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It has been a year of gains and losses. Of broken hearts and successful lives. Of promises fulfilled and dreams realised. Of stillborn hopes and resurrected desires.

I began 2008 as a student of MSc Biotechnology, final semester. These last two words have a sinister ring for many and as far as I was concerned, they were a death knell. I dreaded the end of my training, which would probably leave me with no options but to sit at home. I fought hard to keep despair at bay. One of the few things that gave me hope was my dissertation. I was pursuing it under a Microbiologist at CDRI, Lucknow. I planned to make the most of it, strengthen my CV, get employed under her…so on and so forth.
Things did not turn out to be as I had imagined. Even the most optimistic person could not have appreciated anything about my training. The guide was haughty and ill-tempered, the seniors were cold and unforthcoming and the future was bleak as ever. I balanced my studies and training as much as I could. The cold and dismal winter only served to heighten my despondency. I trudged on, telling myself only a few more months to go and then I could give up on life with a clear conscience: at least I tried. It was at this point of time that I developed a couple of friendships that instilled courage in me and helped me to keep going on. Above everything, some of my classmates steadied my rickety faith in God. Their prayers did wonders for me.

Emotionally, I was dead. Physically, I was rotting inside. Somewhere in late February, I was diagnosed with jaundice; serum bilirubin levels 12.8 and SGPT 3900 (the latter should not cross 35). My doctor ordered immediate bed rest, saying that there was a risk of brain damage. I tried to be strong, but it was the last straw. When you cannot even brush your teeth without feeling faint, life becomes too difficult. The worst thing was, a break of nearly two months would be disastrous for my training. There was nothing I could do but wait for fate to make the next move.

I returned home for rest and restoration. I spent the first ten days in medication induced slumber, waking up only to eat boiled and bland food. It was traumatising, to be home and not be able to eat chicken and cakes. However, some residual determination still remained, and I followed my diet strictly. Perhaps the only good thing was that I was too weak to think about my future. Also, by this time I had realised that no matter how much you plan, you can never expect the unexpected.

March 15th, 2008. The day my GATE results were declared. I felt strangely calm for two reasons: first of all, my paper had gone well and I knew I was going to make at least the bottom of the merit list. Secondly, I was too eroded to care. My mother was in the kitchen. My father sat behind me as I booted up the computer, typed in the URL, clicked the relevant links, filled in my name, DOB and roll number…and hit enter. I did not pray, there were no butterflies in my stomach; I just wanted another chapter of my life to come to an end.
The first thing that caught my eye was “Qualifed” in red letters. Okay. So far so good. It was my Dad who spotted the big thing: 97.6 percentile. The house was in uproar. I had done it. My future was safe.

We went into battle mode immediately. Celebrations could be carried on later. Now was the time to exploit my result to the fullest. I was adamant about one thing: dead or dying, I was going in for research.
By this time my health was improving and my latest success had a positive impact upon it. I was now impatient to finish my training and subsequently gain my PG degree, so that I could get enrolled in PhD.

My CSIR results were supposed to be declared in the end of April. Yet, I was persistently nagged by an intuition that this year, the results would be declared early. I am not a psychic, but I happened to check the website on 21st March, the very day the results were declared.

This time I behaved humanly. I shrieked, panicked and ran around the house, scaring my mother to death. She stood by me as I repeated the motions of clicking links, entering the requisite information…all with a trembling hand and fluttering stomach. I rapidly glanced through the list, to find that my roll number was not there. “Never mind” I said, “at least I cleared the pre-lims”

Suddenly, I realised that I had been looking at wrong list. I had to check out the roll numbers of those whose PG results had not been declared. I scanned it quickly. Two seconds of silence, and then joyful shouts rent the air. Yes, 323146 was there, definitely there.
I could not believe it, my mother could not believe it and when my father returned home, he looked positively shocked. We checked it a million times, even restarting the computer, but it was official. I- Arpita Myles, loser till date- had now become a CSIR-JRF. Cleared it in my first attempt. Lady luck had smiled, the wheel of fortune had turned, but, the incorrigible cynic that I am, I took it up as yet another challenge.

The next one month was wonderful and lousy at the same time. I shall not elaborate upon it. The high point was that a scientist I really liked agreed to enrol me under her. Now was the time to get hold of my PG degree ASAP. Easier said than done. I spent two frustrating, lonely, disgusting months finalising my work. Once again, my beloved family and friends stood by me, indestructible pillars of endless support. In the end, I finally bid adieu to college life. Over to a new beginning.

I joined as a PhD student in the Department of Immunology, SGPGI, on 9th September, 2008. It is a wonderful place, with wonderful people. My guide and my seniors have helped me to evolve and improve. They have inspired me to work harder and make the most of life. It is amazing how one can find so many superb human beings in a single place. Of course, I have learnt some important lessons the hard way. I have learnt that people are psychedelic; one must not trust them too soon. I learnt that all men are the same, no matter how educated or well-bred they are; they prey upon women with the same intent. I have learnt that in India (at least) a woman cannot survive alone; she is an easy and prominent target.

Above everything, I’ve learnt that at the end of the day, there is only God and Me. Together, we weave through life. Nobody and nothing else matters.

And now, it is 2009. Wonder what lessons I will learn this time. Whatever life has in store, I am ready for it. 2008 was the Year of Receiving. This year, I plan to put to good use all I have gained so far. I am going to work hard, strive for perfection and be the best I can be. There will be no turning back now. Last year, I was the prototype failure; if I could bounce back from that then nothing is impossible.

A new beginning beckons. Life is smiling mischievously at me, teasing me with brief glimpses of what it holds. I charge ahead, wounded, yet wiser. Unprepared, yet ready. Unsure, but firm-footed. I glance back hesitantly; life smiles at my childlike fears, gently takes my hand and tugs me along. I make a feeble attempt to grab hold of the images that are dissolving in the mists of history. Life finally takes pity on me and blesses me with two gifts-one, memories; two, the sweet promise of a reunion. I wipe my tears, allay my fears and glide into the mysterious embrace of the future. 2009, here I come!

Categories: Reflections
  1. January 1, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Congrats for those achievements..and stay positive in life …..
    May God Bless You ..
    wish you and your family a very happy new year ..
    hugs and smiles

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