Friday, May 13, 2005

The phoenix from the dust - a tale of two dots (Grad School - Part 4)

This blog is in sequence, so please start reading from the bottom of the page. Thank you.

As I recover from the flashback with no item songs :(, I find that I have done no cleaning at all, with my sis sifting through the pile. She has reached the bottom and hands me two sheets of paper.

I find that its an article by another dot in the Gaussian curve, only two years older. One dot instantly empathizes with the other wanting to share the dot account with you.

-Italics spoken by the older dot-

Kindly call me God

In all our lives, of what humble little we've lived of it, there comes a time when we must be honest with ourselves, listen to our conscience, as some wise men might say, and to be objective of our achievements (or the lack of them). Like most stories of consequence, it all started in the rainy season when the cloud seemed to dull all hope over the horizon and when most of us sat down to write an SOP, the facts of life are all painfully clear - you're still only as good as you were yesterday, and maybe you were great until the day you were born...

Let's call them the Honest Few, more for what they aspired to be than what they were. Well, I'll be the last to say honesty gets you an edge when you're apping. You can call me 2080, for that would truly represent my score in an exam that mattered then
(note-then). Amongst my comrades in the Honest Few were Barrel and Sage, more for appearance than any relevance to character.

Fall 2002

Come October, all of us were busy 'proffing'. Now, proffing in its extreme sense involved getting a few professors in the university to know your name, and wondering if a student of your academic credentials might be the next star of his research group. An honest appeal on our part ranged from potentially pathbreaking ideas in applied physics, to having wondered about gravity at a very young age, to aspiring for a Nobel/Fields Medal a few years down the line. Note the word 'potential' (There is such a thing as modesty, folks!!).

And then the profs replied with a variety of reasons all of which did not do our chances of an admit with an RA and tuition waiver any good...

The Barrel stormed into my room one hot afternoon. After the objects in my room settled down to his entry, he spoke: "What the heck? He is going on a fishing trip indefinitely!! Hope his rod never hooks bait again...". Apparently, the prof had given the barrel an invitation not to bother him again.

That night, just as I was about to turn off the lights and smoke a much-favored Gold Flake in solitude, the Sage entered. "Life seems to revolve around the irrelevant. This guy claims he's retiring next week", he said.

Meanwhile, our SOPs were slowly but steadily heading nowhere. In the mess, where all talks of life's happenings occur, the Barrel asked us in confidence, "Comrades, why not SOPs from the internet?". "Most noble suggestion!", said the Sage. "2080, chalo cyber cafe!". "But same SOP, three chaps, same college, same department => bump, macchan!", I protested.

The Barrel, tired of terrorizing the mess workers, spoke, "Hey Ram! No wonder you are EEE! Let's app to different places! If I read motors/generators anymore I'll go crazy!!". As the light dawned on me, the Sage dropped his post-dinner pearl of wisdom: "Let's cross bridges when we come to them...".

But alas, most searches with noble aims are wasted journeys. By now, my SOP was two sides of a blank paper and my heart was heavier than a photocopier. There are occasions when time comes to a standstill, when every moment becomes an epoch. But for some obscure reason, beyond the reach of my limited faculties, this was not one of them! Day chased night, and week chased week with ungraceful vigour, as October flew by and November entered my already crowded life. The Sage and the Barrel had gone underground, just vanished, like a guerilla army that retreats into the jungle just to chill out and then comes back to shed blood with renewed zeal. My proffing had yielded, even by the most benevolent yardstick, marginal gains. I was genuinely sorry for all those learned men at the univs I was apping to, on whom I intended inflicting my company.

Then, one bright morning, as the world was moving on its own business, as a technical festival was grabbing me by the neck and strangling me slowly, the Sage came up to me and said, "Boss, SOP over!". Even as he walked away towards the bank we had on campus, I was seeing an entire arsenal of thermonuclear weapons exploding around me, a sudden flashing light that left everything else dark, and that light wasn't coming from me! In short, I was shaken, not stirred. Rumors were rife that the Barrel was onto something big. That night, I sought an appointment with the Sage.

In his abode, sitting with two sheets of paper containing the details of such a man I never knew could exist, I realized that the Sage was truly done with his SOP. After this sordid encounter, I knew that the time had come for me to lay aside all notions of modesty and truth. It was SOP time, people! They say life begins at 30. I say it is better at 60 and after 90 things are nicer than ever! After a quarter, you are not yourself of course! It was in this advanced state of awareness that I started on my SOP. The next morning, going through it, I realized that there was nothing like smirnoff to get cracking on an SOP...

December brought its own events. It saw us eager to finish the year and see the next one if it would be any different from the ones we've lived before. Yes, such is hope!! The Barrel had started making his bi-weekly trips to the post office. Each visit to that establishment meant apps for three univs were on their way to the USA. And a pious prayer at a temple after every such trip. And so did the Sage and so, following their footsteps, did I. But then, I put in a little extra that I didn't tell the rest about: a visit to the venugopal temple praying that some dope did not lose my app packet, or that my app wasn't mistaken for junk mail and fed to a shredder by some overworked admissions officer...

The New Year dawned, actually crept in over me, since the last I remembered of the previous year were the lights and sights of Downtown, the local watering hole. But I'm digressing! As I was saying, the New Year dawned and we were through with the apping and now, a bi-weekly temple visit was about all we could do.

March-April 2003

Come April, temperatures soared, as did our blood pressures. No news of admits, the odd bump friends received, but on our front, nothing. Yet, one hot afternoon, the Barrel stormed in, puffing like a steam engine on an incline. He rested his comfortable posterior on my chair and looked into the wall with an empty gaze. All he said was, "Bump from SUNY-B! And I thought it was a safe...". The Sage met with a similar fate a couple of days later from USF, which he shrugged off with his usual I-knew-about-this-all-along-but-chose-to-do-nothing expression. By now, I was, well, really scared to say the least. Like a hunter's gun-bearer who's in on the shoot for a lark and suddenly finds his master consumed and digested by a tiger, like a lion tamer seeing his lion salivate every time he entered the ring. Plainly put in college vocab, I was psyched shitless! And in a few days, I got bumped from a place that thanked me for having considered them blah blah blah...

But then to every night comes a dawn. Even to that seemingly endless night, there came a dawn. The Sage scored the first hit: "RPI admit, macchan!", he announced in the mess. The Barrel was observed performing a jig in the corridor and when I went to see the spectacle, he shouted, "VTech admit! Oooh yeaah!!". And so the decisions started coming in, gradually, but each as exciting as the previous one. Finally, when the lot had come through, the Sage had five admits, the Barrel and I had four each.

Over a quiet drink, when the Barrel was, for some strange reason, quiet, I popped the question: "People, if you were to write your SOP in one sentence, what would you say?"

The Sage considered my question and its implications. He seemed to take it in, savour the taste it left behind and then spoke these words: "KCMG". I was by now well past and didn't bother asking who or what KCMG was.

The Barrel did the honours though; "What the f*** is KCMG?!!"

The Sage replied, "Kindly Call Me God...". The Barrel, who'd managed to inverse bump a couple of univs., let out a sudden low frequency sound of indeterminate origin. We looked to him to have his SOP summary.

He said, "Aaah! Sage, tu to modesty nikla! No wonder you got bumped on the house. Mereko dekh, I've inverse bumped two and I've got an RA lined up at the place I'm headed to. If thats not studgiri..."

"So what does your SOP say?", I enquired.

"GCMG...", the Barrel said.

This abbreviation business was getting out of hand! "And what the hell is GCMG?!!", the Sage demanded.

The Barrel gave us his patient lop-sided smile, and a most forgiving expression before saying, "God Calls Me God...".

Thats when I passed out...



Admit: letter of admission
Apping: applying to a university
Bump: A regret letter from a univ giving you a reason for not being admitted
Inverse Bump: A rare phenomenon where the applicant rejects a univ because he's got a better offer on hand
SOP: Statement of Purpose
Univ: University
Machan: A term that used to mean brother-in-law but now used by pretty much every college student

that's where the older dot merges along with the newer dot into the curve...


Kaycee said...

Heavenly writing, machan!

sarvamitran said...

Thanks! Sadly I can't take the credit. The italics were actually written by a friend.

Kaycee said...

Yes, but I was also referring to the preceding posts

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