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The author remembers an interview which turned out to be better than expected.
The year was 1981; I had been shortlisted for British Council Scholarship for my PhD. If selected, all travel charges, boarding and contingents would be borne by The British Council. Since it has been a long time, I have vague memory about the right amount. Undoubtedly, the monetary reward was a handsome amount. I was too eager to try my luck. Apart from the money, I would get an opportunity to visit and stay for three years in the fascinating and literary rich country-United Kingdom. At that time I was teaching in Women’s College and also working on my thesis. The topic was on Charlotte Bronte-a very popular English writer of the Victorian age. Hence, the visit would entail seeing Haworth, the place of the Bronte Sisters with my own eyes. How thrilling and educative it would be!
Hence with great expectations I went to Delhi and it was an overnight journey from Jamalpur, Bihar where I stayed. On the appointed day and time I reached the venue. It was scheduled at British High Commission, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi. The interview was to be held at 10 a.m, but I arrived at around 9 a.m. Obviously, I did not want take chances or be tardy.
Traffic those days was a nuisance but not like present days. However, much to my amazement, I found that a lot of aspirants had already arrived. We were ushered into a large and spotlessly clean waiting room. Most of the people were around 20-25 years of age even though the upper age limit was thirty-five years. The atmosphere was not tense but filled with excitement and eagerness and everyone was friendly and chatty. Exactly at 10 a.m. the interview commenced. The first candidate finished his meeting after fifteen minutes. He was exultant. He apprised us on the questions posed and added that all the interviewers were pleasant. We were all very impressed and energized.
I kept my fingers crossed and waited for my turn. My name was called after an hour and my number was tenth or eleventh. I entered the room and surprisingly my heart beat remained relaxed. Cheerful smiles greeted me when I wished them “Very Good Morning”. There were four people including the Regional Representative, Mr. R N Alfrod. After the initial formalities, I was asked a few questions about my research topic and why I desired to visit UK?
Now, it was mandatory that if a working candidate was selected, he/she had to gain permission from the university and guarantee that after the research study he/she would be absorbed and the service would not be terminated. Sadly, my university had refused to grant me this authorization. That led them to ponder and wonder how they could help me. They did not reject me outright. Mr. Alfrod broke the ice and inquired if I had access to good material and resources.
I explained that I lived in a small town with very limited sources to obtain sufficient material. I had travelled to Delhi, Calcutta and Madras but had not attained satisfactory material. The affable Mr. Alford then offered to introduce me to the British Council libraries in Delhi and Calcutta. Those days these libraries had the facility of lending by post. One way charge was borne by them and the return by the borrower. I readily agreed, at least I would be assured of excellent material with least trouble. The kind gentleman informed the librarians of the two libraries and I became a member of the Calcutta section as that was closer to my home.
I heartily thanked the board members especially Mr. Alford. Thus, my interview concluded on a positive note. The librarian MS. Ray helped to bring virtually all my desired reference material or books right at my door step. Catalogues were sent and I just needed to select my preferences. If a certain book was not available at that time, the librarian would ensure that I received when it was accessible. Thus, my thesis work was accomplished with ease and élan.
Many thanks to the British Council and the Regional Representative, Mr. R N Alfrod.
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