For the longest time, I refused to talk about the impending PhD because I didn’t want to jinx it. I was traumatized with my tryst with bureaucracy and I refused to believe that there would be no spanner in the wheels and I would actually be allowed to pursue my studies without being asked to furnish another document.

This fear of bureaucracy is a particularly Indian one. I wonder if people from countries where rules and regulations and paper pushing are not weapons used to terrorise the masses (and these countries do exist, Hong Kong being one of them) have this ball of dread in the bottom of their stomachs when they are asked to produce a document. It has taken me years in Hong Kong to unlearn this fear, to go to the counter of a government organization and not steel myself for the apathy and the inevitable runaround. And just one setback was all it took for me to be back down the panic-stricken path again.

But here I am, just shy of a month away from full-time studies. I have begun to look into courses I might do – and god, it’s so exciting. Even the prospect of a run-of-the-mill Gender Studies course excites me. I met my supervisor and she seems nice – despite one slightly snarky comment – if strangely clueless about admin stuff. She quickly asked me to scratch the very basic Gender Studies course from my list, but was supportive of others. On the positive side, she remembered my topic which surprised me. I also received an email about tutoring duties and the teacher I’ll be helping for the semester is young and seems friendly.

I am confused and a bit stressed out about courses, because I’m not yet a student but I need to register for some classes or I might not get them. Unfortunately, because I’m not a student, I don’t have all the information on how to do that and I had to resort to asking my supervisor the stupid questions. Fortunately, because I’m a staff member of the same university I have the advantage of accessing the course list with my staff ID and can actually meet my supervisor before I start. Because I’m bad with numbers, I thought I’d need to take more courses than I actually have to. Now I’m tempted to just coast for the first semester.

Apart from rereading my proposal before meeting my supervisor, I refuse to read any stuff related to my topic. I just finished Diana Vreeland’s memoir and will move onto a biography of her. I’m going to squeeze in as much frivolous reading that is unconnected to my PhD in the next two weeks. Then, I’ll look at my notes again. I have good intentions of summarizing everything I’ve read so far into a paper of sorts (I know, I know, go ahead and laugh).

In the interim, I’ve received quite a few requests for freelance work, which is flattering. I might not end up as broke as I thought. But I might end up busier than ever, which is terrifying.

I have started carting home personal stuff since I gallantly offered to give up my desk to the new girl who will be joining during our overlap period. Also because I know from experience that unless you have a car or a friend with a car willing to be your caddy, leaving it till the last day is not a good strategy.

My plants almost died during the last long weekend break and I put them out in the terrace garden hoping they’d revive with natural sunlight and rain but they’re pretty much goners methinks. I’m seeing them as a symbol that my time here is done. I need a symbol because a part of me is really sad (and scared) to be leaving this job which has all things considered been so nice to me for more than five years. And two months before leaving I got a raise due to civil service adjustment so the salary I’m not going to be getting anymore is even higher than I earlier imagined and that makes me feel like an utter fool.

But deep breaths. I’m at the finishing line or the starting line. Limbo really. And it’s not a bad place to be.

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