4:30 P.M., Friday, January 11th, 2008
Outside the chemical engineering department bus stop,
University of Wisconsin, Madison
It was around 4:30 P.M. As i was standing outside the chemical engineering department, I felt hell pouring cold snow on me. The cold wind was tearing me apart. The temperature was around – 30 C. And the tears in my eyes were freezing.
To say that I was feeling shattered would be an understatement. To say that I was devastated would also not explain enough as to what I was going through. And worst of all, I had no idea of the horrors that were going to hit me in next 20 minutes.
And as I stood there in the freezing cold and wind, my throat was choking in pain. My legs were shivering in the wind. My heart was feeling numb. And through it all, my mind was recollecting again and again the oncampus interview in which I had just been rejected.
“You could not even clear an oncampus interview ! What scholarship and research assistantship will you make ?”, screamed my mind to myself.
I had prepared for this interview for 2 weeks. I covered every topic that I could read and answered every question that I was asked in the interview. But then the professor said :
“Sai, there is no denying that you have done fabulously well in your life. I appreciate your merits. But then, one of my students is returning for the spring. And I am intending to offer this position to her. So, I am sorry. I will not be able to offer this job to you. Anyways, I will keep you in mind for the coming semester.”
It was the first interview reject of my life ! I never knew before what an interview rejection felt like ! Before leaving India, I promised dad that I’d find atleast an oncampus position if not a research scholarship. But then, today, I had a reality check. A reality check in the fact that the world respects experience, reference and recommendations more than knowledge. My ego had received the first slap on its face.
“The position is gone Sai ! What will you do now ?”, my mind was asking.
My heart had no answer !
“Speak Sai Speak ! You brought yourself into this ! The position that you should have got is just gone ! And there are no jobs left for this semester. What will you do for monthly rent ? How will you pay the fees ?”, asked my mind restlessly.
The cold wind continued to hit me like a thousand pins. Every part of my body froze. And it is then i realized that after the interview, I had forgotten my winter jacket in the department room.
“Get it back.. You are freezing.”, said my heart.
The department was about 100 feet from the bus stop.
“No.. The bus is due any moment. It’s the last one for the day. Anyways, you deserve this punishment of the cold wind. Its your ego that you were the best C++ programmer, presenter and interview giver that brought you into this”, said my mind.
“Sai, get your winter jacket !”, commanded my heart.
“You think you can walk in till there ! It’s a 100 feet ! And its – 30 C Sai ! Its snowing hell and blowing wind at many a miles per hour. And anyways what do you want to walk for ? To get that jacket and fight another day like this ? To get that jacket and make all your loved ones see you continue struggle ?”, tore my mind.
“Sai, get your winter jacket !”, commanded my heart again.
My mind did not say anything. My body refused to move.
All of a sudden the phone began to ring. I opened my hand gloves to pick the call. And the wind immediately bit all my fingers leaving them numb.
“Swathy calling”, said my phone.
I did not pick up the call.
And as I put my phone back without lifting the call, I realized that there wasn’t even a single person at the bus stop ! I was in the plain formals I wore for the interview. And the cruelly cold wind was just cutting through me. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. And it was almost 36 hours since I slept.
“Why aren’t any one there here ?”, asked my mind.
“Sai, go get your winter jacket”, said my heart.
“Oh will you shut up ? I can’t walk for 100 feet now. I would rather use my leather bag as the defense.”, said my mind.
Thinking thus, I put the leather bag, which had the laptop in it, infront of my chest. I also ensured that I turned to stand in the same direction as that of the wind, so that only my back gets to face the cold wind.
And it was the moment I was turning, I first realized in my life that the crutches i use to walk were "metallic". And these "metallic" crutches too had gone madly cold due to the wind and snow. Infact, they were carrying ice around themselves. And their chillness was so spreading through my woolen gloves, that I could no longer hold them and stand.
So I began to search for a place to sit. I sat in the snow heap, that had collected around the footpath. I tightly held on to my bag so as to not cause any damage to my laptop as well as to not let any cold air pass through me.
And as I was sitting, my mind began again.
“You are an interview reject Sai ! Come this 30th, if you pay the tuition fee of 12,500 $ you will not have monthly rental to pay. And if you don’t pay the tuition fee, you will be fined and fined and fined only to be expelled for the next semester.”, said my mind.
My heart did not say a word.
My eyes were burning. And whether the burn was out of the cold or out of the longing to see my mom, I didn’t know. My arms were aching. And whether the ache was due to the cold or due to the load of dreams I took on, I didn’t know. My body was paining. And whether the pain was due to the cold or it was because of the restlessness in me, I didn’t know. My legs were shivering. But this time though, I knew the reason. I knew the cause of my legs' shivering. I looked down to see the snow on which I had stood a few minutes back. It was something I shouldn’t have seen.
“Be positive Sai”, said my mind. The colour of the snow, everywhere my left foot had stepped was brownish red. And this changed colour also changed my mind's attitude immediately
My heart did not respond.
“Use your strategy Sai. Recollect the happy moments of your life. Think of people whom you love the most. Think of the times you spent with your best friends. Think of the day when you topped your inter class and were overjoyed to see the pride in your dad’s eyes. Think of the day when you first saw the buildings of C.B.I.T. and how you fell in love with it. Think of the day when you first entered a C coaching class to learn C language. Think of the day, you got your first job. Think of the day, you got your GRE score of 1470”, said my mind trying to cheer me up and make me feel calm. But then, if at all anything, I could only feel my mind panicking.
The wind had picked up even more. I was feeling snow cold myself.
“Bus please.. Bus please.. Bus please”, my mind was constantly chanting.
And now as I sat there all alone, feeling like a dead body, with my mind scared more than ever before, i felt i was left to destiny's will.
“Sai”, said my mind.
“Ya”, responded my heart.
“You know what ?”, asked my mind.
“Ya”, said my heart.
“You have been one very adamant boy all your life”, said my mind.
“Ya, I know”, said my heart feeling a strange sense of smile.
“Why are you smiling ? Are you feeling proud of it ?”, asked my mind.
“No Dear.. I am not proud of it. But then, I am strangely happy about it”, replied my heart.
“Happy ? ! And what for ? For sitting in the junction of this totally alien country like a beggar ?”, asked my mind with a pinch of anger.
“Nopes Sai. You are seeing the wrong side. I am not happy for where i am sitting now. But then, i am happy for having come thus far. I am happy today for having believed in my love. A love that taught me to dream of the impossible. A love that made me feel a desire for my tomorrow. A love that made me feel hope for my tomorrow. A love that taught me to see the best in everything and be the best in everything. A love that made me wake up at 3 in the morning today and sleep at 12 in the night the other day. A love for which I had turned my world upside down. A love to attain which I will sit like a beggar in the middle of a street. You see Sai, when I believed in my love, i started feeling that anything is possible. I started setting goals, made promises and started working. Infact, I’d say i started living. I wanted to break all barriers - physical, mental, financial and emotional - which came in the way of my love and which people have forced on me. I have broken them so far. And i will continue to break them because somewhere down the line i realize that true love of a person shouldn't bind that person, instead it should make him/her feel liberated. And Dear, as i sit in this junction of this alien country, in the quest for my love, i am feelinh happy. Happy that i am fighting it out and happy that i have come thus far. And just to make you feel calm, i must tell you that the job is not done yet.. I am awaiting the day dear, I'm awaiting the day when I’d proudly meet my love”, said my heart.
And as my heart was replying thus, I suddenly felt something warm under my nose. And within seconds of my feeling that, I could feel blood trickle down my nose. Infact I saw blood from my nose falling onto my shirt and the laptop bag. I tried moving my hand to remove the hand gloves but to my greatest horror, my hands just refused to move. I tried desperately, but it was as if someone had tied me. And the more i tried, the more i failed. I tried moving my legs now but they were refusing to obey me now. I felt like a soul trapped in a cage.
I wanted to scream for help. But there was no one in the vicinity. It was pitch dark now and my only hope was the bus ! It was due 10 minutes back.
- To be continued -