Archives for category: inter-cultural subjectivity

Arun Zacharaiah:

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Dear David, Raluca, ,Daavid, Tom, Christine, Zoila, Stephanie, Nate, Mike,Jeremy, Tiege, Lauren, April, Kristin, Elora, Johnleia, and Becky, I thank Almighty for providing this wonderful experience in life. I would like to summarize my experience quoting the words of the Mughal emperor, Jahangir, on being impressed by the beauty of Kashmir dal lake: “if there is heaven on earth this is it.” The Mughal monarch Akbar’s (grand-father of Jehangir) concept of din ilahi (then “world religion” though maybe today better defined as “world citizenship”) lingers in my mind. I am bit melancholic and a bit down with your leaving. But that is life. That’s the unifying power of soul force/ goodness in mankind. I hope all of the world would be a place like this. Give everyone a fair share of the world’s resources, help him/her and the society understand oneself and each other. Let our knowledge and wisdom gained though education and experience help us try to work for a better world. Let each one try to accept differences and live happily helping one another. Let’s see the boundaries of restrictions blown away by the winds of love and compassion. You are a promising group of blooming anthropologists. Very fair, forthright, and honest. Nurtured right, the stars will certainly shine bright for you all.

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Teige Christiano:

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CCSU changed my world. I would have never thought myself ever being able to explore the world the way I have. This university gave me the opportunity to learn Teigein an entirely new way. The two short weeks I spent in Kerala had me thinking it was my home away from home. In each hotel or home stay we stayed at had its own charm and differences. Especially when it came to the bathroom, ice cold bucket rinses made me ever so grateful for the hot showers I have at home. I learn how other people live at home through this. Every meal felt like an adventure. I ate rice and various fish curries with only my right hand, teaching my taste buds to tolerate the spices in Kerala’s food. I learned to expand my pallet and to try new foods. Everything down to even getting accustomed to the impressively different mannerisms and behaviors the people of Kerala have was a hidden opportunity to learn new methods of communicating with people. During my time in Kerala I was able to ride an elephant, body surf in the Arabian Sea, be in a vallam on the Vellayani Lake, spend New Year’s Eve with friends that now feel like family, learn about the development of India and its challenges, and experience life through a different pair of lenses. I would not exchange this experience for anything, so thank you CCSU, Arun, and Dr. Kideckel.

Arun Zacharaiah:  Submitted Ph.D thesis.Post graduate in History and Education. Postgraduate diploma in Journalism and Counselling/Psychology. Numerous publications. Most recent: Chengannur Riot case 1938-   a warfront in India’s nationalist movement  that overcame the tactics  to divide minority and majority communities.Published in Malayalam by National Book House,which is the first publishing house in India founded and owned by writers (its a writers cooperative – under the cooperative ministry of Kerala. Freelance  researcher, coordinator.

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Hey shall we call this Mission “KFC global,” Kerala Finds Connecticut. I’m sure most might find the analogy (only in sound or pun) little distasteful as anthropologists go for preserving tradition and local values, and you guys are against negative impacts of capitalism and neoliberalism. Not West versus other model but rather mutual cooperation in this connected world to make it a better place than we got it.

First day walking in we met the group. I saw Dr. K in his usual cap, a bearded active guy (Nathan), and the Jr K. Then met Dr. Tom Hazuka and Mrs. Hazuka (Christine), April, and met everyone except tired Mike and Jeremy. What followed was ice-breaking and we discussed the schedule, going over each itinerary item, one at a time as many things in a day Dr K says. Made some phone calls, arranged auto rickshaws and left.

Next day met at 7;30 left for Velayani lake protection. On the way there was some slight confusion as I got a phone call from Biju, of the Aquatic Biology dept, saying he thought his talk was the next day. But he came and we had a boat ride. Collected floating coconuts (first natural souvenir). Intellectual discussion was followed up with philanthrophy-helping the little boy with kidney disorder, of the family who greeted us on shore.

Sorry I didn’t follow the whole interactive process (busy rescheduling on the phone owing to last hour cancellation). Next day we hopped on to Thanal zero waste centre and had a lively discussion with Usha and Jayakumar. Students bought recyled goodies sold at their office. In the afternoon they marched like soldiers and ate like commandos. Then we reached Kerala University to listen and discuss with Reghu, the Kerala encyclopedia director, a compendium of knowledge. The KFC’s behaved maturely in front of a God of Knowledge’ who has the power to give you more knowledge if you show patience on return. Then it was Puthen Malika royal museum (housed in an old royal house within the city – wherein royal family didn’t live long due to a bad omen. Dr. K and I drank tea while the group went on a short trip through Chalai, the oldest market in Trivandrum. We helped you catch a bus and there was rain and you guys realized the importance of wiper blades.

Last day of last year and first day of this was also hectic and meticulously planned and executed . Can we call it some kind of “utilitarian tourism”, i.e. visiting the maximum number of places in a minimal amount of time, and also getting the maximum benefit. Striking balance with touristic needs and local cultural needs, with care taken to maintain ethics.

The day began with environment versus development debate. Both speakers were passionate. Elias George, pro-commercial port lobbyist and Vizhinjam harbor protection group drawn from independent fisherman federation of Kerala; profit versus basic existence. According to Elias George, it was a question of how the new port would help society and people to realize their essential needs or, without the port, the hand-to-mouth existence of many would remain. But the fisherfolk would be directly impacted by the Vizhinjam International Port.  Fisher folk were happy with what they have and can not depend on promises of government, which has not even delivered pure drinking water to all fisher folk on seaside even after 60 years after independence. Both sides presented their arguments. We voted on the argument and in the end the concern for maintaining the cultural conditions of the fishermenthe prevailed over well prepared presentation in international language with real statistics. The independents who abstained from voting said if the fisherfolk had more scientific data, they would have voted for them. Returning from Vizhniam port we had lunch at Ammachiveedu (grandmas house) Thampurans (the  Royal), the second part of the name showing respect to royalty, yet an irony considering the facilities available were housed in a tin roofed shack. Don’t know how many have studied it from a gender empowerment perspective. The owner and “CEO” of the hotel who yells out expletives, is a widow who lost everything. Yet she is running the single room, one fifty square foot restaurant that is also her home at night. Then we had an elephant ride. Bit scary at times. But man conquered the nature / beast or man conquered his fear.

After… a new year party sponsored by Dr K  (kudos to your generosity), Next day shifted to city and had a ciy tour with things explained by Malayinkeezh, a retired ciy editor of leading Malayalam daily. Evening spent at Thozhuvankod devi temple. On the second of Jan the group visited Kerala university and interacted with faculty and students . The discussion of teaching versus lecture method in Kerala university was good. Lauren hit nail on the head with question on Socratic method vs Critical Thinking approach in education.

Dr. K, your ability at initiating discussion was, as usual,electric. But beware not to get small shocks, if you’re not prepared. I feel some Kerala students didn’t expect it.  But as you can see, there are some brave hearts (planted and spontaneous) everywhere (you saw that in the questions from Kerala students. Some would like to work in USA and the other extreme my family and immediate society would find it stressful / disapprove of a girl studying in Delhi or abroad India. Cultural aspects and Johnleia Lambert your observation at this point set up greater meaning that one could relate to. As expected, or was it surprising, to have convergence on issues or financial difference in purchasing power of people in two nations, difference in value systems and accepting it. Hazuka brought it up the homogenization of USA and how masses were misled on the wars. Jeremy, Kristen Frenis talked about being broke as students.

Thoughts on the group: 1) Elora stylish expressive dancing through the corridors of US power. Fastest on and off the elephant; 2) Stephanie-sensitive mind has lots of challenging questions. Queen’s English;  3) Zoila – stong willed. The elephant ride revealed it ; you are child like. 4) Lauren–culturally sensible. Sticks to the command. Very responsible. Always on time; 5) April – soft spoken. Your name shows your blooming nature. Good for anyone near you. Never knew you work full time. Your answers to Dr. K at interaction with Kerala university students were short, quick, and sensible; 6) Kristin- in search of things with a difference. Good communicator.  Good at negotiating Indian roads. Only one who remembered to carry bananas for the elephant; 7) Christine- multi talented. Down to earth. Great entertainer, she knows Indian dance. Adaptive. First to give compliments; 8) Johnleia-strong words flowing to Caribbean music. Cool customer. She is also a rugby player. Went through lots of cultural transformations in her life.  9) Becky – sprightly pecking. At times, she fires unexpected, insightful questions. 10) Raluca – the hardcore academic, excellent manager. The family dance with David and Daavid was very graceful; 11) Daavid – strong-willed little guy. Your smile is electric.  Cool that you shared your biscuits with the elephant. You will be strong like an elephant of the ipad generation; 12) Nathan – Dr K in-making. Not many would believe that you are taekwondo 4th degree black belt. Bundle of energy. Very friendly and funny. He loves freedom in being single. Great style, uppa gangnam style. Wants to bridge gaps and misunderstandings  between cultures -east and west. 13) Teige – baby of the group. Quite courageous to try the curry in grandma’s hotel. Slow to start. But then you get going when the going gets tough. You got some smart dance moves. Would like some partner. 14) Jeremy – big guy with equally big heart. I feel like a rugby ball when I’m in front of you.  Quite a “history” guy. Loves talking history.  You speak slow and clear makes it easier for the listener. Asking short direct statements or questions; 15) Mike – conversant in many things. There’s an entrepreneur in you. Wise like your second name. Tells he is fortunate to get the last minute entry in the group to India. Talks on anything can make you feel at home. 16) Tom Hazuka – fiction writer , reserved. scholarly, patient, professor. And Christine helped you on to the dance floor  and you danced well.  Good at getting details especially on camera; 17) David Kideckel – Dr K your students call you. An eternal student . Young-at heart, Very active. A heart of gold . You got to mine / go deep to get  it though. Forgives fast. Master organiser and task-master. I don’t know how he can memorize and retrieve past knowledge the way he does. Interesting, his brain wiring. Things just flash.

While at the discussion in Kerala university got a phone from the CEO of a small company with fewer than 20 employees to hear he is admitted in hospital. So had to contact other people. But we got something better.   Then we visited Technopark, the Silicon Valley of Kerala and had a fruitful discussion with Tata representative. Discussed international trade, labour laws, economic crisis competition, recruitment etc. At the Technopark foodcourt some submerged themselves in Subway and had a taste of home before heading back home – hotel. On the 3rd Jan, four groups and four topic-based site visits with cars. While in kovalam we had site visits on tuk tuks / autorickshaws, the 3 wheel wonders. Moved into the city and became contemporary in travel. Then in the evening we had a taste of traditional Kerala in the form of Theyyam. The perfomer, who turns god and gives blessings and foretells as well as observes, made both the foreign and indigenous in attendance to feel blessed.

Finally, Gopa Kumar’s critical look at Kerala model of development and migratio patterns of Kerala people. Then to politics, economics, society, development issues; howmigration stopped in India after Bangladesh. History: More than 655 independent kingdoms, federal linguistic nation with 22 languages constitutionally recognised, 159 sub dialects, 28 states and 6 union territories. India started with 16# states. 1:6j percent land area Kerala accommodates 4 percent population of India (34 million). How language unites Kerala. and that social development in Kerala is ahead of other states because of “the four Ms”: Monarchs, Missionaries, Movements, Marxism, and now Migration.

Lauren Anderson:

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Last day. The day began with group presentations. Our discussions were so interesting and the information so important that it was near impossible to put a time limit on them. One universal finding, however, was that India with all of its beauty and charm, and with all of its own personal issues, is not as different from our own home as one might think. We have seen a great many things that will change us forever. We will, whether we realize it or not, reevaluate our entire lives from the experiences and observations we have had here. We have seen an entire other world, been overwhelmed by its splendor, and captivated and entertained by its inhabitants. I would venture to say that every one of us has changed as a result of this trip, the experiences, observations, discussions, and interactions.

Once we were able to pull ourselves away from our discussions, we finished up some last minute gift shopping, sunbathing, massages, eating, and enjoying it all. It was interesting to see how toward the end of the trip everyone seemed more comfortable. The girls gave no care to the gawking males on the beach, the shoppers navigated and negotiated like seasoned vets, and we had each picked out exactly what it was we needed to eat for our last meal in India. Even up until the last minute the trip was a learning experience. Most interesting to me was that the few shopkeepers we frequented had opened up to us as well. We had gotten used to each other. It is so easy to open up to something or someone if you give the chance and learn before you assume. While there will always be variations in mindset and routine across any culture, there will always be something to find comfort and similarity in.

We have been traveling now for about 16 hours. Everyone is exhausted, excited, sad, and hesitant to jump back into reality. What was comfort at home will be another culture shock as we adjust back into our lives. But I can say with great confidence that we will be returning home a great deal more knowledge, new friends, and perhaps even new ideals.

What a long strange trip it’s been.

Thank you to Dr. Kideckel and all who made it possible for us to be here.

Nathan Sprague:

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My experience thus far in India has been one full of contradictions. The initial feelings of being in another country for the first time are now combined with familiarity that makes me feel right at home. The awe I feel at the incredible beauty of the Kerala landscape versus intense frustrations I feel about the garbage and pollution everywhere we travel. My general impression of Kerala state is most definitely a positive one, however. This is a place with a remarkable, albeit comparatively short history and an extremely rich culture. While no place is without its problems and challenges, I find it truly impressive that such a wide variety of religious groups have managed to live amongst each other in relative harmony. It is also amazing and really quite refreshing tio learn about the development this area has managed to bring about –health care, education, social movements, land reform, political decentralization, etc.—without ever going through an industrial revolution. Unfortunately, while there are many people struggling/fighting to maintain their traditional ways of life and to preserve the integrity of their land by never taking more than they need, I fear that the effects of globalization and capitalist commercialization seem almost inevitable to continue to grow here and become dominant. This would come at great expense to the land and local people (an example can be found in the commercial fishing port that proponents such as Elias John wish to develop). It is terribly upsetting to me because I feel this globalization has been caused, as have countless other world problems, by the United States.

For me personally, my favorite experiences that I have encountered here (apart from the Theyyam ceremony, which was just incredible) have been the chances we’ve had to meet and interact with the students of Kerala University. In particular, the class we shared with our group and larger group of Malayali students at the the University on the second of January is one I am most grateful for. I have to say, this was quite a humbling moment for me. These Malayalis are people who take their education and politics very seriously, something that US students tend to take for granted all too often. One memory that really stands out was when Dr. Kideckel asked which if any of our group could name the Prime Minister of India, which was followed by silence. When the Indians were asked about the president of the US, however, “Barack Obama” rang through the room immediately.

We also had the invaluable opportunity to bridge some of the gaps that exist between our two societies. As a collective unit we were able to realize and understand that as people we are not so different after all, as popular ideologies seem to maintain. The problem we learned is not on an individual level, but instead undoubtedly on an institutional one. These perceived differences and the distance/hatred that is born from them serve only to the purposes of those with power. Overall, I am just so grateful to have had my first chance to visit another culture and to learn these things. As a people, we are all one, and more efforts have to be made to end the great nationalistic divides that exist between us.

Kristen Frenis: I am 22 years old and a Senior at CCSU. I have a major in Anthropology and a minor in Sociology. I have studies abroad in Italy for a semester and taken a course abroad in Ghana. I like to go hiking and do yoga in my free time and am a self-admitted cat lady. I have always wanted to travel to India and found this trip to be the perfect opportunity to travel with a group of people I know for my first time here. I believe studying abroad is essential for an Anthropology student to become familiar with different cultures. I hope to gain a general understanding of Indian society and how it works.

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We’ve come to India at a very interesting time, especially for women. New detailed reports are surfacing of the vicious gang rape of a 23-year old female physiotherapy student in Dehli.

Upon waking this morning and opening my news app, the first title I saw was called “Rage in India as more Women Attacked.” In the wake of the woman’s ashes being spread along the Ganges River, a sacred place for Hindu people, more attacks have been reported against women. These attacks include a woman being set on fire by a stalker and another women stabbed in a busy Dehli market. According to the article, protestors in Dehli held signs that said “First of January is a black day.” Reading this article prompted me to pick up the newspaper that had been slipped under our door to out room in our hotel.  On the front page of the paper, an article gave more details saying that the attack occurred on the bus after the men started making lewd comments to the woman. When her male friend tried to intervene, he was beaten with a metal rod. The men and a teenager then attacked the woman with the rod and brutally sexually assaulted her. The woman bit three of her attackers, which may now be used as evidence against them. When the men threw the woman off the bus, they then tried to mow her down with it, but she was pulled out of the way by her friend.  Where was the bus driver or bus attendant? Why didn’t anyone do anything to stop them?  The details of this article sickened me but prompted me to want to know more.

I am glad to see that people are pushing for women’s rights in India and that people are calling for steps to tackle crime against women.  One article calls for the rape laws in India to be strengthened and named after the woman. They would like this to be done so she does not remain nameless and people recognize her as a real person, as a real victim. Another article shows a young girl working on a painting that shows atrocities against women in India. The UN is also reported to have offered the help of the special rapporteur on violence against women, should India invite their help.

The political activism of Indian people is among one of the things that impresses me most about this country. From the conversations I have had with people thus far, it is easy to see their passion for their country and its politics.

The news articles report that one rape is reported every 14 minutes in India. I can remember another case of rape in recent months in India that made global news about a young girl who committed suicide after she was raped and ridiculed by police officers upon reporting the crime. What is being done to combat violence against women? Why has nothing effective been done about this before now? Will this finally be the issue that kicks women’s rights laws and anti-violence against women campaigns into the forefront on a national level? These are just some of the questions running through my mind.

As an American, I cannot remember a time when our country has ever lobbied as a whole for a rape victim, or a victim of any crime for that matter. There are always two sides to any issue, but from what I’ve seen, the people stand united. The people considered a hartal (general strike) for Thursday but have decided to not enforce it, at least in Kerala. National strikes do not happen in our country for any issue, but they are common in Indian society. To see a country as a whole, unite against such an atrocity is something I may never see first-hand again in my lifetime. I can only hope, as a female sympathizer, that this issue will finally be addressed within India’s legal system. I hope, as far as India is concerned, that there is power in numbers. I hope that the people will finally push the government to do something about treatment of women in this beautiful country. The Indian people, themselves, must teach their children that acts such as these are unacceptable, as the rest of the world must also do. I also hope that the newspaper articles tell the truth that some state governments are taking measures to combat these issues.

It is sad that it takes something like this to finally push the issue in this society. My heart weeps for victims of senseless violent crimes like this one.  I pray for the victim and her family and I hope that she lives on in the hearts of Indian people. As far as women’s rights in India are concerned, this may finally be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Elora Herberick: I am a senior at CCSU majoring in Anthropology with minors in Political Science and Business Management. I love travel and feel a constant need to explore and learn. I came to India to fulfill that need but also to learn about a very different culture than my own. Being a Political Science minor, I was drawn to the political issues within Kerala and all of India, even more so. I hope to use the knowledge I acquire in my time here to enlighten others and also to use the information and educational aspects for my own future endeavors.

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Happy New Year from India and Kerala, “God’s Own Country.” As I sit here surrounded by beautiful people and bountiful nature, I feel at ease. Tuning in the sounds of exotic birds and Indian music in the distance, I feel the sun beat on my face and beads of sweat dripping down my forehead. With such a pure sense of peace and happiness, I realize that everything is interconnected, including myself and my presence in Kerala. Every action, every word, meant in short term context, echoes into the world and causes a ripple effect of ideas exchanged, friendships made or discarded, and new ways of life are created and others destroyed. That is, after all, what the “New Year” is all about; a rebirth, a new chance to create or to break the world as we know it.

Today in India there are both limitless opportunities, and unfortunately a number of problems; problems for the people, for the environment, and ultimately problems for India’s future generations.

As I see it, there are three sides to every truth: your truth, my truth, and the REAL truth. As I learned about the possible creation of a massive seaport, in Vizhniam, just kilometers away from our hotel in Kovalam, I saw the logic behind both of the individuals who spoke to us about their view of this project; one in favor, one against. I also understood why each speaker believed they had the support of a majority of people. Whether or not they are correct in their reasoning, is not up to me to decide. But with such corruption and political upheaval in India, and in Kerala state in particular, it is difficult to say what the future will bring. Will a massive harbor be created that produces thousands of jobs and billions in revenue? Will this harbor, cause environmental damage and dislocation of centuries old fishing communities? Or will the fishing communities win against the power-hungry corporate structure and keep sacred what beauty I see in front of me?

Perhaps in this new year India will find the real truth. Maybe the two sides of the port controversy will be able to compromise, develop yet maintain, move forward and still remain traditional. Only time will tell.