India

I have been writing so much for work that my private headlines are not really the most creative. But this one sums it up pretty well. Pouya, me, India.

Naturally, the minute I told my body I am going on vacation it went into sick-mode, not only do I have  cold, but also a nasty inflammation in my wrist, but I strongly believe in the Indian healing powers. And in Ibuprofen 🙂

So, summed up in short, this trip is means a lot to me: It will be another wedding experience, this time in Bangalore. I am very excited to see my Fletcher friend Aditya again. The younger generation of the wedding party will then move on towards Goa and beach for a bit. Moving on from the South, we will be doing a stopover in Delhi and see the couple whose wedding brought me to India this past January, Jessica and Abhishek.

And then it is time for a big item on my bucket list: Ever since I saw the Himalayan peaks from Mussorie in January I have been thinking about that place and how I felt. It is hard to explain, but I felt complete. This time, it will be a little longer. We will be doing a five day trek, in the snow, with a big backpack, lots of emergency drugs (the German doctors needed some serious persuasion to give out some of these prescriptions; a little bit of Googling has confirmed my funny jokes about how these drugs are most likely available somewhere over the counter…). I have a lot of respect for the fast altitude gain and I hope I am trained well enough. I guess there is only one way to find out…

And then it will be time for catching up with more Fletcher friends in New Delhi, eating as much Dhal, Palak Paneer, buttered chicken and drinking so much Masala Chai that I can at least stay for a little while without graving the food that is simply unavailable where I currently am.

I will try to keep you updated with lots of pictures and little stories.

 

Persian New Year: Tahdig, Hafez and the goldfish

Spicer, Trump and friends keep handing out so much bull, I will keep it lighthearted today and hand you some happy moments of my international love experience. You could also subtitle this one with: Dating a Persian, 101.

Persian New Year

Today is Persian New Year, or Nowruz. Let me start with a cool fact: Persians celebrate their New Year (which is like christmas for Germans) at the vernal equinox. And they are peculiar about the timing. The New Year celebration is exactly at the time of the actual equinox, today at 6.28AM, but changing every year. You would think that if there is any nation in this world who celebrates a holiday ON TIME, it would be the Germans…

IMG_0469Just as christmas, Nowruz comes with a lot of traditions. Before the actual celebration every household prepares as so called Sofra  – a table decorated with seven things that start with the letter S. Very typical is the spice Sumac, an apple, Greens which are called Sabzi in Farsi, a mirror, a goldfish…Yes, you read correctly! An alive goldfish is part of Nowruz. Can you imagine my excitement about getting a pet goldfish? Unfortunately, or I am assuming Pouya thinks differently about this one, we were too late and could not get a goldfish, but rest assured: I will be a Sofra earlybird next year…

 

Let’s talk food. I have had quite some exposure to the Persian cuisine. In Farsi, the word for stomach and heart is the same, that hints at how important and intricate Persian cooking is. While many dishes are absolutely delicious, there is this one thing that I am almost as obsessed about as Peanut Butter, and that is Tahdig. Imagine this: You take a tortilla and butter, and put that tortilla at the bottom of a pan and on top you put cooked rice. Let that sit for long enough and the butter, tortilla and rice form this dark brown crust…Tahdig is also where Persian hospitality comes to a brief pause – because the bottom of a pan is only so big, meaning there is only so much Tahdig and everybody wants it.

So, what happened last saturday at a Nowruz celebration is that, at a certain late-night hour, I found myself in the extremely lucky situation of having discovered that there was a tiny bit of Tahdig left over at the bottom of the pot. I was comforted by the Persians present that under the influence scraping off Tahdig is a very ok thing to do…

Lastly, Persian New Year has a wonderful tradition and that is reading  Hafez‘ poems. Traditionally, you are asking yourself a question silently, then open the book and somebody will read the poem to you. Hafez words are so complicated and complex, though, leaving so much room for interpretation that it can take a long time to interpret the meaning of the poem, especially in the context of your question. I will, of course, not convey the question that I asked, but it’s been a precious experience to experience the most important tradition of a culture you learn so little (and that little you do hear is mostly negative) about when you grow up in the Western world.

 

 

They know you, and they still like you

Today I was talking to a woman from El Salvador about our experiences living in the states. She asked me if I had moved here with my family. When I explained to her that my entire family lives in my home town in Germany she looked at me and asked whether I was very lonely…

Maria Rita and Zdenka just left my apt after a what we call ladies’ night. It’s not really what society associates with it. It is time carefully carved out of or our busy lives with no phones present, with listening to whatever the other needs to and wants to share. It is my therapy session, my reality check, my place to giggle, to cry, to lay bare fears, to be weak, to be argumentative, to be honest, to be judgy.

And then I realized – that night out that got completely out of control, that after work conversation, that call to China at 5AM, that what’s app group in which everyone randomly shares absurd life pictures, the postcards from Germany, that fierce discussion about politics, that moment not needing words, that text message screaming words, that ease of being with someone that does not require you to put on an identity, that outspoken yet deeply felt respect, that really blunt advice, that insane laughter – that I am blessed with wonderful,kind and exceptional people in my life and it humbles me.

Thank you!

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“Friends are those people that like you even after getting to know you.”

Connecting Worlds – homesickness is just a concept

Summary for busy folks: I have given you two years of my perspective on the international experience. It is time for other voices…today I am very happy that my friend Deborshi reflects on how dynamic the term homesick can be.

 

Deborshi Barat, Fletcher student and book authorDebo is a lawyer, presently enrolled at The Fletcher School.We lived together in Blakeley last year. We did have trouble managing to see eachother, though, because my preferred time to get up is 06am (the earlybird), which is roughly Debo’s preferred time to go to bed (the nightowl). Among other things, he’s secretly trying to promote a book he’s written, available online at http://www.amazon.com/The-Hunter-Pigeons-Deborshi-Barat/dp/148283460X

 

 

In the first couple of weeks, I walked to Davis Square to open a local bank account. It was a big deal – my first foray into the U.S. banking system. I was struck by how seamless the process was. A manager ushered me into her room and breezed through the process. Since home was on my mind, I asked her, a perfect stranger, a professional in the middle of a transaction, where she was from, and if she missed home. She didn’t laugh. I was informed that she’d arrived from Romania some years ago. I asked her why she hadn’t returned. “I like it here,” she said. “How can you not want to go back?” She said, she was terribly homesick too, the first couple of years after her emigration. She went back often. At first, the visits were six months apart, then annual, then once in two years. “Now I don’t fit in anymore,” she said. I came out of the bank, aghast. There was a dim realization that homesickness was a concept too, a concept that one could get used to, and eventually it would disappear. Just like Kundera said. But to this day, I wish I don’t become that person.

Strangely enough, the first impression of coming to stay and study in Boston was not as earth-shattering as I thought it’d be. People spoke about adjusting to the ‘culture’ here, but what with movies and television, and pop culture in general, there were very few things about the U.S. which were unexpected. Coming from India, language too wasn’t a barrier. Of course, I was homesick, and I secretly prayed that others were too, so that I’d feel less embarrassed about admitting it. However, the bubble that an ‘international’ grad school creates, in many ways, mimicks the world: there are groups formed based on language, interests, skills, etc., so much so that I feel one can take Fletcher and plant it anywhere else in the world, and it would still essentially remain the same. This mini-world illusion is a trap. Listening to people’s stories from across the globe, it is easy to be lulled into a wider consciousness, and there comes a time when one goes home and discovers that it’s not the same anymore. The concept of home changes, and once sucked into this bubble, I sometimes forget who I am, and where I belong. Every time I fly back to Calcutta, my city, with each subsequent visit, I miss the city less, and familiar things either get defamilarized or staid, and I realize that a large part of the mind is always left behind in this bubble – as if it’s an antiseptic asylum, detached from the rest of the world.