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Critique my SoP please?

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I've hit a wall and all comments, especially criticisms, are most welcome. Here's my SoP for a Masters in Urban Planning...



There is a ‘truth’ that emerges in dialogue, wrote Gadamer. Truths are to be discovered, unearthed, and salvaged through interaction. I hope, through a Masters degree in Urban Planning, that I can unearth some truths about my love with the city. Having grown up in the coastal city of Chennai in South India, my first search for a truth about my hometown came when I was very young. For reasons that were positioned somewhere between ‘love for tradition’ and jingoism, the city's name was officially changed from Madras to Chennai when I was 8 years old. Suddenly, I had to correct myself at every instance. Overnight, something I had grown up with had changed irrevocably. This was the time when my understanding of a truth was demolished instantaneously and it was demanded of me to accept something anew. Things have been smoother since. When I moved to New Delhi to study journalism, I had moved to a different world with a culture that clashed with mine violently on some matters. Again, I was to confront my notion of what it meant to be a citizen of a city, to be part of a heaving population that had some underlying commonality. I was to reconcile with the fact that some things were just inherently different in New Delhi compared to home.

A year and a bit later, a boy fresh out of the academic world, ready to face the cycle of monthly salaries in exchange for timely meals, I moved back home to work as an automobile journalist. Now, I look back and I don't know when it hit me that ‘home’ was no longer the same to me. Madras had changed to Chennai, which had then changed to this entity I wasn't, at least back then, able to truly recognise. Before I could get to terms with this newness, this strange thing my home had become, work took me to different places. I tell myself that this could have probably been the time when my love for the urban solidified itself.

Work took me to the remotest of dusty industrial towns in Southern India to the tree-lined well-scaped streets of Shanghai. I traversed distances farther than ever before in my life, from quick day trips to Mumbai to tightly scheduled visits to Bangkok tolengthy layovers in airports that all began to look and smell the same. Visiting different countries with curiously distinct cities, housing a variety of people in a short span of three years once again shocked me into realising that what I'd taken for granted, be it about the city or the urban population, especially the comforts a city can offer, was always going to change.

I should say, though, that exposing myself to multiple cities in such a short span of time, some briefly and some for a good length of time, has helped me garner a perspective to a city that I wish to hone. Cities change all the time. Cities need to change with time, for time provides one with newer and newer perspectives. And yet, there's a gap. Somewhere, between the constant fleeting visits and living in a home that had changed, I came to realise that there was a perceptible gap in my understanding of the city. I needed to put my finger on that gap and plug it. I turned to theory, surely some of them could answer my question, not that I knew what my question was.

First it was Henri Lefebvre’s explosive writing that put me on a thought trajectory I had never been on before. That spatial design could affect an individual’s behaviour to such an extent that she would begin question her interpretation of the very space that she’d taken for granted was something that had never occurred to me before. Then came David Harvey, with his tight polemic against the capitalist state, combined with Michel Foucault’s notion of the state’s interventionist attitude and its constant need to governmentalise. But what about the people? Habermas’ discursive ethics and the communicative turn that Planning as a discipline underwent informed me that the people, at least the ones who participated, had to realign their means of saying in order to be heard at the right places. Habermas, though, seems to be approaching the people as a monolithic entity, not being able to account for the differences between the polity. Coming from a society like India’s, this was not something I could easily accept. Hence, my theoretical interest at present lies in exploring the multiple identities of individuals in the Indian urban society, particularly through an understanding of the “Multiple Modernities” thesis forwarded by S.N. Eisenstadt. My area of interest lies squarely within the realm of participative planning and I will attempt to understand the various political and pluralistic differences within the participating society through the lens of social and political ontology, particularly in the case of the Indian urban society. A Masters degree in Urban Planning from XXX University will, I am certain, provide me with the conceptual tools that I need for this purpose. XXX’s department of political science needs no flattering. My experience as a journalist for almost four years has given me skills in interviewing and negotiating conversations. However, with XXX’s prized faculties of urban planning and political science, I hope to be able to complete my skill set and set myself on the path of finding out that one truth about the urban that has evaded me so far.

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