Confessions of a budding anthropologist

IN SEARCH OF A DISCIPLINE (ALBEIT UNKNOWN)

Being a perpetual student of life, I was sad when school got over. I was always hungry to know more, which was reflected in my full attendance throughout my schooling years. Teachers were always aware of my presence because I was never short of questions. That might be the reason why the science stream attracted me the most.

But the core science of high school left me disappointed. And I moved to humanities for my graduation.

Stories always fascinated me and so did writing some of my own. I could devour books like anything. When it was time for professors to take up a certain book, I had long left those streets and lanes and had to bring them back from memory.

But I was disappointed here too. I was a passive onlooker. I surely saw, felt, tasted, and smelled whatever the author did but, felt the need to discard the medium and have a direct rendezvous instead.

Ultimately, there was a void nothing could fill. Though I felt the existence of something that aligned my tastes but hadn’t discovered it yet.

THE POINT OF DISCOVERY

So as fate would take it, I came across anthropology while I was leaning towards a Ph.D. in literature (having no other solution at hand).

Anthropology being an unfamiliar discipline (in the Indian context), didn’t promise any golden future as did various other disciplines. But I felt like the astronauts who first landed on the moon might have felt. I had found another world altogether. It was the ‘it’ career. It had all that I was looking for. It had tales of people, narrated and observed from a scientific perspective. All phenomena in the world were deconstructed from a humanistic lens. I got the answers of so many y’s just by reading some of the texts. Fascination was a small word to describe it.

To facilitate my initiation and to help me dive into an unknown area, providence sent me help in the form of a highly respected professor at the University of Delhi (Dr. S.M.P), to whom I owe my passion for the subject. 

After completing another post-grad, now in anthropology, I was set to conquer the world.

UNEXPECTED DISAPPOINTMENT

Being in academics for so long, I wanted a break and dug into the corporate world instead.

This time, I didn’t fail but the lack of opportunities failed me.

Anthropology (surprisingly) didn’t land me quite the type of career that I wanted, the opportunities I was looking for. It was more or less, an invisible degree and brought me no value.

This time it was more than disappointment because this time I was lost and felt defeated.

As a driver whose car if blocked by a fallen tree, usually puts the reverse gear, so did I. And I went back to the world of literature and content writing because words and stories were the only solace I had left.

I did well this time. But I felt cheating with myself. Every time I picked up something to read or watch, the word ‘anthropology’ would come calling. I kept pushing it back, thinking ‘I wish I didn’t have to leave that ‘once’ promising road’.

All this while, nothing that I did, satiated me. Not even writing did the magic anymore, because I had long since acquired the habit of watching people/behaviors and writing about them. How could I write in a void sitting in my chair and imaging what it is actually like?

That is when I understood how powerful this field is.

LULLED BACK TO ANTHROPOLOGY

Once you have studied anthropology, the world opens up for you. Its like Mt. Vitruvius, which you just can’t handle. It overpowers you and engulfs you completely.

It’s like you begin to see what’s inside people, more clearly than ever. You don’t have the power to control your senses which are bent upon observing people in their silence. You just can’t help empathizing with people you hate! And you tend to understand the environment around you, like god gave you an additional sense. All this helped me understand more about religion, society, family, environment, nature, diversity of people, behavioral patterns, than I ever did before.

It’s like, you can take anthropology out of your life but anthropology can never leave you.

That is when I took a pledge of being honest with myself. No matter the path is difficult but it’s worth spending your life on.

What does it matter if my car was blocked by a fallen tree? I might as well pick up the tree, move it aside, thus clearing the path for myself and others down this road.

I am reminded of my peer Saumya(a visual anthropologist) who once said, “if not now, then when?”.

You have got just one life, why not fill it with risks worth taking?

So now, I am in an eternal bond with this silent science of observance. No matter what comes my way, I am all game! And I stake my life on the words of the Norwegian Anthropologist-Fredrik Barth who said,

“ It is my idea not to follow our ideas but to allow the world to dictate”.

Fredrik barth

Amen.

Have you experienced the same in your practise? I would love to hear your comments!


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