Introduction to India

Introduction to India is a required course taken during the fall or spring of the first-year HUF program. While the course is open to all UT students, HUF students take an enhanced version of the course involving readings in Hindi-Urdu primary sources and weekly sessions taught by teaching assistants fluent in Hindi-Urdu. HUF students also produce written (and/or multimedia) Hindi-Urdu projects related to their readings in the course.

General Course Description

Here is a sample course description from a recent semester of Introduction to India:

This course contributes to an introductory understanding of South Asia, which is a diverse geographic region accommodating more than one-fifth of humanity. Crossing the boundaries of the region’s multiple histories, languages, and cultural, social, and religious traditions enables us to explore the diverse identities extant in South Asia today. The course places particular emphasis on popular culture and everyday life in contemporary South Asia and addresses critical issues important to the region through overviews of art and literature. After an introductory grounding in the history and critical study of South Asia, readings and lectures focus on cultural topics including literature and film (especially Bollywood films) and contemporary studies of South Asian life in both public and private spheres. Topics covered include: society, family, and gender issues; religious traditions; art, music, and literature; colonialism and nationalism; economy, politics, and globalization. Students in this course benefit from occasional guest lecturers who are specialists in various topics related to the study of South Asia.

Hindi-Urdu Component

Here is a sample description of the enhanced Hindi-Urdu component for HUF scholars used by HUF Associate Director Syed Akbar Hyder when he recently taught the course:

HUF’s enhanced Introduction to India course provides HUF scholars a unique glimpse into the subcontinent’s culture and history through primary Hindi-Urdu sources.

The objective of this component is to equip first-year flagship students to access primary sources in Urdu and Hindi. HUF students will respond (orally and in writing) to three Hindi-Urdu primary sources:Yousuf Saeed’s  Apne bachchon ko kaisa Bharat sonpenge ham? (What kind of India shall we bestow upon our children?), a segment of Qurratulain Hyder’s River of Fire, and Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s Bol (speak). The first work is penned by an up-and-coming documentary filmmaker, Yousuf Saeed, and discusses the issue of secularism and primary education in modern India. The second work, a classic of modern South Asian literature, weaves the story of this region through the invocations of the discourses of pre-modern religious figures, medieval princes and princesses, and modern politicians. The last work provides an insight into the literature written in response to the plight of modern nation-states. We have chosen these three works not only because they reflect various registers of the language but also because they affirm and enforce the central argument of the class: the histories and cultures of South Asia are active and dynamic. It is our hope that the students will be fruitfully analyzing the aforementioned primary material against the wider background that this class will provide.

The language-specific teaching of the course will begin in the fourth week of the semester, as soon as the students become fully acquainted with the larger objectives of the class. By the fourth week, the students will also have a good background in the rich tapestry of approaches to South Asia. Students in this class will meet their teaching assistants once a week for one hour and during this time they will read and discuss the assigned readings. The students will also report to their assigned HUF director on a biweekly basis and present their work for mutual understanding and critique.