Christine Perkins – Hazuka

I’m a small town girl from a farming valley in California, the San Joaquin, specifically the town of Manteca, a place I couldn’t wait to leave. I did so in 1969 and never looked back – although I do visit since my entire family is still there. It was in ’69 that I travelled abroad for the first time, six weeks in western Europe, followed by two trips to Australia (one business, one pleasure), several trips to Brazil and Chile, a return trip to Europe – Portugal then Spain – and a CCSU sponsored trip to China in ’07. After graduating from Cal State Hayward, I moved to a unique place in southeast Utah called Blanding and began my career teaching high school English. I loved my career, but after 33 years, I decided to move on to destinations still to be determined.  I also love most athletic competitions and spend an inordinate amount of time watching football, baseball, and basketball on the TV with Tom, who is only slightly less avid than I as a fan. We have a daughter Maggie and granddaughter Olivia in California, and we enjoy visiting them, especially as Maggie is a high school English teacher and Olivia is an avid reader. I guess you could say we’re a family of geeks!

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After a night of rain I awoke to the first day of clear blue skies in Kerala. Unfortunately, the power was out, but somehow this seems less problematic in India. Tom and I breakfasted at the German Bakery on waffles, chewy and tasty, and an Indian dish called uppuma, which was dry but full of a curious combination of spices, nuts, coconut, and banana.

The usual hectic and exhilarating auto ride took our group to Thanal, an NGO operated by Usha and Jayakumar, a delightful, energetic pair. After Jayakumar gave a history of their “journey” from self-absorbed scientists to community activists, Usha spoke passionately about their group’s efforts to help local people organize against genetically modified cotton and for organic farmers’ markets. I was so impressed by the way Usha’s eyes flashed when she answered my question about women’s involvement in these grassroots movements: “Women respond from the heart… [they] remember… they tell the truth”. But she was also quick to smile, as was her husband, and together they made the most engaging pair.

A bumpy bus ride took us to the university, where we met Professor Reghu, whose rambling lecture provided stark contrast to the specificity of the morning’s talk. I was fascinated by his thesis regarding globalization, which he prefers to call globality. His detailed argument was that certain universal ideas (i.e. the stone axe, alphabet/ writing, astronomy, and numbers) are the basis for his definition of globality. Each of these inventions indicates that a certain universal cognitive ability had developed in the human brain, which enabled these innovations to go “viral” in a sense.

I found his discussion fascinating, but a bit difficult to follow because of his accent and his meandering style. He ran out of time before he ever connected his theory to the effect on globalization on Kerala, but he did throw out a provocative statement about the positive effect of the British in helping Indians reform the caste system – very interesting but not completely relevant to the topic of Kerala and globalization.

The way home was a bit wacky, what with loading and unloading a public bus to take a private bus at a reduced fare – but without windshield wipers – and, of course, it rained. But we made it back safely and in rather high spirits considering all the energy, mental and physical, that was expended today.

So far my experience in India remains a mix of contradictions: rain and sunshine; fear and exhilaration; the specific/ concrete versus the amorphously intellectual; those who work on the ground versus those who ruminate in “ivory towers”. I LOVE IT!

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