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One Whistle, Two Lozenges, Three Deep Breaths: My Year 1 Journey

It started with a (wholly unexpected) congratulatory phone call. Then, there was the rollercoaster that was Institute, where I met some wonderful people (who would go on to become fast friends and comfortingly reliable colleagues), and had really enriching conversations. Finally, I was introduced to 52 little girls in the third week of July. And the number of little girls kept increasing – until, finally, we capped it at 67.

For someone who loves words as much as I do, it seems strange to me that I simply cannot adequately describe – either out loud or on paper – how this year has been. I thought the hardest part would be to speak – for eight hours straight, no less, and louder than I ever have in all these years – in front of so many little people, but I was proved wrong: it was, indeed, the least of my worries. Instead (or perhaps additionally) I had to grapple with unsettling, quintessentially “wicked” problems that couldn’t be solved with the wave of a magic wand – my girls not bringing lunch and breezing by me with a nonchalant “Didi, bhook nahi lagti!”; not being able to see the blackboard because of lack of resources to a good ophthalmologist; not coming to school for days on end because of having to take care of an ailing family member; not getting enough sleep because of having to cook and clean; not being able to do their homework because of a dismaying lack of space and light….not opening their hearts to me because they weren’t used to someone watching out for them.

….and these are only a few.

You aren’t meant to be on an upward curve all the time. Let me not deceive you. Your fellowship journey – challenging as it is – is as real, valid and valued as anyone else’s. Every single Fellow’s journey is different; we aren’t meant to be bricks of the same wall. My own Year 1 journey, for instance, has been fraught with immense anxiety and self-doubt. More often than not, even while I’m ensconced in the bubble of my girls’ giggles and cuddles and endless chatter, I have felt like a fish out of water; thrust into something completely unfamiliar and terrifyingly daunting. In all honesty, there have been more downs than ups (and I guess I was anticipating this very thing to happen, but it did still knock the wind out of me). The figuring-out-of-various-things has been painstaking, slow, and frustrating, I’ve had to have multiple conversations with sometimes the same person; sometimes, different people. And these conversations – brief or leisurely as they may have been – are what has kept me going when I felt hopeless and overwhelmed. I’ve struggled to maintain grace under pressure, to find fulfilment in all the chaos; wrestled with negative emotions; had to keep my chin up in the face of extreme discomfort and fake a smile when all I’ve wanted to do is cry. This past year, and the one that will follow, can be summed up in my favourite (and eerily relevant) quote by Rumi: “Seek the path that unties your knot. Seek the path that demands your whole being.”

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But despite it all – despite the uneasiness, the anxiety, the agonising self-questioning, the struggles, the overwhelming stress – I feel, at the centre of my being, a profound, inarticulable sense of gratitude for what has been. I think I’ve learnt more in this one year than in all of my 23 years of existence. Truly. And it is this very feeling with which I want to ease into Year 2 – a wellspring of gratitude, and an opening of the heart. Gratitude, especially in the face of flux and emotional see-sawing, is what transforms my perspective on everything. It grounds me; it makes me feel anchored and rooted to what really matters… May the wellspring never run dry.

I hope I’m able to unravel the knots with more patience; to walk the path with less apprehension and more trust; to surrender to what is; to consciously discover joy in the most harrowing situations; to find calm in the space of a single deep breath. I hope I respond, and don’t react. I hope I draw strength from the vulnerability.

Que sera sera, Year 2.

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