Today is a caesura in my school week – a brief inhale before the onset of winter break and a calm exhale accompanying the close of the year. My clothes are blowing on the line, echoes of hammers and handsaws are bouncing off of my terrace façade, and as I write to you for the first time in a long while, I feel more relaxed than I have in a long while. It is Christmas Day, and the Sun has been followed by a lately-shy companion – the blue sky.

                Since I’ve last written to you, enough has happened that I won’t try to explain everything, or even much at all. I am making progress in the classroom and with Hindi, I am nearly recovered from some sunburn I picked up in Sri Lanka, and I am pretty happy through and through. Just a few days ago I turned the final pages of Madame Bovary, and today I’ve already put a considerable dent in Candide. My house is relatively clean, most of my holiday travel plans are set, and I am nearing the completion of my final grad school application for the time being. If that wasn’t enough, I also had the chance to chat with my family for some time this morning – an event that unfortunately doesn’t happen enough – and have the promise of celebrating Christmas with Sam on Skype this evening.

                For these reasons I feel extremely lucky, although I am often reminded that many aren’t in a position to share my feeling. On the street sides lately harsh nighttime temperatures make those in need appear more desolate, ragged, and lonely. Especially on mornings when fog and smog coalesce into Delhi’s characteristic damp, bone-chilling haze, the embers of overnight fires attest to daily struggles with hunger, thirst, and warmth.  I know these bleak images aren’t necessarily charged with Christmas cheer, but India doesn’t hide their existence, and neither will I. Even so, on days like today it is impossible to deny the beauty of Christmas in India. Perhaps in a similar way to the opening chapters of Candide, a source of India’s magic may be the ability to witness horrible human truths and still hold on to the idea that this is the best of all possible worlds.

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