Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Touring - Jaipur

Our trip to Jaipur was made more difficult by terrible traffic between Delhi and Jaipur. See my previous post on Traffic in India. The people at our hotel said there were other guests coming from Delhi who canceled their travels because of the traffic. We considered that....but did not...

Jaipur: Jaipur is called the "Pink City" because....many of the buildings are redish-pink either due to the sandstone construction or...they were painted pink...

We started our brief tour at the Jaipur Astronomical Observatory (Jantar Mantar), which is quite amazing...very large and accurate astronomical instruments constructed in the 1700s by Maharaja Jai Singh II. We then visited the City Palace and the Palace of the Winds, which is an amazing structure, even though it is only a facade built for women to "hide behind" while observing the activity in the courtyard below.

We finished our visit to Jaipur with a trip to the Red Fort, where, of course, we rode an elephant to the upper level of the fort. This is am amazing structure with many very ornate rooms and decoration. Fort does not have quite the same meaning in India as in the US. It is closer to what the US would call a palace or a castle. the royal family lived in the fort, so the interior is very ornate.

Then back to Delhi and the difficult, long, problem riddled plane flight home.

Touring - Agra

While in India for the Workshop, my wife and I and some friends did a bit of touring. I need to mention again, this was a tourist visit only. I wish we had an opportunity to see some of the "real" India. But, not on this trip.

Agra: Well, the Taj Mahal...what more can you say...what more needs to be said...we arrived after a long drive from Delhi and the first view of the Taj, from the the roadside across from the Agra Fort will remain with me all my life. A wonderful and beautiful sight.....

We went on to our hotel, left our bags and then went on a brief, late day visit to the Taj. We came back early the following morning to see the Taj in a different light and have a longer visit. It is wonderful and does not disappoint.

There are interesting sites in Agra...we visited Akbar's Tomb and the Agra Fort. It is interesting that Shah Jehan, the builder of the Taj Mahal, was imprisoned by his some in the Muthamman Burj (within the Agra Fort) for the last eight years of his life. He died there and was buried in the Taj, next to his wife (for whom he built the Taj Mahal). From the Muthamman Burj, Shah Jehan could clearly see the Taj Mahal...

Imprisoned for eight years by his son...and looking out at the Taj, the tomb of his wife each day...

Touring - Delhi

Following the workshop my wife and I (and some friends) spent a bit of time touring in India, visiting sites in Delhi and traveling to Agra and Jaipur. I need to be clear that we were tourists, with a limited amount of time to see a huge and diverse country. I wish we had more time and had an opportunity to see some of the "real" India rather than just the tourist India.

That said, we had a fantastic time in a wonderful country, with a long history.

Delhi: We visited the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in Delhi. There were hundreds of prayer rugs set out of worshipers use later in the day. We stopped by the India Gate (at my request). My father spent time in India in World War II and mentioned the India Gate to me in some of our talks about his travels. So, this was something I wanted to see first hand. We visited the tomb/memorial of Gandhi, a very peaceful place in busy,, noisy Delhi. We also visited the Qutab Complex (along with, as it turns out) a huge number of school kids, who were quite excited to see us!!

Agra and Jaipur in another post....

Workshop review....

The US-India Network Enabled Research Collaboration Workshop Assessment

As the workshop organizer, I am not in a good position to evaluate the success of the workshop. But, I think it was a success!!

We had good attendance (130+ people registered). The technology (remote presentations) seemed to work well. Attendance at the sessions was good. Some rooms were overflowing. There were many hallway and post-lunch/dinner conversations. All these are indications of success, in my view.

I encourage everyone to visit our web site at: and click on the India link on the left side to get to the workshop homepage. We will be updating the web site with presentations and videos over the next couple weeks.

Of course, simply holding the workshop is not enough. There is the report to write and the follow-up activities to outline and then execute on. That will be my challenge in the New Year!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Traffic in India

Traffic in India….

We spent some time in a car while in India…a lot of time…traveling around Delhi, driving to Agra, driving to Jaipur….so I have some India traffic observations.
Indian traffic is like water, it flows about obstacles in an organic path of least resistance. So, if there is a stop light, suddenly a 2 lane road becomes a 5 lane road, as every car and motorcycle (and bus and truck), begin to spread out at the stop light, like dammed water. Then when the light changes, all the traffic floods forward and a bit down the road it settles back into the streambed. One aspect of this is that “roadway” is a much broader term than in the US. Basically, it means that roadway is the direction the traffic is headed…not a clearly defined path that vehicles take…sometimes it includes the side of the road, sometimes into the other lane (where vehicles are coming directly toward you). We might say “driving down the wrong side of the road. Very flexible definitions…..

Indian traffic is optimized on the individual level. Cars, motorcycles, trucks and buses (CMTB) all drive in such a way that they move forward most quickly. So, darting around in traffic gaining one or two car lengths is SOP…for everyone….While this local optimization may work fine for some, there are no rules like “slow traffic keep right” (of course in India they drive on the other side of the road). Instead, the rule is “If I see a space, it is mine”. Global traffic flow seems to suffer…

Indian traffic infrastructure is operating at the very, very edge of capacity. If there is any disruption (an accident or a bad weather issue), then the system completely freezes up and traffic over a wide area can come to a halt. India is getting more cars…they need more highways. They are building them, but maybe not fast enough.

Trucks, trucks and more trucks…

On the road from Delhi to Jaipur, I have never seen so many trucks. I can’t even begin to count. These are not semi-trailers, like you would see in the US. These are big, sturdy trucks with bed for cargo (which is always tied down and covered). Tata trucks rule the road.

The expanding truck stop…

With all these trucks, there needs to be truck stops, where people can eat, bathe and get their trucks repaired. Truck stops are built on the sides of highways, sometimes with access roads and sometimes not. But, the number of trucks exceeds the capacity of truck stop “parking” (if there is any...). So, the truck stop begins to expand…

First, all the space on the access road is taken…then a second lane of parked trucks forms on the space between the access road and the main road. Here you sometimes have people working on their truck repairs right next to the highway. But, when that is not enough space, the truck stop expands into the highway, turning a 2-lane road into a 1-lane road with a truck stop in the other lane, generally with people working away on their vehicles. Of course, this is a bit dangerous and slows traffic to a crawl. But, that is the way things are…

Other highway friends…

The most common non-vehicle on the highway is the cow. Cows wander about in the country and sometimes wander near, or on the road. This is not really much of a problem, as traffic is moving quite slowly and the cows are pretty savvy with regard to moving directly on the roadway. On my trips between major cities, cows were simply another potential traffic obstacle. It may be different in more rural areas.
Other animal powered vehicles seen on the access roads include horse and donkey carts, buffalo carts and the very elegant camel carts, particularly near Jaipur. These animal powered vehicles generally keep out of the main roadway and deliver goods along the access roads.


If animal powered vehicles are not a problem on the main roadway, tractors are. Tractors are used to haul big loads (think a big cart of bricks) on the access roads, but also on the highways. They cannot move very fast and are slow to start. After all, they are tractors. And, they can cause serious traffic slowdowns, particularly in the dangerous instance where one tractor tries to pass another tractor. Think of two semis passing on a hill. Then imagine that the traffic behind these semis can drive on the shoulder or the other side of the road…yikes!!!

But, for all these problems, India transports huge amounts of good over its highway infrastructure. All credit to the hard working drivers and service personnel. But, I worry about the daily increase in load on the infrastructure.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Workshop begins (and Deb begins travel to India)

Workshop – Day 1

The Workshop began yesterday (Sunday in Delhi) with tutorials. After much nervousness on my part, things seemed to go well. We had good attendance and the sessions moved forward with only a minor technical hitch here and there.

Our Indian colleagues at ERnet have done a great job. I am hoping this extends into Day 2 and Day 3. Debby left for India earlier “today” and is in Amsterdam now. We have tours of Agra, Delhi and Jaipur set up. This will be fun and exciting!!!

Day 2 (today) will be the real workshop kickoff. I have a short introductory speech to give and a somewhat longer ACE/TP3 speech. That all should be straightforward, although the introductory speech will be simply speaking (sans PowerPoints). We should have some government attendance from India (and the US also, I hope). This should raise the profile of the workshop at bit.

Debby arrives tonight at 11:30pm! Yeah!!!

Workshop Day 2 details tomorrow.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 3 - Workshop begins tomorrow!!!

Day 3…16 hours to go!!

Spent most of the day getting final logistical issues settled for the Workshop. Tutorials on Sunday (tomorrow), then Workshop Program on Monday/Tuesday.

Everything seems under control….seems….I guess we will find out tomorrow….

Tomorrow….Day 4 – Workshop begins.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Travel, arrival in Delhi and Day 1

Travel, arrival in Delhi and Day 1

Travel from Indy -> Detroit -> Amsterdam was fine….but then, snow (not real snow, just flurries) and delay, delay, delay….4 hours of sitting on the plane waiting for de-icing…everyone’s favorite activity. And, finally, because of the 4 hour delay in Amsterdam, I arrived in Delhi at 4am…sigh…with a commitment for a 9am meeting. This was all on the Amsterdam airport…unable to cope with snow flurries and cold temperatures….very disappointing.

Finally, at 4am, we arrive in Delhi. The Delhi airport is new and big, very big. It is a long hike from the gate to Passport Control. But, after sitting for 4+7=11 hours, walking was very nice. Passport Control was fine and, as I had only carry-on luggage, I proceeded into the arrivals area. And, amazingly, after a 4 hour delay, there was someone there to meet me. Very excellent!!!

Except, they were there to meet Mr. William James, not Mr. James Williams. However, apologies to dead American philosophers, that sounded like me…at 4am in the morning anyway. So, off we went. A 30 minute ride to the hotel and a 10 minute check-in (as William James) and finally…to bed for a 3 hour nap!!

Up at 8:30 for coffee prior to my meeting and I ran into IU friends (Ash and Sarita Soni) and AU friends (George McLaughlin). This was very nice, after my difficult travel before. I left the Lalit Hotel for my meeting at the American Embassy at 9am. Had a productive meeting and returned to the hotel by noon for Workshop prep. There are still some bugs to work out…but the Workshop is on the way. See our web site off the page for current details of the program.

After the Workshop prep, George and I went for a walk. That was not really too wise. In India (at least in Delhi), everyone has an angle…they want to steer you to a particular shop, or a tour or something. And, they simply approach you on the street and say (something like) “Hello. Where are you from?” This is the beginning of a long conversation intended to direct you somewhere or sell you something. Regardless, it is very intrusive and you will (or we were) be approached multiple times by multiple people saying, “Hello. Where are you from?”. And, to rid yourself of the intrusion, you have to be pretty rude and say something like, “Sorry. My friend and I are talking.” For me this was a big problem which makes it very difficult (impossible) to simply walk about the city as a tourist. My experience in Delhi is limited to the area around the Lalit Hotel, so this problem may not be common across the city. We will be doing some additional touring later…I’ll report more then.

After our not very relaxing walk, we had a nice dinner with some of the IU group and then off to bed.

Tomorrow…more workshop logistics…

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Getting ready to travel

As a part of my job, I am traveling to India to host a US-India workshop.

Details about the workshop can be found at:

Details about my professional life can be found at:

I will be spending the first few days (after a killer IND-DTW-AMS-DEL) getting prepared for the workshop and hosting the workshop. On December 8 I will begin a short bit of touring.

Touring schedule is:

Dec 8-9 Travel to Agra; visit Taj Mahal
Dec 10 Tour Delhi
Dec 11-12 Travel to Jaipur and tour
Dec 13 Return to US

I will try to blog about the workshop (or at least the interesting aspects of the workshop) and our travels in India.