Farming science, a flight and a freak-out

So had I a bit of a wobble yesterday. The stress of nearly being kidnapped, coupled with a hair-raising five-hour drive from Hisar back to Delhi so I could catch a flight to Mumbai (or Bombay, if you insist on being colonial) got to me.

It’s a tad exhausting being on edge for hour after hour, expecting to be smashed into as cars come onto the wrong side of the road as they try to overtake buses which are in the process of trying to overtake lorries.

Almost as bad is the constant fear you’re about to squish someone who has either fallen off the top of an over-crowded bus, randomly wandered into the street, or fallen off their motorcycle (few bikers have licences, or road sense for that matter, and very few wear helmets. Apparently by law men should wear them, but women are exempt because wearing one “would mess up their hair”).


By the time I had nearly missed my flight, had a run-in with a load of security guards with automatic rifles at the airport, landed in Mumbai in a giant electrical storm, survived an attempted swindle by a gang of dodgy men at the taxi rank, got stuck in a traffic jam for two hours and then arrived to my hotel to find the front of it had been demolished, I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. Poor old Sissy Joanne, Mr Geography, Gob de la Wash and Wooster had the joys of trying to calm me down. What people did before Skype, I don’t know.

I’m cross with myself for ending the day on such a rubbish note, because the morning had been really interesting. I’d been taken to Haryana Agricultural University in Hisar, which is one of the largest ag uni’s in Asia. I was shown around by the very lovely Professor Mahajan, who is THE big cheese in animal disease research in India and is also the first Indian I’ve ever seen with blue eyes.

Prof Mahajan does a lot of work with poultry, but he and his team of researchers are also looking at the way diseases the country has problems with – such as TB, foot and mouth and bluetongue – move between species and mutate. They’ve been doing some research with scientists at Pirbright in the UK and they seem to be making a lot of progress in teaching farmers in India about bio-security and reducing disease risk.

What I found most interesting is that Prof Mahajan and the other people at the university are all civil servants. The government funds most of the universities and a big part of their job is to share the findings from their research with farmers – which means holding workshops and making many farm visits throughout the year. That way farmers have very close links to research institutes and regularly get in touch with them to ask for advice.

DEFRA cuts in research spending (albeit not as bad as expected) mean it’s pretty unlikely we’ll ever have a similar system in the UK, but the work Prof Mahajan is doing is really impressive. Maybe once he’s finished teaching people about animal disease safety he could use his skills to teach them a little something about road safety too…

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1 Response to “Farming science, a flight and a freak-out”

  1. Organic duck

    Hi Caroline, keep going, you’re doing fine and keeping us amused at the same time!
    You are packing a lot in, hope you have some rest planned in when you get to Australia.
    Sounds like the university is a bit like UK system 30 years ago when we had all the research centres. I did a mindblowingly boring few weeks work experience at the weed research organisation before it was closed down.
    Take care!