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The traveling biochemist: A trip to Mumbai, India, Vol. 10

Traveling to the joint Indo-US X-ray crystallography conference in Mumbai

Clay Clark

Clay Clark – @biochemprof

I traveled to Mumbai, India, for the first time to attend the joint Indo-US X-ray crystallography conference. This is the tenth and final blog in a series about the trip.

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In this installment: Final thoughts about Mumbai

Here are some odds-n-ends topics that I jotted down during the week:

People living in poverty seem similar to me regardless of where I travel. In India, the poor areas reminded me of the rural areas of Mexico, where small run-down houses or tents were built beside piles of rubble. In India, the kids seem to know who has money based on their clothing. At one point in the trip (the Ellora caves) a teenager looked at me and I could see him sizing me up and down looking at my clothes. Even though my shirt and pants were not expensive, they were clean and not threadbare, like many of the clothes in India. I also wonder for whom these kids are hawking. At several stop lights in the city, people will walk by the cars selling toys or begging for money while showing a small, sad-looking baby. But then when the light turns green their face and demeanor changes, like they can turn off the act until the next red light. Maybe I’m cynical, but it looked to me liked they were trained.

The internet service and IT was quite frustrating this week. Internet access seems to be a closely guarded secret, but the universities I visited are part of government installations, in one case nuclear energy. The students told me that they have become quite good at breaking codes and finding proxy servers to get around the restrictions. They are unable to do things as simple as download a movie. It seems to me that owning an internet café would be a very lucrative business here. But, I am amazed that I went half-way around the world and I could talk to my family in real time with decent coverage on my cell phone. It wasn’t cheap, but the technology was very useful.

I was having trouble during the week converting the local time in Mumbai to East Coast US time because I left my watch set to its time in Raleigh. My cell phone automatically set to local time in Mumbai, but it wasn’t always convenient to pull out my phone, plus it was obvious when I was checking the time whereas I can be more surreptitious when checking my watch. Anyway, the 10.5 hour difference was giving me problems because I would add 10.5 hours to the time on my watch. At some point during the week, it dawned on me that an easier way to do it was to subtract 1.5 hours from the time on my watch, switch am to pm (or vice versa), and I would have the local time in Mumbai. It’s funny what the mind thinks of when tired.

Finally, I’ll say that it was a fantastic week overall, not without some challenges, but still well worth the effort. Life is an adventure, so take the time to take an adventure, have fun, see the world, and get something out of it.