Saturday, March 6, 2010

Halfway Through: An Assessment

(Audrey) Today, March 6, marks halfway through my time abroad—10 months in India, 6 weeks in the UK, and 2 weeks in Paris. I arrived in India on Sept. 6, 2009, and how have I done? It seems an appropriate time to take stock with some stats of what I’ve accomplished in the past 6 months—

9 research-related trips outside of Delhi

6 Indian states

18 different archives

countless manuscripts

And let’s not forget the fun side of things—

3 non-research related trips

add another 2 Indian states

My favorite moment so far has been in Jaipur. I went last October/November in order to find a unique, unprinted manuscript held in a Jain library connected with a temple. There are lots of Jain temple-libraries in Jaipur and so, despite my best efforts, I initially identified the wrong one. Upon arriving, my host there (one of the head lay overseers of this particular temple) figured out the problem, said no worries, and made a few phone calls. Within 5 minutes I was on the back of his motorcycle, weaving through the old pink city of Jaipur on our way to the correct Jain temple. We walked in and another guy was there, ready to greet us.

I was promptly shown a stack of a few thousand CDs that held digital copies of all of the library’s manuscripts. We found the one I wanted, but alas, the photos were a little fuzzy. No problem, my two hosts replied, and promptly showed me to the manuscript room and allowed me to see the actual manuscript. I asked to photograph it, and they quickly agreed. The last remaining problem was that the manuscript room had no natural light, which is really helpful for capturing text crisply. At this point, my hosts suggested that I take the manuscript outside and photograph in the light. As I was carrying the manuscript out of the room, they pointed to an inscription above the door. It was too high and small for me to read, but they claimed it said that if anybody should ever take a text out of this room, may he be struck dead. They then laughed, I proceeded to go outside and photograph the manuscript, all the while chatting with my two hosts about the importance of archival access for scholars. That was a great day.

My work in India continues. Tomorrow I leave for Rajasthan. This will be my longest trip in India to date, stretching to 10-12 days before I return to Delhi. On the itinerary are Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Bikaner, in that order. Expect updates.


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