Intertwined with ‘Godavari’: Journey of a Researcher of becoming an Insider from an Outsider

In March 2015, I began my journey with the river Godavari in the city of Nashik, as a part of my doctoral research. As an outsider researching on the Godavari, which is deeply embedded in the life of Nashik city, I started exploring multiple discourses revolving around the river. In an attempt to understand the socio-cultural and political landscape of Nashik, I initiated conversations with people of diverging fields ranging from local activists, scholars, journalists, bureaucrats, and many more. Every conversation deepened my engagement with the Godavari, and unknowingly/unconsciously in the due process, my positionality transformed from an ‘outsider’ into an ‘insider.’ Thus, I started approaching my research from a participatory perspective.
My participatory engagement began with the formulation of an initiative titled ‘Reconnecting with Godavari’, under which the first activity was a water-walk organized with the support of Nashik Municipal Corporation and Maharashtra Times. The water-walk was designed to unveil the unseen infrastructure of the city, like the Sewage Treatment Plant, and to highlight the management of the wastewater in a million plus city of Nashik. As my fieldwork proceeded, the citizen engagement began evolving as per the needs of the river Godavari in Nashik. Recently, with the support of few of my key respondents, we developed an open to all discussion forum called Godavarishi Gappa-Tappa (Let’s interact with Godavari) to understand the multiple opinions and perceptions of the residents of Nashik coming from diverse social positioning. Within a span of two meetings, we developed an idea of river-walk or Goda Parikrama along the banks of the Godavari, to revive the river-society relationship. Today, alongwith few participants of the discussion forum, we recced about 7 km of stretch for the open to all river-walk to be held in the coming week.
Like the fluidity and the embeddedness of the Godavari, my research is carving out its course in Nashik and is getting deeply intertwined with my identity – as an individual and also as a researcher.

News Reporter
I am an architect turned anthropologist. After finishing my Masters in Anthropology from University of Pune, I was working with Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune under a project funded by UNICEF and Integrated Child Development Scheme, Government of Maharashtra. During which I was stationed in Nandurbar District of Maharashtra (which is predominantly a tribal region) as a Field Research officer. Currently, I am a doctoral candidate in Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Mohali, India. My current research explores the interaction of the cultural-religious, the political-economic and the ecological dimensions of the river in Nashik city in Maharashtra. Broadly, investigating how the multiple perspectives of a natural resource overlap, contradict, challenge and support each other, thus shaping the urban landscape and producing socio-spatial inequalities.

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