Asawari is home and the feeling is surreal. I had replayed her arrival back so often in my mind that when she came charging out of the T3 with Aqseer, I had to pinch myself. One of my first thoughts was, “Thank God, we had the sense to send Aqseer for the trip back home.” It made the transition easier for Asawari. Aqseer became the seamless bridge for her to return over; back into what was her world before she flew off to Serbia for a nine month stay with an entirely new family.
It has taken all of five days for her homecoming to sink in. Even now the heart does an effervescent flip every time she enters the room. She is the same and yet there is something new in every gesture, every word, and every look. In her being I catch glimpses of another country, a different people, new paths and strange journeys. Every place she visited, every person she met, every sight she savoured has obviously left an indelible mark on her. The sum total of a life lived by herself this past year is evident in her confident gait, her rich conversation and what I call a healthier appetite for life.
There are reams and reams of photos; she has obviously put her SLR to good use. But to begin with, I picked solo pictures, reflections that spoke of what was really going on with her. How did she relate with her four other program partners? Did she feel adequate enough in her nationality? Was there any sense of disadvantage at some point? How did she perceive Serbia and the Balkans? What did she learn from her homestay families? What were the impressions that she left behind about India? Was she thankful for the opportunity and did the experience leave her a better person?
With several interjections from Aqseer, some kind of a clear image has begun to emerge since her return on this 22nd. She consistently emits a sense of wellness. There is also this excitement about her future studies at Princeton. It does seem as though her bubbling cheer draws from the wholesome one to one she shared with her BYP group partners. What gladdens my heart most is the seeming cloak of wisdom she seems to sport, a realization that life indeed is a mixed bag and its ok, a whole lot is ok.
Like she puts it in her concluding update on eedhttp://www.princeton.edu/bridgeyear/updates/archives/?id=5417, “In the Balkans, my beliefs were enhanced and made more voluminous in the generous experiences that this place had to offer. Has it changed my fundamental person or my identity? Not quite. Has it given me a wider frame of reference regarding multiculturalism? It has, especially since I have been third party in experiencing the aftermath of conflict based on ethnicity in a continent like Europe where borders seemed easily penetrable. Here, another country can be reached in two hours. It can take about twice as long, a strong heart and a sturdy stomach to lumber across to the nearest state from Delhi within India.”
Welcome back home Asja !