The picture stares back at me, each time I open my old diary and reminisce. Cut just around the edges, he's in a button-down shirt, patterned with black and white diamonds. I'm wearing a blue floral corsette from Victoria's Secret that I apparently thought could pass as a top. We're smiling as awkwardly as your average teenager at a junior-high dance, the dorkiness multiplied tenfold by the fact we're at UVA's "smart kid's camp"
Isn't it incredible what 10 years can do? From 14 to 24, we've hardly see them pass by. We started off as the chubby kid with a guitar from Roanoke and the blond band dork from Arlington with a crooked smile. Who'd have guessed that kids growing up a mere 200 miles apart would multiply that distance by 40 and allow not only metaphorical, but physical oceans to separate our realms of experience.
I'll fall asleep tonight on a $1400 organic latex mattress on a stylish platform bed, wrapped up in a down comforter and duvet. Rajiv's night will be interrupted by water leaking through the roof, pouring in on the hard surface of a makeshift bed. I might freak out when a drunken young neighbor mistakenly turns his key in my apartment door at 3 AM... Rajiv might freak out at the sound of gun shots or imminent danger. I'll press the snooze button once or twice tomorrow morning, and walk around the apartment with a mere towel, basking in the bliss of having no roomates. Rajiv will wake up before sunrise, alongside the Afghan National Army.
At work, I'll use my French to help entrepreneurs explore Silicon Valley. Rajiv will speak in Urdu, leveraging a Hindu-American identity to find cultural common ground and laugh with a group of former Mujahideen... who just raised a gun to his head.
No doubt there's value in what I do. But just as Hugh Grant puts his sister's paper maché lobster to
shame in Love Actually, so do Rajiv's daily activities make securing business meetings and hanging curtains appear somewhat insignificant.
And while I'll slack on the rythm of my blog posts... distracted by The Bachelor or happy hours downtown, Rajiv will never fail to illustrate his experiences at week's end, bringing us one step closer to the reality of what's happening in our world. If I were a professor, I would drop subscriptions to the Washington Post or the New York times and simply require my students to peruse his thoughts... to walk in his shoes, however so vicariously.
In a perfect world, no one would be at war, and whether the Bachelor chooses Tenley or Vienna would be the most pressing dilemma on our mind. But so long as the world is unfair and complex, so long as oceans of distance separate kids living just around the block... so long as 15 year olds have awkward fashion senses and smiles, I would invite you to do just that.You can follow Rajiv on Twitter, too: @believeinrajiv