Ludhiana Day 2

The next morning came way too soon, our closest host just stepping through my door with ‘Good morning sir’. I’m unwell, and getting some simple medicines seems to involve discussions among a dozen of our hosts. Patients in India don’t question their doctors, the experts, which makes for complication when an American patient expects to simply know what kind of pill he’s putting in his body. Eventually it’s sorted out, and the day can start.

We’re shown into an assembly room where 150 or so have gathered. Huge bouquets of flowers are presented to us to carry about 5 feet further and place on a table. And again applause as we enter. There are printed banners announcing our day of ‘Democratic Digital Mapping’. We’re sat facing the room along with the principal, H. S. Rai, and others from the computer engineering department. Everyone gets a chance to speak. Including an introduction of Schuyler and myself, featuring lengthy sections cribbed directly from our CVs. Schuyler gives another rousing speech of thanks. Overwhelmed, I have to start with “I’m from California, and we don’t really do ceremony very well there…”. Finally, we are presented with trophies commemorating our participation this day, and a couple mintues for photos, including photographers from the local media. Another round of applause as we move into the side room for tea.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m incredibly grateful for all the effort made on our behalf, and it truly was all one of the most unforgettable memories of my life (in a month of unforgettable memories). But only when I feel like there’s been large tangible results, like India fully mapped, would I even consider feeling worthy of such honors, and even then this month is only the smallest nudge towards getting it all started — the congratulations will be for all the contributors pounding Indian streets. This day, I feel like I’ve won the Nobel Prize, but really I just want to do some mapping.

After holding workshops in Mumbai, Trivandrum, and Bangalore, we’re in the groove and the day goes really well. The students are really sharp and interested, and we make great progress in just one day. The surveys are very very impressive, with many students sketching out maps of the entire campus, and finding new features to map despite H. S. Rai’s already thorough mapping of the campus. Because of issues in prior workshops with multiple people editing the same area, and since only some of the computers are set up with Java and JOSM, we decide to try something different and edit as a group. I invite people to the projected computer one at a time to add a new feature. This goes decently well. We also cover tracing Yahoo imagery, since Ludhiana is one of those rare locations where Yahoo’s coverage is better than Google. And of course the ever popular animated GPS traces and photo mapping.

There are always challenges. One is the pace of our speech and our accents. It’s often unclear to me whether the participants actually understand what I’m saying, and they’re way too polite to say otherwise. Another is the divide between men and women here. Women are well represented, but don’t always participate to the same degree, and even we make special effort to include them, they shy away from drawing attention to themselves. There are exceptions of course, but generally it’s frustrating since I know they are just as capable.

One of those exceptions was the up right female police officer who joined the college for the day. She presented herself with a series of rapid fire series of questions “How long are you in Ludhiana?”, “Who have contacted here?”, “What are you mapping, any industrial facilities?”. Baffling like an interrogation. At the end, I managed to squeeze in a question “What interest does the Ludhiana police have in OpenStreetMap?” and she answers “For traffic regulation.” Intriguing, but I fear a bluff. We had expected this kind of thing even earlier in the trip; the Survey of India is still a loose branch of the military, and using a GPS is “officially” against the law, and generally India is quite overtly security concious and militarialy proud.

One of the faculty spotted a link to my page on the Art and Geometry of Sri Yantra, and invited me to meet his guru at lunch. We convene in the glass windowed server room, where our boquets from the earlier ceremony have been laid, making for the sweetest smelling server room in the world. Guru is pleasant and peaceble, but doesn’t speak English, so I think I missed some subtleties of the conversation. I’m invited to ask any question I like, about anything, about life. Perhaps I had been overwhelmed by the questions earlier from the female police officer, and had no questions of my own. Or maybe I have no burning questions in my life. So I struggled to come up with something to ask, and only thought to ask about the Sri Yantra, and how to use it as a meditation device. Interestingly, he told me that each Yantra is designed for a specific part of the body, the Sri Yantra the mind, and that the Yantras should be visualized internally over the associated chakra.

Towards the end of the day we’re asked to sign certificates for each student in the course. This is the practice at every university we visit where the workshop is hosted within the academic program. We present these certificates to each student in turn, with photo, and at the end applause, appluase for us and especially I think for the students.

Yes, there are a few pictures.

Utterly exhausted, sleep comes easy, and the next day is quiet and connected to wifi. Except for three students who attended the interaction on the first day, where we extended an invitation to all the students to just come and chat, came into my room just to chat. Happy they took up the opportunity — good luck dudes. Next stop Delhi.

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