Happy Onam every one! Onam bring backs to me memories of a special friend Mini Sahadevan in my PUC at BEL College. I have been very fortunate to come across and befriended some extraordinarily kind people where ever I went where I lived. I haven’t heard about Onam festival until my best friend Mini invited all of us girls for a festival lunch. Onam is the main festival and is celebrated by people from Kerala- India. I remember the day when I met my special friend Mini Sahadevan on the first day at BEL school. My big brother dropped me off at school said it was getting late to his work, I should get going and I will be alright. I was damn nervous I almost cried I said to him but I can’t speak kannada or English and I have no friends here…he smiled and said then go ahead and make one I said what if they don’t speak Telugu he said go find out first and if you still have trouble you can call me. I was this sixteen year old young women from Gadwal never spoke any other language other than my first language Telugu on the first day at BEL school sat on a far corner in my class room close to the window on the last bench trying to avoid everyone so I don’t have to speak. Here I was sitting in Botany class by Ms Jayaraman not understanding a word she is speaking because I felt she was speaking too fast. After a while a chubby girl moved back and sat next to me and said I am big I need more breathing room you know and it is a hot day. I answered with a smile and I don’t speak English. She smiled and said Telugu? I said yes. She kept quiet until the lecture is over then said she speaks a bit of telugu and understands it well I was so thrilled I said How is that possible? She mentioned they were building a new home and had telugu speaking construction workers working on their site and she ends up talking to them in telugu since they don’t speak any other language just like me. Now after the lecture she asked if I wanted to go with her and her friends to the next class I said sure so by the time it was evening when my brother came to check I ended up sitting with a gang of eight other girls and we were best friends for the next couple of years on my stay BEL. Now getting back to my special friend Mini, she became my ESL Teacher I should say. She was my guardian angel sharing the lecture notes explaining the concepts in physics and such, because it was just too much learning in English. It was just overwhelming, moving into a new city then trying to learn everything in English and then trying to learn to speak two different languages Kannada and English. It was almost a couple of months at school and I reached my breaking point one day. I was very sad and quite because when I was in Gadwal I always thought I was this smart and social girl and here I was in Bangalore so nervous and shy to speak to anyone and let my friend Mini answer on my behalf. So Mini came up with a fantastic idea one day. After school that day she said let us walk to the bus stop. On our way she said Radhika you know enough words in kannada and in English and all you got to do is open the words tank in your brain and let it flow… You must try to speak with everyone around you so what we should do now is we go to the school bus stop you meet random people and just start making conversations. You just do not pre judge anyone and give your big friendly and sincere smile just like the one you gave me at school on the first day and start talking. I freaked out. She said I know your concern what if they judge you but you see you are never going to see them again how often do you see your friends from first grade and how often do you think they will remember and judge you? Mini was a very wise soul for her age. She said just go ahead and pick random person with open heart and start conversation. If they answer in kannada you answer in kannada if they speak in English you do the same. You can tell them you are nervous and still learning to speak that language. I will stand here and watch you do it. You go girl! So I did and that went very well. I was excited I said Mini everyone is speaking to me. She said now you go home tell your brother you don’t need him to take you to school and instead you will take the bus to school and speak to everybody that you come across. Remember big friendly and non judgment smile I said yes! let us do it! The next day on I was on a bus talking to everybody. By the end of that school year I could speak Kannda and English very well and a bit of Malayalam with my friend’s mother. I sort of mastered how to move right into the middle of a big crowed and talk to random people as if I was friends with them for the past ten years. I will never forget the help of my friendly angel Mini Sahadevan. I was so in gratitude with her I ended up singing and dancing for Onam festival at the annual school show. I was also into big time volunteering the cultural activities with Mini, sang a duet with my other chubby friend Krishnan, was participating in almost a whole bunch of singing and dancing planned for the annual show with a whole bunch of friends Mini, Ravi, Allen, Bina, Bina Phillips, Jyothi, Padmini, Mohammed, Taj, Lakshmi, Keerthi, Seshadri to name a few. I had a really good time. I don’t have to tell you how happy and pleased I was at school and now that I made this big decision to move and live a big city worked out well. The other day on our talk about Berkeley I was talking to Himmi, I said just go ahead meet random people, be alert keep a very open mind, very open heart and do not pre-judge and then you will have time of your life every single day for the rest of your life. Because life is about people, giving that warm friendly smile, making that small conversation, recognizing and acknowledging the fact that after all first and foremost we are all spiritual beings having human experience. We are all one, human species, Homo sapiens with similar insecurities, concerns, worries, feelings of pain, sorrow, love, happiness and joy.
Onam Light Picture: by Kavitha Kuram.