Two years? Feels like two minutes.

Last week, I submitted the final copy of my dissertation. As of tomorrow, I will no longer officially be a student of my university.

Has it really been two years? Wow. It feels like yesterday that I walked into my grad school interview.

The funny thing is that I had never intended upon graduate school. At least, not immediately after undergrad. I had a great job as an editor for an academic publishing company, and while the work was challenging it was interesting as well.

Except my Mom kept nagging at me. You’ve only got a B.A., she said. You’ll have time to work after you finish your studies, she said.

More to appease her than anything, I filled up the form for one of the best universities in the country. It was a lark, nothing more. I had half a mind to tank the exam so I could get back to my job and my life. By some chance of fate, on the morning of the exam, I decided to take it seriously.

Apparently my job hadn’t overtaxed my brain as much as I thought it had, because I was called to Delhi for the interview.

Whereupon I proceeded to have the following conversation:

Interview committee: So, what are some issues that can come up when you’re translating?

Me: Well, words don’t always mean what you think they mean. For instance, I had a teacher who was talking about jam-making and used the word ‘preservatif’…

Interview committee: /cracks up, every single one/

Because ‘preservatif’ is French for ‘condom’. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I actually said that at my admissions interview for one of the most prestigious universities in the country.

To this day, I’m not sure they didn’t admit me for sheer chutzpah. 

A few weeks later, a telegram (yes, I’m not kidding. An honest-to-god telegram. I didn’t even know we even had those any more) arrived, announcing my acceptance. A telegram which arrived Wednesday. I then proceeded to resign my job, pack up my bags, and move cross-country… that Sunday.

And so began two of the best, craziest years of my life. I’ve learned so much here- I’ve been lucky enough to have some incredible teachers, and, of course, moving to hostel for the first time was definitely a learning experience, especially for a sheltered girl like me! I made some incredible new friends, started to learn a new language (hola!) and made some wonderful, wonderful memories.

That’s not to say it was all honey and roses- there were definitely some hard times (sharing a room is HARD! Not to mention that week in the depths of winter when we had no hot water whatsoever) and some times I regretted ever leaving Chennai. But at the end of it, whatever I went through, good and bad, I became a stronger person for it. 

And now, a little under two years since I filled out that first application form, I’m sitting here with barely a week and a half to go before I leave university for the last time. As I type this, there are possessions to sort, books to pack, friends to say goodbye to. I’m on the cusp of a whole new part of my life. I’m happy, I’m excited. And yet… yet I can’t help but wish for a little more time, for a little more of this world that’s so unlike my own.

But I know, as countless before me have discovered, I can’t stop the hands of time. I can only make the best use of the seconds, the minutes, the hours given to me. 

So goodbye, my beloved University. Thank you for all you have taught me, in the classroom and out. Thank you for the space you gave me to learn and grow, the freedom you gave me to spread my wings. Thank you for your beautiful campus, even with its assorted wildlife and ever-growing insect population. Thank you for your relaxed attitude and your willingness to treat your students as adults, for the most part. Thank you for the friends I’ve made, both among your other students and from elsewhere. Thank you for memories good and bad. 

Thank you, Uni, for some of the best years of my life. 

 

 

Movie Review: Avatar

So a friend and I went to see Avatar, after much hassle getting tickets (seriously, the thing’s sold out for like two weeks straight, and this in a country which is historically not that big a market for Indian movies.)

Does Avatar have problems? Absolutely. They’re written about in exhaustive detail here and here, better than I ever could, so I’m not going to bother rehashing them. tl;dr for the linkophobes: Avatar is racist dreck. Pretty, but racist dreck nevertheless.

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Oh Christmas Tree…

So the other day I mentioned to the Maternal Unit that I was thinking of putting up a Christmas tree once I get my own place. She didn’t think much of the idea, something about not it being “someone else’s religion.”

… Well, for someone who rants (often and at length) about cultural appropriation, I sure can be dense on occasion.

But here’s the thing. I joke about being raised sorta-Hindu kinda-Catholic, but it is, in some measure, true. Of the handful of memories I have of the time I spent in Bombay as a child, at least three of the strongest are very Christian in theme- Silent Night sounding through the hallways at school, the peace and serenity of the little alcove with the Mother Mary statue in a corner of the playground, lighting candles at the altar of the Catholic church down the road from where we lived. In fact, I’m pretty sure I went to that church more times than I ever went to temples.

After my parents split up and my Mom and I moved cross-country, I was enrolled in the nearest thing to a convent my neighbourhood had. Mom felt (rightly) that a drastic change from what I was used to would be detrimental to my overall health. But that just accelerated both disconnect with Hinduism and my ‘cultural Christianity’, so to speak, especially in later years when I joined choir and read the Bible in Assembly. Even now, I can remember a hymnal’s worth of carols/prayer songs but only two Hindu shlokas… one of which was taught to me by my German yoga teacher.

But coming back to the matter at hand. I currently self-identify as atheist. Does that mean I shouldn’t celebrate Diwali, or Holi, or Pongal, even though all three are part of the cultural fabric of my upbringing? I don’t believe that. In fact, by that logic, the only thing I could then celebrate would be my birthday, which would be a sad prospect indeed, since I don’t really do anything for the event in question. (Blame the aforementioned Maternal Unit.) I’ve also realized over the past few years, that I have a disturbing lack of (not necessarily religious) traditions in my life, and that’s something I’d like to remedy.

I like the idea of Christmas trees. Ornaments with some emotional significance appeal to the collector and the storyteller in me, and plus, the tree itself is an ancient Pagan tradition co-opted (like many other things) by the ancient Church. In fact, according to Wikipedia, ‘The ancient pagans, Druids, Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews celebrated the Winter Solstice, (Dec. 21st), the day of the year that the Sun begins its ascent in the sky, thereby ushering a fertile time of planting and bountiful harvests. Hence, the evergreen tree represented eternal life and the promise of replenishment during the cold winter months. Apples and other fruit were hung upon the tree to represent the plentiful food to come. Candles were lighted to symbolize the warmth and brightness of the sun. While the Christmas tree is generally associated with Christ, it predates this religious figure by many centuries.’

Is putting up a Christmas tree (or a Yule tree, or a secular-winter-celebration tree) culturally appropriate? I’m not sure. But I do know that it feels right.