Saturday, 28 November 2009

Past, Present, Future

9.07 am, Changi Airport. A 4-hour layover on the way back from Ahmedabad to Penang.

I am now past-president of APSA. I was asked whether I felt satisfied with what I accomplished during my term as President. I said that, honestly, APSA is a conservative organisation. "We" (as in some entrenched individuals) are happy if we hold a successful Congress once every 2 years. And Ahmedabad was extremely successful, on many fronts. The local media gave prominent coverage. I was interviewed twice by the same reporter after she went back and did some more background. And then I had to go to three locations at the conference venue to get my mugshots taken. I signed more than 700 certificates of participation and attendance and appreciation. As usual, people submit papers but don't show up for various reasons. Many just want to get their papers into the proceedings and then plead all sorts of reasons not to show up. Some even pay the conference fees. This year 15 presenters from China could not get visa to India. Sri Lankans also had problems. Mostly it's the applicants' own doing for submitting the visa application late. Out the 150+ papers accepted (15% of the abstracts were rejected), a substantial 118 were presented during the 3 days of conference. Usually we have only 2 days but we allow the local hosts to have creativity. Some people grumble 3 days is too long. But I thought it was necessary because of the number of keynotes for all three days. And I thought the keynotes added value and brought people together. This year the host wanted to give out the certificates like a graduation parade (it was called a valedictory session). But we comprised and I gave out certificates and tokens to 15 best papers. I thought it was an excellent idea on the part of the organisers because I could see the pride on the faces of the recipients for being recognised in front of their peers.

In terms of total participation, it exceeded 500 with the student turn out from all over India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka being very large in numbers. And mind you, these are from the poor countries. Many students took the train for hours to get to Ahmedabad because this was once in a life time opportunity for them to attend an international meeting. Congrats Utpal. Congrats CEPT.

We were very well taken care off by the organisers, including assigning several cars and students to chaperon us around, even for the ladies to go shopping yesterday afternoon after we concluded all the business meetings. The students were fabulous. One student asked me how long I have been teaching. Sneaky, I know where this line of questioning is leading to. I played along. "More than 20 years", I said. After a short pause, the student said, "then you must be 40 to 45 years old". I laughed. I said, forget about how long I have been teaching. Just look at me and guess my age. The student said, based on the face, early thirties. I laughed even louder. I said, "getting colder, but thank you for the compliment". "Don't tell me you are more than 60", she said. Absolutely not.

I have also given up my seat on the GPEAN. I thought Utpal would be able to bring more colour and vigour to the scene. Will I continued to contribute to the global planning education network? (I was asked by several friends). My response is, "we'll see". But I have promised to helm a book effort on planning education world-wide. A two year effort which hope will be presented at the World Planning Schools Congress in Perth, Australia in July 2011.

Mumbai Airport is a mess. A real messy place. To get between the international and domestic terminals, you have to wait for the free shuttle which comes like once every half hour of so. Yesterday we were all queuing and when the bus came, a whole line of people from behind were guided through to the front into the bus. Naturally, that got me irritated so I protested. The young said, "don't worry, the next bus is 2 minutes behind". I got cheesed off and told him that "you can't be a progressive country if you can't even manage a queue". Yah, that was nasty you gotta to remember that some passengers have tight schedules to catch planes. If you are ever in Mumbai, make sure you have at least 3 hours between flights. The amazing thing is that there are endless number of planes on the tarmac. Mumbai is throbbing with activity. Construction is everywhere at the Airport. And the buses and vehicles seems to criss-cross with the planes. It's amazing accidentals don't happen; or perhaps they do? But the new terminal (what that is completed) is great. The immigration counters are endless (I am exaggerating, of course) and well managed and orderly. But their immigration officers behind the counter could do with softening of their image. Perhaps not?

Back for one week rest and then off again to burn some carbon. Next stop Sinaia, Romania. More stories to tell on the misadventures of the globetrotter. But here's the thriller. I booked my ticket online with Singapore Airlines. I could get reasonably cheap ticket to Zurich, about RM5,000+. Then the organisers told me last week that part two of the programme have been postponed to Feb or Mar next year. So, I tried to change the return flight. As it turns out, I have to change the whole trip, including the departure date. I thought that was really stupid for an airline like SIA. I can't keep my original departure dates. But here's the insane part. The price of the ticket has doubled. So, to come back earlier, I would have pay a 100% more. It just doesn't make sense. I could use that extra RM5,000 for instance to have a one-week holiday in Switzerland and still have pocket money. What's wrong with these business?

Some pics from Ahmedabad for your viewing pleasure.

 The APSA Exco 2009-2011. From left Nguyen To Lang (Vietnam), Yukio Nishimura (Japan, Vice-President), Utpal Sharma (President, India), Anthony Yeh (Sec-Gen, Hong Kong), Lee Lik Meng (Past President, Malaysia), Mack Joong Choi (South Korea).

 Me giving the valedictory speech.

At the planning education forum

Prof. Doshi, 80+ young, disciple of Le Corbusier.

 Nihal and Me having ice-cream at Manekchok, pass midnight.

 A stall selling Chinese food.

Keeping a tradition started in Hanoi in 2003 alive - walking the streets of the city in the dead of the night.

Gujarat is a dry state, out of respect for Gandhi (I am told). But the blackmarket for liquor is vibrant. No, we did nothing illegal. A small group of students, facilitated by a security guy (the one on the right) went on a mission to kidnap foreign visitors of GPEAN to get the required tourist liquor license. The students just wouldn't give up. "We are Indians", they said. I like the spirit. So, watch out, the rest of the World. Witness the rise of the next world power.

Mission accomplished.

1 comment:

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