I had no guidance related to studies here in Kashmir after I passed 10+2 with PCB subjects, and then did a Bachelors from Kashmir University. Like any other student in Kashmir, I also was required to fulfil the wishes of my parents or the people around, to be a doctor or an engineer or a Civil Services aspirant. All this led me to become, unfortunately, a Medical Lab Technician. What happened to me happens to 95% of Kashmiri students because of lack of career counselling, lack of opportunities, and the frequent eruptions of conflict in the form of hartals, curfews and internet shutdowns.
While looking at the syllabus of Civil Services exams I came to know about anthropology. Immediately I wished to go for higher studies in anthropology. To me, initially, anthropology meant something related to science. Indeed, Anthropology is the scientific study of humans. As of now, the subject is being taught at undergraduate level in a few degree colleges in Kashmir. These courses were introduced just after I completed my post graduation in Anthropology from IGNOU, for which the only study center for Anthropology was at GDC Baramulla. I remember the problems I had to face in finishing my projects and dissertation for the award of my Masters in Anthropology because of the hartals, curfews, lack of internet from time to time. I hardly had opportunity to do field visits. Above all, I suffered for want of an expert guide.
That is when I met Engineer Irfan, a prominent social activist with a lot of experience in fieldwork. I discussed my topic with him and he suggested me the best possible ways to complete projects and also guided me for exams like NET-JRF and PhD entrances. It made me decide to go for higher studies in the subject. Irfan gave me new ideas for research in social anthropology.
It was difficult for me to go for a PhD because in Kashmir we did not have any professor or higher level course in Anthropology in any of the universities. Irfan advised me to know more about the professors who had contributed chapters to IGNOU textbooks. Thus I came to know that Dr Abhik Ghosh, a Professor at Punjab University Chandigarh, specialises in Social Anthropology. Before contacting him I was afraid, wondering how to approach him. But when I called him for the first time in 2017, asking about admission in Punjab University, he was so humble and spoke so gently, even though he said, “Unfortunately I do not have any seat open for PhD students as of now.”
He was busy with travelling but still he responded to my queries promptly. This kind approach had a deep impact on my future decisions and I decided that I will do my PhD under Ghosh sir.
I did not lose hope and again in 2019 I went to the Punjab University to meet Dr Ghosh. When we met for the first time, he was so gentle that I was taken aback. He gave me a patient hearing and his words made deep impressions in my heart and mind. I spent very little time with him, but I remember every word he said.
Later, in my interview for PhD, I felt that Ghosh sir is very interested in giving opportunity to Kashmiri students and to study tribes of the valley. He has studied tribes all around India. After my admission in the course, I attended a few of his classes and realised that he is passionate about his students’ success. His breadth of knowledge sparks a passion for learning among students. He has an incredibly open mind and is deeply sensitive towards students. As his student I saw how dedicated he is in his work.
Kashmir needs someone who can help in introduction of anthropology as a discipline. Someone like Dr Abhik Ghosh. I hope that in the coming years this subject will be taught at the university level in Kashmir.
The writer is studying for a PhD. in Social Anthropology under Dr Abhik Ghosh at Punjab University Chandigarh