Saturday, March 3, 2007

Dharwad and Bangalore

I should tell you the tale of my visit to Karnataka state.

It happened during the days, four weeks ago, before I flew to England out of Bangalore. Earlier, in December, while attending a conference in Bhuvaneshwar, I’d got to know Dr. Indira Prakash, chair of the Psychology department at Bangalore University. She asked me if I’d come to Bangalore to lecture at her university. I readily agreed and, after checking out schedules and so forth, it seemed convenient to go there en route to my two weeks of vacation in England, since there was a direct flight from Bangalore to London.

The plan became a three university lecture tour when Indira got in touch with Dr. Ashok Pal and Dr. Mewa Singh, at Karnatak University in Dharwad, and Mysore University, Mysore, respectively. I was to take the overnight train to Dharwad on Monday evening, February 5, lecture at Karnatak University on Tuesday, take another overnight train to Mysore, lecture at Mysore University on Wednesday morning, see the sights of Mysore in the afternoon and evening, stay overnight in Mysore, take the early morning bus to Bangalore on Thursday, lecture at Bangalore University on Thursday and Friday, then fly off to London, England in the early morning hours of Saturday, February 10. Phew!

That was the plan. But this is India, where plans “oft gang awry.”

I was met at Dharwad station by Dr. Ashok Pal, a bustling, super-charged dynamo of a man. He greeted me with a hearty handshake, a beaming smile, and the news that the whole thing had been cancelled. Turns out there was a water rights dispute with the adjoining state of Tamil Nadu. Everyone in the entire state of Karnataka was on strike. People were picketing the streets. They were even picketing the railway lines in, and between, Mysore and Bangalore. And, of course, the universities were closed.

“Oh well,” thought I, “I have a big, fat book to read and maybe Dr. Ashok Pal can sneak me into a room on campus where they have internet access. No problem.”

Ashok had a different idea. He got on the phone and rustled up a bunch of students for me to lecture to, put me up overnight at the university guest house in Dharwad, and had me lecture again the next day, before putting me on the overnight train to Bangalore. By this time, the water rights dispute had been put on hold while someone tried to sort out the political mess.

In Bangalore, I was the guest of Mrs. Indumathi Rao, who founded and, for the past 25 years, has managed what has now become the South Asia Center for Community Based Rehabilitation. Indumathi is a quiet, unassuming, super-charged dynamo of a woman. I had a wonderful two days in Bangalore, lecturing and visiting schools for children with disabilities and training-to-work tech centers for disabled adults. I lectured to Psychology majors about Assistive technologies and Universal Design. I lectured to the Education majors about Instructional Technology. I met so many beautiful people. It was pure joy.

The pictures show people and places in and around Dharwad and Bangalore.

I was puzzled by the small seismological observatory at Dharwad's Karnatak University. There wasn't a single crack in it...

How about those monkeys on the guest house roof?

The little boy I’m holding in the next picture has hydrocephalus. His mom (sitting next to me in the picture) attended my lecture on assistive technologies the day before. At the end of the lecture, trying to hold back her tears, she asked me if I knew of any assistive technologies that would help her son. I said I couldn’t answer her question without seeing the boy, and I offered to come visit her at home. She said she’d love for me to do that. So the next day I went to her home nearby and visited with the family for a while. I offered to stay in touch, help her in any way I can, and I will, as long as I’m alive.

The gentleman in the pink shirt in the next picture is Dr. Ashok Pal. We’re standing in front of the university guesthouse, along with another professor from the Psychology department.

The picture of the students working on a group activity was taken at Karnatak University in Dharwad during my presentation about instructional technology.

The impressive, ornately-architectured, palace-like structure is one of the government buildings in Bangalore, which is the capital of Karnataka state.

The lady on my left in the next picture is Dr. Indira Prakash, chair of the Psychology department at Bangalore University. We’re standing in front of the new building she designed. On my right is Srimathi Indumathi Rao.

In the next picture, the lady standing next to me in the blue sari is the principal of the school for children with disabilities that I visited while I was in Bangalore.

The four ladies standing together in front of a ramp outside the restaurant where we’d just had lunch are all professors in the Department of Education at Bangalore University. I took the picture partly because I thought the ramp was a good example of Universal Design, but I also think the ladies look delightful in their saris.

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