Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bridge to Serbia

It is a remarkable comment on the global phenomenon as we have come to know it that a teenaged student of the Indian subcontinent, comes to represent an Ivy League American University at an East European nation, in a nine month long service program.

The BYP Serbia Group
Even more remarkable is the startling fact that a regular, Indian, middle class family that would call the daughter five times on her cell phone if she was late coming home in an auto-rickshaw from her dance class at Jai Lakshmi Apartments near Mayur Vihar, found it in them to pack her off, half way across the world, twice over. And alone ! Within twelve hours of having been picked up by cousin Kabir at Newark, she was at her University campus, amongst complete, multinational strangers she was going to spend the next nine months of her life with, thousands of miles away from home.

New Delhi: London: Newark: New York: Belgrade....an intercontinental loop of trust and credibility, fuelled by electronic communication, crackling over fibre optic ocean cables. And who are the posts holding this entire interface up? A triad consisting of the program director at Princeton University, the program co-ordinator in Belgrade, and the home page of the University Bridge Year Program.

Truly remarkable and in more ways than one.

Notable that Asawari should find her way to that corner of the world that had long held her fascination for primarily two persons; first, Béla Károlyi, the Romanian gymnastics coach who trained three of her favorite gymnasts; Nadia Comăneci , Kerri Strug, Dominique Moceanu and second, Alexander III of Macedon, creator of one of the largest ancient empires.

Wonderful that she should discover her window to the sky in a country called Serbia. Republika Srbija and not Sibir' of Russia. A nation one had heard of, mostly in the context of the Non-Aligned Movement, founded in Belgrade during the Brijuni Islands summit by Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and Jawaharlal Nehru of India, the year being 1953.

Amazing that she should at this moment be among the Roma people, an ethnic group with origins in India (from the region of Haryana !)but now living mostly in Central and Eastern Europe.

It’s a story worth recounting, a tale of our bridge to Serbia called Asawari. The start of a lifelong friendship. A discovery that people are pretty much the same everywhere and that outstanding human collaborations are possible in the shadow of world tragedies. The extraordinary fact that she has been comfortable and safe and looked after by two Serb families that we have not seen and are not likely to meet ever. An account of how her presence there has founded a new Indian loyalty to Novak Đoković playing anywhere in the world !

The night she left home, I had the flight tracker switched on, besides my bed. It was as though I was trying to aid her flight mentally. And when the tracker said, “No info, the flight may be over the ocean,” I shut my eyes and there they were, those two guarantees; the toss of her ponytail at the airport and that squaring of her slim shoulders as she turned into the waiting beyond immigration check!

Surely, something is right with the world.


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