October 19, 2011

A visit to Yale

Summer, 1980

Class 12 exams done from St Xavier's School. I'm all set to join St Xavier's College.

Same address. Same green gate on Kolkata's Park Street. Same soccer field. Same Arunda's canteen. Same basketball court. All set!

Why apply to any other college? After all, here was the soccer and basketball  school team captain. Elocution and debating school team member. Quiz team reserve. School wicketkeeper. Below average in all things remotely scientific or mathematical (as all my batch mates would vouch for). However, when it came to writing essays or crafting teenage poems, I was up there with the front benchers. Take my word for it. Oh, and I must add: good Catholic, O'Brien family.

All set for three more years in one of Kolkata's great institutions.

Form collected... entrance essay written... final list of names up. This is easy!

Until... "No, Derek", my buddy Ranjan breaks the news, "I am standing here next to the main Notice Board bro, your name is not on the admission list". I went numb.

Thirty years on, I still know every frame of that telephone call.

Scottish Church College were kind enough to give me 'late' admission. Thank You.

To St. Xavier's College, a sincere Thank You as well. For teaching me life's second big F word: Fail.

October, 2011

There is a tear in my eye as I drive into New Haven.

Yale University has invited me to present two guest lectures. The first to a class of Ivy League under-grads studying the politics of south Asia, and then an 'open lecture' for all students/post doctorates and faculty. That and a Q&A session done, they are mightily impressed I am told.

My friend Ranjan  would have been impressed and delighted too. "Bro, you the same guy whose name was missing...?" Yes, Ranjan. Yes.

(Sadly, Ranjan 'Bundle' Mukherjee was killed in the tragic Patna plane crash in July 2000 - exactly twenty years after he made that telephone call standing next to the Notice Board. Miss you, bugger.)