Everything went wrong. Well, almost everything.
I thought it would take me a long time to hate this place. But then, I got fever. Wednesday night, I came home with a slight temperature running. I wouldn’t have given it a second thought and gone back to doing the daily chores. Just that I soon found myself too tired to cook or study. I collapsed on the carpet.
I would have been that way had a friend not called. Something seemed wrong from my voice, and she insisted that I come over for dinner. She gave me a ride, cooked me dinner, gave me medicines, and offered her living room since I was too ill to get back home.
The next morning, I found myself feeling better. I waved her a goodbye and got back home. Since classes started a little late that day, I might have some time for a shower and a brunch.
And doze off, I did. When I woke up with a start and squinted at my wristwatch, I knew that the classes had just started about a minute back.
I couldn’t afford to miss classes because we had to make a small submission every week based on that day’s class. If you were absent, you couldn’t make the submission. No handouts were available online. I called up a friend to ask if she had reached class. She didn’t even pick up the phone.
Wearing my shoes and taking the keys with as little time as possible, I dashed for the door. From my home, I have to walk down a straight lane for a few minutes, and then wait for two signals to cross the road and then get to the bus stop. It’s like a “T” where I walk on the vertical line of the “T” to take the bus on the horizontal line. This means that even while I walk, I can see the buses running.
And just when I thought I would cross the first signal and still make it on time, I saw the shuttle leaving. There was no way I could have done anything but helplessly see it go. This isn’t India where you wave at the bus from a distance and the bus stops in the middle of the road, never mind the honking cars behind. The next one was 15 minutes later.
It had been drizzling all morning. I made it to the bus stop fine. But Mr. Murphy had more drama in store. At least three different buses took me to the department from home. But none of them came. Other buses came and left. People at the bus stop came and left. And I just kept standing there. I had even forgotten my umbrella. Surely I looked like a drowned rat in trouble.
It is then that I felt the first few drops of tears trickle down my eyes. I wouldn’t have noticed it since it seamlessly mingled with the rain on my face. I will never forget that day when I kept hugging the wooden plank in the bus stop, waiting for the bus and weeping. I realized what it meant to be alone and a foreigner in a new country.
Would I skip class and go home, and live with the burden of feeling like an irresponsible person because I had dozed off ?
I don’t know why but I kept waiting for the bus. The bus eventually came and I took it. By the time I reached my department, I was already 30 minutes late. The class was 50 minutes long, in one of those huge auditoriums where you entered from the front door and climbed the steps so that when you came in, everyone could see you. There was no escape from a back door. I was still debating if I should enter the auditorium. It felt humiliating.
I did. I must have been real desperate to make it that day. When I entered, I thought that a thousand eyes were on me, judging me. I wished I could turn into a whiff of smoke and merge into oblivion. But I did not. I crept in silently, wishing that people would not recognize me. This is one of those seminar classes that both the students and the faculty attend.
And just when I’ve climbed a few steps and taken a vacant seat and settled in, I craned my neck to look to my left to see the Chair of our department and the head of this class look at me.
I wish that the ground had opened up and engulfed me. But nothing fortunate like that happened.
I did attend the last leg of the lecture. But it is on that day that I realized how difficult life had become for me. Sometimes, you fail to appreciate your family and take everything for granted. You fight, you complain, you whine. I'm not saying that the role of my family is to be my alarm clock and my cook. I hated that my parents did not like me studying late at nights, objected to long phone conversations and frequent eating outs, and absolutely did not allow sleep overs. So I argued, rebelled, and left home. I realize that you need a family, not only to force you to do the right things at the right time, but also to give you that overall love and support that essentially forms the backbone of your well-being.