Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I just submitted my first (of six) grad school applications a few moments ago, and so, here are the openers to the personal statements that will never be (and one that was)... enjoy?

My grandmother is the most beautiful woman in the world. She is particularly luminous in a photo from 1961. Her wavy short brown hair is pinned back to reveal chunky gold hoop earrings, her makeup impeccable. Surrounded by her three young children with a baby in her arms, she wears a sleeveless white top and a skirt dotted with stars and moons flows around her. Her legs are crossed at the knee with towering white peep-toe pumps at her feet. This photo was taken in Kabul, Afghanistan.

One tugged at my arm to show me her schoolbooks, another pulled me in the direction of her dolls. Each wanted to exhibit her treasured object. "Didi didi! (Sister sister!)" the girls called after me, mischievous eyes twinkling. We played hand clap games and peekaboo and munched on biscuits. A fidgety group stood up to sing a nursery rhyme in English, perfectly, and all giggled at my Hindi accent. Some were former street children, some were turned over by parents who could no longer support them, and yet at Udaan Ghar, a shelter home for street girls just outside of Mumbai, everyone was family, including me, the visitor from abroad.

Over the past five years, each kid has left his or her mark on me. A quirk, a gesture, a surprise gift.

EJ lacks the coordination to carry his lunch tray and open door to the library simultaneously. He knows an awful lot about transportation systems for a third grader, shreds ketchup packets, and throws his arm around me whenever I'm particularly animated while reading to him. Edvin, the Energizer Bunny, liked to be chased. We built flying Lego monstrosities, and each tried to shoot the other's spaceship down. Our down time had me judging his singing abilities a la American Idol. Emmanuel often played me inappropriate hip hop ringtones on his cell phone. We fought epic Connect Four battles, him chanting, "I'm gonna win you!" and me correcting, "No, you're going to beat me." For Valentine's Day, I brought him his favorite candy and iced tea, and the following week, he gifted me with a chocolate Easter bunny. The only girl, Chelsea, had the smallest voice. After the requisite homework help hour, her face would light up for arts and crafts. I pulled out everything I could remember from grade school: stencils, paper bag puppets, construction paper cutouts, and I always left our sessions with a token from her.

He didn't answer my question. Although, it was to be expected.

The "he" in question was a lieutenant general at the German Ministry of Defense who gave a group of American Marshall Memorial Fellows a talk about the German effort in Afghanistan. Despite my staff status, after all this discussion was not intended for me, I piped up during a lull in the question-answer round. I made the comparison between a divided Germany post-World War II and a currently segmented Afghanistan. Japan, solely occupied by the United States, has proved itself to be a great power in the region and in the world, while parts of east Germany still struggle with development-related issues. Given the recent discussion in the news about an "Americanization" of the Afghan war, what was his opinion on the future of the country?


Lauren E. said...

i LOVE these. and i think i have a favorite, and then i read them again, and then i have a new favorite. i think the EJ one is my favorite. or the first one about your grandmother. or... just kidding. mos def those two.

MP said...

Grandma and EJ. They are pieces of lovely writing. Though I suppose the others are a bit more "personal statementy" if ya know what I mean?