“It is your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you but no one can walk it for you”
As the Etihad Airbus EY-203 prepared to take off towards Chicago from the Chatrapati Sivaji Airport, it felt real. Until then I knew I was leaving but I was not ready. Or was I?? As I waved off to my family and friend, my heart sank in deep despair. It was a very different feeling. It was as if mentally I was in a different zone. The voice choked as I tried to tell them over phone that the plane is ready to take off. I didn’t want them to know that I was sad for it would have added to theirs. Although I have been staying in Hostels since my 10th Board exams, it was difficult for me to come to terms with it. Before the tears welled up, I found myself drying them up. Life has its own way of working out.
“So how does it feel?”. This common question is raised when I talk to people in India from here, their voice beaming with excitement and at the same time, a tinge of sadness that they are on the other side. I never quite understood the symbolism of the association of”foreign” and “growth” among us all. I am a part of it as well. I left India on 13th August 2016, after graduating from IIT-Bombay,to pursue PhD in Mathematics at University of Houston in Houston, Texas. For the first time I encountered people who failed to recognize IIT, the Indian gold standard. Every “thing”, “being” and “place” has its own limitations.
It has been 20 days since I have left India for the western shores. Houston is the fourth largest city in USA. The culture is very different in here. People greet in alleys and roadways. Everyone does their own work, from fixing their cars to tarring their rooftops. No work is considered great to other. And oh!! I cook my own food. I couldn’t find my own words when I got back the first assignment I submitted only to realize that the professors here,take the pain of reading through each and every line of the assignments submitted, so that we can know our wrongdoings. I never saw that happening before.
Returning to the question, I don’t know yet. The answers vary with every person. May be I don’t want to. But I am aware of my goals and actions. The path is not clear but it doesn’t have to be. As I indulge myself in more and more problem solving, all these topics become meaningless anyway. My bookshelf keeps on getting bigger and so does the papers on my table. I have no idea about the duration of my stay here as well. As the sufi poet Rumi puts it, “What comes will go. What is found will be lost again. But what you are is beyond coming and going and beyond description. You are it”.
It is unfortunate that India doesn’t have the resources to hone my area of interest. I don’t know if I would have stayed back to pursue PhD there had there been the resources in India. But suddenly I feel a stronger belonging to my homeland more than before. I know there is home. I visit it often, knowing that, the people whom I miss and love, are within. I continue to miss them but that makes me stronger. I continue to strive, work hard and grow. The journey is mine but not its consequences.