Last week I went on my first trip to a couple of new archives in south India, in Chennai and Thanjavur to be precise, for my new research project. (More about both these places later, when I visit again). A friend who knows them well and had to do some work there too, came along, and I met some other friends and family too. Somehow, when punctuated by train travel, gin and tonics, old school meet-ups and incredible coffee, work becomes quite tolerable, no? Look at us, so busy with work, hotly discussing intricate details of micro-history, palm-leaf manuscripts and power relations in the countryside (no, really, we got a lot of work done):
I have always been a bit of an Indian Railways fanatic, and I will do a proper railways post later in the year, after I take a few more trips and better pictures. But after a very long time, I did something I used to love about train travel when I was in college – sitting in the open door of the speeding train with your face in the wind, watching the country go by. Our parents would be furious when we did this, and I don’t know if it’s my advanced age, or the increased speed of the trains nowadays, that this seemed a bit more dangerous now than back then. But swaying with the rhythm of the train and hearing the tracks bark at you as you is unbeatable. Back in the day with the steam engines, you could catch a piece of flying coal occasionally in your eye if you leaned out. Now it’s the acrid smell of diesel that you have to battle, but at the crack of dawn that day, the fresh river breeze easily subdued it. Being in an unreserved women’s compartment, with all the sociality that it entails, was even better.
The views of the sunrise, and the changing light, over the Kaveri river delta and its paddy fields were stunning as the train sped towards Thanjavur:
Speaking of coffee, there is very little in the world that provides as much joy and satisfaction as a good south Indian tumbler, hot and frothing.
I’m sharing it all with you, with some good news – I just heard, with official papers and all, that I now have tenure at my department. Big whoop of joy and all that, people!! This year has been hard in many ways, but this news brings me a lot of relief and excitement for the future. I do have to dust the seat of my pants and get cracking in the archives, but hey, I’m going to have some coffee and lie back and enjoy a break for just a little while longer. It’s great to be with my family to celebrate, but my first thought was to wonder what big knitting gift to get myself – I’m thinking a new umbrella swift, or better still, some semi-solid fingering Koigu for a sweater. I can’t do any of it until I return to Berkeley anyway and in the meantime I did get sloshed, but any suggestions?