Notes from abroad: exploring India
By ANNA SCHICKELE
Although I have learned many things whileinterning abroad in India this summer, one of the most unique — and important, in my opin-ion — is the ability to discern between differ-ent types of stares.There’s the standard double take; I get thatfrom everyone in Chennai, the city in whichI’m working. There’s also the way auto-rick-shaw drivers widen their eyes when they catchsight of a moneymaking opportunity, the dis-approving glares from older women and the I- just-spotted-a-Western-sex-goddess oglesfrom young men.Chennai, in the state of Tamil Nadu, is oneof India’s most conservative and least touristycities. It’s got the heat of the tropics and theworld’s second longest beach — a strangeboast, but Chennai is proud of its garbage-lined coastline. However, even if they clean upthe beach, the 60 percent alcohol tax and early-to-bed bars (most close at 11 p.m.) are going toprevent this city from becoming a spring breakdestination. The city is sometimes described asIndia’s Detroit, as it’s an auto-manufacturinghub. Everyone is here because it’s where the jobs are, not because they like the city.The same goes for me. I’m an intern for theInstitute for Financial Management and Re-search, a company that runs rural financial insti-tutions. I make 300 rupees a day, which is aboutsix dollars. Food is cheap, the company is alsopaying for housing and Stanford bought myplane ticket, so it really isn’t as much of a terri-ble economic situation as it seems.The three other American interns (twofrom Stanford, one from Dartmouth) and Ispend our workdays on the 10th floor of an air-conditioned office building. But to get to thatoffice building, we walk along a refuse-filledcanal and cross four directions of traffic toreach the company shuttle. The distance cov-ered is fairly small, but the walk can take any-where from five to 20 minutes, depending onthe level of aggression in your street-crossingtechnique.The sights, sounds and smells of the streetare overwhelming: passengers hanging out of buses, beggars curled up and fast asleep, thestench of human excrement, honking cars andmotorbikes and trash everywhere. Thoughthey are rarer, there are pleasant sensations inthe streets as well: the smell of
(spicylentil stew served with every meal), windowsfull of Indian sweets, the scent of the jasmineflowers in women’s hair and the semi-silencethat fills the streets before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m.To Chennai’s credit, it’s the safest place I’vevisited in the developing world. There’s therisk of getting hit by a motorcycle, but I don’tfeel as if someone is looking for the opportuni-ty to seize my purse. I walked home with an-other female intern at 10 p.m. a few nights ago,and though three different people stopped usto tell us it was unsafe to be out so late, the factthat they seemed so legitimately concerned forour safety was reassuring.But no matter what I do — wear
(long tunics) instead of Western clothes,straighten my curly hair, learn a few words of Tamil — I will attract gapes and stares. And inthis country there are enough surprising,amusing and cringe-inducing scenes to makeme forget my manners and stare back at them.
Contact Anna Schickele at annabs1@ stanford.edu.
Escondido Village residents postpone chemical spray
Courtesy of Ramin Rahimian
Stanford students are making an impact abroad over the summer, some even as far awayas India. Working in “India’s Detroit,” Schickele recounts her experiences this summer.
By EDWARD NGAI
A group of Escondido Village (EV) res-idents have successfully delayed the pro-posed treatment of EV family courtyardlawns with herbicides. The plan, whichwould have seen the grass in all seven fami-ly courtyards sprayed with weed-killertoday, is now postponed indefinitely.The family courtyards, home to around250 families, underwent a renovation fi-nanced by John Arrillaga three and a half years ago, when all the existing grass wasdug up and replaced. According to an emailsent to family courtyard subletters, the her-bicide spray was necessary to “maintain thedonor’s gift.”However, Stanford Housing is adamantthat Arrillaga was never involved in the de-cision to treat the family courtyards withherbicides.“John Arrillaga has nothing to do withthis,” said Michael VanFossen, senior asso-ciate director of graduate housing. “Colony[Housing’s landscaping contractor]brought the weeds to our attention, saying,‘We have done the best we can over the lastthree or four years not introducing chemi-cals, but [the weeds] are really gettingbad.’”Since the renovation, landscaping staff have been weeding the family courtyards byhand. However, the crabgrass and cloverhad grown to the point where Colony feltthey no longer were fulfilling their land-scaping contract with the University, whichrequires them to perform “high-qualitygrounds/landscape maintenance.” BothColony and Housing had agreed that herbi-cidal treatment was the best way to satisfytheir agreement.The herbicides proposed for use in thefamily courtyards are SpeedZone and Tur-flon, whose material safety data sheets cat-egorize them as hazardous to health wheninhaled. To prevent this, Housing request-ed that family courtyard residents stay in-doors and seal their windows for 48 hourswhile the chemicals dry.“I thought it was a ludicrous idea,” saidNitzan Waisberg, a professor at the designschool and family courtyard resident. “It’smid-August, hot, and expecting people tokeep their windows and doors shut in apart-ments that don’t have air conditioning orproper ventilation except for windows . . . itwas not a practical idea.”Additionally, many EV residents in thesummer are subletters and did not receivethe email notifying them of the spray andthe necessary precautions to protect them-selves and their families from the toxic ef-fects.“I was going to flier the entire neighbor-hood to ensure everyone [knows about thespray],” VanFossen said. “We only knowwho the [original] subletters are.”Many residents, however, were not con-vinced Housing was doing enough to con-sider the potential adverse effects of theherbicide. At a hastily-convened town halllast week, several families expressed a lackof confidence that the fliers would be ade-quate and were concerned about the long-lasting health effects of the chemicals.VanFossen, insisted, however, that theherbicides were safe.
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