Monday, August 4, 2008
So, it’s finally come to an end. All the thoughts running through my head make it hard to write this blog. I am currently in Chennai for 2 more days before I fly to Qatar and then to Pittsburgh. The last day at work and the next day when I had to leave were hard. But now that I’ve had time to reflect, I can describe my thoughts down here.
The last week was pretty hectic with each one of us wrapping things up. Saurabh and I had to do a lot of documenting and writing during that last week. Yeah, I had an hour of sleep before our last day. It was tiring but it was a good feeling – a feeling of accomplishment. I was exhausted but it felt great. First thing in the morning, we stopped at MSRI and walked to the ATM to get some money to donate to Mathru. The weather was beautiful and I loved the walk. I reminisced on the good times. It had been raining heavily for a week but luckily, there was no rain on our last day.
At Mathru, Ms. M, the school chairman, was ready with breakfast. Saurabh thought he’d see if he could eat more puris that the school could make. So he urged Ms. M to keep bringing more. So she gladly brought him a lot of puris but here’s the problem – even I got caught up in the food fest. Every time Saurabh got puris, I would get some too. I had been tactfully escaping getting a lot of food on my plate, during my previous visits, due to my slow eating pace. But that day, Ms. M was relentless. “Kaleem! You’re NOT escaping! Not Today!” she declared. So I ended up stuffing myself like a turkey and Saurabh finished something like 20 puris – what a champ! But Ms. M had taught us a lesson: eating at Mathru is like drinking from a water hose. Do NOT underestimate the Ms. M meals. All jokes aside, that was our last breakfast and one of many that we will undoubtedly miss.
Our last day at Mathru was spent wrapping up our field tests, teaching Mathru how to use our Braille images, and taking a lot of pictures. We had our last lunch with Ms. M. She’s a lot of fun to be around as she’s got all these amusing/interesting things to talk about. After lunch, we went to each class to bid goodbye. Kids kept asking “when are you coming back sir?” and it was very touching when the 7th standard class stood up and bid us a happy journey. I only got to know some of the 10th standard and 7th standard kids pretty well. But I’ve seen an amazing potential in the children here. After getting pictures taken, we had coffee/tea with the Mathru staff where Ms. M went around asking them how they liked us. The teachers had some nice things to tell us and it was a good bonding experience. Getting excellent grades at University – Dean’s List; Working at a company – $$$; Working at Mathru – smiles all around (priceless!). The whole Mathru staff came till our cab to bid us goodbye. It was really emotional and Ms. M shed a tear or two.
After getting refreshed at our guesthouse, I came back to MSRI as a farewell party was going to take place in our honor. The Malta interns decided to have a “Maltese Night” so that was really nice of them. We got to taste some great Maltese cuisine that night. There were about 30-40 people I think – most of them our close friends. I had a great time getting in all the pictures and interacting with everyone. Kentaro had some surprises lined up for us. He bought each one of us a book corresponding to our personality. So that was really nice and thoughtful of him. We then bid goodbye to everyone and that took a while because of all the hugs we had to give/get. Yeah, it was sad. But hopefully, I’ll get to see some of them people in the next year. I’m going to miss the learning experience here. Learning how to learn, bringing structure to abstract problems, going around your floor and learning about others’ projects, having interesting lunchtime discussions, all the networking, all the Halo parties, all the non-Halo parties, all the TEM and friends’ group outings, all the boxing lessons, a great boss, all the good times.
We just stayed up after returning home to see Aysha off. But somewhere in the middle I fell asleep (one hour of sleep the night before) and when I woke up she was gone. I then packed all my stuff and went out with Saurabh and Erin for my last lunch in Bangalore. Finally, I got onto the long train ride to Chennai where I am now.
The whole experience has been an amazing adventure. The last day of work was a fantastic climax as it summed it up for us. It was like a movie with a good ending – leaving you wanting for more. Experiences, like the time when one of the students was able to write the whole alphabet after we taught her using our Braille images, will remain etched in my mind forever. I’ve learned some great things that I shall apply in my daily life. There have been some challenges that I have learned to overcome. Each one of us had different interests and personalities and it was great to observe how we worked together to achieve a common goal.
Most importantly, I think I have learned how to smile. And that has a deeper meaning than just being able to flex the muscles on your face. I am greatly thankful for those who helped me along the way. I’m looking forward to the future and opportunities where I can exercise the things that I have learned. I will be flying to Qatar on the 7th and to Pittsburgh on the 13th. Before classes start, I hope to get some rest and meet up with friends and relatives. An awesome adventure has just come to an end but the seeds it has sown will grow forever.
Aysha, Erin and Saurabh – laa, cool beans and ymca.