Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Where she acknowledges debts owed and other suchlike.

It's a tad impossible to try and translate the giddying feeling which accompanies a final submission of one's Ph.D. thesis. To be sure, it had been "cleared" four months ago (almost to the day), but I finally got around to printing it and handing it over - gasp, but...mine! MINE! - to the programme office only to-day. I then took ten minutes off from the rest of the world, found myself a shady little bower, and proceeded to smoke my first cigarette and imbibe my first cup of coffee, as smugly carefree as only a woman who has submitted her dissertation can be.

The process of churning out aforesaid labour of love was a (well...not very) long and (erm...really, not so much) arduous one, and I feel keenly for all the people who've had to deal with H in thesis mode. No. In the interest of keeping it so that you love me yet, I won't go on to describe what she was like. It's for the best. Her list of acknowledgements, therefore, is a bloody long one: one tends to rack up quite a fucking tab of gratitude owed when one is a little bit of a monster.

Here: have her list of thank-yous; each heart-felt, each so utterly necessary.


At long last, and yet in some ways, the source from whence it sprang: I started composing my ‘Acknowledgements’ page before a word of this thesis was written, and I finally commit it to paper to-day.

That this thesis would have been impossible – inconceivable, even – without the force of nature that is Tridip Suhrud is a given; something barely worth mentioning because it is obvious to me in each word I read or write, every phrase I utter in class, and every question I pose to my time and times bygone. Tridip, you are the light, and for the millionth time (most certainly not the last either), I extend you my gratitude: I am beholden to you, Sir, for everything you are, and everything you exhort me to each day become. My experiments – with truth, form, structure, self, identity – are mediated by the brilliance that is you.

Binita Desai, from under whose office desk I made my first ever Ph.D. “presentation” should know that neither distance nor time will ever dim what she means to my scheme of things. It all began with you, Bini, and your faith that this could come to be: I am grateful every moment for the fact of you.

Profs. Shiv Visvanathan, Ganesh Devy, Aditi Nath Sarkar and Rita Kothari: you are the giants of our time, and to walk with you awhile has been an honour and a privilege. Thank you for all the poking and proding and pushing and shoving: you demanded more, and I couldn’t help but strive that much harder. The generosity of your spirit staggers me, and I thank you each with all my heart for the ear, the coffee, and the laughter. AF Mathew, you number here too: friend, colleague, sounding-board, and usher sans compare – thank you for asking each day, rather optimistically, if the thesis was “done yet”! My love and thanks to you each for giving me so much of yourselves: you humble me.

None of the archival work at the British Library, London, that went into the making of this thesis would have been possible were it not for the Charles Wallace Grant that I received in 2012: my thanks to Richard Alford and the Charles Wallace India Trust for this crucial funding which allowed my work to speak more authentically than it could have done without this time at the grand old institution that is the British Library. In the same vein, I’d also like to thank Nagesh Rao and MICA, my ‘home’ institute, for granting me the time off from teaching that I needed to avail of this Grant. In addition, my heartfelt thanks go out to Shailesh Yagnik, Lavji Zala and everyone else who makes the KEIC at MICA the splendid home to scholars that it is.

The joys of teaching include being constantly pushed into corners by students past, who want to know what one is working on, and subject the writer to questions galore about back-stories taken, perhaps, for granted. Pritish Mukherjee, Sanchita Dasgupta, Anupam Dhar, Sukaran Thakur and the host of others – students and friends –  with whom there have been countless discussions while I was working on this thesis: thank you for taking the time to engage with my work and showing me that this was never a one-way street. Sukaran is also the reason you, dear reader, see a ‘Contents’ page on this thesis at all - thank you for teaching me to speak technology, Mr. Thakur.  

The lot of the people who surround the thesis-writer is never an easy one. Antoine Perrin, thank you for all the love, the faith, the good humour and the ‘calm’ I had at my disposal as I lived in and thought through the 19th-century. First reader and dearest ally, you will always mean the world to me. Marc Damania, you know that all my stories invariably have you in them. This is one of the bigger ones, and it counts the most, so thank you for having put up with me through this phase: you deserve chocolate. Equally, love and thanks to Kyra Fuchs for egging me on to finish “editing the thesis so I can read it already” – I did, and you still haven’t. To everyone who’s been in Purple Flower from 2009-2012 – cheers for making time off from thinking about this beast as joyful and beautiful as you have: Arnav, Dhaara and Meher (who came into our world so close to the end of this process), Anup, Abhinav, Dev, Chinmay – you’ve been fabulous.  

Manik Acharya, you made finishing this thesis easy: I didn’t mind leaving my 19th-century home because I knew you were waiting two centuries away. Thank you. I like it here.

And then there’s the fact of Vispi and Nilu Siganporia, followed by the inimitable Melody Siganporia, Dhun and Hazel Karkaria, and Kaiki Siganporia: I owe you my life, and whether you like it or not, all I am and all I ever will be. I know that I don’t say this nearly enough, but each day that I live and have the privilege of learning from and being with each of you is a gift. All that is of any worth in me comes from you, Vispi and Nilu: you are the music that scores my world.

This thesis is dedicated to my grandmother Bachu Siganporia; my first librarian, best friend, and the one who ordered my universe.    

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