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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Graduate, graduate, graduate (Boxer by S& G)

I wake up in the morning, a damning dream was conversing with me about my progress as a graduate student. My first instinct was to stay in the bed a little longer, but then I heard the refrain: "Graduate, graduate, graduate" in my head. As if the goddess of knowledge and music, goddess Saraswati had returned to her ageold duties to rouse intellectuals into finishing their tasks. Not quite out of sleep yet, I switch on Simon Garfunkel, and well the first song that plays in the background is Boxer:

"I am just a poor boy and my storys seldom told
Ive squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises
All lies and jest, still the man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest, hmmmm"

Wow! I do realize that Paul Simon must have never realized how many connotations his songs have for people. If advisers words are "mumbles", much of published literature "lies and jest", it is quite true that every researcher "hears what he wants to hear.... the rest"

"Li la li..."

My morning has begun on the right note it seems. I am back in business, dressed like a tramp, I walk down the empty streets to reach my laboratory. It is still there. So many buildings in the world collapse under their own weight, earthquakes, bombs, armageddon, mistakes during shooting movies, and fires (like in movie Office Space) take care of the rest. But my laboratory stays intact. Its like Terminator, cannot be destroyed easily. I sit at my desk, stare at the screen, hear "Graduate, graduate, graduate" again and stand up and look around. The instruments, my chair, the sloth computer that likes neither emails nor Matlab are all shouting out to me, their voices are not synchronized, and some high pitch feminine ones are much louder than the backdrop. I put my hands on my ears, when Simon's words start unfurling in my thoughts:


"Asking only workmans wages, I come lookin for a job, but I get no offers
Just a comeon from the whores on 7th avenue
I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there

Now the years are rolling by me, they are rockin even me
I am older than I once was, and younger than Ill be, thats not unusual
No it isnt strange, after changes upon changes, we are more or less the same
After changes we are more or less the same"

Yes, I must graduate. The wages here are petty. Few years ago, they made sense. Now I am not that young, cannot live without marriage and money. Even 7th avenue is too costly for me to get any comfort there. I guess when I thought I was mad at my experiments not working, I did not realize the real problem was my loneliness. Orkut, blogging, hi5, Facebook and chatting haven't been as helpful, as these starting graduate students think. A time comes in graduate students life, when he must look back and dismiss all that was badly planned, wisely executed or wisely planned, badly executed, restart and understand that restart will kill another few years, and recover all the data sets he dismissed earlier, and make a story out of them. In any case, as the voice in my ears says "After changes we are more or less the same."

"Li la li..."

Before I actually get done, I need a plan of action. No more procastination. I must not write poems.That cannot be: a complete man should not sacrifice his hobbies for sake of a vocation. Maybe I should spend less time on interenet, but if that happens, I will lose out on connectivity and networking, that are so crucial to success of a person. In any case, I must sort out things in my head, and before anything else, let me write a blog to purge myself of any negative or positive thoughts about this matter. What must I write about? I type, "Graduate, graduate, graduate"

"And Im laying out my winter clothes, wishing I was gone, goin home
Where the new york city winters arent bleedin me, leadin me to go home"

I remember I must go home this winter. Going home is not that easy. It is not because they would want me to get married, or my adviser would express his displeasure at my leave or it would be too expensive or I will miss out on my existant and nonexistant girlfriends or I will miss the month of funs, parties and trips my friends will have here. All those are surmountable problems. The biggest problem is to go home and offer chocolates to kids of friends and peers, those guys have been working for half a decade now. The unsurmountable difficulty comes when parents tell you not to worry about father's retirement, not even buidling a house or age of grandmother, but to ensure that after all the work, I must not quit without a degree. When they tell you, all is well, and they are really proud of your achievements, you cannot help it. Your blood boils, the fervour comes to your heart, and you walk towards your university with a soldier like march, "Don't give up, you've got the music in you" plays tune, then the trees tell you "We are the champions of the World" and then you see the spring buds suggeting "I get knocked down and I stand up again" and then your whole childhood comes to you as a montage with words "We will overcome, we will overcome, we will overcome one day, oh ho deep in my heart, I do believe" and you know the whole universe, as Richard Bach had suggested, is plotting with you to finish, to graduate.

"In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him
til he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains
Yes he still remains"

The day of defense will come. It is only few months now. The CD of Simon Garfunkel has been burnt out, as has been your laptop. You are typing away your thesis on a desktop inherited from friend who has got six figure job, and to save money, listen to songs downloaded from somewhere. For a year, you have had been saying to yourself, Graduate, graduate, graduate. You look haggard, like a soldier after the war. You had gone fully armed and prepared to beat the shit out of enemy, the enemy seemed to be mere scientific problem, and you had counted on your superior talent with mathematics, your ability to be dangerous when organized, and you figured that you will do it better and faster than armies of graduate students before you, and you had smiled when you thought it would be "shock and awe" campaign. You were to find new precepts and principles, new devices, new science and technology that would alter society and mankind forever. You had fancied yourself as a boxer, who would knock out every opponent, and for many years you had not cared about what was happening to you. But now you have memories "And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him" and you are about to finish.

yet some more data is needed, some more verifications are required, more analysis, some more papers need to be submitted. You feel cheated, you have exhausted your energies. You cannot quit after spending all your twenties to an end. You must graduate.

"I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains
Yes he still remains"

I smile, I fight on. Its not that bad. I have learnt a hell lot more than I will ever use. I have made friends to last me a few lifetimes, for the friendships that are made in times like these, are the ones that last forever. I had a long enough time at graduate school, and I am surprised they don't offer ternured positions to students. Many people came and left with MS, many people decided to quit after two or three years, some changed departments, other schools, many their advisors. I have lived on, fought on. I can cook more dishes than any housewife can, I can survive on lesser money than people getting social welfare funds live on, I can read more pages in an hour than printer can print, I know how to plug-in and unplug more intstruments than Thomas Elva Edison knew off (and unlike him, I don't keep a count of my failed attempts), I know of every dish served in every restaurant in ten miles vicinity, I am friends will coffeeshop, bookstore, library people. I fell pretty good about how I have fared so far. I've had time to do all the reading and learning that I ever wanted to and I have earned credit for it. I have seen America by lieu of conferences, and I can talk for hours about many scientific and non-scientific topics. I have achieved intellectual nirvana, where nothing surpirses me, nothing bothers me. Before I get too smug and content and happy with my situation, I feel hungry, weigh the options, and walk away from this desktop, with one ramble, one wish, one idea, one hope, one dream, one destination, and I must say it three times for the effect: Graduate, graduate, graduate.

Li la li...

1 comment:

Puck said...

May everyone of your dreams come true. Your style f writing is visually appealing and very enjoyable.
Li la Li :)