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  • Even now, at age 31, when I close my eyes I can still conjure the freckled face of Archie Andrews.

    A stack of Archie comics leaned against the white porcelain of my childhood toilet ever since I started at public school. The toilet has changed - a different house, a remodelled bathroom - but the Archies are still there. When I visit home and flip through the stories, I'm shocked by how much of these imaginary lives I remember. I'm not drawn into the comics, but I know I was there, at Riverdale High School, in class with the characters, caught in Archie's interminable romance between Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge.

    Images have that power to stick with us over time.

    I sat beside this boy on a rickety government bus that took us along a bumpy road that crossed the scrubby Tamil plains between Tiruvannamalai and Bangalore. He sat on his father's lap. In India, his father would be referred to as a "common man" - poor, by Western standards, but not destitute.

    The boy slept for most of the hot, noisy six hour journey as I gazed out the window at the parched countryside. When he woke up, he played with his toy. Pushing the buttons made the phone make simple sounds. A cheap toy. Made in China.

    Chances are this boy will go through a high school education. When he graduates, he'll dream about attending an Engineering or Public Service school. He'll write a test to compete for a handful of spots against thousands of other boys with similar dreams. He'll have a marriage arranged with a girl from a nearby village.

    Chances are, she won't look anything like the girls on his screen.

    I'm single, never married, which is exceptional for a 31 year old man in India. I'm well-educated and well-tempered. I've got a nice smile and bright eyes. Meeting and holding conversation with women has never been my problem. I come from privilege and have opportunity.

    So why do I fidget at the expression in his father's eyes when I tell him I'm a bachelor?

    We can be so hard on ourselves for the way life turns out differently than we imagine. But how do we know what makes a good life? How do we know what we're capable of? Who sets our expectations?

    Maybe, deep down, I'm still trying to decide between Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge.

    Images have that power to stick with us over time.

    I think our work is to replace the images that no longer serve us with something new.

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