Reasoning with a Sociologist, sociologically of course
As our Dean, Dr. Pramath Sinha, said in his opening address: “If there was a Nobel Prize for Sociology, then Professor Andre Bteille would have won it.”
The truth of this statement was apparent right from our first class on Sociological Reasoning. I had studied Sociology briefly during my first year as a student of Arts, but Professor B?teille provided me with a whole new perspective on the subject. It became clear why it is nearly impossible to talk about Indian Sociology without referring to his work.
Whether it was family, religion, caste, politics or economics, Professor B?teille would engage the class with an enthusiastic and passionate narrative. He introduced concepts – ranging from matrilineal and patrilineal descent to the difference between varna and jati – in such a way that the doctors, lawyers and engineers in our batch could relate to them as effectively as those of us with social science backgrounds. He also went about it in such a way that it raised a lot of questions in our minds.
These questions manifested themselves in animated, thought-provoking discussions in class, which he seemed to enjoy as much as we did! As soon as he finished speaking, at least twenty hands would shoot up into the air, and at least ten people would follow him to his waiting car after the class, trying to get a few more precious seconds to voice their doubts and opinions. I think the biggest testament to Professor B?teille’s ability to stimulate our thoughts was the fact that these animated discussions continued long after the class ended and he had left the campus!
One thing that struck me about Professor B?teille was his energy. It belies his age, and from the way his face lit up when he began explaining a concept to us, it is obvious that he draws this energy from his love for his subject. An instance I will always remember is when one of us asked Professor B?teille about the future of the caste system in India. He got out of his chair with a twinkle in his eye, walked over to the questioner, placed a hand on his shoulder and said: “My dear friend, I am a sociologist, not an astrologer!” drawing a wave of laughter and applause from the rest of the class.
Professor Andre B?teille made a profound impact on all of us in a very short time, and I’m sure I speak for all the Young India Fellows when I say that it is a privilege to have been taught by him.