Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Quietly getting into my surroundings.

My blogging has been a bit lax. I realize it's been over a week since my last entry but I have had a lot of new information to process here, and school has been warming up as well. So let's start there...


Education definitely operates differently here. Let's start with the basics. First, you have your primary education. Then you go to three years of Bachelors degree. Then 2 years of your Masters. Bascially, our fourth year is equivalent to the first year of a Masters here. That difference has been interesting.

Going to school here is far more interesting though. As a young person here in Hyderabad, and I am assured that this is the traditional norm elsewhere, you have two choices: Education or work. People who enter school do not go to work. In fact, working is considered a stigma amongst those who value the status that education provides. So here I am amongst a few thousand young people who have, for the most part, never worked.

It is quite lovely in so many ways. The lasting power of idealism, innocence, and culture are not diminished. Cynicism and the desire for unhappy endings is quite absent for the most part, and when present is sweetly theoretical. People get along here most often, and resist cruelty even in their media. Compared with the States and the general cruelty of television soap operas and reality shows, I find this resistance very refreshing.

Of course, this comes at a cost like all things. Certain things that remain traditional are not very good. There is an undercurrent of class and privilege that remains constant. People who stay in academia retain their prejudices connected to tradition regardless of intellectual discussions of freedom from discrimination. One only has to look at the attention and attitudes of our instructors and program directors and the way they behave towards the servants who surround them daily.

India is a place of knowing your place, and being that puts me in a strange situation. At once I am a figure that demands traditional respect because of my age. However, I am a student, and I have worked, so I carry a bit of that with me. Some people I interact with are very clear about their feelings when it comes to being a non-traditional student, regardless of what they say about their tolerance, and willingness to bridge the culture gap. It's easy to know where they are coming from now, as soon as I watch them treat the servers and servants quite traditionally, like they are lesser persons.

Law and Order

Which brings me along to my experiences of the differences between the Law, which is given a lot of lip service and actual practice here. At home, regardless of rebellious youth, or foolish old men, the law is the law. You will get a ticket for certain things on the road. You will get in trouble for defrauding a stranger. It is not ok to solve street disputes through mass assembly and beatings. Often times here though the law, at least for Hyderabadis, seems like a list of suggestions. The law of the land here is tradition. I can't really claim much more understanding than this here. On the face of it though, there are laws and laws, neither of which are extremely enforceable. Tradition is observed far more than the general laws of commerce, employment or travel. Tradition is enforced by association and economic success. The Law is subject to tradition and economic power. Recently it was said to me that while it was known that anything in Hyderabad can be done for the right price, it was best to understand the position of the person who was speaking to me and out of a traditional form of respect to them it was best for me to observe the rules. Because I have a healthy dose of that respect motivation, my motorcycle is for sale and I have stopped looking to obtain a driver's license.

Like I said before, these last two blogs are fairly weak. I don't really know much... Better blogs will come along.

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