A Lifetime of Hell

I had decided to write this post 4 years ago.

Because that was when I stepped into IIM Lucknow as a PhD student for the first time. And I knew I have to write about it when I complete 4 years on 16th June, 2018. And here we are today!

What a wonderful 4 years it has been. So much so that I have been making drafts of this post in my head for 10 days now. That’s what I do now – make drafts. Because, PhD. Which reminds me – 4 years of Hell. And what a beautiful, stunning hell to be honest! I have lived as much in these 4 years, if not more, as I had lived in the 24 years before coming here. Yet, it feels like I haven’t lived at all.

It’s a long time and PhD is a long journey for anyone to think about who they are and what they want with life. A lot of people believe that PhD is a lonely journey and it is. But it also is a time that if managed well will bring you closer to yourself. In the last few years, I have met some brilliant people, some not so brilliant people; re-discovered the meaning of friendships, learned to let go of things and people, realized that I cannot chase anyone in my life (except maybe a few friends), understood that one cannot stop living while one anticipates about ‘what next’… and much more.

It might look like I did everything except my PhD work! But I am about to finish so I also did learn – deadlines are okay in life 🙂

From surprise birthdays to not-so-surprising birthdays, dinner and dance parties to terrace nights, movie marathons to Varanasi trips – it’s been one lifetime of beautiful Hell. The winters of Hell are typically akin to the phrase – ‘Hell freezing over’. But as Albert Camus says, “In the midst of winter, I found there was within me, an invincible summer” –

The one thing that I am most thankful to this place for is that it gave me an opportunity to devote quality time for learning meditation and Kriya Yoga. It has been life changing, life affirming, ground breaking, and much more. I do not have enough words to phrase together what it means to have found this path in life. It’s like an invisible insulation, a talisman that I carry within myself. I could talk for hours about this, but that’s for another day.

As I reach the penultimate few months in these ‘hallowed portals’, I can’t wait to write the acknowledgement of my thesis. I have kept it for last; as a symbol of wrapping up the big adventure I undertook 4 years ago. All set for beginning new chapters, ready to fall, get up, and laugh (though probably not immediately), to soar (not much of a roarer anyway), and to see what’s in store next.

And if you ever want to do a PhD, don’t hesitate. You will probably have the time of your life. Or, a great story to tell 🙂

4 years! PHEW !!!

Silhouette Memory

A little background:

It’s a poem that I came across while taking a walk down the memory lane. In a not-dusty corner of an old drawer (because, you know, mothers clean everything 😛 ) back at home, I found my dusty, yellowing old diary. It smells of old pages and childhood stupidities. And it also looks like my progress report, from literature that has appealed me as a naive kid to literature that has appealed me as a useless teenager 😀

Not much progress, if I must say.

I found this poem among those pages. It was written in 2004 on a train journey back from a one day school trip to Bhubaneshwar (a luxury and a delight back then). The idea of listening to the ‘discourse’ of teachers back then somehow appealed to me a lot (kind of explains the career choice I have made for myself). And that’s why, one would have found me on that cold winter evening sharing a coop with a few teachers and some unwilling, reluctant friends whom I dragged along with me. Best 3 hrs of my life!

It was in this time, this era, that this poem was written. Patro Sir (our Odiya teacher) wrote this, in what seems like a thoughtful, ephemeral epoch which was inspired by an undisturbed seating beside the window with the cold winter wind stirring those deeply settled emotions. He retrieved it from the fathoms of his thoughts on paper in Odiya. And then Mishra Sir (English teacher) translated it for the benefit of the less able like me. I am having to assume that he knew Patro Sir fairly well (they are neighbors, till date) for the remark that “It’s almost as if I have written it.” had been made after he went through the translation. For only the one who knows the poet well can translate poetry with such accuracy. Rest is just speculation.

As for me, I quickly copied the poem because I knew there will be a day, far away from that day, when I would understand the poem. I am just glad I had access to paper that day. Needless to say, this was the best part of the trip.

Enough with the background. Here’s the poem:

Perhaps thou…
To this unification of time
These ecstasy and sensations
In this eternal kingship
Of rope
Will tie


Being selfish
To the ingredients of solitary progress of longings
Gathering & gathering
Will wipe it out.

Today’s memory within
Self centered endless deeds


I will store in my mind
With secret care
In an iron box,
Or made of silver
In a gold covering
Today’s memory.

If I get relaxation,
From the materialistic world’s
Fixed routines
I shall open
Very often
In solitude,
When you will come
To my memory
In your present
Or past.

Your silhouette memory. 

~ U. C. Patro (Translated by Sribatsa Mishra)

P.S – For the ones with a challenged vocabulary, Silhouette [sil-oo-et] means an outline or a shape (for e.g. taking a picture against the sun would give you a beautiful silhouette. For reference, check the blog header.)