I am spending part of my sabbatical in India this semester. I got an Honorary Professorship in the chemistry department in Swami Vivekanand Subharti University, Meerut, UP, for a few weeks or a few months. Very flexible! I will not get paid. The only thing they are providing me is a room in the hostel. I will have to pay for my meals and any other personal expenses. I am, of course, paying for my own trip also. I thought about the offer and decided its not too bad. I will have flexibility, I will be in India, I will get to try out new teaching environment and hopefully get to do some creative project while here. There is a good chemistry department here with about 7 faculty, as I saw from the website.
I decided that 1st Feb would be good time to start. Winter would be on its way out and that will still give me three months in India if I want to teach at Capital University during summer.
As I was booking my flight the agent said that I could stop at Munich or Frankfurt on the way back (to get a cheaper deal). I said I would look into both places and then decide. It turns out Munich is the place to go and around it are Salzburg and Vienna. So deal done – I will stop over in Germany for 9 days before coming back USA. That will be my icing for the trip. I really wanted to go to someplace in Europe this summer and this turns out to be just perfect.
With all the bookings done, I had plenty of time to pack and get ready. I had informed the relevant people at Subharti. Strangely I got two emails from SU – one saying I was to stay at the guest house and one saying hostel. I contacted the person who the VC told me to call and I did and I was assured that I would be staying at the guest house. Okay – great! I would be reaching at night in Delhi so I booked a room in Ginger Hotel and then go on to Meerut the next day.
All worked out great. No issues. Except for one small flight delay all went smoothly. I arrived at SU on the 1st afternoon as planned and went to the guest house. Very nice suite with TV and all. Great! I went to meet the head of the department (HOD) of chemistry and met the Dean of science while in the building. Both nice people. I think Dr. Bhatnagar, the head, had thought a bit of what I would be doing, so I did get the teaching assignment. They knew in November that I would be coming this semester.
Next day I came to work and was called to visit the Vice Chancellor. Big personality. Seems easy going but I am sure he is not. My place of stay came up and it turns out I am not supposed to stay in the guest house. Oh well. That took a few days to sort out. And then I moved in Rani Durgawati hostel. It is for post graduate students in Medicine so it has nice rooms with attached bathroom and a balcony. As I was looking through the rooms, I met the warden, Nisha. Now she and I are good friends.
Then Sunday came and I was not going to spend it at home. Besides, I really need to buy some personal stuff. So I spoke to Dr. Bhatnagar for guidance and she told me that Ola cabs are really good to get around locally and the best place to shop is Shopprix mall for general stuff. Shefali, the girl at the phone shop, helped me get internet on my phone and I was all set with the Ola app. I can't believe they don’t have WiFi in the guest house. Even the science department one is password protected and not given to faculty.
Shopprix mall was huge, it's occupancy seemed only 50%. It has nice shops, movie theater and a nice food court. So of course I spent some quality time in the shops. The clothes are many but I like very specific stuff so it became a challenge. But at least I found some that I could live with. And two of my favorite stores were there - Big Bazaar and 99. I am all set with personal stuff for some time.
So within a week of coming to India, I started teaching, moved from one location to another and gone to the mall. Meanwhile I met so many people at the university, talked to so many relatives and adjusted with my jet lag. And on top of that a little mouse committed suicide in the bathroom in the guest house!
Read on more for my first views on India in the next blog.