“I am a Literature graduate”. Every time I am asked to say something about myself, be it in an interview or elsewhere, this is usually the first thing I say about myself. I do not say this to merely describe my qualification. They say that apart from your family and the society that you grow up in, schools play an important role in moulding your personality. I am sure they do but the way three years of Literature has shaped my personality I consider it nothing less than a part of my identity. “Literature is not just verse and prose. It will take you on a ride of History, Sociology, Psychology and other different streams as well. Are you ready for it?” I still remember our HOD’s words on the day of my interview for the course. “I am absolutely looking forward to it”, I said without fully understanding what he meant. But as I moved from one semester to the next I started comprehending the meaning of his words. Literature of any era is a reflection of life and society and everything within it. So, quite naturally one brushes with several other disciplines while studying Literature.
As you learn to critically appreciate a poem or to justify the title of a novel you develop a tolerance for subjectivity. You learn that there are no set answers. Two people can agree or disagree with a given statement and both can be correct in their own right if they can reasonably justify their stands. In the process your horizons are widened as you live through different ages, different characters and different lines of thought. You learn to appreciate the subtle humour and sarcasm with which the supposedly ‘girlish’ novels picture the society. Be it the oft quoted opening lines of Pride and Prejudice, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” or Emma’s take on remaining single, “I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable, old maid! The proper sport of boys and girls; but a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as anybody else. And the distinction is not quite so much against the candour and common sense of the world as appears at first; for a very narrow income has a tendency to contract the mind, and sour the temper”. Growing up on a heavy dose of typical masala movies I had never encountered characters so real, so flesh and blood! One can’t help admiring the unconventional characters like Heathcliff and Rhett Butler and their less than perfect but awesomely real heroines with believable human flaws and weaknesses. One of the key points that Roland Barthes, the 20thCentury French critic makes in ‘From Work to Text’ is that a text never ceases to yield meaning. It can be interpreted in multiple ways. Each reader’s experience is different from the other. You are amazed to discover how a single work like say Gone wih the Wind can be looked at from so many point of views; historical, biographical, feminist, Freudian and so on. It is way more than “a fat book for girls’ taste”. I still remember reading those lines which described Scarlett’s longing to dance in a ball after being widowed. It was so natural for a young girl to feel so specially when she hardly cared about the man whose death made her a widow. Such realistic descriptions and such real characters that one almost impulsively applauds their creator. It was sometime around this time that I became a bigger fan of J.K.Rowling than I ever was of Harry Potter. For now I understood how challenging it must have been to create an entirely new world with hundreds of characters and construct an impeccable plot spread over seven books! I developed a respect for adversaries as I understood the concept that Ram was great because Ravan was great. It is such a relevant concept for life and the adversary can be anything worth winning.
As one learns to draw character sketches, patterns and look for links in a text one develops an eye for detail. An offshoot of this was the fact that I started enjoying cinema like never before. I began observing that each and every frame of a well made movie speaks volumes. One begins to notice everything from art direction to dialogues to costumes to lyrics and everything that goes into making the world on screen convincing enough for the story in question. For like drama, movie making is also a composite art. Also, movies or a good piece of literature often make for brilliant case studies.Taking up Literature is one of the best decisions I have made hitherto. Indeed,never did I have such a fulfilling learning experience as in those three years of Literature.