I start Bangla classes tomorrow. I don’t know why exactly, but I’m nervous. I haven’t had formal education in 2 years, and I’m not sure if this class will get me to a point where I’ll be fluent enough for grad school. Then there goes that whole history Ph.D. (assuming I’ll still want to do it). That’s if I want to do S. Asian history, but I think I have different hopes, perhaps covering world English journalism history.
I’ve set up a meeting with the director of the Asiatic Society on Wednesday. I don’t know what exactly it is that I’ll be meeting about. That’s of course the way things work here. Their archival materials are not listed online. I just need to show up, ask questions, and poke around.
(Mithu keeps cooking food. More than we’ll ever be able to eat. She’s cooked the same Alu Dum dish for the last three weeks. We have a constant supply of leftovers and the supply far exceeds consumption.)
After we went to the FRRO today (a surprisingly painless process to retrieve our registration papers) Alec and I went to Blue Sky Cafe. It was exactly how I remembered it! A good, solid diner, filled entirely by বিদেশী (foreigners). There we met an American volunteer at the Mother Theresa house, fresh out of college, who’ll be living in Kolkata, Kalighat, for the next year. It’s nice to meet another American of our age, who’ll be living here long term, so we exchanged contact information.
Afterwards, I picked up my suit (looks good!), and Alec and I went to Nahoums. I for some sweet buns and baked goods, him for some type of chocolaty goody.
I haven’t had much time to reflect on my time here as of yet. Though matters such as: Will I learn enough Bangla for my career? Will I be able to get all the resources I need? Will I be able to finish my book? all provide me enough anxiety.
It’s not that stressful here. But I wish I could put myself back in Rush Rhees library, in the periodical reading room, the secret history grad room, the balcony overlooking the quad, the dark quiet old stacks and more. The resources of a good library are invaluable. It’s frustrating here that I can’t access all the books at once, can’t have all the databases, and if I’m missing materials, can’t interlibrary loan them. I hadn’t realized the value of a good library until now, when it really really matters. I wish I could put myself in a box without time so I could complete everything and not have to worry. But that’s not human life, is it?
I knew all of these issues coming in. It will be difficult now, but when I finish, I hope to look back and say: Fuck yeah! I learned Bangla. I wrote a book. (And maybe even created a genealogical website of editors and their presses). Then I think I can relax, but I don’t know when that might be.
I have been surprised by the infrequency I have felt moments of sadness or loneliness here. They come, but are fleeting. So, I am stopping myself to ask: Am I happy? I’m not perfectly happy in the way I was in college. I don’t have a large group of friends here (being new anywhere presents this challenge). I don’t have the community of study abroad. I don’t have a 10 minute commute to the library. I don’t have the resources I had before. Life is not as open or intellectually stimulating as college, an atmosphere I recognize I will likely never have again. But I do have great opportunities. I do like hanging out with Alec, Mike and the people I’ve met. I am working on a project I have spent two years off and on, which I don’t love, but do like. These opportunities are what I will make of them.
I am not living forever to do everything I want, but I do what I can to stay satisfied.