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Diaspora, the unsettled, the empowered.
A word which evokes sadness and joy simultaneously. Memories of a distant land which was fond to many, the unlived memories of a distant land which was taken from many. A community which is bound by language and culture but separated by oceans, a community which creates and adapts, yet pays homage to its roots. The pressure of having to survive which culminates in the creation of diamonds. The pressure of needing to survive which leads to the disconnect of the heart.
My sixth form chemistry teacher, in a desperate attempt to wrap 16 confused heads around the idea of entropy, told us, ‘The universe loves chaos’. Nowhere in the world does this seem more true than in the magnificent pandemonium that is the great Indian subcontinent. I returned for my ninth Indian monsoon and yet India had a strange way of making feel like it was my first. India was never the same, it thrived on chaos. It was in a state of perpetual reinvention and yet the feeling it inspired within me was ever constant. There was the comforting familiarity infused with an exhilarating sense that something new, something undiscovered was waiting out there. Its vibrance eludes any description that would do it true justice. India has seduced colour into a beautiful love affair; there green is somehow greener and blue, bluer. It makes me think, eyes cannot be satisfied till they have feasted on India. I sound rather drunk on patriotism, don’t I? And yet, though it is beauty and vibrance that colour India’s land, there are some dark and sinister thoughts that colour India’s mind. A woman’s place in India’s psyche is, for me at least, perhaps the darkest and most sinister of them all.
You see , I feel an umbilical connection to the country that stopped being my home many, many years ago. A country that’s not short of unrecognisable from my fragmented childhood memories of it. And yet every time I return to India, my heart swells for it. And every time I leave, my heart aches for it. India has been stirred into me like coffee into milk. It still refuses to be unstirred. But unfortunately, patriarchy has been stirred into India, like coffee into milk. It still refuses to be unstirred. Ever since I was a child, I have seen many women who were born into the country and culture that I exalt and love, pushed into a corner, diminished and silenced. I ignored this face of India for a long time. However, with each year that passed, the older I became, the harder it was to plead ignorance. And eventually, it was utterly impossible.
Fresher’s fortnight has come and gone, as the drunken stupor wears off and the reality of university life sets in, it can be a daunting predicament to find yourself in. Or a very exciting one, if you err on the side of glass half full. But however you’re feeling, some humble advice with a few real-life stories thrown in from a few real-life second years never goes amiss. So here it is…
The Thursday before I came back to London, I went to my old school back home, where I had not been for almost two years. Walking down the wooded drive, then through the brown-bricked doorway into the main reception and down the long corridor to the staff room, with the quaint quad on the left and the wooden pigeon holes on the right, I couldn’t help but be hit with the bittersweet, melancholy pang of nostalgia. I bumped into my old teachers and peeked into my old classrooms; everything was just as I remember it to have been two years ago. I found such a comfort in this. My life had changed so unrecognisably, and not all in ways I had foreseen when I left for university, so the constancy seemed precious somehow. I remember how this same constancy once felt stifling, and I yearned for the freedom and excitement that London promised. The grass always is greener, I suppose. In constancy, you want change and in change, constancy. But now having been back in London for a few weeks, I’ve realised how university has been the best decision I have made. Not because it has been easy and endlessly enjoyable, but in fact because it has been quite the contrary at times. It has been tough, ridiculously tough some times, tougher than I had ever imagined it would be. When the fun stopped and the mountain of forgotten work drowned naive, unprepared 18-year old me, it was terrifying. Now I don’t want to be the killjoy that sours the exciting, intoxicated buzz of fresher’s week that lingers on. It’s just I never heard what the reality of university can be in my first few weeks (maybe because I didn’t want to hear it arguably). All I heard was make new friends! play new sports! join new societies! Do all this, of course. Friends, sports and societies are all the things that will make your university experience unique, not the standardised syllabus everyone in your course pulls their hair out over.