Friday, May 27, 2016

A stitch in time

I was made to strip in the dean's office. Not once, but twice. This story is eyebrow raising, riveting, and sadly, true. My adventure-packed life is sometimes stranger than fiction.

Earlier that morning, I vaguely remember hitting a sharp corner and momentarily wincing in pain, but brushing it away. I was in a hurry. It was a big day.

I was interviewing with the dean. My talk was about to start in less than 30 minutes. It was not until I was sitting in the dean's office that I looked down, and to my utmost horror and an intense sinking feeling in my stomach, saw a rip on the right leg of my trousers. A good chunk of cream-colored flesh from my outer thigh was showing. I don't know how long it had been that way.

My world instantly started to feel dizzy, my head spinning. God, tell me this is not happening to me, this has to be some cruel, cosmic joke. I had given a lot to be there that day. I had taken an international flight in 48 hours notice, put up through grueling airport security and showed up on time. I had taken every measure to make sure nothing went wrong and there were no surprises. I had saved my presentation in three different places and emailed it to myself. I had woken up at four, set my hair, worn my most expensive clothes, and checked everything thrice to make sure nothing went wrong. 

That pair of trousers was new. I had bought them a few weeks ago from Macy's for an important occasion like this. The price tag had burnt a hole through my pocket. Now, there was a larger hole in the thighs.

I told the dean. I had to, and it's good I did, for she called her secretary and a sewing kit magically appeared in five minutes. I do not know why I had the crazy idea that someone will sew the gaping hole for me. I was clearly not thinking straight anymore. The dean smiled kindly, told me not to worry, closed the door and left the room.

I was faced with a new dilemma now. I don't think I know how to sew. The last time I did this was 22 years ago, in the eighth grade when we had compulsory sewing classes for a year. My mom did most of my assignments at home, but in order to kill time in school, I had picked the basics of back stitch and chain stitch. Now, just like it happens in most emergency situations, my mom's voice was looming over, "See, I told you to learn basic sewing over the years and you ignored me. You deserve it!"

Screw prior knowledge, it was time to act purely on instincts now. With shaking hands, I somehow managed to put the thread in the eye of the needle after many failed attempts. I double-threaded the needle and put a knot at the end. I had a talk to give, probably the most important talk of my life starting very soon. And here I was at the dean's office, stripped waist down, trying to put a thread in a needle and hold on to the rest of my dignity (both metaphorically and non-metaphorically). I tried remembering from eighth grade experience, pricked myself a couple of times, and after what seemed like a lifetime, managed to close the rip. The stitches were so unsightly, they looked like squiggles. Thankfully, the fabric was not torn. It's only the stitches that had come off. I had not even worn those trousers three times. 

Once done, I could not find a pair of scissors handy. I tried using teeth like mom does, but did not succeed. So I gave up. A rip, I could close, but lost dentition would be irreparable damage to my career. Using every inch of muscle power I had, I tore the thread, making a deep red gash on my hands. Once I came out of the office, visibly shaken, the dean handed me some black duct tape. Once again, I went inside, stripped, and put duct tape both on the inside and outside of the tear.

Those 15-20 minutes that seemed longer than eternity felt much harder than the actual interview. What are the odds that you hit something sharp and rip your clothes on one of the most important days of your life? I am not even prone to accidents. Amid this panic, I had forgotten to panic about the actual talk. Huffing and puffing, black duct tape on my trousers all the way down my knees, I entered the auditorium just in time to be quickly strapped to the microphone. In this commotion, I had forgotten to use the restroom. So I rushed outside, forgetting to remove the microphone strapped on me. A miracle saved me from embarrassing myself the second time that day when I quickly remembered to switch off the microphone before getting inside the restroom.

The talk went well. A hundred people had shown up. The duct tape fell off during the talk at some point, but the stitches saw me through. My good fortune saw me through. I had everything I might have needed in my bag that day- a snack, water, mouth freshener, comb. I never thought of putting in an extra pair of trousers. Once I was over the shock, I started laughing hysterically. Look at God's cruel sense of humor. Such a freak accident this was.

Lesson learnt- Mom would say, learn to sew and stitch now. And I would say, just keep your calm even when the world is falling apart and learn to laugh at things. And yes, if needed, don't hesitate to strip anywhere. Not even in the dean's office.


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