[continued...] I laid out the facts. We were both seventeen. She had just finished graduating from high school, and was preparing to go to college in Kalol. I had just started thinking about my own college applications and graduating from high school. Kholi was planning to study art and design, I was still trying to figure out if I wanted to study design and architecture. She was witty, and laughed at the simplest of things, and throughout it all, and always had an older woman by her side. Similarly, I could laugh at everything or anything that my friends did, and throughout everything, my mother was my best friend. Perhaps comparing their friendship to the relationship I have with my mum was not the most accurate comparison, but it felt that way. The age difference was at least ten years, the other woman could have been her mother but from their interactions, it struck me that there was no sense of superiority coming from the older woman. Kholi seemed perfectly at ease when speaking to the elder in her community. They respected each other equally and I think they were friends. Again, I was reminded of my mother and the relationship based on mutual respect and trust that we have.
I saw myself in her when she began to talk about her hopes and dreams as well as her future. Her parents were conservative, so a love marriage or even a career was out of the question, and yet she dreamt of a good education and travelling. She wanted to move to the city, see the world and learn about people from all across India. She didn’t want her life to revolve all around her village.
Namaste. I see myself in you, I thought, because I too want to travel around the world. I see myself in you, because I want to make my own choices, because I want to be able to choose between a family and career, because I want the opportunity to create both. I see myself in you because you are just as witty as I am, and because I see that same gleam in your eyes, the same desire to escape your roots when you talk about the city.
I don’t really know anything though. I could be wrong. Maybe you will be happy with the life that the gods have laid out for you, I don’t really know. But what I do know is that one little word that connects me to you. What I do know is Namaste. I see myself in you. I see myself in you when I see you being chastised for a high cell-phone bill by your elders, and I think of my own cell-phone bill and my mom’s complaints at the end of the month; when I hear you talk about how much you love school, and I suddenly remember why I chose to come to Andover. And as I think all these thoughts to myself in my head, I am sitting in a quiet air-conditioned room, typing away on a thousand dollar laptop, with nothing but the chatters of my teachers in the background. I don’t know what you are doing in this moment. I can’t really imagine what it would be like to grow up in your village, but I know that in an alternate universe you could be me, and I could be you, and I could have dreams of the city, and you could have worries about college and the summer, and honestly speaking knowing what I know about you, me and the universe makes me conflicted. I’m angry about the injustices I see, but I feel fortunate to lead the life I lead. Why does the world exist in this way?
I cannot say, because in the greater scheme of things, I really don’t know if I know anything at all…