I came to India without expectations, as such baggage will only burden you with the possibility of disappointment. Knowing already the madness that laces this culture, I came with half empty suitcase and an open mind. Over the past few years, I’ve developed what could be best described as a love affair with the country. I covet the incessant wail of the auto rickshaws, the lingering scent of incense, the ocean of people, the pure spontaneity and organized chaos of the nation. No indifferent reaction can be had in the face of India, as it is truly a place you either love or disdain. I first came out East at eighteen. I was young, naïve and without any explanation as to what the catalyst was behind my decision to come. Sleeping in the folds of my memory, the fading recollection and desire to return to this beautiful and bizarre country has followed me through the years, like a shadow growing as the sun sets. I sit now on bus traversing the Mother Country on route to Goa. As I watch the landscape slip past my window, I realize that India is everything and nothing as I had anticipated it to be throughout my long awaited return. Groping for the words to describe my time here thus so far I realize I am lost for them. Yet, in retrospect, it took me years before I felt as if I could fully wrap my mind around my first experience in India. I expect that same to be true in this case.
In regards to the more formal aspects of the program, such as the academia, I have found the courses to be, by and large, interesting and the professors to present engaging lectures. As a media and culture student, the opportunity to analyze and dissect Bollywood films within the context of India has been an unparalleled experience. The great minds lacing the staff of CSCS have opened my mind to conceptual approaches completely outside of those I have come to rely on to make sense of socioeconomic conditions like poverty. Although our time is short, I feel as if I have already gotten a lot out of the program. Having never really had any exposure to films generated from Bollywood, Ashish class has provided a great overview of the prolific cinematic production and diverse genres that make up the industry. On another topic, I also found his argument on how the darkness of the slums cast a shadow on the metropolis to be a particularly intriguing proposition. Lastly, I like how Sumita’s class provides an overarching framework of the issues at hand. The reading for her course has been difficult, but nonetheless very interesting.
The lectures conducted at Institute of Scientific Research were among my favorite because it gave my fellow peers and I a chance to venture outside to the periphery of the city and have the metropolis reveal yet another side to us. Although I wasn’t too inspired by the class concerning the proliferation of the IT industry and its economic implications on Bangalore, the screening of Heron Farocki’s work, “Images of the World and the Inscriptions of War” was compelling. Furthermore, I found the professor of this lecture to be captivating in her critique of the film. In regards to the course load, the articles and essays have thus so far been interesting, yet its been difficult to juggle a full day of classes with the assigned reading- especially when overwhelmed with the desire to see Bangalore. My only suggestion would be to utilize the city as a classroom as such an experience is a rarity. Given that the metropolis is as socially and economically diverse as it is, the city itself renders an unparalleled education.