Friday, November 24, 2006

travelling month

To Boston, via the Chinatown Bus; and to England, via British Airways.

In Boston, for a meeting of a group on urban history and culture at MIT convened by Shekhar Krishnan and Michael Fisher. And in Nottingham , as a speaker in the History and Heritage Seminar Series at Nottingham Trent University. What I presented at MIT was a highly disorganised mess of ideas, but it was more in the nature of a conversation between friends, so that was alright. For the public lecture nature of the Nottingham thing, Elizabeth graciously volunteered her formidable editing skills gratis and streamlined my waffling down to an acceptable 35 minute paper. To both places I took narratives from and speculations about Delhi; djinns, vanished saints, waqf grants and land grabs, urban villages and oral histories, Tolkien and the Babri Masjid, alternate historicities and relations to place... In Nottingham, I was unwittingly made a Doctor too (see pic of poster), which seems at least a few years too premature, but was thrilling neverthless.

From both occasions I have come back richer in ideas and conversations of where to take the work further. And of course, the conversation has moved beyond the paper, and the scope of my work, over much post-presentation convivial drinking. In Boston, this turned into a lot of scribbling in scripts on the back of a napkin, grad school types enjoying their basic literacy in strange foreign squibbles. This reminded me so much of the last two or so months in Delhi, drinking with friends in 4S, and writing everyone's names in my newly acquired Urdu on the backs of napkins... that I brought the napkin back to New York with me.

In Boston, was graciously hosted and taken for a great walk through downtown Boston by Dacoit, and met Buchu for dinner. (and wrote maudlin poetry surrounded by the outrageously pretty but 'epistemically violent' red brick buildings of Harvard.) In Notts, being hosted by S and J, noticing that even the telephone poles in England are ridiculously pretty/symmetrical, and that the croissants are as wonderful as I remember them from 3 months ago.

As I said to J's question at 2 in the morning when he picked me up at the station, to his query -

'So how's New York?'

'Great jazz. Shit croissants.'

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