At the Darkest Hour

I entered Professor X's office last friday afternoon with a beating heart and anxious face.

"I wanted to tell you something which I think I should have told you before but if I did you wouldn't have let me do it-"

His face became immediately stern as he took a half circle on his revolving chair to face me, leaving the important half written email mid way.

"What is it Tanja. Tell me straight and quick."

"I-I participated in this competition, and I got selected in the top finalists of the nation, and now they want me to participate in the final event in Texas next week. And I need your signature on this form so that I can go-"

"I will not sign it. This, this is wrong. Very wrong..And it's not the first time, you know it. When you did it in the first semester, without my permission went ahead to submit things, I tried hard to understand and forgave you because you were new...But now? Again? No, no, don't say it's a little thing. I don't care about that. I know it's a small thing for me to sign it and I don't care about it. It's about honesty. You're not honest with me. You want to hide things from me. On purpose. This is not good. Not good at all. You should have asked me in the first place. Yes, okay, maybe I would have said "no". But then an advisor must have a reason to say no, right? Then we could have argued. At least we wouldn't have to see this day. Now this is all so messed up. See Tanja, you made a mistake, you must pay for it. You must withdraw your entry from the competition. Your attitude is not right, Tanja. You push people, it makes them so uncomfortable. I can't review your thesis on your schedule. There's no time left, your defense is coming near, and you've nothing in hand. Look at XuXu, he has submitted his thesis to the committee already and his defense is later than yours. He started working on it in December and you began in March? This is not gonna work, Tanja. You've to change if you want to do well. Listen, I know you're gonna leave this university, no, no don't say anything, I can see that in your eyes. Your heart is not here anymore. That's fine, I've hired the Japanese girl anyway. But mark this, this is my personal advice to you. Wherever you go, you'll have a new advisor. He/She may not tolerate this attitude of yours. Ok? I'm telling you this because I've known you. You are bright, Tanja. And it seems you love this profession very much, you'll become a good professor one day. But only if you're honest and nice to people. Otherwise success in future will be hard. And you're my student, no matter where you go, my name will always be on your resume. I don't want to hear bad things happened to you later in your career. This is a small research community we're in. Everyone knows everyone. I want you to think and aim far, not waste your time in these petty competitions. Okay? Respect people. I hope you remember my advice."

And with that he turned his back to me to stare at the half-written email he had left behind to lecture me. Yesterday, I felt like things had come to an end. It was 3 PM when I came out of his office and I felt shattered, broken. For a few moments I realized perhaps he's right. Perhaps I won't be a great, successful  person in the classical sense of these terms.  And besides I didn't have a single PhD offer in my hand and I was about to be kicked out from the Jaali university within 2 months or so. Sometimes, you know, life is so dark around you, that it's not just blinding, it's suffocating.

But then, I reasoned myself. I said, "Well, it doesn't matter. Prof. X had already screwed my letter of recommendations. And if success means sucking feet of lame men by being a silent, laborious slave, then I don't want that kind of success. Nahi chahiye vaisi kamyaabi. I'll be better back in India, in my own room, alone, with a book in hand. A book like "Catcher in the Rye". And then I would write my own, and maybe publish it you know. But I can't do that diplomacy to win people. I'll never be a ruler of a reign. I was and always be a warrior. An amazon. Who fights by principles and dies in courage. I will not yield to incompetence. This life is just a story of this steep descent." But even then, the stark fact haunted me for two hours that life's gonna be harder if you're gonna continue making enemies and if you continuously refuse to respect people. But why should I respect them, these phonies?

Anyway, at 5pm, at the darkest hour of my life, I received a phone call. It was from the Awesome university I had visited a few weeks ago. And the professor that I was interested in working with was saying, "Tanja, congratulations. You've been awarded two fellowships for your PhD, which will cover your entire tuition fee and stipend. I would love if you could join my group, we would be able to do a lot of great things together. And, no, no, you don't have to tell me anything right now. Do not at all feel pressurized to decide, I'm sure that with credentials like yours, you must be having a couple of options and you might be waiting from other schools. So take your time, I would look forward to see you join us but feel free to let us know in two weeks, okay?"

"You just made my Friday night," I crackled on phone as a tear smeared down my cheek.

Current Book: "Selected Stories" by Edgar Allan Poe
Current Music: "Breaking the Habit" by Linkin Park

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Kajal said...

wow! congratulations...well deserved...

Glad to have found you at Indiblogger. Your newest follower ad a regular visitor now.

Anonymous said...

Awww I'm so happy for you, congratulations!! :) As they say, the hour before dawn is the darkest.. really glad things worked out for you!


Well , I can say , when the going gets tough the tough gets going
congrats :0

umashankar said...

It is my humble suggestion that you change the coulour of your pink font to a darker hue of your choice.

Shreya said...

Congratulations!!!!! Well...maybe all the 'silver lining' cliche's do have some sense in them after all!!!! :)

Tanya said...

@Kajal, very good to know that!

@kinmin, the dawn has indeed dawned upon us..

@rahul, wow I loved that quote in ur comment! thanks!

@uma, oh yeah, sorry, I'll change it to dark blue maybe from next time, but I thought pink is kinda cute ;) (and i love pink (singer))

@shreya, yeah, now i believe in them too...

Rahul Bhatia said...

Tanya, this was extremely well written and I was smitten by your style! Congratulations for many more successes in life:)

Anonymous said...

congratulations indeed and all the best! :)

Tanya said...

^^Thanks Rahul and's very sweet of you people..

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