Wednesday, 11 July 2007


To question what one has been brought up with is a difficult thing to do - uncomfortable and disconcerting. Is it a wonder then that when someone, in this case a teacher of film studies, provokes us to do so, many of us think that the course is "F*** all".

I sat at the dinning table in the mess yesterday after a particularly powerful movie that this professor had shown us with two of my friends and we debated whether the course should be a compulsory one at all.

At one level, i feel it should be entirely optional. Intellectually, films and culture studies (or any other discipline, for that matter) require a commitment that comes only when the choice to study it is voluntary. Forcing it down a person who does not want to study it serves no purpose whatsoever; minds cannot be pried open with a pair of pliers!

On the other hand, the questioning attitude that Mathew provokes, is I feel, somewhere essential. We are too complacent and too comfortable in our own cocoons. All 94 0f us come from varied socio-economic backgrounds and have been brought up with varying degrees of 'conservativeness'/'liberalness'. While MICA has stripped away many of our inhibitions, none of us yet have questioned our personal value systems that determine our choices, the inconsistencies that have creeped into our way of life here, the double meanings and contextual ethics that justify everything in life. So is it wrong to introspect, to discover the reasons why we hold the beliefs and values that we do as individuals and the impact that they have on our lives and that of those around us?

Discussions on gender and sexuality are uncomfortable. It does pinch a little to think of starvation on a full tummy. But it makes me appreciate my own life much more; motivates me to enjoy every moment as fully as I can. It also puts life, its troubles and decisions in perspective.

The other compelling argument that one of my friends made in favour of the class being compulsory was this - it is ultimately the choice of the individual whether (s)he chooses to think on these lines or not. Someone who does not consider gender an important issue need to listen or remember anything said in class. The class might be compulsory but the decision to introspect, look around at the world and question things is not.

Then again, the response of my other friend got me thinking. How many of us truly believe that we have a choice in everything; that nothing can be forced on us - be in happiness or sadness or critical thinking. Free will is not restricted to physical action but to mental effort as well. And to that extent each of us is affected only to the extent that we want to be. As a corollary then, we are also responsible for everything that happens to us. Is it the evasion of that responsibility that makes us unbelievers of freedom of the mind?

To me at least, on a purely personal level, this is a highly exciting course, one that is prompting me to push the limits of my mind and embark on yet another journey of self-discovery, of understanding myself and my beliefs and my actions.

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