It’s been almost 6 months since I left India. I came to China thinking that learning a new language would revive a ragged mind. I thought that going back to university would help me meet people from different cultures, and that interaction would broaden my own understanding and perspective of the world.
What I thought would happen certainly did happen. But then life has a little way of showing just how small your thoughts can be. What I never thought was that I would be struggling to fight back tears in bidding goodby e to Jorg or Dawei. I never thought that the strangest, yet most intimate friendships could be formed with people in such a short span of time. I learned a language – well, a little part of it – but I also learned that there are loads of really good people out there. People whose kindness made me enlarge my constricted little heart. How can I forget Jorg, on the brink of tears, gifting me a silver bracelet? How many times he and I fought during the trip! Yet, a good fight, I believe, always makes friends and friendships closer. Unless you are so stupid that you run away at the first sign of a fight. Jorg wasn’t like that, and neither was I. I cannot forget the in-depth conversation we had about life and people, while performing a Tibetan kora in the beautiful town of Xiahe, against the setting sun. Just he and me, a number of monks, and a lot of prayer wheels. Or David…shuffling his feet in that nervous way of his, and hugging us again and again, while struggling to hold back his tears? How many little errands I asked of him during the last month! And how he never grumbled or hesitated to do them! There was this time when I left behind my favorite belt in my room, and since I was already on the train to Xinjiang, I had to ask David to obtain the key to my dorm and retrieve it. And he does. “Meng Xiao, there is a belt, a very pretty scarf, and lots of underwear. Do you want me to get that too?” he asks me on the phone. The cutest! I didn’t, of course, ask him to collect the underwear (that sadly, was lost for ever), but I ask him to take out a pair of little red shorts that I had stuffed into my suitcase (left for safekeeping in his room, of course!), while still wringing wet, and dry it. Of course, he does it. The sweetest, shyest and such a beautiful person. Or how can I forget Roya, someone who we met just a month before we leave, making biryani and getting it all the way to the dorm for us to have? Hu Laoshi, who appeared from nowhere, to treat us to ice-cream on the last day? Or even Nie Ya Lan, from the Chinese restaurant we used to frequent, refusing to accept payment the last time we went there? Or Julie and Royce, who threw open the doors to their home for us to stay? Or Xiang Jin, my one-on-one tutor, who has already kept her promise to teach us online?
I went to China a very small person, but I think had to come back bigger because I have to make space for all these people. And really, that’s how you become bigger, isn’t it?