American Biologist at BHU Conference

I had a tenant in my home from USA. His name was Dave. He was a Biologist. He lives in Fresno, California. There was a conference going on in BHU about world environment and my tenant was also invited there to give a speech. It was his speech at 3’o clock at BHU on 28/03/2008. I went there with my another friend from USA named Amanda. She was doing research on history of Coke in India. I was working with her as translator. We all went together to BHU. Dave wanted to introduce his company in India. He loves India a lot. He always wants to come back, live here and learn Hindi. He wanted to tell people about wetlands.

Dave was supposed to give a speech about wetlands at 3’o clock. We reached there at 2.45. We had a special seat of guests. It was my first time when I was sitting at guests seat (thanx Dave). I, Amanda and Dave were waiting for Dave’s turn but unfortunately his turn didn’t never came. We were there till 7.30 but nobody called Dave to come on stage and give an speech. I was not hoping for such a disgusting thing by one of the most famous universities of world. We were all so sad and contacted BHU officials. They said sorry to us and called again next day at 10’o clock.

Next day, we were again on time and waited till 2.30 but nobody called Dave’s name. It was Dave’s speech in Mehndiganj Water Conference at 3’o clock. So, finally we decided to kick BHU out of our mind and went to Mehndiganj. We reached there 30 minutes late but Dave got a chance to speak there.
Dave still wanted to give speech in BHU. He contacted BHU officials again but they had no answer. Well, it was only 3 days conference. So, Dave never got opportunity to speak there.

Mehdiganj Water Conference

There was a conference in Mehndigani about water rights from 28th to 30th March, 2008. I was invited by Nandlal to attend the conference. I was so excited when I heard that Sandeep Pandey and Medha Patekar were also going to give speech. Then Nandlal told me that there was a girl from the U.S. who also wanted to attend the conference and interview local villagers about their problems caused by Coke. She wanted a translator which made my excitement double because I was going to get a job. 🙂

I called her and scheduled an appointment at Assi Ghat. I met her near Assi Ghat and we had a big conversation about Coke in Mehndiganj. Finally I took her to my home where I showed her all the documents regarding Coke issue in Mehndiganj, Plachimada and Kaladera. Finally she offered me a job as her translator. She was a PhD student of history at very big university in the States. She asked me not to mention the name of the university. She seemed like such a nice girl to me. She was so educated and friendly. She was interested in history of Coca-Cola in India.

She was staying in BHU hostel which was arranged by her university but she didn’t like it because there was no Internet access in her room. She had to walk for 10-15 minutes every time to use Internet. There was another tenant in my home that time who was a biologist whose company could be very helpful for her because one part of her research was about decrease of ground water. She saw rooms of my guest house where there was Internet in all the rooms and and a biologist in next room which made her decided to switch to my place.

I attended the Mehdiganj conference with her doing translation work. We interviewed a lot of people, including social workers from Kaladera also. I have not written her name in this post because she was sexually harassed during her work and she wanted her name to not be written here. If you want to know the story then read this post.

Financial Times article on Untouchables

I worked with Mr. Joseph Johnson who is South Asia Bureau Chief of Financial Times as local assistant and translator. He came with a photographer named Tom Pietrasik. They were looking for 24 years old character, specially Mushahars. The age 24 is because the average age of Indian people when they enter in professional life is 24 and Mushahars because Mushars are still considered as untouchables in rural part of India. They survive by picking up the long pepper’s (Pipal) leaves, make bowl of it and sell it to market. Since the Mushahar community we wanted to interview was near Coke plant, they were effected by problems caused by Coke also, which made them idle people to interview.

Mr. Joseph and Tom were supposed to reach Taj Hotel, Varanasi at 11’o clock but their flight was late so I had to wait there for more than 2 hours. Finally I met Joseph and Tom at 1’o clock and we decided to go to Mehndiganj since we were already late. Mr. Nandlal Master, who runs movement against Coca-Cola in Varanasi was supposed to meet us but he had to go to Ballia for some urgent work, So, we couldn’t meet him. We called him and said to send someone local with us at the Mushahar’s village. And he send Urmila Didi with us to show us around and help interviewing people.

First of all we went to a village near Mehndiganj and interviewed a 24 years old male character. We met him at his farm but decided to go to his home so that we could get better idea about his livelihood. After interview was done Tom wanted to take his pics. He took few pictures of interviewee at his home but later he wanted to take pics at the place where he works. So we went to his farm again and took few pics. Tom would make him sit, look at his face for a while, change the angle, see the background………. He was a perfect photographer. But interviewee was not happy with all this kind of work. He told me that these foreigners are treating him like a cartoon. But somehow I was able to make him do what Tom and Joseph wanted.

Then we went to a Mushahar community. We were asking for the people who are 24 years old but nobody knew their date of birth. Finally a family said that they have a 24 years old girl so we interviewed her. After interview was done Tom wanted to take pics and did the same thing as he did with last interviewee and again it made her and the community a little bit angry because Tom was looking at her face and telling her to change the pose. Finally first day was over and we came back to home.

Next day I met Tom at Assi Ghat and did a boat ride from Assi ghat to Manikarnika and back. He took a lot of pics and asked me about funeral. After boat ride Tom went to hotel and I came back to home. I met them again at Taj Hotel but they didn’t want to interview anyone today because they were so happy with the last day’s work and decided to stop interviewing people in Varanasi. So they just decided to hang up around the city. Tom still wanted to stay in Varanasi for one more day and do some photography at the Ghats. Mr. Joseph wanted to see the Ghats so I came with him to the Ghats but he wanted to go alone so I left him at Assi ghat and came back to home and started looking for a hotel for Tom. Since it was touristic season all the hotels were packed so I couldn’t get a hotel near the Ghats. After going to more than 15 hotels I found a hotel near Shivala where they had a AC room so finally I booked one room for Tom there.

Next day I went to Dashashwamedh ghat with Tom early morning. I met him at his hotel at 4’o clock. We spent about more than 7 hours there and Tom took a lot of pics along the Dashashwamedh ghat. Today Tom also left to Delhi and my work with Financial Times was over.

London Law Researcher studies Coca-Cola in Mehdiganj

I worked with a Law Researcher from University of London as Assistant and translator. He was interested in legal perspective of Coke issue. He had already lived in India for more than a year therefore he knew a little bit of Hindi but not good enough to interview people. He is president of an NGO called Glocality International that has its office in London and New Delhi. I worked with him for three days in Varanasi.

Tyler was working on some International Law Cases also like he and his friend had sued 7 ministers of China including President and Prime Minister for killing over a million people in Tibet. He said that the case was registered in Spain because no other country was agree to accept a case in their court against Chinese Government .

We interviewed a lot of villagers, Nandlal Master and few government officials including Regional Pollution Control officer, Ground Water Authorities and District Village Committee’s officers. He was very impressed with the way Nandlal and his friends were running movement. Since he had only 3 days and he wanted to interview as much as he could, we spent one night in Lok Samiti’s office to interview Nandlal and his friends.

We had hard time with Regional Pollution Control Officer because he thought that he knew good enough English to talk Tyler therefore never wanted to use me. Tyler had already told him about me but he wanted to talk on his own. Most of the time he did not understand what Tyler was asking about but he was so confident answering. He was trying to hide everything and Tyler always wanted to get as much as he could.

There was a hot talk between Tyler and Officer. Actually Tyler had a voice recorder but he did not ask the officer before using it and finally when he came to know that Tyler was recording everything, they started yelling on us. He was threatening us by taking Police’s name. At last Tyler said that he will sue Pollution Control Department in Supreme Court of India for being corrupt with Coke issue and if Supreme Court finds it true then the Officers will be sent to Jail which made officer more angry.

Finally we came out of office laughing and talking about that creepy officer. It was really funny for me see a PCS officer getting angry on me but could not do anything. District Village Committee Officer was very much interested talking to Tyler. He explained everything he knew about Coke issue and role of Village Committees. He promised us to provide all the documents and support he could. He was first Government officer I had ever met who was really interested talking to people, may be he was interested in talking to a foreigner.