Come midnight, it will be the halfway point. I am in India for five months, and tomorrow is the date marking the exact middle. The next day’s equinox will also signify the middle on another scale: between the summer and winter solstices, the start of fall. Considering this turning point of sorts, now is a fitting time to share some random thoughts on the monsoon semester so far.
Actually, monsoon season ends with the start of fall, at least nominally. So technically, the monsoon semester is at its halfway point as monsoon season reaches its end. Today is the first day of Navratri, a Hindu festival and a major holiday season here. Schools started their fall breaks this week in honor of the festival celebrating autumn, the symbolic triumph of the goddess Durga over evil, and/or other goddesses. The children I work with at my NGO’s supported school have almost two weeks off, not returning until after Gandhi’s birthday.
Our university classes continue as usual, though classes were suspended for student union elections today. In spite of classes being suspended, exams were not; I still had a midterm, here called internals. Voting was ongoing, and the front yard was crowded as I went to the department building for the exam. Three parties have been campaigning for the last two weeks, and I think students are involved and concerned about politics even at the university level. The politics are kind of serious, too, because the parties’ platforms are an offshoot of national parties’ ideals, not contained to university issues.
My friends in the U.S. are only in the fourth week of fall semester, and others on quarter systems have not even begun classes. My brothers and sister reminded me that our annual county fair has been going on this week. Though I hear that the weather has not become cool there yet, the whole sentiment surrounding fall is on its way. I have not been feeling like I miss a lot of things while here, but I think fall will be one.
The temperature will be cooling down for the rest of the semester, but it won’t be like the autumns I am used to – leaves won’t be changing to all the warm shades of red and orange, and Halloween decorations won’t be accompanying howling gusts of wind. I sense that I will be missing these, the cozy spirit that somehow undercuts the crisp stillness. That is perfectly refreshing following the heat and humidity of summer.
In celebration of good old American fall, a few friends and I sought out apple cinnamon waffles today in the Banjara Hills neighborhood. For me, it was also a ready treat after my first essays internal. It is a personal celebration of other oddities by this halfway point, as well. The power goes out at Tagore occasionally, or frequently in the last couple weeks, but then we get to light some candles or play badminton by phone light. The showers may not have hot water on cloudy days, but then cold showers are all we might want when we step inside and out of the sticky humidity. The bus schedule is often unreliable, but then we get to meet someone new as we wait or even as we hitchhike. There are moments and quirks beyond these, and even including those, it is only the half of it. I have two and a half months left.