Professor of Philosophy Roderic Owen paints two contrasting pictures of India in one of his latest travel missives from Madurai. One is a representation of the country’s continuing issues with sanitation, infrastructure, and poverty and the other a somewhat idealized portrait of student life at Lady Doak College (LDC), where he is spending his semester sabbatical.

 city street

“… I pass by a grossly polluted small river bed, a tributary to the once might Vaigai River that runs through the heart of the city. The smell comes first: sulfuric, laden with olfactory ‘shades’ of excrement.”

He also writes …

” … the college life led by these young women seems to be a mix of the ethos and rules we associate with high-school -aged girls and college life up through the early 1960s: carefully regulated with chaperones, house mothers, strict rules prohibiting access to boys and alcohol, mandated evening study hours, and lots of required extracurricular activities.”

In another journal entry , Owen revisits India’s caste system and the relationships among those categories of the populace.

” … I listen carefully, refrain from passing judgment, and note that tone and body language is a bit strained, sometimes voices become quieter; and I think to myself: this is the personal politics of caste in India today.”

LDC Sports Day

Owen’s journals provide insight as he spends 10 weeks on sabbatical in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. His goal: to help strengthen ties between Mary Baldwin and the all-women Lady Doak data:text/mce-internal,College and research and give presentations on ethics and conflict resolution. So far, Owen has addressed transportation, data:text/mce-internal,//, food, celebrations, and old vs. new India. Here are Owen’s past travelogues:

Lady Doak College

Have You Heard About Pongol?

Tamil, Language, Caste and Race, and The Hindu

Celebrating, Eating, and Rules of the Road