To TISS, With Love

I went to three institutions of learning. I studied in a school for fourteen years, then an engineering college for 4 years, both of them in Kerala. Then I went to TISS in Mumbai. I am forever in the mode of evolution, whenever I think about feminism. I have to admit, I have not yet come to peace with calling myself a feminist or any ‘ist” for that matter. Ya, call it commitment phobia. I am phobic to even commit myself to an ideology or a cause 😉

However, I know, that my own “self concept”(its a word I learnt today) i.e. the way, I view myself as a woman has changed over the years. In that context,I believe my life can be categorised as “Before TISS” and “After TISS”.

I wondered what my other institutions did to that realm of my evolution. Therefore, if I am critical of my other institutions, please do understand, that I am viewing those institutions from only that lens. I have gained deeply from all the three institutions that I went to, and they have all played a wonderful role in setting out my life. But in Women’s Web, we are indeed talking about the woman’s perspective, aren’t we?

I went to two institutions in Kerala. I am not sure, if it’s about those institutions, or whether it was about Kerala, but I don’t think, they helped me break the shackles of the female concepts in my mind.

What changed, when I went to TISS?

Maybe, the mere fact that it had a majority of women, worked for me. I know it’s not fashionable to support the idea of a girl’s only or boy’s only school/college. But, I am toying with the idea of a certain kind of freedom that girls in “girls only” schools might have had the opportunity of experiencing. I am not sure, but I am wondering if girls in girls only school were expected to play more “non traditional’ roles in school, which would have helped break some of the stereotypes. I am pretty sure, that in my co educational school and college, there was not anything which could have helped me break the stereotypes but rather, would have strengthened them further.

Well, I don’t know.. I am just wondering.

Atleast, schools had some bit of organisational systems, which, in some ways gave us opportunities and in some other ways, were restrictive in their own manner, by being systems. But in a college in Kerala, which has a majority of men, I have to tell you, that a very conventional social system gets built. A social system built from a “male perspective” is very detrimental to the personal growth of a woman. I think, I reaffirmed all my society’s beliefs when I was studying there. That I even believed that it was possible that I may have to give dowry for my marriage?

Thankfully, I had started reading a few books on gender and I used to see this program called “Akathalam” in Asianet.I think, my dad still regrets letting me watch that program. I knew, at one point, he thought that program was the reason for my deviant mind! Then as luck would have it for him, I went to TISS 😉

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Maybe it was the mere fact, that there were so much “deviance” around, that it was just too easy to be yourself. If at all, there was a place, where I really saw the value, diversity could add, I saw it in TISS. I am not talking about gender alone.It was a place which allowed a diversity of  views to coexist. People would have strong views, but there was no social punishments which were meted out for your views. It was a deep rooted tolerance of views that underlined that institute, and it worked big time, to discover the woman in me.

That, my friend is how, creativity thrives! Whenever I read about “strategies” to develop innovative or creative culture, I look back at TISS, and rejoice, at how effortless it was.

If you can imagine spending two years in an institute, where a  lesbian/gay person,an atheist, an ardent christian believer who believes homosexuality is a sin and one who does not believe it to be a sin, a dalit who strongly believes that even the college union needs reservation,a brahmin who does not understand why reservation is being discussed for a college election, ,a priest who gives up priesthood for love,a feminist who is happily married, can all sit together in one room to watch banned movies, you know what I am talking about. And of course, you know, any of the above characters can be a student or a teacher.

You may ask me, what all the above has got to do with education. Isn’t education about instigating that curious mind we were all born with? And if you want to instigate their mind, you better give them the space to imagine.

For a girl, for whom the society has already set down a million rules,she needs an even more liberating space for her to blossom, beyond her own imagination.

For all the things, I am thankful for in life,

To TISS, for letting me imagine 🙂


About the Author


Preethi is currently pursuing her Graduate Studies in Sociology in Purdue University in the US. She believes that her two years at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, where she did her post-graduation have read more...

13 Posts | 71,384 Views

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