Friday, May 27, 2011

How Being an Anthropologist Helped Amitav Ghosh...

In this article, one of my favorite authors Amitav Ghosh says how his Doctorate (PhD) in social anthropology helped him in his writing. It's a subject close to my heart. I wish. I wish.

I remember about twenty years back an anthropologist had come to live in Artist Village where I live. One day after work I shared an autorickshaw with her (since autorickshaws were rare in those days). She said living here was "very rough". She didn't say "tough" she said "rough." It was a rough place to live in those days: there were no proper internal roads (I wrote letters and got this done), for mail we had to go to the post office and sift through the entire village's mail (I wrote to the Postmaster General and got mail delivery started), electricity and water supply played truant for days and once, for a week (I couldn't do much in this regard).

Such was life in Artist Village in those days. Nowadays life is - hopefully - better, but, still, I can't be a dispassionate judge. I live too much near it to judge. Architects have admired the design by Charles Correa, but people living there have had to face hardships because of the poor execution. The result: we all broke down the old structures and built our houses anew with multiple floors. They may look like concrete monstrosities compared to the graceful old ones. One learns to adapt and go along.

I have digressed. I have waffled.

I have often wondered why people in Bombay haven't integrated, a good anthropological question. Why Bombay, why haven't people of India integrated. In Artist Village the Malayalis were the first to start a local Malayali association. This association has had its share of fights, coups, coup d'etat, and stayed together, managed to, rather. The Bengalis started their own association, the Punjabis their own. Though we all lived in Belapur we were a diverse and compartmentalised lot, with very little interaction with other people. A good anthropological question that begs an answer.

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