Friday, January 1, 2010

New Delhi to Bhubaneswar

After experiencing New Years in New Delhi we left this morning for our flight to Bhubaneswar, Orissa. We will be spending the remainder of our time in the eastern state of Orissa, which is the second poorest state in India next to Bihar. While the the three major cities (including Bhubaneswar) rival the GDPs of the other coastal states, the western part of the state is still quite rural, agrarian and faces a Maoist insurgency.

We flew on Air India (the country's major air line which also happens to be government-owned) and it was quite interesting being able to take water bottles and food through security while not having to take our shoes off. Our flight from New Delhi to Bhubaneswar took about an hour and fifty minutes and during that time we were served a full meal as well as tea. It is simply amazing the vast difference between India and the US in terms of hospitality. If you were to fly on an American airline for an hour and fifty minutes you would be lucky to even get a bag of peanuts and a cup of water. While being fortunate enough to have a window seat, I was privileged to be able to see the countryside and the hot sun reflecting off the lakes and rivers gave the perception of gold and diamonds being held to a light. It seems as if everything in India glitters.

Upon our arrival in Bhubaneswar we were greeted at the door of the airport with a bouquet of flowers for each of us and the drivers to take us to our hotel. The differences between here and New Delhi were immediately noticeable, for example actually being able to inhale without coughing. The air here smells so fresh (something none of us have experienced in a while) with a slight hint of incense. The second thing that struck us was how clean the city is. There is no trash lying around on the streets and while you will see the occasional cow meandering around, it really feels like a completely different country. Drivers actually stop at red lights here instead of blowing their horn and pushing through the intersection.

While staying at the Youth Hostel in New Delhi was an interesting and authentic experience, it is amazing how excited one can get at the prospect of a bed that does not feel like a pile of cardboard. Tonight we will be going to a New Years celebration that the hotel is throwing and tomorrow will begin the field work portion of the program. It was a privilege to meet with the distinguished scholars at JNU, Delhi University, and Jamia Millia Islamia University, the ability to be able to see Human Security in action and what outside actors can do to help will be a truly unique experience very few get.

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