Season of Light, despite the dark

Season of Light, despite the dark
Quiet and Dark and Lit
Welcome!! Swagat, Dumela, Valkommen, Jee Aayan Noo, Tashreef, Bula, Swasdee, Bienvenido, Tashi Delek. Thanks for joining me.....

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Be Specific about the Weather Please

First Published on December 29, 2010.  I am republishing this since I snowed heavily today!!  And these young women will enjoy looking at their pictures from before. Both of the these young women have returned to their homes. They were my first students and helped me much in adjusting in the my first two years in Sweden.  

Two young ladies take a break during their walk upto the lake. The lake lies in its frozen glory behind them. A different color, each season. Reminds me of an old hindi song, 'Pani re Pani, tera rang kaise' (Water, takes on the color of what it reflects and whatever it blends with)

December 8, 2010 ( MINUS 22 degrees)

Be Specific About the Weather Please

From my window, all I can see is silver snow.

My radio, as always tuned to NPR ...apologies, my computer is what I meant. The last thing I heard was…’30 years ago today John Lennon was shot down....and where were you then?’

These stories make interesting reads. Where were you when Kennedy, Rabin, Rajiv Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi were assassinated?

Me, I am far, far away from such thoughts. All is frozen around us. And it seems there are no roads, allis ice and snow.pastedGraphic.pdf

I must admit, also very beautiful.

Yesterday I stood at the bus stop in my woolen Phiran. Phiran is commonly worn woolen garment in the northern Indian State of Kashmir and adjacent states in Pakistan. (I am sure a similar outfit is worn else place with a similar climate and is called a different name.) The garment is very much like the Kameez, the shirt that accompanies north Indian outfits such as Kurta Pyjama, Churidaar or Salwar Kameez. Usually a long shirt that comes to the knees, Phiran’s identifying characteristic is the ornate embroidery around the neck and cuffs. Florals are the most common motifs used.

I had had the courage to wear only because the day before yesterday was really warm... minus two.

So yesterday when it felt like someone was stabbing my cheek bones, and it was already dark at before 4 pm, I asked the pretty young girl standing at the bus stop, ‘What is the temperature you think?’

Despite PA, despite Suva I never got into checking the weather channel. I mean where is our freedom, dress up the way you feel like it, with or without layers.

The girl, who mustn’t be older than 16 years, nodded gently, "my mom said it was 14 this morning" but might be 20 now."

‘Aren’t you forgetting something?’, I asked her, ‘Say the word "minus"?’.

She nodded vigorously. And managed to muster a smile at my ODD question.

NPR states that they have ‘a snow warning´--lake effect in Pennsylvania.

What is a warning? We have had snow since October 20.

But I have to admit it is gorgeous. It so stunningly beautiful. Snow seems to be growing on the trees rather than falling on them…. The really tall ones look like huge men, made of web of snow, sliver of ice and moonlight. The short trees look like cotton trees, only taller. As if the leaves and flowers are all white hanging elegantly on the black base.

As I wish people a very merry Christmas and a very happy new year, I cannot help but think that, truly speaking this is the place to have a Christmas.

It seems like Santa will run through on his sleigh any time now...:))

Talking to the Teacher, Smiling with the Student

Image from Getty images.

For a long time now, I have a sinking feeling of not being successful.   I get defensive sometime and want to brag, or say my accomplishments, or talk about the difficulties that I have had.  But we are measured in the publications and grants.  That is performance!

The worst thing for a person is to know that one is capable, but not being able to perform and at some level just not giving any attention to it, since there is so much else, that is at the core level that remains unsettled.  

Well, about publications I knew, but ‘grants’ is a very European thing.  In the US, you were supposed to teach and develop some courses usually related to your research, and publish along side. In addition, summers are longer, and there is at least one week long break the middle of a semester and teaching is shorter, about by ten weeks.  At bigger universities you get a research assistant.  As I did in my first year of visiting professorship, during which I taught five new courses, from a minimum of 35 to a maximum of 125 students. Over one year, I supervised three research assistants.  During this year, I wrote, edited and re-wrote my dissertation.  But most importantly, adjusted into a new town, Bloomington, and lived without furniture or much support system. Over that year, I made three life long friends, one of whom I consider my mentor.   The other two, have remained in my life and we are connected at the heart level.

But, since that was my first year of teaching, it required much work from me.  I can write in one sentence 'I taught five new courses', but it actually was a tedious, disorienting and extremely frustrating time (Which my Head of the Department noted so kindly in his parting note.)  Out of the five courses, three of them I had no background in e.g. Women in Media.  One requires women's studies in that, and I had no background, either in women's studies or in cultural studies, although I would write about some in the latter area, a few years later.

There was one course in public communication campaigns and I used some knowledge from my masters in training and development on planning a campaign.   But all of a sudden, I was reading authors I had no knowledge of, watching films I had never heard about---(taught two courses related to media production, both of which used some knowledge that I had acquired in my MA level, but none with any relation to anything from PhD).

Along with all of the above, I was applying for new jobs.

And of course the perpetual question of who am I? Where do I belong, and where shall I stay and finally reside, never left me.  

But one thing that started before university teaching has remained with same. 

A connection with my students!

I had about four years of school teaching experience, not counting one year of student teaching experience.  In the first year of my teaching, (actually about 6 months), I created a bond with the students that lasts till this day.  Only twenty when I got hired, a few months before I finished my second degree in education, I was a child myself --but loved to addresse the 10-13 year olds who I taught math, as 'bachche.' (Child).  There needs to be a separate post about what happened when I left India and how my students reacted, it is a saga of it own.

But over quarter of a century later, my students are still in touch, I get birthday messages, they visit me when I am in India, my family knows them like family members.

What was it?  It was the fact that I listened to them.  They came running every morning, with simple stories like 'I got a new toy, my mom bought me a new book, I have started reading newspapers, I love cricket, I want to be a cricketer, no, I am going to be a doctor, Mam, my aunt had a baby so I need to take a day off'.  I listened and I created games.

One of the game was that if I entered the class and student had not opened their math books, I would lightly tap them on the head with my own copy of the book, and they would all try to duck and get the book out of their bag before I could hit them.  It then became a game as to who was 'ready' before my class started.

The other was discussing current affairs and general knowledge for about five minutes, even though we were a 'math class.'  They learnt and brought me more information.  We laughed and joked, but we always learnt things.  One of the parents came to me in a parent-teacher meeting and said, my child says that you never move forward until you are satisfied that all of the class has understood the math problem and can solve it with confidence.

'I try!' I had said, blushing.

Another student, who moved to the US, told me more than a decade ago now, 'Math was something I hated, until you taught us, and then it was my favourite subject'  (He is an engineer now in the US-married with kids).

That year on Diwali, I had to turn down, many a boxes of sweets that my students brought me.  I simply did not feel right about taking gifts.  My father later said, very wisely, 'You should have opened the boxes right there and shared with the entire class'.  Its something I have kept with me and have used it several times.

I also worked with another habit in the first year, which I dropped quite early on. I used to throw chalks at my students.  Especially, if they were talking, not paying attention or dozing in the class.  Amazingly, I was often on the mark.

*Kya Nishaana hai!' my students used to say.  'What an aim!!'

Its true, I hardly missed. Soon, as I moved to Botswana, that dropped, because I had no clue how to act and moreover, I taught a completely different subject.  Home Economics.

When I left, the students cried, just as much as I did.  I was afraid that time and distance would sever that beautiful bond that I had created with them.  But for some reason, a great amount of love has stayed.

In the US, I started teaching from the second semester onwards when I became an assistant to a production application and television studies professor. While not much stayed from that, I have two hand written notes in my autograph books.

One of them from Craig 'One of the best graduate students I got to work with'.  Then there was AJ (always joking--I think his real name was Cliff)--who always said, 'How much have you already done?'.  I was still 25, living in the third country on the third continent going towards the second year of my MSc. degree.

During PhD as a student I had little experience of teaching, but it started full force when I started at Indiana University.  (I did teach a class or two here and there, and then assisted in a documentary making class).

And it has continued since.

It was there, that many students said to me, 'Thankyou for a your personal way of teaching, Your friendly ways have been appreciated in an impersonal university, why are you leaving, can we do something to stop this (I smiled, because I was leaving because I had a tenure track position at another university--my alma mater).

Then there was a student named, C. Natali, who was a wonderful writer.  But not very good academic writer.  I told him, I loved his writing but he could not get an A because his writing was not reflective of the assignment, at least not in the tone and language. He refused to change.  I refused to budge.  He finally gave in, after I said, ok, 'write first part of your final, as if it is an academic writing' so I know that you are capable, and then may be I will concede.

He did.

And I did.

He wrote to me later on, 'I found your take on grades and work very refreshing' (paraphrased') (I still have many of these notes in my gratitude journal). 

And I remember with fondness, when one student found out that I was short listed for a small university in California, 'If you move there, may be we can share an apartment to save money'.  It was a young man, and I do not think he understood, how scandalous it would be for the likes of me.  But I smiled, because he probably meant it as a compliment.

It was also at IU, that I met Sarah, who was absolutely uninterested in the class on public communication campaigns.  She stopped coming to classes. I emailed and called her.  Finally made several changes to the way I was teaching and how I interacted with students.  On her final exam, at the end of the document she wrote, 'thanks for what you did for me during this class, it helped me a lot.'

Then there was Josh. That brilliant, round faced kid.  Who never attended classes and aced every exam.  On his final document he wrote, 'I see you have got it in you, continue to teach'.  I had to smile. His self-confidence coming through that sentence.

Not sure if I did it both semester, but at IU, at the end of (at least) one semester I made hand made books marks, for each student.  I had used quotes from a book on 'beginnings and endings of famous books' that a friend J. Frumpkin had given me.  That year, I also took candies to my classes a few times. Thanksgiving and Xmas for sure.

Once when a student, who was always late, walked into the class I said handing her the bag of candies, 'You are late, we just finished eating pizza'.  She thought I was serious, and the entire class laughed.

It was also there that I befriended at least for a short time, a student, who was a head and shoulder taller than I and used staring tactics to scare me.  Finally, I invited him to my office and asked him why he was doing that, 'you take things personally' he was defensive.

'Am I?'  and I related things back to him.  Considering how young I was, I am amazed at how calm I was.  The blue-eyed 6-footer, left with a smile and always jokingly called me 'My Prof.' from then on.

At Clarion, I had several students tell me, 'What I learn in your class I have used in other classes, how do you do it?' (one specific example was the way I told them, there are reasons for why things are done in a society, even if we do not think about them, once we get used to them. For example, red lights, are red or danger sign a red coloured sign because red has the highest wavelength and can be detected even on foggy days.). 

There was a mixed race student there, who told me repeatedly that her grandmother had forced her to go to college. She was absolutely uninterested in college.  I would sit her down and motivate her.  When I was leaving (which is another saga and needs another post)--she came and said, 'I will miss you, no one listened to me.'

Then there was A. Sibbal, who at the end of fall semester wished me, * A kick ass break'

What is a kick ass break, A?  I asked.  I got something like 'Cool, & fun.'

There was also D, who had stopped coming to classes and did not turn in his final.  I, like a concerned teacher that I was, called his home.

You do not call their parents' said Nancy, the every so caring administrative assistant, who had known me from my student days.

'I was mortified' and promised to not ever care that much.

A few days later, as I was riding my bike home, I saw D, in a car merrily enjoying with his friends.  He waved, I waved back.

'Are you ok?' I yelled.

'Yup, I am ok, are YOU OK?  he chuckled. 

Also, it was that year that a student wrote in evaluations, 'You changed the way I look at images.'  I was teaching a brand new course that I had developed. And since the labs were not in place, I asked them to use photoshop and a combination of still photographs, and sound to create a feeling of motion and use it for story telling.  My students amazed me with their work.  Some beautifully told stories in just five shots--a combination of long medium shots and close ups.

Also, another student wrote, ' I love it how you worry if one student is missing from the class.'

My return to Penn State was good for the heart because I loved state college, but it was painful for the reasons I had to move.  Which again will be detailed later.

But from the very beginning, although like always, I was teaching new courses, I formed a bond with the students.

Presently, I have about five students who I am sort of in touch with.  Two boys, three girls. One, who is an Indian-American, has almost become like a family, as we have been in touch for the last fifteen years, and spoke about 6 weeks ago on the phone.

But it was at Penn State that Brian and another student came up to me and said, 'Its a take your professor to lunch day, may we take you?'  I was so touched, but that was a busy week and I could not.  It was also here at Penn State that two students got into a huge fight in the middle of class, over some group work.  Abuses of the worst kind were hurled at each other, and I, only one year away from graduation, still not quite mature, stood my stance, did not get angry but dismissed the class.  Letting the arguing students stay in the class. I do not remember how I sorted it out, but I got an email from one of the students, 7J.

'I apologise for the way I behaved, he said, 'More than anything, it was a disrespect towards you and I deeply apologise for that.'

'I can forgive J, but many times the world is not forgiving,' I wrote back, 'just remember that as you step outside of college.'

It was also at Penn State that I emailed R, a student in Comm 413 or 411 class when he missed a few classes.  He told me that he was not making enough money to pay rent and did not want to bother his parents, who were first generation immigrants from the Philippines. I asked him if I could contribute some towards his rent.  He politely declined, but paid me a compliment by leaving me a note before he graduated from the university.

Also, it was at PSU that one student Th, left me a note saying, 'gladly I took your class (International Mass Communication) so that I can finally say that I learnt something at Penn State.

And it was PSU that I arranged trips to the UN headquarters about 4 times in the four years that I was there.  The trip cost 50 USD, and some of the students could not pay, and I did not mind helping them out, just so they could have an experience. 

The summer before I graduated, my summer classes made special signs for me, thanking me and wishing me well with my PhD.  That summer and the following summer, I cooked for my students. First year it was just about 8 students, some of the food for catered. A year later, it was about 13 students ---and I cooked for two days.  Sometimes I look back and wonder.  Should those times have been spent on publications and research?  What was I doing?  It took much effort and planning, and that is when I never even though about money.  Those were early years of working and I felt rich compared to my student days when paying for food and rent was difficult, and there seemed no end to my cheques bouncing. 

I remember fondly telling my students, I will cook and provide no alcohol, and will card you guys, well, no, actually, alcohol is not allowed.  They had all smiled. But on the day of the party, a student walked up to the kitchen side of my one bedroom apartment and said, 'Excuse me, I need to get a beer, from your fridge'

'What A?!!!???  When in the world did beer enter my fridge? I did not create a scene, and till this day the thought scares me, for I am sure, some of them were not 21 yet.

During those times, I would apply for other jobs, but knew not anymore, who I was, or where I belonged. I belonged to the students and a classroom, wherever that was.  A realization that came to me later, but subconsciously has saved me over the years. 

Had it not been for teaching, I would have gone crazy a long time ago.  Teaching allowed me human connection that was missing in worlds were publications and conferences and high paying jobs were a marker of our value.  Teaching allowed me to remain human, during the times I had insomnia and used NyQuil PM to go to sleep, during the years I gained weight due to a strange lifestyle, of teaching new courses every year while applying for jobs and finishing my PhD--which meant I was awake and asleep at the oddest hours of the day.  (sometimes teaching 8 am classes, and 3 pm classes on the same day, which meant one proper meal, much snacking and chocolates other times).

So, it hurt when I shared that I was never included in any of the activities, never a part of anything at Penn State while teaching, and was told that 'It was because I was a student'. 

A student? I taught all 400 level courses, teaching 3 classes each semester, 50-60 students each, and no graduate assistant, while finishing my PhD and looking for new jobs.

It hurt even more when I moved and not a single person asked me, *Would you like any help?'  I was moving to not another town, or even a neighbouring country, I was moving to another continent with a time difference of nearly 15 hrs, and I did it all by myself.

I was short listed at one small university in Michigan and one in Maryland (while only a year or so ago, it was much better universities were looking at, my value had dropped with 'only teaching' and no publications, another thing that I realized later and without any guidance from anyone, I kept falling down in a bottomless pit of developing human relations, without any anchor, that some how seemed to have less and less value in academia.

So, when the choice was between a small town in Maryland and Michigan, and Fiji (had applied to Swtizerland and India both of which were not working out)--I chose Fiji.  While I do not regret leaving the US--- Fiji was a strange blessing.

I chose it for being the opposite of Pennsylvania and providing me with an insight into another culture.  Fiji's warmth though good brought other issues, many health problems to a person so used to Pennsylvania's cold, several infections and mild form of dengue fever the first year I was there.  But what sustained me was once again, my love for students.  I took them under my wing.  But like in no other place. I felt a sense of camaraderie, since many were Indians and all were from 'developed countries' which meant that may be, may be we shared sensibilities.

For the next two years, I would cook for my students, friends, colleagues, neighbors, not thinking that I was 'spending time and energy' where I could develop a career. I guess, human relations always meant so much to me, that I kept pouring out like water from a broken hose, that is so happy to spill, and gushes out, but does not realize that it may not be welcome by all the plants and definitely not in that intensity by the gardener.

While sometime was beautiful and great Fiji turned out to be one of the most painful experiences with students.  They were all fine until I was giving, but I was not allowed to correct or tell them off.  I mean, the giving was any regular giving, other than cooking meals, celebrating their birthdays, I was actually thinking of them on my vacations, making list of who to bring gifts, several times becoming close to their families, taking responsibility to be there for them.

And many times writing long emails and letters to explain a few things that had gone wrong.  Infact, when teaching MA classes, I even had some issues with two somewhat 'celebrities' of the country, who could not understand that I would pose 'deadlines' on projects.

When I had to leave the country, I did not know what was I crying over.  Although Fiji was in my heart, I was also crying at a sense of loss, an enormous loss of time and trust.  I had invested in people who had thought nothing of dropping me from their lives. 

But I will write a separate post about two of my students from the first year in Fiji, who I taught for barely 2 months, who still keep in touch.  One if now in Australia and another one was my roommate for a short period of time, after I had a burglary at my house and I had to move.  For the second time in my life fear of living alone came to me (first time was when I moved to Africa and realized that my school did not have electricity and had live without electricity for a year).  Those two students have kept a sense of smile on my face with silly emails and exchanges that are quite endearing.  I want to dedicate a post to them so will not write here.

Today, I have no fear or pain about those memories. I completely understand that those things are more telling of how the students saw life than who I am.  Part of the credit goes to my students in Sweden.  They adopted me and brought me back to life.

For the last two years, I have slowed down, pulled myself back and even stepping away from long conversations with my students.  But, it is here in Sweden ---students have given me standing ovation, over and over and over again.

This when, I have taught nearly 14 new courses over the 7 years that I have been here.  This semester, I have taught 5 new courses, --four of which are co-taught meaning I am not the only teacher and not the course coordinator, but still its been quite confusing, for I do not always understand what is expected and am forever floundering.  But I perform.

So, it hurts when none of this is looked at (I have had one grant for 20%, which I have not delivered on. Although I have written over 10 papers since the grant.  But --on that paper the suggestions given were so many that it needed to be overhauled.  I now think I should trust myself more, but in that process and many other things, I have not been able to work on that. And yet, I have not stopped teaching new courses. While non delivery on one paper should be considered, the fact that I have had new courses and delivered on some other papers and have contributed so much should be considered as well). 

And then I am surprised at a standing ovation at the end of the class.  There are students who come up and say, 'thanks for these inspiring lectures, I have never had a teacher like you who has actually taught us the procedure research' (I am teaching two classes on research methods, one at MA level and another at BA level).

In my first years a few of my MA students simply adopted me.  They did for me, which no other student did.They helped me unpack, they helped me organize my house, they showed me grocery shopping places, they brought me food when they realised I was not eating well, when I was sick they made sure I had medicine, when I had to travel, they helped me book seats on train, get me cabs, when I travelled they looked up places to stay for me.' and even today, about five to six of my students from an 8 student class, the first year ....are in regular touch with me. I attended one wedding in the summer this year.


Three things happened.  One, this semester I got a standing ovations several times, second, about three weeks ago I had a long conversation with boys in my class, after the class.  They stayed after the class for an hour to 'simply talk life'.  And third, I was just rejected for an internal grant, my fourth time applying. I got it once, only because it was a co-application, so in a sense I think someone else was the reason I got it.¨

So, three weeks ago, after a research class, boys and I stood talking about everything from feminism to dating to study to human relationships.

One thing I remember one of the boys saying is that 'in this age of tinder, girls have no patience about knowing us' (although I would say that girls could complain about the same)---I felt the boy's pain.  They also talked about the need for family and human relationships, which they think Sweden and in general developed countries lack.  They were also very clear about the fact that it is politically incorrect to talk about inherent differences between men and women and that at least in their country the system is geared towards women.  That if women dominate a profession or an organization it is not a suspect but if men do, then it is a suspect and usually considered a result of favoritism or male dominance --hegemony and stuff.

With regards to my own research and focus on research---people could easily say 'so, I mean if you are so touchy feely, go find a job that rewards you for that.  In academia you are in a business of publications and teaching is just the base job.  I have been blamed 'how come you write so many conference papers (many of which are full length papers)--why don't you publish.'

Well, I do, but its slow for several reasons.  Not only my research and teaching but also my previous coursework and my teaching and my research have never been connected. My dissertation was not connected to my course work, my teaching was not connected to my dissertation or courser work and over 35 courses that I have taught in five universities on three different countries and continents have hardly anything in common with what I studied.  So, in an essence, I have taught myself at every step.  I taught journalism in Fiji, without a single class in journalism, I taught mathematics at school in my first job, without a math degree, its just that I was great at Math, and continued to coach cousins and friends for years --with just high school math (calculus and trigonometry).  Even contacting universities at the US and taking GREs before I got into the US meant walking a mile to the bus stop, then four hours of drive to the city in Botswana that allowed me some 'urban privileges'.

My base education was in sciences and part sciences, and an MSc. in training and development. I had never heard of a single media theory until PhD, and never truly written a research paper, as opposed to a report oriented paper that we wrote in MSc.  But, without guidance, I have simply mentored and raised myself.

I am still behind, still an assistant professor, who is learning the language of the country I spend about 4-5 hrs a week on learning Swedish.  In nearly 17 years of college teaching, I have still not stopped teaching new courses (teaching two new ones next semester) have had no sabbatical (there is no concept of that in Sweden)--and one short sick leave.

I am quite disconnected from myself.  Despite the best of my intentions, it is hard to maintain a routine.  Shall I renew my driving licenses for grocery shopping is hard, shall I work towards publications, shall I apply for a job somewhere? Shall I take a year off? Shall I return home? Do I have a home? Will I ever have a community?

These issues still haunt me.  In the middle of this, I have over 40 conferences papers, one key note talk, one edited journal, a few newspaper articles, three journal articles and one coming out soon, two other waiting to be sent out, four book reviews, three book chapters, two peer reviewed articles in a professional magazine, one encyclopedia entry, and have seen undergraduate program change three times since my arrival in Sweden, and MA programmme is under its third change.  Have been involved with development and implementation of new courses, and oh, last year got one paper as best paper accepted at a leading conference. Oh, have supervised several MA and BA essays, which had nothing to do with any of the research areas that I work in.  Oh and yes, two burglaries, one in Fiji and one in Sweden, let me afraid, fearful of the world and unconfident about myself.

Yet, I felt ashamed and hated myself after I was rejected. 

I will continue to work--there is no option.  But I wondered what are we as teachers and colleagues? 

Is teaching, being there for the student, and guiding him/her so 'low and unacknowledged a job?

From what my students tell me, it is the most important job.

Yet the most ignored the most underrated.  I wish I were coached the way I coach my students. 

With regards to my MA students and even several BA students, I have worked hard with them so they would feel motivated to finish.  They come back and thank me, but shall I stop that because it costs me time and emotional energy?  Especially now that I realize that I have much to say research wise.  I have so much work and so many ideas that need be worked on, yet, yet, why I do continue to spend extra time on students.  

May be I see myself in them, gasping for breath, confused, hoping for a straw to appear so they can hold it and hope to be pulled out of the whirlpool of the craziness that is academia and even life in general.  Especially in our field, that does not guarantee jobs and equips students only with the name of theories and scholars. Most of those who graduate, and I would say even up to the end of Masters, can actually NOT WRITE.  So, despite a degree in communication they are not equipped to write.

In that equipping them with a few tools of how to survive in this world is nothing short of a big 'needed favor' to them. I often spend time with students to ask them about thinking of creating their own jobs rather than always looking for jobs.  'Become creators of jobs' and the listen intently.

My experience tells me that most of them got to the university accidentally and actually do not belong there. Vocational training should be a part of university training, even though many will disagree.  Training students in liberal arts, may expand the mind, but it does not develop a sense of work ethic or a respect for hard work that we all benefit from.  (That needs explaining a bit more, in another post).

But, I had to pen this down, because for the last week, I have been feeling really down.  Even though I told myself to rise above this.  I could not stop disliking myself.  I never look at myself in the mirror, (oh yes I take selfies, but that has happened for longer than the word has existed)--but have been avoiding looking at myself.

Writing this brings a sense of peace, although not reconciliation with myself.  I know this, teaching has been my savior, it has helped me feel like I have contributed to this world.  Nothing I publish as an academic will evoke what I could evoke by engaging my students in a human dialogue.  I am aware that it is neither respected not acknowledged (even though students tell me how much they appreciate it.  A friend had asked why I talk about morality to my students.  And when I shared that with my students, they said, 'You should, no one talks to us about it.  May be because I come from Guru (teacher)- Shishya (disciple) culture that I realize the significance of this relationship.  May be because I am forever trying to belong, may be it is a selfish thing to do.

I know I have to be more focused on research, despite this crazy teaching schedule, but this connection of listening to students and caring for them, which makes me feel human, allows me to be myself, is going to continue, despite my attempts at restricting it, simply because it is an expression of who I am.  It resonates with my deeper core.

And in helping them, I realize, in some ways, I provide a lean log to myself to hold on to, despite the turbulent waters of life.