Why didn’t you take up Arts?

Yesterday, a colleague had dropped in to my office. Not to discuss work, but to talk about this blog of mine. She had recently come across my blog and to my surprise, had actually gone through each one of them ! Over a cup of tea, she offered some comments and suggestions, and then out of the blue asked me, “Sudha, why did you study science? Why didn’t you take up Arts?”

That one question was enough to transport me back to January 1992, a time when I was doing my M.Sc. in Geology. The first semester results has just been declared then and I was feeling quite pleased with myself as I had done very well. It was also the time to choose our optional subjects for the coming year. In my Department, a dissertation was an optional module in lieu of 4 papers, something that was preferred by most students. But since I was rather keen on a research experience, a dissertation it was for me, which meant that I had to find a teacher willing to guide me and supervise my work.

So off I went to Prof. A, who was a good teacher and seemed like someone who could be a good guide too. Prof. A first heard out my desire to do a dissertation and have him as my guide. Then he gave me a lecture on the rigours of field work, the dangers for a girl like me to be out in the field alone, how I would be better off opting for the 4 extra papers rather than doing research, how I had all the time in the world to do research, etc. He cited examples of women students who had left their research halfway unable to cope with field work and the problems it created later. He sent me off after telling me to think about what he had said.

I thought over it and next day, I went back to him more determined than ever before to do a dissertation. The same conversation ensued and this ping-pong game lasted for a few days till Prof. A burst out with impatience and irritation, ‘Why didn’t you take up Arts? Why Science and why Geology, in particular? Geology is not for girls.’ After ranting in a similar vein for some time, Prof. A finally refused to guide my dissertation.

Though very disappointed, I did not lose heart and approached the other professors in my department. All of them refused.

Their reason: My gender.

Continue reading “Why didn’t you take up Arts?”

To Rachel teacher, with love

By the time I finished 12 years of formal schooling, I had studied in 8 schools spread over 6 towns/cities of India. I did not attend nursery or kindergarten having been home-schooled by my mother, father, and older brothers till I joined Uttari Bharat Sabha’s (UBS) English High School in Bhandup, Mumbai. UBS was my first school and also the school that I studied for the maximum number of years in.

I was 5-and-a-half when joined UBS in the middle of first term after a painless admission process where neither I nor my parents were interviewed. I was asked for my name, date of birth, and home address, and once satisfied that I could communicate verbally, I was deemed admitted to the school and escorted to my class by the school principal. My parents were asked to take care of mundane formalities like paying the fees, getting my uniform, books, etc., etc.

An English class was in progress when we arrived. I must have been introduced to the class, the teacher, and shown to my seat, but I don’t remember any of this. All I remember now is the teacher’s warm welcoming smile. The teacher was Rachel Kurien. Even after all these years, when I think of Rachel Kurien or Rachel teacher as we kids called her, it is her smile that instantly comes to my mind.

Class I A. I am the pouty, sulky looking girl seated extreme left in the first row, all because I wasn't seated next to Rachel Kurien (centre) 😉

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