Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday, March 20

Today seems to be the hottest day since we’ve been here. As we’ve learned, all businesses are open on Saturday except government offices & NGOs. Our appointment today was with the CEO of Biotech Park, Mr. Seth, who is the former director of the Indian Institute of Toxicological Research. He had put us in touch with the current director who couldn’t meet with us, so Dr. Seth said he would talk to us. He provided a scientist’s perspective of water problems, and said that proper testing needed to be done before an area was labeled as an arsenic contaminated area, for example, and that once solid data is available, it is easier to find agencies to work with, and people that will support those projects. Dr. Seth gave us a book titled "Safe Water for Community Health" which is pretty recent (2009), for which he was one of the contributors. He also put us in touch with a contact at UNICEF, who we’ll go see on Monday.

A woman getting dirty water from the fountain with a DNA sculpture, in front of the BioTech building.

There was some construction work going on in the BioTech park, and she was taking the water to mix with the cement.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a shopping mart that had all different mobile stores, and bought one. Of course the phone is no good without a sim card, which we have not been able to purchase because none of the stores will sell one without proof of Indian residency (a letter stating our stay at the hotel wasn’t enough), so we are borrowing one from a friend of the hotel staff (for a fee of course). After returning to the hotel, Jim went to a nearby store with one of the hotel staff to get a card with a certain number of minutes, and ended up going back to get a validity card, which activates the minutes for a certain period of time. When the minutes run out, you buy another minutes card & a validity card. It is such a convoluted, complex process to get a mobile.

We went to a Chikan store – Chikan is what they call the embroidery that’s done on the Indian outfits. There are a lot of these shops around. When you walk in, there are rows upon rows of shelves going up to the ceiling with different fabrics, colors, and Chikan embroidery. They have some that are ready-made but most people choose the fabric & have it custom made. The more Chikan, the more expensive the outfit. There are wide padded benches that go all the way around, under the shelves. You sit in a chair facing a guy on the bench, and he shows you different fabrics or outfits, with another guy bringing them or putting them away. I picked out a fabric & got measured to have it custom-made for me (only 100 rupees, or $2.50 U.S. for the custom tailoring).

The Chikan store.

We had dinner at a Pizza Hut in the mall (there are a few malls around, but they’re small compared to ones in the States). The pizza was Indian style of course, with paneer (cheese curd), hot red peppers, onions & tomatoes. The mall also had McDonald’s (with a Maharajah Mac), but they wouldn’t let me take a picture of the menu. And now it’s down to work, documenting our notes.

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