Here’s What It Really Means To Study Humanities In India

Posted on August 12, 2014 in Education

By Pallavi Priyamvada:

I am a humanities student and the answer disappoints me!

“beta tum toh ache student ho, fir arts kyu le rhe ho”
“arts field me koi career nhi h”
“ ache students ke liye science stream hi sahi h”
“ mann lagakar padhai karo, wrna arts lena pdega”
“itne ache number lane par agar arts loge toh log kya kahenge”


These are not famous quotes from the yellow pages of wise philosophers, but very profoundly quoted by those who claim to be so. If the student is bright, he/she must study science. If the student is weak, humanity would serve them best. If the bright student is a girl, she will have to deal with biology and if that bright student happens to be the boy, he cannot insult his intelligence by taking up anything besides technology and engineering. These are not my words, but the common understanding of the society in general or rather should I say, the stereotypes attached with the division of subjects where:

The interest of student – does not matter.
The ambition of student – has to be monetary profits.
The aptitude required for a particular subject – is all about higher marks.

And if somehow neglecting (this is not quite possible), accepting or confronting these labels, a student sticks to his/her guns and studies humanities, he/she is always reminded of their apparent inferior position. Their dignity is often attacked because of their own choices of subjects, or rather dumbness. But what enrages me is the whole perception which is building these nonsense notions. How can the two subjects be compared when the entire method of approaching them is different? Why is your choice of subject, instead of showcasing your interest and aptitude, used to judge your intelligence quotient?

In India, it’s a common belief that pursuing humanities limits the careers options and is not beneficial monetarily. And if this is true in the current scenario, why should they pursue a passion for classics even if it might not guarantee returns in the job market? After all, one does not want to be doing what they love and be homeless. India has numerous languages, a rich historical, ethnic and cultural background and so can offer a number of course in humanities to Indian as well as foreign students. But this is not happening as the subject is not being encouraged the way it needs to be. Every day we come to know about the new IITs, IIMs and AIIMSs being founded but how many of us actually know about the best humanities institutes in India. It seems even the government is oblivious to the importance of studying humanities and so promotes only Science and technology related subjects.

Through exploration of the humanities, we learn how to think creatively and critically, to reason, and to ask questions. In science, mathematics and engineering classes, one is given facts, answers, knowledge, and truth. The professors say, “This is how things are.” They give you certainty. The humanities give you uncertainty, doubt and skepticism. The humanities are subversive. They undermine and question the claims of all authorities, whether political, religious or scientific. They do not just correct your wrong pair of glasses via which you look at the world but also provide you multiple lenses with multiple perceptions. Humanities make you question absolutely anything, even science. Here, I am not making a point that Science is anywhere less important or humanities are more constructive. But I am arguing against the mindset that categorizes Humanities (or any subject for that matter) as ‘easy’. If calculating electromagnetic induction is strenuous, then researching social relationships and its associated complexity is no cakewalk. But many students realize this baseless ground of differentiation so late in their lives that they end up dwindling in science classes even if they had skill and ability for music, sports, arts or anything ‘non-technical’.

The problem lies in the way we view education. We do not perceive subjects as something worth to learn from but rather see it as stock market where we invest our credentials to get the profits. But at the same time, we fail to realize that the market is changing every day. And in that state of affairs, if ratings are to be done, the scales of measurement could go in reverse any-time soon. But I am not hoping so and neither want Humanities to be honored with superiority (that would be flawed again) but all the subjects to be respected for what they have to offer and honor the education altogether.