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What do you do as a Sociologist?

Veleen Sadana is a PhD student at the Department of Sociology at Delhi University. Her area of interest is urban sociology, specifically how transport shapes the expansion of cities. A committed researcher, Sadana is thoughtful and soft-spoken, and conscious of keeping her language free of jargon while explaining her subject of research. As a researcher, a usual work day for her extends over ten to twelve hours.

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?

In another life, as an engineer and former infotech professional, she used to work long days. But, she says, “I used to feel strained and unhappy at that time. And, though I have the same working hours now, I don’t feel them.” Sadana grew up in Jalandhar, and when it was time to choose a career path, she ended up following the herd to an engineering college. “In that city, at that time, there was no awareness of other options. An engineering degree was what everyone aspired to.”

After working in a multinational tech firm for a few years, unhappy, dissatisfied and unable to explain why, she resigned her job without telling her parents, and enrolled in a journalism course. It was the first time she encountered terms like ‘subaltern’ and ‘political ideology’. She decided to learn more, and applied for a Masters degree in sociology. “When you train in a professional course like engineering, you are a different person. You’re not exposed to ideas, so you find yourself following stereotypes, say of gender or caste. Study- ing humanities has made me a different person. It has taught me to not be biased, to have a reasonable understanding of things.”

What is your advice to students?

As many young people in India would attest, choosing humanities for higher education is looked down upon. “Humanities and social sciences are for dumb students, those who are rejected from other fields. That is the common perception,” . It is as if you cannot contribute to society by studying humanities.”