Thursday, April 4, 2019

Unstoppable

It has been a long time that I've come to see you. You. The stranger. The unknown. But I have come here well. This blog has always been about my journey and I would like to tell you where I am. I am in a lovely place. I am doing exactly the kind of work that I have been always wanting to do. With the beauty of rigor and joy of impact, I am in a world where I have the power to make a difference. Untethered. Unstoppable.

The bruises live on inside me, reminding me of the times when I didn't feel so much power over my life and my choices. I have grown out from the days of struggles and have started to feel like a normal human being. I think of my parents every now and then. I have reminiscences of my life with them but it feels so far away in time. It was a different life. It was a different person who was with them. The bruises don't hurt. They are a beautiful pain.

I have made a few of the most trustworthy friends in my life in the last two years. I have felt one with them. A feeling of community enveloped around me in their presence. They replenished me and brought their joy into my life. This was an extremely important development for me because when I was tired and exhausted from life and looking for meaning, finding friends who love you can just give a new meaning to you.

I have now turned into a woman who needs a hair dye to hide my wisdom. There are a lot of people around me who defines a woman with marriage and children. I have definitely decided against the latter and have been questioning the need for the first. I met the most evolved and rock-solid guy 6 years ago who has been the biggest anchor for making me become a strong and independent person. Him and my inner fire that has grown brighter every year.

Stanford changed me. Vipassana transformed me. Yoga changed me too. My work experiences gave me solid grounds. I am onto a new journey this year. The longest I have taken in a while. I am heading for a Ph.D. at Columbia for the next five years. I am going to be a Dr, not a Miss or Mrs.

I loved many things about the field of education. But there is this concept called intergenerational mobility in education that I have been hooked onto most. A girl, whose parents can barely talk in English, studied in an English-medium school where other than the books, nothing was in English. This girl's mother had an ambition for her which she gently and compassionately inculcated in her. The fire that her mother lighted inside her has taken this girl to places already.

A middle-class girl studying in an average school in India in a very small town got extremely lucky for the data will tell you that it is a highly unlikely outcome. It was her parents' education and life choices that have brought her here. And their legacy shines onto her and her sisters after they are gone. Cheers to the field of education which I feel deeply connected with, which chose me and gave me space to become what I have.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Graduating soon.

Stanford has been the most privileged place I have ever lived in. There are a lot of things here that I never had before, Being in privilege can make you less whining. I feel less inadequate after coming here because in general, I got challenged but I mostly thrived.

But this is a place of an extreme solitary life. When I spend weekends in the library, there are so many other people like me who are sitting alone and working. There are 23 libraries for people to hide from the crowd and immerse in their space. There could be weekdays too when you can choose not to interact with anyone. Because for most of the day, I haven't talked to anyone, I end up with barely managing to say Hi to someone. One can pass a day without talking to anyone and still with work run rate of 14 hours. This is drastically different from my work life in India where you don't even drink chai alone let alone lunch or dinner or work alone.

It's not that I don't make friends easily. I have made some really close friends but practically no one has time because they are all ambitious people around here. We want to maximize the number of courses we take, number of people we are able to meet, number of weekly hours we go to the gym. When you make those choices, social life takes a hit. And then few of the days you meet a prodigy, a genius, people with a magic wand and their halo makes you want to push yourself harder to match the awesomeness.

There are some evenings that are not bad. Like the last night. Three of us Indians sat down over a bottle of whiskey and discussed every left and right issues of the planet, fought over the songs to play, settled on a DJ arrangement, discussed crushes etc. just to feel familiar with what we have left behind back home. These kind of days are helpful for surviving here.

I am graduating in less than 3 weeks from now. I have almost made it in this place. Exhaustion is kicking in but so is the sense of learning and growth. I love how life never disappoints me. It comes with lots of promises. I have gone through a fair share of grief but I know it made me humble to embrace the enormity of an institution like Stanford. I am going to surely miss this place. This was beautiful, more beautiful because of my solitary days. No better way to be with myself.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Spreading Wings

I am sitting in the Green Library of Stanford University. I am in the third quarter of my Master's program here. By mid-August, I will be completing my Master's in International Education Policy Analysis. I haven't written on this blog in a long long time and it was time I talk to myself and to all you unknown people who read it and make me feel connected with myself.
I feel I have come a long way in my journey. I recollect my memory of a child who would sit in the train every month to go back to her college and cry for going back, leaving her mother back home until next time. Today, I don't have my mother waiting for me from college but her memories are still as fresh and pining as always. I have two good sisters who make it easier like her. They mirror lot of her qualities so much so I act younger to my younger sister. I have world's most beautiful nieces and I am so glad that my sister decided to have two children. They are adorable and make my life beautiful.
I feel I have come a long way in my journey. I have some deep friendships that I lost but those made me wiser. I used to wonder that forgiveness is the only way to move forward. A while ago I had a debate with a school principal that how she believed in punitive justice and how I believed in restorative one. I worked with juvenile children who were committing crime every day but their redemption lied with people who would not judge them. I thought the only way to save the world and oneself is through restoration. But when I see an 8-year old girl raped, I wonder if restoration is possible. Shouldn't the people who abuse their power be punished? Gandhian principles would say forgiveness is the only way and I grew up believing in those. But I was tested in my friendships and I realized forgiveness is never an easy road. To truly forgive when you feel you are wronged is the biggest wisdom one can develop overcoming their ego. I failed in overcoming my ego in the Gandhian test. It is my experiments with the truth.
I feel I have come a long way in my journey. I am filled with inspiration to build a great career after my Master's program. I haven't found the job that I want to do but I have realized the reason I didn't become a lifetime software engineer, is the reason that fills my senses with aspiration to be better. I didn't want just another career. I wanted a great career. I have always been ambitious. And this place, some of the professors are just so intelligent that it blows my mind and tells me that all the small steps that I have taken will someday lead to my own unique meaningful road, like it had thus.
I feel I have come a long way in my journey. When I worked as a software engineer nine years ago back, I used to have this efficient life - where I would cook, do housekeeping, work hard - kick some ass, exercise every day and have the biggest grin on my face at the end of the day. Those kinds of days have returned. I am still the same person with the biggest grin at the end of the day especially when I am cycling back home at the end of a long night in the library. There is not much difference in those days and now except that I much more self-sufficient, more frugal, yet more free and much relaxed. I am back to basics in some sense. I am conscious of how much waste I am throwing, how much water I am using, how much time I am whiling away. It makes me feel in harmony within and around.
I feel I have come a long way in my journey. I did my second 10-day Vipassana this past December and like before it made me a whole different person as I came out of it. I have less expectations of people, more listening ability, better observation, better reflection and more centredness. I am so grateful I did this again. The insight I receive is always more profound than I can possibly learn from anything else.
I feel I can go anywhere I want to and go anywhere I can. There will always be a birdsong in the morning. People from every country are made of those same complexities. Every nation is failing and succeeding. Every human being is selfish in love and yet every parent is not. The journey is longer; I have to put some more building blocks before I write the end of my story. Until then, I keep going. I wish people well; the warmth of their families, some inspiration from their work, and aliveness from within. Love. Saloni.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

What the wave will bring tomorrow

One of my all time favourite movie - Cast Away - has a closing line. Tom Hanks remembers how a wave, after 4 years of his solitary confinement on the island, brings a steel part which he uses for making a boat to escape and eventually be rescued to humanity. In these 4 years, his wife has remarried and has a family. He doesn't know where to go what to do with his rescued self. And so he says, from the hope that was rendered to him by the wasted part of that steel, "Who knows, what the wave will bring tomorrow!" I think all of us go through a life where we have been rescued by something and from something. We didn't get the life boat but a steel part to build one. And so we were saved.

I have been living in Hyderabad for last 4 years. I have gone through the most terrible phase of my life with this as my habitat, losing both my parents while I was here. But in form of family, love and friendships, part-by-part, my life kept on resurrecting unnoticeably. The place tested me on my vices and my virtues. I came across my failures as a human. Rarely, I won few of them in some re-battles. But mostly I failed.

I persisted till my parents' last breath. I knew the day when I was sure that my mother will leave the world soon. She smiled for the last time that day and was gone 6 days later. I lived in the empty house for next few months, applying myself to work as much as I could. When I stood up for something I believed in, I realised one of the leaders and I don't align. I bowed out of the organisation with grace.

I found a roommate in a friend. Life became easier. I found that all major universities I applied to accepted me. Stanford especially. Life brought lot of joy. I emerged from my brooding self to be someone who could start a day with a smile, and could bring happiness for others.  I also came across situations when I got entangled, with my own self.  For few, I found the way out - through acceptance, surrender and forgiveness. The act of growing up or may be still not!

Doing Yoga in Sivananda ashram brought me some perspective. I looked beyond the cages of my mind and at the world in more abstract way. I reinforced the teachings of Vipassana, of that of impermanence and kept living every day. And that has brought me to today.

Two days from now, I will be leaving the land of my birth, the land to which my parents merged, this chaotic, corrupted, fanatic noisy country for at least one year. I will be leaving the place which showed me the path to conquer myself and the people who led me to do so. The place where my inward journey started and has the key to its finality. The place where the love of my life lives and where some friendships cemented.

I feel I will return. But an explorer without a map may not find her way back. So, I don't promise myself anything. I love learning. I am a life-long learner. That is the most important thing for me. The wave will bring something tomorrow again. I will make another life-boat and sail.