Anu ThomasShe told me that I could fly, that all I had to do was believe and wings would escape from my shoulder blades and I would become a great wild eagle, a stranger to tethers and cages. No, not an eagle, but a beautiful exotic bird from the east, one that the world has never seen or classified or drawn in a science textbook. This bird, without even a name to inhibit her freedom, would make her way into the sky with nothing but her drive and when she dies she will be immortalized in the starry night with the rest of the souls that shine from eternal antiquity, wearing the mask of the constellations and supernovas.

She told me that the only way to know the world is to see it for myself, and breathe in the dust of that earth and let it settle to the bottom of my lungs, layer upon layer like sand art without a bottle, bearing witness to the moments I’ve experienced. She said that no book could substitute the heat of the sun or the sudden bite of the wind or the smooth glide of the rain from the aqueduct of heaven onto my cheek. She said the tongue could not truly speak a language without trying the sounds of the streets where the language was born and raised and that hands could not cook a dish that had not felt the taste of native species through touch alone, like the hot chili spices burning the skin at first contact.

She taught me that time is a demanding master, that the lost moments echo throughout our lives just as much as the happy memories and that regret is just another name for fear of trying . She taught me to fear nothing but boredom, a dark, bottomless pit where all inspiration and creativity fall, blind and dumb forever. She taught me that the fountain of youth is not a myth, but rather it is the clear, bubbling water of one’s mind and that if the goal of my life was to find and refine this source, I’d stay forever young.

When my four years at Villanova University had finished, she would leave the school, her gypsy spirit looking for untouched, unexplored challenges that the stone walls of the university could not offer. She came into my life like a fragrant breeze, elusive, attractive, whispering promises of glory. Her soft influence became a strong force, a whirling wind of change in my life , altering its course and direction, a sailboat with unfurled sails like open arms welcoming the very will of heaven. She brought me with no uncertain waves to Profugo, to the shores of Kerala, to the community in Prashantagiri, to become a compass for young minds craving new horizons and a rudder for old minds seeking to beautify their existence. I stand at the edge of a precipice, trembling and she urges me on to be fearless and to pour out myself into my new route, uninhibited and unafraid.

She is the steadfast ambition of a young dreamer’s mind. She is the ever-present iron will encased in velvet, fortified by the ones who love her and protected by an existence that has never known hardship. She is the conscience that wants to know when you rip away the velvet, will the iron hold? She has been with me when I lived in Spain, Jordan, and Oman and like my undergraduate degrees in political science and Middle Eastern studies she will follow me on my journey as a Project Manager for the English Language School and community outreach in Wayanad. She fills my mind with thoughts of how these two hands can touch generations of people and how this tongue can speak to create bridges built by an ancient language of Malayalam that I have grown up hearing in my home, the first place I have seen contrasting cultures woven in harmony. And in the midst of the hurricane of thoughts, in the quietude of its eye, she shows me that I will receive more than anything I give. She is the recollection of my world, which expands with each new experience until I am able to capture the world in its entirety and make its pulse synonymous with the beat of my heart. Let us begin.

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