July 21, 1961 – Galbraith, Nehru, and living amid contrasts (Gene)

Friday, 21 July, 1961

Dear Naomi and Sam:

Your letter arrived some time ago and I know Anita has written to you since then.

The weather continues hot, damp and muggy through the monsoon season. As we’ve mentioned in earlier letters, the monsoon in Delhi means occasional heavy showers, often separated by many days, for a total of some 26 inches in about two and a half months. The main effect here is to add humidity to what was the dry heat from before. The other day, for example, the temperature was in the high 90s and the humidity was 100% on a clear, sunny day. Actually, this is not too uncomfortable, though it might sound so.* Dress is quite informal – at work we wear summer light trousers and usually a bush shirt which hangs outside, and no tie. If you go out in the evening the dress is the same.

The only time I’ve worn a coat is when we went to the bi-weekly “newcomers tea” given by the U.S. Ambassador in his residence. This was on a Sunday afternoon about maybe a week ago – I’ve lost track of the time. There were about fifteen newcomers that afternoon. Anita and I took a rickety cab to their place at 17 Ratendone Road and met Galbraith and his wife. Choice was tea or lemonade and tiny club sandwiches. Galbraith has a wry, penetrating sense of humor and his wife is very attractive and very charming. We’ll probably never see them again.

We haven’t yet had a glance of Nehru, nor of the President of India, Rajendra Prasad. Prasad, by the way, became quite ill last night and was taken to Dr. Sen’s Nursing Home, where Ruthie’s forehead was sutured. (Her cut is now fully healed and the slight scar will be gone in a couple of months. You have to look for it to see it now.) This morning, on the way to work, I saw a tent (square, with open front and a carpet on the ground) had been erected. In it were sitting two army personnel and in front of the tent on the sidewalk had been placed a wooden blackboard with a brief report in English and Hindi of Prasad’s present condition, so the public will have access to changing bulletins. All-India Radio (AIR) no doubt carries the word on all of this, but there must be damn few radios in Delhi. Thousands of people live in thatched huts in the city and hundreds upon hundreds just live under the open sky. I’m getting more accustomed to seeing these communities of four-foot high shacks of straw right next to modern buildings. The contrasts, though, will always be startling. I can look out my office window a the National Institute of Audio-Visual Education, where I am now, and often see herds of brahmin cows, water buffalos and goats being driven by. Just to the right of the Institute is one of these straw villages and hear the road is a well (water pipe with faucet) that services the water needs of the people round-about – a thousand people, I’m told. Here they wash themselves and their clothes, drink, wash their buffalos and carry away water in large brass containers on their heads like pictures of biblical times. Contrast this with barracks-type low-cost housing for government employees and superb residential districts, and it’s striking every time.

I’ve written to Irv telling something about my work schedule and outlooks and I’m sure you will see that, so I won’t go into it again.

As a matter of fact, since I started this letter, Mr. Ahlumalia, Mr. Athalye (the Director) and Mrs. Moos have been in the office and it’s been done a few sentences at a time.

Give my love to Linda and Richie … I’ll try to drop them personal notes at camp … and our best to everyone. I hope Bernie’s wife is making out with the ’49 Plymouth. Tell her it’s a palatial car compared to the cabs and many other motor cars here and that she would be the envy of a million people as she drove it past the bullock carts in Delhi. There are no car inspections here. For all I know, our ’55 Plymouth is still in Bombay, but it’s supposed to arrive here by train some day.

We received notification that our sea freight is on its way, having left NY on July 14, I think. We should get it in another two months, but we’re in no hurry, since we haven’t yet gotten a flat.

Love to Dad and all,

Gene

* (handwritten note added by Anita) – He’s mad. It’s horribly not and we are drenched with sweat when we go out. (Anita)

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