We hear it in our lectures, read about it in articles, talk about it over cups of tea or overhear it in ‘academic’ discussions. It is the one word echoing in University corridors, classrooms and canteens. And for a student of Development or any other Social Sciences, it is a word either adding to our grey cells or our grey hair. They say it is somewhere ‘out there’ but we can’t ever see it leave alone define it. We live it, only a part of it.
The “Field” has forever been a researcher’s haven, a writer’s delight. Much like a Haj or a Chaar Dhaam yatra-after visiting which, the student attains ‘Enlightenment’ and a researcher ‘tripti’.
We are six students on one such pilgrimage, experiencing our bit of the ‘Field’, journeying across villages in Gujarat and Haryana.
It is appalling to be part of this dynamic space where every problem is a maze of solutions and every solution a baffling puzzle! But wait, did we just define ‘Life’ out there? What in the world then is the hallowed ‘Field’?
We realize we have been making a great story for ourselves as we travel along: One worth being told to our children and retold to our grandchildren as bedtime stories or as inspirational stories with a moral message. A story with several characters: some playing the lead, some supporting, some doing a cameo-but all of them central to our plot, and each one having their own story. Each one living out his/her own story.
Our ‘Field’ lies in these stories that people live out everyday. Roles that people don or switch into and switch from everyday, their achievements, grievances, expectations, desires and hopes. Our ‘Field’ lies in the relationships we share with the State, in understanding what the State may mean to us and many like us? Stuck in traffic everyday, what may a routine ‘jhagda’ with the traffic policeman mean? Or what may it mean to bribe the same policeman to make sure you reach home everyday? How do we feel when the police stops and checks our vehicles late in the night for our safety? How do we feel when houses are being demolished even as new housing schemes are being promised? On a lighter note, our relationship with the State does resemble the relation Tom shares with Jerry: they keep fighting but still can’t exist without each other. The State exercises its authority because the citizens have consented and the citizens are in turn protected by the State, at least in theory.
Even as the State pervades our everyday existence, does it really matter to us in our lives? Had we not been students of Development, would we have taken the time to actually think of what the State may mean to us in our daily lives? Would we be content with seeing the State as the local corporator or as a political party during elections? Do we really see the State as provider, protector and regulator? If not, why do researchers and academics see the State as the very same thing? How do we reconcile the laymen understanding of the State with that of the academic understanding of it? Is the state in theory different from the state in reality?
It was with these questions in our mind that we took to the ‘Field’ and it did unfold to us different stories hidden in the folds of our mundane, routine existence, different events all part of one big vaarta and kuch kisse.
Bianca & Nidhi