"Your college is about to get over, what do you plan to do next?", asked Shreya's father. Shreya replied, "Masters, probably in the field of Computer Science or Mathematics(deep down not even sure if that's what she wants to do, or maybe that's what every Indian kid is conditioned to do, because if they don't, it will be like breaking a perfectly linked chain-Kindergarten to Junior school; Junior to Senior school; Senior school to High school; High school to Bachelors; Bachelors to Masters; then job, marriage, kids... it never really ends; which would offend our society!!)." However, what worried her even more was the fact that she was able to get a job at Wipro through college placements in her final year but if she were going to study further, she would have to let go off that job. It was a tough call because she never thought she would ever get a job in the first place! Yes, she had a low self-esteem. If you are Indian, and you do engineering from a college which is not IIT,NIT or BITS, you will have a low self-esteem even if you did well in your exams.
She had this conversation with her father when only two months were left for her final year exams. Some of her batch mates were planning to pursue masters from prestigious colleges in USA or Canada, and had already submitted their applications and documents and here she was, without a plan. She looked for alternatives. She thought, maybe she should apply for masters in Germany as the fee is really low and in some cases it is nil. This way, even if she wasn't sure what she wants to do, there won't be a major loss on financial front. The first and the foremost step to apply to any foreign university is to appear for TOEFL which stands for Test Of English as Foreign Language and is a standard requirement everywhere. She started looking up for universities in Germany which offered a masters course in Computer Science or Mathematics and a major requirement was that the candidate should score at least 80 in TOEFL and in some cases they specified that the students should score not less than 20 in all the four components- Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking.
Having read all the requirements, she started studying for TOEFL, booked a date and gave her exam. She was able to score 87 and one of the components was less than 20. That's not all! One of her uncles lives in California and wanted her to apply to universities close to Silicon Valley because that made more sense, for someone who wants to study computer science. Again, in order to pursue masters in USA, one needs to appear for GRE(Graduate Record Examination) apart from TOEFL. If one is able to score more than 300 out of 340, it is considered to be a respectable score and ensures admission in most of the colleges. Her quest started again. Shreya started preparing for GRE and appeared for TOEFL once again in order to improve her score. Poor her, as this time she was more prepared and got 86 only. She knew she will use her previous score but deep down she also knew she will have to appear for this exam once again. Her father was under this impression that she has applied to universities in Germany which she had (not because she wanted to, simply because she was under a lot of pressure from family). One of the universities had rejected her and she didn't follow up with the other two.
When her dad asked about the same, she told him everything, and her father was miffed by the fact that she didn't tell him about the university rejecting her, about her further plan of action. All that he knew was, she will be appearing for GRE in the coming month and she had not even booked the date because she was scared. Like any other Indian father he asked, "Do you really plan to study further, or should I start looking for a potential groom and marry you off?" The prospect of marriage used to scare the hell out of her. There were so many things to talk about, but because she was raised by a typical middle class family, their only concern was to marry off their daughters. In this case, however, her father used this as a threat to make things work not realizing that it damaged a lot of things. Shreya was never fond of her dad. There were some really dark reasons behind it, one of them being, she had found out about her father's extra-marital affair and didn't know whom to share this with. She could not tell her mother as she was schizophrenic and also loved her dad blindly. Her younger sister was short-tempered, but she somehow managed to tell her only to learn that her sister knew!!
"No," she said, "I want to study further." Her father replied, "I am going to office, do tell me about your plan of action when I return." She started once again. Looked up for universities, booked a date for GRE and instead of waiting, called her dad and told him about the same. On the day of the exam, she woke up, finished her morning ablutions, checked her bag for all the stuff she was supposed to carry and reached the venue. She was unwell that day. Through out her exam she was coughing. She managed to score 293, and she knew it was not enough!! The beauty of this exam was, she could appear again after 21 days, and thus, she started preparing once again.
It was not easy. Shreya had always been confused and scared. Scared of everything! She couldn't speak her mind. She was scared of being judged, scared of taking risks, and parents were definitely not helping! Her parents were actually modern in their thoughts, but there were moments when her father would say things that would make her wonder otherwise. She had to take care of her schezophrenic mother who was not recovering well. For this very reason she chose a college near her home, when she could have easily gone to some other city. And now she was planning to go to some other country for masters. This was huge for her and she couldn't share this with anyone. She was really confused. And yes, she was scared.
In the meantime she got her date of joining at Wipro and the location was not her home town! She knew she could easily escape all of this, but she also knew if she took this job, it won't be easy for her to study for GRE and TOEFL. Again she was confused because letting go was a really hard thing to do. For the first time in her life, she let go off something, she had always needed- a job. There was a thirst to prove herself but her fear had weakened her. So when she got a mail from Wipro, she felt a sense of accomplishment, something she had not felt in a really long time.She took that risk and didn't take the job.
She appeared for GRE once again and got 299(cosmos had issues with her!). She felt so bad, she was hoping to score more than 300. And she knew she will have to appear for this exam once again. She had decided though, no matter what score she gets, this will be her last attempt. By this time, she had lost all the hope and appeared once again. Luckily, she got 301 and was satisfied. She appeared for TOEFL once again and got 94 which is a good score, with one of the components still being less than 20. She started working on her application material and realised she'll be needing professional help. She got in touch with a counsellor online, and worked on her essay and letters of recommendation. Finally, she applied to various universities in USA and got rejected by 2 of them and she feared, what if she doesn't get into any University? It was important for her, she had taken almost a year to prepare for exams and university documents.
A realisation hit her. "I have been running like a hare, I have been trying to hide from my aunts and uncles because the only thing they want to know is how I am doing. Not that it matters, but I am not good at lying even if all that I have to say is- I am fine. Not only because of college, but I have been running away since my childhood. I have been trying to stay away from my dad. I have gotten myself into serious situations that I tackled alone, simply because I knew I couldn't tell anyone.I have lived in denial for a major part of my life because that way it is easy. There have been times when my bottled up feelings would make me go crazy and still I wouldn't tell anyone. If I am doing everything alone, then how does it matter what the other person thinks?" With this realisation, she knew she had to look up for a back up, she had to be prepared for the worst. She started applying to universities in her native country, not her native city of course! She had to learn to live without her family which would be a cake walk, she thought.
With this thought in mind, she applied to Indian universities. She started looking for a job as well. She did everything that was required, and its true what they say- Hard work never goes unrewarded. She got an acceptance mail from California State University. Life has so many hurdles, and it is a harsh reality that life is never fair, it doesn't mean one should give up completely. Whatever we want, is always on the other side of the fear. There is no harm in being confused or being scared as long as you don't let it become a big hurdle in your life, like Tolkien said, "Not all those who wander are lost." Shreya went ahead to pursue masters.