The next step was the eligibility test, which was at 9 AM on a Saturday. Anyone who knows me just a little bit would know how bad a situation that was, even if you ignored the fact that it was on a Saturday, which I'm not really sure if it was. I had reached Delhi a few days ago and was staying in Brahmaputra hostel, where there was a party the night before the test, which I very kindly obliged to be a part of, with every intention to leave before the stroke of midnight. Well that did not happen. I was actually about to leave, when three girls walked into the party. So, I decided to stay another 15 minutes, and the next thing I knew was that it was 2 am, and that when the party was over, I was walking back to my room with Akash (a previous FLTA who was supposed to give me tips on cracking the test) and a girl, where I played the guitar and we sang songs for maybe another hour, by the end of which the former had ended up passing out on my bed in Brahmaputra and Akash and I had sung some song that came to his mind, the chords to which I invented and we sang the lines, "wherever you are, wherever you go, just be in love, just be in love" maybe a 100 times, besides a few other songs I could play. Well, to cut the story short, I woke up at 8:45 AM, much like a soldier at border patrol during war would wake up when woken up by his superior after their bunker had been destroyed by the enemy because he had fallen asleep. By 8:55 AM, I had brushed and showered, and the girl couldn't decide if she wanted to carry on sleeping or if she wanted to leave, so I got her to step out of the room while she engaged in her thought process, locked the door and ran, about as fast as anyone in Brahmaputra hostel must have ever run, all the way to the IIMC gate. The first auto wallah didn't know where Hailey road was, and neither did I, so I continued running, and the next auto wallah told me he knew the route very well. I asked him to ride as fast as he could without crashing or being caught by the cops, and set out to do what I seem to do best - telling myself, "Well, I'm here now, in this situation; what do I do now?" So I called up Neelu, who was appearing for the entrance as well. She had given me a few missed calls by the time I had woken up, and it was possibly her calls that managed to get me up in the first place. I called her and she started yelling at me, and I told her that I was on the way, and that she should inform the Fulbright folks that "Asher is on his way... cab broke down... he's taking an auto". The story was told, and when I reached at 9:50 PM, I found out that I was only 20 minutes late for the test, since they had started only at 9:30 AM, and that 9:00 was only the reporting time. It was a two hour test, that I managed to finish in time, and that is when I heaved my sigh of relief, hungover like a lake gone dry!
Amit Ranjan was also appearing for the Fulbright exam, Amit Ranjan was a senior of mine from college, whom I don't think I'd ever spoken to in college, except for a few passing conversations at best. He was two years senior to me, and we hence had only one year to interact in college. He was also my senior in JNU, but I had never really lived in JNU, except for the last two years, so my only interactions with Amit were at random house parties where he'd also be present, and we'd go, "abbe, tu yahan kaise??!!" So Amit and I used that phrase once more at the Fulbright office in Hailey road, after the Hindi test, where I had discovered for the first time that 'doodhiya' was a valid word in Hindi, and he had come out of the test having given the examiner a few suggestions on how the test could be improved. So, needless to say, he was a 'little' more confident than I was, and I was elated that they still cleared me for the next round. The next day, we decided to meet outside Amit's house, from where we were to go to Hailey road in his car. I was probably a few minutes late in reaching his house, only to find out that he needed 15 more minutes to get dressed and come down. So I sat there outside the theka that I had frequented so often on weekends, wondering how different a place could look in the morning. I met a couple of dogs who agreed to let me pet them for a while. Amit arrived and we left for Hailey road in his Maruti 800, dressed in formals, shaved, hair neatly done, the passenger seat pushed all the way back to accommodate for my height, the relevant documents neatly filed... what could go wrong, right?. We were still good to reach just in time for our interview slot, and after Amit stopped for a cigarette and smoked it on the way, we wee still good to make it and be only ten minutes late for the interview. Ten minutes is not so bad by Indian standards, considering that both of us had always been at least 2 days late in submitting all our documents, and I had obviously been 20 minutes late for the entrance test just the previous day, so no real worries yet. I did urge Amit to drive a little fast though, which he obliged to do. As we entered Chanakya Puri though, we spotted some cops at a circle, but not before they spotted me - desperately trying to get my seatbelt on. Well, what could have gone wrong, right? By now, Amit was beginning to get calls from the Fulbright office, as his interview was scheduled to be held just before mine. I didn't even know where my phone was, so I'm not sure if they'd called me or not. Nevertheless, we paid the 'chalaan' of Rs. 100, and we were on our way, in time to be less than half an hour late. Amit called up the Fulbright folks and told them what happened, and they told us that it was okay, and the reason they had called was because the person scheduled before Amit hadn't turned up on time, so they were wondering if Amit could have taken their place. However, by the time Amit had called back, the person had turned up, and all the interviews happened to be pushed foward by 20 minutes or so. So when we walked in, we still had 5 minutes for me to get a cup of coffee while Amit got another smoke before he headed for his interview.