Getting A Foreign Education | Lakshmi Nijhawan

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Simi was confused about career choices. She had been a college topper in philosophy which she pursued by default. Actually, she wanted to study English Literature but did not have the requisite marks to get the course at any of the nicer colleges. She opted for what sounded intriguing, loved reading Plato, Socrates and Aristotle for three years and topped college twice. After her B.A., she was not sure what to opt for. She liked the idea of an MBA but had ambitions of getting into something to do with writing as well.

Simi was 21, had already wasted some time after college deciding what to do next and was preparing for various entrance exams. She was taking CAT, GMAT, NIFT, GRE, M.A. (English) – everything. She was studying Math, English and Logic and reading the newspapers thoroughly including Economic Times. She could not make up her mind whether she wanted to be a manager, a journalist or a merchandiser. She had great taste in picking outfits, loved writing and could manage her life well. She couldn’t decide which profession she was best suited for. So, she thought of giving everything a shot and pursuing whatever she cracks and taking it from there. She was more inclined towards studying in a good US university. That completely depended on her GMAT and GRE scores.

The phone rang. It was Ananya.

‘Hey’ said Ananya.

‘Hi Annie, what’s up?’ replied Simi.

‘Nothing. Just getting bored’ said Ananya.

‘Let’s grab a pizza at Domino’s’ said Ananya.

‘Okay, give me an hour. I have to shower’ said Simi.

‘Fine. See you at Domino’s, K Nags at 1’ said Ananya.

‘Cool’ said Simi

Ananya was 21 too, slightly taller than Simi. Simi was 5’5, Ananya was 5’6. Both of them were cute, wore loads of kajal, experimented with hairstyles and ran on treadmill to stay in shape. They had decent figures. They went to the same college and were best friends. They were chatty, loved to eat out and shop.

Simi took a quick shower and rushed out. She boarded the Metro from Civil Lines to Vishwavidyalaya. Then, a rickshaw from Delhi University till Kamla Nagar. Her mom had taken the car, or she could have driven down like she usually did. Kamla Nagar was just a 10 minute drive from her place as there wasn’t much traffic on that way.

Simi reached on time. Ananya had grabbed a table and placed an order for 2 Regular Paneer & Onion Pizzas, the ones they mostly ordered in vegetarian, since today was a Tuesday, apart from 2 colas. Her favorite was Gourmet topping pizza but that was slightly expensive. These newly introduced double topping ones were really cheap, just about 40 bucks each. So, it was quite economical to go for them.

‘So Annie, tell me all the latest your side’ said Simi, seated on the table, as they were waiting for their grub to arrive.

‘Studies, studies and more studies’ replied Ananya, while checking in Domino’s Kamla Nagar with Simi Narang, on facebook from her Blackberry at the same time.

Ananya was taking the same exams as Simi and at home preparing for them.

‘Did your speed go up in solving the English section for CAT?’ asked Simi

‘Yeah English section is ok, Math is the scary bit. I suck at Math’ said Ananya

‘So do I’ said Simi

‘I seem to have forgotten all the Math, though I scored an 88 in Class 10th. ‘ said Simi

‘You bet. I was also a decent in Math in school. Still, it seems so difficult now, especially working on your speed in solving problems along with getting it right’ said Ananya

‘I’ve picked up some speed in reading comprehension and sentence correction. I think I’m good at that.’ said Simi

Ananya’s name got called out to fetch the pizzas and colas from the counter. Ananya went and returned with two hot paneer & onion pizzas along with chilled colas.

They loaded the pizzas with lots of origami, chilli flakes and ketchup and feasted on them.

‘Our next pizza outing is going to be Big Chill, Amici or Flavors’ said Ananya

‘That’s expensive man. This is a cheap place and pizzas are edible’ said Simi

‘Save a bit or better still do some chores for your mum, get paid and we’l go there next’ said Ananya

‘Okay, sure will’ replied Simi.

They finished their pizzas and swore to work it off on the treadmill the next day.

‘Want to shop a bit? AND has a sale on, flat 50% off’ said Ananya

‘Okay, let’s take a look, I’m carrying my Debit card.’ said Simi

They walk down Bungalow Road and towards the main lane. They pass Wrangler and Pepe on the way but didn’t want to buy denim so, didn’t visit them.

‘ Let’s go to Madame and Zingrin too, they have a Sale on as well.’ Said Ananya

‘I want a nice summer dress, perfect for this weather’ said Simi

They scouted for summery dresses in Madame, Zingrin and AND, liked many and tried out a dozen. Simi chose a lime green halter dress, while Annie bought a purple tube dress. Ananya also picked up an orange wallet from Madame, they had a nice collection.

Exhausted from their shopping, they headed straight back home, to make plans for the upcoming dinner date with the gang, later in the week.

Simi was very disappointed with her GMAT and GRE scores. She hadn’t done well. Her American dream was certainly over. There was no point in applying to all the top notch US universities anymore. For long, she had cherished a dream of studying at one of the renowned US universities – Stanford, Yale, Columbia, Harvard.  It wouldn’t happen anymore. She chided herself for aiming so high. After all, she was an average student and couldn’t have made it at any of these prestigious universities.

She had however, cleared the entrance exam for the Delhi University’s Masters of English Literature. It was good enough for her, she reasoned to herself. Among Indian universities, Delhi University was definitely one of the best and their English department featured among the top 100 worldwide. She would complete her Masters in another two years, get herself a diploma in journalism and write for newspapers and magazines. Her career was decided. She will write. She smiled to herself.

Ananya, on the other hand, had gotten a decent score in GRE and would be applying to scores of US and UK universities. She wanted to pursue a communications program. She wanted to work in public relations or corporate communications.

They will both chart different paths henceforth, Simi thought to herself. She will aim for a journalistic career in India while Ananya  would leave for foreign shores and will make her niche for herself, in the US or UK.

Simi couldn’t help getting slightly envious of Ananya. It was her dream as well to do her Masters from a coveted US university and make a life there. But, destiny had other plans for her. Or, she blamed herself that she hadn’t studied hard enough for GRE and GMAT, though they were considered easier than the dreaded CAT, by many students. She hadn’t cracked CAT too but she was positively hopeful about GRE and GMAT. She had made it through NIFT though, the prestigious institute for fashion designing in India. She was good at artwork and cleared the test easily. The interview, following the test was a breeze as well. In the end, she opted for journalism over fashion designing. It was a tough decision because she enjoyed fashion as much as writing.

Her dream of studying at a foreign university was definitely over. Simi smiled wryly. She will make a life in her homeland. Now, she wanted to believe all arguments in favor of brain drain and wanted to be an asset to her nation. All the arguments, which had sounded so jingoistic earlier, had a different ring to them now. She had prided herself in being a global citizen. Now, she wanted to change her viewpoint. She wanted to make an input into the development of her nation, just by staying back and contributing to its economy by finding employment in the homeland.

It was just as well. She started thinking of all the positive things about India, living close to her family and actually began looking forward to building a career and a life in India. It certainly had its own joys. She will try to fall in love with India. It has its own charms.

Lakshmi Nijhawan has a Masters in English Literature from Faculty of Arts, Delhi University and a Diploma in Freelance and Feature Writing from London School of Journalism. She did a stint as Freelance Editor/Writer with Time Out Delhi magazine and as Copy Editor with the indian newspaper, Hindustan Times. She enjoys an occasional walk in the park, cooking, driving around, shopping, eating out often, working on the treadmill, feeding stray cats, birds, writing short stories, reading voraciously and listening to her favorite musicians. Her favorite authors are Austen, Marquez, Zadie Smith and Chetan Bhagat. Her favourite musicians are U2, Coldplay, Alanis Morrisette and Taylor Swift. She blogs at

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