An anthropologist among researchers: Part 1

(This post is the first part of a two-part series of posts on my experiences with researchers in the NGO, and with it’s front-line staff. You can read Part 2 here).
In this post, I am taking a slight detour from the front-line space(s) that has been the subject of my previous blogs – or rather, I am expanding the term itself into a different site of research.

As the title suggests, my primary interlocutors are changing as well. Continue reading


Writing through pain, working through loss: On the emotions of anthropological research

When I arrived at my house in Badlapur this July, it felt as though I had arrived in an alternate timeline. The house was the same, but so much had changed.

Earlier this year, my grandmother passed away. Only my mother and brother were at home then – my father, like me, was away and could not make it in time.

In the weeks that passed, I chose to drown myself in work to numb the sensation of helpless that had replaced the grief, knowing that my family had to deal with a lot more than I, and that I wasn’t there to bear the emotional burden with them (and they were as concerned, perhaps more, about me). And while we did have other family to help us, there were other relatives whose actions, for all intents and purposes, hurt us more. Continue reading

Performing the ‘community’ & the awkward de/merits of ethnography

It was a usual rainy day in Mumbai.

Parts of 90 Feet Road, the arterial road that passes through Dharavi, were waterlogged. Yet, the NGO’s art centre (also located on 90 Feet Road) was crowded, and people were still coming in, braving the rains.

But many were also frustrated.

There was another NGO – technically, a ‘Trust’ – that had camped in this centre to do a survey of sorts. They had asked the Organisation I was working with to send people from across Dharavi to the centre, where they would be asked to respond to a questionnaire.

It had something to do with their aspirations for Dharavi – once it was redeveloped, of course. These aspirations would then be projected on a map of Dharavi as some sort of an art installation. Continue reading