Rachel in India

Rachel, a 2006 SMU graduate in History and Indian Studies, is working on her PhD in South Asian History at Boston College. This summer she’s returning to Pune, India, through the American Institute for Indian Studies for the second summer of a language intensive in Marathi.

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Reflections on India

It’s been about a month and a half since I returned from India, and it’s given me some time to reflect on my time in Pune and Bombay.

While it didn’t feel like much of a break when I was learning Marathi every day, I quickly realized upon arrival back here that it really was. Between teaching and researching my life has become a never-ending to-do list, but I can certainly look back to my visit to India this summer with a smile on my face.

rachel-DSC_5578-sm.jpgPushed to new limits
Every time I go to India I feel that I’ve come away with a new and different experience. This time I feel like I was able to be part of a community like never before, both in Pune and Bombay. That has shed light on both my research and my personal perspectives on India.

From a personal stance I found this trip in many ways the most challenging. It pushed me to my limits in a physical and mental way. The challenges of living in conditions that are not reality for most Americans made me look at the world in a different way. It made me realize that I am privileged simply because of where I was born. I am privileged because I have had an opportunity to study. And while I realized these things in previous visits to India, it only became all the more real in my experience this time. It also compels me to convey not only Indian history in my teaching here at Boston College, but to emphasize the role that students play as citizens of the world, not only citizens of the United States.

A shift in research
This past summer has also changed the direction of my research in dramatic ways. I learned a lot about the indigenous East Indians (Catholics) of Bombay and how they have been left out of the history of the largest city in India. This has compelled me to look deeper into the history of minorities in Bombay. India was divided into two states, India and Pakistan, in 1947 and as a result many Muslims moved to Pakistan and many Hindus moved to the new secular Indian state.

However, in Bombay, the land of the Catholics was given to Hindus who moved to the city, challenging the notion of a secular state. As I move on from here, I will be able to use my Marathi to shed light not only on the Catholics of Bombay, but on the larger impact that the partition of India had on this booming metropolis.

What is India?
rachel-August2005b-153-sm.jpgI hope that after reading this blog, you have been entertained. But I also hope that it has challenged you to think about the India that we so often see as the outsourcing center of the world in a different light. India is a place full of paradoxes, and at a time when it is so easy to define it by stereotypes, I hope that this sheds a little light on a place that most of us only see on television specials through the eyes of businessmen or journalists determined to portray an India that they believe exists rather than the place it really is.

India is a so much more than a center of IT, a place to outsource, or an exotic vacation destination. It is a place with a population that well exceeds 1 billion, but a place that is incredibly diverse. I hope that I have painted such a picture for you, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about this adventure as much as I have enjoyed living it.

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