Skip to main content


Showing posts from August, 2012

Day 365: The middle of the universe is here.

Day 365 began in beautiful gap year style. I woke up late to lazy meditation and leisurely yoga before meeting Allie Pace, my Peer Advising Fellow, for lunch and coffee at the quaint Café Pamplona.

This was the perfect way to start my last gap day. Allie was eager and excited to hear stories about my year in detail, and made me go back and appreciate, once again, the incredible experiences I've been blessed enough to enjoy this year, from Brasil to Bogotá to Bombay to Boston. She certainly invited me to think about every aspect of my life as a student and a person, and we enthusiastically celebrated the beauty that is life and love and learning.

A comment Allie made about only having two years left here at Harvard reminded me immediately of Marina Keegan's "Bygones," which I read to Allie at the table, leaving her, as it should have, speechless. My goal was to have memorized the poem by now, but I'm a bit behind. However, as "Bygones" has been one of t…

Day 364: I don't like your silence.

My morning walk to Annenberg is not unlike those of my majestic mornings in Bogotá. I made the walk today to have breakfast with Kirin Gupta, a fellow member of the Class of 2016 who took a gap year also. Apart from our superficial similarities (Indian girls, drastic haircut-getters, Ingrid Michaelson fans, gap year-takers, Spanish enthusiasts), it was great to finally meet this chica and learn that like me, she's craaazy. We had a high energy breakfast full of laughs before I dragged her to a session called "Understanding Your Math Placement Score."

Although I still do not understand my math placement score, two wonderful things came out of attending this session.

First, I bumped into Javier Aranzales, Bogotá boy and ballet dancer with whom I'd exchanged some salsa obsession messages via Facebook earlier in the year.

Second, the three of us received news of our Freshman Seminar applications, and each was accepted into his/her top choice! I'l be taking Public Pol…

Day 363: "Please do."

This morning began with Community Conversations, a facilitated conversation between members of our entryway about diversity of race, nationality, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, political beliefs, etc. It was stunning to see the remarkable richness of culture among members of our entryway alone! This was a great way to learn a bit more about our Greenough peers in a really open environment.

 From here, Marcy, Alex, and I headed to a meeting with our academic advisor, Elaine Strunk. Elaine is the Manager for Sustainability Engagement in the Office of Sustainability here at Harvard. This informal lunch in the grass was a great way to learn more about Marcy and Alex and their interests, as well as get to meet Elaine. A funny moment came after our meal when a dining hall worker lectured the four of us on how to properly separate our waste materials from lunch before throwing it out. Preaching to the choir, bro.

Next, I attended a lecture called "What Darwin Didn't Kno…

Day 362: "No machine can take you into the mansion of happiness."

Days here are becoming so packed that I have to take notes during the day to remember everything in the evening!

I had breakfast with a very special friend this morning -- Priya Gill! We wanted to say one last goodbye, and to discuss our concerns and quandaries as we both embark on hugely new phases of our lives. We also read a bit of Latin together so that Priya could go home and say, "I studied Latin at Harvard."

Farewells aside, I made my way to our "first official welcome to Harvard" from Dean Shapiro, our Resident Dean. Directly afterwards, Eliza, Dipti, and I attended a brief presentation called "Student Computing @ Harvard" -- while figuring out the college's technology, I also completed my remaining Freshman Seminar applications from my cell phone to make the deadline at noon -- phew!

We then headed over to check our campus mailboxes. Send me love!

1500 Harvard Yard Mail Center Cambridge, MA 02138
We enjoyed our first lunch at Annenburg Hall an…

Day 361: I will take the chain from off the door.

I'm already beginning to wade in late-night (academic) housekeeping tasks, but I'd like to give you all a run-through of my first official day of orientation! We rolled out of bed and down the street from our hotel this morning to Greenough Hall, to get me settled into my dormitory once and for all.

We made a super-efficient team, with Priya hanging up my clothes and lugging things upstairs as Papa fetched breakfast and opened boxes while Mama and Nani made my bed and everything around it and I just admired everything.

For the person who did the least amount of physical labor, I sure seemed the most wiped out at the end of our morning moving sesh, and I arrived at the ID Services office looking less than optimal for my Harvard ID photo. The photographer seemed to sense this, as he commented on how nervous I looked, and went on to try to soothe my nerves. Seeing the ID printed was a joy however, and I almost squealed with delight when he handed it to me. I am officially a coll…

Day 360: I'm trying to get a hold on this.

Nani, Priya, and I had a "hearty laugh" over our sleeping arrangements yesterday, with all 5 feet and 8 inches of Priya crammed onto a tiny armchair for the night. This accommodation naturally didn't make for the most commodious night, and we all remained in varying states of asleep-ness until around noon today.

At this time, we headed to Boston Harbor to eat lunch at Wagamama and ogle at sky writers adorning the heavens with ribbons of Red Sox pride. Then it was quickly onward to Target for a stop to collect last-minute items like notebooks, hangers, and a mini fridge (everything purchased happened to be turquoise).

In the afternoon, we stopped by Greenough, my dorm, again, and I got to meet my roommate for the year! Eliza and I had talked online, but it was wonderful to make her acquaintance in person . . . and to see our lovely room! The whole Gill squad joined in and we spent the better part of an hour rearranging furniture until we had turned our two individual ro…

Day 359: I took a faithful leap and packed up all my things and all mylove.

We got up at 7:30 this morning, a bit late to meet our hoped departure time of 7:00. After packing, a cake, a prayer, and turning back two times, we were finally off for Cambridge around 10.

I listened to music on Priya's amazing headphones in the car along the way, as Nani fed me bowl after bowl of the biryani she had prepared just for me. We stopped briefly in Annapolis to get a photograph of Mama and me at a marina where we were photographed together 15 years ago.

I tried to get sleep at one point, and was fairly successful, but woke speaking a crude Punjabi line from "Angreji Beat."

It didn't seem like long before we were approaching Cambridge, my home for the next four years. We all gaped like children at the buildings and the river and the shops, before locating Greenough Hall and taking a peek (move-in is on Monday). We wove through the campus a bit longer before making our way to our hotel.

We had plans to go out for dinner but scrapped them in light of t…

Day 358: "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return."

I woke up this morning probably too late for everything I had to do today.

After breakfast and some further polishing of my Freshman Seminar applications, it dawned on me that out of the myriad times I've been to the doctor this year, not one was an annual exam. We scrambled to make some appointments and set out for first one and then the other, with haphazard packing shoved in between.

This monotony of chaos was broken in the afternoon by a visit by my beautiful sister Iman Karram to say goodbye. Although she only stayed for a few minutes, we both got to spill our thoughts to one another one last time before I set off tomorrow. I'm so thankful she came to visit.

After my second doctor's visit in the afternoon, we bought some locally grown peaches and then Nani helped me dye my hair with henna. As this goop settled on my head and started to dry, I gave Nani her first iPad lesson, setting up her email, iTunes, Facebook, and Skype accounts. I'm looking forward to spread…

Day 357: I shall write beautiful poetry about this some day.

Today, Mama and I embarked on an exciting errand -- purchasing my new computing contraption for college. We headed to the bank first, and Mama shared her perspective on a lot of aspects of our lives with me en route. We arrived at the mall after catching up and picked out a perfect MacBook Pro for me. An hour later, we took this and other assorted Apple accessories with us and drove to Fairfax Corner, where I met up with Woojin, Patrick, and Taylor for our Bristow adventure.

During the drive to Jiffy Lube Live, Woojin helped us "study" for the concert we'd be experiencing by playing his "Kelly Clarkson and The Fray Concert Prep" playlist for us in the car. We enjoyed a fancy dinner at Subway where I was nicknamed "The Storm" and we learned of Wooj's Tyler Ward obsession before making our way to JLL. We now sit in the lawn enjoying the air and ambience as we listen to Carolina Liar open for Ms. Clarkson and The Fray!

Day 356: I love the way you say good morning.

I was awoken after a wonderful night of slumber at 10:08 today by my LaurAlarm clock -- my Cornellian sister had much to share about her first day of college classes, and we gushed about all the usual things, including gap year interactions and Marina Keegan.

After a late breakfast, Nani helped me pack, once and for all, my first batch of Harvard apparel, a bag containing woolens galore.

As we set this suitcase aside, I spruced my room up a bit and started a set of applications for some Freshman Seminars that will be offered next year. I first finished my essay for Complexity in Works of Art: Ulysses and Hamletand then worked on applications for Happiness in Philosophy and Psychoanalysis and Public Policy Approaches to Global Climate Change.

It is remarkable how much my travels during this year helped in writing these last two apps, as I could cite counseling at Sasha Bruce and meditation in Mumbai as two major "experiences" I've had with happiness, and could discuss my w…

Day 355: No me importa.

This morning, we picked up Tia and Puppy Bhua and headed into D.C. On the way there, we taught Tia to introduce herself to someone in Spanish, and spent the rest of the ride listening to how bored she was . . . before we even got there. We parked at the Jefferson Memorial, ran to the restrooms, got Tia a copy of the Declaration of Independence, and took some photos at the Tidal Basin.

We soon cruised over to Rotī and enjoyed lunch at this Mediterranean equivalent of Chipotle before traipsing over to the White House for a photo shoot.

From here, we wound our way to the National Gallery of Art by the most circuitous route possible, soaking in the Washington sights as we did. We soon found ourselves in the East Building, scoffing at most of the modern art. Some pieces, however, appealed to our (admittedly ignorant) fancy.

Next, we paid a visit to the National Gallery's Sculpture Garden, loving the weather and Tia's suggestion to dip our feet in the fountain at its middle.

Our la…

Day 354: E se timor t'assale . . .

To say I woke up this morning would be inaccurate. My alarm rang at 6am and I stepped out of bed, after a night of no sleep. Why was I up this early? Because my sister needed someone to walk her to the door of the gym for her preseason practice for volleyball. It was an interesting first experience to stand in a line marked "athletes sign in here," even if it was just for my sis. Once Priya was in the gym, I found a nook to nap in until I got too cold and started working on an application for a freshman seminar called Complexity in Works of Art: Ulysses and Hamlet.

With a bit of this done, I ambled down to the commons and met up with Nizar (sometimes two goodbyes aren't enough) for another valedictory coffee, this time with Zane and Iman.

For the duration of our time together, Iman gushed to me about the amazing time she's just had dancing with the cast of Step Up in Los Angeles, as Zane and Nizar did their best not to zone out. Too soon, it was time to wish my sibs…

Day 353: Peering at the past is perfectly perilous and the future is a freaking farce.

After a night of nearly no sleep, we continued the strain of college shopping by venturing to the mall in search of suitable collegiate apparel for me and high-school appropriate clothing for Miss Priya. Tysons was smotheringly crowded and most of the day was spent wandering listlessly through stores' last-ditch efforts at selling summer wardrobes to lost souls such as myself.

One highlight of the day was finding crimson pants which will allow me to drip with school spirit this fall.

The best part, however, was running into two awesome people:

One goodbye is never enough, and I was pleased to hear that Nizar happened to be right outside H&M as Priya and I were shopping there. We got to see him, Bassima, and Bassam (three of my best friends) one last time before Varlet #1 leaves for school this week! Nizar's mom was absolutely fascinated by Priya's panda phone case, and we took the Zahed family's leave just soon enough to save Pendeo from her clutches. :)

After sev…

Day 352: Why must we keep our wits about us?

We started this morning with chocolate pancakes and then finally embarked on something we've been meaning to do for a while . . . college shopping! Though the process is a bit stressful in itself, and emotionally taxing because of its home-leaving implications, I managed to purchase almost everything I will need with the help of two of the world's best shoppers -- Mama and Nani!

The family returned home just as my chauffeur Kenneson pulled up to escort me to a day of merrymaking at Fairfax Corner. What was supposed to be a populous valedictory pow-wow for Nizar ended up being just us four enjoying hours of Kenneson antics, semi-professional massages, painful harmonization, and exotically flavored frozen yogurt.

At dinner, Patrick, Nizar, Kenneson, and our waiter Tyler took especial pleasure in making an absolute fool of me, lobbing joke after joke as I, the "needy female," sat helplessly eating my "fried whatever." Kenneson banned cell phones during the me…

Day 351: You can place your bets, world.

I started the day with a grave mistake -- eating butter chicken for breakfast. Those ten minutes of scream-inducing euphoria were hardly worth the sluggish pace and sessile nature of the rest of my day. I attempted to counteract the unfailing lethargy which results from consumption of Punjabi food by swallowing down some coffee ice cream, thereby only adding to my foods-that-should-not-be-eaten-for-breakfast list and exacerbating the problem.

We left home before noon for Shenandoah National Park, with hot air ballooning dreams for the day. We soon learned, however, that due to impending thunderstorms, this mission would not be successful. We instead spent the day exploring the side of the park we've never seen before.

We had a lunch of fried chicken at one of the park's rest stops before piling back in the car and driving around some more. At a lookout point, we met a park ranger who showed us the coat of a lynx found in the park and suggested a trail for us to hike. We fou…

Day 350: "Don't summarize your year in a sentence."

I could write down my year in conversations. It's amazing to look back at the rhetoric I used at the start of this journey to convince others and myself that gap time would be a "good" idea, and now to reflect on the ways I've actually achieved the somewhat broad goals I'd laid out for myself, some overtly and some obliquely, and some in ways I don't know about yet.

I had a chance to look back (and forward) with James Perla over coffee this morning, as we shared our observations on returning home after any immersive experience (James just returned from 7 weeks spent speaking only Portuguese at the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy). Apart from our "language reflects life" discussions and the entire two years of our own lives we had to fill one another in on, we also enjoyed a very "productive" talk, with our complete futures now completely planned out:

Ratna will move to Brasil, find some trees, and save them.
James will move to Brasil…

Day 349: "The ocean is too big."

Today, we saw Annapolis from a new angle.

We rented a speedboat at Oak Grove Marina and set off!
I sat in the front, helping Papa avoid crab pots . . .

 . . . as Priya enjoyed some Titanic moments.

We navigated through the Chesapeake Bay and made our way up to our favorite town, taking our time to float up "Ego Alley," where sailors drift into an Annapolis inlet and show off their boats. We've always enjoyed being spectators at this point, but today was the first time we got to perform!

We turned back, with a small detour to admire the Bay Bridge.

Our friend the lighthouse led us back to the dock . . .

. . . where we arrived tired and happy.