Joining the bandwagon of COVID tales is my tale of research scholars, who juggling between being a student and being technical “not students”, are barely faring in these tough times.
The PhD journey, although a glorious one, is full of ups and downs, with the downs predominating for a good part. It is a soul altering journey, where one does not simply learn more about a particular topic, but more importantly, learn about themselves. It gives them a strength they did not know existed in them, and they plough on fuelled by their love of what they do.
The path is riddled with countless seemingly insurmountable obstacles, impossible deadlines and a state of constant frustration peppered with the occasional wisp of success, which shatters every bit of negativity to dust. Into this mix throw a global pandemic, which has shocked the world to a standstill.
Now the whole journey is thrown into disarray. Experiments need to be abandoned overnight, access to labs is shut off or extremely restricted, you have a pile of reading and writing to do, as it is the only thing one can seem to do in the cocoon of their houses.
Every news of the extension of lockdown/ restrictions sends a spear of fear in every heart, as their hopes come crashing down. As days slip by, they are nearing the end of their tenure and progress seems to be unthinkable.
The lucky ones who get to work, albeit under a million constraints, need to overcome the challenge of cramming in months of work into a few hours per day.
In view of the situation, access to resources is obviously limited, which further adds fuel to the raging fire of disappointment as all those intensive plans dissemble in an instant. On top of all this, like any other person in the world, one has to deal with a constant barrage of news of known ones getting affected/dying, and grapple with the dark reality they are thrown into, which makes it extremely difficult to think about the research crisis they are bang in the middle of.
The eternal state of worry about work and the constant reminder of the sad situation around topples one dangerously around the edge of a steep precipice, which cannot be explained in mere words.
It is also extremely sad that in a few cases, the ones who don’t understand you are your peers. Sailing in the same boat typically brings together people, but apparently not so every time.
An innate sense of competition and a raw instinct of survival changes one to unimaginable lengths, to the extent of destroying the kinsmanship of peers. But we are faced with one of the toughest PhD journeys which no one could have ever fathomed, and this will make us even stronger and wiser, and hopefully kinder.
As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. After fighting the biggest storm ever, we can hope to emerge into sunnier days as a more evolved person, professionally and personally.