It was the year 1991. July of that year signified two important changes in my life. I lost my paternal grandmother to cancer on the 6th of that month and on the 21st my family was moving away from Indian shores to take up residence in Nairobi, Kenya to start a new life.
As a teenager, both these events hit me hard. The first was my closest brush with death, a fact that became difficult for me to accept. I recall sitting by the body, willing her to wake up and speak to me the way she always would. At the other end of the spectrum was the excitement building up at the idea of moving to a new country. My adolescent brain found the juxtaposition of these emotions very challenging to accept.
Academically, I had always been an average student, showing a keen interest only in English and music till then. The move to another country was at once unnerving and exciting. What if I fared so miserably at the new school? I had always been an introvert and had found solace in the comfortable surroundings of my school, my teachers and my close friends for over 7 years. What if I was a loner in a classroom full of shining stars?
These were just some of the concerns racing through my heart and head as we boarded the plane that would take us into the heart of Africa. A few weeks after settling in, I started at the new school. The first blow that struck me was when I heard the principal tell my parents that they would make me repeat grade 7. To me, this was crushing! He quickly assured me that it was not my fault and that they only had till Grade 7 at the time. He would move me up a grade in a few months.
Sighing, I resigned myself to the fact that I would be in a classroom with kids younger than me and who would invariably ask, ‘But, why are you repeating a year?’ The pain of being silently jeered at was more difficult than actually repeating a year.
But then, something wonderful happened. Since I was repeating a year, I had already mastered most of the concepts that were to be taught. Incredibly, where I was an average student back home, I now began to top the class. The thrill it gave me to see my name on the top of the merit list after six months was simply inexplicable!
What this also showed me was that I could readily put my mind to studying any subject, not just English or music, if the motivation was right. The following year, although all the subjects were new to me, I continued to do well. All it took was for the seed of confidence to be planted within.
Moving away from my comfort zone was scary but it helped me realise that nothing is possible without pain or experience. Today, as I look back at the memories of moving to a new land, starting a new life there, rising to new challenges and coming out on top, I know that the best things in life don’t come wrapped in packages with a bow on top.
They , almost always, reach you as a result of true grit, determination and a never-say-die attitude.