And we walked off to look for America
The beginning of 2008, life couldn’t have gotten better-a fairy-tale love story, marriage, a dream husband, a dream destination, not just the US of A-the HARVARD Business School. Life had given us the lemonade, not just thrown us the lime. A sabbatical to join my husband in this dream mission was the best thing to do. Not many agreed to it, but after all what did they know? We were prepared for it!! My husband would have his cases, but he would have Me and I still had a two-year holiday. The Survival Guide was only proof to it-parties, treks, clubs, and events. What more could I have asked for. HBS, here I came!!
The lovely weather, the lush green backyard of our small cozy home, the blue flowing Charles-Boston was just beautiful. We had friends from undergrad in town. Settling in was smoother than smooth. We walked down to see the campus. We just loved it. Elegant, stately buildings, a five-minute walk from home. Everything was just perfect. Life seemed to flow like the Charles. Soon we had our first party-the Lobster Clambake. This is so much fun. Life here is good! We didn’t want to judge too soon. But one more test and we’d be through-the Section and the cases. We couldn’t wait for them.
Rajat, my husband, started class and was assigned to Section E. With it came the cases and the parties. The Survival Guide was right. HBS was all about cases, sections and parties. Rajat spent his days in class and evenings cracking cases. I read a few of them, too, but I enjoyed my time at home. After a year of working like crazy myself, being home felt good. During the day I explored the ‘T’ and Boston, enjoyed my short walks, read and sometimes sat by the river. In the evenings I attended events and section get-togethers. I was now ‘Rajat’s wife’. I liked meeting new people, but parties didn’t seem so much fun. I liked the cases too, but didn’t get the Section jokes. I thought I felt left out, but again didn’t want to judge too soon. We were only starting and I was to be prepared.
Slowly my short walks started becoming looong, my time at home became time cleaning, cooking and washing, the lovely weather seemed chilly and the lush green seemed to be going somewhere. Things didn’t seem exciting enough. I knew I was ‘prepared’ and needed to take control. I started to learn Spanish, volunteer at institutes and audit a course. I had met a few other partners at events. I began meeting them, but rarely, for coffee and chats. It became easier to relate to the International partners. I met partners from around the world. We spoke different languages and told different stories, but one thing we all had in common-we missed the places we came from, our families and our friends. We missed the food we ate and the brands we loved back home. We felt we were out of place and that we didn’t belong. I realized I was one of the lucky few for whom language wasn’t a concern. I empathized with those for whom it was. We met up more often and drank more coffee. Meanwhile the lush green disappeared, the Charles froze and I started looking ugly in the clothes I wore. The cases never ended and to top it all off came the recruiting. The darkest hour of night is just before dawn, but maybe it’s just not dark enough yet, I told myself. Our friendships grew stronger, we met more often, but we talked of the same things-the winter, the cases and the recruiting.
Somewhere in between came the holidays and the retreats, the winter and the spring break, the Holidazzle and the Priscilla ball. Some were fun and some we missed-blame it on the cases, the networking or our budgets. Sometime in between, Section events became fun and section mates friends. Finally came an internship and we were excited about the summer. Coffee chats were every other day and section events a lot of fun. I couldn’t wait to get out of the bubble-to leave for the summer. Life had something in store again.
The three months of summer were fun. Life away from cases, the Charles and the Square felt like ‘life’ again. My husband and I loved our stint in Seattle-section mates, the Rainier, the walks by the harbor, the restaurants and the festivals. Life was good again; it felt like the calm after the storm. We loved it and I wanted it to never end. I dreaded the thought of having to come back and never thought about it. But I noticed, I missed something-I missed our cozy little ‘home’, my walk by the Charles, my group of friends, and sometimes even the Square. I never wanted to acknowledge it, but maybe sometime in between, when even I hadn’t realized, I finally did ‘belong’. I couldn’t help but accept it. I wanted to come back-to our ‘home’, to my friends and to the Square.
It is now a new beginning. We have come a full circle. The Charles is flowing and my backyard is lush green again. I am excited about my classes and love it that my husband has a five-day weekend. I choose not to think of recruitments, but enjoy my never-ending coffee chats with friends. Deep inside, I still miss my family, my friends and my home, but to you Boston, Section E, my friends and my ‘home’-I know I love you all!!!
Niranjana Neelakantan Gupta is the International Co-Chair of the HBS Partners’ Club. An accomplished home-maker, she is basically an Engineer and HR professional on a sabbatical. She relocated to Boston from India last year with her husband.