The Thinkery

Philosophy, teaching, etc.

IST, Happy New Year, and some Updates

When I first learned that I’d be teaching philosophy in Pune, a friend of a friend – who has teaching experience in India – told me the following about academia there:

Start and stop dates are often decided the week of, and the academic calendar is not a solid rock around which you can build your syllabus, but more of a swamp upending it! This is because there are any number of disruptions caused by political unrest, religious holidays that follow the lunar calendar so you don’t know when exactly the holiday will be, weather, etc. Set aside your expectations of what a functioning work environment should be like, and go with the flow. 

Excellent description of university life in Pune – and great advice.  I was reminded of it recently because our “spring” term was scheduled to begin on Dec. 26 (at least that’s what it said on the SPPU website).   Since this was earlier than usual (no one was sure why, though accreditation visits might have played a role), and at a time when students often travel back to their hometowns, no one actually showed up on the 26th.  Or 27th.  Or at all that week.  [To be fair, there wasn’t yet a finalized schedule of classes, so those students who might have shown up wouldn’t have known when to come.]

Anyway, go with the flow, right?  It was time to ring in the New Year, which happens in India pretty much like it happens in the US – except 10 or so hours earlier.  Lots of fireworks, cheering, drinking, etc.  Alcohol is definitely not as big a part of the culture here, as it is in the US.  You don’t see many beer commercials, and it’s not in many stores.  But it’s not illegal or anything (not in Pune, anyway, though it is in some parts of the country), and it’s definitely imbibed.  There were more than a few people stumbling around the streets on New Year’s Eve.   And it’s use is increasing significantly.

We  had some good news for the  new year, as Farhana’s father was released from the hospital on New Year’s Eve, and he’s doing great.  He’s determined to avoid another visit, and is already getting outside on walks, and eating enough to gain back some of the weight he’s lost (turns out hospital food in India is roughly on a par with hospital food in America).

We spent New Year’s Eve and Day at Gulistan, camping out on the top floor where I took a couple of pictures (it has a great view):

The kids had a good time, though only Sophia made it until midnight.  The boys made an effort, but couldn’t keep their eyes open past 10 p.m. or so.  Here they are earlier in the evening, making a Simmi sandwich:

So January 2 rolls around and there is, now, a definite class schedule.  And some students start trickling in.  But not many.  And most classes still aren’t meeting.  Only one of my two logic classes has been meeting this week.  The other will start…well, soon I hope.  It all depends on when the students get back in town.  Go with the flow…

All this brings to mind a common Indian joke/expression (or, at least, one I’ve heard quite a bit).  “IST”.  I first heard people say “Eye Ess Tee” a few times without knowing what it meant.  I thought it might be some Hindi word I didn’t know.  Later, I found it it means (that is, stands for) “Indian Standard Time”.  And it’s generally uttered as a reference to the fact that things often don’t happen on time here.  It’s common enough that there’s an entry in the Urban Dictionary:

IST:  Means “Indian Standard Time.” We have or own standard time, because we always show up about 1-2 hours late to everything.
If you’re havin a party at 2, expect us to be there around 3:30.
If you want us to be at your party at 2, then tell us it starts at 12.
IST doesn’t just apply to hours, though.  But also longer periods of time.  Like semesters.  However, it’s not as simple as described above.  While things do often take longer than expected, there are also moments of great speed.  For example, they were recently redoing the road by our apartment.  Over a period of months, they brought materials and stacked them along the side of the road, dug up the existing road, dug it up some more, and then stopped.  For days.  But just when I thought “IST”, I came out one day and the whole damn thing is paved smooth – like, overnight.  It’s sort of the opposite of the old military saying “hurry up and wait”.  (Dawdle then sprint?)
So, while the semester’s off to a somewhat slow start, we did have an interesting guest speaker in today from one of India’s best universities – JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University).  His name was Gopal Guru and his talk was on “The Phenomenology of Silence” – mostly related to the caste system here in India, which has some interesting parallels to race in the US.   Below is a pic – that’s our very excellent department chair, Dr. Lata Chhatre, on the right.
In other news, the table that Zeeshan, Faizan and I have been working on is getting close to finished:
And I saw some cute puppies with mom on the street this morning:
 And a beautiful butterfly:
That’s all for now. Hope your 2017 is off to a good start!

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