My name is Rithika Kumar and I am a third-year PhD student in the Department of Political Science at Penn. During my time at Penn, I have taken a range of courses that have informed my research but over time have come to realize that no learning ever compares to that of being on the field. And, this is why I was excited to spend a good part of my summer in the beautiful city of Udaipur in Rajasthan.
My research interests lie in the intersection of urbanization, gender and political behavior. I am particularly interested in female voting behavior patterns, women’s economic and political participation and studying the political impact of urbanization from a gendered lens. Udaipur, also known as the city of lakes, was perfectly suited to study these topics. Being a tier two city, Udaipur has the flavor of an urban area but at the same time, its proximity to nearby villages reminds us why it is still not a big metro. It was a perfect location for me because it is also home to a very vibrant research community with Seva Mandir and Aajeevika Bureau being some of the biggest NGOs working within the city and its nearby villages.
It was my first time in the city and while I knew Hindi – which helped me get around the city – I didn’t know the other regional dialects spoken in the villages around Udaipur. That posed as a slight challenge but with the help of local contacts, I was able to overcome that barrier. Overall, just living alone in a new city (even though I am from India, this was a very new experience for me), working out of cafes, taking local buses and chatting with kind strangers made me fall in love with the city and I was so glad I chose to spend a good part of my summer here. More on what I did there in my next blog post!