Intermission

I always admired how skillfully TR handles people whom he’s got to say no to, like trying to convince him to excuse them for coming late for CAs, admission through recommendation etc.

For latecomers to CA, he would invite them in, let them sit, joke, laugh with them, and at last, when they make the final appeal, would just say, “Sorry, I can’t allow you in”. They are not hurt, would already be relieved of their tension, and would walk out with no bitter feeling.

For admissions, he’s more elaborate. He would, in many cases, call other colleges and recommend their name and send them off with some hope. I have seen him talk to them for much longer, sometimes, even leaving his class.

Knowledge is not always power. I saw him play this trick on me today, just to tell me no for PhD. As I feared, he said he wants to wrap up by his retirement, hence not interested in taking in new scholars. Second he started, I knew where he is taking it to, the curse of reading people. But I decided to make the best of the conversation – I explained my breadth and width of reading, thinking and expanse to which my little brain has traveled so far, few of which were trivial for him, yet he appreciated, smiled, kept the discussion alive.

Well, Sunil sir, who was right next to me, offered me to guide, if I am willing to wait for two more years. I politely told him that I wish not to make any hasty decisions now, fact that I am sure my decision might be slightly influenced my overflow of emotions minutes after discussion with TR.

I must say my policy towards praises, comments like “given your potential, don’t settle for anything low, man”, was always to ignore it – to avoid it getting into my head. It has been a constant fight with arrogance listening to such comments since childhood from proud parents of a Cyclopse, who watched their son survive despite their fears and his little challenge.

I respect TR for not excessively praising my abilities before smoothly telling no – he did not comment on my abilities, we talked neutral grounds like possible fields of research that might interest me.

For some reasons, I was not panicking. I was not at the verge of crying, or even worried a little. I stayed calm, except for hunger which distracted me a tiny bit, for I had forgotten about lunch among all these.

What next? Where do I go? Will I get a guide as good as him? Will I get a guide as praying as him? These questions must be worrying me, but unfortunately, they are not. It is God’s doing.

I am sure, in some later point of my life, I would picture this as a next denial, at least not a humiliating one – like last attempt for PhD, I think I have told that story elsewhere in the same blog.

All of a sudden, all my favourites from previous batch are texting me, engaging in conversation. I suspected foul play by Vivek, but they outright deny any temptation from Vivek to talk to me.

And melancholy echoes in my attempt to keep the conversation alive, I wish not to confess to them that I wish we continue our conversation tomorrow!

But it’s joy to talk to them. Hence I am withdrawing from here, will continue writing tomorrow.

Singing off (Slip of fingers, started to type signing off, anyway, Christmas carols are already echoing in my room, thanks to Ashley!)

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The Wait

Pretext: Recipe for a Tasty PhD Scholar

I always disliked that article because I was just trying to show off my excitement, the “wrong kind” of excitement I always disliked. It oozes of my immaturity, and attempts to hide a fact known to me even when I was writing it – that this is not going to work out!

First nail in coffin me getting job in the very same department – thereby not eligible to join for full time PhD which I applied for – confirmation for which came a day after I joined.

To translate it for you, I can’t work and be a full time scholar – I got to join as part-time scholar, and that would require two years of experience. Two years, too long.

Then came the little information that as a Temporary Assistant Professor, our experience won’t be counted for PhD. The attempt to clarify that lead me to enough troubles. Pressure was mounting from brother-in-law and sister to try abroad for PhD, appealing to my super-brain they bet on always. “It’ll be a cakewalk for you”, they say.

I weighed ups and downs. A different kind of exposure did tempt me, but what do I achieve with such high degree? PhD, is a dream my dad injected in me. I do wish I can get the degree, but I’m in no hurry. I wanted to explore fields, take all the time, and find a field of my liking, and explore it further. But aiming high up in the sky would just mean a lot of hardwork, given the outcome I expect out of it, I don’t see much good coming out of it.

May be my entire thought process is summed up in this conversation with Buvana, a student-turned good friend, who aspires to fly abroad and is at the verge of it:

Buvana: What happened to your Quest for a Guide?
Me: Found Robinson. Stopped over dreaming.
Buvana: Which subject?!
Me: Whatever he suggests.
Buvana: That’s ultimate acceptance.

Well, that was few days before. Then I dropped a word of prayer, which is becoming an attraction these days, and gathered enough courage and talked to TR today, mentioned that “Sir, I’d like to discuss about PhD with you, fact that I have finished my 2-year experience period – when will be a good time?”

He was quick to say “May be tomorrow? I turned down everyone who came last two years, and I thought you didn’t want to continue with me”.

I said “No, sir, my concern was only about Image Processing becoming a legacy field of study given rise of AI, but I am open even to that now, having found interest reading in and around it”.

He again mentioned that he was rejecting people last two years, but ended the conversation saying we will talk about it tomorrow. But I was not overtly depressed on hearing that he’s not too inclined to the idea, and am left hanging for the verdict due tomorrow.

He’s undecided, from how it sounded, he hesitated to say no outright. That’s comforting, hence the only person I put up drama with is Buvana, who’s always been supportive.

What should be my approach to his decision in tomorrow’s conversation? Must I fight my case until I bleed? Or should I just accept his decision, no matter what – yes or no?

I’m tempted to complete submission to his age and wisdom, which was my policy all this while. Buvana was arguing for a fair discussion before I accept a no, and I think that sounded like a wise suggestion.

Then comes post-no scenario. I’ve been contemplating the possibility to snooze PhD for a while, meanwhile working on some solid papers in various fields (and working towards it, I have a starter paper idea in two fields). But that requires a lot of self-motivation and work.

Also, zero knowledge in publication sector is a huge drawback, too. I do not know where I should start and if my results are of any worth. I did upgrade myself in last two years – I developed the thinking process of coining problems which sounds valid according my knowledge so far, explore teaching more methodologically, and may be inspire some basic MSc-level research projects. But that’s no good enough for a PhD aspirant.

Anyway, if not to my blog, whom should I spill my mind to? It’s all hanging on a word of prayer tomorrow, and I am ready to face whatever path lies ahead of me.

Still, I cannot understand the peace, that calmness with which I am facing the entire issue. Every last time I was at peace like this, I saw God working wonders. I’ll just wait and see.

Signing off.

Me.

She makes me happy!

With all due respect, this is not proclamation of unspoken love to ever-speaking friend of mine!

Somehow, meeting Sarah makes me happy! In fact, the MCC bunch of those days, Nina, Hopes, Benji et al, somehow they make me happy!

The day I met Sarah in March, I must confess the world here now hasn’t seen me hyper enough like that ever – the good old days, when there was joy, overflowing!

I was bubbling with joy. When I’m happy, I radiate it, and I was just doing it – after ages! We talked like kids, we jumped around like kids, we played like kids!

And when I met the entire bunch for her wedding, I didn’t feel like I’m meeting them after years – they were just the same!

That’s unlike many I had met the same month after few years – they had their corporate ego to spill, clash, race for their coolness – while I felt left out, for I’m not in corporate sector earning nearly a lakh or two a month, yet cry about how much they struggle at the end of the month to meet their needs.

These people – Sarah and co – were just the same – a Zoologist might have become a doctor, Microbiologist a Theologian, Physicist become a Corporate counselor – except for Hope and me – Hope’s still Hope and I’m still a mathematician. And Nina too – she’s underwater (diver) and swims with dolphins most of the time, but still the same old Nina who’d play around with me!

They make me happy! I was yapping like a child, having a “verbal diarrhea” as Hope would say it, around them! These people did not seem to have changed a bit.

I realised that’s one of the golden reasons I always advocate against any job in corporate sector. Somehow, a lot of money brings about a lifestyle that makes you lose your true self – you start to live on a lot of things that you once wished you could achieve, showing it off though it all may break any second! May be that’s why my heart stopped a second when Jemima told she’s got job in an MNC. She did read it that very second, though I came up with lies enough.

Now when she said that the company, as a part of welcome training is getting them through a personality enrichment programme, to find their life’s purpose – and about the office culture and opinion from seniors – all I heard is how they are attempting to get people addicted to work and workplace. May be it’s my partial thinking – and hopefully I am wrong. But no matter what, I wish she grows above it all – not fall in their trap or the corporate culture, yet excel in her job, be wise enough to see things in a longer term, and stop, when it’s right time.

When Jemima told “Though I didn’t tell it explicitly, when they asked if we have a mentor, your name came to my mind”, I was happy. So much happy that I forgave myself for messing up the chalk I was carving, which has never happened in past (similar situation in past might have lead me to powder that chalk to finest dust possible in few seconds). You can see the chalk which survived my tempest for the first time, to the left. I must carve one again neatly soon.

Jocelyn told me that it’s Allen’s birthday, and I haven’t wished him yet though it’s in my mind as the next thing to do since morning.

Gayathri just withdrew from the entire world, I did offer her a hand, but she denied. Been there, done that – I think I must giver her the space she deserves. That phase everyone’s got to go through at some point of their life.

Off late, I feel much in demand to withdraw to a lonely place, and meditate. Lonely – a different place where no one would recognise me.

Any second now my new neighbour will come calling me for dinner. I will save all stories about him for a later post, for I am still watching the man with wonder – he’s a little childish, easily excited. Let’s wait and see what’s in store!

Good night!

Flippety Flop

There was a video in which the interviewer asked “What comes to your mind when I tell you the word Red Tube?” and the interviewer measured their response – which could be anything. It’s all about how infected your mind is, what information you give priority to. A big red tube? My niece’s toy? The website?

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IE&CV: Game Plan

From a lousy introduction to tense moments if I will get 10 students, it was a roller coaster ride already. Since then I have been planning to write and organise my thoughts on how I can take this coursework forward. I chose this particular day because I am fairly low.

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Annoying Grandpa

Al’s been peacefully enjoying (or ignoring) her breakfast with Thor on TV in backdrop, when her Appacha (grandpa) walked in. after watching for while, Appacha, who’s a mater story teller, decided to register his protest.

Appacha: These stories are foolish!

(After my sister and I registered protest – appealing to how it boosts imagination, how it’s superhit etc.)

Al: He’s not foolish, he defeats bad people – like I defeat you everyday!

Appacha eventually gave up.

Undignified

How dignified is teaching job, anymore?

You’re not really hired to teach. You’re hired to teach, with a subtle note that “You must be ready to work for college, when needed”.

In last two years, there were moments, days, weeks – when I was told to leave my class since I was “needed” for the college.

I have not seen home for last one half years, more than three-four days. A whole May was stolen from me last year, in account of the fact that college “needed” me. I worked tirelessly, deprived of sleep, ignoring the pain, knowing that I’m pushing myself way too far away. And a December, in pain, thanks to my sincere attempt to work for the college.

I remember the night when I walked in home, around 12, with a worried family shouting at me from the second I entered, though they know that I am in unbearable pain – and I was called “One of the worse” and “a huge negative energy destroying the college” in less than two months – because I had to retire from those works due to sickness.

I never went for the morning prayer in Anderson Hall, not because I can’t or I wish not to – the only reason, from a pastor to least of students, wanted me to attend it is to please principal, who’d be watching all our movements closely. Same goes for all inaugurations in college, all other events.

And then I realised something: Apart from all loyalty to the admin and to the college, which they later claimed that I do not have, I was, all these while begging for my job, or may be overdoing it myself.

That’s what I was told to do – “You better do as they say, just to safeguard your job”, “Last year there was a boy who kept away from all these and they didn’t renew his contract” and the stories goes on.

In short, I can compromise on my teaching, but need to be good at begging for my job.

What made me think about all these? Two reasons: a gentleman I men recently, Dr. Rajagopalan of English department, the grace with which he treated me, the conversation we had about dignity of this job back in his junior days and how it is not now. And then, the incident last day at gate. My message to TR, the head of the department summarises it all:

Sir, the new security is fairly harsh with us: we don’t know what to do with it! Today when we (Abhishek and I) were coming in, they demanded ID. Usually when we tell them we’re staff, they let us in. They still blocked us, so I showed them my ID, to avoid issues, he grabs it, and was asking me questions like “aren’t you a Thomas hall student” and all, fairly harshly. We tried to walk past, he pulls back Abhishek demanding his ID, even that, he was dissatisfied and let us pass grumbling. It’s true that we don’t quite look like staff, but at least with the ID, I feel they could’ve avoided the comments! It’s getting rougher day by day with the new security! Can something be done about it, sir?

In other words, do we mean nothing to the college that they themselves and their friends tread on us like we are just “expendables”?

I am denied of my rightful salary – in the name of “upcoming” confirmed posts, we have been made to work on temporary contract all these while. That just means I am paid one third of what we are supposed to get, with just empty promises last two years.

I’m also supposed to perform crazy good in academics, if you don’t want to be criticized. A professor works day through night to catch up with all clerical work assigned to him, along with teaching, and he’s still got to publish papers, if he wants to survive! Thankfully, that’s secondary to the other reason I stated above, followed by teaching.

I know great people like Vivek, who are born academicians, passionate teacher – but his research is sidelined, his teaching takes a backseat, my story is not any different, just to keep his job!

I am not allowed to be critical either – any of these things I said now, if a person other than my confidantes come to know, I’m out of my job, too. Critical thinking, criticism has been deemed to be hazardous and any comment in those lines must be met with harsh replies, as I experienced in recent past (even without a reason, I was accused of the same and pretty badly shouted at!).

Oh, how that photo of Vivek with a girl in his DP caused tonnes of “hushes” in department – how can he be in a picture with a girl? You wear a round neck t-shirt? That’s bad. Keep a distance from students. Never trust anyone. Words of wisdom from wise men and women of our college. Aka, we ought to fit all of their stereotypes or inferiority complexes, if you want to stay in the job. I feel judged each second I am in campus. I feel like, they are just planning my doom, for pleasure, and no other joy.

In short:

  1. Denied of rightful salary.
  2. Made to beg for job.
  3. You got to show your loyalty to admin, and live among fakers who just do it for survival.
  4. Made to compromise on teaching, which is my primary duty, to “safeguard” my job.
  5. Treated with no dignity, admin and the world sees us only as a commodity to squeeze every penny they give us out of.
  6. Doublethink is a sin.
  7. Got to stick to the stereotype and limits set for you by people around you.
  8. Perform academically, publish papers every night, else you are out of the league.
  9. Hierarchy of threat to job goes this way: 1. Your deinal to involve in clerical job 2. Display of your loyalty 3. your inability to perform academically, despite other works and teaching showered on you. 4. Your character must match society’s stereotypes about you. 5. Least of these, your poor/horrible classes.

Then why did I keep myself away from all the corporate jobs, which I could’ve easily got myself into?

On the other side, at least the ones I came across – those students are just the opposite – friends, who taught me more life lessons than my colleagues themselves. But I ought to keep a distance from them, just to safeguard my job.

After a point, as described in previous post, I started defying all these rules, and I even sounded my dissatisfaction in these lines to my HOD, one of the few sensible beings we have left in campus, I have no hopes of getting a contract letter next June.

But I am at peace to a great extend with that fact. First of all, TR won’t let such a thing happen without a fight. Rather than making me fall in love with the job, these people just made me hate it further, live in fear. I’ve less peace in my heart, more restless – you must have read the change of tone in my posts over two years. I used to console myself at the end of the day saying “At least I get to teach”, but now I feel even that’s not coming to my rescue.

As someone said recently – it’s much worse elsewhere – sure you want to move out? A point worth considering.

Talking about contract letter next June. They never tell you if you’re continuing until the last second, in fact, they never tell you that you’re not going to get one – You get no call asking you to collect your appointment order a day or two before last singing day, you must realise not to embarrass yourself going there and asking if they forgot to call.

That reinforces the fact that you mean nothing to them.

I’m more tempted to the decision to quit, to be frank. If not for the promise I made to the upcoming 2MSc, and the expectation on me with which TR has bet high on next semester, above all, family’s urge to get settled in life, I’d be out of their way, already. Something must change. Soon.

Here’s a line from V for Vendetta that’s been echoing in my head last few days:

Behind this mask there is more than just flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea… and ideas are bulletproof.’

…and it spreads like a wildfire. Now, can you guess why I don’t publicize my posts? It’s personal. It’s my anguish. It’s my cry, the tears that cannot be shed in public.

To Mask or to Unmask.

If I didn’t understand I was being asked to be best man, it’s because I never thought I would be anyone’s best friend.

Sherlock (TV Series)

If I did not expect to be the best friend, it’s because I never thought I would even make it to anyone’s friend list. But things that happened last few days were just too overwhelming. Read for yourself.

First one
Second one.
Third.

And they were all from my students, apart from their kind words in person. In middle of all these came this from Ajlene, unwarranted;

You might have read about the dance performance by 2MSc in more than one of the chats above, in which, they called me “macha”. They read that I am low, they saw that they must speak to me – they felt that beyond a teacher-student relationship, there’s a friend in need – and that meant the world to me!

My sister’s reaction reading few of these was never to let students speak to me like that – while I always took her advices as golden gems, this time, I protested – saying “Each person has their own view point, and it suffocates me to push them aside, it suffocates me to let them know that I’m here, if you need a big brother”. She didn’t like it much, but she chose not to respond.

But that triggered questions in my mind, and while I was watching them re-perform the dance for those faculty who missed their performance (which was me), it kept nagging me.

Well, during my initial days, I was told to keep a safe distance from students, which I did, since I knew I’m in an unfamiliar ground. I would restrict my interaction to classes alone in first semester, and by the time reached second semester, I started questioning these limits, based on my own experience.

Being a teacher is one thing, and I knew that I am getting better at it. But I saw that I am not making a personal impact in their lives. I am unable to reach out the young lady in whom I clearly saw signs of clinical depression, that guy who needed an extra push to try make the best of his talents, that little fight between them.

I had a master plan, and I cut myself lose eventually – by then I was confident and comfortable in department as well. I started being myself – let go of more reservations I was holding on to, in my interaction with other staff and students, and the rest of the world slowly synced in.

Was it effective? The lady whose marriage was fixed without her consent, a lady who felt their classmate is undergoing tremendous pressure and that he was at the verge of breaking, a young lady with no self confidence, another who was at the verge of losing it all owing to a breakup, a guy who felt like a failure, a guy who was worried about his arrears – they had the confidence to speak up to me, and I could intervene or direct them to right people at the right time.

I realised that it’s gone beyond that point when I saw that those young lives were making an impact in my life, with their willingness to stand by me during my toughest times, like any friends do, not be silent when you’re low, rather, ignore all boundaries, step in, speak up, crack a joke, drop a word of encouragement – prophesy for God, and the list goes on!

But still I kept my distance, and I would credit those reservations in speaking to them to risk factor of losing my job. That’s when the recent criticisms came, that I am a negative impact on students and staff – made me rethink what exactly is the risk factor involved in job. That’s when, God miraculously brought in Prakash uncle, through whom he told me “If God opens a door, no one can shut it, if God shuts the door, no one can open it”.

That was the final call for me – I cut all my reservations down and decided to me “myself” to them. But even that is a drastic change for my world to bear, though I feel a lot comfortable being around everyone now.

Only problem is, unlike previous changes in policies, this is unmeasured. Before changing my policy each time, I thought through it, I carefully measured its pros and cons, and minimised the risk factor. This time, it was not so – no, no reservations. I will just be myself, and no mask in front of other teachers, or students – I would interact with them equally, spend time with them. And that’s scary!

But that seems to be speaking to 1BSc Physics students better, whom I met only recently. I am way attached to 2MSc Mathematics and 3rd BSc Mathematics, and 1MSc is growing into one of my comfort zones, and I see strands of jealousy each time I praise 2MSc to them.

Unless people around decides to make a mess out of it, the mess that may follow (including loss of job) doesn’t sound like a huge con to me as opposed to the pros of it – vaguely speaking, the peace of mind that I have, and I get to see a lot of my impulsive, curious explorer I lost with my old self these days. My only aim is to make friends, irrespective of their status, and be available to them in need.

I must also note that Vivek and Abhishek are watching me, and I do see that I am influencing their life a lot, much as they do in mine. Hope it all brings about a good culture at least in our department, even if I lose the fight to keep my job in the process – and I’m well aware of the possibilities.

This turned out to be a nonsensical writing, but some good might come out of it in future, once I organise my thoughts about all these. Till them, Hakuna Matata! Let me go to my student’s room, Vivek’s waiting for me there!