When people ask me ‘why China?‘ I usually begin by telling them about my passion for the language. But how did that passion emerge is something I have not talked about.
Thoughts and ideas are not conceived in a day. They gradually take shape. Our experiences, the things we encounter, the things we see and hear every day, embody our subconscious. It’s funny how we think our thoughts and ideas as our own. Deep down I know the Universe shapes them for us. And this Universe provided me with numerous things that led me here. Among them are: a book, a movie, my dad and a curious mind.
Way back in 2007, while rummaging through some books in the house, I came across an old book, its leaves unsecured and foxed, its title barely discernible from the hardcover, a note in cursive on the endpaper to my dad from his school principal; ‘The Good Earth’ by Pearl S. Buck was a graduation present. There is just something about aged books, their smell and the feel of the rough pages. I started reading and didn’t stop until I finished. Since then, it is my all-time favorite. One of my favorite quotes from the book is:
“And roots, if they are to bear fruits, must be kept well in the soil of the land.”
This book was the first thing that ignited in me the curiosity for a distant land, China.
Daniel asks “so, what are we learning today?” Mr. Miyagi replies, “Qi”, drawing the character on the fogged window of the train they’re traveling on, he continues describing it as “internal energy, the essence of life, it moves inside of us, flows through our bodies, gives us power from within”. And right there, just like Daniel was curious, I was too. I wanted to know more. What were those lines he drew on the window? What did it mean? My curiosity and fascination of the traditional character of Qi (氣) led me to dig deeper. (Click here to watch the little snippet of the movie, Karate Kid – 2010).
The Curious Mind
In the Spring of 2011, high school exams were over, the burden had gone away, there was a sense of freedom, freedom to do anything and everything or nothing at all. In those languid days, this mind could not sit still. Something in me said, “let’s explore the unknown”, and I started learning about the history of Chinese characters, the process of how they were formed from cracks on tortoise shells to drawings on walls of caves to intrinsic dancing characters to their current standard writing form known as the Simplified Chinese characters.
The characters fascinated me. It was as if they had a spell on me. I would practice writing for hours and hours on those long ledger style notebooks left over from school days, perfecting the strokes each time. I did not know much about writing Chinese then, to me it was just a beautiful art and I was simply relishing it.
There was no one as excited and as confident in me as my dad. The idea to take a year off to learn Chinese in China came from him. When people around were skeptical and wouldn’t understand ‘why China’, he was relentless. His support and encouragement, created confidence in me. I know he had his own ulterior motives, but if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have been where I am today. I am also grateful for a loving and supportive mom. She was not afraid of sending her daughter away. It requires great understanding and wisdom to let go.
This whole journey, beginning from the thought of China to now completing seven years in China, I have learnt a lot! Constant Improvement has been and will be my way of approaching everyday life situations. Life continues to teach and I will continue to learn and grow.