International academic exposures – reminiscence of some funny experiences

Prof N Irabanta Singh *


While serving Manipur University, Canchipur as its faculty member, Life Sciences Department (1984-2015), the present writer got three chances for the International Academic exposures. In this article, he writes reminiscence of some funny experience during his journey to the International academic exposures.

I. Indo-USSR Cultural Exchange Programme of the UGC, New Delhi (1987-1988)

The University Grant Commission had nominated him (Dr. N. Irabanta Singh) under item No. 1 (one) of the Indo-USSR Cultural Exchange Programme for visit to USSR for a period of 2 (two) weeks during the first quarter of April, 1989 to work at the All-Union Institute of Plant Protection, Leningrad, USSR. The commission paid his travel from his place to duty (Manipur University) to Moscow and back.

The host authority provided him hospitality and internal travel as per the provisions of the cultural exchange programme. Accordingly he (Dr. N. Irabanta Singh) left Delhi Airport (Now, Indira Gandhi International Airport Delhi) on 10th April, 1989 (Friday) for Moscow Airport. It was a non-stop flight from Delhi to Moscow which took about 7.00 hours to reach Moscow airport.

The writer reached Moscow airport around 7.30 pm (Indian time). It took about 45 minutes to locate his luggage. So, it was 8.00 pm (Indian time) when he came out of the airport gate and waited for about one hour for the interpreter(s) to pick him up from the airport. The present writer disparately lookout for anybody who come forward to pick him up. After standing for one hour at the gate of the airport he could locate a lady holding a Paper plate Card labelled “Academy of Science”.

He approaches to the lady and introduces himself to her that he is Dr. N. Irabanta Singh from India coming to All-Union Institute of Plant Protection, Leningrad. In the meantime, another smart lady also turned up and joined the previous lady. One of the ladies remarked “we had been waiting for you for the last two hours. Since your name is ended with Singh, we were looking for a person with head gear/turban”. Later the two smart ladies took him for one hour drive and reached guest house of the Academy of Science, Moscow.

They lodged the writer in a room locate at the 28th floor of the guest house. By the time they left him in the room, it was 11.30 pm (Indian Standard Time). It was Friday and the restaurant of the Academy had already closed by 8 pm. The writer spend that night without food. Next day morning (Saturday), he took breakfast in one of the floors of the Academy’s guest house. The menu were plain bread, cheese, omelette and red tea. The same type of menu were supplied for lunch and dinner.

On Saturday around 10 pm (Moscow time) one of the ladies came to pick him up from the room and took him to the train station. The train departed Moscow railway station around 11.30 pm (Moscow time) for the Leningrad railway station. The train compartment was partitioned for two passengers. The co-passenger in his (Dr N Irabanta Singh) compartment was a Russian.

After the train departed from the station the fellow passenger inquired to the writer who he is? (in Russian Language). The writer showed his passport and told to the co-passenger that he is an Indian. The fellow passenger further inquired about the writer’s profession. The present writer drew plant leaf and told him that he is a plant doctor. The writer asked the fellow passenger, “What about you?” He puts his both second fingers into his ears and both palm on his chest and told in Russian that he is human doctor. Both of them travelled comfortably the whole night.

Next morning around 7.00 am the train reached Leningrad railway station. When he gets out of the train compartment, a tall young man was waiting for him. He told to the present writer that he will work for writer as interpreter for two (2) weeks. He took the present writer in a big hotel having restaurant and lodged him in that hotel for about two weeks. Next day morning (Monday) around 8.00 am (Leningrad time), the interpreter came to take the writer in a car to the All-Union Institute of Plant Protection, Leningrad.

It was on hour drive from the hotel. So, during two weeks period, the writer visited 20 laboratories. On 21st April, 1989, the writer delivered a lecture on the topic entitled “Aerobiology and crop diseases in Manipur”. On 24th April, 1989 the writer returned to India.

II. Fourth International Conference on Aerobiology (27-31 August, 1990) at Stockholm, Sweden

The conference was hosted by Dr Siwert Nilsson, President, International Aerobiology Association, in collaboration with Palynology Laboratory, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm.

The present writer left India on 25th August, 1990 from Delhi Airport by Air India flight for Frankfurt airport (German), then from there to Stockholm airport by Scandnavian airline reaching there late night. He spent the night at the airport.

Next morning, on 26th August, 2009 the writer left Stockholm airport to the city by bus (1 hour drive) and rush to underground metrostation and got down to a station mentioned in the guide toposheet. After getting down from the train, the writer came up overground and stood on the footpath and monitored the toposheet supplied to him by the organizer of the conference to locate the youth hostel where he was to lodge for six night 26-31st August, 1990. He was really confused to locate the youth hostel.

After standing with the toposheet for about forty five minutes one passer-by lady approached to the writer and saluted “Good morning, can I help you?” The writer immediately replied “Yes, please”. He told the lady that he was coming from India for attending the 4th International Conference on Aerobiology but will be lodged in a youth hostel located around here.

The lady took the writer to the youth hostel which was about 300 meters distance from the place where he was standing. After reaching the youth hostel, the writer reported to a lady receptionist. The lady completed all formalities of the hostel but permitted to occupy the room after 4.00 pm (local time). It was Sunday, all shops were closed. He was stranded up to 4.00 pm but could locate a playground in the nearby locality. At the corner of the playground luckily one Deli shop (Pan Dukan type) was found open from where the writer bought one bread and one litre pasteurized milk (Amul taja type).

With this food stuff, the spent the day up to 4.00 pm. After 4 pm, the writer occupied the room and met an Indian delegate, Dr Srikant Kulkarni from the Karnataka Agricultural University, Dharward. They stayed together in the same room for five nights (26-31st August, 1990). Next morning (26th August, 1990), inauguration ceremony and scientific sessions were held in a big hotel. In the Scientific session, the writer presented orally a paper entitled “Aerobiology and Epidemiology of rust disease in broad bean in Manipur”. The writer returned to India on 1st September, 1990.

III. The 6th International Weed Science Congress at Hangzhou, China

It was organized by the International Weed Science Society. The present writer and his wife (N Ibempishak Devi) left Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi on 15th June, 2012 (late night) for Hongkong International Airport. And reached there on 16th June, 2012 around 8.00 am (local time) and left Hongkong International Airport around 5 pm (local time) for Hangzhou airport (China) and reached there around 9 pm (local time).

After reaching Hangzhou airport, they (the writer and his wife) managed to shift to exist by wheel chair which helped them to go to shortcut route to reach the exist gate. One lady (airport transit staff) helped them in the process. Prior to departure from India, the writer managed from the Congress organizer to get a label slip written in Chinese language “Take us to New Century Grand Hotel, Hangzhou”. By showing that slip, the cap driver took them to the said hotel.

They stayed in that hotel for 7 (seven) nights and also presented his paper entitled “Invasion of Parthenium hysterophorus L in North East India and its management” in the conference hall of the hotel. During holiday (Sunday) they visited Sanghai city, China from the New Century Grand Hotel, Hangzhou which was about 6 hours drive by car. They spent about three hours at Sanghai city for shopping and site seeing. While returning to Hangzhou from Sanghai city (4pm local time), they stopped at a big station (around 7.00 pm local time) for buying some eatable and tea.

The cap driver bought some boiled food item wrapped with bamboo leaves. He told by body language to buy the said stuff for us too. The writer inquired to the cap driver “what stuff made it from?” Through body language, the cap driver sounded “grunt grunt”. We recognized it must have been made from pork. Being vegetarian by food habit, we (writer and his wife) refused to take that stuff but selected another item (Maggi) and soaked in hot water but really relished.

We reached hotel around 10.00 pm (local time) and spent the night in that hotel. On 23rd June 2012 morning, we left New Century Grand Hotel for Hangzhou airport. From there we left Hangzhou airport for Hong Kong International airport. We stayed 23rd June 2012 night in Hong Kong at a Chinese hotel and next day evening left Hong Kong International Airport for India. We reached Indira Gandhi International airport on 25 June 2012 early morning (3 am Delhi time) and took Delhi – Imphal flight by 11.00 am and reached Imphal airport by 3.00 pm.


The reminiscence for those funny experience during his International academic exposures will remain forever.

* Prof N Irabanta Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is former Professor (Higher Academic Grade)/Life Sciences, and former Dean, School of Life Sciences, Manipur University, Canchipur, and can be contacted at irabanta(DOT)singh(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on December 13, 2016.

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