"Class, we're going to have an ice cream business as our business project... .."
I've always struggled for a balance between knowledge and ignorance. Knowledge means growth and growth is always painful. The more you know, the more you question, the more you think. A refined thought process is said to make one a better person. But there are some moments when I stop to ask myself: is it really worth going through some experiences or gaining knowledge? It is like the concept of 'Maya'. Knowing that all the world is just an illusion and there's a higher truth behind it all doesn't give you peace. Somehow the idea that the world around you could be an illusion is a shattering thought, isn't it? It means that all you believed is not true. So, you seek more, question more....But people who haven't even bothered to think of this idea can be peaceful, happy simply because they are ignorant!
"....We are going to run this business for one month. Representatives from this class are going to be executives and I won't interfere for the course of the project..."
Of course, my experience was nowhere akin to seeking some higher truth..:) But if I hadn't gone to Canada, would I have been for the worse? So what if I didn't know how to survive in another culture? How was any of this going to help me out? How different was I going to be from my friends back in India? Wouldn't it be awesome to be naive, ignorant, trusting and simple?
"....We will see how well you can apply business principles and the profit we make is going to be turned over to charity.."
The fact was that I was stressed, lonely and irritated and I was searching for meaning behind having to deal with all these things. I'd have so preferred to be a normal school kid in India with her friends, her own small circle of people she could depend on, familiar faces, familiar places, a set path for life....How nice would that be!
I was lost in the contemplation about...er..as corny as it may sound, the meaning of Life (I do sound so confused like Becky Bloomwood from "Confessions of a Shopaholic"! Eeks!) when someone prodded me from behind. Startled, I half-rose from my seat.
"Okay, Subha, you want to be VP of Finance?"
"Huh...err..ahem," I mumbled with embarassment. What was going on? I had tuned off Mrs. B's voice a long time back. VP of Finance? I turned around and glared at Barbara who sat behind me.
"Why did you poke me?" I whispered fiercely.
She mouthed, "Its ok." and gave me the thumbs up. I rolled my eyes.
"Anyone else interested?", Mrs. B asked.
Jenny, who sat in the next row, was the "cool" girl of the school. She was quite popular, involved in a lot of projects and generally nasty to everyone. She uncrossed her legs gracefully and stood.
"Okay, Jenny. You want to run for Finance too? We'll take a vote."
I got a haughty, condescending look from Jenny.
Oh, you are so sure of your popularity! How I wish I could punch you in the face!
Needless to say, she won and I was left red-faced and annoyed. I did end up with VP of Personnel but that wasn't much of a consolation to me! That should teach me to philosophize during class! Hell, I thought, why did Barbara have to startle me?
"Hey, you should try smoking once."
Eva and I were talking between brush strokes in our painting class.
"No Eva, I am okay. Not curious to try."
"No, I insist", she leaned toward me and whispered conspiratorially. "It is AMAZING. I do it with my bf all the time."
She giggled. I stared woefully at my dolphin. I wasn't getting the shades right. Darn! I forgot what Mrs. Tobin said about mixing charcoal grey and white! Hopefully, I should get a B at least. It would really stink if I got a "C" in Drawing and Painting.
I looked up distracted from my reverie. Eva was looking at me eagerly, her eyes dancing mischief.
"Uh..Eva, I think I am going to skip. I have to go somewhere this evening."
She made a face at me and laughed.
Physics 11 was my nightmare. The first day I walked in they had a "quiz". I was handed a piece of paper and some 20 questions on Newton's laws. All of them were numerical problems. I was used to the theory oriented methods of India and the jump in syllabus was really pretty startling. Totally taken aback and unprepared, I did horrendously. I was ready to burst into tears. But then, what's the point of crying?
Vicky used to sit next to me in Physics. She was a very friendly, helpful soul. But I disliked the number of "likes" she used in her sentence. In fact, I had a problem with that everywhere in Burnaby North. She, for her part, said,
"You know, you should like slow down. Like your English is just too fast and I, like, can't really get it. We are not like used to Queen's English."
English literature and English were my favourite classes for a while. I was comfortable with Mrs. T and Mrs. S. It was fun and I was in my elements. I enjoyed the way Shakespeare was taught. There were discussions about style, allusions, metaphors, oxymorons, contextual influences etc...We even got to act out a part of King Lear! I was supposed to be King Lear and I got the famous "Howl, howl, howl..." finale of Lear. I was afraid that if I messed up, I would be the butt of jokes. But everyone was much more tolerant than what I imagined. All kids made some mistakes while presenting and they shrugged it off. There was no expectation of giving a "perfect" talk or presentation. Mistakes were normal and you learnt from them. I liked that about Burnaby North. People were so casual (unlike India where you'd be the butt of jokes even if you made one silly error in front of class)!
Mrs. S was amazing with the Romantic poets. Byron, Keats and Shelley came to life in her soulful reading and dreamy interpretations. I can still remember, word for word, her reading of Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind". I still catch my breath when I remember the experience!
My brother and I were tickled to death with social courtesies. It was so unlike India. If you went to a desi party, the kids were consigned to a separate floor of the house (it was either the basement or the attic) while the adults talked shop and had fun. My parents really did not understand the philosophy behind this segregation and didn't see a reason for it. We, for our part, were quite unused to being hustled off to a basement as soon as we entered. One time we went to a party, we were dutifully in the basement of the house with 6-7 other kids. The host's son was a particularly short and thin kid of about 7-8 years of age. He, for some reason, took a dislike to my brother. He pulled all sorts of weird faces and expressions till my brother wasn't sure if he was having some kind of a spasm or if this was his normal state of being.
"Subha, what's with this guy?"
"I don't know", I whispered back giggling uncontrollably.
The conversation was unlike anything we were used to. The question of the evening amongst the other kids seemed to be this: Which is more gross? Picking one's nose or peeing in public?
"So what do you guys think?"
My brother and I looked at each other's faces struggling to keep our laughter contained.
"Err..I think its fun to hear you guys discuss it...", I said keeping my face straight. My brother was totally red in the face with supressed laughter!
To add to my brother's misery, for the entire length of the evening, the-kid-who-hated-my-brother kept asking him,
"Can I punch you in the face?"
The joke was that he was nearly half-a-foot shorter and skinnier than my brother! :)
"Subha, can I punch him? I can easily just floor him. He is driving me nuts!!"
"B, no way! You'll be in trouble with mom and dad. Shut up."
"Grrr.. I can't stand it anymore! Why do they have to shut us up in the basement with weirdos like these? I want to go upstairs and have some decent conversation."
And we were mightily relieved when the "party" was over! :)
Of course, not all parties were like that. The guy-who-hated-my-brother later became my brother's good friend. We began liking parties later on. But it is always the rite of passage that's interesting....:)