Sunday, 15 April 2007

19th December, 2006; 2345hrs

When you stand on an island, the winds that blow at you are stronger, more intense. There are no structures to temper them or deflect them. MICA is an island in more ways than one. Six kilometres from the nearest village, it is in a world of its own. Mobile signals do not reach here and we hardly watch TV. And when you step outside the gate you will probably see more animals than humans.

MICA is not just a physical isolation. It is also a cultural island. Flashback to 15th May 2006

I had just finished my graduation and been to my grandparents’ home, reconnected with my roots and my past in a sense and also withdrawn myself from it to open myself to a new experience.

I still remember my first day. I walked in the gate, got my hostel room number and proceeded there. I ran up the stairs, turned left and found room 18. to my surprise, it was a huge room and there were 2 beds in it. “Weren’t girls supposed to get single rooms?” I wondered!

Ah well, I was in the wrong place. I was supposed to turn right and not left and had landed up in the boys’ hostel. I still reacted to the situation with equanimity. The state of affairs elicited a far more animated reaction from a batch-mate who shook his head in disbelief as he couldn’t believe his luck!

We are open and closed at the same time. Open with and isolated from the world. Here everything goes (except in class!). I have never been to America but I figure the initial culture shock would be similar. It is not so much about what people do but how much they are willing to accept and like I said we are both open and closed, hypocrites in our own way, caught in a time warp between the world we come from and the one we inhabit. It shows in different ways.

In some the conflict is obvious, apparent. There is a struggle between family values and MICA values and in its midst a search for one’s own values and identity. Overt struggles are not looked upon kindly. They are laughed at, scorned as they make mistakes and pick themselves up. For their part, they look around in bewilderment, caught in the middle of winds that buffet them without a chance to take either side; labelled either way.

Then there are those like me for whom the struggle is different, more subtle. For me it is not a conflict in values or a choice. I know where I stand. It is more a struggle to understand where the others are coming from. It is also a struggle to balance between holding and letting go; about knowing when to do what and taking responsibility.

On this island where no one knows me, how do I express my ecstasy or anguish? The other day, crying gave me a momentary sense of relief. I woke up the next day feeling silly. Was it because I expressed my vulnerability or because I consider my reaction unwarranted and exaggerated? I have no way of knowing. All my reactions since I came here have been so intense, so out of proportion. At the same time, I have been so reluctant to express them; mulling over them in private and feeling the vacuum left by friends of old. And so, the confusion and conflict remain.

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