The Cheshire Cat meows again: Going Foreign

The nineteen twenties saw the Americans flocking to Germany for higher studies. After World War II, the trend was reversed. Now it was the Germans who went to America. Today Indians throng to America for their higher studies. It is quite possible that at the turn of the century, Americans will be applying to Indian Universities. (Now relax and allow five seconds for this idea to sink in. Then read on.)

Here is what we visualize as being a typical scene in the undergraduate dormitories of say, Caltech.

John, a typical American boy, as the name implies, is engaged in animated conversation with Pamela, a tall and pretty girl.The perseverance of the more ambitious has been rewarded. Replies from India have started coming in.

Pamela: John! You Lucky **. You mean you actually got a reply from the University of North Kalyanpur? But of course, with your GPA. it is understandable. (Wallowing in self-pity) IIT Kanpur, the only place I’ve got a letter from so far, says they have closed down the department for lack of staff.

John: Eat your heart out, love. I’ve got a letter from Jadavpur too.

Pamela: With you guys in the race, I  can only hope for lousy joints like the IITs. Remember, last Year, Jane with a  GPA of 0.16 got into IIT Madras.

John: Forget about IIT Madras, Love.

They’ve got an application processing computer which rounds off GPAs to three decimal places. Then yours will go to zero.

Pamela: (indignantly) SO BHATT? My engleej better Indian engleej ij!

John: For heaven’s sake, cut out that pseudo accent! The Test of English as an Indian Language score doesn’t matter much, anyway.

(There is a knock on the door. Enter the mailman. He hands over a letter to Pamela and buzzes off)

John: Congrats kid! Looks like you’ve got a letter from Sambalpur. What does it say?

Pamela: (She reads it) I’d rather not tell YOU.

John: Be a sport, will you?

Pamela: All right. But promise me you’ll keep your hands off this univ.

(She starts to read it aloud. As she reads it, at some places she brightens up while at some other places her face falls)


Dear Kumari Pramcela, 

The Department of Astrophysics and Levitation is pleased to learn of your interest in our graduate programme.

Please fill in the enclosed forms (including Application for financial aid from tube U.S)

1. An application fee of Rs. 108/- should be sent in cash form. In no case will this be waived as our university runs on this.

2. At least two letters of recommendation from Indian Professors living abroad should be sent.

Namesteingly Yours

Subramanya Chaturvedil
(Head, Professor and Stenotypist)

The Campus

Our campus is situated a few blocks from the Ganges (which becomes fewer during the monsoons). Favourite sports are swimming, boating and life saving. Peacocks and Professors freely roam the campus. In due course, you will learn to tell one from the other. In downtown Sambalpur, there is no dearth of entertainment. We have a big library known for being the coolest place in the campus. In summer, people hold picnics on the third floor. The library services will start as soon as people start returning the books.



John: (excitedly) Boy! Some university!

Pamela: You bet!

John: Baby, you’ve realy hit big.

Pamela: (as if remembering something) Oh Yes! You’re in for one more surprise. Our ‘Bully’ Jack has got into MIT………..

John: (red with rage) WHAT!? That sonava*****. He always cuts into my chances. Wait till I kill him.

Pamela: Don’t get all worked up, yaar.When I said MIT I didn’t mean Muzaffarpur Institute of Technology. I meant our own Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

John: (visibly relieved) Ha Ha Ha. To think of Massachusetts Institute of Technology as MIT Ha Ha Ha. How funny.

Pamela: Ha Ha Ha.

(Just then, the door is thrown open. In rushes another boy whom we may call Jim, waving a sheet of paper. He addresses Pamela)

Jim: Let’s see if you can guess what this is!

Pamela: (tiredly) Aw, come on. I’m in no mood for guessing games.

Jim: All right. This is what I found on Prof. Ringo Rangopadhyay’s table. A copy of his RECOMMENDATION LETTER for you. Look at what he’s written.

(He reads it aloud, in a slow voice mimicking Ringo)

“Smt. Pamela Jacobs will have been my students four year. She hard works, test tube washes clean and handwritings beautifully. Child of sound moral character (I know, because I try), I strong recommend you take herself inside your institution. R. Rangopadhyay ”Senior Professor. Caltech”.

John: Wow! This is the loveliest recommendation letter I know of, to date. You’ve made it, baby. How about a treat then? It certainly calls for a celebration. Who’s for the Cafeteria?

(Exeunt all)


This was first published by Cheshire Cat in the October of 1976.