i am writing this from my favourite spot in the university, one of the circular tables right outside Nan no Ki. i prefer the third table to the right of the International Centre, to be precise. it is raining and my heart longs for the smell of rain on wet earth, a characteristic feature of ‘home’, as it were, back in India. i don’t think the rain smells like anything in particular here, but it’s soft and gentle today, and warms me up from within. i have been here for a little over a week now, and i don’t understand how you really begin to love a place but you definitely know if you love it. my visual spatial sense is so terrible that i honestly think i’d require a map to even climb up an intimidatingly long staircase, so i’ve been losing my way more often than i’d like to admit here (despite the assistance of Google Maps). i’ve been surging in and out of homesickness, trying very hard to keep myself well-fed, and reading the kind of poetry i usually wouldn’t read. i’ve been drinking more water, and more tea, and more coffee, and more juice than ever before in my life so i’d like to think i’m at least hydrated. the yellowness here has grown on me. i’ve developed a habit of greeting most yellow things i happen to pass by, which is just scattered leaves and flowers whose names i don’t know, but it feels reaffirming. i’ve also come across two distinctly yellow but also distinctly dead butterflies so far, making me feel a strange sorrow that pushes a certain kind of loneliness i hoped to be able to hold further out of reach, a void or a hole of whose existence i become painfully aware when i photograph things that have withered, or things on the verge of withering, constantly trying to convince myself that this is also what renewal looks like but never believing that renewal is possible in the first place. like the wings of dead butterflies or my grandfather’s hands. like moonlight that makes more sense in its absence, often urging me to take photos of a clear sky and say to the people i love, ‘this is what the moon looks like’. absence.
i haven’t met any cats so far, but i’ve met so many people in my course and in the university who really like cats. yesterday, we visited a Cat Shrine in the Sengan-en Gardens near Kagoshima and I was quite relieved because it makes me feel like at least one of our conceptualisations of God is both worth praying to and praying for (besides also being incredibly cute and potential cuddle-buddies). we’re only in the second week of classes now and i thought i was going to be quite confused about what subjects to choose, but i’m actually pretty sorted in my head. we have some great professors and i see some real scope for engagement. i’m going to spend time writing postcards for a bunch of people today, and i’m looking forward to it. sending a postcard is not too expensive either, so it’s really the perfect way to stay in touch. as excited as i am for everything in store, and as thankful as i am to be here, the fact that there’s a long way to go purely in terms of time and distance scares me. i don’t deal very well with anxiety, and i do almost obsessive countdowns, which is a very stupid idea given that it hasn’t even been two weeks here. i miss so many people so often, and it isn’t because i feel lonely here, but because the pace of everything seems to have left me a little breathless. in fact, i feel like i’ve been able to bond with so many people here over different things (including cats!) but it’s taking me more time than anticipated to deal with shifting landscapes. i try to drink more water, worry less and write more because it’s really okay to feel the way i’m feeling at this stage, and it’s important that i say it to myself than wait for somebody to come say it to me. it’s okay if the lostness gets overwhelming, as long as it doesn’t get overpowering. and it’s okay to not think of the big picture, even though i know i cannot evade the thought for long now. the crux of this is, that it’s going to be okay, that there’s loads of matcha ice-cream to binge eat on the pretext of it being a ‘relatively healthy’ ice-cream, loads of cats to greet and cuddle with, and many, many yellow flowers to stop and photograph.