Friday, December 16, 2011

ISS celebrates 60 years

Indian Sociological Society celebrated its 60th anniversary, and yes, it was in JNU. It was quite amazing seeing 1500 delegates gather in one place, and Vice President Hamid Ansari in his very elegant way gave the baton back to the intellectuals saying that they would interpret society fearlessly for that was their vocation. Three happy days went by, heroically managed by the research scholars, many of them having spent sleepless nights. The queues for food were really long, but there was enough to eat, inspite of the dazzling sunshine, people stood in the glare talking, laughing, debating. All the sessions were crammed with listeners, and the symposiums were very well attended, so much so that tea and television screens outside benefitted those who could not enter the auditorium. It was my first ISS conference, and I really enjoyed seeing the crowds, quite perplexed by the numbers, since the delegates had brought friends and family to hear them. The estimated number present for those three days is thought to be five thousand...
JNU is a hospitable hill, and so we never felt that five thousand was a mythic number. Yes, they must have been uncomfortable in their lodgings, but on the last day, the representatives said "Discomfort in large meetings is frequent, and to be expected, but the intellectual fare and the general excitement of ideas was wonderful and made up for it." That was courteous of them, since many had travelled three days from very distant places, and Delhi is very cold. I am now ready to go to the ISS conferences every year. I didn't go previously for the plain reason I don't like crowds much, and dread the physical discomfort of strange lodgings. Once I was booked to be at a  World Tamil conference, about 17 years ago, and then I backed out, because my youngest daughter was only a year old, and I didn't feel like leaving her to attend the conference where other scholars. like Dennis Hudson (a very dear friend from Massachussets) were  also expected. However, after I returned to Delhi from Chennai, every month for about two years, I would recieve an envelope with a Paris stamp and a handwritten address, and a photograph of the  exiled Tamil LTTE leader Prabhakaran. I found that quite scary!

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