‘Although there’s much about media that needs to change right now, the power that solid, fact-based journalism has in a democracy is unshakeable,’ says FLAME University alumna Aarathi Ganesan, Editor of The Bastion. The digital magazine focuses on covering India’s development journey through the lens of public policy. Aarathi herself has a clear perspective on her life. Raised abroad and conscious of her ‘Indian heritage’, she chose to pursue M.Sc. in Modern South Asian Studies in Oxford University post her undergraduate education at FLAME University. Her research on digital feminism in India reflects her commitment to gender equality. The Cochin girl describes how FLAME University inspired her to stay true to her passion.
Post-graduation vs. on-job experience
Aarathi decided to pursue a Master’s degree program but she doesn’t underestimate the experience and insights fresh graduates can get on the job. She feels it is an equally rigorous route to take for career success, but her reasons to join a Master’s degree program were strictly personal. ‘I wanted to enter the media and journalism space in India, but I didn’t think I could make it. Part of it had to do with my own insecurities surrounding my Indian heritage. I was raised abroad, and found that whenever I was in India I never felt “Indian” enough. Feeling “stateless” (for lack of a better word) is a common experience for migrants. I chose this degree specifically to get the chance to explore my culture more deeply,’ she shares.
Drawing from peer learning at FLAME University
For her Master’s research, Aarathi chose a subject that was close to her heart: digital gender justice and, more specifically, body shaming. It was the first of its kind in South Asian studies, and her aim was to improve on her work during Ph.D. But that was in the future. Looking back, she feels the hostel experience at FLAME University not only inspired her while choosing the topic, but also supported her in many ways. ‘I got the opportunity to live with so many inspiring women. Just being around them taught me so much about myself and gender issues on the whole. Through my conversations with these intelligent, confident, and compassionate women, I realized how diverse the reality of these issues can be,’ she adds.
Privilege, politics, and solving problems
Aarathi is grateful for her Liberal Arts education because she believes it equips you with problem-solving skills. Only when you know how to ask a question and plan an appropriate solution, can you figure out the technical issues along the way. Her interactions, especially with faculty members, also helped shape her thinking and perspective on society. ‘My understanding of diversity came from my professors who made me see how important it is to recognize the caste, class, and gender divisions that exist everywhere. This is something I consciously try to integrate into our work at The Bastion. My ability to do my job well rests on my interdisciplinary education,’ she explains.
A commentary on our times
As the editor of a prestigious magazine, Aarathi is deeply invested in journalism and mass media. As a commentator of current times, she finds the diversity of Indian politics and voices exciting. According to her, social media allows more political voices to take centre stage, and minimizes the risks of political majoritarianism. However, she admits that social media has become a breeding ground for fake news and hate speech. ‘Firstly, I would get rid of that type of content from social media. Then I’d like to make the world a safer place for women by strengthening institutional justice. Thirdly, I’d like to ensure that every child receives an excellent education at school,’ she says, while talking about the kind of change she wants to see in society.
Living a student life to the fullest
Aarathi is a strong believer in education as a means of knowledge, confidence, and skills to explore the world fully. That’s why she wants to work towards bettering public schools in the country. She tried to make up for everything she missed out in school during her FLAME University days. Participating in every activity that interested her and taking up courses from several departments helped her learn from multiple sources and develop perspectives on different things. ‘The time I spent at Oxford has helped me tremendously. I would like to advise students to try and strike a balance. You should never neglect your mental wellbeing during college. Take time off to work towards your personal happiness,’ Aarathi says with honesty, one crucial feature of the kind of journalism she believes in and practices.