In Calcutta, simple things can be difficult.

Accessing the High Court still poses a problem. I’ve managed to figure out that if I have my passport, passport copy, a letter of introduction from Fulbright and a University in Calcutta, know a lawyer at the High Court and have the registrar’s and chief justice’s permission then I theoretically will be granted access to the High Court’s Archives—whatever those might be.

But, just getting these letters in order, finding a time to meet with professors and with the lawyer is not nearly as easy as it is in the U.S., where everything, meetings and documents can be handled via email.

Second, in anticipation of sending the codes found in Hyde’s notebooks back to the U.S, I have traveled to the National Library more times than I have wished. Looking at Microfilm, requesting scans (the Reprography/Microfilm department now offers digital scans of microfilm as well as photocopies. Who’s even heard of the word Reprography? Am I spelling it correctly?) getting scans, finding out that the scans I got, my research assistant couldn’t pick up, looking for books, giving up looking for books because they only exist in the west, etc.

Right now I am searching for copies of Hyde’s notebooks from 1775-1776. These years, I believe, contain a passage of Hyde’s shorthand that I believe has been broken 100+ years ago. If I can find that passage, I can compare the code with the translated section and break it (or have it broken) much like the Rosetta Stone. Exciting!

The notebooks, which reside at the Victoria Memorial, are being scanned by the Jadavpur University School of Cultural Texts and Records, and therefore seem to be difficult to access now. The national library’s collections of Hyde’s notebooks begin in 1778 (the National Library has only microfilm copies, not the originals), as I unfortunately discovered. I fear that the years 1775-1776 fall into the so called “brittle sections” that I’ve heard talk about. That means things could get really complex…

Though I knew it before, I am often reminded that research in India is not easy.