave my big bag while traveling.

Made three new friends. Hannah, Batseba and Daniella are Swedish undergraduates studying social work who are at TISS on a semester abroad. We had a tour of the campus and—jumping into the future—will take a trip downtown on Wednesday to get our research permits and do a little shopping in the Fort.

Vocabulary interlude: A “chowk” is a square, as in Harvard Chowk or Trafalgar Chowk.

Figuring it out as I go

I am writing this two days later. Two thoughts:

  • It is always hard to find time to write—no easier here.
  • I have changed the tab “Evolving research questions” on the blog to My Field Notes. I will give a heads up in the blog when some readers might want to check out how my field work is going., but I will mostly use the blog function for reflection—like I am doing right now!

Meetings with two professors

Joined Heather Ridge in two very good meetings with faculty members: the Dean of the School of Social Work and the Dean of the School of Management and Labour Studies. The latter is where I am affiliated. I got a lot of information about how TISS operates and good leads for interviews. Details can be viewed—soon I hope—in My Field Notes.

An Ugly American mistake

I forgot it was Martin Luther King Day on Monday and there was no reminder here, nothing in the morning paper, no one mentioned it. I did not remember. I was reminded when I went on Facebook later. Of course Indians do not acknowledge, or even have knowledge of, MLK Day. However, my inner American exceptionalist was still surprised. Not logically, but emotionally. Another lesson learned.

The next day- Tuesday, Jan 19—I participated in a field trip, “Making Homes in M Ward Mumbai: the City’s Dumping Ground.” That’s the next post with pictures.

Love to all.

About susanmoir2015

Researcher, feminist, labor activist.
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8 Responses to Jan 18- My MLK Day in Mumbai

  1. Judy says:

    I’m loving reading this, Susan, especially your first impressions of the big Indian city. Can’t wait to see And hear more. Enjoy! x


  2. Which Judy? Coughlin?


  3. Dorothy W. says:

    Thanks for doing this, Susan. It’s great to read and see what’s happening on this amazing adventure of yours. Do like the combo of work-related material and the rest of your life there.


  4. Shaari says:

    Great cab story!


  5. Judy Kanter says:

    Susan, I am finally following you! I still have to catch up, but fascinating, and courageous.


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