If the last year of my life were a geometric shape, I don’t know which one it would be.
I’m a visual thinker. When presented with a complex situation or problem, I try to draw it out. For example, I summarized my entire senior thesis, titled: Power Without Agents? A Theoretical Analysis of Power in a Complex and Globalized World, with a simple drawing of lines and stick figures. Rather than reading my 120 page thesis on political theory, you could just look at a diagram. For me, it’s easier to show than tell.
I now find myself at a crossroads; the past year of my life has been nothing short of variant. Progressive. Exciting. Challenging. Sobering. The question for me is to how I can best display this – how I can show you how much I’ve learned, grown, matured, and endured?
My mind tells me to draw you a picture – a diagram that encompasses where I’ve been – geographically and metaphorically. And yet, as I type these final words in a dim-lit room and a somber cloak, I have no answer. I have lost my shape.
The first figure that comes to mind is a circle. I had a vision today that I’ve come “full circle.” It was over nine months ago that I waited outside the airport in Jaipur for three hours on a steamy summer morning. I was waiting for the next chapter of my life to pick me up. By lunchtime I had climbed into a scrap-wagon van and ventured to Bagru – a place that has now become my second home. By evening I had been introduced to my new woven bed, new diet, language, culture and family. By the next morning I became aware of smells that will remain in my nostrils forever – to sounds of horns, children and pigs that echo in my ears to this very moment.
Today I found myself sitting in that very bed with the same dirty feet and sweaty back, brushing the same cheeks of Yash and Chehika, my Indian younger brother and sister. I was more confident and comfortable than I was months ago, but with a tight throat and faster heartbeat. I couldn’t help but wonder if anything at all had been accomplished – if the circle had been closed, and I’m back at where I began.
It is my greatest fear that everything I’ve done here is for nothing, that I’ll be forgotten like the rest – that every person who has stared at me, glared deep into my eyes, will wake up tomorrow and forget that the white kid ever was. And, just like that, I’ll be gone.The line. Forever moving forward and backward, or stagnant in-place, depending on perspective.
The line has no beginning or end; natural properties that that don’t apply to human life. The line symbolizes a journey – a story that started in Bagru with one company, and has continued to Jaipur, where I’ve founded a new one. I’ve started a new venture with two other Union grads called Studio Bagru. We’ve opened a beautiful office in central Jaipur and are building an international brand.
I arrived in India as a 22-year old wanderer, and am returning with a flashy business card that says COO. And yet, it means nothing; if there’s one thing I’ve learned in India, it’s that the hardest work goes unnoticed.
While I may “change lives” by starting an international company, my proudest moments went unseen – teaching a toddler about the holocaust, lending a shoulder to cry on, helping fold fabric for tedious hours in unbearable heat, or, most of all, listening to a mouth that has never been treated with an ear.
I look at the person who arrived in India as a fool. I came to India with enough bug spray to eradicate misquotes from the Amazon, three different brands of malaria pills, more than ten bottles of sunscreen, enough immodium, pepto-bismol and anti-diarrheal pills that CVS had to offer, plenty of tape, band-aids, first-aid kits, ointments, rash lubricants, and gold bond to last a lifetime. I laugh at myself, now. What was I thinking? One would have thought I was going to live with savages – a place with no healthcare or doctors, just beasts, disease and contaminated water. It shows my ignorance – after all, this has been one of the healthiest years of my life.
The line has limits. There’s no fluctuations, no ups and downs, nothing to indicate change. When I look back, I see a story with distinct chapters. The beginning of my time in India was marked by solitude, heat, and curiosity. The middle was tagged with adventure, travel, and transition. The end was characterized by business, busy-ness, and comfort.
So, which one will it be? Have I come full circle, or am I continuing to trot along a line? Am I going up and down with troves and troughs? Who knows. None of these shapes can capture what has happened. No shape can cover what is to come.
What I know for certain is that I’m the same person. I expected this journey to transform me, which, in some ways, has happened. However, the world is still the same. I’m still the same guy, and always will be. Sure, I have a moustache, can speak a little Hindi, and can bond with anyone over a cup of chai. But, I’m still learning, still figuring out what all this means.
While I’m not shape-less – I have no shape for you. The world has become much smaller, but ever-more dense. Perhaps it’s just a giant web after all.
It’s good to be home.