Travel plays a better hand at teaching me Sociology - Life as a local in a remote village
Nine months back when I had started this blog, the only notion that motivated me as a student with a tight pocket was to explore my city and share my experiences. Little did I know that this space of mine over the interweb would encourage me to think deep and allow me to add a 'Why' to my travels!
Gradually, with the passing time, I grew more passionate towards travelling and somewhere with the passage of my one-day trips, I learned to be more focused on being observant of little things.
Initially, I credited this ability of mine to my travels but it was much later I realized that my subject- Sociology was playing a mature hand in adding value to the 'What, How, Where & Why's' of travel.
A 45mins lecture inside a closed classroom made our professor think that we would be proliferating towards the subject. But, he wasn't quite right.
When I asked him about the practical application of the subject and how we as the upcoming youth could deal with problems of patriarchy and many other social issues in India, I was surprised to learn his answer, "Don't think of what is going in and around you; just think of getting a Bachelor's degree with a merit, then a master's degree and finding a 'well secured job'! Sociology as a subject is useless in terms of practical application and we should rather focus on completing the syllabus over discussing worldly matters and gave his 'stupid inference' a pause by blaming the system vaguely!"
Yes, just like you, I too was awestruck and masked in anger and disgust. That's when I thought to myself of bringing a driven change in the minds of the fellow people I meet through my travels.
With that, I would like to share my reflections on my summer trip :
Six months back when I spent fifteen days of my summer vacation in my 150-year-old heritage and paternal home in a remotely located village - Rasikganj, West Bengal, I must admit, that I was glad to be a part of such a social system that allowed me to think beyond conservatism and accepting stereotypes but rather questioning them.
What's in a name? But, it does matter
It was a sunny afternoon, I was strolling past the banks of the Roopnarayan river, that's when one of the villagers passed by and identified me as 'Bombay Bapir choto meye' (the younger daughter of Bapi who lives in Bombay). I feel good that people know me by my ancestral hierarchy but it also lets me question, till when?
Why are the boys of this village known by their former names and the girls by their father's daughters or their grandfather's granddaughters? I am sure, this is the same pretty much all over India but the only reason it still is the way it was, because only a few have questioned it.
Even today when I go back to the same village, I am certain that only a few know my name and most of them know me by my father's name. By this, I do not mean to be competitive and fight for identity but all I want to say is, why don't we all know girls also by their names just like the boys do!
The point that I want to come forth by is that, with this notion of recognizing a girl by her father's name also comes the mentality which upbrings girls by the saying, "A girl is first known by her father's name and then a husband's name; that's the identity a girl has" which is followed by - "a girl has to make compromises and adjustments before and after her marriage"
When I confronted some of the village girls they didn't even realize that it's something related to their individuality thus, never considered of questioning the same.
I don't know how does a social change drive work, but in my opinion, all I feel is that it starts with questioning and bringing a picture (even a hazy one) to the unaware.
Solo Travel is a personal choice and no judgment beyond that applies
The very fact of me travelling from Mumbai to Rasikganj scared the people more than it actually did to me! I actually think to myself, "It's not as scary as it sounds." I understand the safety concern that comes with it, but come on, should that make us feel disabled to all the beautiful places that the world has to offer?
I don't understand 'why' for some strange reasons solo female travellers are judged with some really stupid assumptions! She isn't desperate for a male partner neither does she (necessarily) need one!
But it's strange how people have this very rigid mindset of restricting girls to doing things just because of the world being unsafe! But have we ever thought of actually making the world a better place to live in and putting in as many efforts as much we have been putting in restricting girls from enjoying their freedom?
Do not think of 'us' being globalized 'only' because you stay in a metropolitan city/town
With such professors (as mentioned above) and such a rigid teaching; after which they rely upon us of being 'financially independent' and finding a 'stable job' I actually am hesitant in getting a degree to prove my sense of awareness!
It is easy to teach about globalization in a closed classroom. But what about the world outside?
We love to be a part of such a technically satiated society, but what has technology got to do with patriarchy? Right.
In this village and in so many other villages in India, the men/boys are the ones who own a smartphone whereas the women/girls of the same age/family are not considerate of having a smartphone because they might be influenced or because of the fear of being astray.
Are we really heading towards open-mindedness or narrow-mindedness
I remember being warned about dressing up conservatively because of some strangers who might pass lure comments! I see, how my friends just race up their cycle speed whenever there is a gang of guys loitering around and then breathe deep and slow down when they see no sign of a stranger pass by!
No wonder, even I have been there and done that too! But with every inch of patriarchial impact in my daily life, I ask myself,
"Are we really independent? Or does it just lie within the faded borders of our mindsets?"
While all our social theories were considered vaguely inapplicable to our professor within the walls of our heritage classroom, I feel, travelling helped me and turned out to be a better teacher and encouraged me in raising better questions and finding wiser answers!
What did travel teach you? Did you too encounter patriarchy?
*With this post, I am trying a portray a generic view of how a different part of India lies beyond our reach and how different each one of our life is. I am not being stringent about men, I have met some really amazing men who have inspired me, broadened my sense of awareness and have encouraged me in actively participating towards social change. Through this blog, I just want to voice my questions over a larger platform so that the unaware see a way of awareness and we, together can work towards a safer world.
Yet, I don't know how, but If you ask me, we should all start with our homes, I did! And, you too can!
More from my West Bengal trip