The Hawa Mahal
The Hawa Mahal.

This is the third essay in the yearly review series. You can read last year’s essay here. You can read 2021’s essay here.

If you know me, you’d know that I’m generally optimistic and hopeful – about the world, life, and its outcomes. But, on some days, I think I might just be naive; on other days, it feels gut-wrenching seeing whatever is happening around me. When sleep does not come, I do what most people my age apparently do – listen to great music and scroll through Instagram and Twitter, letting the algorithms take over till it hits you that it’s probably a good idea to drop the phone and write something. I’m at that juncture. Writing feels therapeutic because it helps me untangle the complex web of thoughts that goes on in my mind.

Why write a reflection of the past year now, towards the end of February? Good question. I don’t really have a concrete answer. Call it tradition or procrastination. Truthfully, I’ve been dealing with so many things lately that I found it hard to focus my energy on writing essays. Listening to excellent music such as Morni Banke and Saat Samundar Paar gave me some clarity. That is, most of my life’s energy and stability so far came from writing (essays, journal entries, random scribbles) – being aware of what is happening in my life and how it is progressing in the grand scheme of things. So, instead of being so hard on myself and waiting another year to write a yearly reflection, I will take it easy. I decided to reflect on the past year tonight.

Let’s start. These came to me while dancing to Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu around the house; my flatmates are away for the weekend. Here are the most significant happenings of 2023 in no particular order.

I became an uncle to an adorable niece. I’m sure her parents were way more excited than I was, but I was so happy when my cousin informed me that he had become a father. I hope she liked the dinosaur I got for her.

I signed my first-ever housing contract. Finding a decent place to live in Kolkata proved to be quite the challenge. Add to that the fact that I’m unmarried. Having lived in hostels for several years, this was new. For whatever reason, entire “societies” would not let bachelors rent a place to live. Fortunately, the current landlord turned out to be one of the sweetest people I’ve interacted with. Given our educational backgrounds, he probably thought he could take a chance on us (I stay with two other flatmates). I spoke to him in Bengali – about housing and his last visit to Tripura (in the 1970s, apparently). 1

I joined a full-time job. This is perhaps the most important event that happened last year. It means I’m now a contributing member of society, paying my bills on time. Contrary to what Mom had feared, they did not have me lift bricks for a living. It occurred to me that I have never explained to her what the job actually entails. I intend to sit her down someday and explain everything, but that is a conversation for another day. I quite like the job. If you’re the LinkedIn type, check out my LinkedIn profile here.

Submitted my master’s thesis. I wrote a thesis and successfully passed the thesis defense as part of the double degree curriculum at WU. You can read more about the courses I took at WU here. The title of my thesis was “Exploring the Role of Internet Access on Education and Poverty Reduction: A Case Study of India.” Going through the process of writing the thesis put so many things into perspective for me. I learned a great deal from the Indian data, but I also realized several things about myself. In that sense, the double degree was fulfilling – I got to experience firsthand whether I’d enjoy working in academia long term. For now, I’m quite happy to tread the corporate waters and build useful things for my employer. Still, I think it met the primary motive – to experience a master’s program before committing to something like a PhD.

Watched a live cricket match. I watched the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 game between India and South Africa at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, India. That was the first match I watched in a cricket stadium and perhaps the last too, who knows? I loved the atmosphere, the crowd, and the fact that India won the match. Virat Kohli scoring a century was the cherry on top. I also traveled on the Kolkata metro for the first time that day. Kolkata metro is the oldest metro system in India.

Traveled solo to Munich, Annecy, Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, and Budapest. I collected memories for a lifetime. I could tell those who come after me that I’ve been to these places I’ve only read about in books. I walked around these cities for hours and learned from strangers in hostels. Saying that the experience was fulfilling would be an understatement. It was a different life experience because no one knew me; I took the tram, the bus, and the subway and joined in on conversations on all sorts of topics. It widened my worldview and, if nothing else, left me with many things to reflect on. I saw and experienced things, saw people’s lives there, and constantly (I could not help) contrasted those to those back home. I’m only 24, and I do not claim to possess the magic ability to fix everything, but then I’m only 24 with so many years to live – it would be the adventure of a lifetime to help people back home progress.

Traveled to Jaipur. This was the first proper solo trip within India. I had a lovely time in the Pink City. Someone described it to me as the most beautiful city in the world. While I can sit and debate that viewpoint, there is no denying that Jaipur, with its generally walkable streets, beautiful palaces, and mighty forts, is indeed beautiful. Like most places, I walked around the city aimlessly, capturing photos through my worldview, occasionally getting mistaken for a foreign tourist. I loved the Jaipur Metro. If you know me, you’ll know that I love public transport. Going to and from the Hawa Mahal was much simpler using the metro. I think I still have some balance in my metro card – hopefully, there will be a next time.

You should follow me on Instagram if you haven’t yet. I post my travel photos and stories there. I also tweet quite a bit. You can follow me here. I’d prefer that my essays stay sparsely populated by images, except perhaps the thumbnail. So, yes follow on Instagram or something.

I graduated from university. Last but not least, I officially graduated from university. I did not think about it all that much, to be honest. But it hit me one day – this is the first time in a long time that I won’t have classes to attend, assignments to complete, and classmates to bump into. I think I’m still in the reconciliation process. I’m not complaining, though. I got to attend the best universities, hang out with the smartest people in the country, and got an opportunity to present my worldview in classrooms and through assignments. For that, I’ll always be grateful – to my parents, to the institutions of higher learning who deemed me worthy enough to let me walk their hallways, to this beautiful country called India, and to the constitution that governs it. I’d especially like to thank my MSc thesis advisor for trusting me with the whole process. Dramatic much? Perhaps. But this is my story – I get to write it however I wish to.

I feel quite at ease now, knowing it has been an incredible journey thus far. Sure, it was turbulent at times, and there are still days when I feel low. But, starting from my early years of schooling in a Bengali medium school where one of the prime motivations for attending school used to be the weekly egg curry meal they served during recess, I got the good fortune of ordering coffee that cost 4.3 Euros a cup by the time I left the formal education system. So, I mostly feel optimistic about the future now. To be quite blunt – I think this life is worth living to its end in all its colors. There are so many things to do and so much to experience; I just hope I have the energy to pursue them all one by one.

I wrote 7 essays in 2023. Hopefully, I’ll have more things to write about this year. I list them below in no particular order.

Life in Vienna: A Semester Review is a reflection on my first semester abroad. It was a lovely learning experience and something that I won’t exchange for anything else. I fell in love with the city of Vienna, its coffee shops, and cooking for myself. I also got to experience the Austrian academic system, which was quite cool. The Christmas invitation where the hosts served me rice with fish curry was probably the highlight of the semester.

My thoughts on the Indian school education system. This was my honest critique of the school education experience. I had a nice time in school, and my teachers taught me useful concepts and skills to navigate later in life, but I also felt a deep sense of “things can be improved, at least where I come from.” So, one evening, I wrote the whole thing in a notebook, sitting in a cafe where screens were not allowed. I decided to publish that random scribble, more or less.

Review of 3rd Semester courses at WU is a collection of my honest feedback on every course that WU offered me during my third semester there (technically during the second year of studies). I found the coursework quite enjoyable for the most part. It seemed that they were not in a hurry to throw information at you or cover a syllabus, unlike what I was used to. It was a nice semester for me. Sure, I could have done better in many aspects, but there is no point in thinking about it now.

What I learnt from my first proper solo travel summarizes my experience traveling through the cities I mentioned above. I hope I write a detailed review of each city someday soon. Here’s the upshot – I had a lovely time backpacking through Europe. I met many people, had conversations on several topics, and learned a lot about Europe and myself.

Review of every cafe I’ve been to in Vienna, so far resulted from random brainstorming one afternoon. It’s my honest review of every cafe I’ve been to during my stay there. “so far?” Well, who is to say I won’t return to Vienna to explore new cafes someday?

5 takeaways from tutoring using Khan Academy was inspired by a podcast Bill Gates did with Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy. It describes my experience of using the platform to tutor my sister. I do not know how much positive impact using Khan Academy had on her, but tutoring my sister is one of my favourite ways to use my time – it keeps me sane, and I get to re-learn a lot of things. It’s a win-win.

Review of 4th semester courses at WU, as the title suggests, is my honest review of the courses I took during my final semester at WU. Little did I know this would be my last course review, at least for some time now. I spent most of my time writing the thesis. Yes, I managed to turn it in before the deadline. I also had a fun time learning about cybersecurity during this semester.

In closing, I should say that it was a meaningful year for me. I moved cities, started working full-time for the first time ever, and learned a lot from life and academics. In Des Rangila, they sang, “yahan kadam kadam pe dharti badle rang” (Here on every step the Earth changes its colour). This year, I wish to see more of this beautiful country. While the Earth might not change its color literally on every step, India is diverse. No one can deny that fact, and I wish to travel around its length and breadth as and when possible. Hopefully, I’ll also write the year-end review before the end of the year. Let’s see how that goes.

If you have read this far, thank you! I hope you have a great year ahead. Do leave a comment or a reaction. It would mean a lot to me if you buy me a coffee, too.

Notes

  1. Please visit Tripura. Connectivity has improved a lot in recent years. It’s beautiful, and the people are lovely; in any case, home is home. 


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