Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lectures and Lost on Rickshaw

I'm in Varanasi in Utter Pradesh (Northern Province).

Today we went to see Sarnath, where the Buddha first preached to 5 people (after reaching enlightenment in the Himalaya mountains) and the religion started.

Then after lunch we went to Banares Hindu University to hear Karen Torjesen & her sister Dr. Kris Laverty lecture to the Political Science dept, students and professors (some of whom had studied feminist WS theory in Paris, met the great theorists there).

Karen discussed the production of gender and gender-associated virtues in Roman culture as then transmitted into Christianity and given religious significance within Christianity.

Kris presented research on temperament and how to manage tendencies rooted in temperaments we are born with.

We all had to introduce ourselves as part of the "delegation."

I said I had taught literature and now part-time women & religion, but also am a feminist activist in conservative Christian churches.

Binda Paranjape, a reader in BHU's department of history who does women's studies, came up to me afterward and said never in five years had any visiting person introduced herself as a feminist activist. In the university setting, being primarily an activist rather than an academic is perceived as negative. Her email address is

Another professor, Dr. Anjoo Upadhyahya, wanted to have lunch and talk with me tomorrow. That should be interesting.

I have to lecture in Lucknow on Saturday--will use rise of feminist consciousness in Gerda Lerner's book (medieval women to 19th C. etc.).

I had to make a choice between internet and a Mehindi design on my hands (including palms, some of arm). Most of us got the Mehindi, but I was told that the wet dye means you can't do internet for several hours... so I chose access.

I took a rickshaw to get to the internet site, but the driver (bicycler) didn't know how to get to the very close location I needed.

I realized he was taking a long time to get there, and our rickshaw also had two scrapes with oncoming traffic, which hadn't happened before with any other drivers.

Several times the driver paused to ask directions from persons on the street. At one point a nice guy on a bicyle asked where we wanted to go. When I said Assi Ghat, he said we needed to turn around & go back.

Walking with us, he explained to me that a lot of rickshaw drivers are from the countryside and really don't know the city and even the basic locations people ask for.

On to Lucknow tomorrow (a five-hr train ride)--after lunch with Professor Anjoo Upadhyaya from BHU.

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