The Point of a PhD

The Point of a PhD

It was in the year 2019 when I got the best news of my life, that I have been selected for PhD. This news left me overjoyed as doing a PhD had been a dream since the time I held the first book in my hand. I remember talking about it with my father, who enthusiastically supported and encouraged my dream. More than me, it was dad who wanted me to pursue it. I still remember, during my masters I told my mentor, Ajaz ul Haq, that I wanted to pursue PhD. He wasn’t surprised. He said, students like you are meant for PhD. It is a liminal space where the process of learning transits into an academic role, but at the same time we must not succumb to institutional pressures. PhD should not be about entitlements but putting a meaning to your journey and exploration at the heart of your project. These lines from my mentor reverberated in the corners of my head and kept impelling me. The day the news of my selection came, my father was so elated that he posted it on social media (social media announcement is a necessity these days).
After a couple of days when I went back to my mentor, he told me to buckle up. PhD is not going to be easy, he said. Do it without pre-conceived notions, especially about the fact that people will help you. Do not expect that, he warned. He also advised me to make a small study group with research beginners and friends, to help each other, exchange ideas, and critique each other’s work. This will help you grow not only as a researcher but as an observer, too, he said. With these inspiring words I set off and my voyage commenced. I never knew that PhD was going to leave me with lesser friends and more competitors. I had heard a lot of stories about the process of PhD. Some said it was a lonely endeavour, some admired its learning quotient, some argued about its relevance. Nonetheless, I remembered and recollected my mentor’s words, which helped me to progress. Life moved on, so did my PhD. It has been one-and-a-half year into it and I am figuring out what do to next. There was so much of guidance and an army of suggestions prior to my research work, but with each passing day people evaporated like hot air, making me ponder over what my mentor mentioned in the beginning. My messages remained unanswered, calls were not picked, some people tried to calm me with phrases like “we will figure it out”. Nothing figured out, nothing materialised. I remember in the first year itself when I started to inquire about research journals, I called and messaged so many research scholars who had already published papers, and they refused to name even one. Some said you will find a ‘good journal’, some said you must focus more on your research rather than finding journals. I believe we all have priorities but helping anyone won’t cost a limb. Will it?
Nonetheless, life is filled with trials as well as triumphs; we must carry on. PhD is a tiring experience but one must extend help to the best of one’s knowledge. People get selfish but they must realise that life itself is a lesson and karma can smack us any day. Helping students, colleagues, juniors, and research novices won’t make you lesser, nor will it hamper your progress or besmirch your profile. Education must be imparted, else there is no point in gaining it.

—The writer is pursuing PhD in Mass Communication and Journalism. sabeehashaheen123@gmail.com

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