Monday, May 17, 2010

the sorrows of a wanderlust

It was one of those moments where time freezes and allows you to unabashedly take in the world.

“Miss? What will we do when you’re gone? Who will make English fun for us? Please don’t go.” She asked me these questions with tears swelling in her pleading eyes, their cinnamon color in vivid contrast against the pallor of her skin.

Her words soaked into my pores and solidified themselves—forming a grip on my heart. I took a second to breathe and watched all the students that surrounded me. My students. While I was busy teaching my students and roaming the maze that is Medan, I realized I had unwittingly given parts of myself away. These were secret parts, and no one else knew about their existence besides their keepers and me. At that moment, I felt as if I was dispersed across the whole world. I could see various pieces of me floating in the hymns of the Bostwana delta, resting in the nooks of the Jammie Steps in Cape Town, lounging languidly on Bali’s shoreline, hustling in Mumbai’s markets…and now they would be here too...bouncing in the walls of classrooms and speeding through the bells and honks of Medan. The problem with giving parts of yourself to people and places is that giving requires love. And the problem with falling in love is the inevitable good bye. Whether you are together for ten days, nine months, or fifty years—goodbyes are inescapable and so is their blinding pain.

I have learned a lot in Indonesia.

Life here has taught me inextinguishable patience. I’ve been slapped by the wind and tossed in the rains. When Medan shuts down due to a downpour, I have to pause too. Crouching under a roof, I can’t help but smile at the children that flood the streets as quickly as the water.

Where prayer has dominion, I was taught the benefits of religious assiduity and shown a glimpse of another way of being. Muslims have to pray five times a day. They stop whatever they are doing, wash themselves, and take five minutes to appreciate their life and say thanks to Allah. Taking twenty-five minutes out of everyday to appreciate the gifts of our world doesn’t seem like too much to me. The commitment to a higher power in this country is a beautiful thing. I have visited several mosques and have had open discussions on how the world should be according to the faith of Islam. Whenever I am in the midst of whatever I am doing and hear the azan (call to prayer)—I instantly feel a part of something Greater.

We’ve been together for over eight months and now the breakup is imminent. Ominous clouds grey the horizon and the end looms near. Her uncouth behavior contradicts the beauty of her azure pools, of her flawless peaks and valleys. Despite her many contradictions, I’m still smitten with Indonesia and her people.

And despite all that I have learned, I have not yet learned how to say goodbye.


  1. these simple but very profound words bring same tears i have all the time for my beautiful being who has taken a form of my daughter.. i know as Vidhi... you are an beautiful soul.. you know how o express your thoughts, feelings, emotions & love..keep doing what you are doing.. & there never be an end & there never be a good bye.. because you are omni present.. what is impossible for an unlimited being?..your loving manifestation called your dad

  2. Vidhi, this is absolutely beautiful!
    You've put into words my current feelings so much better than I've yet been able to.
    I think, in the end, giving parts of yourself away along the way makes you worth more and somehow more...whole.
    Hang in there!


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