Gandhi's India

Dec 2011

If you have the slightest interest in History, South Asian, or Political History, Gandhi's India with Professor Bakhle is the course to take. This is the most invigorating course I've taken at Columbia so far, and Professor Baklhle spurs student interest like a pro. Every lecture is fast paced and packed with material, so it's not an easy challenge, but is still overall worthwhile. Professor Bakhle is relentless in delivering the extremely complicated history of the formation of modern India; there's never a dull moment in class. Be warned, the class is all the way at 120th and Broadway, and you can't afford to come in late, lest you lose important information. Professor Bakhle is strict as well about cell phone and computer use as well, but you wouldn't want those distractions compared the amazing experience you'll have in class.

Dec 2010

I took this course with only slight pause due to old CULPA reviews, and I don't regret it at all. Professor Bakhle is a fantastic lecturer with a thorough insight into her subject. Moreover, she did an excellent job of contextualizing an extremely broad overview of South Asian history. While we covered a lot of material, I found that it was generally manageable to grasp what was going on and understand the narrative as it was presented. Professor Bakhle also made a tremendous effort to expand the course beyond Gandhi. We read numerous different opinions, and were presented with a class that put Gandhi in conversation with his contemporaries-- and allowed us to understand him within that context. Given that we had such a short amount of time in class and a large amount of material to cover, we actually read about a remarkable variety of the movements and disagreements that dotted Indian history from pre-colonial and briefly, post-colonial times. Class had two TA's. I had Divya, who was great at dissecting and making sometimes dense readings understandable.

Dec 2010

What a great class this was! There's a lot of information, a ton of reading every week, and the exams aren't easy. But Professor Bakhle is a terrific lecturer. I don't understand why people think she's a "bitch on wheels" as one reviewer said below. She commands the classroom but not in a bitchy way at all. The TA's are very intelligent, approachable, and professional. Mine was Omar Sarwar. He started out somewhat lacking in confidence but a few weeks into the semester he had us engaged and the fifty minutes of discussion section seemed to fly by. He's also hot. Just thought I'd add that! I highly recommend this class to anyone interested in the history of South Asia.

Apr 2010

I think the problem with this class is that Prof. Bakhle packs in a lot, and I mean a lot of information into one course. Sometimes, I just wanted her to slow down, perhaps engage with the students more and ask our input. Actually, the course was supposed to run for the full year and I was sorely upset when she changed it last minute and condensed it into one semester. She knows her stuff and that's the best part of the class. She may come off intimidating, but she is really nice. Just don't come to class late or expect to type notes on your laptops. I came in knowing very little about Indian history, and by the end of the class you will for sure have a very different view on Gandhi himself. Oh, there is a lot of reading. I think it would've made sense to stick with just a few books and follow their development throughout the course, as opposed to a whole bunch that at times felt detached from the course. However, you can get away without doing all the reading. I was upset about the timing of the papers. One was due in about a week and the last one was due a couple of days before the final:(( The exams are cumulative which can kill you with ID's. I agree with the previous reviewer about the grades and the TA's. I did fine, but Divya and Merve were not the best in my opinion-trust me on this since I was able to sit in on both discussion sections and ask fellow students their opinions. I had great TA's until I came to this class, and am still baffled by it. I suggest sitting in for the first 2wks if you are unsure whether or not to take her class. I enjoyed the information I was learning and her opinions on Gandhi.

Dec 2009

Prof. Bakhle is one of the best lecturers I have experienced in my time at Columbia. Unlike other history lecturers, her lecture is clear and fast paced. For the sake of clarity,she provides an outline of the lecture in the first five minutes. Her lectures have the perfect balance of fact, context, and synthesis. People seem to call her out for being arrogant but I think the more appropriate word is confident. Bakhle is undeniably knowledgeable on the topic and does not shy away from developing interesting ideas. I went into the class knowing nothing about India and can know have an intelligent conversation about it. Other reviews have shared anecdotes to prove that she is a bitch- but this is not the case. She made an effort to learn the names of at least a quarter of the students, which is nice in a big lecture, and bought starbucks for a student she "yelled at" the day before. I am expecting a grade that is likely going to be less than I would prefer, but thats because of my TA, not Prof. Bakhle. Final verdict- Take this class. Dont think twice. I was skeptical of her, having read scary culpa reviews, and kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. It never did.

Dec 2009

I completely agree with the review below. I would just like to emphasize a couple points about Bakhle's class that are extremely irksome. She assigns (no exaggeration) 200-300 pages of reading every week. Most of this reading is only partially relevant to the class. Most of this reading is incredibly boring. Most of the reading Bakhle assigns in primary sources, or chapters out of a history book. So, most of the relevant information is sparse and far between. I would suggest, if you take the class, to only skim a couple pages of each reading. It certainly won't help you on the tests or papers. Bakhle acts like she is the god of the universe. If anyone comes to class late she will act like they were late because they were lighting up a crack pipe out front of class. If people who are lost and they push open the door to see what's inside, she will freak out on them. One time she gave a freshman about a five minute lecture about, " the rudeness inherent in disturbing my class." She just has no respect for students. One day a person came to class, because her lectures are pretty good, to sit in. She called him out in the middle of a sentence and said, "my classroom is not a cafeteria, you need to leave." Needless to say, that dude probably felt like crap for the next couple hours, and nobody probably even noticed him before she made a big deal about it. The worst part of her power trip is that she routinely held us 10-15 minutes late every class. One good side of the class is that she is one of the best lecturers I have had at Columbia. I probably only missed one or two lectures because I actually felt like I learned a lot listening to her. She certainly brings energy to the table. It appears that I am going to be a B+/A- in the class, which is about my average at Columbia. But I would say that it is not worth it to take this class unless you are very interested in learning. This class is probably great for overachievers, or those really interested in India. But for the average person just trying to get a good grade, this might be the worst possible class you could take at Columbia.

Dec 2009

I would like to preface this review by saying that I did pretty well in this class, so the following comments are not motivated by bitterness about an unsatisfactory grade. That said, avoid Gandhi's India with Professor Bakhle at all costs. Many of the other reviews have stated that this class has very little to do with Gandhi and is more about the 18th and 19th century in colonial India. This is accurate. At one point we were talking about Gandhi in World War II, and Professor Bakhle said something along the lines of "I don't know anything about the twentieth century. We can talk about the 18th century and I'll tell you everything there is to know." Then why are you teaching a class called Gandhi's India, where the most relevant years are from around 1914 to 1948? The course should really be called something like "Colonial India and the Development of Indian Nationalism" or something like that. The structure of the class was scattered, there was no coherence, she flip flopped between seeming to organize the lectures chronologically but also thematically, and she didn't provide readings that helped tie together the material. Professor Bakhle speaks very fast, only stopping to tell TA's to write random terms and names on the chalkboard (by the time they do this you can't even figure out to what they refer because she gone onto other things miles ahead of what she said before), and you are not allowed to bring laptops. She decided to change out whole reading list after she realized the books on the list were out of print. However, she changed this way beyond the return dates at Bookculture so most of us had bought about half the books already. She decided to change the course so that it was based on primary sources--which meant making the TAs track down 18th century manuscripts, of which there are about 8 in the world, and scan these 300-page documents from microfilm to put them on courseworks. No one is able to print 300 pages from courseworks in a week, and reading 200-year old documents on your computer screen never really works. Needless to say, the reading was difficult but not because there was a lot of it or it was written in complicated prose, but only because she chose to do this in the most ridiculous way. Also, because she chose a bunch of random primary sources, and didn't really provide enough context in lectures, the class had no narrative and no coherence. The midterm and final were not very hard, and she gives you a study guide for the midterm with ID's and essay questions, some of which will be on the test. She gave us a study guide for the final as well, but it didn't have as much information. I used wikipedia more than my notes for the midterm and final because the ID's were things she never mentioned in class or said one sentence about, and of course there was no context from readings. The 6 3-page papers were fine, just annoying that you never knew when they were and you only got a week to do them. Professor Bakhle rules with an iron fist. She kicks people out of class if they are late, or punishes them in other ways. She made one kid give an introduction to the next lecture when he was late for class once. She treats her students and the TA's like they are 5-years-old. I am not against Professors who are strict about discipline. I actually think most professors let their students walk all over them too much. But Professor Bakhle doesn't deserve to do this because she does not teach you enough to warrant her students dealing with being ruled by a tyrant. It would be one thing if she taught the best class at Columbia and the price you paid for it was no being able to take notes on your laptop, or go to the bathroom during class, or come to class a few minutes late once or twice. But her class is far from the best at Columbia. As a history major, I think it's one of the weakest I've ever taken. I learned much more about India from Professor Tiersten's Colonial Encounters class and Professor Gluck's World War II seminar where we discussed India for 1 week in each than I did in this whole semester about "Gandhi's India". She constantly complained about how it was impossible to address the entire subject (about 200 years and 1 country) in a semester. This is BS as most other professors teach much broader subjects in terms of time and geography and do infinitely better than she does. She told our class to write CULPA reviews and say she's really mean and hard to scare people off so that only serious students would take her class. If you are a serious student, particularly a history major, avoid this class at all costs because you won't learn anything and there are much better classes you could be taking. If you are not a serious student and are not interested in history, PLEASE take her class pass/fail just to make her frustrated.

Jul 2007

I found this class incredibly painful. I totally agree with the reviews before me that call her a diva. She is smart, but what does that matter when her arrogance inhibits her ability to adequately communicate her intelligence? I could not stand her, the class, or the work. Avoid this woman at all costs. She's overrated and the fact that she has any admirers makes me convinced she's writing the reviews. Don't believe me? I don't care. Take the class and find yourself in my position months later when you regret having every signed up.

Mar 2007

I'm actually surprised to see so many rave reviews of this woman since I find her appalling. The lectures are not too bad--assuming you have a laptop to types pages of notes or are very fast at writing by hand--but Bakhle herself is not likeable. Yes, she's smart and knows the subject...but that's her job as a professor. She keeps you ten minutes after the class ends every class. She assigns ridiculous amounts of reading that no one can finish. Not to mention that if you don't actually know the history of the subjects discussed in the readings you're probably going to be lost, since for the most part she assigns the intro chapters of various books; the readings are more about theories than historical accounts. Someone earlier mentioned she makes the class more complicated than it needs to be, and I completely agree. She'd be better off assigning a few substantial readings than overloading her students reading that in the end doesn't need to be done. The two coursepacks (yes, two) you have to buy for the class are a complete waste of money. Tests: She assigns a ludicrous number of IDs for each midterm and final (about 120 terms for the final), and then has the audacity to put IDs on the test that were never on the ID sheet. Also, for the upcoming midterm, she gave a list of 53 IDs to know, then added what she called a "handful more" a week later. She acts like hers is the only class we have midterms/papers for and therefore she can pile on as much work as she wants, and whenever she wants. And speaking of IDs, I have to point out that many of them are merely mentioned in class, and you have to be quick at hand to write them down. Usually she mention someone without saying anything salient about them except that they were at such and such conference, and then expect you to write about them on the test. I wouldn't mind her assigning so many IDs if I didn't have to wikipedia MOST of them when I get the ID sheets, because I cannot find anything about them in the 5 pages of class notes I write every day. Aside from the the lectures, which are usually interesting, I wouldn't recommend this class. But decide for yourself whether or not the lectures are worth her self-entitlement and self-importance.

Feb 2007

I normally read CULPA; however, after two and a half years of reading, I have never felt so compelled to write a review on a professor as I am after taking Professor Janaki Bakhle’s "Gandhi’s India." Let me preface this review with the acknowledgement that Professor Bakhle is incredibly intelligent and engaging—her lectures are ridiculously fast-paced (bring a laptop if you have any sense) and you will undoubtedly learn a hell-of-a-lot of information. She knows everything and you will not fall asleep in her class, if not solely out of fear she’ll call you out. I enjoyed her lectures for the most part. That said... The class name: now when I took Gandhi’s India, I thought Gandhi would play a pretty prominent role in the class. Not so, my friend. The first half of the course covered the history of British colonialism—not just in India, in Africa as well. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why this history is important, but Bakhle seriously thinks Indian history is so complex that the entire first half of the class cannot even delve into Gandhi until the role of the colonizer is established. While I agree for the most part, general colonialist theory is not the class I signed up for and, in addition, it definitely does not require eight weeks. Her lecture style: Bakhle’s lectures are incredibly fast-paced because she finds every minute detail in Indian history so important that she just has to cover it. This just leads to an inundation of facts which are never actually situated within a theme. She probably thinks she does this with a random platitude she unleashes out of nowhere, but she does not do this sufficiently. She never slows down to clearly define positions or present anything schematically because Indian history is just too “complex.” In the end, you’re just left with a ton of information with no solid thematic context. Her readings: Confusion in lecture is compounded by the readings she assigns. Not only is it a laughable amount that is straight-up unreadable in both length and content, the readings are assigned BEFORE her lecture. We’re not talking a textbook here, people. This is 100 pages of reading (for one class, not for one week) that is extremely theoretical. Why am I reading about the “debates” on sati before I even know what sati is? However, for Bakhle, no such debate can ever be that clear. Instead, we must read a dense introduction (yes, the TWO huge coursepacks are made up of introductions primarily to author’s books) that presents an argument on how colonialism shapes the differing opinions on sati. Because we're reading introductions, there is little evidence, and, instead, we're left with an unproven idea on a topic I have been given no background on. Awesome. Her class dictatorship: Now I totally respect the fact that the woman has issues with cell phones and people falling asleep in her class, but her “bitch on wheels” act gets old fast. It’s one thing to yell at someone for dozing off in class on the first day to set a standard, but it’s frustrating to the students who arrive on time and want to take a lecture to have that lecture immediately stop, because Bakhle can't focus with someone in the back row who did not get enough sleep the night before. Professor Bakhle sees it as her duty to embarrass that student. Apparently I guess I don’t derive as much satisfaction as previous reviewers at the expense of other students, but this “calling out” ended up being a huge waste of time, because students inevitable doze off, but she can't seem to focus or understand why ANYONE wouldn't want to hear her speak. Which leds me to my biggest complaint about Bakhle: the woman is so self-entitled and self-righteous. It is actually ridiculous. She works with a ton of assumptions about how ignorant Americans are. For example, once she felt the need to digress for ten minutes to tell us how our study of “slavery” is wrong in that it states that the Africans “left” for the New World. Fortunately, Professor Bakhle was there to enlighten me to the fact that slavery was not a humane practice and that the conditions on slave ships were not ideal. I don't know what this had to do with Gandhi, but Bakhle felt the need to express her dissatisfaction that I now know her opinions on the Iraq War, prescription medicine, education, health care, divestment, etc. Her papers: I hope you enjoy writing really frustrating papers that are not hard, but poorly-written (1st assigned essay) or extremely general with no direction (2nd assigned essay). Not only that, but she gives you a week to write a paper on the premise that “students buy papers and it’s an issue.” I mean, I feel like I was more tempted to buy a paper with this new rule. It's one thing to give us a week, but one week included Thanksgiving and another week included Yom Kippur. That aside, Bakhle would NEVER adhere to promises she made to the class. She was late on both paper topics and switched the deadline for the paper constantly. Her final: Apparently, studying 123 IDs is not adequate, because the final will have 20 of those terms, but 20 other terms that were not on the ID sheet. What’s the point of passing out a review sheet with a bunch of random names/facts that were never mentioned in class (leaving wikipedia to teach me) only to test the class on minor figures she mentioned in passing on some random day in the semester? At least don’t tell us everything is on the “study guide”—just give us a test. I expected this to be my favorite class and it ended up being a pain. She is a good lecturer but this is not the AMAZING class CULPA makes it out to be. I actually legit felt duped. I feel like Bakhle would be an amazing CC teacher because it’s a smaller class and she's pretty smart. But there are way better history classes out there. Only take this course if you're incredibly fascinated with India’s history and care to deal with all the noted issues above. This pertains to the first half of Gandhi’s India, though. I feel like the second half would be better, because, well, it actually deals with Gandhi, as advertised.

Jan 2007

Yea, it is definitely overrated. I expected some sort of God because of these culpa reviews. I forgot about those Columbia students that seem to always be waiting for their lives to be changed by some professor who enjoys being worshipped by them. The class is good; the reading is interesting though there is a LOT of it. I don't think that there are many schools that offer a full year course on India, so this class is a rare opportunity and a really good one at that. But, contrary to other reviews, I'm not sure how much of this has to do with Professor Bakhle's lectures. Lectures are not "incredible;" actually, they are somewhat staged. She is a bit hysterical at times. But she is really smart and seems to know everything about everything, and she is sort of sweet in person. But I think too much is said here about her brilliance and humor and 'dynamic flair.' Overall good class.

Jan 2007

Fabulous lecturer. There's a copious amount of reading, but you don't really have to do it (despite Bakhle's claims that you do). The TAs let you know what to focus on in the readings, and the papers are only based on 1-3 of the readings each, which you can do once the paper is assigned. Great class, gives you a really thorough understanding of colonial India and you come out of it with a good amount of knowledge. Plus her lectures are just inspiring.

Jan 2007

Totally overrated. I'm actually sort of mad at CULPA for making me take the class because her reviews were so amazing. She's smart but it's just like reading a completely disoriented textbook. There's something really self-righteous and self-entitled about her that bugged me a lot throughout the semester. The class isn't half-bad, but definitely don't take it if you're just looking for a fun history class. It's way too intensely factual and not interesting or engaging enough. She's definitely smart though if that's what you're looking for. She's not really nice at all so don't go to her class if you don't like mean teachers. Come to think of it, this was my worst class all semester and I normally really like my classes.

Dec 2006

Professor Bakhle is definitely a dynamic lecturer and very knowledgeable about her subject. But she's also totally intimidating (I think she actually wants to maintain a reputation for this) and therefore not easy to approach. Her lectures are well-spoken and informative, but rapid-fast. I'd definitely recommend taking a laptop to her class to type notes because your hand won't be able to keep up with her mouth! I ended up taking about 6 pages of notes each class. The material is usually interesting (except when Bakhle herself admits that it will be boring--although she made Gandhi's "Autobiography" out to be worse than it was... she said it would be dry, but I actually found it quite fascinating). She demands a lot from her students--the papers were not easy and there were so many IDs for the final exam. Overall it was a good experience as far as the lecture goes, but I will not be sticking around for the second semester. (Gandhi's India is now a two-semester course.) The TAs as a whole were mostly worthless. The review session before the final was a waste of time because they wouldn't answer pertinent questions--they kept telling us to just go look up the answers for ourselves. They eventually posted some decent lecture notes but occasionally they wrote misinformation. My particular TA, Sheetal Chhabria, was intelligent and responsive but politically biased... and I think my grades on papers suffered because of this. (Supposedly she didn't grade us based on our opinions, but I still felt attacked for having differing political views.) In her favor, however, she definitely devoted a lot of time to helping the students and she always answered emails promptly. I think she genuinely cared about the class and I appreciated her hard work.

Nov 2006

She is a very engaging speaker and really knows her Indian history. Great oratorical flair and lots of engaging and worthwhile reading. One word of caution I was surprised to not see in any of her other reviews here: she is not good at answering questions during class and usually waits until the end when everyone is leaving and youÂ’ve likely forgotten what to ask. When she does answer questions, IÂ’m afraid to say, I think IÂ’ve seen slightly more willingness to answer the questions of male students.

Nov 2006

i love this class...i haven't missed one yet. but she's intense...take heed...SHE HATES CELL PHONES-she said today that we should write that in our reviews...anyway, great previous knowledge of indian history required. she's terrific and soo smart. and it's a great class. and basically the readings suck...they are long but you don't always have to do them...but you should so that you don't get screwed later on..the TAs are cool. and don't fall asleep, or talk, or pass notes because she will get really mad. basically this class is the best one i have taken so far...and you all should take it. BUT TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONES!!!!!!

Nov 2006

The course was okay, but definitely did not live up to my expectations. There was an inumerable amount of historic background of India in the 18th century, which is cool and all, however, i expected to hear about Gandhi (as the course is entitled) at least before the mid-term... The professor is pretty good, the TA's are okay, but there was just something missing for me, she definitely did not make me fall in love with her as others have previously stated, and it is hard ot understand what's going on at time because the prof. mumbles over important figures names in hindu, so you can't derive who she is talking about at times.

Aug 2004

This class was absolutely amazing. Professor Bakhle packs so much into every lecture you think your arm will fall of from writing but its definitely worth it. There was a lot of reading but you didnt really have to read any of it for class and the TAs were so worthless that you didnt need it for section either. Unfortunately she'll probably be making the reading more mandatory after the fiasco of this past semester but it would still be worth taking this class...she's great.

May 2004

Her course, Gandhi's India, was hard as hell. Constant reading, furiously paced lectures, and mind numbing sections. The section/discussion groups are worse than awful, unless you happen to get a cool TA, a rare prospect at best. The reason for this is that after her stupendous lectures, a twentysomething TA trying to talk about Indian politics while peeling the label off of her Diet Snapple just doesn't cut it. The class, in other words, is uneven at best: amazing teacher, horrid sections, worth it as hell.

May 2004

Yes another glowing review for this amazing prof. Wow she's one person who actually lives up to the hype. An absolutlely phenominal lecturer and a really nice person - I am a graduating senior and this was the only class I felt like doing the work for. Though I must admit that it definitely is a lot of work and lots of reading - which yeah you don't have to do, but it's always better if you do it. One complaint about the class was that the T/A session was an absolute waste of time and only complicated what Prof. Bakhle said. I was actually ecstatic when the T/A's went on strike cause that gave Bakhle a chance to take over the recitations. Probably the best class I have ever taken in this school!

May 2004

Let me preface this class with a warning. Be prepared for readings, and a lot of them. Coming into this class you should either have a substantial background in South Asian studies or the determination to teach a shitload of background information to yourself. There are ALOT of names and dates, and they come at lightning speed. Don't take this class if your interested in having a good professor, take this class if your REALLY interested in South Asia. I had no background in Indian History and I felt completely overwhelmed the entire semester. Even if I end up coming away with a good grade, it was not worth the mental anguish of being constantly lost. A special note: If you are in the Joint Program DO NOT take this course. You simply do not have time for it. This class is what you make of it, and unless you have a lot of time to devote to Gandhi's India, find another history class.

Apr 2004

As a senior, I can say that this was one of the best classes I've taken at Columbia. Prof Bakhle is an amazing lecturer and is really passionate about what she teaches. She's clear and articulate and she takes an honest interest in her students.

Feb 2004

As a current student of Professor Bakhle and an admitted devotee, I have the utmost admiration for an individual who can pour so much passion into whatever she does. It is not every semester you come across a professor who infuses their scholarship and teaching with such vigor and excitement. As an aside, Professor B has asked that the following be advertised on CULPA (although she is not a user): When it comes to sleeping in class or having your cell phone ring, she can be (in her words) "A real bitch on wheels." Just ask any of her victims. As only she could opine, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it."

May 2003

Best course I have taken so far in college. Prof Bahkle cares so much it moves you. She is an amazing teacher, though she can be a little overconclusive and not as free thinking as she imagines herself to be. Granted, she is wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. Its a lot of reading, which you should do for pleasure but will not be tested on or asked to discuss, and a lot of names and dates, some of which are not important. overall though, youll appreciate the rigiour and her caring whether or not you learn.