Who knows? Who writes?

29 04 2008

By Shalini Nirmal

To write assignments, most of the time, is a boring job. When I began to write this assignment, I thought about the following questions: Why do I need to write this assignment? What are the things I liked about this workshop and the discussions that ensued in class? And what good did this workshop do for me?

And I searched for my answers… I needed to write this assignment, quite literally, to get marks. And metaphorically, to think, rewind, and reflect on what we learnt from this workshop. What I liked most about the workshop was that there was never a pressure to ‘do’ things, which made it enjoyable and interesting because if there is pressure/power, there is resistance as well, as Michel Foucault has said.

I learnt that there is no ‘True Knowledge’ or any ‘Total Truth’. And there is nothing you don’t know. One probably knows something about anything and everything. It gave me a lot of confidence to write an exam we had that week. I felt I knew the answers, even though I had barely prepared for the exam.

I really liked a methodological tool I encountered during this workshop. It was this: to get to the answers or insights, we have to ask the questions first. It made me think about the way I interact with my family. I always question my parents, for instance, especially if they ask me to do something I don’t want to. Their response is always: “You argue a lot.” Earlier, I would experience some uneasiness at their response; but now I know that I am not simply arguing but trying to find the path to answers.

And our discussions about writing were very revealing. Earlier, I had always thought of writing as a platform for expressing a personal point of view. What I realised in this workshop was that writing also needed to look into your own prejudices. Perhaps one needs to question oneself before questioning others. Certainly, the way one thinks is not necessarily the ‘right’ or the ‘only’ way. To write a holistic work, be it fiction or social science writing, one needs to empathise with another person’s point of view as well.

I do feel that I have found a new kind of confidence to write. Perhaps if all of us know something, we can all write about that something.

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