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Doctor of Philosophy: My Awesome Degree - My Awesome Travail

Robert Frost’s road not taken inspired me to jump on to a venture that caused me great agony, exponentially intimidating challenges but taught me a lesson, “nothing in the world comes free of labour”.

My application in IGNOU New Delhi for a ph.d in English was not paid a heed at all and after sending numerous reminders to the university for six successive months, I did receive a revert from them and that was from the director, “ we have one person in mind who could perhaps help you out in dealing with the subject matter. Speak to her over the phone.

Luckily, I got into touch with a gentle soul my guide(would not like to name her here) who enabled me to prepare a research proposal after three successive years of my constant hard work under her supervision.

A draft was prepared after the rejection of almost over 100 typed versions and with the intervention of a co-guide who insisted on such scrupulous work that accompanied the predicament on becoming - never ending. Nonetheless, I could manage to create a final draft of my proposal somehow despite the reluctant approval of the co-guide stating, “it is ok, could have been better” After 3 years finally I got the golden opportunity of visiting the university with my proposal.

I distinctly remember 10 post doc degree holders sitting right in front of me trying to examine the veracity of my research hypothesis, “ Girish Karnad innovates tradition in order to attest its contemporary relevance”. The question answer session went on to about three hours after which my indefatigable urge to pursue the research was finally accepted and I got admission in the university.

The real trial was to begin now, a strict research on each original source used by Girish Karnad in his plays based on myths and folktales(that was my area of interest) and the modifications he brings about in the story-lines which attests the contemporary relevance in his effort to go back to the past and establish its relevance in the present. This could not isolate the task of observing innovative techniques adopted by the practitioners of the stage while staging Karnad.

7 years. Yes. Seven long years of travail. Preparing drafts, watching performances, sending the critical reviews to theatre directors, getting their approval on your work(and believe me they did help! But their busy schedule makes the researcher rue the fact that one has to contact them) and scrupulously write each line in keeping the grammar and spellings part in mind. Visiting the libraries, sitting there for hours, requesting them for the rare books and material, order some of it from libraries out of town, at times even abroad...indulge in an extensive travel...A fb page can never give the space to recall everything in actual detail. When you sit up late nights connecting with people in different countries matching their clock timings with that of their comfort zones, it becomes difficult. I would not say that it was enjoyable. It was pure HARD WORK.

One cannot do a ph.d without undergoing all of it and this was not anything new that I faced I am sure. So what’s the purpose in writing this? Well simple. “

A researcher is not just a researcher. He/she/anyone is a research scholar working relentlessly day and night to make a draft happen. Please do not assume that researchers have simply to gather information people. There is much more to it!

Dedicated to some who feel - Research in Literature is, “simply digging bones out of one grave and putting them in another”. No it is NOT. It is extracting bones out of the grave, scrutinizing their anatomy and enabling the futuristic possibilities of carrying out such enterprise, not isolating a single element.

What happened after my 500th draft was finally approved and submitted is another long story. Am sure my friends who are interested will definitely make sure they know the latter part of it as well.

Well, to continue, yes. Writing drafts after drafts in the isolated vacuum of my room was not easy either. Each time I thought I was doing the right thing, getting rejected was the outcome. But, this was the moment of triumph when I submitted all my arms and armaments in front of my guide expressing my inability to anything more magical in terms of language or expression and she finally thought she needed approve my work if she were to save my mental health from getting permanently damaged by another disapproval on my 500th draft. As she did say my write up was worthy of being submitted, I do not remember me causing any delay in terms of running back home to my parents eagerly waiting in the PG room where we had been staying long since five consecutive months and they were with me to help me boost my morale each time I felt I won’t be able to manage. Therefore, they chose to be with me during the final months of my submission days in New Delhi. I was thrilled giving them the news that their patience and fortitude had finally paid off and my draft had received approbation from my guide for submission. But, little did I know at that time what I was about to face yet ahead was going to be nothing less than a travail. Pre-submission seminar – A PPT Presentation was to be done in front of the Doctoral committee before the final submission of my thesis. I thought being good at expression, I would be able to deliver the deliverable easily but it was the biggest mistake I had made; underestimating the caliber of the reverend faculty members to demand the toughest ordeal from me at a point when I thought I would be treated with more sympathy for retaining my forbearance and bringing my work to a culmination while many choose to quit halfway in this exhaustive journey. It was not that I had forgotten the memories of my prior presentations that were lingering on my mind. I knew that there were chances that I might face a detrimental set back in the doctoral committee chooses to disapprove my work and suggest me many changes in my writing. There were chances my submission could be delayed for another 6 months! I knew this well because I had experienced this well before when my speech had been occluded by the venerable director of the School of Languages Dr. Rita Rani Paliwal who made me realize that my efficiency as a research scholar needed to be coupled with utmost humility when I dare to quote the respectable treatise Bharata’s Natyashastra. She told me clearly duing my first presentation in front of the doctoral committee that I needed to check that my knowledge of great writers and their works ought not to appear as a pompous display of my erudition. Giving this feedback she chose to walk out of the room not even letting me finish my speech. My next presentation after that experience was deliberately a simple attempt and though my guide did not like me diluting my academic scholarship to a very simplistic perfunctory explanation, it was welcomed by the director as it was more than obvious that I was scared of appearing knowledgeable and wanted to be as poignant as possible. This was obviously because I had realized I was a “student” and not a “Pandit”. At that point of time, honestly I did not appreciate the idea but today, after 10 years of the incident when Dr. Paliwal reprimanded me in the midst of all post Doctorate degree holders for my audacity to speak on the Natyashastra, I feel it was vital for me to realize one should be acting as per one’s age and experience and even if both are nothing to do with knowledge, one needs to control one’s over-enthusiasm to speak on subjects that are not just a part of academic curriculum but have a lot more to do with cultural values and sentiments.

So, these experiences before with presenting in front of the doctoral committee that I had before were the means by which I prepared my idea of the final pre-submission seminar. I knew this was the only chance wherein I could defend my thesis and prove myself eligible to conclude the seven years long research. There were 20 Post doctorate degree holders in front of me and more than 10 Ph.d research scholars and one external expert from Jawaharlal Nehru University – Dr. Prasad. And I began my presentation.

To be continued...

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