And now from the mouth of a babe -er I mean a Modernite!

The last few posts that I have posted have been a medley of cherished memories of my years as a high school teacher in New Delhi leading to lifelong friendship with a colleague who is still teaching back home in the same school, Modern School. Malini as most of you have come to know through this blog has been here on a Fulbright Fellowship. The following is actually a comment written by one of her former students from Delhi who visited this blog at her suggestion. However his comment is so detailed and beautifully written that the teacher in me (once a teacher always a teacher!) felt, itdeserved its own post.

As for me, I have been incommunicado for a number of reasons. I have not only run out of steam for a bit, I have been very busy on many fronts, including spending all my free time with my son who was here for the Holidays and with my friend on Skype who leaves now for Delhi in about a week. Her six month tenure ends on January 22 and she flies back the next day amidst heartfelt promises to continue our daily tradition of eating, drinking and making merry on Skype. Needless to say, we are "hanging out" even more on skype and have even pulled in other friends both here and in India into our conversations through conference calls! What incredible technology!!!!

Her unbridled excitement at being united with her family and students has undoubtedly affected me and for the first time in many years, I truly feel homesick even though I barely have any immediate family left in Delhi. But as is the story of most immigrants, once I reach Delhi and have been there a few weeks, I start yearning for my home in US. So in reality, we are always caught between two worlds or put another way, will always have two homes. If that makes sense?

GNS the author of the following essay is a Modernite as students from Modern are called. And with the following post, you now have perspective from a student from India now a freshman in US.

In the August of 2009, if you had the fortune or, in some exceptional cases, if a bunch of rambunctious Modernites were in your vicinity, the misfortune, of passing through the corridors of the school, you would have certainly come across an overly excited child declaring emphatically "Mrs. Khatri will be leaving for the US in a few weeks!" Indeed, the incumbent Chair of the English Department is one of the most respected, popular and, if I daresay, influential teachers in school. She left for the US in August 2009 on a prestigious Fulbright “academic deployment” to a high-school in Port Townsend (Seattle, USA).

I too left India in August 2009 to begin my undergraduate academic career at Duke University (USA). I spent the better part of my first semester trying to find my bearings – figuring out how to get food into my stomach, how to perform the excruciatingly irksome task called “laundry”, how to commute on campus, and how to manage a hectic schedule of classes that dealt with topics ranging from the Socratic Elenchus to industrial microeconomics.

To my consternation, I also felt extremely homesick. I? Someone who used to make only modest efforts to conceal his impudicity when people praised his precocious maturity (see!) was today succumbing to a simple memory of home. I wondered what was wrong with my attitude. Anyway, I ultimately settled down and begin enjoying the culture and myriad facilities of the magnificent campus on which I stay.

In late October, I began corresponding, through an invention that constitutes the core of contemporary society’s consciousness (yes, the Internet and the e-mail), with a teacher who, I had shamefully enough forgotten, was only a 3 hour flight away from me – yes, I would often find Mrs. Khatri online on Google Talk and we would casually begin discussing life in the US. I must admit that I derived a vicarious psychological satisfaction from knowing that Mrs. Khatri, too, had been tormented by homesickness and the typical culture shock that strikes foreigners. I realized that my “sporadic and sudden longings” for home were not only a natural part of a mature adult’s behavioral patterns, but were also, at least for me, indicative of the extent to which I appreciated my roots.

Mrs. Khatri soon told me that a former member of Modern School’s faculty (Ms. Raksha Bhandari), who also happened to be a dear friend of hers, was living in Washington DC and would love to hear from me. Initially I thought that she was merely making a friendly offer of providing a source of social support and did not actually want me to exploit this offer! After all, no one in this busy country would want to spend time listening to ramblings of a college student.

Then one evening, Mrs. Khatri, after appearing, the way the pilgrim arrives at the door of the Saint, “online” on Google Talk at exactly 6 pm, told me that Ms. Bhandari had a blog – an interesting collection of historical tales, anecdotes and personal memories.

I clicked on the link to the blog and waited for the Internet to churn its cyber-magic. A page appeared on my screen. I sat dumbstruck. Before me was the tale of two girls – two girls who grew into women together and today have grown into models of uprightness and resilience. Until I saw this blog, I was unaware of the dynamic and emotionally complex historicity of Mrs. Khatri’s friendship with Ms. Bhandari. The two had been each others’ pillars of support in trying times, each others’ comic reliefs in trying times and each others’ friends at all times. On an alternating basis, they put each other into predicaments and laughed when the one who was the object of the vignette sighed with frustration; they stood by each other when they were down in the doldrums.

It is strange what one can learn from unexpected encounters and experiences, and how one’s problems seem but trivial if one juxtaposes them to an appropriately comparable set of problems. I, personally, have not, from this tale of friendship, learnt the value of friendship – rather, I have learnt the value of virtues such as resilience, tenacity and valor.

All I wish to say in conclusion is that any friendship that can, in this age of rampant egocentrism and strategically measured cooperation, hold together two people who, for each other, are willing to make selfless sacrifices, is a friendship that deserves a New Year’s Eve toast of Cognac. Kudos!

PS: “Selfless sacrifices” is not a term containing an error of redundancy, Mrs. Khatri. We today have a phenomenon called ‘selfish altruism’


careysue said…
*standing up and clapping* what an amazing young man, his insight and ability to put it into words so beautifully and with such grace is amazing to me!

I am so impressed with all three of you! My hats off to your parents,your education and your loyalty for each other...I'm just dumbstruck..

I have to admit it's hard for me to comment, and express what I want from my heart when I'm intimidated by all of your intelligence.

I also feel sad for your predicament Raksha, being homesick is not fun...I hope that we can be family and more people can reach out and become family of choice when we have no family around us. (does that make sense?)

Beautiful post. Thank you.
cyclingred said…
I believe I once said that it is true that you can never go home again. I think you disagreed with me. But here you said "..once I reach Delhi and have been there a few weeks, then I start yearning for my home in US."

That is part of it. Once you have left the nest you can never really go home again.
Anonymous said…
Beautiful! I think it's fantastic that this young man can recognize and appreciate the journey of an earlier generation. That's a rare thing to see and speaks loudly for his insight and intelligence. Here's hoping he continues to serve as a positive influence for his generation and fellow students at Duke! - DT