Monday, November 28, 2011

Four Month Watsoversary

Being 1/3 of the way through this crazy year sounds MUCH more accomplished than being 1/4 of the way through it, don’t you think? I do. I’ve now been gone from the United States for 17 weeks and 5 days. When I think of how much has happened, it still feels like I’ve been gone much longer. That said, every month is going by faster and I have a feeling that it won’t be long before I’ll start worrying about how little time I have left.

A few weeks ago I finished Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence and it became a new favorite. There’s a lot about the novel that I would love to dissect, but on an emotional level, what I loved most is the conception of time that it presents. As you can imagine, this year time is on my mind a lot. In the novel, the protagonist, Kemal, is obsessively in love with his former girlfriend (and distant cousin), Fusun, and won’t let go of the idea of being with her even though she’s married. He eats dinner with her family every night for eight years just to be around her. While I find this more of a stalkerish and upsetting gesture than a romantic one, (and I think that might be the way Pamuk intended it to be), what I do love is Kemal’s justification for it and how much joy those nights brought him in retrospect.

He says, “For me happiness is in reliving those unforgettable moments. If we can learn to stop thinking of our lives as a line corresponding to Aristotle’s Time, treasuring our time instead of its deepest moments, each in turn, then waiting eight years at your beloved’s dinner table no longer seems such a strange and laughable obsession but rather (as I would discover much later) assumes the reality of 1,593 happy nights at Fusun’s dinner table. Today I remember each and every evening I went to supper in Cukurcuma—even the most difficult, most hopeless, most humiliating evenings—as happiness” (p.289).

And while I hate to compare my Watson year with this disturbing pattern of Kemal’s, I can most definitely relate to the narrative that he created around the passing of time.

I know these will become 365 days of retrospective happiness, even though there are days that don’t feel particularly happy. Looking at the year on a timeline makes it feel quite daunting indeed, particularly because of the guidelines that control how it must be spent. But when I look at the year as a series of waking up 365 times in seven (plus) countries, of finding my way to 365 different breakfasts, of the walks I will take, the people I will meet, the sights I will see, the year becomes a manageable reality. Knowing that there is, truly, no other way I’d rather be spending my year is most often enough of a reassurance. And that recognition in itself, to borrow from Pamuk, is turning even the most difficult, most hopeless and most humiliating times into happiness.

In the last month I have:

-Set foot on two new countries (United Arab Emirates and Morocco) and one new continent (Africa).

-Listened to a sitar concert.

-Ridden in a cycle rickshaw.

-Brought my total number of Indian states visited up to 8 (out of 28 total). (I left India having been to Andra Pradesh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh)

-Eaten a lot of unidentifiable dilli chaat.

-Survived the Delhi metro during rush hour (barely).

-Had my 1st experience getting (and eradicating!) bed bugs.

-Seen the Taj Mahal.

-Witnessed 3 brutal traffic accidents and was in a minor one.

-Bought a pair of camel leather shoes.

-Learned how hand block prints are made.

-Seen (and gone hiking in) the Himalayas.

-Learned a few phrases of Hindi and can make basic conversation in Moroccan Arabic (Darija).

-Had shorter hair than I’ve had since kindergarten.

-Spent a night in Dubai

-Slept in eight different beds.

-Celebrated an Indian Halloween and a Moroccan Thanksgiving.

-Been humbled by the number of people I’ve met in the last month for whom being tri-lingual is just a simple fact of life.

-Reached a new high in terms of DISH (Daily Incidents of Street Harrassment). I think the double whammy of India and Morocco did this, and I’m hoping it goes down from here….

-Ran by the ocean.

-Drunk a ridiculous amount of mint tea.

-Felt cold for the first time in months.

-Voted in a Moroccan film festival.

-Become entirely comfortable being alone.

Here’s to the happiness of 124 days passed, here’s to 241 more uncertain mornings.


  1. so glad you are doing this blog. love catching up with you through this. sounds like you are doing very well. savithri told me that there's a postcard from you for all of us at her place. thanks too much, as we say in oman.
    btw, is DISH your coinage?

  2. Papu, so good to hear from you! I hope I get to see photos of your November visitors at some point. Hope you had lovely celebrations. And yes, DISH is my coinage (unless someone has thought of it before..I wouldn't be surprised). :)