I submit my application to the college office. I say to the clerk, “This is MY application.” Lest he think I was submitting the application of my child.
The answer. “Hmmm. We get many seniors who are looking for a second career.”
Umm…that’s a relief.
A week passes. A nurse working in my operation theatre, whose daughter has also applied, alerts me to the fact that the first list is put up on the notice board. With some trepidation, I go to the college. Peering at the notice board, I scan the list two times before realising that I have applied in my maiden name, all the certificates being in that name.
I read it all over again. Nah…..My name is not there. Utterly dejected, I turn away, my foray into renewed academia over before it started.
Then I read the heading. The list is that of Commerce graduates and I am a Science graduate.
So, with renewed hope, I scoot over to the other list.
Ahhhh. Third time lucky…Yup, my name is there. It has been a long time since I experienced this relief!!!!
Two days later, I am back in the queue outside the college office, with a bunch of forms clutched tightly.
But, I have to be back at work in two hours and am already clock watching.
The sight of the queue that I see puts paid to any notion of a quick exit.
There are twenty persons ahead of me. I realise that each person is taking an average of seven to ten minutes. So, doing a quick math this could take over two hours.
Alarmingly, the kid in front of me has a form that I have apparently not filled. Panicky now, I do this thing that is done when you are ducking out of a queue for a short while. I look the person in front of me in the eye and tell him that I am in the place after his and will be back shortly, thereby ‘reserving’ my place. He nods.
I return to the queue and am absorbed in its snailish pace.
Queues bring out the best …and the worst out of perfectly normal people. You may pour out your life-story to the stranger next to you or make a mortal enemy here. You might meet the love of your life or have a person with the most ghastly body odor pressed against you.
As I said, interesting. No Indian queue is truly complete without an altercation. Sometimes I think it is the Bharatiya way of alleviating boredom. But mostly, its root is in the survival-of-the-fittest conditioning that is an integral part of our genome. Long waits at ration shops, train-ticket queues, movie- ticket windows, government offices, etc., is usually followed by disappointment. We are also used to being overlooked for someone-with-connections who walks right in, past our patiently-waiting-achy-knees-self. This has made us deeply insecure. Years and years of this inequality has made us suspicious of everyone. Thus, flexing vocal muscles in queues at mostly real ( sometimes imagined) injustice is second nature to us.
So, here it was…The person behind me and the one behind her has also left the queue for a short while, telling me that she will be back.
Okay, now a fresh person has come behind me. She is peeved, when the original duo return to what is their ‘rightful’ place in a now a decidedly higgledy-piggledy line. A sharp exchange of words follows. The decibel levels are rising…everyone is looking at the three of them, secretly relieved to be entertained amidst the boredom.
As the last person in the queue, I intervene. Yours truly the referee. Unusual position for me…I am usually in the fray!!!!
Sixty seconds later, peace has been restored. Everyone is back to their positions in the queue. Like a bottle of fizzy drink opened to let the bubbles out! The erstwhile opponents are tentatively smiling at each other. The pentup boredom has been relieved, both spectators and participants entertained and we are back to chewing the cud.
My turn comes. Hallejulah!!
I walk in. Five minutes later….I walk out.
As I exit the building, a bonafide student all over again, a light rain is falling.I picture myself on the green grass of the lawn, lying there with a book in my hand.
I raise my face to the sky, happy as a clam.
It is time to begin a new chapter of my life. Daughter, student, wife, mother, student again.
Who knows what other role life will hand out for me.