That’s a pretty simple title for this post. Sometimes you run out of words, and then you just feel that who needs words anyway?
It’s been almost three months since I first arrived here. It’s been an emotional ride most of the time. I came here looking to regain my faith in people, and China helped me understand and appreciate the differences among people, and yet, at the same time, the irritating oneness that makes us human. Well, this life has a funny of teaching a jaded mind some new tricks.
And this jaded mind definitely needed this slap/cold Chinese. The other day, while having dinner with Dawei in a small little Italian restaurant, he said that he keeps forgetting that we are on a career break. And what a break it has been. Somehow, when I decided to come here and learn the toughest language in the whole world, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. The schedule seemed inviting – classes for just 3 hours every day and the rest of the day for you to enjoy! Ha! Enjoy! Eat my hanzi! Before I knew it, I was Chin-dipped in characters. I was trying to read them, trying to recall, and trying to speak, trying to listen – trying to do everything that I had forgotten to do in the past few years, pretending that I have the most important job in the most important company in the most important corner of the most important road of the ….well….
Amidst all the Chinese learning, there was one annoying little elf that kept squeaking in my ear. Called Doubt. Sometimes masquerading as Frustration. I think he is kind of schizophrenic. And it makes me catatonic. So last week, I was running ragged over all these characters. Learning at least 100 new characters a week? Writing them? Recognizing them? Speaking? Ah, toosh, what was that tone? Oh, sorry! You don’t understand me? Which $#$#$ing tone should I say it in! In the middle of this, one tiny tooth situated at an astrologically significant vaastu zone, decides that it is a wee bit homesick. No, not homesick as in pining for India, but homesick as in pining for attention. It has my attention indeed. Try saying Yáchǐ in the correct tone – rising and high – and then try and stop your damn tongue from mating with all the interesting bacteria in the vaastu tooth. It’s not funny. It was agonizingly painful. And then my mind was running a million circles – did I have to do this?
Taking a career break sounds fun. It’s fashionable. But it’s just excruciatingly tight on the wallet. I have suddenly had to skid to a halt, and glance nervously at my finances. Unexpected expenses like paying for my Dad’s cataract surgery suddenly makes your budget go awry. I hated being in a situation where every meal I am counting the pennies and the nickels. I could have just easily sat at home, read every book I could for 4 months. I wasn’t sure why I was tormenting myself like this. Worrying over money, worrying over characters, worrying over the human characters. Aich! Isn’t this what I came to escape from? This makes it seem like I rant about everything. If I am working I rant, if I am not not working, I rant. But really, it’s more a reality-check post. Learning Chinese is not easy, and learning it at this frantic pace is not making it easier. We have finished 28 chapters already, and we are now on to the 3rd book, which is the Elementary Level. So in around 2 months, they have jumped from Lower Elementary to Elementary. And guess what? A 2-year old baby can still speak better Chinese than me. Disheartening, isn’t it? Sigh.
And there is this other small thing. I am the sort of person who must be the best at whatever I do. If not, it’s not worth doing at all. It’s a ridiculous attitude, but one which has also helped me set targets that I normally wouldn’t. So, if there is a class test, I must be the first. If I submit a short story to a newspaper, I must get the first prize. Second won’t do. If I run, I must run the fastest. It doesn’t mean that if I write, I want only the Nobel Prize. No. It means that if there are 3 people writing on the street, then I must be the best among the 3. Put all these factors together and you have the perfect recipe for a disastrous week. That’s what it was. But these are necessary troughs, isn’t it? The pits and furrows. The ditches and then the long, weary climb out, reeking of the green algae of slime and deserted thoughts.