I thought long and hard before I wrote this post. It was triggered by some thoughts I had late last week while driving.
I can pinpoint the event that led to my studying Physics as a career. 7th Standard, Physics lesson, learning about how a thermos works. I can also pinpoint the event that led to my studying opto-electronics at university – the day I learned that it was a course taught jointly by Physics and Engineering schools, thus satisfying my personal need to study Physics (and NOT computer science) and satisfying the family by saying that I was doing ‘engineering’ of a kind that they would not comprehend.
Throughout my school and undergraduate years, even thought the work took its toll and there were times when I passed with flying colours and times when I failed miserably, one thing was constant, consistent – interest, amazement and wonder!
I can recall being fascinated by lasers and light. I can remember the tinge of excitement when I saw the HUGE particle accelerator at the ANU. I can recall with startling detail the thrill of actually watching light bounce off in semi circles through water that was saturated with sugar.
And then something happened that sucked this out of me – I started this PhD.
This very disturbing observation I made when I thought back to my friend and I and the conversations that we used to have. My friend is one of the smartest people I know. His grasp of Physics as a subject exceeds the understanding that most practising academics have! So here was this chap who could simplify complex theories into everyday analogies and of course this led to many a heated discussion. We would spend hours talking about Physics, the simple things, the complex things and of course the dubious things.
I has been over two years since we last talked about anything except how frustrating work is. It has been over a year since we last discussed a truly ‘exciting’ result of our work. I have myself to blame mostly for this.
Today was an annual celebration to mark the founding day of my workplace. So we sat through numerous, some surprisingly good, presentations. This, of course, is the perfect scenario for the mind to wander and it did.
Over the last three years I have attended several conferences, sat amidst the brilliant Physics minds and heard them spout words of consolation more than anything else. I have also heard a rather alarming amount of rubbish. I have seen how research is converted, if not reduced, to appeal to the masses and how this conversion leads to undeserving people gaining credit for half-baked ideas. I have learned that in today’s world a successful academic is one that can appease the grant-givers and industry-men. I have understood that Physicists do NOT discuss the wonders of the world around us as much as they discuss the ‘political scenario’ that will influence their ‘next grant’ – over a cup of tea. I have seen that ‘influential’ academics will push their students regardless of talent and that those willing to be party to this will be duly rewarded.
However, this is a mere digression, it is not something ‘new’ neither does it warrant thought.
If I get this Phd – it will be my biggest gain and for it I will have paid with my passion. The excitement and wonder of yesteryears will be lost to cynicism and skepticism. Never again will I feel the sheer joy of reading Einstein’s original paper on relativity, or the pride of meeting the man that invented the optical fibre. Why? – you ask. Why can’t one get out of the rut and still take away a sense of achievement. Simply because it is fake.
There are several days when I feel that the ‘thing’ that I make at the end of my time here will in no way help a poor starving man in India who pulls a rickshaw in the heat and humidity of Delhi, gets spit on and abused by all and sundry and still does not have enough to feed his family. My work will in no way make those in power realise their follies and change their ways. And just when I am about to sink into the depths of despair I see a light at the end of the corridor.
It is the door. Leading out. And it is my choice to whether to walk out armed with an advanced degree. One that I have spent the last three years for. And right now it seems like the shortest distance between me and the door is through the thesis.
And beyond that I can do something that makes me happy. That gets me excited and fills me with wonder. A wonder that I once felt sitting in a classroom as a 12 year old learning about how a thermos worked.

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3 thoughts on “

  1. Even Einstein wouldn’t have escaped the “Grants” rut,so don’t fret.As for helping the rickshaw puller in India,people who can, won’t.So don’t sweat.You have not become a cynic, just wise.

  2. all power to your passion. There are so many people who still don’t know what they want to do with their lives. Consider yourself lucky that you have a passion in life

  3. i know exactly how you feel.but the passion will come and this time will passtrust mestay strong and know that there is a whole world out there to explore that you will love to try and explaina whole world out there that is just waiting for youjust look at the thesis as a key that might just open up one of those doors for you

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