By Iman Sakkaf ‘11.
I flip open the cover of my cream-pink mobile and am greeted by a melody. This “ring tone” is the beautiful voice of new faculty member Shital Pravinchandra. Perhaps its particular beauty can be attributed to Pravinchandra’s days in a choir. No longer a singer per se she still loves music and describes her tastes as “old school…60s and 70s.” Her cinematic tastes are similarly diverse; she enjoys pretty much anything citing, in particular, independent films, Spanish and South American cinema, and Bollywood which “can be quite fun” (just not horror! she adds laughingly). Most recently, Pravinchandra was a visiting lecturer in the South Asian Department at the University of London, where she taught postcolonial studies and South Asian literature.
While of South Asian heritage, Pravinchandra spent her first years in Mozambique, a Portuguese colony. She spoke one South Asian language at home but, not reading or writing it, she chose to study Hindi at university, an area of study she still actively pursues. After Africa, her family moved to the Canary Islands and, with her parents still there, it is a place she continues to call home. Pravinchandra misses the overpowering presence of the sea and, in that melodious manner, describes how, “You can’t get away from [it] in the Canary Islands, [it’s] popping up all over the place.” Her favorite color is blue.
Pravinchandra’s interest in post colonial studies is impacted by her personal background. A pre-America stop for Columbus, the Canary Islands houses a museum in his honor and filled with old maps of the world. This knowledge, coupled with her South Asian heritage, helped put colonization on Pravinchandra’s mind. At Yale she has taught a class on the place of medical ethics in global literature and will be teaching a class on post-colonial studies next year. She encourages students to consider this subject, explaining that it is a very exciting area of literature. “I think students find it incredibly enriching to study the literatures of the non-West. Postcolonial literature completely transforms the way we think about the field of English literature and how it was shaped. Authors from African, South Asian and Caribbean nations write in English because of their countries’ colonial histories. Their narratives draw on a diverse range of historical experiences and use innovative techniques to represent these experiences.”
Pravinchandra’s statement may unintentionally shed light on part of what makes her own perspective so exciting. Moving from Africa to the Canary Islands to England for undergraduate work, to America for a PhD program in Comparative Literature, to England to lecture and now, excitingly for us, back to America again, Pravinchandra’s own life in a sense reflects the areas of interest on which she so enthusiastically and beautifully speaks.