I was rummaging through my wardrobe shelves, looking for a charger for my phone, when I found a bunch of old photo albums. I randomly opened one of them, and I smiled as the first photo stared back at me.
There I was. Back in 2002, teaching English in an international school in Bangalore with a good friend. It was my first ‘real’ job, although I had briefly taken up part-time jobs for Internet portals before that. I looked at the photo again, and although the memories have faded now, the smiles haven’t.
There we were, accessing Hotmail on the school’s computers. We didn’t have laptops, and no one really knew what a smartphone was.
Cell phone access was patchy, and I remember having to go to the school cricket ground to make and receive calls.
But as I stared at the photo and the other photos, all of which were taken from an old Kodak camera, I could only feel kindness and gratitude for those memories. Not all of those memories were good. That semester I spent in Jain International was a semester filled with all the ragged tunes of life. Joy. Moments. Friendship. Heartbreak. Anger. Irritation. Grief.
I was a teacher who learned lessons for life. I lost a dog I loved during this time and couldn’t make that journey back to see her one last time. I learned about abuse for the first time after becoming friends with a woman hiding from her husband. He had promised to kill her if he found her again.
The romantic contours of life I had held until then now became vividly colored with the greys of fear.
I met a student who would go on to become someone very precious in my life. I slapped a boy who got on my nerves, the first time I had ever physically harmed anyone. I didn’t know how to teach English or anything at all.
As the “Dorm Mistress,” I sat with girls who were aching for boyfriends. I sat with girls who wouldn’t eat, shamed by the bodies they didn’t think they owned. I sat with girls who were cutting themselves.
I edited a magazine for the first time, not knowing what to edit. I fumbled with saris and waited for the one day I was allowed to wear jeans.
I was lost. I was found. I was nothing. I was everything.
Yet, when I saw these photos, I didn’t want to take any of those memories away. I would have liked to be a better teacher, kinder, and more patient. I wish I had been braver. I wish I had spoken in wiser hues to all the students. I wish I hadn’t left as early as I did.
But all I could come back to in the end was still this:
Our lives are rich.
Rich with people, memories, emotions.
The friend I was with in this photo, I haven’t seen in almost 14 years.
We occasionally chat on WhatsApp. We don’t know if we will ever meet each other again.
Yet, I want to tell her thank you. I want to say I am grateful for the memories we made. I am thankful she is a part of my life.
Our photo albums brim with memories. They also should brim with gratitude.
When you have time, please think of an old friend who gave you memories to remember your life by. Send them a note or a word. Wish them well. Thank them. And let me know how that went. Would you do that?