Another Lens

Thoughts and Observations in India

Classes and Other Randomness January 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — anotherlens @ 9:12 am
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So, I haven’t posted in about a week, and my excuse has been “I have nothing to talk about.” Today, Mr. Matt Click informed me that that was absolutely ridiculous and proceeded to give a laundry-list of topics, one of which was my classes. I don’t know, it’s not that they’re not interesting, it’s just that I didn’t really think I’d be talking about that when I created my blog. For some reason, I just thought I’d have an endless buffet of intellectual stimuli which I could then unload here. Not so much. I suppose I could talk about the cool things I learn in my classes eventually, but they’re just beginning.

So, in the mean time, a list of courses and their descriptions:

Basic Hindi: I wanted to take conversational, which is more of a rudimentary guide to getting by, viewing Bollywood films and stuff, but it conflicted with my schedule. So, basic Hindi. Hindi is a really cool language, and I’m looking forward to understanding Bollywood films in all their glory. However there are some major differences (for all of my language-nerd friends out there: primarily Kat). Hindi characters represent longer sounds than our Latin alphabet. As in the symbol for ‘M’ makes the sound “Muh” as opposed to our “mmm”. This means that if you’re spelling a name like “Mike” or “Matt” (I tried both), you have to memorize the “shorthand” character for that letter to make it a short sound ‘mmm’. Also, vowel symbols are rarely used in their entire form unless it’s starting a word. Instead, you memorize another symbol that attaches to the previous consonant. Crazy stuff.

Jessica auf Hindi (I don't know how to say "in" in Hindi, so I'm just replacing it with German. Deal.

Jessica auf Hindi (I don't know how to say "in" in Hindi, so I'm just replacing it with German. Deal.

So here we have “Jessica” (my name) in Hindi. The hook attached to a line is the ‘J’. Because my name isn’t “juhsica”, it’s actually a half character, and the line it attaches to is the ‘e’ sound (I think. I actually had help from a fellow student with infinitely more experience. So if an expert Hindi speaker gets on here, please, bare with me.). The ‘2’ attached to a line is the ‘suh’ sound. The line next to that with the little arch going over the horizontal line makes an ‘i’ sound. The really cool line with a loopy thing and an arc (kind of like an ‘h’ with a loop on the left’) makes a ‘kuh’ sound and the line after that is the ‘ah’. Phew.

I’ve always imagined that if I learned a language with a different alphabet, it would definitely be Chinese or Japanese. I’m really interested in both of those languages. And, quite honestly, learning a new alphabet is a lot of work. I don’t know if I’ll be doing it again. I say that now, but the urge to learn Japanese is too overwhelming. Anyways… I know how to say “my name is” and “what’s your name” and “How are you?” and “I’m fine” and “I’m bad”. At least I do when I have my notebook in front of me, which I’m infinitely too lazy to track down right now.

Gay Indian Literature: Eff yes. This class is amazing. I’m really interested in queer culture and sex and gender issues in the states. It’s so interesting to hear it from a different cultural perspective, from a culture where sex is taboo. In the introduction to one of the texts we’re reading, the author (our professor, Hoshang Merchant) says that Hindu culture is a culture of shame, not guilt (as opposed to Christianity and Judaism, for example). This means that while homosexuality is taboo, it goes on in silence. People know it happens, they may even suspect that they know a queer individual (some are even openly so), but it can usually go on unhindered. That’s not to say that hate crimes and badgering don’t happen. That’s sort of changing right now. Merchant quotes Foucault in History of Sexuality in saying “Sex is not modern, talking about it is.” Here, they’re talking about it. Our professor, for example, is an open homosexual (he doesn’t agree with the terms gay and queer, so I’m respecting that in calling him homosexual). He’s actually quite flamboyant. We know things about his sex life, for instance. Now, of course, he’s an academic. He’s in a university and I don’t know how able he is to be openly homosexual on the streets of Hyderabad, for instance. But the fact is that things are changing. Anyways, in this course we read literature (mainly poetry) from gay individuals (not that that’s all it is. It’s good writing from someone who happens to be gay.) and discuss their writing and queer issues in India. Our professor also happens to be hilarious and amazing. The class almost amounts to “The Merchant Show.” He just sits there and tangents into life stories. But it’s a great class.

Cultural History of Modern India: This is a history course in which we discuss history and how it pertains to the current culture of India… I think. I really don’t know what I’m supposed to be getting out of this course at this point, or what it’s about. I just know that, right now, we’re talking about foreign literature written about India by Brits, with lots of terrible stereotypes and assumptions. Fun stuff.

Migration, Diaspora, and Transnationalism: This class is SO INTERESTING. We talk about communities who have settled elsewhere, why they do that, what life is like when they get there… all sorts of fun stuff. Again, it’s within the first two weeks, so I don’t know how this class is going to pan out really.

And I’m also taking cultural classes. I take yoga every morning at 7 a.m. (ugh) and sitar (which I buy tomorrow!) and a class titled “meditation and philosophy”. I came to India totally intending on buying a sitar and taking yoga, but honestly, I’m most excited about that last class. We spend the first 15-25 minutes of an hour meditating, then we read spiritual and philosophical texts and discuss them. Eek!!! (that was my best excited girl squeek, by the way). Only the yoga classes have begun. The other cultural courses are scheduled for next week. I’m so stoked.

Anywho: I have a photobucket account (which isn’t completely updated but whatev). I decided that there are a ton of photos for me to show everyone, and they would take up so much room if I put them all up here. So, here is the link. And I will definitely be blogging about the events around Barack Obama’s (aka: my husband’s) inauguration, and what that’s like in a foreign country (which is, largely, for Obama). So, updates soon!