Journey That Could Not Be

October 8, 2015

It has been a while and I am certain an explanation is required for the absence of several months. Apart from some of the personal challenges of life, I had taken a new step with regards to my future and that consumed my time and efforts since May of this year.

In a shift of profession and direction, after long and careful discussion with close friends and colleagues, I had applied for MA in Creative Writing program at University of Southampton, United Kingdom. The detail that most people are unaware of, is that I don’t only write book reviews or long-winded articles on society, politics and religion. I write stories as well … short stories, flash fiction etc. A few of those are published on my personal blog as well.

As a requirement for the program I submitted creative work that included a flash fiction, a letter and a short story that totaled to 5,000 words. Pessimist that I am, I believed there would be criticism or even a bit of laughter at the paltry attempt of writing stories. No one had ever taught me to write; there are barely any writers among friends and family, and this is something I pursued as a hobby with no one to share thoughts, ideas and feelings. Whatever I wrote, it was guided by instincts and despite assurance from a friend I felt inadequate.

The response, however, was more than optimistic. I was interviewed before formally offered place at the program and the head of program was very excited with my work. Creative Writing programs are always selective, usually inducting not more than 15 students each year, and Southampton is ranked overall 81st in the world and 5th in UK for Creative Writing. Discussion with her and with close friends created a new doorway to a future … one that I wanted to pursue rather than been pushed by family. Something that I wanted to do rather than I was asked to do.

It was going well until I was led to a wide goose chase regarding degree verification. It was not required for UK applications but my selection of consultant proved to be flawed since he strongly recommended. I wasted the month of July for nothing.

In August when I gave up the chase and decided to go ahead with application, I applied for TB test at IOM Office (as per requirements for UK visa) and received a date 14 days later … on 24th of August. That left me with less than a month since studies are to start from 23rd September. I still went ahead and once the TB test was done, I applied for visa on 27th of August.

It went well and I expected to hear back from them by 8th of September … enough time to prepare and depart for UK.

There was no response.

A couple of days later I received an email that my application has been delayed. There was no timeline given.

Later I got a call about a second interview scheduled for 8:30 am on 16th September. I arrived at the appointed time and went through the 5-minute interview, more or less asking the same questions as I was asked before:

  • Background
  • Last education
  • Work experience
  • Institutions applied to
  • Why this program
  • What are my plans after completing the education

I gave all the honest answers, from MBA that I pursued because of family to my hobby of writing and how I have now switched towards professional writing. I briefly mentioned my plans after returning to Pakistan that included working on translating books written by elders of the family (a memoir by grandmother and collection of poetry from great grandfather).

A few days later I received the decision … the application was rejected. My motives for the switch, the selection of institution right down to my plans after graduation … all were doubted.

In short, I was a liar and not a genuine student at all.

The late application and delay in decision meant I had no more time to re-apply. The time window was extremely short, even less than 15 days. And after much consideration and discussion with legal, I had to opt for deferment.

I can understand the pressure that visa officers go through when sifting through applications and the way they evaluate people based on evidence provided. As a friend put, I was punished for honesty and for speaking to the visa officer as if speaking to a friend.

To the visa officer I probably was another douchebag trying to slip into UK.

In the end there was nothing to do. I am still here, at least for another year, trying to catch up with all that I ignored these past few months. This includes reading and reviewing, and next book to be reviewed is Sara Naveed’s Undying Affinity. She has been patient and I am really grateful to her for understanding.

With this I want to confirm that Digital Saeen is back. Book reading, reviewing and attending literary events would continue like before, therefore stay tuned for updates.

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