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Archive for July, 2014

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about almosts.

It started in Chicago.  Sitting in the airport early morning, I considered how I almost lived there.  Almost called it my city, my college town, my home away from home.  Almost prepared to travel miles away for months at a time.  They were just simple thoughts, mostly sparked by a sudden philosophical view of my life and the world.

But just a few hours later, I became thankful for my almosts.  Upon landing in Delhi, we received news of the MH17 flight shot down above Ukraine, an air path that we would’ve almost encountered, had we flown just a couple of hours earlier.  In the great scheme of things, that doesn’t seem so significant.  But when it comes down to the cause of the crash, it’s clear that it could’ve been any plane.  Our flight was the same size as MH17. It, too, consisted of hundreds of innocent people—going home, working, traveling on vacation.  And just like MH17, it could’ve been mistaken for an enemy plane.  To come so close to an incident like that makes it suddenly more tangible; it makes all of these issues we see about the world more striking and real.

There’s no doubt that our world isn’t in a good place right now.  Open up the first page of New York Times, and you’ll see infinite acts of terror, intimidation, war.  It’s heartbreaking to even consider the fact that an act of terror like the one on MH17 is so common today.  On top of that, there’s the war over Gaza—which has provoked large rallies throughout Kolkata—Ukraine/Russia, Delhi rape cases, large scale deportation in the U.S.  Coming to a place like India sheds light to so many other problems in the world—it’s a bit of a reality strike from the relative perfection of a place like Vermont.   We live in such a bubble.  Seeing this city makes our daily politics seem so insignificant.

DSC_0075Having said that, Kolkata has, for the first time, brought me total and utter peace.  After years of grappling with the city—the pollution, poverty, uncertainty—I’ve finally reached a comfort zone.  Everything is suddenly familiar.  I recognize little street corners, know distances between towns, notice subtle changes in structures. In a relatively progressive country, Kolkata is ages behind, and I guess, in some way, that’s what draws me to it.  It teems with tradition and culture.  And while sometimes it may seem unbearably backwards, it seems to me like a preservation of the past.

As I’ve grown older, the glitzy bits of the city have attracted me less and less.  We spent a few hours in the large, über-Westernized mall, South City, yesterday—a place where, instead of choosing the incredible fresh Indian foods (which I would honestly die to eat every day in Vermont), people opt for Pizza Hut, Subway and KFC— and nothing about the mall was interesting to me.  It felt like a desperate effort to try to be “Western.”  Instead, I find solace in those dilapidated street shops, where the shopkeepers write in scribbled Bengali script and speak with a rawness in their language. That’s what I’ve always known Kolkata as—why should it be anything different?

DSC_0112It surprises me how the young generation here is so influenced by what’s happening in the U.S. or in whatever English movies they watch.  Teenage guys suddenly wear snapbacks.  New Bollywood songs have more English rap than native languages. And if I wear a traditional Indian outfit out and about, I seem out-of-place as a teenager.  Being here, surrounded by everything, I’ve realized that neither India nor the U.S. is perfect; each have infinite flaws.  To aspire to be one over the other is a waste of attempts, and I honestly wish I could just tell every rapping, snapback-wearing teenager that.  But in all honesty, living away from Kolkata means that every time I come back, I expect it to be exactly the same, when, in reality, it’s rapidly changing.  I guess part of me is truly an old soul (I mean, what else is new), but nothing makes me sadder than seeing this beautiful, beautiful culture slowly disappear.

TheOppositeofLonelinessbyMarinaKeeganI just finished the book “The Opposite of Loneliness” by Marina Keegan, a Yale student who passed away a few days after graduating magna cum laude and a few days before starting a job at the New Yorker, and it was the perfect source of inspiration.  She was a brilliant writer, and so the book compiles all of her essays and short stories.  Anne Fadimanwho wrote the introduction, talked about how Marina was everything a writer should be—perseverant, bold, unafraid, open.  While her classmates struggled to enter the finance and consulting worlds out of sheer uncertainty and fear for the future, Marina had no doubts about her aspirations as a writer.  In her first essay of the book, which was published in the Yale Daily News, Marina writes, “We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life…We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time.”

I’ve thought about this a lot, and it makes me both anxious for the future and nostalgic for the past.  We are so young, but there is so much we worry about.  I question why, at age 18, I’m worried about post-Brown or what I’ll be doing ten years from now.  It makes me envious how optimistic Marina could be as a 22-year old, while I can hardly even conjure the optimism or inspiration to maintain a blog, forget about writing a series of short stories (I’m so desperately trying).  But more than envious, I am incredibly impressed and inspired; in such a short time, I have totally fallen in love with her writing—it’s raw and honest and vulnerable.  “The Opposite of Loneliness” has been the perfect pre-college read, and I highly, highly recommend it.

-B

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Love Affairs

I’ve spent about two months lingering on the TR homepage and wondering if it’s time for a new start.  I’ve scrolled through old posts, cringed at my terrible editing skills and utterly teenage voice, and, somehow, fondly relived some pretty good memories.  So, after weeks of debating whether to start a new blog along with my “fresh start” at Brown, I’ve decided to continue my days with TR.

I guess as much as I’d like to think so, I’ll never be able to start completely over, even if I do move to a new city in a new state.  And truth be told, I don’t want to.  Reading over my old TR posts, from the first one after New Year’s freshman year to my memories of Morocco, I’ve realized that I’ve documented every minute detail of my life throughout the past three and a half years.  Starting over would feel too foreign; I could never love something as much as I love TR.

IMG_0367In a week, I leave for India for the last time until who-knows-when.  I still remember my trip from sophomore year, and the subsequent revelations about how much Calcutta actually meant to me.  Those revelations led to several reflections and, eventually, my college essay.  They’ve inspired photographs and short stories, and sparked my curiosity about the history of my birth nation.  And soon enough, because of Calcutta, I’ll fall back into my trend of travel blogging, something that has always boosted my spirits and reminded me of my roots as a writer.  Every time I see something noteworthy, I know I’ll immediately think of TR, in spite of not having blogged in weeks. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  So, here’s to another chapter in my life and here’s to another era for Translucent Roses.

DSC_0060Clearly, a lot has happened since my last post.  For one, I graduated high school, and it was more or less as emotional as I imagined it would be.  Delivering announcements for the last time, walking the halls for the last time, parking myself in the library for the last time—all these lasts were terribly difficult.  And rightly so.  South Burlington High School has been quite the roller coaster ride, and as excited as I am to “enter the real world” and “embark on new journeys”, I don’t know where or who I would be without SBHS.  Thankfully, I had the chance to express all these sentimental ideas to my class at graduation, in what was the best way to end my years at SBHS as not only a student, but also announcer.   I love this school and this class, and even a month after graduation, I still wish I could go backwards in time.

Having said that, however, these nerves about college have finally begun to dissipate.  Seeing the infinite opportunities ahead of me only makes me excited.  At Brown, I can study French and Arabic and the Middle East and politics—whatever I want.  Not to mention, I’ll be surrounded by incredibly intelligent classmates and professors.  Yes, it’s intimidating, as is any new adventure.  But I think I’m finally ready—or at least, more than I used to be.  Vermont will be here for me whenever I need it, and that’s the most comforting thought I can take with me.

As for the summer, it’s been an endless cycle of golf, tennis, photography, and work.  When I started golf in early January, I never thought I would be able to stick with it.  But thankfully, it’s become one of the largest aspects of my life.  There’s nothing more relaxing than going out for a round on a gorgeous day, whether with friends or my family or even alone.  I’ve learned to take in the beauty of my home course, Vermont National, and channel my frequent frustrations (like my utter inability to putt) into opportunities for improvements.  This may be the first time I haven’t immediately given up upon first failure, and, in the process, golf has become my own little personal challenge.

At the same time, I’ve fallen in love with tennis all over again.  Every week, I find myself on the courts, loving the sport and the feeling of playing as much as I did at the beginning of high school.  A few years ago, I wrote a post inspired by Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Openabout my frustration about tennis, but taking a year off and going back with no strings attached has been the perfect way to re-enter the tennis world.  Plus, now I have more opportunities to play my Federer-inspired shots (the Wimbledon championship was totally unjustly taken from him, by the way).

DSC_0421When I’m not playing my aged/retirement sports, I’ve made it my goal to find some new photo destinations, so every week I try to explore and experiment with my photography.  There are people in my life who get frustrated with my constant photo-taking and my obsession with my camera, and I understand that.  But the other day, I read a beautiful quote by photographer Burk Uzzle: “Photography is a love affair with life.”  I couldn’t think of words that better explain the wonders of photography.  In just a few weeks, I’ve learned so much about the place I live in.  I’ve seen the beauty of the lake at sunset on five different nights, the subtleties of the pond I drive by every day on my way home from work, the natural and beautiful expressions of people on the streets (or my friends, whom I use as guinea pigs for my photo experiments).  My favorite photographs are ones that spur emotions within me, both when I take them and when I go back to revisit them.  I love that photography has begun to consume my life more and more—it always brings more opportunities for adventure.

DSC_0297 2So, this has been my summer—a love affair with life, let’s just say.  In a few weeks, after India, my friends and I are heading to Osheaga, a weekend of unexpected and exciting adventures.  After that, it’ll be a month more of working and preparing for college, and then comes Brown, which, believe it or not, still feels a little unreal, as I’m sure it will for a while.

So, as always, keep up with TR during my travels (and onward!).  While you’re at it, check out my latest HuffPost article, which was written out of pure passion and anger, the perfect two ingredients to change the world, right?

With love,
B.

 

 

 

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