Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Scholar mom

Mom and Dad drafting PhDs (on legal pads and manual typerwriters, mom handwriting each cedilla and umlat in the final manuscript), Sea Island circa 1980.

Tomorrow I'm in Boston for the 3rd annual lecture honoring mom.

This year, the lectureship's brought over a Sir John Boardman, Professor of Classical Archeology and Art at Oxford. His ambitious topic (right up mom's alley) is: "Greeks Going East: Exploring the impact of Classical Greek Art in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, past Persia into Central Asia and north India."


A copy of Mom’s PhD sits on a not-prominent shelf in my library, atop books on Seljuk portals and Ottoman architecture whose spines are familiar from childhood but whose content remain an utter mystery. Needless, maybe, to state here: I never read mom’s thesis (it goes immediately to my bedside stack after I post this though), but its tenor infused the first decade of my life. That caravanserai, madrese, anatolia, alexander the great, persia... are all romantic words to me is mom’s doing.

In 1978 mom and dad – doing unrelated phDs simultaneously - won Fulbrights to do doctoral research: mom's would take her to Turkey's far corners, Dad’s to Worli villages and amongst India’s rural poor.

Lindsey and I were enrolled in school in Ankara for the year but occasionally pulled early, or delivered late, so we could join mom on the road - 3 ladies traveling Anatolian Turkey in a brown Citroen whose magic hydraulic suspension drew crowds wherever we went.

Phd Title page

Thanks from mom to dad, linds, me

Absorbing little of the actual scholarship – neither Linds nor I’d go on to read in ancient Arabic or debunk some Seljuk theory - we did develop a taste for turquoise tiles and a nostalgic familiarity with dirt courtyards, the dank smell of bats (so that the deeper recessed of Angkor Wat felt familiar), the rules of Ramadan and candies of Eid, the color of a poppy field. Mom would photograph with one of the Minoltas slung around her neck (slide and b+w), measure portal widths and carving depths, while Linds and I squatted, or sang what John Denver we knew, or traded with local kids.

C (nostalgic, thankful, inspired)

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