Some of you know that I recently went on a rather longish holiday to Europe. Some of you also know that I don’t, like a few other 26 year olds make a lot of money. So, how on earth did I manage to fund this vacation? (No, I wish I did. But I don’t have a money-tree. Neither am I ‘Jumper’) … I simply decided to use the funds that had been generated and saved for my education “abroad” … Having realized that studying in Europe would prove to be an expensive affair I chose to ‘holiday’ instead :D …
Why? Because what I wanted to study, in the UK specifically, was – creative writing. As per plan, my parents were to pay for my tuition and I was to work whilst in the UK to support my stay. A bit of research made me realize that working part-time would not only be a very non-lucrative proposition, it would also be a futile exercise, leaving me with little time to ‘actually write’ which incidentally is the overarching ambition. Don’t worry, overseas students are not allowed to work full-time and study part-time (which is what most other creative writing students do), which even if it was possible wouldn’t really leave me with much time to sit, think, and write.
All this research also had made me utterly indignant about the fact that overseas students have to pay a tuition fee that is usually more than three times of what natives or in the case of UK, UK/EU students have to pay. Developing – Developed? Tomato – Tomato? Who gives a rat’s ass! Of course, overseas students studying in Indian Universities too have to pay twice or thrice the amount than Indian students do but look at our fee structures!
Let me not even go into the whole ‘being treated like trash’ debate because some of you already are going ‘Whatever! Sour grapes! My friend studied at so-and-so and became so-and-so’… To you I say ‘Good for your friend’.
So, I had my vacation, made my peace with the situation, and decided that I did not want/need to study in another country unless one day, overnight I became insurmountably intelligent by some unnatural twist of fate – and landed a fat scholarship, which as we all know is as remote a possibility as me becoming, like, uh as thin as Naomi Campbell or someone. Whatever!
To compensate for my “loss” (Pff) I decided to buy books instead whilst in the UK, so I could learn whatever they taught at these good-for-nothing, architecturally spectacular, gianormous universities on my own. Interestingly, I came across some books that have been written by professors teaching at these very good-for-nothing universities. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that these books cost me twice the amount similar books written by the non-ginormous university professors/writers cost.
Since one of these books seemed like the preferred course-book for the university that is one of the most revered institutions teaching creative writing, I decided to give it a shot … despite the fact that it cost me two perfectly decent meals at a good restaurant to buy it.
I’ve just started reading the book and the first paragraph of the introduction itself has caused me such immense heartburn that I had to put it down and pen this.
Now, the story isn’t complete without you knowing that this University had rejected my application last year. So, in my head it had sort of become the un-gettable get! This book was to be my answer to ‘what it is that I am missing out on by not being invited to study here’.
Nothing. I am not missing out on anything.
The head of department starts her introduction with – “There remains in circulation a myth that writing can’t be taught. That despite the proliferation of writing courses, creative writing is something esoteric, unpindownable, something inspired by muses and shaped by geniuses … The success of the course at University of ___ belies this myth. Under the pressure of sustained practice, criticism and exercise, we see, every year, students emerging from our courses who will go on to become successful writers.”
My contention is that my rejection letter from this university went something like this - “I regret to inform you that we are not offering you a place on the course this year. For your information, we receive a high number of applications for the course each year, and the standard is extremely high. Competition for places is therefore very intense.” This had come as a complete surprise because the representative from this university, who I had met at a conference in New Delhi, had been extremely interested in my work and references and had stressed on the idea that I make my application the very next day to when I met her … I do realize now that, that could have been ‘just a hook’.
Irrelevant of whether or not the rep liked me, the jury in charge of the final decision (including the HOD) didn’t.
So, I am not wrong in assuming that they picked writers who showed more promise. The question is - if they showed more promise, did they deserve to be ‘taught’ creative writing more than I did?
I might sound like an embittered reject but I am actually very happy with how things have taken shape. I will not say that ‘I am never going to go study in another country now’ because who knows what the future holds for you … but I will say that whatever happens in the future, I will happily make an informed, and dignified decision.