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Category: Travels (Page 2 of 2)

Maruts on display

Michael J. Neufeld, a curator at the National Air and Space Museum, recently published an article entitled “The Nazi Aerospace Exodus” in the journal History and Technology.1 The article discusses the diffusion of technical knowledge out of Germany after World War II, by means of technical specialists as well as technological artifacts (rockets and planes and such). The most famous example of this movement of knowledge was Wernher von Braun’s V-2 team, although they were just a few of the many specialists who carried German aerospace knowledge around the world.

The former Allied nations of the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union got the first pick of German technical specialists. Later, specialists also traveled to less-developed nations to serve their modernization projects. During the 1950s, for instance, German teams tried to develop military jets in Spain, Argentina, Egypt, and India.

Neufeld observed toward the end of his article that one of the many legacies of the “Nazi aerospace exodus” is German technology on display in museums in countries that received this technology. As an example, the National Air and Space Museum displays a V-2 rocket and an Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter, both of which were captured after the war and shipped to the United States for testing. Neufeld assumed that technology with German heritage must also be on display in the third-world countries that received them.2

At least in the case of India, I can say with certainty that Neufeld was right. When I was in India last summer, I came across two HF-24 Maruts, the indigenous Indian jet fighter that was developed by a joint German and Indian team. (I’ve described the Marut in two earlier blog posts, “Air power in independent India” and “Industrialization, Nehru-style.”) One of these was, not surprisingly, in the Indian Air Force Museum in New Delhi. The museum, located at Palam air field, displays most of the plane types that have flown for the IAF since its inception in 1932. The museum’s HF-24 Marut is in a prominent location in the middle of the main display hangar.

HF-24 in the IAF Museum.

HF-24 in the IAF Museum.

HF-24 in the IAF Museum.

HF-24 in the IAF Museum.

The other Marut I came across last summer was a complete surprise. It was on the campus of Barefoot College, a sustainable development NGO (non-governmental organization) in rural Rajasthan. This Marut was not set up for display purposes only, but as a giant play structure for rural children. A Hindi sign nearby gives a first-person description of the plane’s history; it is signed, “Your faithful friend, Marut.” In the two decades that the jet has been in its present location, children have scrawled and doodled text and designs on top of the original IAF paint scheme. A ladder mounted on the side of the fuselage allows an Indian child (or, in my case, an American grown-up) to climb into the cockpit and pretend to be flying over Rajasthan, blasting Pakistani fighters out of the sky.

HF-24 Marut (tail no. BD843) at Barefoot College.

HF-24 Marut (tail no. BD843) at Barefoot College.

This photo shows the cockpit access ladder, as well as some of the graffiti that has accumulated on the plane.

This photo shows the cockpit access ladder, as well as some of the graffiti that has accumulated on the plane.

Jet fighters: they’re not just for kids anymore!

Jet fighters: they’re not just for kids anymore!

In America, we would never put a retired military plane in a place where children could climb over and inside it. We’re much too protective of our planes—and, to a degree, rightly so. I do think it is important to preserve some of our old technology for future generations to see and perhaps learn from. But I’m also glad to see that the Marut at Barefoot College has been put to some real use, rather than being locked away in a museum or elevated out-of-reach on a pedestal.

  1. Michael J. Neufeld, “The Nazi Aerospace Exodus: Towards a Global, Transnational History,” History and Technology 28:1, 49-67. []
  2. Ibid., 59. []

Sixty-five years of Indian independence

Sixty-five years ago today, India gained independence from the British Empire. Today was the first August 15 that I got to spend in India; I passed it in the city of Jaipur. As a citizen of another nation that celebrates its own independence from Britain, it was interesting to see how Indians celebrated their independence. I missed the morning flag-hoisting at SMS Stadium, but I did get to see some of the decorations around Jaipur. Here are a few of my pictures.

Images of Waste

For a recent graduate seminar about the history of waste and waste management, I had the pleasure of reading the remarkable book Wasting Away, written by Kevin Lynch and edited by Michael Southworth. The book defines waste as anything that is no longer useful for its original intended purpose. Thus it is just as wasteful to hoard things one no longer needs as it is to throw them away. Lynch argues that waste is a natural process and not something to fear. Instead, we should learn to “waste well,” by finding new uses for old things.

The one major shortcoming of Wasting Away, I felt, was the book’s narrow-minded focus on waste in highly-industrialized western societies. “Looking at Waste,” a photo essay by editor Southworth, included one of the book’s few references to the non-western world. The caption to a photo of an Indian woman picking through trash claimed that very little gets wasted in India.

In the following photo essay, I will try to move beyond Southworth’s overgeneralization that there is little waste in India. It is simply untrue that not much is wasted in India; it is true, though, that much of what is wasted is wasted well. I have decided to focus on urban India here. Although urban India is not representative of the majority of the Indian population (seventy percent of the country lives in villages), it invites easier comparison with urban and suburban areas in the West.

For more information on the reuse of trash in India, please see my earlier blog post, “Sweepers and Scavengers.

References:

  • Rathje, William L., and Cullen Murphy. Rubbish!: The Archaeology of Garbage. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992.
  • Lynch, Kevin, and Michael Southworth. Wasting Away. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1990.
  • Sridhar, Kala Seetharam, and A. Vehugopala Reddy. State of Urban Services in India’s Cities: Spending and Financing. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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