George Immerwahr’s Memoirs

Central America

India may have been the most romantic of the foreign assignments for Jean and me, but it was by no means the earliest.  My Guatemala assignment was in the fall of 1947 and was the earliest for the two of us.  But I went first to Costa Rica without Jean for pre-briefing for the Guatemala assignment. At the time of my Guatemalan assignment I was an actuarial employee of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, so I continued for not quite three months on the U.S. payroll, but my travel expenses were paid by the Guatemalan government.  I had been sponsored by the former U.S. social security actuary W.R. Willamson.

Costa Rica is the most pleasant of the Central American republics and the most free from revolution and political corruption.  I went there in September of 1947 and was greeted at the tiny San Jose airport by Walter Dittel, who had been an actuarial advisor of the Guatemalan Social Security Board.

Walter (note that his first and last names are German) had worked with the Costa Rica census in his youth.  The census results were not published, because the then president of the country found them disappointing and ordered the statistics to be destroyed.  Rather than see them destroyed, young Walter took the statistical tables to his own home and saved them.  When a new president inquired about the unpublished results several years later,  Walter produced them.  The government rewarded him by making him a government statistician and sent him to the University of Michigan to study statistics and actuarial science, so that when I met Walter years later he was the chief statistician and actuary of the Costa Rican government..

In addition to briefing me on the Guatemalan situation, Walter showed me many interesting things about his own country.  He pointed out the beautifully painted wooden wheels on the bullock carts. He took me up to see the crater of the volcanic mountain near San Jose. He showed me the delightful procession which took place each Sunday around the main city park, where the young women walked around the park clockwise and the young men counter-clockwise, and engaged in flirtations as they passed each other.  I became charmed with the country.

Several days later I flew to Guatemala City, the plane touching down at the capital cities of Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras.  Guatemala had a much larger airport.  My host there was Oscar Barahona Streber, a native of Costa Rica who had come to assist the Guatemala government.  Oscar was even more generous in showing me the wonderful sites of his adopted country. We first took a one-day trip to the earlier capital (now called Antigua) which had been mostly destroyed before by an earthquake, and then he took me and his U.S. girl friend to the famous place named Chichicastenango near the shores of Lake Atitlan.  This was a town where the original Mayan Indians had taken over the cathedral built by the conquering Catholics and ran it with their own religious rites.  It was a most interesting experience being in that ancient town.

My work in Guatemala consisted of two important duties.  One was to salvage and reconstitute two pension plans, one for the Guatemalan military and one for the public school teachers.  I tried to perform actuarial valuation of each plan, but these were crude, because the data on personnel covered by the plans showing ages and years of service were in poor shape.  Moreover, the benefit rules were purely drafted.  In the U.S. we are used to defining provisions to conform with our intent. In Guatemala you might have a benefit formula which reads something like 50% of your earnings if you earn under 2,000 and 30% if you earn over 2,000, with the result that a person earning 2,100 would have a smaller benefit than one earning 1,900,  contrary to the intent of the plan.  So my work included re-drafting of many of the plan provisions.

The other duty was to draft provisions for several phases of the government's proposed social security plan. In Guatemala, the need for pension benefits was less critical than for other benefits such as workman's compensation.  In our country these benefits had been established well before the 1930s when our social security act was first enacted, but there the other way around.  Some of the benefit provisions had already been drafted by actuaries and others who had come before me, and further changes were made by persons who came to Guatemala after me.  The entire social security plan was to be administered by an independent board headed by  Prof. Jose Rolz Bennett, and I had many meetings with this board, and I had contact for many later years with Barahona and Rolz Bennett and with Cesar Mesa, the social security physician . Although Jean did not accompany me when I first went to Guatemala, she joined me there later and we had many pleasant experiences there, as she got to see several of the places where I had been.  By the time she arrived, Oscar Barahona's girl friend had returned to the U.S., and Oscar took the two of us into his home, which was a pleasant house attended by a servant and a much more comfortable setting for Jean and me than a hotel would have been.  Altogether I was there for almost three months, and Jean was there for about a month.  Dick was not yet born, and the older boys stayed in Relay under the care of a sitter.

In 1953 the socialist-minded government which had planned Guatemala's social security was overthrown with the connivance of the CIA, and I believe much of the work by myself and several others was wasted.

Our return air trip was via New Orleans, and I remember something about it that was unusual in that planes  are not allowed to do it today.  We flew over the Yucatan peninsula, and the pilot wanted us to see the ancient monuments of Chicun Itza, so he dropped our plane to an elevation of 100 feet or so and slowly encircled the monuments so that we could see them very closely.  We should have had our camera ready.


While both studying and working in the field of population at the Johns Hopkins Public Health School, I was asked by one of the other students if I would join him in analyzing an abortion survey which was then being made for him in his home town in Colombia.  I went there with him in November 1966 and was there for not quite three weeks.  I did not ask Jean to accompany me.  The town was Popayan in the southern part of Colombia, and to get there I had to go in a very small plane from Bogota.  Popayan was not too far north of the Equator, but it was at a high elevation and the weather fairly cold.  I flew there at my own expense, but my friend Alcides Estrada arranged for me to room and board free at the home of his uncle, a local judge.  Popayan was established by the Spanish in the 16th century and had several old beautiful churches.

When I had worked in Guatemala years earlier, I was relatively good in Spanish, having taken a Berlitz course in Spanish in anticipation of the assignment.  But trying to use my Spanish 19 years later and while 19 years older wasn't easy, particularly in a town which U.S. tourists seldom visited.

The data which had been gathered in the survey were quite easy to analyze and they showed that when women have no access to contraception, their abortion rate can be very high.  Here the typical married woman reaching age 35 had already had an average of 6 children and she didn't want any more, so she would choose to have abortions sometimes as often as annually.  Abortions were illegal in Colombia (and probably still are) and were performed by women abortionists who had a fair amount of skill, so that fatalities rarely occurred. Yet several women who had had abortions were at that very time in the hospital, and I interviewed some of these women.  The stories they told have stayed with me.

One thing I learned was that some of the local Catholic priests who worked with the women in their parishes were so concerned about the frequency of abortions that they spoke in favor of contraception which their own church opposed.  I became acquainted with one local priest (whose English was far better than my Spanish) and he was so shocked to learn about the abortions that he was very much for contraception, telling me that while he preferred the rhythm method over other birth control, still any method was preferable to abortions. Contraception had become legalized in Colombia, but in this area very few couples knew about it.

A rather unusual event occurred in Popayan while I was there.  Like most fine homes in Popayan, the home where I was staying was built around an open-air patio, and none of the rooms in the house had windows. One night while I was staying there, I woke to the sound of great excitement in the area - shouting, pistol shots, etc. I couldn't look outside to see what was going on, and I suspected that it was a revolution, as Colombia had recently experienced a "violencia."  But I also realized that nobody else among the 6 or 8 persons in the household was stirring, which surprised me because the outside noise was very great.  I was sure that there must be trouble, but I couldn't understand what it could be.  I just had to lie awake.

But eventually, possibly at 2 A.M., the noise subsided and I heard a key inserted in the outside door and several people come in and quietly go to their rooms.  When breakfast time came, I learned that a Popayan girl had won the national beauty contest in a distant city, and when the news reached Popayan later that evening, the whole town had taken to the streets to celebrate.  A few days later, the beauty queen herself returned home, and this time there was a big daytime celebration, even though it was raining..

Anyhow, I returned to Johns Hopkins knowing a lot more about my subject than I had known before.  Those who oppose contraception or who deprive women of it, should know that they are promoting abortion.  The staff back at Johns Hopkins were interested in learning of my experience.


In October or November of 1967 Johns Hopkins itself asked me to go to Nigeria to salvage a survey project that the school had sponsored, and of course this time Hopkins paid all my expenses.  Jean did not go with me. Nigeria was in the midst of a serious civil war, but my assignment was only to the capital city of Lagos, where there was no fighting at the time, though there were blackouts every night.

The survey covered health events of a large sample of the Lagos population.  It had been conducted largely by local personnel and the collected data were on punch cards.  I came from Hopkins with a computer tape, so that the data could be transferred from the cards to the tape and carried out that way.  However, there were many things that I had to do before the transfer and these were very difficult and involved a lot of Fortran programming.  The computer was of British make, apparently a fine state-of-the-art computer, but the key-punch machines on which I had to punch out programs were very primitive and not electric-driven.  In addition to all my other difficulties, I would take a long trip each day down to the central telephone company where the computer was housed, sometimes to find that there was no electric power.  Imagine a government telephone building without electric power!

There were several other projects run by fellow-Americans that I was called on to help with while I was there. In addition, there had been a Nigerian student at Johns Hopkins whose relatives were in Lagos and I visited them, and also attended a Christian Science church service a number of times, held in a school house.  I also learned of a demographic center in the city of Ibadan, 50 or more miles from Lagos, and a young woman who was my helper offered to drive me there and back.  Ibadan turned out to be an interesting city to visit, more typically African than Lagos, but when we arrived at the demographic center, we found that none of the staff were there.  We learned that not only the chief of the staff but all his assistants were Ibos, the tribe the majority Yorubas and Hausas were fighting against, and they had all fled to the Ibo area in the southeastern part of Nigeria.  (Years later, when I had an assignment in Ghana in 1980, I met the person who had been the chief demographer in the Ibadan research center.)   On the way back to Lagos, it was getting dark, and we were stopped outside of the city by soldiers who refused to let us proceed.  I didn't relish the thought of spending the whole night in a VW bug with the young woman who was driving me, and I'm sure she didn't want to stay the whole night with me. So she told them I was ill and she was driving me to the hospital.  I made myself look sick, and the lie worked!

When it was time to leave Nigeria and return via London, I was somewhat apprehensive whether I could get through the Nigerian customs bringing out the tape with the survey data.  If I couldn't, my whole visit would be for nothing.  On the way into Nigeria I told the customs officials that it was a music tape, and that lie plus "dash" of several British pounds enabled me to bring it in.  The same deal enabled me to take it out. When I delivered the tape to Hopkins and it was tried out, it was found that the bit-configuration of the tape's records was so different from that of computers in this country that the data made no sense. But since I was able to tell in detail what the initial records on the tape were, the Hopkins computer people were able to "translate" the entire tape and use it.

One other story I should tell is this:  During my weeks in Nigeria I had been housed and fed in a hospital hostel, and the houseboy who took care of my needs kept on asking me to take him with me to the U.S.  He was an Ibo, and possibly scared for his life, as most Ibos had fled Lagos.  But there was nothing I could do for him other than give him some money.  But he asked for my U.S. address, and after I returned home I received letter after letter from him begging me to get him into America.  I may have answered one or two letters, but  there was nothing I could do.  But months later I received a letter from him with a U.S. stamp, saying he was now in the U.S. and would bother me no further.  I never learned how he got here.

The trip to India

Going to India was a of course a major event for Jean and me, and she was with me from beginning to end. I had been told that my first assignment would be in the DTRC, a demographic training and research center in Chembur, a suburb of Bombay, and that we would be housed in Bombay.  A very tall American named Jim Maslowski,whom I had met before, was already at the center and would meet and introduce us.

My assignment was with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), but my direct employer was to be the US Census Bureau, where I knew a number of people, having dealt with Census people years before while working for Social Security.  During the month of September 1968 I had considerable briefing both at the Census Bureau and at USAID, an agency in the U.S. State Department.  The people at Census were the ones who made all the arrangements for our travel and the shipment of our possessions including our VW bug.  We set out about the first of October, 1968, stopping first to meet Don and his boys and changing planes at San Francisco where we met Jean's sisters Frances and Emily. The plane had a lengthy stop at Anchorage, where we were able to get out and walk on the streets where some snow had already fallen.  But our first major stop was to be at Tokyo, where we were to stay for three nights at a hotel where a room had already been reserved for us by Census.  Census had planned stops for us in Tokyo, Taipei (Taiwan), Manila and Bangkok, where we were to consult with various people about family planning in the respective countries.  All this as preparation for the tasks waiting ahead in India.

The hotel in Tokyo had had no word of our coming and tried to find room for us in some other hotel but to no avail, as many conventions were then taking place in Tokyo.  But they suggested that we wait a few hours until after the last plane had come in, as some of their other guests might not arrive. We did so, and walked a few hours  in the brightly lit-up Ginza.  Sure enough, when we got back we were told that we had a room, and we had a good night, though a mild earthquake shook us up a bit just after we awoke. But we were told that there would be no room for us the next two nights.  So we met the various people we had been asked to meet, and one of them was able to arrange for a room at his club the remainder of our stay.

We arrived in Taipei on October 9th and had a room at Mme. Chiang-Kai Shek's Grand Hotel and then went right away to the Ministry of Health which we were told included the family-planning office for Taiwan.  The Ministry people were very polite but told us that we were in the wrong town, that Taipei was the capital of all China and we must go to Taichung, the capital city of the province of Taiwan.  We already knew of course that Chiang pretended to rule all China although he had fled the mainland years earlier, but we almost laughed in the face of the Ministry officials who told us the same story.  But next morning we stored our suitcases in Taipei and took a train to Taichung; it was a beautiful trip to see the well-kept farms that we rode past.

But October 10th was a national holiday in Taiwan (they called it Ten-Ten) so we had a pleasant time in Taichung but didn't get any work done.  But the next day we had a very fruitful visit at the U.S. Population Council's East Asia office, to which the local ministry in Taichung had directed us.  Then we returned to Taipei and boarded the plane on which we had reserved seats to Manila.

In Manila we visited some U.S. official who told us that there wasn't enough family planning going on in the Philippines to talk about, but the big event lay ahead.  We had rented out our house on Winans Way in Baltimore to a family from the Philippines of a doctor who was studying at the John Hopkins Public Health School, which had arranged for the rental, pleading for a reasonable rent for Dr. Flavier and family. They had already come in early September, and as we weren't yet ready to leave, Jean and I kept the master bedroom and gave the Flaviers the rest of the house, and in return they fed us with themselves.  But what we didn't know was that the Flaviers had arranged for a grand reception for us when we arrived in Manila. It was a party to which probably 20 people had been invited, many of them important Filipino people.  It was really wonderful except for one detail. That was when one of the state governors asked me what my job was to be in India, and I replied family planning, when I should have said something like public health.  He angrily told me the quickest I could get out of his country, the better.  The Philippines has resisted the international family-planing drive more than most east Asian countries, probably because of Catholicism.

Our next stop was in Bangkok, where we had a delightful time seeing the showpieces of the city. The city is filled with Buddhist temples and other shrines, and a river flows through it in which we saw the king's boats.  Bangkok has many canals everywhere, and in them various people are rowing small boats in which they are peddling their wares, not only to tourists like ourselves but also to each other.  We made a number of small purchases.  While there, I visited two different colleges where there were demographic projects. One demographer whom I met was Sidney Goldstein of Brown University, a very friendly person whom I saw many times later and with whom I have corresponded.  Over the years, I have been in Bangkok several times, but over the years it has become exceedingly crowded and therefore a far less pleasant place.

And now the final flight on our way to India itself. On that flight, an Indian young man sitting with us told us that he was flying home to visit his parents but would soon return to his U.S. job. He gave us his name and Bombay telephone number and urged  us to phone him in Bombay soon after our arrival.

Jim Maslowski met us at the airport, so tall that I could recognize him above the crowds.  It was night, and he took us in a large U.S. vehicle through the great numbers of Bombay Indians who sleep on the streets, and we arrived at the Taj Mahal Hotel, a very elegant place where we to stay for a few days while our apartment was being furnished for us.

India itself

Just as we had been in Taiwan on a national holiday, Ten Ten, our arrival in India was on a major holiday, Duvali, the festival of lights.  Lights in this case included fireworks, and in fact fireworks are fired off for many Indian holidays, including Christmas, even though those who fire them are not Christians.  So from our window in the Taj Mahal Hotel we experienced a veritable July 4.  Then when we went outdoors we saw the Bombay harbor and just at the edge of the water the famous arch known as the Gateway to India, built years earlier to welcome a visiting British king.

Jean and I learned that first day of a boat ride through across the harbor to an island which had an ancient temple carved out of the rock, called Elefanta.  We met other tourists on the boat, including a Harvard faculty member and his wife, and chatting with them added to our enjoyment.  This time I had my camera and we still have the slides made from photos on the water and at the Elefanta temple.  This temple, like other monuments in India, was carved out of the rock - for example, the stone pillars in front which we saw were what was left after the surrounding stone had been cut away.  Inside we saw statues of the god Shiva and his consort, likewise being what was left when the surrounding stone was cut away.

Next day Jim Maslowski came to take us to our apartment which was in a nine-story building named the Chitrakoot, which was a south Indian name, but none of the north Indians whom we met there knew what it meant.  We still had all the baggage we had carried on our trip from U.S. and we learned that the freight we had shipped, including our VW bug, would arrive within a week.  But the apartment was amply furnished and there was even bedding, all of which was furnished by the nearby U.S. Consulate.  That same day we were taken to visit the Consulate, and the Indian employees were most helpful.  One thing they offered to do was to arrange household help for us, and we learned of the availability of a Christian woman, Paskina, who came to our apartment the next morning and was a wonderful help to us our years in Bombay.

The center at Chembur was closed that day, but Jim drove us - all in a U.S. car with a chauffeur - out to meet the center's Director, Shri Agarwala, who would direct our work while we were there.  He had his own apartment near the center but we didn't meet any of his family at that time.  He offered us drinks, but we declined, though it turned out that on occasions he and Jim would imbibe rather freely together.

And then for the job and my meeting with the staff.  My main counterpart was a south Indian named K. Ventakacharya, usually called Chary, and his helpers Roy and Sinha and Mrs. Abraham.  These were the people with whom I worked mostly while at the center, but I also met other faculty members, some of whom had American PhD's,  Agarwala himself,  and Narayan, Ramachandran, Vaidyanathan.. As I said, my work was mostly with Chary and his helpers, and one of our tasks was to create a population model and to apply to it various simulation factors of probabilities of birth control.  Much of this work was computerized and I will later describe the computer and its operations and my own work with it.

But there was still  ample time to spend with Jean and to witness with her all the wonders of our new world. I remember the wonderful walks we took together, where we looked wide-eyed at the persons, places and things all around us.  For instance, there was a Hindu temple about a mile walk from us which was built out from the shore and into the Arabian Sea, with a narrow walkway leading to it.  As we walked out to the temple, there were on each side of the walkway people of all ages, though mostly male, some with their hands begging, but some merely talking to us or to each other.  Contrary to beliefs of many Americans, beggars were not everywhere, and in fact we found on the streets many Indians of all ages walking, selling their wares, or in the case of children just smiling at us.  There were so many interesting sights.  Often we would see a man playing tunes on a one-string violin, and if we seemed fascinated by what he was playing, he would offer to sell his fiddle and bow for a few rupees. I once made the mistake of buying a fiddle from a street player, but I found I couldn't play it myself, and soon it fell apart

Jean had many pleasant experiences while walking or shopping by herself.  There was a beggar sitting on the sidewalk where she often shopped, and she occasionally dropped him a coin.  He had a crutch beside him on the sidewalk, indicating that he was lame.  But on one occasion when Jean had finished her shopping, she tried to hale a taxi to take her home, but taxi after taxi sped by without stopping for her. Whereupon  her "lame" friend got up and ran into the street to stop a taxi for her.

Our Chitrakoot was about a half mile from a famous intersection called Kemp's Corner.  There was s store named Kemp's after a British merchant who had once owned it, and there were many other buildings and also several different streets converging and a traffic light to tell cars when to stop and go. On my road into the corner, there was always a woman holding a baby and begging from drivers, and it was I suppose an ideal spot for her because the light facing my road was red for minutes at a time.  I seldom gave the woman a coin even though she would put her hand virtually into my face.  I was really disgusted at seeing her, but one day I took a good look at her and realized that the baby was not hers, for he was only about 3 months old and she was obviously about 8 months pregnant.  Also I soon realized that there were several different women at this spot, all holding a borrowed baby about 3 months old and all about 8 months pregnant.

But there were other things of interest at Kemp's Corner.  An excellent Chinese restaurant for one, and you  almost always get an interesting non-Indian meal at an Indian Chinese restaurant.  Also, about the third story in the same building there was a pianist playing European classical piano pieces, and playing so well that we would sometimes stand still below and listen to his playing before going into the restaurant.  Later we learned that this wonderful pianist had flown to UK to play there but was lost when his plane crashed. Talking about Chinese restaurants, they are the only place in India where one can eat pork.  There are plenty of pigs running around in Indian towns (though not in Bombay) but they are all scavengers and nobody of any religion will butcher them.  Chinese restaurants get their pork from a special piggery.

We got to see the entire city of Bombay over the course of our time there. When Sunday came, we wanted to attend church, and we knew from the CS Journal that there was a CS church at 31 Murzpan Road in Fort. At any rate we phoned for a taxi and when he came we gave him the address from the Journal.  He had never heard of Murzpan Road, though he knew that Fort was the downtown business district.  So he headed there and as he approached Fort he would ask pedestrians whether they knew of Murzpan Road, but none did.  So finally he asked us just where we wanted to go and we told him the CS church, he exclaimed "the Mary Baker Eddy church" and he knew where it was and took us right there.

It turned out that this was (and still is) a thriving church, with well-attended Sunday service, Sunday School and Wednesday evening meeting.  Everything was done in the correct CS order. Then we began to meet the people who attended it, most of them Indian.  We had heard that an American woman attended, and we met her and learned that she was one of the two CS practitioners, the other being Indian.  We also learned that almost all the Indians who attended the church were members of the ethnic group called Parsis, though we had never heard of Parsis.  More about them later.  But in any event we got a wonderful welcome from the many people attending that Sunday service and they all appeared glad that we would be living in Bombay.  Before long, many of the church members invited us to their homes for dinners, and we were also invited to affairs such as weddings.

After we had been in Bombay for several days, we telephoned the young man who had sat with us on the plane flight from Bangkok to Bombay.  He gave us the news that a marriage had been arranged for him by his parents and the bride's parents, and the wedding was to be at a certain date and he invited us to come, which we did.  The young man and his bride were Hindus, and one thing we remember about the ceremony is that there was a small fire lit in the wedding-room and both groom and bride walked around the fire.  I don't remember that we spoke to the bride, but I was near enough to her that I noticed a lot of pock marks on her hands and forearms, and I guessed that she had some skin problem and I was sorry for her.  But a few days later the young man telephoned us and said that he and his bride would like to meet with us again before going to the U.S., and we met them, not for a meal but for a soft drink, and we learned from them where they would be living in U.S., etc. I also noticed that the bride's skin was entirely clear, and realized that what I had thought were pock marks were really part of her bridal ornamentation.

The Parsis are really a very small part of the Indian population and most of them live in Bombay, and  their ancestors had come from Persia (Iran) centuries earlier.  Many Parsis became prominent in the businesses and professions of India  - the Jews of India they are sometimes called.  They had come to India in order to maintain their own Zoroastrian religion when most Iranians were forced to become Muslims,  Most of them settled in Gujerat, an area north of the present Bombay, and they learned to speak the Gujerati language and many also took Gujerati surnames like Gandhi or Patel, but we noted that some had the first names Cyrus or Darius which were Persian names in the Bible.  When the British established the city of Bombay in the 19th century, Parsis came there for work, learned the English language and got good jobs serving the British in administration and commerce.  Later, many established businesses of their own and became wealthy.  One of our Bombay neighbors, J.R. Tata, was president of Air India.

A famous Parsi scientist named Homi Bhabha was helped by the Tatas in establishing a scientific research center in Colaba near the south end of the Bombay peninsula, called the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). It was there that a fine Honeywell computer was available for our demographic research.  Since I lived much closer to TIFR than any of our center's people, and since I had the use of a car with a driver, it was my job every morning to pick up the output of the computer programs left at TIFR the preceding evening and take them all the way to Chembur. Then in the evening I brought down to TIFR the punch cards for the new programs to be run overnight, which included programs I myself had written.  TIFR became a second office for me, and I enjoyed my contact with the personnel there.  One evening on the way home, I picked up an American-looking guy on foot, dressed like a low-caste Indian in a dhoti, and found that he was on leave from the Princeton faculty, and that his wife was the daughter of a famous Princeton alumnus. I met her and found that she too also dressed like a low-caste Indian.

TIFR was right on the shore of the Arabian Sea, and it had a beautiful campus.  Labor was far cheaper in India than lawn-mowers, and every week or so I would see 20 or more laborers all squatting in a row and cutting the beautiful lawn with hand clippers.  Also the car that took me places was stored at our apartment building overnight rather than at Chembur, and the DTRC driver who lived at Chembur had to take a long train trip every morning down to our place to start driving me, and a long train trip back every evening.  It was less expensive to pay for his many hours of travel (assuming he was paid for his travel time) than to pay for the petrol (gasoline) to drive the car back and forth without me in it.

We had our own car, the VW bug, and a driver Jamie who drove Jean during the day and sometimes drove me evenings.  But each of us drove the VW ourselves, particularly weekends and to church.  When I was driving one Sunday morning on the way to church, the car engine caught fire, possibly from gasoline dripping down onto the generator. Actually, all I knew was that the car had stalled, and I wasn't aware of the fire at the back of the car.  But Jean was aware of it and jumped out and ran in back and with the help of a few Indian men standing by put out the fire by scooping earth onto it.  But then the car was disabled and I don't remember just what we did. Even after the car was repaired, it ran poorly until we brought some new parts for it from Germany on one of our trips between the U.S. and India.

Our Parsi friends whom we had met at the church were wonderfully generous to us, giving us gifts (I still have some of them), inviting us to dinners, weddings, and even to their vacation homes.  The Vakarias had a vacation home high in the mountains at a place called Mahableshwar, perhaps 150 miles from Bombay.

Bombay has annual monsoon rains and winds from June 10 to about September 20, and perhaps 100 inches of rain falls in this 3-month period, but nobody complained about it:  in fact everyone welcomed it because it brought relief from the hot weather and the water shortage which immediately preceded the monsoon.  But Mahableshwar had 300 inches of rain during the same monsoon period, and nobody was there except those who lived there and couldn't get away.  But the Vakarias invited us there several times during the other 9 months of the year.  In fact, we were invited to stay there for Christmas in 1969 even though the Vakarias couldn't be there themselves. Our niece Ruth was then our guest and I still have pictures of the occasion.  John had visited us in Bombay the previous Christmas.

Even though Bombay is a long way from New (or Old) Delhi and also far from Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located, we had been only a couple of months in Bombay when we received our pro-India orientation which included visits to the Embassy in New Delhi and then a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra, 120 miles away.  I sort of remember that an orientation for Jean came first, and later a separate and more official orientation for me which included meetings with the USAID main office in Delhi and a meeting with Ambassador Chester Bowles. I have slides made from photos I took in my orientation and I note that they include other U.S. employees but not Jean.

One of the events I remember well during my early months in Bombay was a large-scale riot which took place in the city, the rioters being members of the Shiv Sena, a faction led by the politician Bal Thackery as a protest over the fact that outsiders - such as Sikhs and south Indians -- had far better jobs in Bombay than the native Marathis. Their military hero Shivaji had fought against the British invaders years ago.  This wouldn't have affected me so much except that it came on a day when I was in charge of a meeting I had organized and was to chair. On that particular day I drove my VW bug to TIFR and then to Chembur and found I could not get through on my usual route where the police were in force and blocked me and shouted "vapas" which meant "go back."   I then tried a different route and then another and finally got through to my meeting, but that night the rioting was even worse and I had to stay with the Maslowskis as I couldn't get home.  This was 34 years ago, but I read that Bal Thackery is still there, leading the Shiv Sena.

Still another event was the coming to Bombay of a person who turned out to be a lifelong friend, Lado Ruzicka.  He was an employee of the UN population office and was assigned to work at DTRC.  Nobody had met him at the airport but I learned that he had arrived at a hotel near Kemp's Corner, so early the next morning I went to meet him and Jean and I invited him to spend the day with us. Lado later became a professor at Australian National University and I sometimes stayed with him in my assignments there.

Most Americans working in India are concerned about their health and particular worried about drinking unboiled water.  We did boil our water in our apartment, but I am sure we did drink a lot of unboiled.  But I did have my own spells of hospitalization.  In my late 50s I found I had to get up often at night, and once when Jean was traveling with Don in Europe I arranged to have a non-emergency prostate operation.  I was a patient in the beautiful Breach Candy Hospital which the British had built for themselves. All the patients had rooms facing the Arabian Sea, and I enjoyed the view, especially while watching the evening sun dipping down below the horizon into the water.  The surgery was successful, and when I came out of the ether, Lado was at my bedside.  But I learned that the surgeon had ordered a blood transfusion for me, and the result of that was that a few weeks later I had hepatitis and was in the hospital for several weeks. 

The move to New Delhi

It was at this time that I learned that my employment in Bombay at the DTRC was terminating, but that I had the option to continue with USAID in New Delhi if I desired.  By the time I had sufficiently recovered from hepatitis, Jean and I decided to leave Bombay and we flew first to Hong Kong and then to Seattle where we stayed for a week or more in a summer home brother Raymond owned on Whidbey Island.  This was in the spring of 1970.  I then went to both Baltimore for a few days and then to Washington, DC, while Jean was busy in Seattle helping Don and his wife EJ, from whom he was separating, to work out their problems. .In Baltimore, my Johns Hopkins boss Carl Taylor was eager to have me back and actually put me back on the payroll for a short time.  But in Washington, it was confirmed that I could be employed by USAID in New Delhi, so about the beginning of July we both went there. 

We were given an elegant apartment in a building which had just been constructed for USAID employees, complete with restaurant, tavern, garages, servant's quarters, swimming pool, tennis courts, bowling alleys and also bus transport to and from our jobs  The apartment was located in the south outskirts of New Delhi, not far from the ancient tower known as the Qtub Minar.  The apartment itself had air-conditioning, heating for winter (Delhi can get down below 40 in January), floor-to-ceiling windows to look out from but not into, some basic furniture, and a well-equipped kitchen.  Jean describes much of this in her delightful book "Driver in my Kitchen" and she also tells there of her hiring of our excellent Muslim servant "Peter" who drove, cooked, cleaned, shopped - all excellently - and the details of our everyday life there.  It was there that so many delightful things happened, the visit of George Jr. and Mark, the Easter egg hunt for Peter's children, the Hopkins-Narangwal conference in Kashmir, etc., all described in Jean's book.

My work was much different, even though to some extent I kept in touch with Chary and the work being done at DTRC in Chembur.  Here I was more involved with actual rather than simulated population events. For example, though the Hindu majority gradually accepted a degree of family planning, Hindu leaders knew that Muslims had larger families and therefore spread fears that the Muslims would soon outnumber Hindus.   I was able to show that with the current birth rates of the two religious communities, Muslims might eventually outnumber the Hindus;  but that would take at least 400 years to happen, and unless both sides greatly reduced their birth rates, India's population would have grown from 600 million to 60 billion. This prediction was published and sent the message that both communities must stop their overbreeding.

Our USAID population office was led by Al Rosenman, a lawyer, and served by other capable people, Indian as well as American.  We also had good support from the U.S. ambassadors Chester Bowles and then Kenneth Keating.. In 1970 and 1971 our services were welcomed by the Indian government, and we also had fine contacts with Indian non-governmental groups such as the Family Planning Association and the organization of Southern Tea Planters who had their own plan for rewarding employees who limit their families.  But this was all to change.

In March of 1971 there was a civil war resulting from an election in which the West Pakistan leaders lost their majority to East Pakistanis.  West Pakistan - today simply known as Pakistan - had always controlled the East group, and the West had always looked down on the East and couldn't imagine losing control.  So the West Pakistan army invaded the East, committing atrocities on civilians and driving many Easterners (some of them Hindus) to seek refuge in India.  The Indian government sympathized with the East and also couldn't properly shelter the refugees from the East, so it eventually sent its army to help the East, and by the end of November there was a full-fledge declared war between the West and India.

The U.S. government had always had closer ties with Pakistan (the West) than with India, partly because India itself had had closer ties to the Soviet Union.  Moreover, at this very time, the Nixon administration was seeking closer ties with mainland China and doing this in part through its friendly relations with Pakistan.  In fact, Henry Kissinger visited China by way of Pakistan (the West) preliminary to Nixon's own China visit.  Some of the media reported a U.S. "tilt to Pakistan" when rather than a tilt it was a full lean. So U.S. had in effect been supporting Pakistan (the West) against India, and this became very embarrassing to all of us working in India, including Ambassador Keating who went to Washington hoping to reverse the tilt,  and failing to do so he asked to be relieved and was then assigned to be Ambassador to Israel.

Starting about December first, there was a full-fledge war between India and Pakistan in which Pakistanis actually bombed places in India, even trying (I was told) to bomb the Taj Mahal.  In Delhi there were blackouts every night, and some Americans were accused of leaving their their lights on to encourage the enemy.  But the war lasted only two weeks and ended in a complete defeat for West Pakistan, and the East became an independent country known as Bangladesh.  The effect on almost all of us in USAID, not only us population people but practically all the American units engaging in many forms of assistance, was that we became officially unwelcome to the Indian government.  No longer did our staff members even visit the Indian government offices, though several us continued to have "at home" relations with our former Indian counterparts.  But in the meantime, the Indian government began to ask USAID units to leave India. Our own population unit continued to have relationship with Indian non-governmental organization, and Jean and I had an extended mission visiting the southern tea planters.

It took almost the entire year 1972 for the Indian government to negotiate our full departure from India as  U.S. employees, and by December 1 of that year Jean and I were on our way out.  Before leaving Delhi, Jean went to see Peter's family near Lucknow, and I went to a Tokyo population conference representing the U.S. Census Bureau. I was still a  Census employee, and I was informed that I could keep my Census job in a Census training office in a Maryland suburb.  Jean met me in Tokyo at the close of the conference, and we then flew to Washington State to see Don and Steve and Mike, and we then went to Boston to attend John's wedding to Paula.  You could see that we had a lot of events all nicely timed together.

But since we figured that I might not stay too long at the Census job, Jean decided to stay in Delhi on a tourist visa and rented an apartment for the two of us at the private home of a Christian Science couple named Chopra.  Her visa was to expire about December 1973.  I rented a room in a house near my Census job and stayed there except to fly to Delhi about once a month to spend a few days with Jean at the Chopras.  Then I retired from the Census as of June 30, 1973, and Jean and I were together at George's in New Mexico (this was before his marriage to Denise), and Don and Steve and Mike joined us there. After a few days there,  Jean and I, and Don and the boys all flew to Delhi, and they stayed with us at Chopras for a few weeks before returning home via Europe.

Even before this, I had been in contact with the WHO regional office in Delhi which had asked me whether I would be interested in a job in Sri Lanka working in a population project of  the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).  WHO would be my employer and it understood that the job would begin within a few months, so it was worth our while to stay in Delhi on tourist visas and wait for possible developments.  It was about December 1, 1973, that the job was actually to start, and we finally prepared to leave India.  The necessary arrangements were not too complicated, but we decided not to keep the VW bug, and we therefore sold it to the Indian government, which I am sure gave it to one of its bureaucrats.

I can think of so many details, many of them very unimportant, but here's one of them.  India is a secular state, which means that it must either celebrate no religious holidays or else celebrate them all.  India took the latter course, and at Chembur was posted a long list of holidays, the holidays that everybody got, which naturally included Christmas and Good Friday.  But then there was a supplementary list of minor holidays, and employees could choose two of them.  This list included Jewish New Year and Jewish Passover (most Indian    Jews had left years before to go to Israel), but I was puzzled that Yom Kippur was not included.  Then I found out why.

The book of Leviticus says that you afflict your souls on the tenth day of the New Year.  One of the Indian holidays that everybody gets is Das-sara (das in the Hindi word for ten and sara is apparently the same lunar month as the first lunar month in the Jewish calendar), so Jews get Yom Kippur off anyhow without it being on the minor holiday list.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, which its British rulers had called Ceylon, was an island off the south tip of India and extending south to 5 or 6 degrees above the Equator.  Its people looked quite like those of India, and it so happens that those living in the southern three-quarters of the island, the Sinhalese, spoke a language derived from Sanskrit as did north Indians, whereas those in the northern part of the island spoke Tamil, a major language of south India. The Sinhalese were mostly Buddhists (the Buddha had come from north India), and the Tamils were mostly Hindus.  The island had had several different names before Ceylon, and it was known as Lanka in both its own and Indian literature, especially the Indian epic poem, the Ramayama.

The Portuguese had tried to colonize the island in the 1500s, and they did control the southwestern area, and many Buddhists were converted to Roman Catholicism and acquired Portuguese surnames like Fernando, Perera and deSilva, and many retained these names even after leaving Catholicism.  Then in the 1600s the same part of the island was colonized by Dutch, who also used the island as a stop between Holland and the Dutch East Indies.  Most of the full-blooded Portuguese left the island after the Dutch displaced them, but a fair number of Dutch colonists remained permanently, and their descendants on the island are now called Burghers and speak both Sinhalese and English.  The British came in the 1700s and within a few decades controlled the entire island.  By and large, the Ceylonese absorbed more British culture and language than did the Indians, and there was much less rebellion against the British than was in India.  The island had become famous for its cinnamon during the spice trade. The British raised coffee for a while and later tea in the Ceylon highlands, and Sir Thomas Lipton owned large tea plantations there.  Many south Indian Tamils were imported to work in the tea plantations.  A minority of the northern Tamils had been converted to Protestant religions by American missionaries, and many of the more elite Sinhalese had become Anglicans.  Many northern Tamils had settled in Colombo to get jobs under the British.

As soon as Jean and I landed in Sri Lanka, about December, 1973, we were driven from the airport about 50 miles southward to a motel in Colombo, we soon noticed marked differences from India.  One that I remember that first day was that the outdoor clothes-washers produced hills of soapsuds; the Indian dhobis had dried clothes by beating them on the rocks after having washed   But there were many other differences, in diet for example, as we soon learned.

While staying in the motel, I was taken first to the WHO headquarrters and met the chief of the mission and the British physician (let's call him Lloyd, as I can't remember his name) who was to be my immediate boss.  Then he in turn took me to the  Central Health Service office, headed by a Dr. Herat, and there I met my Sri Lanka counterpart, Dr. Rabel, with whom I  was to work much of the time.  But I also was taken to the  University of Colombo Medical School and there met Dr. Earle Fonseca, Community Medicine Director. Then to the UNFPA headquarters to meet the population chief, Mojit Khan, an Indian.

I got along fairly well with Lloyd, though he was a rather humorless person.  When John and Paula visited us in Sri Lanka, John met him and described him as "surly to bed, surly to rise."  Happily, Lloyd was succeeded by our good friend Tom Barns, also a Britisher and a physician.  We had known Tom and his wife Theresa in India, and Jean mentions them in her book "Driver in My Kitchen" as having been with us at the lake in the chapter "Sorry, No Water."  Still later, Tom was succeeded by Arnold Sikkel from the Netherlands, and much later Arnold and his wife showed us around Amsterdam in our visit there.

I soon met a very friendly Tamil woman at UNFPA who told me of a friend of hers, a Mrs. DeSilva, who had a furnished apartment which she often rented out to foreigners, and Jean and I went there.  It was a very lovely place, on the second floor of a fine home, with a good-size living-dining room, three bedrooms and two kitchens, and believe it or not, the furniture included an upright German-made piano in good condition.  Jean and I were charmed with the place, and we moved right in, also hiring a young woman servant, Marie Dissanayake.  In both home and work, we were settled in very quickly.

About Friday of that week, we learned that the Colombo Symphony was giving a concert that Saturday evening at Ladies' College under the baton of Earle Fonseca.  The name seemed like that of the doctor I had met at the University, but I knew that Portuguese names were common and thought no more of it until Jean and I went to the concert, and when the conductor took his place I recognized that it was that doctor himself. The concert included a Mozart symphony and some other European compositions and was first rate.

Mrs. DeSilva was very gracious and from time to time sent us some Sri Lanka food which her own servant had cooked, and always sent us a special meal the day we had paid our rent.  Rice is the staple in the Sri Lanka diet, but this was in an interesting variety of forms.  For one, there was the hopper, a wide rice-flour pancake, or an egg hopper, the same but with a sunny-side-up egg in the middle of it. Then there was the string-hopper, which was extruded from a certain gadget unique to Sri Lanka, the string hopper itself looking like something woven on a small loom.  The there was a "pita," a sort of cylindrical-shaped loaf of spiced rice which I think was baked inside a wide piece of bamboo.  Also there were fish and meat, but only occasionally; unlike the Hindus, Buddhists were allowed to eat beef, but it was not served often. Mr. and Mrs. DeSilva were Anglicans, and we learned later that Mrs. DeSilva (Renee) was of Tamil extraction. Mr. DeSilva was of course Sinhalese.  He had been to Oxford, where he was a topnotch cricketer, and before retirement he had been Sri Lanka's chief forester.  I became very fond of him, though we liked her too.

Dr. Rabel was in charge of Sri Lanka's maternal-child-health and family planning program, and he sat in an office with five other physicians, two of them women.  Most of them had some post-doctoral training in either British or American colleges, and one thing I soon discovered about them was they spoke English among themselves even when I was not there.  They had under them a large number of primary-health midwives who did all the field work.  Even though they were called midwives, midwifery was not their main job, as most Sri Lanka babies are born in hospitals or maternity homes where they receive care from hospital staff. Rabel and those in his office went into the countryside quite infrequently, and it seemed to me that most of their work was paperwork.

I soon had considerable countryside work myself, and one of my projects was a partial reforming of birth recording, for the following reason.  I sensed that if we were to learn more about how family planning was progressing, we needed some statistics on birth order, which was not available in the birth certificates, as these recorded items such as the baby's father's religion,  rather than whether this was the mother's first, second, etc. or tenth birth.  The birth certificate itself could only be changed by act of Parliament, so I went from one hospital or maternity home to another, specifying the sort of information we needed.  Here I came in contact with many obstetricians, nurses and hospital administrators, most of whom spoke good English.

Another project I had was testing the persistency of women's contraceptive use.  At that time, a month's supply of the contraceptive pill could be bought (for a very low price) only from the public health midwives, and every sale was recorded, so that it was fairly easy to determine how long women who went on the pill stayed on it.  That persistency was relatively poor, many women staying on it only a few months. Persistency on the IUD was far better, since usually a woman could not remove an IUD herself, and public health midwives checked on whether or not the IUD was in place.

Perhaps my biggest project was a nationwide survey on the births of children and their survival.  I already knew of the World Fertility Survey (WFS) which had taken place in several developing countries and I had a copy of the WFS questionnaire, and to some extent the questionnaire which Rabel and I wrote for the Sri Lanka survey used similar questions.  Ours was different, and I believe better, than the WFS questionnaire, in that we gave more weight to recent events than to events which the women interviewed had forgotten.  It so happened that WFS researched Sri Lanka several years later.  Ours was what you might call a cluster survey, and the interviewing for our survey was done by public health midwives who were more familiar with the areas and the women surveyed than the largely urban surveyors chosen by WFS, and our operating costs were far less. It so happened that after the WFS had surveyed Sri Lanka, I was able to construct tables from its survey on the computers of the Sri Lanka census office, and later I wrote a paper for publication covering both surveys.  By that time I was back in U.S. and no longer on the WHO payroll.

Actually my WHO work lasted less than three years, and after that Jean and I applied to be residents of Sri Lanka. To do this, all we had to do was to agree to exchange several hundred dollars a month for Sri Lanka rupees. Sri Lanka was a pleasant place for retired foreigners like ourselves to live in, and we were not the only ones who did so. A famous writer, Arthur C. Clarke, was one of these, and I suppose he is still there. This was how Sri Lanka was able to get additional hard currency. At the same time, we could pay our rent to the DeSilvas and other living expenses with Sri Lanka money.

One evening, Jean and I were at an art exhibit in Colombo when a man standing next to me tapped me on my shoulder and said, "I'm a relative of yours."  Sri Lankans at seemingly all income levels will say just about anything to an American to get some money, but I looked at this man and realized he was a European. Because I had worked at WHO, my name and photo were in the newspapers, so I was not too surprised at being recognized.  But when I asked this gentleman about our relationship, he replied that when he was a child, there was a frequent visitor in his home called "Onkel (Uncle) Immerwahr."   I learned that he too was a retired resident in Sri Lanka just as Jean and I and Arthur Clarke were. His name was Wilhelm (Bill) Charig, and the story of his coming to Sri Lanka to live was much different from ours, and the actual facts about his being in Sri Lanka and about our friendship and relationship I may present elsewhere.

Sri Lanka people seemed just naturally friendly.  We had heard of a Christian Science "group" in Colombo, and somehow we managed to meet to meet them at the home of one of them - about perhaps ten in all.  One was a very tall unmarried man named Ronald Wijetunge who came from a distinguished propertied family, and he even owned an island off the south shore.  The others were simpler folk, all very friendly. Before long, we formed a Christian Science Society, a sort of junior-size church authorized by the Mother Church, and we also attracted additional members, one a gifted artist and author named Dorothy Fernando, one of whose paintings I still have.  The Colombo "Burghers" owned a hall in Colombo, and our church held Sunday services and Wednesday  meetings there.  Our two pianists, Jayanthi who played Wednesdays and Zita (an excellent musician) who played Sundays have now left Sri Lanka, the former for the Maldives and the latter for Australia, are still our close friends. Zita, though born in Sri Lanka, had been a Catholic nun in Belgium, then left the convent and returned to Sri Lanka where she taught music, later becoming a Christian Scientist, and still later going to Australia and marrying an Australian.

One evening (actually January 1, 1974) we attended an evening concert where Ronald Wijetunge sang, but we had a long walk at night to get home.  But a rather small car stopped to offer us a ride, and it turned out that it already had six passengers, father, mother, three sons and a daughter.  They were Sri Lanka Tamils named Jacobs (most of our other acquaintances were Sinhalese) and it turned out they lived near us and  became close friends too, but both parents have since died and one son is now is Australia, another in UK. 

But one of our main reasons for loving Sri Lanka was its music. It was a great treat for us to have a piano as part of our apartment's furniture, but we had other pianos, pianists and a piano tuner all in earshot of our apartment.  Earle Fonseka was a story all by himself. He might be described as the dean of Sri Lankan classical music, for he taught piano and other instruments, gave piano concerts himself,  and conducted the symphony orchestra.  I doubt if he ever practiced medicine, but he taught at medical school. He had known Benjamin Britten, who became a sponsor of the orchestra.  Jean and I also were sponsors of the orchestra, but in a different sense.  Since Earle had virtually no dollars or pounds, Jean and I often provided the orchestra with scores from which to play, as well as reeds for the clarinet, bassoon and oboe players, either bringing them from U.S. or from Singapore when we traveled.  What's more, Jean and I sang in the chorus which sang with his orchestra.  We sang in two famous orchestra-chorus compositions, Beethoven's Choral Fantasy, which we had never even heard of before, and the Brahms German Requiem which we had heard in our own country but in which we had never sung.  Earle had trained some top-notch young pianists, one a girl who played piano in the difficult Choral Fantasy, another a boy named Gehan Soosapillai who later went to Germany to study.  Gehan was an excellent pianist and I once met him in Germany, but I know nothing of his later career. The Jacobs' young daughter also played piano with the symphony.

But Earle was not the only musician who performed or conducted in public.  Besides Handel's Messiah, which is sung in English in almost every country where we have been,  Jean and I sang  in the Bach cantata "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" and in the Mozart Requiem, and I sang in works by Vivaldi, Rossini, and others, conducted by other musicians in Colombo.  Some years after we returned to the U.S., one of these musician friends came here and asked me to assemble some players and singers for him so that he could conduct the Mozart Requiem once more before he died.  Sorry to say, I had to disappoint him.

Sri Lanka was a beautiful country, full of coconut palms at lower level, lovely rivers and a beautiful coastline, some of it with coral beaches..  John and Paula visited us and we hired a car and driver and took a tour of almost the entire island except the Jaffna area in the north.  We saw national parks where elephants and leopards roamed, took a small boat out to a coral island where we snorkeled to see tropical fish.  There were excellent rest houses, one of them so high in the hills that we needed hot-water bottles in our beds at night, though in most of the island it was warm all year, quite humid, but not excessively hot.  Jean and I, and later John and Paula, flew from Colombo to visit the interesting coral islands called the Maldives

But Sri Lanka has had its serious troubles.  I visited it a few times after I left it in 1979, going to a demographic conference in 1980, just stopping in 1982 on the way from Ghana to Australia, and then on an actual work assignment in February and March of 1983.  Things seemed OK there each time, though I knew there had been some Sri Lankan ethnic dispute when we were in U.S. during 1978.  But in July 1983, an all-out civil war between Sinhalese and Tamils began, with so much death and destruction that I do not want to describe it. The more militant Tamils in the north of the island had demanded secession from Sri Lanka, and  they received arms from outside (partly from Tamils in India) to fight the Sinhalese army. The civil war has continued for 20 years.  At this moment there is a negotiated truce, but the situation is still far from peaceful.  I recognize that  Sinhalese have been unfair to the Tamil minority over the decades, but I do not see any advantage to the Tamil people in secession from the rest of Sri Lanka. Even if the northern Tamils could really secede, in what position would the Colombo Tamils find themselves? 

Sri Lanka is wonderful and beautiful and dear.  I hope I can some day close its description on a happier note.


When I worked at the Demographic Training and Research Institute at Chembur near Bombay, it turned out that a fair portion of my work was helping the staff and students write better English, even though this was not part of the job description.  In those days, my Indian counterpart, K. Venkatacharya (Chary), was my primary writing student.  In fact, I did much of the editing of his PhD dissertation.

Some years later, Chary worked as a consultant for the government of Libya but still later at the Regional Population Institute run by the UN in Legon, Ghana, and he recommended me for a position there where assistance in professional writing was in fact a part of the job description.  There were of course other assignments, including some demographic research and some teaching of demography.  The Institute was located in the campus of the University of Ghana in Legon, and I was there for about three months (during our summer months) in 1980, and I was there again in the same months (but this time for a somewhat shorter period) in 1982.

The students at the Institute were college graduates from African countries which had formerly been British colonies, Ghana itself, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and perhaps some other countries.  The faculty were all appointed by the UN, and the Director was a Nigerian Ibo (I can't recall his name, but he was a person I had once tried to meet in Ibadan, Nigeria), and some of the other faculty members were Africans or Indians, including Ramachandran whom I had known in Chembur. Almost all of the students were male, but there was a Uganda woman whom we called Grace, who was the very best student there. There was also a Ghana student, Clement Ahiedeke, whom I found was a Christian Scientist, and whom I got to know even better when he became a PhD student at Cornell and attended several U.S. population meetings which I also attended.

By and large the students were poorly prepared and had some strong prejudices. There was a fair amount of polygyny (marriages of men to multiple wives) in Africa, but most students were unable to reconcile this with the fact that the sexes were about equal in total number.  The age distribution is Africa was such that there were far more people in their teens and 20s than in their 30s and 40s, and since men took second or later wives much younger than themselves, the age distribution accommodated this, but in addition many men never married, but the students were unaware of these factors, even though they were native Africans. Consumption of food was much lower among Africans than among Americans (and I lost considerable weight when working in Ghana), but the students had an exaggerated view of this, believing that Americans ate 15 times as much food as they did. The men, at least, were strongly opposed to the idea of small families, believing that this was an American plot to wipe out the Africans. They were particularly opposed to the use of condoms, so it is easy to see how HIV/AIDS, about which we then knew nothing, has spread so rapidly in Africa in the years since then.. 

Nevertheless, I found African men to be good company and friendly. Except for the few female students I had, I met very few African women. I did meet some Africans serving on the Legon faculty in other departments whom I came to admire, including a number who were fine musicians. English was widely spoken in Ghana, and much of the public school education was in English. Ghanaians are employed in other African countries as teachers of English and other subjects. I also was favorably surprised at the devoutness of Christians in Ghana.  Besides sometimes attending Christian Science church in Accra with my student Clement Ahiedeke, I often went to chapel or church services in other Protestant denominations, and enjoyed them.  On more than one occasion, I was asked by passing strangers on the street whether I accepted Christ as my saviour, and I answered affirmatively.

It was in Legon also that I met a Sri Lanka couple, Dalton and Sha Watson, and their little boy Nishan who in 1980 was only two years old. Dalton taught nutrition at the University of Ghana, nutrition being something Ghanaians certainly wanted more of.  The Watsons became good friends and fed me as well as they could, and our friendship continued when they arrived in Canada years later, and Jean and I often visited them.


Over the years, I was at the Australian National University in Canberra several times.  The first time was in 1976, when Jean and I were living in Sri Lanka, and I was invited to come as a referee to judge the PhD dissertation of a woman student there.  I had never studied for a PhD myself, but this woman's dissertation was on a subject similar to my work at DTRC in India, and my friend Lado Ruzicka recommended me and ANU paid for my visit.  In Australia, it was customary for at least one PhD referee to be from out of Australia. The visit was delightful  It was in August, which is part of winter in Australia, and the day I arrived there was snow which was not common in Canberra.

I found Australia to be delightful, and I went there again in October of that year to attend a population conference where I submitted a paper.  A year or two later I went again as a PhD referee, this time for a male student whose dissertation was on mortality differences between men and woman.  This student has since become world-famous in the World Health Organization (WHO).  There were a number of trips to Australia, after that, with Jean accompanying me.  Sometimes ANU paid my way, particularly since I was doing some family structure research with Lado Ruzicka and Jack Caldwell, which resulted in a published article for the World Fertility Survey (WFS), and I got to visit London also in connection with this and similar research.

I knew that I had relatives in Australia in the Melbourne area and visited them on several occasions.  Paul Immerwahr had a niece who had come there from Nazi Germany as a child and later married an Australian. In addition to her family, there were other friends and relatives in the Melbourne area whom I got to visit.  There was also a woman named Zita (the former Catholic nun) whom I have mentioned earlier with whom I used to play piano duets in Sri Lanka, and who came to Australia and married there.  Jean and I had our last visit to Australia in September 1993, and we did many enjoyable things, including a visit to Zita and her husband, where she and I again played piano duets.

University of Washington

After Jean and I were settled in Kenmore, Washington, I visited the U. of W. where at one time my brother Ray had been a professor of Germanic literature.  There I met Tom Pullum, whom I had first known when he visited Sri Lanka for the WFS, and he suggested that I write an additional paper on contraceptive use in Sri Lanka, which I did. This resulted in a grant from WFS in less than $10,000, but because of the grant I used UW facilities and I was also given a title there as Research Associate.  This was in 1980, and my association with the UW Demography Center continued for many years after that.  During this period I co-authored papers with Tom and other faculty members, the last paper being published in the journal Social Forces in 1998; it related primarily to homicide in Chicago during the period 1970-90.

During these years Tom himself left UW, but he was succeeded by Charles Hirschman,  and I continued to be active there, usually working as a volunteer in any capacity I could, and usually for two or three mornings a week.

While there, I was paid from a grant by IBM to construct some software for teaching elementary demography.  This was called POPSHOW, and it was well regarded by users at several universities and even in foreign countries.  Of course, far better and more sophisticated demographic software has been constructed since.

A few weeks before my 90th birthday, the Demographic Center (actually called the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology) held a seminar on India in which I was a special guest honored for my birthday.  This birthday party I have since regarded as my retirement party, and these days I visit the Center only a few times a year.  But I have fond memories of my associations there.

Kenmore School

Even while I was at the Center for a few mornings a week, I began working as a volunteer at the Eckstein Junior High in Seattle, helping the math teacher Joe Ewing with individual students who needed special help.  Sometimes I was there only for a morning, but sometimes for an entire day.  By 1999, however, I found commuting from Kenmore to Eckstein School increasingly difficult, and beginning in September 1999 I began similar tutoring at Kenmore Elementary School which is only a 15-minute walk from Northshore House where Jean and I had moved (a 3-minute drive in bad weather). Being at the Kenmore School  has been a delightful experience in every way, and my being there has gotten me acquainted with almost every young person in the part of Kenmore where I live, as well as with many of their parents.  While Jean was with me I went to the school only one or two mornings a week, but now three mornings.  Each day I help first in sixth-grade math, but then I move over to another classroom where much younger students get special help, usually in reading but sometimes in elementary math as well.

About the time I started volunteering at the school, the whole school began association with Northshore House, and one noon a month a number of the third and sixth-grade students come with their teachers to visit us at lunch time, chatting with us, singing for us and giving us gifts.  It has been an enriching experience for both the youngsters and us seniors.

Political views and publications

I have become increasingly concerned over national and world affairs in recent years, and regret not having been more of an activist in earlier years even though I had many of the concerns then that I have today.  For example, the unfortunate position of American blacks always distressed me, and I was glad to have a black assistant in the actuarial office of Social Security in 1941-46.  I coached her unsuccessfully for the actuarial examinations, hoping that she would become the first black woman member of the Actuarial Society (perhaps the first black member of either sex).

While there were blacks in good positions in the Federal government, the only blacks employed at Monumental during my years there were in janitorial jobs.  My concern over this and my protests over other racial matters at Monumental and in Baltimore got me in such a situation that the warm friendship I had had with Monumental's president Fred Wehr came to an end.

Today, even though I am concerned over the fact that racism still exists, my biggest concerns are over (1) our nation's (and the world's) physical environment, which is partly due to population growth and partly due to political negligence and (2) the extent to which money controls our government.  These two concerns are in fact closely related, for we have seen how business interests in our country have adversely influenced the environmental policies of our government, particularly those of the GW Bush administration.  The administration's unwillingness to do anything against global warming, to support international family planning and to take steps leading to the narrowing of the income gap between rich and poor, both worldwide and even in our own country, are appalling.  I do not really understand globalization and the protests against it.  However, I predict that at some time within the next 20 years or less, there will be protests so powerful against the extreme forms of capitalism and anti-environment actions in our society that the very foundations of the present American order may likely collapse.  Whether this will lead to anarchy or to reform, I cannot tell, but I am sure it will undermine the present order of society.  At present I cannot place all the blame on GW Bush and his followers.  His followers really include all those who fail to take a stand against him, and even those of the Democratic party whose policies differ only slightly from his.  The very fact that half of the persons in our country eligible to vote do not take the trouble to do so confirms my poor appraisal of our people.

Over the years, I have authored or co-authored a number of published articles and papers. One of these was a paper printed in Vol. 46 of the Transactions of the Actuarial Society of America (TASA) entitled "Problems in Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance."  So far as I know, it was the first paper discussing the OASI problems published after OASI was enacted, and it became a landmark paper, drawing written discussions from several prominent actuaries. In this paper I gave mild support to W.R.Williamson's "social-budgeting" plan of social security reform, but later I became an even stronger supporter of his ideas.  In fact, in 1949 I helped Rep. Carl Curtis write a minority report on social security which included more of Williamson's and my own views, and this drew considerable public attention. 

As mentioned earlier, I felt, as Williamson did, that OASI's old-age benefits should not be based on wage records but solely on age, and should have brought into benefit the several million older persons then living who had left employment too soon to become covered by OASI, giving all beneficiaries the same flat benefit amount. This amount could then vary from year to year on the basis of economic and demographic situations.  It would have become a true pay-as-you-go program, and it would have avoided the over-liberalization actions which had an unpredicted burdensome long-term effect and have plagued and still plague the social security program.  But the 1950 social security amendments confirmed the type of program already enacted, and made it impossible to consider the radical changes that Williamson and I had hoped for. 

Over the years I wrote several discussions on actuarial matters which were published in actuarial journal. There was a still later paper relating to social security, but I have no copy of it, and a discussion relating to the funding of pension plans and written in 1952 was reprinted in the Society of Actuaries 50th Anniversary Monograph, May 1999.

Beginning with my Johns Hopkins years and continuing until 1998, my writings were mostly in the field of demography.  Several were co-authored with Indian demographers and published in Indian journals demographers and others were published in US, including two in the US journal Demography. One was a booklet co-authored with two Hopkins faculty members, Margaret Bright and Melvin Zelnik, entitled "Demographic Analysis" and used at Hopkins in teaching demography. I also wrote a booklet on family planning in Sri Lanka, published by the World Fertility Survey, and co-authored with Australian demographers Jack Caldwell and Lado Ruzicka another WFS booklet. My was co-authored with UW faculty members Gunnar Almgren and Avery (Pete) Guest, published in "Social Forces" in 1998, with the short title "Violent Death in Chicago"  but it covered more than that title would indicate.

Also in 1987 I had created a piece of educational software called POPSHOW on an IBM grant which at the time was used both in US and abroad in the teaching of elementary demography.  Today it must look primitive, but at the time it was perhaps as good as any other software of its kind.  A demographer at U. of Delaware, Vivian Klaff,  asked to incorporated parts of it into a major piece he was publishing, giving me credit for my part.  But his stuff and mine are long outdated now.

In the last several weeks of 1994 I wrote and self-published a paper-bound book entitled "World Population Growth."  Except for a few errors, I felt that this book gave the demographic message I wanted to give, of excessive population growth and its several elements. Over 1,500 copies of the book were printed but fewer than 250 sold.  The one endorsement I hoped to get from Planned Parenthood in Seattle failed, largely because reviewer Ray Ravenholt, disagreed with my views on contraceptive methods. Also, the book was perhaps poorly titled and it was very poorly marketed.  Those copies that were sold were mostly sold to public libraries and school libraries, and these were the real market, but I did not recognize that at the time. 

In very recent years I have worked on papers relating to women's and children's rights, etc., but none of these have been published.  There is one I am still thinking of putting into better form, but I don't know who would publish it.  I had two papers published 7 or 8 years ago in the journal Social Contract and I might submit this paper there if I ever get it in shape


My brother Raymond (whom I'll usually simply call Ray) was born May 11, 1913, in our home on South. Greenwood Ave. in Chicago.  He was my only sibling, and I learned much later that after his birth Mother had a tubectomy operation which apparently was fairly common even then.  He and I grew up together in the various homes of my parents - on W.Fargo and then in Winnetka.  Ray was in some respects less healthy than I, and I remember that during the 1918-19 flu epidemic my parents were afraid he might die.

Like myself he went to public school in Winnetka, and he also took piano lessons, but then shifted to clarinet where he excelled.  I do not remember his going to summer camp, except that he did go for one summer to Culver Naval School as I had done, and he played in the band as I did.

In the fall of 1926, when I was about to go to Princeton, our family moved to the near north side in Chicago, and Ray started attending the Francis Parker School, a private high school on the near north side. I understand that he did very well there.  He was admitted to Swarthmore in 1930, and as I started work in New York at that time, I frequently went to Swarthmore weekends to see him.  I know that at Swarthmore he continued to play clarinet in a small chamber music group where most of the other members were in the faculty.  Unfortunately, he didn't continue playing it in his adult years.

I remember that he took a lot of chemistry courses at Swarthmore, and Mother hoped he would major in chemistry as she preferred chemistry as his major over German, but he finally majored in German.  Ray graduated with high (or probably highest) honors in 1934 and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Ray spent almost the entire summer of 1934  in Germany, which was already under Nazi rule.  He took a number of photos which I saw after his return, and I remember one in particular of one of the many banners the Nazis posted when Hitler was being voted on to succeed Hindenburg as president.  Apparently it was a Yes or No vote, Hitler being the only candidate, and the banner read "Jede guter Deutscher gibt Adolf Hitler sein JA."  (Every good German gives Hitler his Yes vote).  Another significant event that took place was the assassination of Roehm and his SA followers, and Ray like everyone was shocked by the event.

Ray's big mission in Germany was to locate Immerwahrs there and possibly other Jewish relatives of Dad, in the hope that Dad could sponsor them for immigration to the U.S. Most important, Ray was to visit Dad's sisters Bertha and Frances who were born in U.S. and start preliminary steps for their return here and also for their husbands' immigration here.  (It may be that Frances was born in Canada, as the family had visited Canada in the early 1880s.)

Ray located Paul Immerwahr, whose relation to our family is not wholly clear, and his wife Gertrud.  Paul was a physician and I believe had been a physician in the German army before Hitler came to power.  Gertrud was gentile and Catholic, and they never had children.  They were then in their 30s, and I believe  Paul was born in 1899.  They lived in Beuthen in Silesia in the same general area as Dad's father.  I had heard it said that Jews emigrating from Germany could not take out money or anything of value, but when Paul and Gertrud did come to U.S. (which I believe wasn't until 1937)  a certain provision of some old treaty applied to him, and he was allowed to take out his grand piano and some other valuables.

I do not know whether Ray was instrumental in locating other relatives who later were able to come here.  I know that Henry Immerwahr came to this country where he eventually was a Greek professor at NC Chapel Hill, but whether Ray or Dad had anything to do with his emigration I don't know.

When Ray returned home he lived with my parents in Highland Park, where they had recently moved, and he studied a year at Northwestern U. in Evanston.  He got his M.A, degree at Northwestern (whether that was in June 1935 or somewhat later that year I am not sure).  His degree was in German literature.

Some time about then Ray became ill with a serious form of asthma. I do not know the details, but I know that he went to Arizona to recover from it and that Mother accompanied him there.

But then (probably in 1936) Ray started working for his PhD in Berkeley.  I do not know too much about his studies, other than that his dissertation was on the German romantic author Ludwig Tieck, and it was later published with the title "The Aesthetic Intent of Tieck's Fantastic Comedy."  He received his PhD from Berkeley in 1941.

During all these years (late 1934 to the summer of 1941) I seldom saw Ray. I was living myself in Highland Park during the years 1937-39 with Jay and working in Dad's office, and it was during this time that Paul and Gertrud arrived from Germany.  I believe Aunt Frances and her husband Adolf Kant and Aunt Bertha, but not her husband,  had already come in 1935 or 1936 and were living on the northwest side in Chicago, where Dad had started Frances in the dry-goods business.

During 1939 (I'm reading from Ray's Laufbahn) Ray left Berkeley went to teach a term at Swarthmore, and I read that he also served as an assistant at UCLA during 1938-41 while continuing his PhD studies.

But in 1941 Ray got a job with the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner of the CIA) in Washington, DC.   Jean and I who were then married and still living in Washington saw him frequently.  Ray was a skillful linguist with an excellent knowledge of French, Spanish and Italian in addition to German and English, and his job was to translate messages for the OSS which had been intercepted from radio or wireless in those languages.  This job continued until sometime in 1942. 

Also sometime in 1941 or 1942 Ray began to date Josephine Dreyer (Jo), who had graduated from college in 1939 or 1940 and got a Washington, DC, job shortly afterward.  I do not recall what kind of job she had.  She was the daughter of  Sam and Grace Dreyer whom my parents had known in Chicago for many years, and in fact Ray and I knew Jo and her brother Bob as children in Chicago.  I know that on at least one occasion in early 1942 when we were living in Catonsville MD, Ray and Jo came from Washington to visit us, and I believe they are on our video collection of movie films.

But sometime in 1942 Ray left the OSS in Washington to go to the Navy's Japanese-language school in Boulder CO.  He was at first a civilian while he started his Japanese studies but sometime in 1942 or 1943.  Ray got his commission as an ensign in the Navy and was later promoted to Lt. JG and then full Lt.. Ray and Josephine were married in late 1943, and she went to live with him at the Boulder campus.  Sometime in 1944, Ray was "shipped out" and actually was placed in command of a large Navy unit who were on ship with him.  It turned out that Ray went only as far as Maui in Hawaii, and there he had a translation job, which may have been similar to his OSS work, but this time the language he translated most was Japanese.

Jo returned home to her mother in Chicago (her father had died years earlier) and it was about this time that Jo suffered what was perhaps her first spell of mental trouble, probably brought on by worry over Ray. But in late 1944, Ray was transferred to a Navy unit in Washington, DC, and Jo joined him and was in apparent good health.  During this time they lived in Arlington, VA.

Ruth was born on November 1, 1944, and I remember Jean and I went to see them in Arlington as soon as Jo and Ruth got out of the hospital.  I remember that it was a rainy day and we left Jay and Don with a sitter and took a bus to Washington taking John who was just two months old, carrying him in the rain.

Ray started teaching at Washington U. in St. Louis in 1946 or 1947 as an Assistant Professor. He later became an Associate Professor there, but I don't know the date. He was a Visiting Professor for one semester at University of Washington in 1958.

In 1956-57 Ray was a Guggenheim Fellow. His second daughter Deborah (Debbie) was born in December 1959. 

Ray was a full professor of Germanic literature at UW from 1960 to 1970.                                                                                                                

Raymond was an active member of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and a strong pacifist. In 1970 he decided to leave the U.S. in protest over the Vietnam War and moved to Canada. He had obtained a position in Canada as Germanics Professor and Departmental Chair at the University of Western Ontario.  He retired from that university in either 1978 or 1979 and returned to Seattle to live in 1980. He died in Bellevue, WA,    on April 15, 1993.  His widow Josephine died in February 2000.

Ray authored a very long list of professional papers on German literature starting in 1937 and continuing almost until his death in April 1993, in fact one paper was submitted posthumously.  He attended many international conferences on German literature, and went on a  tour of several universities in Germany in the late 1980s, giving lectures on German romantic literature.  He also spent some summers at the Germanic literary archives in Marbach, Germany.

He was the author of a published book entitled "Romantisch" written in German but covering the romantic literature of several European countries.  After returning to Seattle in 1980 he wrote one of the series of volumes edited and published by UW Prof. Ernst Behler on the works of Friedrich Schlegel.  The volume he wrote covered the life and letters of Schlegel during the period of the Athaneums, 1797-79.

Around the World