Words of Departure: A Fight that Continues

The count-down can be easily calculated on my fingers now. And then, I shall hop into a plane and suddenly I will be smelling the strange smells of chai and sweat and sandalwood and curry, all put together. Hence, I decided to write about what has changed, between the flight that brought me here and the one that shall take me back. I will be analytical about my own life and my own perspectives, again, to the best of my objectivities.

One of the hardest things I faced here in Lebanon is racism. I have come to realize how much I have let myself be affected by it, more than what I would have expected out of myself. It would be too early to judge this development as constructive or destructive of myself, so I am going to leave it open by saying that I have indeed become extremely critical, not so much of my surrounding but more of who I am and how I act. It has mostly developed as a form of adaptation to the constant need I feel to not subject myself as “inferior” when I am constantly being proven as such, based on my skin color. My actions have become reactive, sometimes being based on the illusion of an “action” from the other party, where I constantly calculate the areas where I can be judged upon and hence react quickly to “un-do” the effect of this illusionary action. It sounds a lot like my experience from my childhood, where being a bit chubbier amongst my social environment made me “react” to compensate for my plus size (read as ugliness back in that day) and hence I became more involved in the academics. I find this phenomenon an interesting observation in the area of social adaptation, proving that I do adapt but at a high psychological cost.

I have also realized my constant need to be in a mode of “alert”, especially while walking on the streets or being in the elitist environment of the American University here. It is true that I have received too many comments on the way I dress or the fact that I am Indian “BUT” I speak French, or go to university in France etc. While on the streets, I am always thinking of the self-defense moves that I would require in the moment of attempts to sexual abuse. And as of today, I am on my way to press charges of sexual abuse against a professor.

Many have decried this year of mine to be the worst of stories they could have ever heard. All I can see here, being a hard optimist that I am, is that this year has been enlightening, not of the world that I live in, but the world in myself that I am. It has put in light some of the most precious relationships that I share with people, either next to me or continents away. I came here looking for the language I love: Arabic. Somewhere on the roads of Hamra, I lost this love in the words of the population that I share this space with. But I hope to be back, looking again for my love for Darwish and Ibn Khaldun during my time in Cairo.

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About Shreya Parikh

I am Shreya. Project Rethought is my attempt to rethink my own observations as a brown woman of Indian origin. I currently live in Paris where I teach at Sciences Po Paris and Parsons Paris-The New School.
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