Starting on a fresh note

I deleted the first line of this post seventeen times (I think!) before I finally decided to use this as the first line of my post. And then I stared at the screen for another ten minutes. The mind is still “__________” and words refuse to come to mind. Fill in the blanks; it’s a mix of emotions. The past few days have seen a slew of politicians and imbecile self proclaimed god-men make some really awe-inspiring comments that have made me wonder if I should laugh or cry. I have had well meaning inquiries from other blogger friends who have been wondering why I haven’t posted in a while. A very dear friend wanted me to do an informative post around how we could help improve the situation or how women should empower themselves. It got me thinking about the post that I had put together after the Guwahati incident (Link). And it made me want to print it out, crunch it up, stomp on it and throw it into the trash can. Because even if Jyoti Singh Pandey had done everything she could have done; not a single of those techniques would have worked in the face of six monsters aided and abetted by god-men and every single moron who blames her. So instead, I’m just going to shut up and start the year with a post completely unrelated.

A few days back, searching for my old resume in my Gmail, I came across a set of mails from 2010 that I had completely forgotten about. They were from an innocent ten year old somewhere in the USA, part of a volunteering program called In2Books. As a volunteer; you are put in touch with a ten year old from a different part of the nation. Over a semester, you and your pen pal read the same set of six books in a specific sequence across subjects ranging from geography, history, science and such. You then exchange letters with your student discussing the book, answering questions related to it and helping him talk about his views. The school teacher helps answer any questions you might have. You are expected to write a minimum of one letter per book, many write more but then kids need to able to write back too. If you write them too many, they get overwhelmed! These kids are usually from households where they either do not get the required attention and help with their education or they do not get the required personalized attention from their teachers. As a volunteer, I also have to pay a nominal fee towards the program.
Much as this program was intended to help Leland (among others), I believe it was an uplifting journey for me too! It’s very refreshing to read and experience the innocence of young children with their endless curiosities and their untainted views. I2B had creative mail templates that Leland (and I) loved to experiment with. The classroom had a big large map of the United States hung up on a wall and markers for everyone’s pen pals. Leland wrote to me saying he loved to show off that his pen pal stayed in a state where winters were so cold!
He would talk about his family, about his vacations, about the way a certain incident that week affected him and he would want to know what I thought about it. He would ask me about my family and would be awestruck by some of the things I told him about differing cultures. The teachers wanted us to be honest with them, not mould ourselves into their expectations of an American pen pal. Certain books would incite him to talk about his dreams. Little kid dreams of superheroes or fire fighters, but nonetheless dreams. Today, I think of Leland and I wonder how he’s doing. He must be getting into his teens soon, a whole different phase of life, different things to be proud of and a whole bunch of other worries. I wonder if he remembers me, his Indian pen pal friend from across the nation. And I thank the day I signed up as a volunteer, because today, even with everything breaking apart around me, reading those emails can still cheer me up and make me think of signing up again for a whole new semester.

Don’t these lines just make you smile?

  • “What would you do if a hurricane was coming ashore where you lived? I would scream and run like a girl.”
  • “I can’t wait until Christmas. I might get a Blackberry. If you don’t know what that is, it is a phone.”
  • “I like to swim. I like to do Kayate. I am almost a black belt.”
  • “Can any of your family and friends do flips and land them?”

So here’s to starting on a fresh note. As for the New Year, all I want in 2013 is to be able to walk down a road without any fear. It’s as simple as that. Regardless of what I wear or don’t, regardless of whether someone’s my brother or not, regardless of which side of the Bharat Vs India border I am on, regardless of whether my stars are perfectly aligned or not. Or is that too much to ask?  

A collage of letters sent to me by my in2books pen pal
A collage of letters sent to me by my in2books pal.

I would love to hear your views!