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Cirque du Gradlife

By Deepesh Singh, October 29 2019—

You bought tickets to this show in your undergraduate, and it was fun to be in the audience. However, since you had no other plans, you kept going back to it until you were a part of the show one day. That show being a graduate degree. The professional jugglers — the professors running the show — juggling research projects, grant proposals, class lectures, TA sessions, conferences and workshops amazed you, and somehow you decided to be a part of it all over again. 

You now feel drowned by the heap of activities you are involved in you realize that being a clown is not that easy after all. Writing a grant proposal on deadline day becomes tightrope walking. Your laptops become your balancing poles. To TA. successive sessions is harder than whirling in a German wheel, and courses and research theses are now your juggling balls. 

 You wake up with the rising sun for your morning class and later trudge to your desk, a home away from home. Upon reaching your desk, you are greeted by objects more familiar to you than any human being. And here’s a probable list of your paraphernalia: 

A big desktop, to not let you feel small in this place, pens of any colour human eyes can perceive, round highlighters pink, flat and neon, pencils, their sharpeners and their erasers. Pink, green, blue and yellow sticky notes that often do not stick, band-aids for paper cuts and more importantly, those rebukes from your supervisor. Watches, to keep track of the time you’re wasting, a growing bunch of keys whose locks have been lost, reference books that you should have referred to before signing up for this circus, cigarettes to dry your tears, and mints, to dry your cigarette breath. Peanuts, cashew nuts, chocolates and ginger chews for your lunch, tea to keep you warm in this cold, meaningless world, coffee — more bitterness for the bitter — chilly days, receipt for the pizza you started eating last month, a pile of papers big enough to fill the hole in your heart, canned beans and canned spaghetti that you are saving for your “last supper.” Hard copies of the soft files falling on your desk from your desktop, a telephone in case you are watching a horror movie and you need to call security for some emotional support, tanned coffee mugs that were once pure white, can-openers that you open to about your insecurities, strands of hair gifted to you by people who visited your desk, and classic literature books to keep you floating above the banalities of life. These are the essentials of your life, things occupying the lowest levels in your hierarchy of needs. So now that you have your armour and weapons, you are ready to fight.

You sprint to your unimaginative TA sessions. You see data manipulation of such caliber that’ll make physical laws feel shy. The Rockies on the graphs are approximated by the Trans-Canada Highway, and your horizon is too narrow to grasp. These trickeries, so prevalent in the galleries of undergraduate labs, make you question your worth as an instructor. You then carry your gloomy self to the department kitchen to feed human food to your inhuman soul — calories to keep you fit for the show the next day. 

Amidst the falling snow at midnight, you then walk back to your room with the magic rabbits and nimble squirrels. Dirty-snow and snowy-dirt as far as you can see. Black blanket with white polka dots, with the moon an anomaly in size, put over the city by nameless magpies. The delusion of free-will, the illusion of life, served softly to us by lives flying past.   

This is the timeline of your daily show at the small stage, the daily grind you perform while dreaming of the big time. 

This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet‘s editorial board.

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