Puppets on a divine string

Answering the door around 6 am, my father called out to me, “Get up. You have received an assistantship to study in the US!”  He gave the watchman who had brought the good news a generous tip.

My deadline for reporting to the university was not far off, so I immediately began my travel preparations. I went to my office to check on the status of my passport. Even though it was a holiday, the head of the institute had scheduled a forenoon meeting. Along with a few support staff, he was awaiting the arrival of other members.

Meanwhile, my father arrived, and suggested to the head that the competent authority in New Delhi be requested to give permission for my foreign travel. My father made sure that the letter was drafted and typed. True to his nature, he oversaw that all received refreshments. The meeting was cancelled due to the ‘no show’ by other members, but those who had shown up were just the right ones to initiate the paperwork.

This divine convergence of circumstances included my father’s visit to Mysore; his purpose had been to meet friends but in the interim he had played a pivotal role in giving a head-start to my foreign trip.

I was to experience more such divine workings overseas. After I completed my Master’s degree, my professor suggested that I apply for the internship programme through which fresh graduates could receive the certificate of clinical competence (CCC) from the professional organisation in speech and hearing. To earn CCC, the two requirements were: complete a year’s supervised professional experience and pass a written examination conducted by the organisation.

I was devastated when I didn’t get the internship and the consequent financial support. During job hunting, I stumbles upon one at an obscure local centre. After joining, I found that its director, a recent CCC holder, could sponsor me, thus fulfilling the first requirement! The second was the examination, to be held at the professional organisation’s annual convention later that year in Washington, DC — on the east coast, a full 3,000 miles from where I was.

At this juncture, I was offered a fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, close to DC. Using the travel expense covered by the fellowship, I drove solo across the US, taking in its beautiful sights on the way. At the convention, I met my former professor who had suggested the internship. He helped me get the admission ticket required to enter the examination hall later that day. Incidentally, the beneficiaries of the internship, who were loath to spend on travel, had skipped the exam.

Becoming the first Indian CCC holder, I was empowered to sponsor other aspirants among our trainees in India. One of them completed every formality — graduation, internship, passing the examination conducted by the US organisation — within Indian shores, receiving a truly ‘desi’ CCC.

My experiences reminded me of Akka Mahadevi’s vachana: Noola tudiya gombeyante adidenayya nee aadisidanthe (We were just puppets playing out our roles ordained by the divine).

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