Saturday, March 10, 2012

The difficulty of being good at Harvard - Part II - Heart

It is hard to disentangle the heart/mind/soul. I am sure for eons sages, philosophers and more recently neuroscientists are wrestling with the same question. But I will use this loose working definition. Anything related to emotions and that which can be felt and articulated a little more concretely, as matters relating to that of the heart. Anything that can closely come into the realm of mystical, and incomprehensible to the writer himself, I will safely keep it for the soul(part III). Going to Harvard, writing the last part might get me labelled as being delusional(in some ways it has and I shall go into the emotional effects here!)

The title presupposes that I have been having a tough time. Which is not exactly true. I have been happy and more so grateful with all that has happened till date. But as Calvin rightly says, "Happiness isn't good enough for me, I demand euphoria!". This is about reconciling the kid within me who wants euphoria and the wise adult who is content with happiness. But if I stretch and ask myself, "Have I been myself in all the interactions?" "Have I had meaningful friendships which I wish to carry on for a lifetime?". The truth is a defnitely not a YES. I have struggled with my friendships at HKS. Especially come from a TFI culture, where deep friendships and heartfelt conversations were the norm, it was a hard transition to make. The fact that my best friends are folks at the Ed school highlights the disconnect between where my brain learns and where my heart yearns to be. More than anything else, it is a manifestation of who I am and what I expect from friendships. I have always been a relator, someone who will will risk himself with a few friends rather than the acquaintance of many. Share what is wonderfully common and give each other what we have in abundance. More often than not, speak more about mundane matters of heart than esoteric matters of the world. Bond over a quiet lunch or dinner rather than a loud ethanol and nicotine filled dance party.

While it has been disappointing to be on the fringes of a group and not totally belong, the feeling hit me more recently during a trip to Nashville. Over a period of 4 days, I felt I had more in common with some Fulbrighters than my classmates at HKS. I had exactly the kind of conversations, I had longed to have all the while. I had received and naturally gave a warmth of feeling which somehow was missing in the crimson red halls. I am not sure if it was the relaxed and holiday nature of the conference which bought out the best in everyone, or if it was a group which was not competing against each other, I could hear myself saying what I believed in. I realized in those moments how much my voice was stifled for the last 8 months. I could empathize in some way how it felt to feel inferior(self imposed or otherwise). I could imagine and empathize Dr.Ambedkar growing up, relegated to the last bench because everyone else belonged in the front. Being mocked for having a way of life and means different from the larger group. Voice and agency for him by virtue of his birth had to be much more hard earned compared to the others. I feel this way almost on most days at my school. My silence to most of the mocking that I get at school for being what I am is mistook as lack of voice. I can only barely imagine in a foreign land what it means to be a Dalit in India. Rather than reflecting a tone of victimhood, let me just say that I have found my objective equilibrium. Who am I to judge people around me? What I see is the color of the lens that I wear, a deep residual of negativity and bias which exists within me. The best response is to take a step back, accept all of it humbly in silence, and recognize the learning from the experience. One day I will have my share of respect for the person that I am, here in HKS and in future when I fight more tougher battles in politics in India.

“When we grow in spiritual consciousness, we identify with all there is in the world. Then there can be no exploitation. It is ourselves we are helping. It is ourselves we are healing.” said Dr. V. I will talk about the growth in spiritual consciousness or lack of it in the next part.

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