The following essay is a compilation of four blog posts from the blog I have been writing since I have reached Qatar. One can see how- in less than two weeks, my experiences in Education City (from both inside and outside the Freshman Orientation)- have begun to enlighten me:
August 18, 2011-
Goodbye, Nik-heel. Hello, Nikhil
My name is Nikhil Lakhanpal. For the majority of my life, I have introduced myself as “Nik-heel” Lakhanpal. It is simply a habit. When I was five and starting out in Mrs. Crowell’s kindergarten class at Mason Elementary School, I lisped to say, ”Hello. My name ith Nikhil Lakhanpal.”
“How pleasant to meet you, Nik-heel.”
And that was that.
Yesterday I arrived in Doha, Qatar. I will be living here for the majority of the next four years as a college student. This blog revolves around the story of how I, a Hindu Indian-American from Duluth, Georgia- will live, work, play, and change while studying at a Catholic University in an Islamic country.
I will begin living: I recently moved into an apartment which will soon be occupied by 5 other students (four Arab engineering students and a Korean).
I will begin working: I will be attending the Georgetown School of Foreign Service in Qatar- majoring in International Politics with a focus on Middle-Eastern Studies.
I will begin playing: I would like to play basketball for the sole sake of saying that I play Georgetown Basketball (in, ahem, Qatar)
Today I discovered my first change: I introduced myself to a group of Arabs and Indians as “Nik-heel.”
“How pleasant to meet you, Nikhil”
And that was that.
August 20, 2011-
Let me introduce the characters in this story:
Yet we are all welcomed by as one people; as one student body; as one community.
Education City 2011
August 28, 2011-
"Americans seize the opportunity to show flaws with Muslims and the Arab World"
When discussing the content that I place in this medium, I was lambasted with this statement.
It is a true one.
The Western World and the Arab World are constantly in a cycle of provocation, and now I think I understand why. We demonize each other. It works both ways, not only one. We share a friction in our ways of life. But let’s get the facts straight.
1. Christians are good people.
2. Muslims are good people.
3. Arabs have an amazing sense of hospitality, grace, and culture.
4. The Western World has an amazing sense of hospitality, grace, and culture.
5. We are all misunderstood- and it’s a damn shame.
You see, when I discuss the issues of the disgruntled South Asian worker or the ignorant world I portray- it is done so with the primary source of discussion.
And, perhaps, with bias. I want to own that before I continue to write about my experiences and observations in this country. There is as much benevolence here as there is back home- and there is as much hatred back home in America as there is here; perhaps even more so at home because we live in a bubble.
That said- I will not say I am wrong- because I’m only calling it the way I see it. I just think that the sentiment that the Palestinian-Jordanian girl had was spot on.
“Americans seize the opportunity to show flaws with Muslims and the Arab World.”
She would make sure to follow up with “I don’t want to generalize, but there are many who do so.”
It’s funny. We’re all guilty of the same crime. The crime of confusion. The crime of generalization. The crime of discrimination. And what I write here could be a perfect offense of it. That said, I won’t say that my opinions are correct- only that my observations are called as I witness.
This is the reason why I am here. This arena- Education City- this is the ideal place to develop attitude while fostering aptitude. This is the place where I can find my flaws and discover others’ beauties. This is where I belong.
August 30, 2011-
Today was Eid-ul-Fitr; the day which marks the end of the fasting month that is Ramadan.
It was a day of celebration for over a billion people worldwide as they enjoyed this special holiday with flourish. This is the part where I begin learning about how multicultural this is.
Tonight was the night that:
The Hindu-Indian-American of the United States rapped.
The Egyptian rapped.
The Syrian beat-boxed.
The Pakistanis danced to Indian Music.
The Iranian-Bahraini sang a Pakistani song.
The Algerian sang American songs.
The Armenian-Lebanese did the Dabke.
And pretty much everybody did Bhangra.
All for the end of Ramadan.
I found myself singing along to the Indian music, nodding along with the Pakistani music, dancing to the American music, and shuffling my feet to the Dabke.
Diversity is beautiful, isn’t it?
And this isn’t American diversity.
This is University Diversity. Diversity on Eid. This…
This is Eidiversity.
-from Southern Fried Kabob: How a Hindu-Indian-American from the Bible Belt of the United States Studies at a Catholic University in an Islamic Country.
Georgetown University SFS-Q 2015