Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Getting used to the silence again

I got back to the Ville last night and this time too, like every time I come to America, I am struck by how quiet it is here. I wake up to silence, and sleep to it… no honking cars, door bells, telephone, idiot box. Just me and the gentle tap-tap of my finger tips on the keyboard. Yes I am also getting re-addicted to my best friend in the whole world, my laptop.

I walked into my new apt in C’ville last night – my home for the next year – and felt like I’d never left this place at all. At some point I know I felt like the summer was stretching endlessly, but in the last few days, I kept wishing time would slow down, that I could have the comfort of my home and the real world for a while longer. I am not ready to become adult again, to shoulder the responsibility of living by myself, thinking about my health and nutrition or thinking about grades and jobs… Not ready to take on my new role as support system for my sister on the west coast, not ready to lose sleep wondering if she’s managing fine and staying safe.

Things are going to be different this year, in a good way or bad, I don’t know. But that unknown that’s waiting around the corner, is not a welcome visitor today. Not just yet. That next great adventure of second year, I wish it would hold out for a while longer. I sit here watching helplessly as my calendar for the next week onwards steadily fills up. Watching and wishing I was back in May. But time, it waits for none, does it?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Freedom is...

...a word that we throw around to justify bad behavior, short skirts, hurtful words, jumping signals in the night…

Every year Independence Day becomes a time to reflect on the importance of where India is as a nation today. Having grown up in urban India, I have known freedom since I was old enough to yawn. Freedom meant that I could choose to wear the kind of clothes I wished, wear my hair short or long, black or red… It meant that I could play cricket with the boys as a 12 year old. It meant I could choose the books I wanted to read, the amount of religion I wanted to practice, the languages I chose to learn or not. Freedom meant that I could choose to study a branch of engineering as the only girl in that department, and no one stopped me. Freedom means that I can proudly go to a country on the other side of the world to get an advanced degree… because I want to… at which age, my mother had already had me. Freedom means that when I marry, it will be to a man of my choice, after my mind is ready to accept him as a partner. But this is not just me; this is every urban Indian man or woman.

Freedom is what I saw in rural India this summer. It was where a woman could walk around in her community, doing door-to-door sales, unaccompanied by any male member of the family. She could be an entrepreneur… and a mother… and a cook, homemaker, a wife, a daughter-in-law. And freedom meant that she could juggle all of these roles with WonderWoman-like dexterity. Freedom is where the son of a single mother from a small time town in rural Tamil Nadu could dream of getting an MBA degree from India’s premier business school… to achieve and then go on to start his own firm.

Freedom means that we no longer have the benefit of someone else’s wisdom, that we go on to make our own mistakes to learn from them. That we fall and get up and fall again. That we chart our own course, take our own risks, with no template that we have to follow, with no comfort of knowing how it all will end. Freedom is knowing that life comes full circle, but meanders in ways unique to each of us, to the choices we make, the heartbreaks we endure, the sacrifices we make, the successes we earn. Freedom is blooming where we’re planted. Freedom is, but only, a state of mind. Freedom is… everything we want it to be.

To India, Happy Independence Day.


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