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The Bharuch diary part 4: site daze

Posted on: Jan 30, 2013

The arrival of the ex-seniors did have one positive effect. Everyone left for the site earlier and stayed there longer. To be fair though, not all of them were insufferable. There were some who genuinely helped us out. They did take our case, but it always ended up in a joke. The next few days though, I spent most of my time playing a cross between hide-and-seek and scavenger hunt. We read through most of the stuff in the first two days and realized that we needed more hard data before we could use it in any way. So we used to leave as early as possible and walk all over the town trying to find the oldest materials used, locating primary nodes that were no longer in existence, meeting up with people who could tell us about Bharuch from their time as kids and other such activities. In addition, Divya would give us some or the other work that involved going around the site correcting the Development Plan and making notes on the changes in the activities during the course of the day.

The first barrier that we seemed to encounter was that of language. Neither Ritinha nor I could speak Gujarati. And yet the important information we needed was from the older people. And most of them didn't even know proper Hindi let alone English. In that case Ritinha was more at a disadvantage than me since she spoke only in English and her Hindi was very rusty. It was actually a hard task just to communicate and most of our time went into searching for people who could translate for us. This exercise increased my people skills tremendously, though. By the end of it, I was confident I could find any information I wanted in any part of the world. Payal fared much better than any of us. Not only did she speak Gujarati, she could also gauge peoples' emotions. She could literally open people up and make them tell us their life stories.

One day, we were all split up and given varied tasks. I found mine very interesting. I was supposed to walk around the whole site and mark which structures were influenced from which specific building typologies. At first I couldn't distinguish between different structures, let alone the typologies but Divya told me to look out for specific symbols used in the decoration or some aesthetic differences used in the construction methods. It took me the whole day to mark everything on that map (and correct it in the process). When I made my way back to our 'food courtyard' to report back to Divya, our ex-analysis head was already sitting there. And even though my work was correct, I was sent back to recheck the whole thing and click photos as proof that I'd been there (apparently you can't trust the first-years)!

The next day, I went with Payal to visit some places off the site that had some valuable information on the formation of the town. It was an awesome morning where we went all over the place sketching construction details and trying to figure out where else we had seen them in the town. We were simultaneously recording the activities going on in other clusters to see how they matched or differed from our own and also how they had shaped the place. That same day we joined one of the site teams led by a second-year named Pratik Dhanmer. Not only was he fun to work with, but the pace at which he worked was staggering. It was as though some of the people there had in-built measuring instruments in their heads. They didn't really need to measure stuff manually. They could just make an approximation and it would still be perfect to two decimal places! Those guys were also friends with most of the tea stall vendors and shop keepers in the area. This made gathering information much easier and also enjoyable.

New Year's Eve was another unforgettable experience with the team. After dinner that day, everyone finished off their work and gathered in the main hall. There, we had a standup comedy session where everyone participated. The main event though, was Pratik Dhanmer's monologue. His nickname in college was Aurangzeb (Auri in short, the name of one of the more famous Mughal Emperors). He had earned that nickname after rehearsing a monologue from a very famous play. He even went on to mimic most of us in the team! All in all, it was an awesome New Year's Eve.

We kept working at the same pace for the remainder of our stay there. Once again, we (the first-years) had to leave early because we had to go to Rajasthan as a part of our curriculum. Our class had already boarded the train in Mumbai and we had to meet them halfway (at Vadodra station). It seemed like in no time at all we were packing stuff up to leave. No one went easy on anybody just because we were leaving early. We still had the same amount of work to finish before leaving. This time there were two seniors with us while leaving. They were going to travel with us till Vadodra. One of them would see us off at the station while the other would come with us for the 'study tour.'

As we said goodbye to our seniors on site, all of them told us to have fun. After all, the toughest part was after we returned from Rajasthan.

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