Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Catharsis of a research scholar part 1

Many of you would have ended up on this blog for tips on research and that is exactly what I have been refraining from writing. Though this blog came out as an effort to ventilate my thoughts I never wanted to write about research. Firstly because I could not be blatant about how I felt about it while pursuing my programme at an institute and secondly I held a lot of reverence to the academic world.

Every research has a tale of woes and relentless struggle attached to it. If anyone believes its an ideal world out there, the first thing research teaches you is disappointment. The sooner you learn to adjust to them , better a researcher you become. Something else I have learned from research is to associate everything I read and live to my research, I don't know how it can be done in sciences but in social sciences and humanities there are plethora of opportunities for unfolding this possibility.

I was reading few tips on ethnographic fieldwork and there came up a point " chose contrasting settings for rewarding lessons". o maybe from a hospital or prison I can get insights about school life. I pondered over this for hours. And I admit the reflexivity you gain as a researcher is your best asset in life.
As I ponder over these lines,I can't stop myself from comparing a good research to a good marriage. They are contrasting environments yet so similar to me.
A guide and your husband can be thesis and antithesis in your life. Sometimes supportive sometimes not it all depends on your fortune and how you make the best out of it.Research problems sometimes disappoint you just like problems in your married life. There will always be an urge to quit but you always get stopped thinking is it worth it? And more the years you invest more hesitant you feel to quit. The brave and foolish or the Coward and wise ( in the same combination) choose to quit or stay back despite differences.

With years of experience one stops expecting from research or from life. It becomes a part of you.
Infidelity hurts, be it from a partner or a promising research. Yet every day you rise repeating the Royal Stag tagline -" I will make it large". Now it depends on your perspective if you are fooling yourself or giving it a new beginning. Sometimes you enter this relationships looking for specific gains, sometimes you don't know why you chose this. Disappointments or unexpected rewards could be your results such is a marriage or a research again. Sometimes love in in initial years diminishes slowly. Passion and love, dedication and patience are the keywords to both these worlds.

Papers and books are borne with labour pains as child, they are aborted or miscarried or risked both to be brought forth . All throughout your partner's or guide's role is minimal and supportive or non supportive but you realise the onus is on you. After all as Gilbert said " having a kid is like getting a tattoo it stays forever". A thesis is no different, the thoughts and words you put in stays forever even if its on your shelf :) and does not cry and require investments. A lot of the efforts defines your future.

Finally, you end up contentedly satisfied by your pangs years later or of the failure of not accomplishing. But if you succeed you have a thesis adorning your book shelf or a husband in your household and if you fail you have a void which you alone can decide what to fill with.

I am thankful for being married because it has helped me draw these parallels. This makes it an adventurous ethnography in itself :) as for the pains, let them be buried in the silences interspersed in these lines.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Animals are beautiful people

Moni aunty's convent is our jungle in Bangalore. We often visit her to watch her garden and animals. This time we were delighted to see the piglets- 3 months old. They were 7 initially but 3 died due to some illness. The spotty was a new sight to us it's like a dalmatian pig. The little fellas were hungry all the time . WHO was superexcited and even lifted one foregoing the filth around. Animals indeed are beautiful people :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tale of two cities

She was not a virgin to me when I first went to her. I already knew her, more from what my friends had told me about her. “She is like a dream”, they used to say. The first time it was a quicky, a day, or two at the most. I was anxious and she was full of activity, as always. It was for a test and I was not expecting to pass with flying colours. Even then she captivated me, though I was not able to pinpoint at the very essence of what was so different about her.

I kept going to her once in a while before I decided to make her mine. It was big decision, but I solaced myself thinking that others have also done it before me. Now, after spending more than two years with her, I am with someone else. Though I am not sure if this is going to be lifelong I am making efforts to make it unending. But recently, people who know me, have started asking me who is the better of the two, the previous one or the one now. Tough one that is, same as the first time I tried to figure out the difference in her. But I think I have an answer for it now, which some might agree and others differ. There are traits in both which some like and others hate, some exalt and some disparage. And so if you ask me, it’s difficult to pick one over the other completely. But when people look at you with expectations of giving them a clear winner, I say I am only happy to have spent time in Bombay (I like it this way) and not at all sad to be in Bangalore (this one too) today. Finally I thought that there needs to be a little more reason to decide how these cities would be different, not better or worse than the other.

Bombay has the old woman’s charm, who has seen it all, and she gives you her wisdom, accumulated over decades. You sit with her, for a cup of tea, with the sunset in front of you and the sand beneath and she will engage you with stories of past and present, of millionaires and paupers, of sweet dreams and of bitter realities. By the time you sip the last drop you believe you have seen it all. But she just smiles inward, on your naivety, because her stories are endless and her experiences, countless. You always feel that she has given a part of her to you, to cherish and treasure. But in reality she has added you to her stories.

Bangalore is like the girl who has just got married and is coming to terms with her womanhood. She’s excited because she’s getting out of old habits and stepping into a new world. She anxious at the same time because all this excitement is new and unknown to her. There might be rules to follow and conventions to adjust to. There is lot of attention on the new bride and people want to judge her: on her looks and on her temperament and she tries hard to put her best foot forward. She gives you a courteous smile and you think you are special; but she’s just polite, to all and sundry because it’s her wedding. You have a lot of other things to look forward to: friends, music, entertainment and food, after all you are invited to this party.

I am sure people would have liked me to mull more over the traffic snarls in Bangalore and the overflowing trains in Bombay, the night life in Bombay and the club scene in Bangalore, the cool weather in Bangalore vs. the sultry days in Bombay, the steep rent in Bombay compared to the ‘we are almost there’ rates in Bangalore, the vada paav vs. egg puff, the safe night outs in Bombay vs. get mugged nights in Bangalore, and last but not the least the ‘marathi manoos’ and ‘navu kannadiga’ fight against the outsiders. There are more to add to this list but I my objective here is not to complain or commend but accept these as things which give character to a place and nothing more. Bombay, in her hay days, was the dream city; and in many ways is what Bangalore is now. Then it was the hot bed for doing conventional business as Bangalore is for IT now. Throngs of people now reach Bangalore everyday as how it would have been to Bombay two decades earlier. I was not surprised when mom said the other day that nowadays everybody’s someone from Bhopal is in Bangalore. Surprisingly or not I have a few Bhopalis in my office too. Though I am sure that compared for every one person from Bhopal in Bangalore, there would be ten in Bombay today.

Almost a decade earlier when I was thinking to give Bangalore a chance I had only heard of it as a retirement paradise and an air force or army base. We never used to hear of it that often nor would anyone visit and share stories. A lot has changed since then, with better means of travel, communication and livelihood, no city today remains untouched. Say a city like Jaipur today, with the palaces, forts and fairs, might be tomorrow’s Bangalore. But when all is said and done about a city, what really matters are the friends and family in the city, a good and satisfying job, the food culture of the place and a nice place to stay and travel. I have had all these and more at both Bombay and Bangalore and maybe that’s why it’s difficult to compare.

In the end, I like her here today and about tomorrow I am not sure. Some other city or who knows if it’s some town. I am always ready to embrace her, for even I am not a virgin anymore.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chronicles of cooking- Part 2

One of my fondest memories from my childhood is waiting for mom to come back from work on every morning shift she did. This was because she got a lunch pack from her hospital. Each nurse was entitled to get one pack but mom always managed to get three for me and my siblings. This lunch pack was a treasure of tidbits. It always had a packet of juice, sndwich, pastry and a fruit. Some days we had lunch waiting for mom to come back but that never stopped us from relishing the lunch pack( No wonder we all gained those extra pounds).

I don't remember my mom ever eating anything from these lunch packs especially when we had three of them. She just loved to watch us beam with joy , taste these stuff, perhaps barter with each other what we didnt want and fight for goodies.

One of the sandwiches that often visited us home in these lunch packs was the brinjal-potato sandwich. We never loved brinjals back home but this sandwich happened to be one of my favourite. I don't remember mom making it at home, neither had I tried it in my kitchen ever until nostalgia made me brave to try it last week. So I rummaged my brain and scooped up this recipe.


Bread slices- as required
Potato- 1 thinly sliced
Brinjal/Aubergines- 1 thinly sliced
Mayonnaise- 2 spoons
Mustard sauce- 1 spoon
oil- for frying


Slice the brinjals and potatoes
and sprinkle salt and keep them aside for 15 minutes. Now fry these in a pan. Now mix mayonnaise and mustard sauce in a bowl. Apply this sauce to bread slices. Fill the bread with the fried brinjals and potatoes and grill the sandwich.

Watch out for the posts in future got some interesting pickles coming up.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Animals are beautiful people

Bangalore has been a bird watcher's paradise for me, except for the fact that the bird I watch around is the mighty Eagle. We have eagles next to our apartment who rest in our balconies often. We sleep soundly familiar to their cries and late night discussions. This pic is from a tree next to clay station. I was always fascinated by the eagles soaring high near BTM and HSR layout and it was a wonderful surprise to watch one on the tree next to clay station. So here's an eagle in the animal pics section.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Womens' Day- Happy ????

Some years ago, to be precise when I was 20 years old I got hold of Pinki Virani's 'Aruna's Story'.I would not recommend it as a classic and it isn't for that matter. But I know I could not sleep for nights after I read about it. I was aware of women being raped and I was also aware that men did rape for vengeance, what I found unacceptable was the fact that there was a woman paralysed for 30 years just because she did her job. And the man who did this offence served for seven years in jails and was free.
It irked me when I thought this could be me if I dared to object or ascertain myself, which reminded me why menfolk in my family beleived women needed to be protected and had no right to decide their life.

For those of you who have not read about Aruna, she was a nurse who worked in K.E.M hospital , Mumbai 38 years ago. On Novemeber 27,1973 she was attacked by wardboy Sohanlal asphyxiated with a dog chain and sodomized. Sohanlal was later arrested and sentenced on charges of robbery and assault and not rape and unnatural sexual offence which could have earned him a longer sentence.

My mom was in Mumbai during this incident and she told me the nurses had gone on a strike appealing for safety measures. Such was the power an incident like this had on commoners who were oblivous to the word 'rape' otherwise. Pain cannot be compared or I beleive it should not be rather. Someone once asked me " so many women get raped then why does Aruna Shaunbag gets the limelight ? " It is a sensible question to reflect upon. I cant compare the brutalities inflicted by rapists on different women neither am I willing to pacify myself grading thse occurrences on parameters like age, stigma, and victim's life aftermath.
Aruna's case has caught our attention recently due to Pinki Virani's petition to the Supreme Court pleading to administer Euthanasia for Aruna. Though her care takers and doctors feel this is unethical and Aruna seems to respond emotionally at times especially to her favourite food, her vegetative state for last 38 years makes it difficult to reach a decision.

And to think of why she is in such a state today makes me feel helpless being a woman. The world never came to a standstill in the past 38 years though for Aruna it in non existential. Her family and loved ones moved ahead in life leaving her at the hands of merciful caretakers who managed to keep her sore free and alive for 38 years.

What would I do if I were her? This question has been haunting me for 8 years though I hardy know this woman. What beats me is the apathy with which my neighbour cooked today while I was narrating this story to her.

Maybe it's true the moment an incident happens it ceases its vitality and starts being a story. Aruna is a story today for many ............ but I cant understand a society which believes every rape is a similar story.

Happy women's day- I don't understand what this day means except for few discounts of jewellery and cosmetics and puppies and candies, what does this day actually mean?

Can I wish women like Aruna a happy women's day?

p.S- Supreme court has rejected Aruna's plea for euthanasia however it has marked a new dawn for euthanasia in India- by allowing passive euthanasia with stipulated guidelines.