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Student Essay – Monoj Dhakal shares his experiences

The taxi driver and the passenger
-Manoj Dhakal

Before I came to South Asian University, India to join in MA Sociology program, I was working at Interdisciplinary Analysts, Nepal. Therefore, it was natural for me to complete my assignment and get ready to take off. I did.
On the evening of July 29, 2012, I was in India physically but my mind, between Nepal and India. Delhi, at the first sight, was just like Chitwan, my home district in the Terai of Nepal but buildings, malls, and residencies reminded Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. Therefore, the first impression was an imagined homeland which is a developed Chitwan. The roads seemed much wider than Nepal and the trees on the both sides of the roads especially attracted me. Linguistically, I was not an alien. Thanks to Bollywood movies common in Nepal through which I learnt the conversational Hindi.

Outside the Indira Gandhi International Airport, after all the formalities at Immigration Department, I took a Taxi to reach a place where one of my friends was already staying. The taxi driver was of strange type. He was not speaking Hindi as I had heard in Hindi movies and write-ups. The seemingly weird activities were beginning to trouble me internally. My previous professional field exposure and working experience with the people of different walks of life was of no help.

At dark, the driver was seemingly driving towards the place. The road, the lights, the vehicles, the people and everything was new to me. I suddenly felt that the stars in the sky, visible from the window of the car, forming like a question mark, were asking me several questions. Every conversation he made was sure enough to aggravate my state of mind because half of the words he pronounced were not comprehensible to me.

On the way, in an attempt to make a rapport with him, I asked wherewas he from but when he asked if I belonged to outside Delhi, my preconceived notions increased even further. However, when I said I was from Nepal, he began to ask about Kathmandu, an estimated cost of visiting there for some days and other places to see in Nepal. I replied him based on my knowledge. I was conversing mechanically although my answers were true. In a same time, I was also asking him same or almost similar questions.

My anxiety was over when I reached the destination. That was the point I realized the man was from Rajasthan, as he had already told and therefore, was conversing in local dialects different from conventional Hindi. I assume, everyone belonging to one country when meets with anyone from another country is Ambassador in disguise and vice versa. It is because in most of the cases, our perception on the country and its citizens is formed even by this type of mere single encounter to each other. Although it is a kind of fallacy, fallacy exists a lot from an individual to the state level. The next sun rise, I reached the University in the first hour and quickly, I admitted and enrolled in MA Sociology program. My first month in University has already been published in our student run departmental blog.
Here, I would like to state a few of things that I experienced as a consequence of being a student of Sociology at SAU. I met with Neer Shah, a filmmaker, and Pradip Giri, a political thinker, from Nepal who came here in a program hosted by the Department of International Relations on “Current Political Developments in Nepal. About the department that I am in, Sociology is perhaps the unique department which is not just limited to classroom teaching only. Different features like Cinema and Society, Fortnightly Lecture Series, Student-run Blog, Field Trips, Wall magazines, South Asia centered Sociology, writing term papers and doing presentations are just a few to name among others.

My department is probably the most diverse department in almost every sense: faculties’ composition, students’ representations, course curriculum and subjects on offer. The texts assigned and the contexts by which diverse issues of social sciences come not just from the places in Himalayas to the Indian Ocean but throughout the globe. This means that when we discuss about the issue from Sri Lanka, we will not just read the course pack provided but also have someone from Sri Lanka to explain the issue from ‘native’ perspective. The same is true for other countries as well.
In addition, the generous scholarship scheme is helping me a lot to realize my goal of higher education. I wish to see even a better and bigger campus soon and visualize myself to be a proud alumnus of this ambitious yet possible project. I think one of the purposes of this University is perhaps to decrease the kind of fallacy that I had with the taxi driver on my first visit to India at both: an individual and the state level across South Asia and we, the students, the faculties and the staffs all are both the taxi drivers and the passengers. I hope recently proposed compulsory course “Introduction to South Asia” to all students will help to realize the goal. Amen!

Media Scan

The Hindu

The Times of India

National Duniya (Hindi)