Thursday, August 19, 2010

school's flooded

Some days…

Like a rip in your pants.

This morning proved to be highly unproductive. I made it to the University with the expectation of speaking with one of my professors, only to be shafted by his absence. The rain that I commuted through made this journey all the more discouraging. It’s not a quick task to get to school for me; I’m no longer spoiled by proximal convenience.

After I leave my apartment, I wind through the neighborhood streets to the main road. If it isn’t too early in the morning, I’ll walk up the street to a corner sweet shop and order two samosas (6 rupees a piece), stuffing the paper-bagged treats into my satchel. At this point I jump into a rickshaw that’s on the move – motorized rickshaws can hold up to five people, three in the back, and two in the front on either side of the driver, pressed underneath his flared elbows. Normally rickshaw drivers hunt for enough passengers to complete a full five person load each trip they make. So all I have to do is catch the eye of a driver who has one or two open seats and hop in –

I am taking only one class in the psychology department here (along with Hindi and another in the philosophy department), but it is taught by three different professors. School here is surmised a whole lot differently than back home… I like the way it works, but it’s incredibly inconvenient for a foreigner who is only taking one class.

The idea of school here, in general, works really well. We are taking classes at the Master’s level, and the master’s program is a two-year, four-semester long ordeal. So right now we are taking classes in either the first or the third semester of the program. Within each semester, there are only a certain number of classes available to take. Some are mandatory, and some are elective; and I would say for the most part that everyone is taking the same courses. (For the Indian students.) Students are at school almost everyday, bouncing around from class to class in the small maze of hallways for that department. All the professor’s offices are lined up against one wall, the office and department library are close by as well, and the rest are classrooms that are always filled with the same students, rotating from class to class. The classes are always full, and there is always plenty of interaction with the professors. There really isn’t a strict work load, in the sense that assignments are not given and then collected. There are just lectures and an abundant list of suggested readings. From all this information and discussion it is up to us to pick a paper topic that we’d like to focus on, so that we can compose a lengthy paper towards the end of November.

For a student actually enrolled in the University, this sounds great, non? A perfect opportunity to explore the material on your own with the guidance of professors who all specialize in a different area and thus can give you a different perspective on the material. As I said earlier, I have three professors for one class – so each week I am being lectured on the same subject from three fresh angles. How eye-opening! What an inspiration.

However, for a UC student here for one semester and only taking one or two classes in the department, it’s a little frustrating, to put it euphemistically. Since I’m only attending classes there three days a week, I’m missing out on announcements that happen during other parts of the day, as well as more time to interact with a professor I only see once a week. A lot of things happen there by word of mouth – changes in class times, changes in classrooms, new readings, new resources… there isn’t some online archive of everything that’s happening.

To continue my school commute that I began so long ago – after the rickshaw ride to the metro, I ride the line one stop down to the University station. Coming out of the station I am met by hoards of bicycle rickshaws who are vying for your attention with the use of various tactics. Some come right up to you, walk with you, coaxing you. Some just call to you from a further distance: “Ah – o! Bait-o!” “Come! Sit!” My least favorite is when they simply stare you down and slap the seat of their rickshaw – like beckoning a dog.

The walk to school is only fifteen minutes if you walk at a leisurely pace, so I always skip over the bicycle tempters.

A steamy fresh cup of milky chai for five rupees outside of the University entrance, sipped on under the shade of the trees. A perfect place to people watch. I often find it hard here to just sit and people watch – because usually my white skin attracts enough attention to where I’m not the one doing the most watching. The tables just can’t be turned like that in a good people watching bout.

Sitting under the whirr of ceiling fans, attention catered to the wooden platform at the head of the classroom, my professor paces and speaks. Paces and speaks. And then stops, exclaims something witty. And then squints his eyes –
I learn how beauty is the root of war. I learn the ways of this patriarchal society. I learn about happiness and goals. The route of the lecture often bends off into present day constructions of religion, society, and spirituality. Most of the time I can’t believe how engaged I am in a philosophical discussion of the Way Things Are.

Way Things Are…………………………

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