Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
So what’s your week been like? What have you been doing?
I have a radio show on Sunday (or, actually, Monday) from midnight until 2:00 a.m. with Paul Weston, my ex-roommate and best friend, called DubHouse — we play a lot of house, dubstep. We’d like to think people are listening in, getting invigorated as they’re getting their work done. We just want to play our music. We rock out in the DJ booth by ourselves, and we have friends stop by.
I’m taking vastly different classes than I have before, because I’m done with my Bio major. I’m taking Intro Ed and loving it. That’s one of the things I’m thinking about for after Swat, actually, teaching high school Biology.
I’m also taking Clinical Psych, just because I’ve focused on PsychoBio while here at Swat, and I felt that only gave me one side of the picture. A lot of times you see people as their symptoms, but not as people. We’ll talk about the drugs we use, but not about therapy or the process of therapy, and that’s what I’m getting in Clinical Psych. It’s been really interesting to balance out that kind of psychology and biology by putting a human face on the work.
As an Admissions Fellow, asking people over and over and over about their motivations, what conclusions have you come to for yourself?
I’ve realized I’ve taken the backseat for a lot of my life. I came in as pre-med, and my courses were laid out for me, and I wasn’t thinking about whether or not these were actually the courses I wanted to be taking. I definitely feel like if I were to re-do it, I wouldn’t be pre-med. I probably would have taken more Sociology and Education courses. Those are the conversations I love having. I love going on dinner dates.
You like talking with people. You like asking them tough questions. So I want to ask you those kinds of questions: why are you doing the things you’re doing?
I feel like ego is really involved in some of the things I’m looking at. Volunteering was important to me in high school — I used to spend a lot of time volunteering, but that’s fallen by the wayside here at Swat. That’s really disappointing to me, but at the same time, I realize stuff happens, Swat happens, the academic rigors here are much more than I ever faced in high school. I realize I’ve definitely put that part of my life on the back burner, but now, coming out of these conversations at Swat, I’m seeing exactly how privileged I am. I want to help others have this experience.
The ego problem comes in, where I wonder if I’m just doing this to try to please my own ego. I don’t think that’s something I’ll ever get an answer to. But I don’t think that should stifle me from doing something to try to make a difference. I applied to TFA, but as I have more conversations and do more research, I realize it’s not all rosy and rainbows. There are definitely some elitist qualities there.
Where did you grow up? What was your growing up experience like?
I came to America when I was one and a half, to north New Jersey. I have very sparse memories of that. I was born in Bombay, my brother was born in Nagpur. We moved where we did in the U.S. because of the school district. That’s something I’ve only recently appreciated, and I still need to do a better job of showing appreciation to my parents for sacrificing so much to come here. They didn’t know how much that was going to change everything, how much of a cultural gap was going to develop. There is a disconnect between my parents and me, for a lot of different reasons.
So I grew up in that Jersey suburb, and didn’t really feel Indian, to be honest. I never really liked India; India was just this foreign place I went in the summer. It was fun with my cousins, but not what I considered home. I wanted to be back in America, joining summer soccer leagues with friends, hanging out, going to Dairy Queen, swimming, doing that typical American summer kid stuff. So we stopped going to India as frequently when we got into high school, because me and my brother would fight it hardcore. The last time I went to India was my sophomore year of college, and that was after eight years or so of not going at all. It was the first time that I was excited to go to India, and I had a great time.
I’m still coming to terms with the fact that if anyone asks me if I’m Indian, I’ll say yes, but on the inside, I don’t feel Indian. I feel American. When they did the whole Dorm Dive interview for The Phoenix, I had a huge Shiva bedspread hanging over my closet. The thing is, I’m not Hindu at all, I’m Christian — that’s why my name is Philip. And yet I’m trying to cling to this vague notion of being Indian, these tropes of being Indian, when in reality, I’m pretty “whitewashed.”
One of the things I want to do if I don’t end up teaching is volunteer abroad in India. When I visited, I was pampered, and I wasn’t ready to have earnest conversations with people. So I really want to go back and have those conversations now. Talk about my own past, and what India means to these people, and what it means for me.
So what exactly are you looking to do in the coming year? This is the ultimate question.
I’ve been really bad about this, but I haven’t been stressing. Maybe it’s just all going to hit me during senior week. My mom wants me to have all of this planned out, because she wants me to be happy, safe, prosperous — that’s why she came here. At the same time, I realize I need to have these experiences, even if they might not be as structured as she would like them to be.
I mean, ideally, I’d like a job where I could talk to people, and build relationships with them, help empower them. Sometimes all people need is somebody to listen to them, and I think I do a pretty good job at that.
There are some things that I feel Swatties are pretty complacent about, that I want to call people out on. I feel like people get a little too complacent in their groups and don’t challenge themselves to have conversations with people who they’re not especially comfortable with, but who would really help them to expand their thinking in different ways. That’s my favorite part about Swat: the people.
Honestly, dude, I don’t have these kinds of conversations nearly enough. You form these groups freshman year based on your hall, or whatever, and you get stuck in those groups and don’t have conversations outside of them. I was thinking about that in relation to senior spring: who are those people that I’ve always wanted to have those conversations with but have never reached out to?
There’s always a new person I want to meet — a new person I can gain some knowledge and wisdom from.