Indian in England

Musings of a student

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Dr Commando

SOME decades ago, when I was 23 and gung-ho, the editor sent me to spend time with the commandos.

The idea was to roger me, of course. Globular Citizen, as the Ed is known far and wide, made it clear he would accept nothing but an ‘experiential’ piece. Get under their skin, feel what they feel -- or don’t bother coming back.

So I buzzed off to Belgaum in Karnataka, which is where the Indian Army turns its 'boys into men', (the boys and men call it ‘buggery course’, though), and ran around with the commandos a bit. It was all most enjoyable, especially being pushed off hilltops and thrown from tree-houses three stories high, not to mention feeling up voluptuous snakes.

The whole point of the 42-day course, from what I could see, was to tell you you were no good. Then, just as you were about to tell them what you thought of that, they would say, hang on, if you let us roger you some more we might be able to turn you into a passable specimen.

I bring all this up not just because I want to tell you I am a highly-trained killer commando, and so you should show me due respect, but because I have come to realise one of the greatest truths of modern world:

PhD is like commando training.

Like with the commandos, a PhD starts with taking you apart. Only, here it is done intellectually. Literature review is what the academicians call this interesting exercise, when they let you potter off and read everything written on your topic. This is essentially to make you realise you know nothing. In that sense, it is the best way to measure the depth of your ignorance.

Then comes the ‘patch-up’ time when they piece you back. They let you play the academician and write papers and go to conferences. Soon you begin to feel full of yourself again, and by the time you finish your thesis you are positively bursting.

The point I am trying to stress here is, never mess with us academicians. Because, you see, we are intellectual commandos.


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