Visit to Kannauj 1—Meetings in New Delhi
Visit to Kannauj-- January 1996
Part 1: Meetings in New Delhi
The major focus of this second trip was to study the traditional perfume industry in Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh. This work was due to commence in the latter part of February as that was the time when Mr. Ramakant Harlalka of Bombay and I could conveniently meet to begin our investigations. In order to use my time wisely while in Delhi I had previously made several contacts with individuals, institutions and companies involved with the fragrance industry. The first person I met with was Dr. Maheshwari. His name was suggested to me by Ramakant as being one of the finest scientific researchers on essential oils in India. We had the opportunity to meet at our hotel room one evening early in our stay. It was a rare privilege to speak with someone who had dedicated his life to the study of a subject that has fascinated me for many years. During our discussions on essential oils I became aware of how important a collaborative effort would be on this subject because the type of knowledge he possessed was something altogether different than my own. He was intimately familiar with all the best research on the subject and was able to explain just how complex any true natural oil, how researchers have devised numerous technical tests for purity, how they work to improve methods of cultivation so that a particular plant can reach its optimum production in terms of quantity and quality of essential oil, and many other interesting things. He explained to me how much India had progressed in recent years in terms of providing useful meetings of scientists, researchers, distillers, and growers to discuss how to practically develop the industry so that everyone would benefit. In a couple of short hours he shared with me a tremendous amount of information. His manner of presentation was so quiet and unassuming but I was well aware that here was one of India's treasure houses of knowledge on the subject. Our meeting ended with an invitation to attend the meeting of the northern sector of the Essential Oil Association of India(EOAI) several nights hence.
Attending the meeting of the EOAI was a unique experience for me. I had been invited to arrive at the meeting around 9:00 PM at a famous restaurant about one hours distance from our hotel. I usually go to bed quite early so do be up and about at this time was for me quite different but it is customary in India to have dinner at this hour and I was also eager to meet with the association members, most of who are themselves distillers. My taxi driver made it to our destination on time, even though we were confronted by heavy traffic. The restaurant was a throbbing with activity and I was directed to the room reserved for the EOAI meeting. Again my timing was good as they had completed their business and were getting down to the more congenial task of an Indian banquet. I was introduced to the assemblage by Dr. Maheshwari and within a short time was making friends with the distillers and researchers from various sections of the north including Kashmir. They were all interested in the project and warmly invited me to their respective locations. Many of those present were mint growers who have seen their industry grow to the status of No. 1 producer and supplier of this oil to the world market. Tentative arrangements were made to visit their areas in 1997.
Another important meeting that took place while in New Delhi was with the Dr. R. A. Mashelkar, General Director of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. A significant part of the work being carried on by this government agency is concerned with medicinal and aromatic plants and is being conducted at numerous research centers and laboratories throughout the country. They are striving to develop: 1. Better strains of such crops, 2. More efficient cultivation techniques, 3. Technologies for distilling/extracting these crops which are suitable for small scale farmers, among other things. It was encouraging to see how much importance was being given to this work as over 70% of India's population lives on the land and there needs to be ways and means for them to make a good living while maintaining their rural lifestyles. With an increasing world-wide interest in medicinal an aromatic plants for a wide variety of applications, this work and research should bear rich fruit. In my brief meeting with Dr. Mashelkar, I was able to explain the project I was undertaking in hopes that he might be willing to might give me some suggestions on resources and ways to proceed. He was kind enough to offer his enthusiastic support in the form of access to the various laboratories and research centers throughout the country that were conducting work in my specific field of interest. I was happy to have his approval for the project as it will allow me to keep current with the practical scientific research being done with regards to aromatic plants.
These meetings in New Delhi were both informative and encouraging. I have become increasingly aware that the subject area which I am trying to cover is multi-dimensional and vast in scope. I can only contribute in a modest way to its success and need the help of many others more knowledgeable than I in its various facets. By good fortune I seem to be coming in contact with those people who can contribute in areas that I have little expertise or knowledge. I feel that through such a team effort we can create something that will be of value to people interested in the subject.