Garba Raas in Champaign Urbana

Every year during the period of Navratri, the Indian Association at Urbana Champaign brings the festive vibe with Garba Raas and pooja. Garba is a form of dance that originated in the state of Gujarat, India.

Dancers performing Garba in Gujarat

Dancers performing Garba in Gujarat

It is usually performed for nine nights of Navratri around a centrally lit lamp or a picture or statue of goddess Durga, the feminine form of Divinity. Garba comes from the Sanskrit word Garbha that translates as womb, signifying ‘Source of Life’. Revolving dancers in concentric cycles represent the cycles of life, death, and rebirth with the only thing constant as the goddess, who represents the source of life.

The modern form of Garba is called Dandiya Raas which is traditionally performed by men using a pair of wooden sticks. Nowadays, Garba and Dandiya are merged together, creating a high energy dance form. The origin of the dance is traced back to the legendary myth of the fight between Goddess Durga and mighty demon king Mahishasura—the dance is an homage to their mythical fight. The dance sticks represent the sword and the dance form honors Durga’s victory over the demon.

Men, women and children wear traditional dresses with colorful embroidery and mirrors and dance to the music of the dhol, a type of double-headed drum, and Gujarati folk songs. The women and girls wear chaniya choli, a three piece dress with a colorful embroidered blouse decorated with mirrors, shells, beads and stars, a flared skirt and a long scarf wrapped around in the traditional way. They also adorn themselves with beautiful jewelry. Men wear a top called a kedia and pants known at pyjama, or a dhoti with an oxidized bracelet and a necklace.

The Indian Association of Urbana Champaign strives to provide a common identity for the local Indian community and facilitate cultural, social and educational services and opportunities for cultural integration for people of all ages. They also foster those activities that enhance mutual understanding and appreciation between the Indo-American community and the mainstream American community. They organize Garba and Dandiya Raas usually on the second weekend of Navratri. This year, it was at ‘Brookens Center Urbana Park District’ on Sep 22nd and 29th, Friday and Saturday. I was delighted to be part of the celebration this year. The event began with the opening prayer to Goddess Durga which included lighting the lamp and singing religious songs. The dancers began gathering around the statue of the goddess in concentric circles and started dancing to the Gujarati folk music played by the DJ. There were men, women, children and elderly people, all decked out in beautiful colors. With the soft beats, people started matching each other rhythms and following a pattern. It was amazing to see how they could sync with each other’s movements in an orderly way and generate a beautiful dynamic form.

Dancers forming a circle around the idol. People of all ages participated in the event.

Dancers forming a circle around the idol. People of all ages participated in the event.

 

Traditional Attire

Traditional Attire

Everyone was enjoying the dance form and participated with full spirit. Often women lead the men in the dance. They would clap their hands, step forward and backward, swirl around and move ahead repeating the pattern. Even the elderly were dancing passionately! Apart from the Indian families in attendance, there were a lot of U of I students that excitedly participated in Garba Raas. A lot of those students weren’t part of the Gujarati community, but had come to celebrate the auspicious time of Navratri and to experience the pleasure of this traditional dance form. Experts in Garba including both students and adults, were there to teach to the rhythms of Garba to the uninitiated. Even the newbies were merged into the circles and helped them grow larger and larger. I was keen on learning these fascinating dance steps and was guided well by friends who were skilled at it. Soon I could swing like other dancers and became a part of the concentric formations of dance.

The newbies trying to learn to dance

The newbies trying to learn to dance

After a while, the dancing switched from Garba to Dandiya where people started using sticks, holding one in each hand, and dancing around the idol. I was excited to try the colorful sticks for dancing. There were several smaller groups that began creating their own rhythm with sticks clashing against each other on the beats of the songs. I started dancing with 5 other people, forming pairs within the group and continuously switching partners while dancing with the music. The songs were mostly fast paced now, with swift movements and changing partners after every beat or two. Beads of sweat glistening on almost every dancer’s forehead, the enthusiasm was too high to tire them. Those small groups merged into one big circle that was creating a spiritual energy focused in the center of the hall towards goddess Durga.

Dancing with Dandiya

Dancing with Dandiya

There were refreshments too including lemonade, savory Indian snacks like samosa, and desserts like gulab jamun and kheer. Set up on a table in one corner, whenever the music would get a little low, people would take short breaks and refresh themselves with food, feeling all the more energetic for continuing their dance.

The whole dance session came to end with an elaborate worship ritual of the Goddess Durga by everyone. A priest, with a plate containing flowers, a fruit and an oil lamp offered the Goddess his and everyone else’s devotion and prayer. All of us sang the devotional songs in unison and thanked the goddess for the blissful life, family, friends, and a chance to celebrate these auspicious days with them.

Worshipping the Goddess

Worshipping the Goddess

The celebration brought students, families and even non-native Indians together, irrespective of which part of India or the world are they from. No one identified there as a Gujarati, Bengali or Punjabi, but as someone who came to immerse himself/herself into the magnanimous aura of the Goddess Durga and the power-packed dance form. Many Indian students and family here miss their country, hometown, and families– most especially during Navratri and Diwali.  This is the third year that I am away from home for Navratri and Diwali celebration and this period always makes me wanting to go home but the celebration made me feel as if I have a family here as well that celebrates the festive spirit with such love and warmth. Events and celebrations like these bring us closer and let us form one big family here, away from home, rejoicing in our culture, traditions, and values no matter where we are in the world.

Saloni Chawla
Graduate Teaching Assistant
Department of Landscape Architecture
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

 

References:

 

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“The Fairer Sex” Films, Too

Let us know your favorite female directors and/or movies directed by women in the comments below!

"We Can Do It!" poster for Westinghouse, closely associated with Rosie the Riveter, although not a depiction of the cultural icon itself.

The iconic “We Can Do It!” poster associated with Rosie the Riveter and female empowerment.

We heard you all loud and clear– you loved our March post on female authors from around the world! Just because Women’s History Month is over doesn’t mean we can’t highlight more talented female artists. So this week we bring you a post with films by female directors. And if you need further justification other than “we think it’s an interesting topic”, you may also be interested to know that:

  • April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and gender-based violence is a theme or undercurrent of many international documentary and feature films by women directors,
  • On Tuesday, April 5th from 7:00-9:00 pm the International and Area Studies Library is co-sponsoring a screening of one such film, “India’s Daughter” at the Spurlock Museum,
  • Renowned director Pang Eun-jin will be visiting the University of Illinois to screen two of her films, “The Way Back Home”, and “Perfect Number” on April 25, and 26 respectively.

Without further ado, here are a few fantastic films directed by a selection of talented women from around the world:

India’s Daugther: The Story of Jyoti Singh”  directed by Leslee Udwin (2015)

Tags: India, United Kingdom, Jyoti Singh, rape, documentary

“India’s Daughter” is a harrowing documentary recounting the infamous 2012 gang rape case in New Delhi which resulted in the death of a young girl, Jyoti Singh. Both the incident and the subsequent release of the film sparked protests and international conversations about women’s rights and violence against women. The film was banned from screening in India but has nonetheless had a worldwide impact, having been screened in countries all around the globe. One of the aspects of the film that makes it controversial is that the director, Leslee Udwin, is not a South Asian, and the film cannot help but comment on societal conditions and attitudes that contributed to the incident. The film is also difficult to watch because it gives voice to the rapists, their legal counsel, and the families of the rapists including the wife of one of the rapists who laments her suffering and the suffering of her children while her husband is in jail awaiting possible execution. .

Poster designed by Rachel Storm to advertise the April 5th screening of the film "India's Daughter".

Poster designed by Rachel Storm to advertise the April 5th screening of the film “India’s Daughter”.

More like this: “Saving Face” a documentary on acid attacks in Pakistan by Academy Award-winning Pakistani director Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy; “Salma” a documentary by Kim Longinotto telling the story of a Muslim poet and politician in Tamil Nadu, India who was locked away and confined in her home by her family for many years.

Wadjda” directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour (2014)

Tags: Saudia Arabia, Islam, girls, mothers and daughters, feature films

“Wadjda” is a bittersweet film about a little girl in Saudi Arabia who dreams of owning her own bicycle so she can race with her neighborhood friend. Her mother doesn’t want to buy her the bike because it is not considered a proper toy for girls. Wadjda decides to enter a Koran recitation contest so she can use the prize money to buy the bike herself. Just as Wadjda is running into walls about what is proper for women, we also see her mother struggle with this as her husband searches for a second wife and copes with an overly challenging commute to work as, presumably, she is not allowed to drive herself.  The film manages to find hope and humor in conditions where women’s lives are heavily policed from an early age. The film is all the more remarkable in that it is the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. In an interview with NPR, director Haifaa Al-Mansour recounts the logistical challenges of trying to shoot the film in a country where she is not supposed to be outside or mingling with men to whom she is not related.

More like this: “Blackboards” by Iranian filmmaker Samira Makhmalbaf, a feature film about the lives of Kurdish refugees after the Iran-Iraq war; “The Square” by Egyptian filmmaker Jehane Noujaim on the Arab Spring.

Girlhood” by Celine Sciamma (2015)

Tags: France, black diaspora, coming-of-age films, gangs, adolescence, feature films

“Girlhood” is an intense and complicated film to watch, especially as an American [viewer] in a time when racism and civil rights is dominating the news. While this film is set in France, this film shows the ways in which race and economics are inextricably linked, irrespective, it would seem, of one’s country of origin. These considerations become even more complicated when one realizes that the director, Celine Sciamma, is white. On the one hand, “Girlhood” is supposed to be a coming-of-age story, where race is just one small part of a larger context that focuses on the development of a single character. On the other hand, that character is developing within the context of joining a neighborhood gang, fighting, drugs, prostitution, and an abusive family. These issues are thoughtfully considered in an interview between Celine Sciamma and Ghanaian-born film and culture writer Zeba Blay. Taking aside the complicated racial politics of this story, this film is also worth watching for its beautiful cinematography and the masterful acting by newcomer actress Karidja Toure who plays the lead role of Marieme. Like “Wadjda,” the film finds some hope and humor within a bleak situation, but with an ending that leaves the viewer anxious: one is befuddles as to whether the s/he is seeing a happy ending or the set-up for a tragedy waiting to happen.

More like this: Celine Sciamma has two other coming-of-age films, “Tomboy” and “Water Lilies“. To try out a different French female director, you can also check out the work of Agnes Jaoui. The library has several of her films and if you need a break from serious films on difficult social conditions, you can start with her 2000 comedy, “The Taste of Others“.

Take Care of My Cat” by Jae-eun Jeong (2004)

Tags: South Korea, friendship, young women, cats, feature films

“Take Care of My Cat” is a 2004 feature film about a group of friends who struggle to maintain their friendship and find their way after graduating high school in South Korea. One of the five girls, Hae-joo moves out of their smaller city of Inchon to try to make a new life in the more glamorous capital city, Seoul. Her success and ambition alienate her from other friends, most especially Ji-young. Ji-young is trapped by an impoverished home situation and has dreams that feel unattainable and hopeless. Trapped in between these two is Tae-hee who has both ambition and a difficult home situation. Tae-hee ends up in a place where she must choose between her two friends and in doing so choose a vision for her future. Observing the ways in which particular cultural conditions in South Korea impacted the girls’ choices and behavior was compelling while also considering the ways in which their struggles are universal. For example, Ji-young was unable to get a job she had applied for because she didn’t have an immediate relative to vouch for her, a custom that is largely irrelevant in the United States. Like women all over the world, for these girls becoming independent requires tough choices and unexpected development that can transform their personalities and values.

More like this: If you’re looking for another Korean film but would like to learn about North Korea, check out Yang Yonghi’s documentary “Dear Pyongyang“. For something completely different but still from East Asia, check out Joan Chen’s film “Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl“.

Be sure to comment below letting us know what films you’d recommend that are directed by women or featuring them in lead roles. And be sure to like our Facebook page for more posts like these.

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“Sari, Not Sorry”: Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation

The author acknowledges that the pun-intended title originates with Tanya Rawal’s “Saree, Not Sorry.”

Cultural appropriation was in the headlines (again) late this January when Coldplay and Beyoncé released a divisive music video, “Hymn for the Weekend”. The video was set in stereotypical, exotic India complete with peacocks, temples, yogis, Hindu gods, poverty, saris, glittering nose rings, and more. Oh, and of course people throwing around colored powder because if you believe the stereotypes, Holi (the iconic spring festival of colors) is a daily occurrence in India.

What exactly is cultural appropriation? Scholar and philosopher James Young defines it as a phenomenon in which “Members of one culture (I will call them outsiders) take for their own, or for their own use, items produced by a member or members of another culture (call them insiders)”, in his book Cultural Appropriation in the Arts. Importantly, this typically involves a dominant cultural group exploiting the culture of less privileged groups—i.e. when an American pop star wears a bindi and is deemed “fashionable” or “worldly” but experiences less or none of the historical discrimination or systemic oppression associated with being part of a minority group or having origins in much of the Global South. Frequently, there is a thin and fragile line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. Personally, as a Jewish woman who is a South Asian Studies specialist, who also studies Middle Eastern and West African dance, I have regularly had to confront this issue. I have had to ask myself whether it is appropriate to use face paint in an African dance performance, or if I can get away with wearing a beloved salwar kameez (traditional South Asian outfit consisting of pants and a tunic) to work. While I struggle to make respectful decisions, I imagine that sometimes I get it wrong, which is why it has been so important to educate myself on the topic and be receptive to the experiences of and feedback from people with different cultural backgrounds.

Me wearing a salwar kameez to attend an Indian cultural function on campus.

The author dressed in a salwar kameez en route to attend an Indian cultural function on the Illinois campus.

Regarding the Coldplay video, there has been plenty of intelligent writing already published on the internet! The Times of India had several articles on the topic; National Public Radio talked about itThe Guardian wrote about it; and even the BBC had a say. One of the most thought-provoking takes I have read is author Kavitha Rajagopalan’s opinion article in The Observer. Rajagopalan takes the cultural appropriation critique a step further by asserting that the more insidious problem of this video is that it presents India as an exclusively Hindu country. In fact, India has an extremely ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse population that is omitted from the music video’s narrative. However, not everyone was upset by the video. Among many others, a column in The Hindu newspaper gave an alternative viewpoint saying that it “shows healthy appreciation for Indian culture, peppered with the idea of India as seen in the Western world”

Just Google “Coldplay” and you’ll see that “Coldplay cultural appropriation” is one of the top suggestions.

A screenshot of a Google search for “Coldplay” with a suggested search of “coldplay cultural appropriation” as the top suggestions.

Coldplay and Beyoncé are not alone in drawing ire from the Indian community And importantly, cultural appropriation is not just a South Asian problem. These artists are merely the newest members of a popular culture club that regularly references minority and traditionally “othered” groups to boost sales, boasting members such as Gwen Stefani, Miley Cyrus, Iggy Azalea, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Madonna, Taylor Swift, Paul Simon, and Katy Perry. A complete list might exhaust you.

Image grabbed from Twitter at: http://tinyurl.com/katyperrycatw

An image of Katy Perry dressed as an ancient Egyptian queen, a geisha, and co-opting a popular African-American hairstyle. Image borrowed from Twitter at: http://tinyurl.com/katyperrycatw

Clearly cultural appropriation is a complex and sensitive issue. Here are some library and campus resources that will help you to frame your perspectives on the topic:

  1. The Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations (OIIR): As stated on the OIIR website, this is a great campus resource that “seeks to improve campus climate by providing transformative learning experiences to the Illinois community that result in an appreciation for diversity and cross-cultural engagement”. This office holds workshops and lectures on the topic of cultural appropriation. Follow the OIIR calendar here.
  2. Orientalism: Discussions of cultural appropriation often refer back to this classic 1978 text written by literary theorist Edward Said. This is not an easy text to read, but it is a must read for understanding colonialism, cultural studies, and many of the humanities’ disciplines.
  3. Cultural Appropriation and the Arts: “A philosopher undertakes a systematic investigation of the moral and aesthetic issues to which cultural appropriation gives rise. .. Questions considered include: “Can cultural appropriation result in the production of aesthetically successful works of art?” and “Is cultural appropriation in the arts morally objectionable?” (Our library catalog).
  4. The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation: This book anthology “undertakes a comprehensive and systematic investigation of the moral and aesthetic questions that arise from the practice of cultural appropriation. It explores cultural appropriation in a wide variety of contexts, among them the arts and archaeology, museums, and religion” (Our library catalog).
  5. Who Owns Culture?: Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law: This e-book “offers the first comprehensive analysis of cultural authorship and appropriation within American law. From indigenous art to Linux, Susan Scafidi takes the reader on a tour of the no-man’s-land between law and culture, pausing to ask what prompts us to offer legal protection to works of literature, but not folklore? What does it mean for a creation to belong to a community, especially a diffuse or fractured one? Can we strike a balance between affiliative ownership and a creative commons? And is our national culture the product of Yankee ingenuity or cultural kleptomania? Providing new insights to communal authorship, cultural appropriation, intellectual property law, and the formation of American culture, this innovative and accessible guide greatly enriches future legal understanding of cultural production” (Our library catalog).
  6. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization: “In this bold look at the cultural effects of a shrinking world, leading cultural theorist Arjun Appadurai provides fresh ways of looking at popular consumption patterns, debates about multiculturalism, and ethnic violence in a broad global perspective” (Our library catalog).
  7. Soul Thieves: The Appropriation and Misrepresentation of African American Popular Culture: This work “Considers the misappropriation of African American popular culture through various genres, largely Hip Hop, to argue that while such cultural creations have the potential to be healing agents, they are still exploited -often with the complicity of African Americans- for commercial purposes and to maintain white ruling class hegemony” (Our library catalog).
  8. Selling the Indian: Commercializing & Appropriating American Indian Cultures: “For more than a hundred years, outsiders enamored of the perceived strengths of American Indian cultures have appropriated and distorted elements of them for their own purposes—more often than not ignoring the impact of the process on the Indians themselves. This book contains eight original contributions that consider the selling of American Indian culture and how it affects the Native community. It goes beyond studies of “white shamanism” to focus on commercial ventures, challenging readers to reconsider how Indian cultures have been commercialized in the twentieth century” (Our library catalog).

Here is a bonus non-library resource! If you’re trying to decide whether a fashion choice is cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation, check out this eminently readable and illustrated style guide to help you make a respectful decision. For more posts like these, be sure to follow the International & Area Studies Library’s Facebook page where we publish new posts for Glocal Notes every week of the semester.

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Buying Trips from Urbana to Bangladesh

Ever wonder how the shelves and stacks get populated with just the materials you need for your research? Here’s a look into a buying trip recently made by our very own South Asian Studies Librarian, Mara Thacker. She was one of the fist to participate in the University Library’s pilot program designed to allow librarians to travel overseas, seek relationships with vendors, and purchase materials to develop our collections here in Urbana-Champaign. This Q & A session reveals how we curate our library materials to better serve you. A special thanks goes out to the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies whose dedication to our library and regular support also made this project possible.

What is a buying trip?

Buying trips are exactly what they sound like—a trip, often overseas, for the purpose of purchasing books, films, and other materials for the library. Not all buying trips result in an immediate purchase but instead lay groundwork for a future acquisition or for a partnership to digitize materials so our community can access them.

Are all library workers able to go on buying trees?

Any library worker whose job responsibilities include collection development (in plainer language—buying books and other library resources) is eligible to go on a trip. These trips usually are targeting unique international materials which does exclude people who only buy materials from the U.S. At this point, mostly International and Area Studies Library faculty have taken advantage of the Library’s pilot program to fund buying trips, but the task force that is managing the pilot funding program is actively inviting other subject specialists with an interest in purchasing international materials to apply.

Where did this trip take you? How do you select what sites you want to visit?

In my most recent buying trip, I went to Delhi, Kolkata (Calcutta), and Bengaluru in India, and Dhaka, Bangladesh. I selected these sites based on a few factors. Delhi and Kolkata both had large book fairs that I planned to attend, but in addition to that, Delhi had two major vendors that I wanted to meet with, and Kolkata is the largest center for Bengali language publishing. Since Bengali language materials were one of collecting priorities, I also chose to go to Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was important to me to visit a South Asian country other than India because my subject specialization covers seven countries in total and I have been on five trips to India but not a single trip to one of the others. I later found out that I was the first U.S.-based librarian to visit Bangladesh for a buying trip in a long time so I’m really glad I chose to go there. Finally, I chose to visit Bengaluru because I had been in contact with a comic collector there who I wanted to meet with.

The crowd at the very popular Ekushey Boi Mela book fair in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

This photo gives you an idea of the crowd at the very popular Ekushey Boi Mela book fair in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Are all buying trips international?

For the purposes of the pilot funding program, yes.

Can’t you just buy materials online?

While it’s true that many materials are available online, not everything is easy to find online. Some international vendors are better than others in terms of having complete, easy-to-search websites. To illustrate my point, take the case of the comic collector in Bengaluru. I had been chatting with him over email off and on for more than a year but he was either unable or unwilling to give me a complete picture of all of his materials and how much he would charge for them. When I met with him, it turned out he had a lot more than I had been led to believe—much more than I could ever hope to buy in one trip! In the course of our conversation, he revealed that he had been reluctant to sell to me before because he didn’t know how credible our institution was or whether or not we would take proper care of the comics. Comics are his passion and he did not want the materials damaged, resold or thrown into some dusty corner. I explained to him my vision for the University of Illinois to have the most comprehensive comic collection in North America including rare titles that would be preserved in our Rare Books & Manuscripts Library. In the end, not only did I buy a pile of out-of-print Indrajal comics from him, he has now agreed to be a vendor and to sell to us directly. That said, I imagine I will want to visit him again in the future because he has piles and piles of comics, many of which are not cataloged. I’d like a few more days to sort through them and find some gems.

Book seller at Howrah Junction train station in Kolkata

Bookseller at Howrah Junction train station in Kolkata. These small stalls at transportation hubs in India are some of the only places where you can find vernacular language pulp fiction novels.

What’s your budget for buying library materials? Do you go with a list in mind? Are there items that are “high priority” (censored items, rare items, limited publications, etc.)?

These trips are generally meant to target materials that are difficult to acquire through normal collection channels, though the difficulty could range from “Oh, I didn’t know this existed” to “Only one copy exists in the entire world”. The challenge is that if materials are really rare and do not already have a record in the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), they are going to require original cataloging and if they are fragile, they will require special processing. This can be expensive and time consuming and absolutely requires advance planning with technical services and cataloging.

Prior to leaving on the trip, I emailed the UIUC faculty working in and on South Asian Studies to solicit both specific requests as well as general topical requests. I compiled these along with my own ideas into a list of collecting priorities and I printed out copies to take during the trip. I also emailed the list in advance to a few of the larger vendors who I had prescheduled meetings with. One special area I was targeting was comics for the South Asian comic collection. The comic collection really serves to distinguish our South Asian collection from other such collections and is an important contribution to the national collection. Right now, vendor coverage of South Asian comics is somewhat spotty so it takes a bit more work to build up these resources.

World Comics India booth at the book fair in New Delhi

Mara Thacker at the World Comics India booth at the book fair in New Delhi. The orange bag behind my chair is full of purchases to send back to the library!

Typically, the budget to purchase materials on a buying trip is the same as a subject specialist’s regular collections budget. However, on this last trip, the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (CSAMES) had written into a grant proposal some funding to acquire language learning materials for South Asian languages including Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit and Bengali. Altogether I budgeted around $6000 for materials purchases and shipping, half of which was from the CSAMES grant and the other half of which came from my regular collections budget.

How do you get the items safely back to the States?

I usually allocate roughly 30% of my budget for shipping the items back. International shipping can be complicated, so, on my last buying trip, I had one major vendor, D.K. Agencies, as well as the Library of Congress offices in Dhaka and Delhi office help. I carried back a few items in my luggage, but for the most part I try to avoid that so I can travel light as I’m moving between several cities in a short amount of time.

Are there any obstacles or difficulties the layperson might not know about in regard to buying trips?

Of course there are predictable challenges like paying for things in an economy where credit cards aren’t always accepted, spotty wifi connections, and the fear of a major digestive incident. Then there are less predictable things like political demonstrations, transportation strikes, and run-ins with street animals. True story: On my first ever buying trip, I got bitten by a street dog and had to get a rabies treatment in an Indian hospital!

One challenge that may be surprising to our readers is that finding a balance between work and pleasure while on these trips is a challenge. At home, we usually work 40 hours a week and have time off on the weekends, but when on a buying trip, one is constantly aware that the university is paying a good deal of expenses to support the trip and there is a self-imposed pressure to always be on duty.

Fortunately, being in India is a treat and the locale made the work activities extra fun. Attending a literature festival or book fair is probably something I would choose to do in my spare time anyway because I’m a bibliophile. But, I did do a few personal things for myself while there. For example, in Bengaluru, my friend Kunal took me on a vintage motorcycle ride to see the largest air show in Asia and I spent a few hours one evening trying to track down a restaurant called Gulati’s that I was told had some of the best butter chicken in India! Outside of those adventures, I worked over 40 hours a week because after a full day of visiting shops, publishers, and vendors, I would continue checking catalogs, respond to emails, take documentation of the day’s activities and purchases, and plan the next day’s schedule.

Vintrage Royal Enfield motorcycle.

Headed out to the air show with Kunal on a vintage Royal Enfield motorcycle!

Where do you want to go next?

I was really set on returning to Bangladesh but as the security situation there grows steadily worse, including three murders of secular bloggers in less than a year, I’m not sure if it will be possible in the immediate future. I’d like to visit Sri Lanka because I’ve never been and I’d like to get some Sri Lankan comics for the collection and make contacts there. I’d also like to go to South India which is one of my favorite places on earth and also happens to have some major popular culture production . Including these places would make for a compelling buying trip application because they would expand my network into other South Asian countries, and therefore expand my reach in the services I can provide to students looking to do research in South Asia. The comic collection is also an important collection both in terms of contributing to the national collection and also just in terms of distinguishing our local collection, so targeting places to get unique acquisitions for that collection is helpful.

How can U of I community members find out more about library workers’ buying trips?

Though buying trips are just a small fraction of the international work done by UIUC librarians, they are included in this map we have been developing that shows where all our librarians have traveled for work. My recent buying trip to South Asia is included as well as my colleagues’ buying trips to Togo, China, and Cuba. The public can also find out more about these trips by following the International and Area Studies (IAS) Library’s Facebook page and Glocal Notes blog. There will also be a library exhibit next fall about these trips to be announced on our social media accounts. If you want to read more about my last trip, see the forthcoming column in the journal International Information & Library Review. We’ll be sure to share link once it is live.

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