One day you are speaking to a loved one. The next day he or she is gone forever. You know that tomorrow it could be someone else. And the day after, it will be someone else. And one day it will be you.
And that will be that.
And so you focus on the precise. On the mechanical.
You roll back clocks at the designated hour. You neatly smooth over bed-sheets with your hands and tuck in loose ends. You sort laundry by color and material. You argue over wind chill and heat index. The time it took a certain batsman to score a century in his third test match. The average school-exam score for admission to a college you never attended. The price of onions today compared to what the price was ten years ago.
And in solitude you brace yourself for the next wave and the driftwood it will wash ashore without any sense of when it will strike.
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The life of an exile has many aspects that never cease to trouble him or her. Despite these unfortunate experiences accompanying an exile like shadows, the condition of exile often facilitates the development of an individual and by extension a community that acquires attributes, which may be nothing short of unique. It is interesting that although these unfortunate experiences trouble an exile often, there are many factors that enrich an exile’s experience and broaden his or her intellectual and social horizon. Edward Said put it succinctly:
…exiles cross borders, break barriers of thoughts and experiences.
My status as an exile has given me many remarkable things and has in many ways redefined the notion of exile, if at all it can be defined. For me and for many Tibetans of my generation, exile has also come to mean opportunities, growth, fulfillment and pride.
Exile is opportunity. My parents often used to tell me that I should never waste this newfound opportunity in exile to reach great heights academically and professionally, opportunities they never had. I feel fortunate not only to have been born to parents both of whom had escaped from Tibet and carried strong cultural roots but also to have the opportunity to be educated along the lines of a modern mainstream scientific culture.