It's funny how time and distance change you, the roads you take don't always lead you home.
It has been a long time since I have been considered simply a face in the crowd, a number in a sea of unknown. Actually come to think of it, academically I have never been a number. Never had my intelligence reduced to a few simple digits. Never sat methodically required to listen for hours on end in a lecture hall where my absence was not noted. I have had a name, a face, and ideas to match them. The Indian education system has taught me to be thankful for that. For a semester I have sat, the only non Indian, listening to lectures where I am forced to memorize, verbatim, what the teacher tells me. Whether that was in my Ayurveda class where I was told there were no muscles in my face (FALSE), or in Sociology when my professor told me women chose to become lesbians to escape patriarchal society (EVEN MORE FALSE). There is no questioning their authority. So I sit. A number. So different from the rest, an American in a sea of Indian students. I will them to question the professor, but they sit motionless and let the ignorant wave of knowledge wash over them. I am just a number to them. We may experience the world differently, but in that classroom we are all just numbers.
I walked into my final exam today and there were stickers on the desks with numbers. My number means so little to me, I have not cared to memorize it or even carry the card that displays it proudly across my photo. Every other person in the classroom had no issue finding their assigned desk, as they have reduced themselves to that number. I had to walk to the office to have someone look up my number in order for me to take my exam. I wrote my name in all caps at the top of my paper, an act of defiance. Yet in small script below was my number, my identity. I have learned that discussion is a privilege, office hours a luxury, and tea and snacks at a professor’s house is once in a lifetime. Never again will I take for granted the relationships I have formed with those superior to me. I have the choice and ability to question and learn from them and they have the patience and understanding to possibly learn from me.