April 22, 1978: Woke up sweaty at 06:30; read newspaper including announcement of visit here in Cochin by former (and future) Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
for a public address at 19:00 at Maharaja's College Grounds; 3,000 police detailed for duty.
Also a visit to Trivandrum - one of my next stops - from April 22-27 by President Sanjiva Reddy.
Looking out across the courtyard I saw a beautiful woman who appeared modest but disappeared with a pirouette into a dark doorway. Cool. Wrote my journal as well as letters to Dr. Simpson of Capetown, my parents, and wife Mercia + kids including sketches of balloon sails and the goldmine shaft through which I had descended into the bowels of the earth a mere two or three days ago although it seemed. years.
Then I went to the lobby with my address book and called some of the oceanographers recommended to me by "our" man Jacobs
at KISR (whom I had hired out of NIO in Goa for KISR's mariculture program).
The first one available was Dr E.G. Silas of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, who explained to the operator
how I had to get to his lab. We ordered a motor rickshaw and I decided to go to the Post Office first.
After a long wait and slow service to send home a package of maps, brochures and samples I had collected
in Mauritius, the Seychelles and India (which cost R 124), I found that the rickshaw-man had disappeared.
Another one took me to an old building which was the H.Q. of CMFRI where everyone greeted me excitedly. In the Conference Room I met the dynamic Dr.Silas,
who had been at Scripps in 1955. They had started in 1947, and now had 12 research centers, 28 field centers and a staff of 950 persons.
15 to 20 of India's 105 Universities recognized their Ph.D.program. Their largest research vessel measured 107 ft, but they also used NIO's ship.|
He urged me to visit the University of Cochin and meet Dean C.V. Kurian and their marine geologist, Dr. Kurian Jacobs (name-sharing?)
The Arabian Sea is very productive and India has some 13,000 fishing boats between 28 and 36 ft long engaged in purse-seining;
Several hundred mechanized vessels of 17m and 22m have been added lately (note his shift in measurement units).
Although they claim a 200 mi economic zone, they are prepared for international cooperation.
He also called in Dr. A.V.S. Murty, Physical Oceanographer, and Dr.P.V.R. Nair, BioProductivity and Pollution Expert. India's major pollutant is the African Hyacinth, Salivinia sp. with a high Si-content, clogging the waterways. I suggested considering dugongs which had been used in Thailand. India has a Central Water Pollution Board and an advisory National Environmental Agency (?). Their two vessels were in dock but they invited me to visit their shrimp fieldstation in Narakkad on April 26. In turn, I was asked to mail certain papers I mentioned, including syllabi and info on artificial upwelling. They then took me to their lab and assigned me a technician to weigh my tar pollution samples. Since he worked very slowly, I wrote up my notes sitting there dressed in shorts and very shabby Seychelles shirt (note allitteration) till lunch time when they took me to an automated balance which, however, could not weigh more than 100 g.; so they gave me a driver to a Government Vegetarian Restaurant where I had a good meal eating by hand and several glasses of ice water. I walked back and continued weighing, received a new load of brochures from Dr. Silas. Some stats showed that Kerala rated first and produced 35% , or 50,000 tons per year of shrimps. Note that this concerned the year of 1978 and earlier. Just this year, a major CMFRI publication details some 20 years of Indian fish landings by type, state, season, etc., from which I compiled the 2004 "highlights" in the two figures to follow:
After farewells, I walked all the way back to the Grand Hotel, where I arrived by 15:00 to order a cold beer and
watch from the verandah the numerous buses and trucks
bringing the Congress Party's audience for the ex/future Prime Minister's speech (recall that Kerala was communist!)
Hundreds of flags and banners and shouts of "Indira Gandhi zindabad - Jay Jay, India !!"
I witnessed crowds, chiefly consisting of men streaming in one direction; then it appeared that the P.M. followed another route so they all streamed back. Later on I heard that there had been a lathi-charge by the police and that 200 got wounded in communist demonstrations ("black flaggers") and leftish Janata(?) party members.
One hundred thousand to 300,000 people were expected that evening, so I took a nap first, only to be waken up by a refreshing rainstorm, which fortunately ended before the 7 pm meeting. I walked to the stadium witnesssing the hundreds of police in skirt-like shorts and the mustachioed commissary with bulging belly, countless busses and many vendors; the fences, including special ones to protect women.
It was a lively affair, with an hour long of screaming politicians/agitators till slowly some order ensued and people squatted down using bamboo sticks and flags to force people in front to sit down. Finally, Indira appeared and gave her speech, in English, a few sentences at a time which were then translated by a swift speaking excitable lady-translator. She complained about atrocities, riots, previous bad politics and policies, rats that walked away ...
I was not very impressed and half-way through a mass exodus ensued with loud shouts. Indira started to stutter and
the translating job was taken over by a man (Mr. Thomas?) who added items of his own.
Around 21:00 I slowly walked back, surprised about the number and relative discipline of the remaining people - it seemed I was the only foreigner present and yet no one caused me any problem. I walked back to the hotel, avoiding the dirty gutters, saw numerous swastika signs, had a gin and tonic and went to bed without writing up my journal.