It’s election season here in the state of Maharashtra (and a few other Indian states).  It’s quite different from election time in the US.  I haven’t seen any TV commercials at all.  But there are lots of cars and autorickshaws decked out with loudspeakers, driving around telling me how I should vote.

Also, people knock on our door at least once a day and hand us flyers with party information and lists of candidates.  I’ve tried, a bit, to get caught up with the issues and candidates, but it’s really difficult without more knowledge of history and politics in India more generally.  It’s definitely more party-oriented than personality oriented – which isn’t surprising, I suppose, given that India has a parliamentary system.  It’s not that you don’t see candidates’ names and faces.  But they’re generally on posters/ads with all the other candidates from that party’s slate.   There’s some sense that the demonetization issue might have an effect on election day, but not much.  Or at least not as much as I expected.

Things have gotten better with respect to the availability of cash, but are still not back to normal.  It’s a sort of two steps forward, one step back process.  As cash started becoming more available, lots of vendors who had switched to accepting cards or electronic payments went back to just accepting cash, which tightened things up again.  Personally, we got used to doing things without cash, to a large extent, so even small improvements in the cash supply made things feel more normal to us.  There’s  not much griping about it anymore, and while ATMs are often still closed, finding an open one is no longer like hitting the lottery.  Even Citibank is stocking its machines every once in a while these days.

Additionally, lots of little things get done in the city since elections are coming up.  Roads get paved and lines painted (though still not really paid much attention to).  Sidewalks get installed or fixed.  Neighborhoods get cleaned up.  Etc.  Indians are pretty cynical about this, I’ve found (“a few weeks for politicians to pay attention to the common man, then back to the usual corruption” is a sentiment I’ve heard more than once).  But it definitely improves things – in the short-term, anyway.

Dissertation Defense

On our first day in Pune, back in early July, we were met at the university by a few graduate students who helped us bring our bags into the guest house, arranged for our dinner that first night, and just generally helped us to settle in.   One was Ashish, who has since become a faculty member in the department (and my Marathi interpreter).  The  other was Jekap, who left soon after we arrived, but just came back to Pune from his home in northeast India to defend his dissertation.  Here we are together about 8 months after that first day (Jekap’s to the left):

He did a great job at his defense, which was on the intersection of economics and morality.  He already has a job in his home state teaching philosophy, so he’s  heading back there right away.  It was good to see him in action (rather than just lugging around our thousands of suitcases).  Congratulations!

Root Canal

Now that my back pain has receded a bit, I decided to supplement it with some dental pain.  Actually, I wasn’t in much pain, but I had some swelling on my gum at the base of one of my teeth.  The dentist said it was an infection, and a root canal was performed.  It was a bad day, as I was catching a cold that has been going around our house and had a minor fever.  And my back was still yelling at me a bit.  But thank goodness dental chairs are recliners.

The procedure went smoothly, though, and pain was minimal (and has been since the root canal).  Here’s the excellent team of dental professionals I had working on me:

I’ve still been going to physical therapy for my back – though less often than before.  It’s much better, though it still bothers me after sitting for long-ish periods of time, so I’ve kept my stand-up desk set-up in my office.  I’m doing lots of exercises twice a day to strengthen the back muscles and (hopefully) prevent future incidents.  In addition to an excellent physical therapist (Dr. Acharya, below):

I have a very strict exercise coach at home:

Ammi’s Gift

Zeeshan and I finally finished our latest project – a sort of ottoman/foot rest for Farhana’s mother, whose feet sometimes swell.  Here are some pics:

I think she liked it.

Some Random Photos

Zak arriving at his school:

Sophia, after school:

Beatles imitation:

Simmi, jamming with her band:

A pond, and small Buddhist worship house – on campus (the place is so big, I’m still finding new stuff – with Sukrut’s help):

Finally, Farhana with some family:

I’m heading to Mumbai this weekend to do some guest lectures at NMIMS – on Descartes and Hume, mostly.  The dean is a former Fulbrighter, which is how she found out about me.  I’ll post some pics when I get back.