Everyday Life

Español: (Foto recortada) El jugador de fútbol...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Each passing moment when I am up, about and jumping around is the instance of a huge achievement. I hardly appreciate all those subtly active mini processes which go on all the time to make things work for me. It is a taken for granted aspect of our everyday life and is the best noticed when I am in the midst of a temporary disability. When the tiny muscles twitch and inflammation occurs, when a head ache makes everything go in a swirl and when a conversation with that dear friend assumes an unpleasant flavor. The departure of a loved one tells us of his or her presence in our lives. It is only in the event of such ‘breakdowns’ that the meticulous planning and execution of everyday acts becomes crystal clear.

Achieving these small feats with each passing minute is the result of an unbelievable style of many little systems working in absolute tandem with each other. A wave from the brain travels to the limbs, makes it move, a certain chemical composition in the white and the grey cells of the brain keeps me joyful and a series of socially learnt arts of conversing keeps a friendship going great.

These micro systems in daily life are very tightly coupled with each other. A little malfunction here or there causes the system to collapse. The muscles refuse to take orders from the brain, equilibrium in the chemical composition of the cerebrum goes for a toss and the hitherto really nice friend becomes a source of insecurity and anxiety. This tightly coupled arrangement is definitely amusing. These arrangements provide the frames in which we act. If life is a journey, it has its lessons too. These lessons are often imparted loud and clear. Waking up to a swollen ankle or an aching knee is all that is required to understand how Xavi runs in the soccer field!

Why do not I then realize that this passing moment is a spectacular achievement? It is because I am used to this system. I do not really need to understand its nitty gritties it each time it delivers its aim. We plant a phone in our room and never bother to understand all the machinery that is inside the suave looking plastic cover. We know that we can pick up the receiver when the bell rings and we can hear people talking from the other side of the line. Who thinks of the millions of electrons that make this conversation possible?

A friend in the street waves at us and asks “how are you”? We don’t really wave back and say that “Oh! I have a huge backlog of all my research work that is lying unattended and that I am not very happy and sure about the new search engine privacy policies”. I on most occasion smile back, wave and say “I am fine. thank you”. The other one listening to us generally does not care to find out the veracity of our claim. He considers the matter to be over for the time being. To explore this taken for granted aspects of our everyday lives is the task for a sociology of knowledge which aims at understanding how reality is social constructed. Needless to say that we do not wake up every morning thinking that the sky will be falling on our head! We just rely on a recipe knowledge that is readily available in the form of our past experiences.

Accomplishment of the routine is therefore an event with a significance of the first-rate. All that is needed is a malfunction and we come to realize how efficiently do things actually work for us. Life no doubt is a puzzle and truly speaking ‘it’s complicated’ !


New Year

From the album “Fieldwork”

Today is the first day of the fifth and final year of my life as a Ph.D. student at the Department I love. It was four years ago that I registered myself as a research student. These years have been immensely productive. It has been a lot of fun exploring the depths of my own ignorance with regard to questions of the human predicament and social relationships. I have come to recognise the complexity of certain concepts which I would be engaged with all my life. So I think. The first year of these four was spent mostly doing ethnographic field work and the remaining three were mostly spent in Delhi University making all possible efforts at making sense of all that the field experiences could teach me. The coursework, colloquiums, seminars, workshops that I attended have made a huge contribution to this effect. Hoping for a great final year.

Today is also the festival of Vijayadashmi or Dussehra. When the country celebrates the triumph of good over evil and exhilarates at the burning effigies of Ravana, the demon king, I grab this opportunity to be amused once more by the splendor of the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. In the light of my quest for understanding Indian society and social relationships, I consider these two texts to be immensely significant. Special regards for the great fifteenth century poet-saint Tulsidas who wrote the Ramcharitmanas, a book that I admire. Here is the great Indian vocalist M.S. Subbulakshmi with one of the devotional songs Tulsidas penned.

It is a special day also because my blog has recorded some 300 hits. Happy Dussehra to all and happy new year of research to me!