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Bound to meet? - Encounters with various people.

05:45 a.m. August 1, 2019.

I wake up from a nightmare. Sweating profusely, reaching out to my mother's hand next to me, as I see pictures and shadows of the same nightmare for a while. My mind gets bombarded by questions to which answers are yet to be found.

Do dreams really come true? Those people that we dream of, have we met them in real life? I have always wondered if dreams actually meant something. I have always wondered if it means anything to have crossed paths with all the different people in our life.

Being an ethnic minority in Hong Kong, I have always dealt with the divergence between these two identities - one of being an Indian and the other of being a Hong Konger and at times, they seem to converge as if there is no difference between the two. Both places are home, one in which I was born and one which gave me life, shelter, a community and brought me up. When talking about learning and education, our home is our first school and our first teacher, our mother. Is it only our family members who affect us and our learning?

They say we meet people for a reason, some turn out to be a blessing and some, a lesson. But how about those faceless beings that appear in our dreams or those that we bump into on the streets? Are we ‘fated’ to cross paths with them? Or is this all by chance. All this just cumulates and comes up to this one single question. As human beings, how much are we “social” as much as we are an “individual”? Our actions, how much do they affect those who surround us? And how much are we affected by them?

I have always thought of myself to be the sole “controller” of my emotions. I thought nothing else could affect me as long as I let it affect me. Even though it is true that we can control our thoughts , we cannot deny the fact that as human beings, we’re vulnerable to change and opinions in search of inclusivity and acceptance. In search of the answer to my questions, I found a research done by Daniel J. Mallison and Peter K. Hatemi, suggests how peer pressure and influences including the way of information delivery affects the political presence of people and their choice to vote. A mere change in information along with slight persuasion, changed 33% of people’s opinions and thoughts on who they will choose to be a suitable political candidate. And more than half of them responded that either of these methods; change in information, for example, the past deeds of the candidates or their daily habits, or slight persuasion, could change their view on political values.

It made me realize these numbers do not really mean anything if I hadn’t experienced any myself. That’s when I had my moment of epiphany. Having travelled around the world quite a few times, I have met and conversed with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Even if those meetings merely lasted for minutes, I believe that such meetings are coincidental and always offer something to take away. One, always has something left to learn at every turn of life. Here are some snippets of my experiences that I believe can be spread out for everyone to learn.

It was not until my recent trip to Europe, did I realize how much of life we are missing out on whilst running behind monetary pleasure and financial satisfaction. One of the instances where this dawned upon me was when I met Emily - a waitress in a small cafe in Lauterbrunnen, a small village on the top of the Swiss Alps. For someone who dreads heights, getting to the top of the mountain by a steep cable car ride was already an adventure, and to gain some intellectual insights was the last thing I expected to happen at a height of 2631 feet.

It was a juxtaposing sight up there. On one side was my family’s clicking pictures beyond measure and there I was, sulking over my motion sickness and fear of heights. No doubt, the environment was very picturesque but I was complaining about how there are many other places to visit, why waste time here? And boom, entered a chocolate cake out of nowhere and a voice that said, “This one’s on the house”. Emily had this great smile plastered on her face. No one would have imagined that we had met just a few minutes ago. Striking a conversation as if we were two long lost friends, she says, “Look beyond your fear and look around you, you’re surrounded by nature’s beauty, something people yearn for in cities bustling with people! No matter where you are in life, you’ll have to miss out or sacrifice one thing or the other, so savour the moment, wherever you are, whenever you can. Live life as it is and go with the flow.” And after she drops these wisdom bombs, her shift gets over and she disappears, nowhere to be seen. Sadly, I could not take a picture with her, probably do not even remember what she looks like right now but she changed my perspective. Who knew a piece of cake could make you contemplate long enough to completely change your mindset?

But that doesn’t exactly mean that you have to travel miles away from where you are to seek knowledge. Sometimes, you can learn right where you are. And for that, you’d have to take up opportunities which scare you and seem daunting. Chances are, these are the opportunities that might flip your life around.

There was this other instance in which some of my questions were answered, again, this was one of those events I was reluctant to join because I didn’t know if I would be able to mingle. This dinner was organised for “brown” or “desi”-a term used to describe South Asian people, girls around my age. And as much as I am Indian, I tend to identify myself more as a Hong Konger, having gone to local schools and hanging around the local students more often. And for an introvert like me, putting myself out in front of a huge crowd seemed intimidating. In this meeting, we met with doctors, teachers, engineers, all professionals in their own field. One thing I took away from this meeting, is to form my own community, not just to adjust myself to fit the social norms of my parent’s or ancestors’ community. Sometimes, it’s hard to find a community that you can completely fit into. It’s not always that easy to put forth your opinion in public. And for some reason, it didn’t seem all that scary after all, ideas flowed from all corners of the table, stories of abuse and growth, really encouraged me towards my goal with a more practical mindset. Such interactions made me realise things won’t always be offered to you on a golden platter but even in such scenarios, you can pull through to move towards things you really want to achieve as long as you have an undying passion for it.

Learning and attaining knowledge does not see age or status, you can simply take up anything from anyone, be it a child in a poverty-stricken area or a well-known professional doctor. At times of injustice and natural calamities, the whole world comes together, applying their learnings into solving the issue for a better world. But where were we before the problem started? Oftentimes, problems are created due to the lack of communication and interaction. We often assume things and opportunities to be daunting just because they seem different, but maybe just maybe these nightmares and faceless creatures that I was talking about in the beginning of my article, are those fights and adventures I am about to take on and travel through. Though frightening at first, once taken up may evolve into a beautiful reality.

So, keep learning, keep travelling, keep meeting new people, keep taking up opportunities that scare you, because learning starts outside of your comfort zone!


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