The Series of Funny, Awkward and Confusing Events that Occurred on Nov. 20

My morning in Chennai started the same as the other three mornings. I awoke at 7 am, got ready and expected my continental breakfast to include its regular assortment of idle, sambal, chutney etc. Breakfast included all of these items but this morning it had something a little extra special, a jar of Nutella. I had to laugh and thought ‘I wonder if they bought this Nutella knowing that this foreigner is here to stay (given that it was my 4th  breakfast at the hotel)’.


Fast forward to my morning plans. I arrive at Anna University to meet with someone whom I have never met before. Until this point we had just briefly communicated over WhatsApp. This contact was helping me get access to ground-based precipitation data for my study area. At 9:45, I arrive at the building where we planned to meet. As I stand there smiling as people enter the building, I keep thinking ‘hmm I wonder if that’s who I’m meeting’.

A kind gentleman then asks me to stand a few meters to the right. I’m still in front of my meeting location, just a few meters to the side now. This gentleman looked very similar to my WhatsApp photo of the gentleman I was meeting. So I thought ok, maybe this is my precipitation man. A few minutes pass and he returned to deliver me a hot cup of tea. He walks away once more… and now I’m thinking, ‘How do I ask him if he is who I am meeting?’ because I would feel terrible if he is the person and I just clearly can’t see pictures properly.

My confrontation crisis was averted ten min. later when my contact messaged and said, ‘just upstairs, down in ten’.  I smiled when I read the message thinking 1) ‘wow what kindness for a stranger to just deliver me tea’ and ‘Vicky do better with faces and names here’.

The contact whom I just met, who I now call ‘Thiru’ because the names are just not possible for me to say or spell, was incredibly kind and took me to the location (at 10 am) where I was to find precipitation data: The Ground and Surface Water Resource Center in Chennai. I thought this journey would take ~ 2 hours, but little did I know data acquisition is no small feat here in India. It’s now 6 pm and I just arrived home with no precipitation data. There wasn’t much I could do but laugh and think, ‘Vicky embrace the chaos’. During this chaotic, hunt for precipitation data day, we stopped for tea at one of the shops and when asked, I happily told the others getting tea from the institute about my research. To which, one of the employees replied ‘I can help you in many things, water management and self-realization. I can do many things madam’.

What a day. But in all seriousness, a huge thank you to Thiru for helping me (for an entire day) try and locate rainfall data and facilitate every conversation because I can’t speak Tamil.

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