[Column] My cup of chai

Meet our new columnist: Padmini Manivannan is a Masters student studying Signals and Systems at TU Delft and hails from Chennai, India.

(Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

Warm summer evenings back home involved snuggling with a book by the window side, watching the sunset and taking in all the sights and sounds; of the kids playing cricket by the streets, the Carnatic singer practising her art, the spices wafting in from the kitchen and almost always, the smell of hot chai.

Moving away from home for the first time was a big step. I was excitable and filled with nervous energy. I wanted to come here and learn amazing science but also to take in Europe and everything it had to offer. You, with your canals, windmills and pretty cobblestone paths, I wanted to experience it all.

I also thought living here would be hard. I don’t say this because of the cultural differences, I’m comfortable with cultural differences. Being Indian, that is something I grew up with. What worried me was a lack of familiarity. After all, I thought, this isn’t your Americas or the UK, teeming with Indians and a spice shop tucked in every street corner.

Living away from my family, I stumbled quite a lot initially. Finding the right sort of people to be around with always makes things better and I’m fortunate enough to have that. I still haven’t quite found my footing yet but there is always hope.

While I missed the festivities of Diwali, you showed me your warm Christmas lights on cold winter evenings. I missed my mom’s chai and you made up with hot chocolate, a fun riot of friends and some hot glühwein. I miss my moments in India but I’m making my own precious moments here.

As you can tell, things have changed now.

Here, the sun sets directly in front of my balcony. At dusk, I sit by my window with a book, watching the sun being swallowed by the edge of tomorrow, way before its time. I see the lights come on at the building opposite to mine like little flickers of hope. I hear the sound of the water flowing through the canal and the birds chirping. I see the lights from the greenhouses, an orange and red aurora and the sky is chaos. And maybe I see myself in that chaos right before everything settles into the calm night.

And I make my own cup of hot chai.

Padmini Manivannan is a Masters student studying Signals and Systems at TU Delft and hails from Chennai, India. She loves doodling in her free time.

Padmini Manivannan / Columnist

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