Friday, July 06, 2007

Research, does it still pull?

I am a research scholar in Mathematics and thought of writing a piece on the decline that research in India is facing. To my sadist pleasure when I went for a google search with words like "declining research in India" I found a list of articles narrating the sorry state of affairs in research. The above sited link specifically talks about the decline in the Mathematics research in India specially in institutes of repute like the IITs, IISc, HRI (Allahabad) and MatSci (Chennai).

Research in India is facing a few basic problems. I would share here the problems I have faced as one of the members of the fraternity and heard my friends experiencing as a researcher.

The first and the most disturbing being the total disrespect to the sancitity that research and researchers command. The society who is naive about research sees a researcher in high esteem but it's the people who are a part of the system who make a researcher look like nothing more than a person whon has lost out on other options in life. I am a Mathematics Olympiad certificate holder, a CBSE merit-cum-scholarship awardee, an NBHM, Department of Atomic Energy Scholarship holder, a CSIR-UGC fellowship holder, but all these laurels seem to be of no particular value when I see the attitude the department and supervisors have towards researchers in general. They make you believe indebted to them for allowing you to do research each and every moment. I have been asked by a well-wisher in the department not to revolt against the system as that is not going to help, rather to get things done feeling subdued and submissive.

I have only one thing to question, despite getting offers of lucrative courses like MBA I listened to my calling and went for research, then why am I made to feel everyday that it was the garvest mistake I committed in life? Why during the peak years of our creativity, youth, energy and rigor we are asked to remain subdued so that our work gets done?

This is not the only problem, during research one grows old enough and is expected to maintain the family. A scholarship of Rs. 8000 per month hardly suffices in today's market. Though there is little hope in this respect as recently the government has got alarmed by the seriousness of the issue and has thereby increased the expenditure on research and so things can be hoped to improve.

But still there remains the problem of the lack of a job security even if a 'subdued' you somehow manages to complete research with that meagre Rs. 10000 per month when you know that had you put even half that amount of labour in some other field you would have been touching the skies.

The only pull factor that research carries now is when people courageously decide to hear their calling and take up research despite being aware of the odds. If this continues and nothing is done urgently, the motivation of listening to one's calling would burn off in no time.

The need of the hour is to give each and every researcher their due respect and every possible help to complete the streneous journey of five years of aimless wandering at the peak of their youths. The need of the hour is a little cooperation and motivation from the stalwarts and the policy-makers of the field. The need of the hour is to realise that research is declining and so it's important to motivate the prospective researchers and provide an inspriring working environment so that they don't go hunting for greener pastures.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Take charge at 23

I would be 23 in a few days, and I don’t feel myself adequate as yet to carry the mantle of that age. I don’t feel I am matured enough to be called a 23 year old girl. I don’t know how to take decisions as yet, decisions here do not mean whether to have a pizza for lunch or a plate of rajma pulao, but they mean the big ones. I have always looked for somebody to counsel me and guide me, to help me take up major decisions. You would instantly say but there nothing wrong in asking for help. There is, if the help is persistent, if in the course of asking help you forget that you have a mind of your own, if you keep relying on other people for help all the time, if you are too impressionable to change decisions on even slightest influences, if you stop taking your own life and situations into consideration and let yourself being framed into the setting of the other person who tries to help you by giving his own examples. So now I am sure you would agree on why I feel myself inadequate.

If I retrospect I see that I have always eaten with the spoon that was brought to my mouth, never really taking my hands out to choose a spoon. Even if after being persistently asked to choose my own spoon I have insisted hard on telling me the pros and cons of each spoon, and then finally taken pride (a sham pride) in choosing my own spoon. So literally and figuratively I have been spoon fed much to the unwillingness of my feeders.

By now I am sure many of you are too convinced that I am absolutely inadequate to be 23, as a 23 year old would never speak like this. And I would not spare myself even a bit by not substantiating the point I started off with.

I have gone to the foolish extent of making chits of the options I have in hand and then taking the decision as the one written on the chit that I have drawn. I have gone to extent of asking God to take decisions for me by trying to find out answers in Ramcharitmanas or the Geeta. I have gone to extent of leaving the decisions to be taken to time. Except for the first one I am sure you would be thinking that sometimes there is no way but to surrender to these methods so what’s wrong in them. But it’s wrong if you ask God for answers without knowing your questions well, ask him to answer from the options you think might be best suited for the distorted question you somehow manage to pose while the answer may be something completely unconsidered by you. And it’s wrong when you ask time to take decisions for you instead of accepting that you have been a failure in deciding on it yourself. Now I think I have convinced you that the methods are wrong when given the circumstances in which they have been assorted to.

Hence I don’t feel I am eligible to share a place amidst people of 23 who have been always proud of taking their own decisions and standing by them even if they turned out to be wrong later on. I don’t feel I have the guts required to do that.

Ahh! Just heard somebody saying, it’s never too late to start. Thank God we have such adages to ease the process of decision making for people like me. Yes I have decided to follow it, totally convinced that if I start now only then I can make myself eligible for the club of 25 two years down the line. So I am going to “take charge at 23”.