I flew down to the city of Chennai last Monday to meet with the eight other students who will be researching in the South with me. Neil had already arrived the night before I got to Chennai. The rest—Evan, Liann, Matt, Hillary, Ashley, Nancy, and Martha—arrived on two separate flights a couple of days later. Ever since they arrived we’ve been waiting for our train out of here.
So, it’s been another week in another Indian city. Only this city is hot. This is absolutely the worst time of year to be here. Temperatures are in the 35-40 degrees Celsius range, and since we’re right by the ocean it’s also very humid. The only relief from the chaos and the heat was a half-day trip we took to Mamallapuram (also Mahabalipuram) 50 kilometers to the south. That meant a drive down the coast and some time at the beach—which was lovely.
The students I’m with are really great. For those who don’t know, I am the “field facilitator” for the group—basically a peer leader. Mostly I’m here at the beginning so everyone else will be able to get to the village. Once they get the hang of things, I’m pretty much just another member of the group. I’m excited to be traveling with these people.
Our train leaves early this afternoon, and we expect that by lunchtime tomorrow we will be in Chavadipudur. Chavadipudur is the village which will be our home and the base-of-operations for our individual research projects. I’m going to be studying village shrines and temples. The first thing I’ll be working on is a map of the village (with sacred locations included). I’ll be working with some of the other students on that project.
Since Chavadipudur is the same village I lived in for my research in 2003, this is something of a homecoming for me, and I am very excited to see old friends and familiar places.