“Hey, dime a donde vas, y si sabes tu destino…”
– Ayer, Enrique Iglesias
2013 ended on such an odd note: My mother was asleep on the couch when we heard the fireworks went off before it was even midnight, perhaps at Parker’s Piece. I wished her ‘Happy Birthday’; she replied, ‘Hmm.’ We stayed home because my mother was ill, so it was difficult to be in a celebratory mood even though the first of January was my mother’s birthday. In fact, for a couple of years now the first of January has consecutively begun with dramatic moments that sour the start of the new year for us.
But as we have witnessed for the past few years too, these bad moments have been merely those — moments. As days passed by, we managed to solve our problems one by one, to learn from our mistakes, to bow down in gratitude for the many blessings bestowed upon us too, and to live one day at a time.
And all the turbulence of the past months have brought us to one particular city I never, not in my wildest dreams, ever thought I would step foot in: Cambridge.
Our departure early October last year was so last minute that reality never quite sunk in until we’d boarded the plane to Abu Dhabi, and then to Heathrow. Even then I was so nervous to feel excited about what the future would bring, about the people I would encounter, and the challenges I were to face in this intimidating city. I wasn’t too worried about adjusting in this city — this sort of thing feels like it’s been engineered into my genes since time immemorial — but the question was, would I be able to cope intellectually?
Of all the impromptu and spur-of-the-moment experiments I have gotten into, this without a doubt promises to be perhaps the biggest and most challenging of all.
The photos below were taken during Queens’ College Matriculation Photograph session held at the beginning of the Michaelmas term. This was done in two batches: one for undergraduates, and the other for postgraduates. As I took these photos, I was in line waiting for the undergrads to wrap things up so we could get on the stand for our turn.
The Matriculation Photo is taken only once in your lifetime at Cambridge to commemorate your admission into your college (but if you are admitted into another college for a new course then you would be entitled to another photo session at your new college). Before this session took place, I consulted my supervisor as to whether I should go for the photo session or to the Social Sciences Research Methods Center orientation session, both of which were scheduled to take place at the same time. Surprisingly, she told me to ditch the SSRMC orientation and get my photo taken at my college instead, because your face in the Matriculation Photo of that year is somewhat proof that you existed in the College.
For some reason, my undergraduate days at UWA feels socially fragmented because although there were people who started and ended their Bachelor’s at the same time as I did, we were all doing different units and different times and majoring in different things, so we never really felt like we were in the same boat. I am tremendously glad that I didn’t miss this photo session at my college because even though not a single person in that stand was doing their postgraduate studies in Social Anthropology, we had one thing in common: we belong to the same college and matriculated at the same time, a truth cemented in our Matriculation Photograph.
I have yet to order my Matriculation Photograph from Queens’, but the taking of this photograph in so many ways marks the beginning of many challenges ahead, the opening of a new chapter for me, and what I could only hope to be promises of a better future — not only for me, but for the rest of my family as well.