About the Blog

The Department of Political Science, with the assistance of the Division of International Studies & Programs at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, is pleased to introduce its India Program - a unique joint partnership between A&M-Kingsville; the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University-College Station; and Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Study (JNIAS), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, India.

The Program is being co-directed by Dr. Nirmal Goswami, Professor of Political Science, A&M-Kingsville; Dr. Kishore Gawande, Professor of Economics, the Bush School, Texas A&M-College Station; and by Dr. Aditya Mukherjee, Director, JNIAS.

The Program will include graduate and undergraduate students traveling to and staying in India from December 28th, 2010, through January 14th, 2011, attending classes at JNIAS, and visiting multiple sites through field trips in the greater New Delhi region. Areas of focus include history, politics, economics, culture, health, environmental policies, nuclear issues, etc., with reference to both greater Asia and India.

This blog will document our experience. You are welcome to post comments.

You are all invited to cyber travel with us as we learn about the uniqueness of India.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Global Classroom

            French writer Francois de la Rochefoucauld once eloquently noted, “the only thing constant in life is change.” Whether it be a change for the better or the worse, we see that this viewpoint has influenced societies all over the world and allowed them to progress to the stage they are currently in. While education is a major contributor to the vast advancements that are always taking place, we must remember that without progressive communication, thoughts and views cannot be entirely conveyed nor appreciated.
            Despite the American education system coming under recent scrutiny, it is vital that we keep in mind the advancements that have already taken place. Among these great improvements are the addition and inclusion of technology into the learning atmosphere. While every student has a different way of learning, one thing remains the same. As an ancient Chinese proverb says, “tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”  This is exactly what happened for some students at the Bishop Elementary School in Bishop, Texas.  A large quantity of students were allowed to partake in a unique, yet no longer unconventional, discussion with me. In this dialogue through the skype networking site, students were able to personally ask questions and interact while viewing a live image of the area. Though the talk was short, the inclusion of these children into a real-life, unique, educational experience hopefully inspired them to further their individual pursuits while keeping a perspective on reality outside the United States.
            So, although some students often face struggles with repetition when dealing with education, we can take solace in the fact that new developments are always emerging and therefore positively influencing young children’s readiness to learn.
~Mark D.

Us and Them

The field trips we have taken the entire time we have been in Delhi have helped develop our perspectives on what we have learned through the lectures. The rich history of India permeates every spectrum of this city and is a constant reminder of how long society has existed in this part of the world. The sights we have seen have helped in understanding a different viewpoint of the world that is otherwise hard for Americans to grasp.
The various historical sites we visited were old, and, in most instances, predate the existence of the United States. The weathered stone structures that have been standing for thousands of years have given us an idea of where Indians come from and the challenges they face in assimilating into the global community. Their culture and history contrasts greatly with our own and in order to compete in the world community they must adhere to Western customs.
This country’s rich, varied, and ancient tapestry of places, people, faith, and events have to be seen to be believed. This very eclectic society is also rapidly changing. And given the country’s massive size and population, these changes are going to impact us all, including the United States. This trip helped us understand how a major diverse country is trying to cope with these changes and what these changes may mean for the United States.
~Caleb F.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Since we have been in Delhi we have had a number of lectures with topics ranging from linguistic history to Indo-US relations. All our classes are held at the scenic Institute of Advanced Studies which is part of Jawaharlal Nehru University -- a premier national university. Each of the presenters have been knowledgeable of their unique topics and have had intense intellectual discussions with us. The sessions are informative and include massive amounts of information.  They have been intensely educational.

            The faculty at JNU for the past week has been trying to give us American students a complete picture of where India has been, where it is now, and where it is going. The case for India is never black and white in any subject but rather a plethora of many colors that is perplexing to common western thought. The presentations have showed how through thousands of years of interactions the different peoples and religions of India have been able to coexist with each other.

            From the lectures we have been able to more clearly understand the uniqueness and diversity of India in comparison to other countries all around the world. We have also learned that India cannot be fairly contrasted to any other nations because of the immense cultural differences and individuality this country has.

            So, as former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan once eloquently noted, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress in every family and every society.” While education is only on the brink of accelerating here in New Delhi, a simple progress is being maintained and hope for an even better emergence of a country lies in the hearts of every citizen.

~ Caleb F, Mark D

Secret to Good Mood

When you think about one of the best restaurants in Asia, what qualities come to mind? Our thoughts were of a large building with plenty of space. It would be located on the nice side of town. The waiters would be dressed in tuxedos or at least in slacks. These are the images I had made about Karim’s after hearing the reviews about it.
We now realize that appearance has nothing to do with being a great restaurant. Karim’s is located in the spookiest part of Delhi (Old Delhi) we have been to yet. Densely populated, messy, lively. Karim’s is an arrangement of rooms in a seemingly small house. The waiters were not dressed in tuxedos, but just matching aprons. Side dishes were ordered for most of the table to go along with the main dish that the restaurant had been preparing for us all day. Many people from our group had been looking forward to this dish for sometime because we ordered an entire goat! A goat tandoori (roasted in a very special way). When the goat was finally ready, the waiters brought it to the table and set it in front of the vegetarian, Melissa. The group turned into a bunch of barbarians. Joy ripped off a leg, I stuck my fork in its stomach, and Lukas cut off the front. It was so delicious! We knew we were at an Indian restaurant when our noses began to run. The goat was very spicy, but we could not stop ourselves. Ben became the goat carver, while the waiters brought out our side dishes. Those were just as wonderful as the goat tandoori. After it was all said and done, we realized the group ordered more than enough food and had it packaged up in doggie bags.
 We understand why Karim’s is one of the best restaurants in Asia. We now know not to judge a book by its cover. The memory of Karim’s will be with us forever. “Secret to good mood: Karim’s food!”
~ Antonia M, Caleb F, Lukas S, Mark D, Amanda W

The Taj Mahal

While Agra is only about 150 miles away, the group had to leave at six a.m. on Saturday morning because it is approximately a five hour drive. This was because the roads were filled with traffic the entire way and the bus never went fast. We made the time fly by either sleeping or peer-pressuring our friends to tell embarrassing stories on the microphone at the front of the bus. Our first stop in Agra was at the Taj Mahal. We bought our tickets and jumped on a golf car that took us to the gate. The ride was extremely interesting! We saw camels and a completely naked man. I was able to snap a picture of the camel, but I missed the man. Supposedly, he was a monk undergoing a ritual they must complete.
 Upon arrival at the gates, the ladies quickly went through security, while the men were searched thoroughly. Caleb was caught trying to sneak a chocolate bar, so we were all forced to help him eat it before he could enter. The first sight of the Taj Mahal was unreal. It is much more than what pictures make it to be. It cannot be described. It has to be seen. We did. The world is divided into two groups of people: those who have seen the Taj and those who have not. We now happily belong to the first group. There is no point trying to describe the Taj; it cannot be. All of you just have to come and marvel at it yourselves. Do that when you get the chance.
Our tour guide gave us facts about the construction of the Taj Mahal. An interesting thing about the structure was that the four pillars surrounding the dome are built at an angle away from the dome. This is to prevent damages that could happen if they were to collapse. Also, our tour guide told us the history of the structure. It was built in honor of Mumtaz, the wife of the Emperor Shah Jehan. It is a monument to love and what a monument it is.
~ Amanda W


Going to see a Bollywood movie was at the top of my check list for things to do in India. Caleb and I decided to catch a movie on Tuesday (January 4, 2011). We picked up a newspaper from the front desk and checked out some of the movie times. We decided on the earlier time, and we would leave after dinner. While waiting for dinner, I read a newspaper called Mid-Day. I flipped to a section titled “Cupid Works Overtime” to check out what everyone was wearing. These amazing pictures at the top of the page caught my attention. Then, I stood up, and said, “Wait a minute!” Caleb asked,“what? What is going on?” I had no time to answer him, I ran out of the room, while slipping and sliding on the marble floors because I was in socks. I sprinted down the stairs while taking many of them three at a time. Excitement, excitement, excitement!  I ran up to Heather and showed her the paper, which was ripped due to my inability to remain calm. Heather screamed, and everyone gathered around us. People were coming out of their rooms due to all of the commotion. The newspaper had printed two pictures of Heather, Sarah, Kelly, and me when we were out on New Year’s Eve! The pictures were meant to show scenes around New Delhi of people celebrating New Year’s. So, our group made the local papers! We all felt like celebrities! Careful scrutiny of the pictures will show Caleb’s face in the distant background. He, obviously, was not the star we girls were!
 ~ Amanda W

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Learning Traditional Indian Dance at the Gandhi Memorial

A trip to Mahatma K. Gandhi’s memorial led to a wonderful surprise of games and dance on our third day of “Mission India.”  As we walked past the gates of the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, we saw an array of people who were there to honor one of India’s, and the World’s, finest leaders and advocates of peace and freedom.  Faces in the crowd we saw had the look of awe and curiosity almost everywhere. Many seemed as if they were at home and in comfort within the Memorial. Children laughing in the distance first caught our eyes. I walked along with Bei, Mark, Caleb and Amanda drawn like magnets towards the laughter and chatter of young sweet voices. Though there were many sites to be seen, we all felt connected and touched by sound of laughter and innocence in the distance ahead of us. We stopped and stared at the children dressed in their beautiful and colorful traditional Indian clothing. Girls ran past one another with a youthful mentor running along in a game they called, “chain” We were invited to play this game with the young girls. We did! Amanda and I were eager to win yet we were the first caught in the chain! We ran, pulled to the left, and to the right. We laughed like the children. We became them. I felt at home as I thought of my own children and how long it has been since I last joined them in a game of tag or ghost. I was deeply moved by the kindness extended to us,  two grown women, two strangers, to play this child’s game.
After the game we learned that these girls were attending a dance class. Miss. Vijaya, the children’s dance teacher, volunteered her weekends to teach girls classical Indian dances.  I was touched by the time this lovely woman took out of her day to make these girls happy. Perhaps Gandhi’s message inspired this young woman to make her weekend sacrifice of time, yet she looked just as happy as the girls and most likely viewed this as no sacrifice.  Next, Vijaya invited us to watch as the girls preformed all kinds of wonderful dances for us, this day was to be their free day of dance yet the girls accepted us as guest and were eager to show us the art they learned. Girls ranging in age of 6 to 14, stood in their positions moving every part of their bodies in sync, with the motion of their limbs. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I thought of the focus and obedience they must put into each and every step they learned. Even their necks, eyebrows, eyes, and mouths moved in unison with their dance motions. I was amazed at this intricate art form and with Vijaya’s dedication to the girls.  Amanda, Bei and I were invited by Vijaya to learn a dance called the chak. We were taught to move our hands pointed out aligned with our feet in this simple beginners dance. I wanted to dance more yet the lesson was soon over L. Vijaya explained that the chak, a traditional Indian dance meaning “square,” which is why our bodies were in a square position as we danced.  We all thanked Vijaya and her young brilliant group of girls for their hospitality and kindness. This day, I am grateful how the people of India value their culture so intensely they are willing to share any part of it with strangers from a world outside their own.
Dance, laughter, joy: all of this happened to us while we were the Gandhi Memorial. The sense of joyous peace was everywhere.
~ Antonia M

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Smells, Dirt, and Magnificence!

Many people have heard the 18th century proverb which states that cleanliness is next to godliness.  Well, apparently someone forgot to tell the greater population of New Delhi about this saying. Not only does this city have poor sanitation, but it also remains home to questionable health practices. Yet despite the conditions that are running rampant throughout this city, the health of the general population remains in good shape, and efforts are under way to combat these problems.
After having a few days to explore the city and see life how it really is, it pains me to say that it really is a hard knock life. Nobody would agree with this statement more than the citizens of this city. Not only must they contend with the unrelenting grey cloud that lingers over their heads, which is smog, not bad luck, but they also face significant sanitation shortcomings.  When I first stepped out of the airport in New Delhi, aside from being greeted by the smog in the air and smell of urine on the ground, I was forced to look at piles of trash collecting on the sides of street corners, in abandoned lots, and even on the street itself. Needless to say, hygiene is obviously not a priority for most of the people here.
Although hygiene may not play an integral role in the public life of this third world society, a shroud of immunity seems to cover the citizenry.  Normally, you would expect to see somebody who readily dives into piles of horrid rancid trash piles to contract some type of ailment. Here, however, people do what they have to in order to get by and have been relatively successful thus far. While this practice generally prevails more in the slum areas, for obvious reasons, a new meaning can be given to the statement “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” It is no longer about what is wanted. Instead, people do and take only the essentials to ensure survival.
In order to combat the health and sanitation problems this city faces, several initiatives have been adopted. For example, most public transportation vehicles here run on compressed natural gas (CNG). This reduces carbon emissions and helps the environment. Parks and gardens are also becoming more popular sights which serve dual purposes. Not only do these parks and gardens offer visual enticement and create a sense of beauty for the city, but also serve to reduce air pollution.                              
 Although New Delhi may not consistently have the luxurious sights, smells, or sounds of cities in developed countries, more important aspects such as culture and tradition continue to set a precedent which other places can learn from. This is a city several hundred years old and many aspects of it are magnificent, especially the historic monuments.
~Mark D.

Delhi Traffic

I have been waiting for a wreck to happen with this crazy traffic, and today I finally saw one! Some might call it just a minor fender bender because a car slightly tapped a motorcycle at about 2 mph. But I am going to count this as an accident. The driving in New Delhi is unlike anything I have ever seen before. I have been wondering why lines were painted on the road because no one pays attention to them. Cars just drive wherever they want, which sometimes includes sidewalks. Also, it is not unusual to find cars driving the wrong way on the highway. This makes crossing the road difficult, and turns “frogger” into a real life game. Something else that is out of the norm is the amount of honking that is done on the roadway, but surprisingly no one has road rage. The honking is just used as a signal for passing a vehicle and for safety purposes, but occasionally honking will be used to signal that a car needs to pick up the pace or get out of the way! To keep their vehicle in one piece, the drivers must always be alert, and it is hard not to be with so many things happening on the road way.  Even though Indians have unconventional driving methods, I have to say that I feel safe when I get in a vehicle.
What seems to foreigners like a stream of moving chaos that is traffic in Delhi is something that Indians seem to take it in stride. I don’t know how that happens, but it does.
~ Amanda W.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Mosaic of Religions

The many religions of India are evident everywhere in Delhi. The mélange of spiritualities are in close proximity to each other even though some inter-religious tensions have been part of India’s history. Despite this, religions having their origins in India seem to share a common thread. We saw examples of this when we visited several religious temples, each belonging to its own unique faith.
The first temple we visited was of the Baha’I faith. The structure was fashioned after a giant lotus blossom and seemed fairly new. It was the first of many stops where our shoes had to be left at the entry.  Our bare feet on cold marble added to the ambiance of the temple. Inside, the structure was more or less hollow and resembled a small western style church. It was completely quiet except for a few whispers and murmurs from commentators which reverberated off of the white brick walls. Complete silence is to be observed so as not to disturb those in prayer. I felt inconsiderate and too touristy when one of the temple’s frequenters gestured for me to turn my camcorder off and silently went back to his pew with his family to meditate. There was a sense of peace inside the temple.
The second site we visited was a little different. The Hindu temple of Akshardam was the more fortified of the three of our stops. The entire complex is surrounded by a concrete wall and heavily guarded. Inside the gate, before reaching the actual temple, all back packs, camcorders, cameras, etc. had to be stored in a locker after filling out a form where every item had to be listed. After that, we passed through a final entry gate complete with security that would make the TSA blush. Passed that, we saw a temple with beautiful architecture. The detailed carvings in the building were extremely intricate and displayed highlights from Hindu lore. It was fashioned in the old Vedic style but was built only in 2005. Despite its spiritual connections, I did not feel the same serene atmosphere as I did before at the Lotus Temple. It is hard to summon those same feelings in place that has been dubbed “India’s spiritual theme park.”
The final place we visited was a Sikh temple called Gurudwara Bangla Sahib.This out of a was my favorite. Before entering we received a brief orientation on etiquette inside the temple. We removed our shoes and all the guys in our group had to wear an orange head scarf to cover our hair. The inside was very homely. The floor was carpeted and food was handed out at the door. We sat for a few minutes and watched the steady stream of worshippers circle around the inside with their hands clasped together in front of them. Their holy book was sung out loud with live music. For a religion that requires men to never cut their hair and to always carry a weapon, this is where I felt most comfortable. The sounds of the holy book had a transfixing effect that cleared your mind. The simplicity of the temple was made up for by the spiritual ambiance they had created.
All of these religions, however different they may be from each other, all have similar characteristics. They all consider personal reflection and meditation to be essential parts spirituality. With as many tensions that exist in India, it seems as though all religious groups regard peace very highly. This serenity rubs off on you.
~ Caleb F.