Sunday, July 15, 2012

Small Dog, Big Fight

Aw, an essay I had written as a 22-year-old applicant for the Mercedier Cunningham scholarship at the Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. I had not won, but I can admire the little chipper's spirit!

Statement of Need

“Small opportunities are often the beginnings of great enterprises.”

300 something years before Christ, in the part of the world that once used to be the magnificent Greek Empire, one self-conscious under-confident youth struggled with a weak voice and poor delivery. But later in his lifetime, he metamorphosed into an awe-inspiring fiery political orator. Today, Demosthenes is remembered as a great, no, the greatest of Greek orators. And over 2000 years later, hundreds of lifetimes past, the Mortar Board of the Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, felt compelled to quote him in the 2004-2005 edition of the Mortar Board calendar.

Let’s extend our stay in the present day for a little while longer. In 1981, I was born an Indian citizen in the Middle East, and my parents financed my education (and my life really) ever since then. Of course, every cost associated with me increased many, many fold when I came to OSU in 1999 to start working on my undergraduate degree, what with tuition for international students being almost three times as much as their in-state counterparts, all the while converting a fistful of foreign currency into a lot less dollars. I worked as many hours of part-time jobs as my status as an international student would allow me, but at the end of the day, that only helped provide pocket money. All the same, I tried to look at it all through an entirely different perspective. I chose optimism and struggled to view hardships as opportunities, small yet path-forming.

Today, I am enrolled in the Management Information Systems Master’s program, and for as long as I have been working hard at it, I have been trying to support myself in some measure with a financially more satisfying status as a graduate/research assistant. I’m not financially independent yet, but I’ve been seizing whatever opportunities have been tapping at the door of my life. Carpe Diem has become the tune my soul’s been dancing to. It’s not a new dance; I had been taking baby steps during my undergraduate years (albeit unknown to me at that time), clumsily tripping over myself and often feeling graceless and frustrated at my ineptness. Teeth-gritting perseverance, however, made the tune louder and faster; the dance trickier and nearly acrobatic. Today it is a much-cherished intuition.

The opportunities have been getting bigger swiftly, and I’m almost afraid to break for a breather and inadvertently (shudder!) slow down. I do not know what great enterprises these opportunities herald, but today I feel the need to quote a countryman of Demosthenes’, Pindar the great poet. He once declared, ‘learn what you are and be such’. A merry dance my Greek friends lead me at from across the millennia. The real world awaits me at the end of my life as a student, and in mirthful anticipation of what wondrous new melodies lie in the vast unknown, I can hardly dance any faster.

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