Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Everything good must come to an end!!! No, wait, that’s too sad a statement. Let me rephrase it. Everything good should end to make room for something better. So, after an amazing semester, it’s time for some of us to say goodbye. After a whole semester (or more in some cases) of togetherness, we are not going to live under one roof again. What makes this bonding so special? It is not only the fact that we are living a majority of our limited stay in ISH together, but also the sharing of experiences. Experiences of food, music, conversations – joyful or painful.
I think our ISH experience would not be half as good without our amazing food. The wide variety of cuisine breaks the monotony of a dinner and each night gives us a celebration of tastes. I am sorry late dinner people – but I am sure you will agree too. I take pride in the fact that our food is not typical messy food. In fact, it comes from one of the finest French catering companies in the world (No, I am not plugging in their advertisement, but I am Indian, and I take my food very seriously. My body takes it too – but that’s clearly for another post). I once heard that our head Chef Vincent fought with his superiors to alter our dinner menu. If it was not for him, we would be still having the same menu every day, similar to a school cafeteria. He promised his bosses that he will fit different cuisines in the menu within the budget they specified. Thats how we have Mexican Thursdays, Steak tuesdays, Italian Wednesdays, those amazing tender Lambs on Sunday, and if “I” wish hard enough – Indian Butterchicken masala sometimes.
Don’t even get me started on those desserts! Tiramisu, Canolis, Danish pies, chocolate cakes, carrot cakes, banana puddings…Slurp!! When Hurricane Sandy hit few years back, Hassent (our fabulous lady chef) volunteered to stay over for several days so that we didn’t go hungry. She was not required to, out of the grace of her heart. Her job is not as easy as it looks. Hassent has to wake up at 3.30 am everyday!!! Try putting up a happy face after that. She puts a great breakfast in our plates (those quiches, blueberry pancakes and french toast are to die for, not to mention her awesome Omelets from fresh eggs).
These people know each one of us – they silently observe us and even know our food patterns. In a mystical way, they can even tell if we are sad or happy. They don’t seem to care a lot, but the truth is they do. I have stayed in ISH for about 1.5 years, and not one day has gone by since any of us has gotten sick from the food. This is done by ensuring strictest hygiene. So, next time they ask us not to bring a used plate inside, its probably for our best. If they say “no, we cant pack a special dinner for just you just this once”, it is because they want to be fair to the remaining 97 of us. Let us be grateful to these amazing people. I feel sorry for those residents who complain to chefs about a policy change on using paper plates or so. One thing I learned in my Organizational Communication class is that if you need to change policies don’t talk to employees, but to the policy makers. There is no point complaining to kitchen staff about it.
You walk home from a stressful day of work and soothing music welcomes you. You look up and you realize it’s one of our ISH maestros doing their magic in the piano room. We stand outside ISH door gazing at the window above. Soon we are joined by other random passersbyers who stop to wonder whats happening upstairs. Sometimes, we proudly brag to them that this is a usual thing in this place. The magic of music takes over.
After dinner, you join the piano room, which by now has more music enthusiasts in it. In the spur of a moment, a band evolves and we see people from five different countries come together to sing What a wonderful world (in five different accents). But, music has no language and what evolves is pure celebration in the middle of the week.
I have a confession to make about that music room. I am sure many people in the house have that confession about the piano hall (Ok, its probably not what you are thinking). My best sleep in the duration of my stay in this house has happened in that hall. I went there one summer afternoon to read. One of my dear friends was playing the piano. As her fingers brought out the best music I slowly escaped into this calm place of solitude filled with peaceful dreams. I think the walls of the great hall have ears. They absorb this amazing music and give out radiations of peace to its visitors in return.
For me, this is the best part. If food and music are the icing on the cake, the real deal comes when we sit around chatting. All sorts of topics are included – political, religion, life, childhood, youth, sometimes past experiences – love, hatred, traumas… I have found that ISH residents find it easier to connect to absolute strangers than their own family or people from their countries. It’s probably because strangers judge you less. They can give you a third party perspective. Strangely enough there is more kindness in ISH friendships than you would generally expect. After sharing something like that, your friendships grow into a heart to heart bond. We also know each other better. We know why this particular girl is resentful to men – her dad abandoned her when she was a child. Why this guy is a hardcore cynic about relationships – the girl he loved so much, mercilessly broke his heart. Another guy hates God. It would seem that God was not there when he needed him the most. This girl publicly despises marriages. She has not seen her parents happy together one day of her life. One girl is always craving for male attention. Her dad wanted a boy and all her life she tried to live up to his expectations, but in vain. Now she is secretly craving for that approval from others. We know why this guy is always attacking people verbally. Not because he is arrogant as he comes across, but he has gone through some unimaginable things in his childhood. His way of talking is only his defense mechanisms to avoid any further attacks – before someone attacks him (or he fears so) he attacks them. We know why this guy is socially awkward – he was bullied in his childhood and spent so much time in his cocoon that he is now used to that way only. A social setting scares the bejesus out of him. But, we are empathetic to each other. We care for each other in a very special way. Because in the limited stay we are here for, we are all we have got. No room for judgments. Only room for kindness, love and affection. And sometimes, it liberates each one of us from our past baggage.
We know that its going to be OK. We know that sometimes, kindness and love can still come from most unexpected places. It fills us with hope for future. A topic about conversations is incomplete without the mention of “sharing human experiences in ISH” (some people mistake it for gossip). I dare not contaminate this with a word like that. As long as it doesn’t malice someone’s honor and reputation, I think, this becomes an amazing bonding experience. We know what that person is happy about. It’s about seeing someone chasing a dream and getting it. More people deserve to know about it. We know this person likes this other person and that person likes this other person. We have a relationship food chain going on in ISH. We know this person dated a celebrity once. Next time you see that person, you suddenly have an elevated respect (?). It becomes an internal branding, where everyone looks good. Everyone has a story and each one is the hero of their story or will be by the time the story is circulated within the house. So, to all my dear friends who are biding good bye. We will miss you. Each one of you with your unique personality added to the ISH experience. It is not the end of something beautiful, but the beginning of something more beautiful for you. ISH experience has enriched your psyche. You have amazing friends from all over the world now. Some of them know some of your deepest secrets, but they are OK with it. You are ready for the real world – well almost. Be happy about it. You have all those memories with you. Some of them will last a long time. When you reach your home and start unpacking and settling back, you will wonder “Did ISH really happen or was it just a beautiful dream?” Season’s greetings to all of you!! A great year awaits us!!