I’ve been writing about my adventures, stories, memories, moments, and life for about half a year now. You might have learnt more about me through these pieces than I actually know about myself. Or you might not know anything at all; you might be sitting there reading this blog for the first time and wondering why I am calling you out, seeking your advice, your story, asking you to fill in the gaps for me.
Well. It’s just that time in the show, folks. I want to hear you. I want to understand you and feel you and be near you. Who are you? Do you read my pieces out of desire? Necessity? Boredom, intrigue, curiosity? Do you visit often or peruse once in a blue moon, hoping to read something that makes your skin tickle and eyes bulge? My handy dandy WordPress Statistics tell me there are at least a handful of you out there who actually pull up this site once in a while. You cant hide!
Do you have an interest in Cambodia that you’d like to hear about? A topic you had heard mention of, but never had a chance or the ability to investigate. I would love to hear it. And I would love to search for it to find the answers for you.
I love to write. There is not a day that goes by that I didn’t wish I was writing, researching, learning, talking, understanding other people and in the process, myself. But of late, it feels selfish. I feel like I’m writing for myself and not for you. Even if you have no story at all, I’d love to hear you. What is the last thing that made you truly happy? What do you want for yourself in 10 years? What do you want for the world?
I always wonder how you see the world, how you envision the people of the world. Are they your brothers and sisters? Or are they too far removed from your world that their world feels incomprehensible?
I’ll answer these questions to the best of my ability so as not to be considered a fraud for asking you for answers without having earned it!
I am Shabnam Aggarwal. I was born in the Bay Area of California to a mother who is the most independent woman I know and a father who would give his world up to make mine a little shinier. I have an older brother who would stop at no measure to protect me from harm’s way. I have a huge, dramatic, loving extended family that has stuck behind my every insane choice in life. I grew up in a suburb of the Bay around almost entirely people from India. I never moved once from that lovely house of ours on Bridgeport Place. My life was easy and padded with bright fluffy cushions everywhere I went. I have vivid recollections of parts of my life that stand out more than others, seeking answers and resolution, but for the most part, like any other, I left in one piece. College was spent in Pittsburgh, trying to discover the answers to all the questions I had whilst solving the most difficult engineering equations known to humankind. I jetted off to New York soon after, still searching. Finally, I’ve ended up here. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I work for an NGO and I am in fact, still searching. The last time I was over the top happy was after running on the beach, and conquering my fear of open water by swimming out into the Thai Sea, laying buoyant on the water, and humming a deep down om for minutes on end. My view of the world is entirely idealistic and unrealistic, but that makes me happy. It makes me believe. I consider it my religion: idealism- the search for humanity. In 10 years I want to still be searching. I believe life’s greatest mistakes and greatest discoveries can be found in the journey. And once it is over, once we believe we have found it all, we actually have nothing left to go after. My greatest fear is that of complacency and entitlement. I don’t feel like I currently understand the people of the world because understanding requires one to connect, and connection requires being able to put oneself in others’ shoes; this, I am unable to do today. I hope to someday be able to confidently say I am one with the people, without material necessities, and I am doing everything I can to understand & assist my brothers and sisters of our fragile, delightfully imperfect world.
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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Ali says:

    show us the pictures!!!!

  2. Anu says:

    Dear Shabnam,
    I read your pieces because I enjoy reading them, love your enthusiasm, am impressed by your insight and learn from it as well.
    What do I want for the world- Peace, happiness, equality.
    And here’s what I want from the world- The ability to accept individuals as they are, no judgments.
    Keep writing, love

  3. Megha says:

    you have an uncanny ability to articulate clearly and concisely really complicated ideas. I think I read your blog to become more clear on what I want from life…and because your pictures are amazing. Even though you’re younger than me, I seek to emulate you in some ways but honestly, hate to admit it, but I’m scared to.
    What do I want from the world? for everyone to have a fair chance…I guess for everyone to get a shot at the “American Dream.” But when I see/hear about victims of unprovoked crimes, it’s almost too much for me to bear. It’s encouraging to see that someone has the guts and most importantly, the heart, to reach out and make a difference.

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