Alexander Koch – Calicut, India
With 33.387.677 inhabitants according to the 2011 census, Kerala, the state on the south-west coast of India on the Malabar coast, is the twelth largest state of India by population. Spread over 38.863 km² and divided into fourteen districts, it is bordered by the prosperous states of Karnataka to the north and north-east and Tamil Nadu to the east and south. The state capital is Thiruvananthapuram in the south and Malayalam is the widely spoken and official language of the state.
Arrival at Calicut International Airport
Arriving at the Calicut International Airport on the fifth August in 2013 at five o'clock in the morning, it is the first time for me to visit incredible India. After a long journey, one stop in Abu-Dhabi, UAE and almost 24 hours on my feet, I finally arrived at my destination, the Calicut University. I have picked this spot, because I found, that it fitted my requirements the best. Situated around 45 minutes away from the core city of Calicut and surrounded by various little cities, like Ramanattukara and Chelari, it resembles an almost perfect opportunity to study the uncountable phenomenons of modern South-Indian culture.
Additionally, a stay at one University will always equip you with new perspectives. Especially, as in my case, if you are living in one hostel with all the curious students around you, everyone of them willing to share his own views and ideas about politics, economics, history, philosophy, religion, art, literature, and so on. Beyond question, it is these views and ideas, that will make you realize, what the modern South-Indian society is all about.
Stay at Calicut University
Concerning my stay at the boys hostel of Calicut University, I am housed in the first floor, room #212 of the research block. My room has an an approximately size of 25 m² and I am living here together with one research scholar from the department of history. Besides him, there are circa 75 more students, most of them sharing one room with one another, living in the research block of the university. In addition, there is one TV-room in the first floor of the building, equipped with some newspapers, one of them in English language and a TV, most of its time broadcasting news, besides traditional Malayali movies and, of course, cricket.
Everyday life at Calicut University
Regarding everyday life at the Calicut University, I am frequently visiting the first- and third-semester classes at the department of history. I am teached in ancient, medieval and modern history of India, which is a bless to understand at least some of the uncountable diversities in modern South-Indian society. In addition, I am daily practicing my Malayalam in scripture and speech. Both things, that have been very fruitful, especially in concern to my research and the experiences, I have made so far. Nevertheless, I am far from perfection in all these tasks and every day seems to be like an eye-opener for me.
Apropos of my research, I want to present you a short glimpse into an interview I have led with a competitive bodybuilder in one gym near Chelari. I have frequently been visiting the gym over the last two months and been able to get some really interesting insights into different aspects of modern South-Indian bodybuilding.
A: Why Bodybuilding?
Q: "You know, that is a good question. To be honest, I have asked this question several times to myself, as well. Apparently, it is not because of the fame, the money, the women. You do not earn much money or fame in this sport. I do not live in a big house, drive an expensive car or wear fancy clothes. Instead, I am driving a bike and spending most of my money on food, supplements and steroids [...].
But, you know, for me, bodybuilding is something special. It is not bodybuilding in general, that I love, but the feeling it gives you. Ever since, I have touched the weights for the first time, I felt, that there is something more, than just lifting them [...]. Bodybuilding is some sort of experience and the bigger you grow, the more experienced you become. But, you know, I am not talking about the experience how to lift the weights,what kind of food you have to eat to stay healthy, how to build your body and all such things. I am talking about the mindset. This is, what makes it so special to me [...].
You know, bodybuilding is like life. There are boundaries, physical and mental and you have to cross them. Everyone of us is facing an obstacle once in a while and we certainly do not know how to overcome them. You know, most of the people quit, when things are starting to get difficult, they make no progess. But, what bodybuilding will teach you is, that you can overcome all of those obstacles and get even farer, than you have ever imagined [...].
A: So, what does your family or in general the society think about it?
Q: "You know, since I am the only son of my parents, they have always been very supportive to me, but most of the people think, that what I am doing is not worth striving for. They think, that I act childish and should spend more of my time on reading books or supporting my family, instead of going to the gym. They do not see, that I am working on something else, on myself. They do not count the hours, that I spent here at the gym, see the things, that I have sacrificed for standing at that stage [...].
You know, for them it is always easy to become a champion. Most of them think, that they could achieve the same. They think, that with the right counsels, food and steroids, they will exactly look like me after a short amount of time. They do not think of the suffering, that I go through, while I am dieting, think about the time, that I have sacrificed to become, what I am today. They only see the finished product [...]."
All in all, so far there is no conclusion. It is hard to say, whether there can be a conclusion about the modern South-Indian society at all. Nevertheless, I want to strongly recommend a semester abroad at a foreign university to all of you. In my eyes and in regard to the experiences, that I have made so far, a stay at a foreign university is probably one of the best gate-openers into all of those different details and aspects of one particular society. And isn't it this, what social anthropology is all about?