14th September 2013
I live close to the Uni so my daily space is very small. But recently I have visited my old flatmate Lea in Bremen once for dinner and once for their housewarming party. And this morning I returned from a wonderful overnight stay with Felix and Judith in Nordenham. I understood that I love a country more deeply once I have connected with its nature and feel the connection with more of its people.
When I went to Bremen, I started feeling that the distance between our cities wasn’t as large as it used to be. The more often you travel somewhere, the shorter the distance becomes, it seems. I also met several of Lukas’s classmates and friends who were from various fields; political science, economics, sociology, physics and even neurobiology. It was very refreshing to talk to people of fields different to my own and go in-depth into topics like India’s economy and whether it is capitalism or the attitudes which come with capitalism which help an economy prosper and how to tease them out to understand their influences on a society, education systems and how they differ across Germany, USA and India, authority and hierarchy in society etc. I enjoy this kind of stimulation and throwing around ideas and cross matching them across contexts.
The trip yesterday was of a quieter nature. The train journey to Nordenham takes around an hour with one change in Hude. The scenery switched from summer time leafy forests and little settlements along the way to vast, flat, endless, green farm fields littered with horses, cows and sheep. Larger birds flew acrobatically to remind me of an IMAX 3D experience just outside the window. I get a little uncomfortable around too much flatland but when I got off, greeted my friends and walked close to the water, I really felt the beauty of the land. The birds were flying in swarms so large they looked like black clouds. The air was so clear that you could see the buildings in Bremerhaven on the other side of the water. We saw lighthouses flashing light periodically back from the south where the backwaters lead to Bremen. The water we were walking along had very gentle waves lapping the sandy shore and there were plenty of parks in the form of boats for children to play on. The vegetation was specialised for sand and mildly saline waters. When a motor boat passed 400 meters away on the water, the waves from the wake brushed the reeds on the side like ruffling hair and bobbed the duckies up and down in a wild ride. The half moon shone past the sunkissed pink clouds. The scene was idyllic. We sat on the sand for sometime, enjoying the quietness punctuated by the calming sound of the waves and children playing in the distance.
Felix shopped for dinner and Judith and I caught up a little. Not only about what had happened in the months we hadn’t seen each other but about our most recent thoughts and feelings and how the connected to the rest of our lives. There are some friends that you could talk to forever and never run out of interesting stories/insights. She is one such friend of mine.
We ate chilli cheese and garlic cheese, molten with baguette bread and sliced apples as we watched Cloud Atlas. That movie is a real piece of art. The make up, the acting, the effects, costumes, music, and of course the complex plot line and theme that comes together with such intelligent crafting. The switching between time points and stories gave it a dream like quality. I would recommend it to everyone above 18 (and even then I’d ask you to be braced for a few very graphic scenes that could disturb you deeply). After discussing it and dreams, we decided to get to bed. After all it had been a Friday and we had all worked.
I found a book called Educating Rita (by Willy Russel) and I read some of it before I fell asleep. I immediately recognised the British quality of the humour and mannerisms of the character. Maybe because of this or the combination of this in a new room, with a little colder temperature, I suddenly felt like I was in Edinburgh again, in the early days when everything was still so new and fascinating. It also occurred to me that there is some level of Britishness in me – what with the Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, enjoying that type of humour, spelling humour with the ‘u’, and India’s history and the things they left with us, it is a part of me. I found myself accepting it instead of trying to deny it and reiterate my Indianness.
Identity is something I struggle with. I am proud of the Indianness within me but it takes some moments like these with a book, movie or a piece of music or even being in nature, for me to realise that I also have parts of me that are from Edinburgh, the rest of UK, Sydney, Germany, and all other places I’ve even visited or heard about. And then I think it is sad that we have such linear and singular labels for ourselves and others. I don’t think I am any one thing completely. Sometimes I feel inside and part of everything, including the identity I give myself of being Indian, and sometimes I feel external to everything (The Outsider’s Journey). I hope to evolve to a point where I no longer need to be reminded externally that I’m not just one thing but this is hard when people around you are constantly putting you in boxes and thinking in terms of these boxes.
This morning I woke refreshed and happy and had breakfast (warm croissants) with my friends while we discussed language, concepts within them and the philosophies of pedagogy. Since both of them are teachers in training, I posed questions to them about how they would tackle certain issues we have in India with our education system. I find that students of both education and political science are flexible in their minds about how to apply the principles they learn to a context unfamiliar to them. I wonder how it would be to have a collaborative approach to handling these issues – like a European-Indian exchange which would definitely challenge both sides in different ways. (We could also benefit from these interactions by adopting a more open-minded and accepting worldview of personal differences regardless of place in society.) Given my interest in the education system, I hope to have more such conversations with my teacher friends even years down the line.
On the way back on the train, I had two books to read (Educating Rita which Felix had let me borrow and Emotional Brain which I had taken with me) but I found myself staring outside at the fields and horses (which were all facing the same direction!) and thinking about this story (The Egg) . Everyone has a story, every face you see have their own struggles. And living in new places, making friends with new people I find myself valuing and respecting the capacity for kindness and love that everyone has. For, what makes a human great is not how much money they have, or how smart they are, it is the ability to share the best of their love with as big a circle as they can. Of family and friends of course, but also strangers, trees, insects and mountains.
I’m home now. I’ve been doing yoga daily for the last 10 days, maybe that’s what’s opening out all these feelings in me 🙂 There is a birthday party this evening. I hope all of your are doing well. I will leave you with some calm music. http://www.calm.com/