The Accidental Graduate

You know me!
You know me!

You know me. I am one of those ‘never quite there’ kind of person who crave for some kind of positive attention all the time. But that does not make this story interesting and it is definitely not going to make you fall in love with me. Since to be loved is very important, I would rather change the story all altogether.

It is about eight in the evening now. I am riding a skyline bus from Fort William to Glasgow. Bus service in Scotland is not impressive. An almost six feet tall person like me will face serious leg space issues. However the nature outside is breathtaking and that compensates for the discomfort.

We are crossing vast expanses of Scottish Highlands dotted with picturesque lakes and villages. The hill tops are all cloud capped at present. An hour ago we had a brief period of bright sunshine. But apart from that the entire day was wet. The damp in the air could not subdue our spirit. We rode mountain tops, took innumerable snaps, glided through the rope way of Ben Navis, making this excursion a success.

Scottish plane, lakes and mountains
Scottish plane, lakes and mountains

This is not a travelogue. It is merely a story of how to complete graduation when you clearly have no wish of attending college. But that is the story of almost every living soul I know of. After all who wants to visit classrooms full of professors and their sooooo serious lectures, or possibly full of students working dayyyyy and nighttttt for some exam, which may ultimately land them into some jooooob in late twenties.

They had this kind of professors and that kind of students in United States. They have that kind of professors and this kind of students in India as well. It was clear to me from the very outset of my college life that I did not belong to that group. I had (and still have) great respect for the professors and students though. After all they could do stuff in which I failed miserably. They got great grades, cracked competitive exams and got into excellent jobs.

I must be honest here. Getting great grades or cracking challenging competitive exams are really cool things to do. In India especially, they garner great respect among middle class people. And it is not easy to achieve them either. I secretly crave for all these honours, except that no matter how hard I try, I simply cannot manage to do all the hard work necessary to achieve them.

I am a really lazy person when it comes to doing homework, listening to lectures or studying hard for competitive exams. Trust me I am not secretly saying that these tasks are for stupid people. It is just that I could never manage to do them consistently.

In United States, I changed my Business College class hours into project work. Americans are kind of nice people when it comes to business. After all Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates are all American Businessmen who dropped out of college. So, not attending college is kind of cool in the new continent as long as you are making money. I soon found myself in India with an Argentine girl, doing market economy projects with farmers near Siliguri. The project turned out well, even landed me and my work into a national award in Chicago (2008). But some how too much capitalism was too much for my taste. I skipped college and returned to India.

in Houston... with Grant, my colleague from the project
in Houston… with Grant, my colleague from the project

But I had to complete graduation. Oh dear, I must. All my friends are doing it and no matter how hard I pretend, not being a graduate really sucks in a Bengali middle class community. I had a taste for Marxism. I tried to attend Philosophy course in Jadavpur University. Turned out that the majority of the population was studying philosophy because they could not get into any other program in any other university. Most of the students were girls, whose only aim was to be a graduate and get married. This atmosphere fitted my ambition of becoming a graduate. No one asked me to attend classes (or may be they did but I never listened carefully). However after a semester worth of notes taking (by others), and photocopying (the day before exams), I gave up. I warn you, graduation is not an easy thing to do.

I am in love with a woman from my high school. She is beautiful and she is a graduate. In fact she is a post graduate and presently doing her M.Phil. Not that I cared much about our academic differences, apparently she did. ‘What should I tell my friends and family? That I date a Higher Secondary pass student?’ I shrugged uneasily, ‘what is the problem with that, after all Apu did not complete his graduation.’ I deliberately did not speak about Jobs, Gates or Zuckerber. They were capitalist daemons, vulgar in her student politics and semi communist genealogy crafted taste. On the other hand Apu is the ever green hero of Bengali middle class, who among many other things, brought home Golden Globe award for Satyajit Ray. But women can not be misguided so easily. The topic was raised again and again and again.

In the mean time I was earning money (by giving tuitions) and travelling to places (Gangtok, Bakkhali). I took a couple of entrance test, failed in the harder exam and cracked the easier one. It landed me in Institute of Mathematics and Application, Bhubaneswar, the dream project of Dr. Swadhin Pattanayak.

Dr. Pattanayak is one of the most incredible persons I have met in this twenty six years (twenty four by Indian Passport) of lifetime. I did not care much about attending classes or getting grades. He cared less. I had very feeble interest in any mathematics apart from geometry. He did not care either. We talked about everything except mathematics (mostly politics and literature). In fact I remember exactly one conversation related to mathematics; when he discussed a little geometry with me. He asked me to compute certain things related to geodesics. I could do it. Possibly he was impressed. But that was all.

IMA was favorable!
IMA was favorable!

At last I felt that, may be there is some light at the end of the tunnel. May be, mayyyyyy beee, I could after all be a graduate ONE day. IMA seemed the perfect haven for people like me. It is easy going and simple. Of course there were those students and those professors (who took tests and classes veryyyyyyy seriously) but I carefully chose to ignore their influence. I took almost no class (except Dr. Pattanayk’s classes), attended exams with last minute preparations, even missed a couple of tests in some semesters.

Statutory Warning: It is not advisable for anyone to follow my footsteps. But it is possible (this is the only conjecture of this essay) to be a graduate even after doing all these non-sense.

It is August seventeenth 2014. The green of Scottish plane is fading into oblivion of night sky. There is still a little light in the horizon. I plan to visit Edinburgh tomorrow. In a week to come, I will receive my mark sheets from IMA as well. It is possible that I have graduated with first class at last. But that matters very little compared to the fun I am having right now. Am I successful in life? In terms of grades or competitive exams or even doing great mathematics I have not succeeded. However if travelling to countries and making some money without caring about a boss is success then possibly yes. If being in love for almost a decade with the same person, and still having an excitement about her all the time is success then yes. Frankly I do not know how to measure success. But who cares. I would rather try to visit Adriatic next summer and travel in the Balkans with my newly met Croatian friend or drive to Rupnarayan River again at middle of the night to inhale the tranquility of meandering river water. Measuring success is a tricky business. It is definitely easier to be a graduate, even by accident.

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2 Comments

  1. If I were to judge and in no way I am near any such perfection, (for that matter no one is) everything in life follows peace and brother you are at peace. Great piece.. keep writing possibly in English so that someone like me can take back a bit(if not all).. Have fun.

    Liked by 1 person

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