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Tuesday, January 31, 2012


So I am in the middle of the days reading, and one thing that occurred to me that I have kind of thought about, but haven't seriously considered and that I am not realizing I should probably very seriously consider is preparing myself for hate. That is a strong word, but I think in my excitement to get back to India, I am not preparing myself mentally for the very real and very likely possibility that this summer will not be all sunshine and roses. I know it won't. Last summer in India I was living with seven to sixteen other Americans (they came and went) and so was somewhat insulated away from Indian culture. I mean, I love love love Indian culture. I love the food, I love the people, I love the religions, I love the heat and the humidity, I love the languages, I love so many things about freaking awesome India! But as I was reading about field notes and diaries, I realize that I really do need to take serious consideration to preparing myself for when I am reacquainted with or discover new things about India that drive me crazy. I guess I am not exactly sure how to prepare myself to hate India (again, strong words, not as strong as I mean, but I hope you understand what I am talking about) other than perhaps just allow myself to be open to the idea. I don't mean that I plan to be apprehensive or distant, but just that I am aware that this can and probably will happen to some degree so that when it happens I am prepared to react appropriately.

Okay, I really have apprehensions about admitting that I have read this book and even more apprehensions in admitting that in some ways it has influenced my life, since in general I think it is honestly kind of a stupid book, but Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love actually had what I thought was one good point. Overall I think it is full of exactly the kinds of things that stupid Americans do and perpetuates the idea that all the rest of the world exists as a playground for Americans and that we bless them by gracing them with our divine American presences. Anyhow, end rant. In the middle of the book in the India section she is at the Ashram misinterpreting Hinduism, but there is one moment that I really, really liked. It is the part where she practices...I don't know if it has a name, I will call it mosquito meditation. The book builds up to this moment, so she is working on these ideas beforehand, but it comes to ahead here. Basically what she is doing is meditating with all these distractions and pain. When she does this she kind of goes through this mental exercise where she acknowledges the annoyance or distraction, confesses she cannot do anything about it, and then sets it aside. In her mind she describes it something like "Cramped knees, I know you are hurting, but I cannot do anything about that right now, I have to keep meditating, it will be okay. I acknowledge you, but there is nothing I can do" and then sets it aside. This idea of acknowledging and embracing pain and difficulty has actually been very helpful in my life and it is what I hope to use to help me deal with any difficulties I encounter in India. India is always an exercise in patience, at least for Westerners. I hope I can just accept and embrace the terrible traffic caused by unwise decisions by Delhi's drivers, admit that it drives me crazy, and then set it aside and just move forward. A lot of dealing with difficult people or misunderstandings or differing world views will probably just come down to whether or not I can accept them with patience. I don't know how long I will be able to maintain this zen thing, but it is on my list of things I hope to be able to do while I am there. India is a lot more about existing than in America. Sometimes you just need to stop and accept/enjoy the moment even though it is hot or you have a headache or you just want to be home or you are late. There isn't anything you can do about it anyways, so let it be and see, perhaps for the first time, what is around you.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Reading in India

So while I was thinking and writing about my five competing project questions, I realized that I may be thinking about this incorrectly. I do not think what I am about to write about will actually directly affect my project. I am committed to studying literature-esque things, but I realized that actually trying to approach literature from such a blunt perspective may be the wrong approach in some ways. I was thinking about the things I have been reading and I would like to look into when I was thinking about a book I got, The Adventures of Amir Hamza. It was originally a Persian epic, but it kind of found new life and grew in its Urdu incarnation in the Mughal courts. According to William Dalrymple, the last full version published in Urdu was something like forty volumes. Okay, I am getting sidetracked with fun random facts. The main point is, The Dastaan-i-Amir Hamza for most of its existence has been an oral text. Now I am not saying that I should just scrap books and look at oral literature, folk stories, and gossip, but I think it represents an important paradigm shift that I need to understand before I will be prepared to go to India to actually study things. India has an almost frighteningly immense literary heritage. Mostly unknown to the west there is a canon of sorts of classical Indian writings from the last two and a half thousand years on everything from religion to literature to criticism. The way these things have been transmitted and recorded is in many ways different from how things were done in the West.

I think an important thing to consider for many of my proto-projects is how do Indians feel about knowledge, stories, and literature as topics. I will need a firm understanding of the place they have in Indian society and how they relate to the Indian world view before I will really be able to make sense of any information about literature I collect in the field. It is a question on how they view literature. Most Indian languages have no word for chef. Being a cook is not really a very prestigious career and so the only way to say it in most language is just to say someone who prepares food. Mostly lower caste people prepared food traditionally. Thus there could be something important in the place of the author in Indian society. I suppose another angle to consider is the place of sages like Valmiki who are respected.

Another point brought up in class was that of literacy. Understanding who cannot read could be as important as who can read and what they read. I am very interested in this topic, except I am pretty sure it would make any project I tack it onto way to large to be possible. I might spin it out into a sixth possible project question. Although really it is time to choose, not come up with more. It would be interesting to know what the illiterate feel about reading, their motivations to want to learn to read, why they don't want to read, or what has prevented or is preventing them from being able to read. I wonder what stories and myths they know and how it affects their world view.

Anyhow, overall I think I still know what I want to do. Before I leave I will need to do a bunch of research on this concept of literature and oral tradition and everything to inform my project. I do not know how much these concepts will change my project, but they will definitely inform how I put it together going forward. I will have to contemplate these ideas a lot more.

Sources Annotated

I am just updating my sources. I know I am supposed to have more, and technically have some things I could use as sources, but nothing that I really want to put on here. I mean, I have another ten or so books I have read, but they are not different enough that I could really label them as great sources for my project. More scholarly sources are forthcoming in abundance shortly.

Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. The Empire Writes Back. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.

This book serves as a primer for the topic of post-colonial literature. It does not cover everything and does not go into intense detail, but it is a great introduction to the topic. It defined post-colonial literature very well. For my project it serves as an excellent reference point for how I consider Indian literature. Its relevance will vary depending on what I focus on, but the foundation of what the West thinks of Indian literature has been enlightening.

Shanghvi, Siddharth Dhanvant. The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2010. Print.

This text is really more of a good representative a of a series of texts I have been reading. They are kind of grouped by theme. I did not consciously choose them for this theme, but it is something I have been noticing that often appears in Indian writing. The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay focuses on love and relationships. Perhaps because of the tradition of arranged marriages, India has developed a very unique and distinct way of portraying choice based relationships. The kind of things that go along with these depictions have so far been fairly consistent across Indian literature. It is something I am following and could be important to my project.

Dalrymple, William. Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India. New York: Vintage Departures, 2009. Print.

Nine Lives presents an interesting take on travel writing and ethnography. Dalrymple wrote the story of nine people from nine different somewhat obscure or marginalized religious groups in India. His attempt was to try to get out of the way and just let the people's story be the focus. While I will not be studying any of these religious groups, his approach has bearing on my project. The way he presents the stories is an interesting approach to what amounts to scientific data, however it does raise questions about whether or not it is possible to succeed at presenting information from a completely unbiased way and to not interfere at all, even unintentionally, with the data.

Patel, Sanjay. The Little Book of Hindu Deities. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print

This book serves as a primer of sorts to Hinduism, or at least their gods and a few other important things. It goes through all the major gods and some of the stories of Hindu theology. All of this directly relates to daily life in India, and also to some of the themes and ideas recorded in Indian literature, even by Muslim and Christian authors. This was a great reference for just getting introduced to the myriad of gods that make up the Hindu pantheon.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The History of Indian English Literature

The final topic I have been considering, is the development of English literature in India. Basically its history, where it came from, where it is, and maybe where it is going, if it is possible to tell that.

In doing this I would need to take a survey of Indian literature from its inception to the present. I think the most important and difficult part of this would be finding the origins. I would like to get down to the very details. When were Indians first using English? And then from those beginnings in clerical notes or whatever it was, trace it all the way back up to the present where there is now everything from user manuals to novels to comics produced in India, by Indians, for Indians in English. I would need to know significant trends and movements, the major authors and influences, the major impetuses for Indians to write in English, and maybe public opinion about English all along the way.

I think libraries, schools, universities, book stores, publishers, and government offices would be my primary sources for information. I do not know how much normal people would be of help in this case, but they might be. It is probably not possible to simply go through everything. I would need to have people that know about these things to contact and work with. I also would need to have a plan of major sources and things that I would need to hit to really learn anything.

The purpose of this would be to put together a coherent sort of history, I guess, of Indian writing in English. I do not think I would have time to do much detail, so it would probably end up being sort of a brief introduction to the topic. Tracing the Origins of Indian writing in English would relate back to its current place in post-colonial literature. By looking at where it has come from, where it is, and where it is going, I would hope to gain insight into how it fits into the paradigm of post-colonilial literature and how it fits into contemporary Indian culture. Perhaps they are related in some way.

I think the main concerns I have with this is that it is such a huge topic and there isn't really a good way to narrow it down. I could choose a specific segment of history to focus on, but anything but the most recent time periods would not really help in looking at how Indian literature fits in with post-colonialism. Also, there is the problem of finding all the sources and knowing them well enough to write them into a history. I assume this is a huge amount of documents. The history of English in India goes back at least a few hundred years. I do not know if I could track down everything I need. I am not exactly sure where to look for it. I get the feeling that I am not going to find what I need in the United States, but in India, at this point, I am not exactly sure where to start looking for something like that. I feel like I would run out of time before I made any significant headway.

Anyhow, that I guess concludes my five question analyses for now. I am tired so they kept getting shorter. I feel bad about that, but I just want to get them done. I feel kind of paralyzed in my research right now because these topics don't exactly jive perfectly. Writing them out has actually really helped me kind of get a feel for what I actually want to do while I am in India and what would conceivably even be possible. I am kind of burned out on writing for the moment, but remind me to write about an epiphany I had about reading while I was thinking about and writing these. I do not know if it will actually end up relevant, but it has suddenly changed how I look at my project. Also, I need to update the Intent and logs pages on my blog. I want to get them with something in them.

18th and 19th Century Urdu Poetry

The Mughal Empire, while initially militaristic, at some point in its history, fairly quickly actually if I remember correctly, turned into a center of learning and culture. The Mughal court in Delhi was a huge center for Urdu poetry and literature. There were tons of poets and the royal court sponsored poetry readings and festivals for its celebration. The last Mughal Emperor, and probably some of the other ones, actually were decent poets in their own right, in many ways mirroring the court of Queen Elizabeth in England. Many of the best poets were given status as nobles and were respected in society. There is a huge body of Urdu poetry from this time period as they developed new styles of writing and experimented.

I really would like to go to Delhi and see what I can find of this lost tradition. I know that in the mutiny papers from the 1857 rebellion, there is some of the Urdu poetry. I should think that the central archive has copies of these works. I am not sure if the universities have anything or not.

The goal of doing this would be to go through and perform some analysis and critical examination of Urdu literature during the late Mughal period when literature was at its height, basically the hundred years between the mid 1700's ending with the 1857 rebellion. I would want to look at as many of the originals as possible, and barring that, the poetry presented in the original Urdu, printed in Urdu. This would cover everything from what was written, to how it was written, to how it was presented. Essentially your standard literary analysis. I would need to be in India and actually specifically in New Delhi/Delhi because that is where all of this went down and where I assume most of the originals still are.

This project does have a few minor concerns and one huge concern. The biggest problem is that the English, bless their hearts, destroyed a huge chunk of Urdu literature when they sacked Delhi in 1857. Entire libraries of priceless manuscripts were destroyed or burned or stolen. Even the work of living poets was lost. Considering the manuscript culture of the time, in many cases the texts destroyed were the only existent copies. Thus I am not even sure exactly how much of the Urdu literature I want to study actually still exists since the English performed a sort of cultural cleansing on it. Some other problems are tracking them down. Some of them might be museum pieces, which would make things difficult, either through not being able to see them, having to analyze them through glass, only being able to see one page through glass, or the simple difficulty of trying to access to each of the museums they are in, if they are even in local museums. Another problem is I can't read Urdu, at least not yet. Urdu is essentially identical to Hindi, so that wouldn't be a problem per se, but I would have to learn how to read Urdu, since I don't think relying on a translator is practical or ideal. That basically defeats the whole purpose of traveling to Delhi  in the first place. Another similar problem, is even if I learn to read and write Urdu, I do not know if hand written manuscripts would be legible to me. They could be too ornate or too messy for me to really accomplish much.

English vs. Native Languages

I would like to look at the status of English language Indian writing as compared to the status of Indian writing in native languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Telugu, Tamil, etc. This relates back to post-colonialism, I guess. The idea would be to place English writing in the context of the writing going on in other languages.

I would look at the amount of writing in each language, how often they are translated into one another, where they are sold, what are the demographics for each, do certain languages cater to certain classes of people. I would also want to look at things like themes and ideas. Is there certain things they write about? If English writing is considered post-colonial because it deals with the issues of getting back to the original culture and de-colonizing, what if native language writing is dealing with the same themes? Is it post-colonial? If it is in a native language, say Hindi, (sorry Tamil, no bias, I swear) and it is effectively completely controlled by solely Indians, can it be considered post-colonial? What literary forms occur in native languages? Indians (and most countries for that matter) often express a desire to resist westernization. How much has western ideas infiltrated native writing? How closely tied to the rest of the western world is English literature? How closely connected to the past literary tradition is literature in native languages? Does Indian writing in English often follow genres and forms usually found or created in native Indian languages?

Basically I would be looking at the literature, not the people. I would need to see what is available for sale, what is in libraries, what people own, what is taught in schools. I guess all of this would be impacted first by finding out prevalences. If there really isn't much of a certain language or something, that would be highly indicative. Information from publishers and authors would be helpful. Even though this is all literature analysis, essentially, I would have to be in India since native Indian language texts really do not make it far beyond the borders of India.

The goal of all of this would be to be able to put together a sort of ethnography? study? report? (I don't know what you would call it) on literature as a whole within India. This would then allow a more even perspective of English literature in India. Through this I would be able to answer questions about whether English is a weird upstart, whether it is a significant literature movement, if it is ,as Salman Rushdie claims, an Indian literary language, and whether or not it meshes more with Indian literature as a whole, or with post-colonial literature.

This topic does have some problems in that this would require the study not only of works in English, but in other languages. And not just one other language, but a bunch of different languages. It would be impossible for me to learn the languages enough to do this sort of thing. I could probably get Hindi where it needs to be in time, possibly Urdu if I had to. (since I essentially just need to figure out the dag blasted alphabet) However I would have to rely of people and/or translators for books in other languages. I am concerned on how possible that would be. This could be too huge of a topic. It might be better to focus on something like English literature versus Hindi literature. I am also not sure if it is possible to look at this from so many different angles at once. It might be necessary considering time and skill constraints to simply look at publishing rates and readership or else just themes and movements or something. I still also have to deal with the sheer mass of each body of literature which each might make a study of even either of them by themselves impossible.

Emma Roberts

Last semester, I had to do a project in my romanticism class in which I had to find an obscure British poet and then research the background and important context on one of their poems. I ended up choosing Emma Roberts for her connection to India. She lived in India for over a decade, if I remember. Maybe I am remembering wrong. Anyhow, she lived there for at least a few years on two separate trips. At the time she was a fairly well known writer in England. She published several books of her travel writing that initially appeared in magazines. While I was researching her though, I found that there were basically no resources available about her. There was some biography and the oldest documents all referenced her journals and letters. However I was never able to find the original journals and letters, only references to them in old books. Actually, only in one old book. She died in India, so my question is, is there some trace or evidence of Emma Roberts left in India?

Basically I would be going back to snoop around in the national archive as well as in the cities she lived in to see if some of her documents are holed up somewhere forgotten or if they are in a university library or something like that.

I don't quite know if I would limit myself to Emma Roberts or not. What I am most interested in seeing is not so much her writing of the time, since most that was sent to England anyways, but what she thought of India in her personal writings. Thus I have thought about expanding it to include the writings of any British women living in India from around 1800 through 1947. I want to know what they thought about conditions there, the people, how they felt about being there, and what they did everyday.

To do this I would have to first somehow find a list of people that were there, hopefully with some idea of who might have left some sort of record that could still possibly be there. In India I would have to find a network of people who might know, get access to the national archive (which would require prior permission, of course), and visit necessary libraries, cemeteries, government buildings, etc. This would require some travel, which I am not stoked about, since it would add difficulty, but as things are, I would probably have to visit places like Kolkata, Mumbai, and Simla in addition to Delhi.

Through this I would hope to be able to put together a coherent picture of colonial India through they eyes of British women as an alternative history rather than the one often told from the perspective the male British military commanders and government officers or the native populace whether complacent or insurgent. Actually looking at it all from the perspective of the native female would be super fascinating, but I do not know if any such record exists. I will do some research, but I only know of one really influential female who would have written down stuff, the Begum Sumroo. I do not know if there are any like her.

Some concerns I have with this topic are the amount of work it would require, the barrier of history, and time constraints. I do not feel like the topic is horrendously broad, however I am obviously not going to be able to just travel to important cities and do a few house visits. Since no one has really done much like this before, (at least that I have found, I am still researching) it is unlikely that these records are in one convenient location or even gathered at all. I do not know if there is even enough time to track down this many records. Trying to follow one person could be more time intensive than a single summer could allow. I think my biggest concern is simply how much time has passed. Huge political upheavals like the 1857 uprising and India gaining its independence involved a large movement of the British. I am sure there are more periods of upheaval, but any of these inevitably result in the loss of documents. If the people I am researching are not important, their journals and documents may have just been thrown away or destroyed from lack of care. I also am not even sure where to begin looking for that kind of thing. I think most of it, (if it still exists) if it has not been collected by the government then it is probably either knowingly or unknowingly in private collections. It may be impossible from the start to get the records. I guess identifying important historical structures might help, however doing a historical survey of even a single city is probably beyond my skill and more than could be done in three months.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why Indians Read and Write

So I decided to kind of work my way through each of my possible topics here. I really would like to narrow it down so I can better focus my research. Reading a bunch of novels and background stuff is great for the trip, but it doesn't do much for my project.

In studying what Indians read and write, I want to look at where literature is in India today. When I have lived in India, I have never really ever noticed anyone reading anything other than a newspaper. Most homes I have visited had textbooks and possibly some religious books, but not always. As far as I could tell and from the few people I asked in passing, it really seemed like most Indians did not do much reading for pleasure or self-motivated instruction. Granted, I do not have many rich friends in India. Maybe they are the ones who read more. There are many book stores, both legitimate as well as black market. Supposedly in a part of Hyderabad there is a book sale every Sunday. There are books, I just cannot seem to find the readers. Or the writers for that matter.

Another aspect that I am interested is in how Indian literature in English relates to post-colonial literature. I have been doing some background reading into the state of post-colonial literature and how it works. From here in the West, there is not much exposure to Indian literature, and so they fit nicely into the paradigm of post-colonialism. However, there are hints in some things I have read, and in my assessment of Indian culture that there is more to Indian literature than just trying to navigate out of a colonized mindset. I want to go see what is on the ground in India. What are they writing and reading thematically? How often is the influence of the British mentioned? The robustness of Indian culture that is independent in so many ways to the West suggests that perhaps Indian literature is also more independent than the West gives it credit for.

In India with this project idea I would get to know people, interview them about what they read, what books and authors they are familiar with, how they feel about Western and Indian literature. I would visit book stores and publishing houses to see what trends are happening, where the publishing market is going, where the authors are coming from, and what their goals are. I would find whatever authors are available and see if I can meet with them about their writing, why they write, and who they are writing for, and also what they hope to accomplish by writing. I would also meet with university professors, officials, and k-12 (well, the Indian equivalent, since it isn't quite the same, I should post about that actually) teachers and administrators about what they teach in the classroom and how they feel about what Indian students should be learning.

I guess the ultimate goal of this would be a kind of ethnography of reading (thank you Ashley giving me the label). I want to get a snapshot of reading in India. This would orient me to where India is in the world of literature. Maybe they should still be babied in post-colonialism. But maybe there is enough there and enough independence that it is essentially bigoted to lump them in with every other colony from anywhere in the world. I think a big part of this is, while post-colonial scholars do note that countries like Canada and the United States are colonies themselves, there is definitely a different tone to the United States' literature's label as "post-colonial" and India's literature's label as "post-colonial." I use these terms a lot, but I think I need to stop and define the difference between post-colonial and "post-colonial," if there is a difference even.

Some concerns: The more I think about this topic the more I feel crushed under its size. It is a simultaneous feeling of it crushing me under its weight as well as the feeling of trying to catch fog in a jar. It just is ephemeral and floats away and spreads and I cannot really grasp it. I feel like this could actually be like five different projects focusing on each of these. I feel I could probably combine some of these ideas, but I worry about it being too broad and general to really mean anything. The label of ethnography also makes me nervous. To me an ethnography is something huge that takes place over at least eight months to a decade that involves a ton of research and an eventual big report or book. I understand that is not the expectation of a field study, but I worry that what I can accomplish in three months will be too small. Everyone is important and part of the data, but knowing what a few people think that is not really conclusive across a culture in any way is kind of wasteful to me. The experience regardless will be good, but I do not want to start a project I feel is futile from the start. I am not an anthropology major, so I don't know that having a failure experience with ethnography exactly fits in with what I want to do with my life. Also I do not know that it will in any way help the discussion of literature in India, which is part of what I want to accomplish. I think my primary opposition to this idea is that I really do not feel capable at all at conducting an ethnography. I do not know that I have the skill set to do this. I do not know if I can reign in the topic enough to make it both viable and interesting to me. But this idea is what brought me to a field study in the first place, and it is one of the most legitimate reasons to actual visit the country.


I refuse to capitalize it. Anyhow, This semester has been crazy busy. I wish I had something more thinky to say right now. The one thing I do have to report is that I got my facebook set up again. I have only added Indians I know though, haha. That is really the only reason I turned it back on. I think I will probably have to network with some Westerners as well, but I don't want to. I just want to use it as a convenient way to stay in touch with people in India.

It has actually grown pretty well in popularity. When I first got back from India everyone was on Orkut, but now most people I know are on facebook. Anyhow. I wish I had more to say about this. I have just started. Hopefully it will go well. Except I really do not want to be bothered with updating anything. Never a recipe for success.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Salman Rushdie and the Jaipur Literature Festival

So I read the Times of India a lot. We were asked to look for a news article from a local newspaper/source. The past few weeks there has been some drama building around Salman Rushdie's attendance of the Jaipur Literature Festival. (I am so mad it is not when I am going to be there. I will have to see if there might possibly be any while I am there. Although the summer probably means that there won't be.) (Although I suppose if it might be for the best because I think I am technically not supposed to visit the state of Rajasthan. Technically of course...<.<...>.>...) Recently things came to a head resulting in Salman Rushdie choosing to not attend the Festival. Basically there was a rumor that some Mumbai mafia dons were going to assassinate him if he came to India. So to for his own safety as well as to not disrupt the festival, he did not attend.

That was a terrible summary. I am interested in the implications for my project. Currently in the United States there are no officially banned books. At least not by the federal government, and I am 97% sure there are no books banned by state governments. I have been looking around online for a coherent list of books that are currently banned in India. Like most things with my research on India so far, reports are far and few between, and almost always conflict with each other. Anyhow, I am pretty sure at least these five are banned currently (although a few websites noted that even though they are banned, on a couple of them the government doesn't bother to enforce the ban):

The Satanic Verses
Mother India
The Lotus and the Robot
Rangila Rasool
Lady Chatterley's Lover

In almost every case that I have found, the reason for banning a book in India is that it in someway offends someone's religious sentiments, usually Hindu or Muslim sentiments. Usually it is not for specific obscenity, such as in the case of Lady Chatterley's Lover (which still seems kind of random to me). Most cases were instances where authors challenged popularly accepted dogma or portrayed religious figures or ideas in a more realistic or negative light. I think I am going to have to find a complete and accurate list of the books banned in India. I think individual states can have their own bans on books. This could be difficult.

Friday, January 20, 2012


I do not really know a whole lot about this topic yet. I have a book about it, but I haven't started it yet. All I do know is that it is an important part of Hindu worship. It is basically the concept of seeing god and being seen by god. This is why idols and temples are so important. You go to the temple or do puja to your idols at home so that you can present yourself before god to see and be seen. I am not exactly sure how this fits into the religion, but I will.

What makes me think about this is recently, (sort of, this was like a month long project) got some pictures of some Hindu deities. Currently I have Sarasvati, Vishnu, and Natarajan (Shiva, essentially) on my wall. At first I loved them. They complement my room so well. I mean, I still love them. Overtime I have slowly become aware of their eyes. It is hard not to look at them, especially in the eyes. You are drawn to them. I think I look at each of them accidentally several times throughout the day. Yesterday however, I sort of became aware of the fact that they are always looking at me. It kind of creeped me out. Every time I looked up from my book these three gods were staring right at me. It doesn't matter what angle you are at from them, they are always looking at you. I mean, I know they are not actually the idols. Erm, I mean, I am not converting here, but what I mean is, from a Hindu perspective, a god only comes and "lives" in an idol if the idol is created in the proper way. I am almost certain that the proper precautions, rites, and mantras have not been taken in the creation of these pictures, since they are published by some random American company.

Where am I going with this? It has been an interesting experience living under the eyes of gods for the past few weeks. I am so curious to learn more about how this relates back into Hinduism. I am slowly starting to piece the religion together. Random snippets I have been told or have looked up are starting to come together.

I find my religious thinking impacted more and more from what I read about Hinduism, Islam, Sufism, Indian flavors of Christianity, and to a smaller degree Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. It has actually been fairly enlightening of how I perceive and interact with God in my own religion.

Edit: as per Rachel's suggestion I have uploaded a picture of the trio. Hopefully Brahma doesn't mind me substituting him out in favor of his estranged wife in my little trimurthi. Forgive the awkward angle/not really having everything in the frame. I need to get a wide angle lens. I also need to get money to get a wide angle lens, haha. Also, knowing what I am doing would help. This picture is grainy as hell up close, but the iso is only around 400. I am not sure what I need to change.

Source 4

For my fourth source I think I will just use The Little Book of Hindu Deities. I know it is kind of silly, but it was actually a surprisingly informative book. I learned a lot about the Hindu deities. However I still face the never-ending problem that even though I now know one version of the story, when I talk to Hindus I know or people who know about Hinduism, no one ever agrees on the same version of the story. C'est la vie, I suppose. I should learn how to say that or the equivalent phrase in Hindi. The goal of this weekend and next week is to now actually find more helpful sources. I mean, these are helpful, but I mean something more like a scholarly source, maybe a study or something. This background stuff is great, but I think I definitely need to find a significant body of critical literature and probably anthropological studies since they will have bearing on my project.

Source 3 Redux

Okay, so apparently we were supposed to do the question format for four sources, not two. Oh well. So I redid my entry on Nine Lives. Anyhow, here it is after the jump.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Project/Research Questions

Okay. This assignment did not go at all as well as I would have liked. Not even close. I have been so dang busy! I mean, that is not really an excuse. I believe in the idea that you always have time for the things you want to do. I mean, except I really wanted to do this, but I had so much else to do. Anyhow, these are terrible, terrible questions. I realized as I sat down to work on this today that I don't quite understand the assignment and that I need a little more time/research to ponder this out. I am getting there. I think I need to just talk to a few people. Sarah, our new class teacher person will probably be good for that. Rachel has also offered to talk me through my project, which would be excellent. Actually if I just go to the field study office I would probably find someone I could talk to. Anyhow, I need to do that this week so I can finalize what I want to do. Right now I have like five similar, but competing ideas. I need to eliminate four. Also, I need to be able to write a research question that does not sound retarded like these ones do. I am not exactly sure how to pose these. I mean, if, for example, I wanted to do the one about Urdu, if my goal was just to survey what is there, how to I write that succinctly in one question? I am not sure if I could really find a good question until I had actually had access to the material. There is probably a very reasonable and logical way through all this and I will figure it out with help. I just need more time!
Anyhow, my questions are hiding behind the break. Do not look at them. I am posting them for reference only. I will post the actual real good one at some point in the future, hopefully sometime this week.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Great Indian Love Story

I just pounded it out this afternoon. As soon as I started it, I knew it was not going to be a good book, but I am fascinated by the perspective. To best describe it, I would say if you ever want to convince someone never to go to India, especially New Delhi, give them this book to read. The entire thing was about drugs, alcohol, and lots and lots of adultery. It was basically a romance novel, but without all the explicit parts. The sex is all implied. Similar to The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay, this novel, novella really, is about the Indian perspective of love. I think that is why I kind of struggle to get my mind around it. On so many levels it is trying so hard to be just like every other trashy Western Romance novel, but if you really look at it, it is so incredibly Indian. No one writes such crazy, destabilized romances like Indians do. I do not like broad declarations about groups of people, but from what I have observed so far in what I have read, seen in movies, and witnessed first hand, Indians really struggle with the concept of love. It is either tame, devoted arranged marriage, or psychotic, usually tragic, romances. I mean, in many ways American romances are no different, but in India, it feels like you either have the equivalent of a Hindu Mormon Message or an Indian soap opera. I didn't hate The Great Indian Love Story as much as I thought I would. The characters were completely flat and predictable. I never liked them. A couple of them died (of course), but I never felt bad. The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay, while also not a terribly amazing book, is basically the same kind of story, but far better.

This is the second work of fiction in a row that I have read that features a female protagonist who grew up in India, went to school in the United States and then returned to a "foreign" India. It is kind of an interesting perspective. Now I wonder if this is some sort of sub genre of Indian fiction. The copy I have was actually meant to be sold in India, so I am curious as to what kind of people read this sort of book. It was all about rich people in Delhi having crazy parties and sleeping around. Is the desire for this kind of thing from Indian repression? Most of the Indian fiction I have read so far has been fairly literary. This is the first work I would describe as "trashy." I have purchased all of them so far, well, most of them, in the United States, so I am wondering if that has a filtering effect. Is most of the fiction that is popular in India trashy, easy fiction? I think I finished this book in less than four hours, more like three. It is not difficult at all. It is similar in that way to Chetan Bhagat, another terrible, terrible, yet immensely popular Indian author. I wish I had another year to read and ponder all this to put my project together.

Nine Lives

I guess I will be using this for a source for Wednesday. I need more time to find more specific sources, so for the time being I think I will just be using general background-ish texts to use as sources.

Nine Lives was brilliant. It covers nine lives (go figure) from a variety of different religious backgrounds in India. Mostly Dalrymple focuses on more random or fringe religious groups. Some of them I knew about, some of them I didn't know about. I actually found a few books referenced in this book that I added to my book list. It is mostly more background reading, but I am excited. I am kind of struggling to say anything about this book. I think the reason it is most important to my project, is the diversity it demonstrates. Religion in India is like animal and insect life in the Amazon Rainforest. It is unimaginably diverse and is everywhere. I probably will not consciously run into any of the nine religious groups mentioned specifically in the book, but the way that Dalrymple treats them and got to know them is probably very close to the model I will have to adapt when I get out into the field. This book shows how important it is to step carefully, I guess you could say, and be very sensitive to what people believe. People are fairly open about their religious beliefs in India, but if you are not trying to be aware of the nuances, it would cause problems, especially if you are trying to get people to open up and give you information. The book does not really have a central anything binding it together other than it is nine stories told primarily by the main characters. It does not really deal specifically with William Dalrymple himself.

And actually that is probably the route I need to take with my project. In the introduction Dalrymple (my goodness that name never gets easy to type) explains that unlike most travel literature, he consciously chose to eliminate himself as much as possible from the book. I think that is what makes it so effective. I think that is why I dislike Clifford Geertz so much. Nine Lives is not about what Dalrymple thinks about India. In fact, the only time I really felt like I could see Dalrymple's opinions coming through was when he was talking to the Wahhabi Cleric guy who wanted to blow up religious sites. It does not help with analysis. I mean, there is no analysis. However it does give a much clearer picture of what these aspects of India are really like. I think I will take that into serious consideration for my project. I mean, I probably will have to do some analysis, but I kind of like the idea of presenting things as they are. I am kind of uneasy with my place as a foreigner going in and trying to do anything with India. I still kind of feel like drawing conclusions or contributing to the scholarship of India is a privilege that should be reserved for Indians themselves. I don't know how comfortable I am coming into someone else's culture and drawing conclusions about something I have only spent a few months with.

Dalrymple, William. Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India. New York: Vintage Departures, 2009. Print.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Small Note

Mostly to make myself feel better because I know no one reads this and in a month or two this will be buried and forgotten, but anyhow, I got the pages thing all figured out. I was wondering how people were doing it. It makes me feel much better about the organization. I will update the tags, but I think I am going to use the pages thing as kind of bookmark pages. I don't like how some other blogs just kind of dumped everything onto those pages. One person just included a bunch of links to specific entries. I really liked how clean and organized that looked. So I think that is what I will do for my blog.

The Mango Season

I finally finished Mango season. The last part was an orgy of drama. It was awesome. I really enjoyed it. It was really interesting to ride on the coat tails of the Indian protagonist and see India through her eyes. The author grew up in Hyderabad. I think at least. At least she lived there. And I have lived there, so I recognized a lot of the places and things she was talking about. I of course do not know how completely accurate to reality the book was, but it was very interesting. It was a lot about marriage and family traditions and politics. Some of it I knew, some of it I didn't. It is interesting to compare Amulya Malladi's perspective with that of Jhumpa Lahiri's. Amulya writes more from the Indian perspective while Jhumpa writes more from the perspective of Indians living abroad. You do not really get the sense of how important the traditions are with Lahiri. I mean you do, but it is different. I don't want to sound like I am criticizing Lahiri, because I am not at all. Just the difference in focus of writing is so interesting.

I am not exactly sure how to wrap this all up into research though. I have read around sixteen books and I have another bookshelf of books to go through, but at this point I do not really see them going anywhere. I mean, I need to read to really get a feel for the landscape, but doing even a decent survey of Indian literature in English would take a few years and probably ten thousand dollars in books. It just is not practical for a single semester and an undergraduate. So I do not know quite how to bring it all together.

I am going to start looking into critical literature. I guess in addition to all the other things I need to look into this week. Although really I do not know if it is worth talking about at this point. I feel like what I really need to focus on is just hammering down the basic idea of what I want to do my project on. Then it will probably be a lot easier to figure everything else out and put it into place.

I am a little frustrated with the way the field study class is going. I know it is just the beginning of the semester, but I feel like there is so much to do and I do not exactly know what is going on. In my English classes I have already read two novels, covered about ten major literary theorists, and starting work on two major essays. Two weeks  into the semester and we are just getting our actual advisor teacher person. I feel like there are so many massive problems I need to overcome and everyone is talking about how much work it is and how serious you need to be and then we aren't really doing anything. I am not sure what to do about where/who I am staying with. I need to finalize what I am going to be doing my project about. I do not really understand what I am looking for with sources. We haven't talked about methodologies or any of that. I literally have zero idea about who to approach for my course contract things. I mean, I will probably end up working with Professor Eastley, (although I am concerned about how young he looks, not that he doesn't know his stuff, but I feel like my young professors always are more opinionated than old professors, and I am not one to back down about my opinions. I am concerned about working with someone who expects me to view things their way just because they are the authority figure, when I refuse, I absolutely refuse to do that in an academic setting) but the other one, I have no idea. I know it is just the beginning of the semester. I am sure it will all work out, but I am kind of stressing out over the whole sort of dangling in space thing. I did not anticipate this part of the individual field study. I guess I kind of expected things to be more formulaic, to fall more into place. I was expecting the field study class to be the calm center of this chaos, a thrice weekly foundation that everything would come back to so I could get my bearings, but it really hasn't been at all. Anyhow, I am just going on now. I know it is just the beginning of the semester and everyone in the field studies program knows what is going on and what needs to happen and when. They will be able to help me know what to do and everything is going to work out. There is no reason to stress about anything, the semester is just beginning. I just do not like this feeling right now.

Twenty-Five Questions Round Three

I think it is round three anyways. I do not have as much time as I wanted to have/planned to have, but here goes nothing, I suppose.

Actually as an aside, I saw on another girl's field study blog that she wrote questions and then kind of just thought them out, like what she was thinking, associated questions in a paragraph following them. It was just stream of consciousness, I guess, like her just talking out the question in a paragraph afterwards exploring them. She only wrote like nine questions, but I like that format. I may do some of that this week and next week.

Anyhow. Here we go, for real this time.

1. What do Indians read?
2. What do they write?
3. Why do they read?
4. Why do they write? (I am not just taking up space; I think the distinction is important.)
5. Is more being written in English or in native languages?
6. Is there a difference in quality between modern Indian literature in English versus modern Indian literature in native languages?
7. What literary criticism exists in India?
8. What genres are written in each language?
9. What are the major themes explored in each language?
10. Are the people who write in English versus native languages different, or are there just authors who generally write in multiple languages?
11. How do publishing companies influence what is written and read?
12. Is there a difference in what is selected by foreign companies like Penguin versus local publishing houses?
13. Is there a perceived difference in quality between foreign and local publishing houses?
14. How does the reading selections among classes differ?
15. Does language origin have an influence on what people read? (e.g. first language Tamil speaker versus first language Telugu speaker)
16. Are there any books perceived to be “classics”?
17. Do they differ from what is commonly considered the Western “classics”?
18. How much does religion dominate/impact reading selection?
19. What is the Indian perception of those who read?
20. Is there a difference in the quantity of reading done by the rich versus the middle class versus the lower classes?
21. Has reading changed across generations in India?
22. Are there any banned books in India?
23. Do Indians mostly buy books, borrow them, check them out from a library, or buy pirated copies?
24. How does education impact how and what Indians read?
25. How does travelling abroad impact what and in which language Indians read?

Second Source

So I decided to just go with The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay. Part of that choice was time constraints, part of it was I actually kind of think it applies. The questions were definitely awkward to answer for this book, since it is not a scholarly source, per se. It will have great bearing on my project, however. So thus I think it works as a source. At least at the beginning. This weekend especially, and next week I am really going to focus on lining up some good sources from a more academic/methodological perspective. I will have to get into the archive of past projects to see what other people have done with similar topics and maybe use them as sources to analyze or maybe I can even cannibalize their sources to jump start my own research.

This weekend I am going to go through everything I need to do and what I want to do with this project. I am kind of struggling with figuring out what direction to go for research, since I am not exactly sure where to find scholarly sources and methodology on a project like this.

Anyhow, source दो after the jump.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I need a second source

I am not really sure which one to use for the one tomorrow. I have about ten other books I have read as part of my initial research, but a lot of them, well they are novels and stuff. They are all by Indians, with the exception of The Last Mughal which was by William Dalrymple. However while they may end up informing the direction my project goes, I do not know that they are the sort of thing I would cite necessarily. I am thinking about using The Lost Flamingos of Bombay because that would factor heavily into my ideas about India being fairly independent. However I also sort of feel that it is a fairly western novel. I mean it isn't. The concepts of love and friendship expressed in it (and which arguably form its central thesis) (oh. my. gosh. I can't believe I just talked about the central thesis of a light fiction/quasi-romance novel. I think I just lost some of my personhood) anyhow, these concepts are very much Indian. I have encountered no other society that expresses them so melodramatically. However the exploration of sexual topics as well as the idea of a novel that basically focuses on the rich...I can't decide if the author is just aping the West (a phrase I picked up in India, does that even work in America? is it a British phrase? I have no idea) or if it is a legitimate expression of India just being itself and moving forward. I mean, part of my perspective on the issue is that even if what India writes is exactly like what an American or British author would write, it doesn't matter because as long as India is happy with it and it is what India chooses to do, not because they want approval from the West, but because it is just what they want, then it is the best possible thing for them to do and in no way a form of lingering colonial oppression. So I am still kind of on a fence about that. Plus the worksheet that we fill out seems extremely slanted towards specific, scholarly research. Like I can only see literary criticism articles really applying to those six questions. I don't think the history and fiction novels I have been reading could really be said to have an argument or sources. I mean the history one does, but not in the way that I would be using it.

Bah. I think I will search around a little bit more, but the problem is I do not know that there is a ton of scholarly literature on Indian literature. Last semester I wrote an analysis on three of Jhumpa Lahiri's short stories. It was sort of difficult finding useful critical sources. And she is technically an American. I should have ordered a copy of JNU's journal of literary criticism a few months ago when I was tempted to. That would probably come in handy now.

Oh well. In other news, I broke down and finally bought a copy of the Qur'an (Koran? I don't know the currently acceptable Englishization of that word) for some background reading. I have already read two sort of easy versions of the Ramayan and I have a literary version, but I have been holding off on buying the Qur'an (that one looks the most accurate, although that could just be my western stereotyping of the Arabic world (read: (especially in this case) the orient) making that judgment) because I know that unlike most Hindu religious texts, it seems like translation matters. I just want the most accurate possible text. However I have concluded that it seems like every text is considered biased by someone. I will probably just have to end up getting four or five Qur'ans to get as accurate picture of the text as possible. I also would like to read the Mahabharat before I leave, but we will see if I get around to that. The version that I would like to read is like eighty dollars, so I will have to find something cheaper. Bah! Why does translation have to complicate everything so much! I have so much background reading to do! I really want my other English reading assignments to go away so I can dig into the six or seven books I bought about Hinduism and Islam. I really want to have a fairly good grip on the religions this time round.

Oh, and I think I will post the twenty-five question thing tomorrow. I think I will use it as a warm up for class since I won't have any Hindi homework I have to cram.

Also, this weekend I promise I will get caught up on tags. It is on my to do list. Incidentally making a to do list is also on my to do list. But I digress.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blog Intent?

I think I would like to think about that more and formulate my ideas before I write about that. Especially because I have to finish all my Hindi homework before class and I do not have much time. Yikes. So instead I will simply introduce my blog officially by explaining it, I guess. Wow that sounds exactly like saying I am going to state the intent of my blog. What I mean is like the title and layout and stuff. I mean, I didn't design the layout or anything. So the background? Blah! This is not going well at all. I sound not at all as suave and cool as I want to about this.

Plunging on ahead regardless, the title of my blog is अभी दिल्ली दूर है. Transliterated abhii Dillii duur hai. And translated "right now Delhi is far." It is an idiom (I think) in Hindi that means something along the lines of "there is a lot left to do"/"there is still a long way to go until we reach our goal." You would say if you were in the beginning/middle of a major project for a class or I guess speaking in a timely fashion, it is applicable for most of the politicians running in the Republican primaries currently. I am not exactly sure on its origin. Apparently some king/military commander said it. I keep finding different accounts of its origin. Anyhow, I chose it because I wanted something that wasn't just something like "my field study" or "I'm going to Indian b****es" etc. Plus I liked the sort of dual meaning since it is both literally and figuratively true. I also hope it helps to keep me focused, both on all that I need to do as well as keeping my mind/heart focused on the right place throughout this whole adventure.

Also, a note on spelling for my blog address. I went back and forth on what to call my blog. I eventually went with the sort of expanded official spelling of the words. I mean, that is how they are directly transliterated, but the more common way to spell it would be abhi dilli due hai. However in the end I wanted to put my weight behind the standardization of Hindi, since it is important that Hindi adopts a standard to make it more internationally viable. At least I think so. Plus I found out yesterday that abhidillidurhai is taken as a blog address, so it worked out well in the end.

The background is from a series of pictures taken by John Murray in 1858 after the British basically leveled Delhi. (hence the reason the capital of India is called New Delhi, the british destroyed the old one) Anyhow, having an obsessive personality, I love the obsessive quality of this picture. I love the color and the off angle and the sharp contrast and the old timeyness of it. It is a picture of the Jamma Masjid in Delhi, I think it is the largest, but if not, among the largest masjids in India. I suppose in a way choosing this photograph for a background sort of contradicts a lot of what I have written about how India can stand on its own, that it is ridiculous to consider it from a colonial perspective. However, I feel like this perspective of the masjid kind of embodies my current situation with regards to India. When I look at this picture I get a sort of feeling of chaos and detachment, if those words actually explain what I mean. In this picture the masjid seems like it suddenly appeared around a corner or something. Like "holy crap, what is that?!" It suggests power, skill, and knowledge, but it is concealed in that courtyard and far away. It is a mystery. Is the sky clouded over? Is it a vibrant blue? Is it darkened with smoke? It just looks like something you might find in an attic somewhere, a picture of something you didn't know existed that just kind of crouches in the back of your mind, gnawing on your subconscious until you finally go out and find whatever the heck it is. I don't know. Maybe I am not helping my case here, but this picture captures so well, for me at least, the obsessive curiosity India holds for me. I just can't seem to turn away from it. Plus I like the aesthetic quality of the picture, I suppose, if we want to go past all the pretentious analysis of a photograph.

But I have Hindi homework to do.

Cultural Blends

Okay, so I searched around and I think I found the reading I was supposed to do. I think it is the first chapter from the book Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation by Michael Agar. They have a preview on Google Books. It was missing four pages, but I think I got the gist of it. At least I hope. I can't access the field study blackboard, so if it is in there in a PDF or something convenient like that, I haven't been able to get to it. Oh well. Anyhow, so what did I think? He has some interesting ideas. I found that by the end my brain was kind of hurting from his use of the word culture. He used it about every other sentence and I started to feel like I actually didn't understand quite what he meant by culture. Like it was coming up as a blank spot. The word was suddenly undefined and that made it difficult to read. Actually that is kind of ironic, because I think that is what he was talking about, the misunderstanding of words even though the grammar and the fluency is there technically. I feel like the basic idea is that you can't really communicate unless you are fluent in culture. If I understand the word culture in that context. You can accept an invitation to come for tea, but if you do not understand the proper etiquette and process behind an invitation to come for tea, you are not really communicating with the person who invited you to tea, even though if someone asked each person what they understood, they would probably be able to answer. I found his ideas about Americans as number-ones or whatever term he used as very interesting and insightful. I know I have been in that boat before. I have worked hard to get out of it, but I do not know how far along that path I actually am. I sort of get a deja vu feeling from reading this chapter. Basically it is saying the same thing that the short article about what students don't learn abroad, just in more eloquent and round about terms. I guess the challenge then is to try to not be a number-one kind of person and to be open to the culture of other people, not just intellectually, but...intuitively? I don't quite know what word to put there. I think the hardest part about that is that so often you do it without thinking about it. Cultural perspectives are so deeply grained you don't think about it. When I go out to eat it always takes a few minutes before anyone suggests that it is okay to start eating before other people's food arrives. In India if you are the guest it would be awkward if you waited for the host to eat since actually quite often the host, if it is a hostess won't eat until after you leave. That isn't something I would ever have thought about and it isn't something that would ever have come up in normal conversation. No one explained that to me when they invited me for dinner, I learned it when I tried to wait for the host to eat. I am sure there are many more situations like that that I will figure out the hard way. I guess the trick is to try to be as perceptive as possible to pick them up as early as possible. Maybe I should just learn to ask a lot of questions? Of course that suggests knowing whether or not questions are culturally acceptable, or at least in what contexts/times. Although I do believe that part of doing what Agar suggests is learning to be a foreigner. I disagree with his maybe suggestion, if I am reading it correctly, that someone else's culture can become your own. That may be possible with European cultures that are somewhat similar to America, but I do not believe that a white person could ever really adopt African or Chinese or Indian culture. You can go a long way to picking up some of the culture, but you can never be part of it. Okay, well, let me just speak for India, which is what I know. In all my experience I have never seen it work, and in all my reading I have only ever heard of one person, a Frenchman, described as being truly accepted by the Indian people. However how much of that is reality and how much of that is optimistic history, I will never know.

And it is late late late! Tomorrow is going to suck. But it is finished! Sort of. Minus four pages. Also this analysis is not all that great because I read and analyzed everything after midnight. Not a recipe for success. No tags for you! Yet, anyways.

Trying not to panic

I feel like all my blog titles sound like little cries for help lately. They aren't really, I just have no idea what to title a blog entry and I hate leaving them blank. Being faced with that little title line is so stressful. Actually sometimes it dissuades me from writing a blog entry. I crumble under the pressure of having to produce so many titles.

Anyhow, in light of not really knowing what to do, I have been searching through the few field study blogs that I know of to see if I can figure out what I am supposed to be doing. Luckily Matt Merrill who went to MacLeod Ganj or however you spell it posted what I think is the worksheet I am supposed to have filled out. As far as I can tell, this blog is the online portfolio? I have no idea. I will assume so.

Anyhow, so here we are. Here is my first analysis thingy. I am not terribly pleased with it. I do not think I go into enough detail. Now that they mention it, I would sort of like to go back and examine the sources they use in more detail as well as break down the themes/ideas in the book. Although I suppose that is basically the desire I already had when I decided I needed to re-read it. Oh well. And actually I won't make you read it, so if you want to, you can see it after the jump. Also they say I need tags. Blast it, I am not ready! Oh well, this weekend I shall do it, since I must, I suppose.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Class Tomorrow

I found the syllabus online, so I have a vague idea about the assignments I need to complete. Just I do not know where the reading assignment is. I am guessing it was a hand out they gave out in class. I have tried to get in contact with people, but they have not responded yet. That isn't really a problem. I know all the course facilitator people are all very advanced students and so are very busy. I am sure everything will work out. I have no idea what they mean by digital portfolio. Is it this blog thing? I am not really sure. I have this running though, in case it is. I also need to turn in an source annotation thing. I think I will just type something up about The Empire Writes Back, since I have already kind of been doing that. Reading over the syllabus has given me some perspective of where I need to be. It also has given me some ideas about my sources. Well, not so much ideas as it has helped me gauge what kinds of things I should be looking into for sources. Up to now I have kind of been reading willy-nilly. Everything has been related, but I wouldn't necessarily cite all of it in a project proposal. Also, seeing that a project proposal draft is due in mid February, I definitely need to write out some sketch-ish proposals this week. I wish I wasn't so dag blasted busy. This semester is going to be insanely busy. Hopefully that means it will be fun.

I think I am about through this cold or flu or whatever it is I have. It still is kind of chilling in my face right now, but it is not as bad as it was yesterday. I am just so dang tired. I am not sure if it would be more productive to just charge on ahead in the face of exhaustion or take it easy and play catch-up. I think for now I am going to try the charging route. College does not seem to really be designed with disease in mind.

I have been thinking about my project topic. I realized that part of what has making me slightly uneasy about all of this is that I have been too worried about the significance of my project. I mean, I never really intended/hoped that my project would be some amazing thing that would change everything. But I realize that I have been worried that it will just be dumb. And it might be, but after spending a few days thinking about it what I realized (I have used that word like twenty times in three sentences) is that really I have two goals from this project. I am not sure which is the primary goal, so in no particular order: I want to have the experience of putting together my own project and carrying it out. That is pretty straightforward. All I have to do is just do this field study, but I think even just the experience of seeing this to the end will be a major accomplishment. I mean even if it were just polling people on their favorite color, putting it all together and carrying it out in India is awesome and something I really want out of this experience. (It feels weird writing about that since it is like saying what I want to get out of school is the experience of going to school). The second is just to become even more familiar with Indian culture, hopefully transform my basic reading and writing skills into speaking skills in Hindi, and to establish connections with people and ideas in India. I feel like I am more prepared to really start to observe and absorb Indian cultural ideas. I really hope that this does not end up some superficial, touristy trip. I am not doing this to experience exotic India or to find spirituality or whatever. I want to experience and breathe in everyday people, vegetable shops, housewives doing laundry, students going to elementary school, people going to the local, small, boring temples, mosques, churches, and gurudwaras. (Although I have noticed that gurudwaras are never small or boring, at least that I have seen) So even if my project is a spectacular failure, I sincerely hope, I hope hope hope, that I will come away from this experience feeling like I am really starting to be fluent with India. I really would like this not to be my "college experience" that everyone talks about where they go backpack through Europe or whatever, but rather I would like it to be a turning point in my relationship with India where I am not desperately scrambling for excuses and funds to go back, but that it becomes a regular part of my life. I do not really care about being a world traveller. India is enough for me. I mean, there may be a few more scrambling trips, but I hope this will be a foundation for me as a useful connection to India and not just a tagalong.

Considering failure, I go back and forth about what I want to do for my project. Do I just want to do a general survey of literature? You know, like, interview some people, go to some book shops, maybe a school if I can find any that are open, and then write some vague, feel-good ten or fifteen page paper since I know I can definitely do that. Or should I try for something else? I have thought about trying to hunt down whatever I can find of poets who wrote in India like Emma Roberts. I don't know if the national archives in India have much from her or if I could find stuff on short trips to Simla or Kolkata. I have thought about looking into the origin of Indian readership in English/looking at what the contemporary reading climate is really like across different languages. I have read stuff about the vibrant literary tradition in native Indian languages, but as far as English is concerned, I haven't found a trace of it except in a few sort of, I don't know "feminist" or some sort of special interest multicultural publication, however those are few and far between. I just feel like if there actually is this huge literary canon hiding in Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi, Oriya (I give up on trying to be pc with Indian languages, it takes too long) I feel like there would be some ripple or something, some evidence of its existence. I have also thought about trying to study the Urdu literary renaissance (that isn't quite the word I am looking for, but it gives the general idea) of the late Mughal court. I would hopefully be able to look at some primary documents. I mean, I don't know how much there is. A great deal of some of the worlds best poetry in Urdu was, ahem, destroyed by the British in the siege of Delhi in 1857. (Thank you Shakespeare, your influence is truly felt by the Mosalman in India, he will never know how much he owes you...) I know Hindi grammar in general, which is basically the same as Urdu. I would just have to learn how to read and write Urdu, which may be a bridge too far. I don't know. I do not want to overreach here. I am not sure how much of these other ideas are possible. I need to spend more time expanding the English language reading idea. I feel like I am a little overwhelmed by it. It is just such a hugely broad topic. I am not exactly sure where to go to write anything meaningful about English readership/authorship in India. I really am not too keen on writing some spacey thing trying to pull conclusions from some non conclusive data based on some random conversations I've had with people about what they read.

Monday, January 9, 2012

I am sort of stressed

More like nervous? I am not second guessing my decision, but sort of second guessing. I am super excited for this summer, but also very worried. I have this constant waking nightmare in the back of my mind of walking around the streets of New Delhi too afraid to talk to anyone and not knowing what to do. I think I need to just sit down and write down some brief sketches exploring project ideas. I think having a semi-concrete idea of what precisely I want to do will help my peace of mind as well as help me figure out something useful to do rather than just randomly reading like I have been. I mean, the reading is very useful, but more in a general background kind of way, at least right now. It is not helping to nail down a well defined project. I came down with a cold or the flu or something on Saturday and it kind of has come to a head today. At least I hope it has. Anyhow, I have been on meds, so I have been able to operate, but I kind of missed class today, which I am super pissed about. I got home from work/class at two and I was really dragging so I lay down at like 2:38 for a short nap and woke up at 5:03. Whoops. I made it to Hindi though, so that was one good thing. I am still mad about missing class though. I really want something concrete to do because I am not exactly sure what I should do and I don't like flailing. I think I will give myself the assignment of writing out semi-project proposals, just to walk my mind through it and see if I can discover a solid direction that really interests me.

I am currently reading The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi. It is about an Indian woman who lived in India until she was twenty and then went to the United States for school. Now seven years later she is returning to India and dealing with how strange India and Indian culture seems to her. I am actually kind of surprised how interesting this perspective is. It feels (I mean, it may not actually be) but if feels fairly revealing to tag along on an Indian rediscovering India rather than an American writing about India or the child of Indian parents going to India essentially as an American. This book is an interesting fusion of other things I have read. Indian cultural practices are highlighted, especially family dynamics. It is a page turner, but the going has been slow because of all my other reading and now this stupid cold/flu thing. I am settling into the groove of this semester, so I hope to be able to figure out when I can set aside time each day specifically for research/reading relating to my field study.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tempus Fugit

I don't actually know if that is a real phrase or if it is spelled right. I don't even actually remember what language that is supposed to be. Just whenever I think of the phrase "time flies," that is the first thing that pops into my head. Every time.

Anyhow, the last week has been crazy-go-nuts busy. This semester is going to be freaking insane. I do not have much time tonight. I have to crash through some Plato I should have read yesterday, but did not make enough time for.

So I did not finish all six books I wanted to, but I did finish four, which I am super pleased about. All in all it was about fifteen hundred pages, so I am not going to cry about the remaining five hundred or so I did not get through.

The Empire Writes Back...I do not know quite what to say. It was not as difficult as I thought it would be. The only chapter I really had any trouble with was the chapter on post colonialism and theory. That is partially because I do not really know the literary theories all that well. At least I do not know them well enough to understand the nuances of their relationships with post colonialism. I am excited to read it again. It has helped me open my mind to a whole bunch of new ways to consider post colonialism. It is more complex than I thought it was. I still think I stand by my initial opinion that I do not really think it is a productive literary...area...genre? Some of the questions they raise were interesting and really made me think. I will definitely have to read it again soon, especially the theory chapter.

After finishing it I feel stronger than ever that post colonialism is the stupidest literary grouping ever for India. I did a little research. India has a frickmassive literary tradition already. In like twenty different languages. At least. At least twenty freaking different languages. Why are we holding their hand and changing their diapers in post colonialism? Let them manage their own English literature. Sure, their English literature deals a lot with colonial issues because that is where it came from, but let us stop and consider a few things. They have a frickmassive literary tradition already. Indians who write books classified in post colonial literature know these languages. To be educated enough to write in English, they most likely are familiar with at least some of their native literature. Ergo, their thought processes, writing style, and perception of the world is at least semi-influenced by their own literature. So how is studying it apart from that tradition helpful? More than any country that didn't get its native culture obliterated, (por ejemplo the United States, Australia, etc.) India has best integrated English into itself. What I mean is, English is almost to the point in India where it is not an invasive language. It is not a threat to the local language. The important place of religion in India all but guarantees that English will never be able to replace the native languages of India. Why would a muslim abandon Urdu, a language influenced heavily by Persian and Arabic, for English? To what? Read the Bible? Why would a Hindu turn from Hindi or Tamil with their heritage in the Vedas and the Ramayan? The current leader of the Sikh religion is a book! And it definitely is not in English. Thus I now am certain that trying to come at India primarily from the post colonial perspective is to severely retard their development. The thing is, it won't actually retard their development. What it will do is maintain the culture of ignorant Western academics who have spent a few months at an Ashram and took some pictures at a temple and ate solely vegetarian food with their hands and now think they are experts on Indian culture and are so worried about helping India recover their national identity through literature when they have already done it in their own native language and if Western scholars would just back the hell off they would be just fine in expressing their own views in English rather than obsessing about whether they are decolonizing or not.

So I officially now renounce India's place in post colonial literature. There is only Indian literature, some of which is written in English, in the period during and after they were colonized. The place of their English texts is on their native soil, in their own libraries, not in some politically correct, sterile, UN-esque post colonial collection floating out in the middle of the Atlantic.

Anyhow I have stayed too long. I have to go read that dag blasted Plato crap. Shoot me now. Why does anyone like Plato? I mean seriously. You can sum up everything he says in like a paragraph, but he goes on for pages about this inane crap setting up these unrealistic conversations that magically perfectly work out so someone looks super ignorant while the Plato voice character looks so bloody brilliant. Nobody cares about your stupid logic! Just say it and be done!