So often, I have moments of self-realization. Underneath are some of these moments I will always remember.
I was drinking my daily carbonated water at the little metal shack turned store I am a usual customer at where I saw a relatively young guy with a thick stack of cash in his hand talking to the store owner. The stack mostly included the pinkish-red 2000 Rupee and the stone gray 500 Rupee which are about 31 and 8 dollars respectively. I was wondering what he did that involved him carrying around so much cash. After a couple minutes he signed something for the store owner and went to this bike that had a large cardboard box full of cigarette packs in it and drove off to the next store 300 feet away.
I tried to calculate how much money I would make if I imported cigarettes to India. I thought of how I would distribute them to stores to maximize my profits and thought of employing the needy. I thought of my father and how I hated the smell whenever I caught him smoking outside and the harm cigarettes have on the users and the people around them. I thought of the kids who hug their parents despite the bitter scent of cigarettes. I promised myself to never be profit driven and put impact first.
Dinner by myself-
I treat myself to dinner every other week. Sometimes I go somewhere far when I’m feeling spontaneous and sometimes I walk and find a street vendor to buy from when tired. There’s something nice about having no thoughts and just focusing and enjoying the food. The sweet moment of taking the first bite after having all your brain, truly, focused on when your food will arrive and fighting back the urge to ask the kind waiter when it will come with the smell of food everywhere. In the past months I’ve realized that first bite is one of my happy spots.
It was during one of these meals that I found another person sitting alone. She was sitting two tables to my right and was looking out the window. I wanted to walk to her and hear her story. I was locked in my seat because I had different scenarios running in my head where I thought I’ll come off as intrusive or weird. I quickly stood up before I could talk myself out of it. Now I had to do it. We ended up eating together. Turned out she’s on the Indian national karate team and was in Hyderabad for a week of training. Everyone has something interesting about them. Some may be more subtle than others. It’s the matter of spending time and listening, really listening. I promised myself to try to listen to as many stories as possible in life.
I have the issue of not being able to live in the moment. I always think of the future. Getting accepted into my dream school, what I’m going to be doing after I get home, where I will stay. The list is endless. Coming into India and Global Citizen year, I thought I could take advantage of what’s available and try to do something to have impact. Unfortunately, I went with what could be quantitatively shown and proven: setting a recycling system in the school I teach at and helping a non-profit get their mission in 47 schools across Hyderabad, raising funds from an Indian foundation and engaging 60 students in a project I came up with, and interning at T-Hub as a business developer. My thought process was that I could show to the school I have been dreaming of for years and say “Hey, look. I did this”. This toxic mentality was due to how I didn’t have the circumstances to be able to be who I wanted to be in high school and thought I needed to prove my worthiness to this university.
I thought of the past few weeks and the lack of effort I have had in giving my best to the kids since I have shifted teaching in the morning to go to T-hub in the afternoon. I realized something important: The power of human connection is far more fulfilling and important than any school that one may get into. I thought how someday one of my students might look back to the day that I looked, really looked, at him not for what his caste or socio-economic background is but for who is and what he aspires to be.I thought of having made my students realize their potential and teach them of the possibilities. I thought of the day I will look back at one of the drawings my kids drew me, or the pink keychain Rubina attached to my bag with a warm feeling that I was able to come to India to learn and connect. I promised myself to not get angry if a student accidentally draws on my clothes with a red pen because maybe someday I will look at that line and miss my students. I promised myself to TRY to keep my priorities in check.
It’ll always be with you –
It was during the holidays and some fellows’ parents were starting to visit and it was a bit hard for me since none of my parents were able to make it. Fortunately, I was invited to spend christmas with my dear friend, Gemma, and visit the orphanage she was adopted from 10 years ago. It was a wonderful trip and I felt really lucky to have spent it with Gemma and exchange gifts, but I was still having a bit of a hard time and missed my family. Especially Giti, my sister.
After a couple days in Bangalore I returned home, in Hyderabad, to the warm welcome of my host family. After a bit of talking Kishore, my host dad, disappeared and came back with a wrapped box. I remember how I really liked the shade of blue in the pattern of the wrapping paper. For the first time in my life, I neatly unwrapped a gift. Inside I found a very nice looking leather wallet. “We thought a wallet will be good because it’ll always be with you.” Said my dad. I realized that there is no need to miss my family THAT much when I have one here in India with me. I went in my room and emptied my old wallet and replaced it with my new wallet before I changed my clothes.