Now that I have been out of school for a year (again), and now that I have managed a work schedule that leaves me a fair bit of time for a life, I'm discovering something about myself. I really love learning. And my life feels like a real drag when I'm not learning something new. Until May, I had my Spanish diploma exam to study for, but now that that's done too (did I mention I now have a Nivel C1 diploma from the Spanish Ministry of Culture and Education?), I needed to find something new to learn. Last week, I actually browsed listings of random classes in Delhi, looking for something new I could learn. And while the classes led me nowhere (either not interesting enough or far too expensive!), I realized in the process how many things I'm starting to pick up during this almost-but-not-quite gap year.
(Seriously, Aditi? Gap Year? Time to start thinking of yourself as a professional at the start of a real career, rather than someone "in between things"... no?)
No. I don't want to become stodgy. And in order not to do that, I need to stay a student, in addition to whatever else I'm doing. Plus, between an awesome LIberal Arts education (that teaches you, above all, how to learn), 3 library memberships, and the incredible tool called the internet, learning's become so easy that it's kinda irresistible!
In any case, this whole entrepreneurial thing is demanding some serious learning. Did I mention that, as a freelancer, I need to figure out double bookkeeping? Fortunately, my mother is a whiz with all things financial, and as I start doing it, I realize it's easier than I'd anticipated. But Step 2 and 3 of this Mom's teaching, apparently, involve understanding mutual funds and dividends — I'm sure I can figure this out eventually, but who'd have thought that deciding to teach writing freelance would also mean learning accounts?
Speaking of things I've picked up by-the-way, along-the-way on this whole writing workshop thing: baking! I'd never baked anything since the cake that failed when I was twelve, and then I decided that my workshops needed homemade brownies, and so I started baking brownies, and that gave me the confidence to do a chocolate cake and a banana walnut loaf, and then a friend came home and taught me how to bake a basic wholewheat bread, and then I decided to try a focaccia... and can you see where this is going?
Gardening, of course. That's been on a bit of a hold over this summer (sorry, I love plants, but not enough to stand outside in the Delhi summer a minute longer than I absolutely have to!), but my basil and lemongrass are just doing such amazing things on my herb spiral (did I mention that one basil sapling has become 5 full grown plants and another couple of saplings?!) that I'm inspired to return to the garden just as soon as this heat dies down a little.
And then there are the other things. Photography, I already mentioned (I finally invested in a good camera, and I'm really enjoying playing with aperture and shutter speeds and looking forward to start learning about post-processing as well!). And as soon as the repair work and re-plumbing in our courtyard/ driveway is done, hopefully by October or so, I am still planning on getting my own pottery wheel and continuing that learning journey with my absolute favorite non-verbal art form.
But my newest, favoritest hobby is my city, Delhi. I've always loved the history and layers of this city, and now that I feel pretty comfortable with the basic Hauz Khas village, Jama Masjid/ Old Delhi, Lodhi gardens etc tourist tracks, I'm getting excited about venturing further and deeper into this city. Partly, this may be coming from the fact that I'm reading City of Djinns (and have 3 other books about Delhi's history lined up for when I finish this one!), but largely, it's coming from a sense of grounding and joy that I find in walking about and getting to know this city that is mine and not mine at the same time... that is so many cities rolled into one.
As part of this adventure, I took a group of friends/ friends of friends for an iftar walk through Old Delhi last weekend. I had done an organized street food walk during Ramazan last year, and then gone on another one with my mother and brother during which we explored a little further — add to that some quick articles on the internet, and suddenly there's more places to visit and eat awesome street food than you can do justice to!
My favorite part about this walk, though, was the hour or so we spent at Jama Masjid before the call for iftar, just hanging around, sitting amongst all the families who were there waiting for sunset. As we were getting up and getting ready to leave, a young man, probably in his early twenties, walked up to me and said something that I didn't quite understand. I'm not proud to say that I ignored him at first (sorry, guys, but as a woman growing up in Delhi, that becomes your instinct when a man you don't know comes up to you and makes a remark you don't fully hear). In a moment, though, something told me I had misunderstood, and I turned to face and smile at him. He was holding out two bananas, wearing a smile that was mostly welcoming and slightly apologetic — "it's all I can offer you all," he told me. It took half a moment for me to realize what was going on — he had seen us enjoying the masjid (rather than just rushing through it after clicking some photos, like many tourists do), and he was offering us a part of the meal his family had brought for iftar. My smile widened and I thanked him deeply; he smiled back and left to go join his family again.
In that brief moment, in that brief action, this stranger welcomed me into a world that I find beautiful but don't feel like I belong in. It was one of those classic moments that our silly "unity in diversity" textbook chapters would have loved — he knew I wasn't from his world, and he knew that I may never be part of his world, but in the moment that we were sharing, he wanted me to know I was welcome.
I'm going to treat that as a working definition of a great teacher — that ability to welcome people into worlds that aren't theirs, to give from the world that is yours. And I hope it's going to keep me exploring and learning and giving.
Let's talk in a decade or so and see where all this takes me! ;)