writingA few weeks ago, I was told I should change the way I write. Adopt a new style, write more academically, adapt to a new world. At the time I took what she said into consideration, her light eyes seemed sympathetic and wanted more than anything to help me. She told me her own story, where she came from, how she found it difficult to adapt to a new form of knowledge and writing- much in the same way, she explained, as I did. She gave me tips on how I could go about doing this. Read a published paper she said, maybe copy and paste a paragraph from that paper onto your document so you can copy the exact style. It reminded me of a little child tracing a drawing from a colouring book. She repeated again, “You just have to change your style of writing.” I was uncomfortable at the thought. Partly, because my pride was hurt. Of all the trouble I’d had with academics over the years, writing was definitely not one of them. Writing had become a crutch, to aid me through the many gaps and holes in knowledge, to compensate for my lack of understanding in the visual. Yet, here I was, failing a paper and being told I should change the way I write. If my discomfort started with a hurt ego, it soon grew into something else altogether. It wasn’t that I couldn’t write very well, it’s that I couldn’t write to match a certain standard. I couldn’t write to tick the boxes on a certain checklist that decided what was academic and what was not. They didn’t want to know if I had the capacity to deconstruct the politics of a certain issue, but if I could use existing theories to prove an already existing presumption. I decided to let my discomfort simmer for a while, so I could wait for the rest of my papers. I wanted to see if this would be an isolated incident. It wasn’t. I could see, however that different people approached my writing in different ways. Some made allowances for straying from standards of acceptance, some gave me credit for doing just that. The former interested me more. In one of those papers, the examiner conceded that I had analysed the issue very well. What was odd, was that the issue she quoted wasn’t what my paper was based on at all. She thought it was one problem, when I thought I had evocatively insisted that that was not what I was interested in. The rest of the feedback helped realise why she’d read my paper wrong. She said she wished I hadn’t spent as much time explaining the problem and devoted my words to explaining established theories to prove it existed. Yes, a repetition of the previous examiner’s feedback. What was this problem though? I took up a couple of long paragraphs explaining how Brahmanical patriarchy worked, to lay claims to its existing manifestation in the lives of migrant adivasis in India. What the examiner wished I’d done, was eliminate the entire problematic and instead find a theory that could explain it. How could I tell her that Marxist feminism cannot explain Brahmanical patriarchy, ecofeminism can’t explain it, postcolonial feminism can’t explain it, radical feminism can’t explain it, black feminism can’t explain it, Virginia Woolf had no idea about it, Simone de Beavoir devoted no books to it, Spivak had missed it, and bell Hooks was farther away from it than the examiner herself was. I certainly used post colonialism to talk about land rights, but I can only use brahmanical patriarchy to explain the lives of these migrant adivasi women. My first paper was on caste too. It’s distressing how there’s no space for caste within the academia today. It’s distressing how it isn’t seen as its own unique form of conceptualised theory. I cannot speak about any political issue in India without invoking the implications of the caste system and I cannot use any standardised form of theory to explain it. I feel like Hal in Infinite Jest sometimes, the sentences are constructed perfectly in my head and make absolute sense, yet, when I speak people only hear monstrous rumblings in an alien tongue.