Dear BYP 10.0 –
I sit writing this to you from my beautiful garden in Poona, a city in the western state of Maharashtra. My parents moved here five years ago and by default, because of my Dragons-esque life, I did too. I grew up between Bombay, the city I was born in, and a boarding school in the Palani hills of Tamil Nadu. I did spend some time in the US going to college and then again a few years later to do my Master’s – but I have spent the majority of my life in this rather large and complex country you are about to jump into.
I just spent a month with students in the mountains of Ladakh running a summer course. Ladakh is a far cry from the image of the stereotypical India that is often created in the world’s imagination. This beautiful region, one I hope you will get to visit later in the year, has purple mountains, biscuit coloured sandbanks on the edge of the Indus river and little pockets of light green poplar trees that dot villages across the desert. It is often very quiet, quite clean, has a tiny population, compost toilets and an ice hockey team. Yes. India has an ice hockey team!
I have had the privilege and pleasure to visit so many of these “non-stereotypical” places in India. Having grown up among Eucalyptus trees in Kodaikanal, spending time on a farm in Dehradun – the same one Sarah spent time on researching seed saving practices – going home late at night or perhaps early in the morning on my own in an auto rickshaw in Bombay, being slightly nervous to duplicate this activity in Delhi, asking myself why this was, wandering up to the mountains of Ladakh – India exists not as one thing, but as many in my mind. And although I am a firm believer in the concept of “many Indias”, I always look for a thread to hold onto, a means to find my way. Something that connects one state to another, one person to another – a way to make sense of the seemingly senseless.
It is my hope that you spend the next 9 months trying to look for this thread too. I hope that you treat these next months as very much part of your life and not just a fleeting “experience” before your “real life” begins. This is your real life. All of it! I hope that at the end of this time you are able to say you lived in India. I hope that you will be able to see the many Indias that exist in my mind and cultivate what this might mean to you personally. And most of all, I hope that we are able to sew together some of the threads we may find and create a glorious story.
I cannot wait to meet you.