We arrived on March 14. The train ride was great fun for me. We passed through a potato belt (all manor of spuds being harvested by hand ), a rice belt and a whole bunch of other plantlike stuff. I also saw palm and coconut trees and banana plants. Wow, just like south Florida.
There was a most unexpected twist today. After visits and ceremonies at two temples (I am up to five temples in less than two weeks), we learned that the arts college at RVS (sister school Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya) had been closed due to student protests. In short, the protest is connected to the release of a video that documents the murder of a Tamil leader’s son by members of the Sri Lankan government. The Sri Lankan government claims that the video is the product of creative photo shopping and other visual tricks. You have read or heard of the Tamil Tigers before. So, the students are protesting in solidarity with the Tamils. Having been part of a group that shut down operations at North Texas State U, a time or two, I feel a certain nostalgia for today’s actions. When I saw them sitting in the road blocking one of entrances to campus headbands and all, my mind traveled back to those exciting days on US campuses. Shortly after our arrival on campus, all classes were canceled until Thursday, thus we met with no students today. Moreover, we expect to see more protests when we arrive in Chennai tomorrow.
Coimbatore is a city that is undergoing an economic transition from one based on manufacturing, particularly textiles, to one focused on education. RVS is one of dozens of universities and other higher education forms whose advertisements appear on virtually ever street corner. RVS has a full range of colleges, including medicine and engineering, and has approximately 15,000 students in the immediate vicinity.
The MOU (memorandum of understanding) signing ceremony was low-key and short. The more public “show” never took place because the press was covering the protest. The time on campus was relatively short in comparison to our other visits. We only met with the faculty for about one hour, and traveled to see the guest residence where our faculty will stay. More later.