It is almost 1: 30 PM when I start putting fingertips to keyboard. Soon the doorbell sounds. I jump up in warm anticipation of correspondence from the Promised Land. But I am mostly disappointed, with the Mahatma in Burgundy (MiB) carrying in his hands, only a few letters from financial institutions. He nonchalantly wipes his nose and his sweaty forehead with the back of his palm and hands the letters to me. I take them with barely disguised disgust and gently slam the door on his face. Walking back dejectedly to my room, I continue replying to the day's e-mails.
There is not much to reply to, though. Most of the introductory emails sent to prospective graduate advisors have been ignored. But there is still hope. One gentleman from Ohio who tells me that, I have to apply for financial aid with the application that accompanies the application, the same one that I have already enclosed with the packet. That means two things, one positive and the other negative - the positive being that at least, I don't have to genuflect anymore to the professors at Ohio. The negative is that the uncertainty of aid at Ohio will last until I set foot on Athens, if I choose to do so.
The wait continues as I continue typing. Waiting for the Mahatma has never been more tedious. He is scheduled to visit my abode once again at 5:00 PM or thereabouts. But will I see some positive outcomes after this wait? The answer to that question, only the 200 odd minutes between now and then, shall tell. Like all Indians in recent times, I have only hope in my side. But then hope is the only thing that I can afford right now to keep the fire in my stomach burning.
I stop day-dreaming and go back to typing. I have to send a couple of mails (with my resume attached) to the companies in response to their ads in the "Opportunities" section of the day's "The Hindu". This is quite a change from the heady days in the months of October and November, when that particular section of the good old "Hindu paper" served as time-pass between 2:30 and 3:00 PM. But of late, uncertainty, Dubya and self doubt have combined to crash-land my soaring plane back to the runway from where it took off last June. And the people, whom I have asked to clarify this niggling "drop box" phenomenon have not been much forthcoming. Though I know its only two days since I asked them, it seems like an eternity. At this point, I take a break from regular programming to issue an appeal to all those people who are sailing in my own boat. If you are ever in distress or in doubt regarding anything and everything, please do not play "pass the parcel". As Edgar Hoover once said - "The buck stops here", so shall you say - "All my worries stop with me". Rather than flood mailing lists with the same plaintive emails, take the initiative and try to find answers yourself.
I know you are asking me - "So, why are you telling us this?" Well, I suggest you take a closer look at the title. Do you get it now? You should not have moved past that ominous title. But now that you have started and proceeded, I suggest you read on. So where were we? Yes, my self doubt! Don't worry. I think I might have overstayed my welcome here.
Wait, there rings that bell again. It's not the familiar MiB, but a Mahatma in "mufti". He brings warm or rather lukewarm tidings. Another I-20 and this time it is from a university in Michigan. So the situation gets rosier. But then the issue now is the visa, isn't it? Will I or will I not make it to the Promised Land? Did "Bungling Buffalo" Bill take time off from his dalliances and do something about the student visa just before he cleaned up his office prior to his departure? Or has Dubya removed student visas from the counter list just like he has done with H1Bs?
Well, the answer to all those questions is a tentative "I don't know!" So the next 100 days are definitely going to be crucial. In the meantime, every night I dream of spending New Year's Eve 2001 in the sun soaked beaches of Florida or in the midst of the teeming boisterous masses at Times Square.
Wow, it is almost 5 PM. As it happens every day, the Mahatma has disappointed me once more. I resign myself to watching a humorous take on life in The Promised Land as it unfolds on the "Friends" re-runs in Star World - just about the only bright spot in my otherwise dull existence on the 3rd rock from the Sun.
P.S: This is an edited/polished account of the afternoons, typically spent in biting my nails, waiting for the postman (the aforementioned MiB) deliver our mail for the day. This piece was born as an email to a list that I am part of and this is the first time that I am posting it on a blog or community. On hindsight, it is interesting to note that the MiB finally did bear good news one day and I actually ended up in Ohio for a Masters on a full scholarship.
(Cross-posted as an opinion peice in the Culture section on Desicritics.org)