FAQs about PhD

  1. Getting admission to PhD
  • Do you have to be a very smart person to get a PhD place?

There are two situations;

For all of the advertised PhD positions there is very tough competition so you must prove that you are the best. And yes, if you can’t impress the potential supervisor(s) that you are smart and intelligent you won’t get an admission for PhD. Alongside you also must prove that you are more intelligent/best suitable than any other applicant.

If you have own topic of interest and want to pursue PhD on that topic, maybe it’s slightly easier because you don’t have to directly compete with other candidates. However you must prove that you are intelligent/able to do PhD. But still there will be indirect competition as there were many students with similar topic applying for place. Since PhD students need/given their personal desk/spaces there are only certain students one university can take in no matter which route you are applying from.

  • Once I get a place as PhD student, is it like getting admission into bachelors or masters?

No. Although it may vary in different university or different countries, the usual practice is that there is a window period within first year when you will have some sort of internal assessment done by the university. This could be writing a detailed proposal for your PhD, an exam or a certified course on research method which you have to pass. If you couldn’t pass this stage, you will either be considered for Masters, MRes or MPhil only. If you pass it, then only you will be formally enrolled/registered as a PhD / Doctorate candidate.

  1. The journey
  • What is it like doing PhD?

The PhD process is comparatively shorter (or equal) than doing Bachelors but many consider it as a lonely and long. It’s mainly because, on typical conditions, you will be working on minutely specific topic for 3-5 years on your own with some limited assistance from supervisor(s). Another reason for it being long is also that, once enrolled formally to doctorate/PhD you may not have formal deadlines/exams etc. Which means a continuous project on back of your head even when you are with friends having a pint!

However if you can manage time there are many PhD students who would probably like to watch Big Bang Theory in Netflix ! or a Research Students Association in uni organizing a karaoke night out !

  • Will doing PhD change a person? Will the person invent/discover something?

Yes, it is supposed to change a person’s way of thinking. For many the process could be meditative and spiritual. It will take you to different level of mental stage. You will (are supposed to) master the skill of thinking rationally. You will start to see smaller things; smaller mistakes, smaller success, smaller voices, smaller causes, smaller effects… In fact the whole PhD journey is designed to make the student to think rationally.

Any information you get from outside world has some meaning, as a PhD student you will learn how to process this information to make sense of it. Once you make sense of it, you can translate it to the language everyone can understand. And this tiny information will turn into something useful to the humankind or planet or beyond!

So, a completing PhD is not necessarily a big discovery, or a breakthrough. But it certainly makes the person able to produce a valid, reasonable, rational information.

  1. Career
  • What kind of job do I get after completing?

PhD will potentially have more doors open for you than doing lower degrees. At the same time it may close many doors which you would have got into doing Bachelors or Masters because you may be considered “overqualified”. I had one Japanese friend who said that there are very high suicide rate among PhD graduates in Japan because they struggle to get job simply because many company think they are overqualified. So anywhere, simply having PhD is not enough to get a job.

First and the main route most PhD graduates follow is academia; research fellow, lecturer, researcher etc. Secondly, there is also option to go into real practice as a researcher in government or pioneering companies such as NASA, Apple, Tesla, and Unilever etc. Thirdly, you can apply for research grants (with government, bank, NGO/INGO, trusts etc.) for your own project, if you have genuine proposal of your project.

  • What is the earning after the completion?

The usual mainstream PhD graduates who go to academia has decent wages up to level of a lower or middle level manager. In the UK it roughly starts from 28 thousands £ a year. This can go up around £40K with your experience.

The second route suggested above is probably the highest paid; PhD graduates, who work in breakthrough projects with abundance of resources and with larger team. I know a couple of people who were offered similar roles after their graduation and after few years they earn above 100 thousand £ a year plus company benefits such as car etc. The third route I mentioned is a bit of gambling if you are not a good manager; your own research project. Success of third type of career largely depends on your managerial skill and how well you have prepared and done risk assessment of your project beforehand. However, the third route can also lead you to the destination no one has never been before and earn high name and big money.

 

Nepal’s history, present and identity as told by it’s buildings; in brief

It is said that dwelling is an expression of identity.  The various rhythms of change and history also resonates with in the dwellings of a city and a country.

What does our historical buildings tell us?

As I started in the beginning, the dwellings we live in are expression of our identity, the rhythms of changes and history resonates with our dwelling. We have Kathmandu’s pagoda; a very proud architectural history that spread far away around Asia and our temples and buildings and in the remote villages which still tell us that proud story of Araniko. We have the Singha Durbar which still tell the story of Rana dynasty. We have the Janaki Temple which still tell us about the Rajputs and how different religions exchanged brilliant ideas in the past.

Pagoda: Our history tells us that Kathmandu valley’s indigenous Newars developed their own distinctive style of traditional architecture, of which the multi-tiered “pagoda” temple is the most famous and young Araniko spread the building’s artisans’ fame far and wide – even to the court of Kubilai Khan of Beijing. Kasthamandapa in the heart of Kathmandu could probably be the best example of pagoda. The pagoda has then spread everywhere in Nepal, especially in the hilly regions’ Hindu/Buddhist temples and Shah King’s courts such as in Gorkha and Nuwakot.

Ranas: Then centuries after Pagoda, came neo-classical architecture derived from the architecture of Classical Greece and the architecture of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio; the Singha Durbar of Chandra Sumsher. These types of architecture were resembled in most of famous Rana era buildings in Kathmandu valley such as Sital Niwas and few buildings outside valley such as Rani Mahal in Palpa.

Rajputs: Along the few iconic buildings outside Kathmandu is Ram Janaki Temple, in Janakpur; a Rajput architecture in southern plains of Nepal which is mix of classical-neo classical architecture and Islamic–Hindu architecture.

Hilly Region: From those iconic architectures, Nepali society has adapted mainly pagoda buildings as form of temple all over hilly region. If we look at the dwellings in hilly region of Nepal we see resemblance of pagoda in most houses as the form of multiple eaves. In the hilly region where weather conditions are windy and occur heavy monsoon rain, the multiple eaves are very handy to protect the walls and main structure which is usually mud-stone and timber. This could be the reason behind the popularity of this kind of architecture everywhere in hill Nepal.

What does our modern buildings tell us?

Modern Cities: But the dwellings in cities in Nepal tell different story, a sad story of loss of identity and disconnection from our history. In modern cities in Nepal, the only form of architecture is haphazard concrete structure that neither reflect our history nor support the weather conditions, nor are sustainable and energy efficient. The destruction of our identity started as soon as the Rana rule was over and Nepal became more open. The trade with India and open boarder meant exchange of ideas and goods. Then came the concrete jungle which is slowly eating our history, culture and more importantly health of the inhabitant.

Regulation: As, I was looking in internet if there was any national (Federal) level building regulation in Nepal, the official government twitter handle replied that “We don’t have any national building regulation in the form of statute/law but there are “code of conduct” developed in local level.” This reply shows how much disorganised, helter-skelter and lawless direction “New Nepal” is heading. Along with the buildings in Kathmandu and major cities in Nepal, we are slowly losing our identity and health too. Just like our cities, our Nepali identity is becoming more hypocritical; we talk about Madheshi identity but destroy the Mithila heritage and replace with concrete jungle, we talk about the Newari identity but destroy the pagoda and replace with concrete jungle.

The concrete jungle in Kathmandu is unsuitable for the weather condition and causing health crisis in the habitants. There is need of research on it but from observation and experience I can say that the concrete house which freezes in winter and roasts in summer is killing its inhabitants. The haphazard neighbourhood and living spaces is causing mental, social and physical problem to its inhabitants.

Future: There is still time to save our identity in our buildings and in our cities. The dwellings which our ancestors designed and developed are not just identity but also suitable for weather condition and will keep us healthy. The Federal government must act now and develop a clear, precise and applicable and sustainable national housing regulation. This should immediately be followed by the national and local governments. It is the time architectures, historians, public health professionals and conservationists come together and voice for a Federal, national and local housing regulation that is sustainable, healthy and expresses our Nepali identity that’s reflected in Kasthamandapa, Singha Durbar, Shwyambhu and Janaki Temple.

Buddha, nagging monk and Nepali Congress Cadres

 

We recently had Buddha Purnima, remembering the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. We pride ourselves that Buddha was born in Lumbini in modern-day Nepal, around the year 563 BCE. But how much do we learn from him? How much, we as a Nepali read his story and teachings and follow?

Here I draw two parallel modern Nepal story where some Nepali are doing opposite of what Buddha taught.

Buddha’s teaching: 

  • Buddha and his disciples

One day in monsoon season Buddha was walking by the jungle with his disciples. On the way they reached a river which was starting to flood due to monsoon rain and there was a beautiful young girl wandering by the riverbank trying to cross the river. Buddha saw that and offered his help to the girl. Holding her hand Buddha helped her cross the river; the girl thanked him and went her way, Buddha and his disciples went their way.

When they reached their destination, one of the monk expressed his unhappiness about the incident, Buddha smiled and said nothing. A few days later Buddha was preaching about meaninglessness of earthly relationships, the monk again said “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then hold the hand of that girl?”

This time Buddha replied, “I left the girl a long time ago at the riverbank, however, you seem to be holding her hands still.”

The moral of this story is that mental attachment to an idea or earlier experience blocks the full experience of the present here and now. Attachments slow the mind, interfering with appropriate responses to the immediate situation. And eventually distract us from our progress and future development.

Two stories of Modern Nepal:

  • Historic Peace deal in Nepal and Kanak Mani war cultivation company

12-Point Understanding between the Seven Political Parties and Nepal Communist Party (Maoists) leading to Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). In this agreement, the parties pledge to work towards democracy, peace, prosperity and social advancement and ending autocratic monarchy. The parties agree that the National Army and the Maoist army shall be under the supervision of the UN or any other reliable international actor, to conduct fair elections, and to accept international mediation during the dialogue process. Including through the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a National Peace and Rehabilitation Commission.

Although main leadership and majority of population have moved forward from the war there are people like Mohan Baidhya (Kiran) and Netra Bikram Chand (Biplab) complaining about Maoist and Nepal Army integration. There are also Kanak Mani Dixit and company nagging about the war time events and complaining about TRC and NPRC. Kanak Mani Dixit war Cultivation Company benefits a lot from war, the more war and death the more of news for his media group and more of so called human rights agenda for his empire and eventually more donation. His mere existence is a sad existence who lives on the benefits from people’s death. Fundamentally the same applies to Netra Bikram Chand too.

The moral of this is that unnecessarily nagging to an idea or every war time experience blocks the full experience of the present here and now. Attachments to their personal benefits from war slow Nepal’s progressive socio-political change and prolongs transition period, interfering with appropriate responses to the immediate situation. And eventually distract us from our progress and future development of the country. This will benefit people like Netra Bikram Chand and Kanak Mani Dixit but the country will suffer.

  • CPN (Maoist Centre) and Nepali Congress leaders & protesting NC Cadres

Ruling coalition partners–Nepali Congress and CPN-Maoist Centre–have finally agreed to partner up for elections of mayors in two metropolitan cities of Nepal.

Some of the Nepali Congress cadres in Bharatpur are furious about the alliance and think teaming up with Maoist is unacceptable because they were the enemy at war time. Maybe some of these Nepali Congress cadres still have hangover of war like the disciple of Buddha whereas the leadership has moved forward from it.

The moral of this story is that few Nepali Congress cadres still have mental attachment to war era idea or earlier experience which has blocked the full experience of the present here and now. The present or now of Federal Democratic Nepal is that there is no war and there are no enemies. There was 12-Point Understanding and then A Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The appropriate response to immediate situation is that all the parties who believe in democratic republic should stand together by eliminating fassist Rashtriya Prajatantra Party Nepal of Kamal Thapa. The attachments to the war era seems to have slowed the minds of Nepali Congress cadres in Bharatpur, interfering with appropriate responses to the immediate situation.  And eventually this and likely events distract us from our progress, peaceful politics and future development.

 

Ranju Darshana, Mhairi Black and the Fearless Girl

Although human being have aimed for the stars and reached moon many of us haven’t been able to change our mind-set; either we are in developed and liberal western countries or less developed and conservative countries like Nepal.

Our mind-set is dominated by Abrahamic male God or alike, who is in Richard Dwakin’s word “a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” I often see the parallel between Dwakin’s definition of God and politicians around us. Just like Dwakin’s God, politicians are mainly male, control-freak, racist and often bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser.

But there are signs of some light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Bibeksheel Nepali Party’s nomination of 21-year-old Rajnu Darshana to run for the Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City in the upcoming local government elections slated for May 14 has already changed so many things in Nepali politics. Her candidacy is that sign of light at the end of this dark tunnel of Nepali (and world) politics. Today she stands like Kristen Visbal’s Fearless Girl looking at the well-known Charging Bull. Today, she stands in front of Nepali politics’ Charging Bulls; old male politicians who usually come from dominating Bahun-Chhetri caste group. She is challenging them in so many things.

There have already been so many criticism in social media about her age, gender and experience. And exactly those are so called “values” she stands against. The more trolling and criticism means the more people have been hurt by her candidacy, imagine what will follow if she wins.

She has already hurt a lot of misogynist male egos – she is a woman.

She has already hurt a lot of unforgiving control-freak male politicians – she is ‘hot off the press’.

She has already hurt so many malevolent old bullies – she is so young.

Trolling and attack on young women in politics is not new and happens in the most developed and democratic societies too. In the UK, when Mhairi Black, a Scottish (SNP) politician defeated Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander to become youngest Member of UK Parliament for Paisley and Renfrewshire South in 2015, she was just 20 years old university student. Mhairi Black proved that the fearless girl in politics is not just a piece of art, given the chance she can triumph over the charging bull.

Mhairi was also criticised (a lot) that time and still criticized for her age, gender, appearance and everything trolls can think of. Every time the trolls attacked, she has stood up better and smashed the evil. After being called a “carpet munching bull dyke” by a Twitter troll she stood up for LGBT rights and online safety.   After a troll said, “She’s got nothing to worry about. Nobody’s gonna wanna rape that”, she stood up and exposed the internet trolls who targeted her with shocking messages after her appearance at the rape clause protest in George Square. In the long list of abuse to her, are not just trolls but also one of Scotland’s most prominent female academics, Jill Stephenson, who described Mhairi Black as a “slut”.

Whether that is trolling of Mhairi Black and Ranju Darsana or any other young woman in politics, it shows the level of mind-set we have in this world. This exposes the vulnerability of human society on the road to equality and prosperity. This highlights the need of more fearless young girls in politics to challenge our mind-set.

Whatever the outcome of election is, Ranju Darsana has already won the cause. The cause of equality, freedom and change. It is an invitation to the young people of Kathmandu on the road to CHANGE. It is an invitation to the women of Kathmandu on the road to EQUALITY and FREEDOM. It is an invitation to the men of Kathmandu on the road to MUTUAL RESPECT. And most importantly it is a challenge to the charging bull of Nepali politicians that THIS IS NOT A POLITICS-AS-USUAL.

 [Pictures above, The Kathmandu Post, Huffington Post UK and google]

FlyDubai and journey to Nepal.

After seeing the  news about FlyDubai racially discriminating Nepalese passengers, I recall some of my  journey to Nepal here. In my experience, invisible racism and discrimination of Nepali migrant workers begins from immigration officials of Tribhuwan International Airport.

Scene 1:
Abu Dhabi, International Terminal: 3
We have been travelling for last 15 hours and we are really tired. So we are lying about a chair trying squeeze our body and put feet on top of the handbag. In about 2 hours before the scheduled flight people start to gather in a small gate of terminal 3. Mostly migrant workers, all shape and size, age and gender. Some of them seem to know each other and start talking while some don’t know anyone and start showing smiley face to start a conversation: Where are you from in Nepal? Or Where is your hill home? Where did you come from? Which company you work for?

As most of the passengers gathered, it was noisy in the area and we decided to put our heads up and see what was happening. And about an hour before our flight some people seem restless. Every time there was some announcement of arrival/departure/passenger etc some of the waiting passengers would run towards the gate because they didn’t understand what was the announcement for. And every time they ran towards the gate the Etihad officials at connection desk would loudly shout at them to sit down with an angry face. And they would return to their seats quietly.
On the flight back, the way some people were running and the way the Ethiad officials shouted still shocked us. My wife was especially concerned and told me that it’s racist thing. She reminded me there were some French tourists as well among passengers and when they went to inquire after some announcement (just as Nepali workers did) the officials seemed much calmer and friendly and would explain that the announcement was not for boarding.

Scene 2:
Etihad, Flight EY 0292 Economy
On the plane we had seat next to one very young looking migrant Nepali worker who was returning home from UAE. When the air hostess came to our seat offering drinks, the boy was confused. He didn’t understand what she was saying so my wife told him that she is offering drinks if he wants. He promptly said beer, and my wife translated that to the air hostess or probably she understood the word beer anyway. She then poured some whisky on a plastic glass saying there were no beer left. The boy wasn’t bothered and started drinking. But we were shocked again. My wife had translated what he wanted and when there was no beer left why would she offer him whisky and even wouldn’t bother asking him if that was okay with alternative. We now started to talk between us in English that this is something very humiliating experience for us as Nepali. The language barrier of migrant workers and the bad attitude or invisible racism of airlines employees were so prevalent all the way.

Scene3:
Tribhuwan International Airport, Kathmandu
As the flight landed, the passengers cheered and clapped. I can imagine their joy of landing in Kathmandu, probably with some money in the pocket, gifts for family and being able to hold the head high and most importantly speak and be heard and feel the existence of being.
But this happiness didn’t last long for many migrant workers. As Nepal’s immigration rule everyone have to fill up arrival/departure form in TIA and many migrant workers are illiterate or not able to fill up this tiny form. The way Nepali immigration officers and airport police were treating to those unable to fill up form were even shocking. Some immigration officials were heard shouting “You can fly, you can earn money, but can’t fill up a tiny form eh?” Me and my wife helped a group of elderly people who said were returning from visiting their children in USA and UK. After filling up around 9 forms we decided to run quickly to the baggage claim because in TIA, broken, lost and stolen baggage is a norm. So we had to make sure we go to claim area asap and get hold of the baggage.

On the way home in taxi from airport, we kept talking what would stop this discrimination and verbal abuse of migrant workers on travel. Can international airlines to and from Kathmandu be asked formally to make translator available on board and at connection desk? Can workers be given some Basic English lesson before they leave country, which would be useful during their travel? Can the menus in airlines operating from/to Kathmandu be made available in Nepali? Can the airport officials and police in TIA given some education on morality and customer service? Can government make arrival form available on board in plane so that people have time and can help those who can’t fill up forms? This was a practice UK did:- they did make international arrival form available on board through airlines before landing which gives plenty time inside plane for people to help those who can’t fill up from.

Country Roads

I went home to Nepal after 2 years to see that the country had gone backwards in development and social change. But the smile in people’s face and Himalayas were as prevalent and defiant as death. Here is the first part of my experience. Roads.

Roads

The first welcome after escaping the chaos of Tribhuwan Airport was by armed police patrolling dusty roads of Kathmandu, barking stray dogs, street vendors and darkness.

The roads seemed much wider but gave a feel of a battlefield with the dust, bumps, noise, speeding bikes and microbus and pedestrians crossing roads dodging the death. I felt like I was in the middle of the Valley of Ashes in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby and the two eyes of Shwyambhunath temple were  the eyes of Dr T. J. Eckleburg.

At hometown in Chitwan, the roads were even wider but the mountain (I mean literally mountain as high as buildings) of dust meant it was almost impossible to see a meter away. The trucks emitting the clouds of black smoke would make it even worse.

The construction of roads seemed to be going on massive scale in town, on highways and in hills of Gorkha. But later knew that these construction were on pace of a sloth posing millions of peoples health and safety a dreadful threat.

Road Bullies

Apart from the dust and smoke thewe was unbelievable intolerable level of bully from the drivers and helpers of public transport; bus, taxi, rickshaw etc. One day the bus in Tandi to Narayangarh route took us from Tandi to Bharatpur and stopped saying that’s the journey done. When asked with a city warden lady she shouted that was our mistake to take particular bus. Frustrated I reported to the traffic police and he would just node his head and wouldn’t speak.

The other day in Kathmandu the taxi wouldn’t go in normal meter, demanded triple the fare I had paid other day. Again went to police and he replied that the taxi driver can decide if he wants to go or not and in meter or whatever price. In the matter of 3 minutes there were around two dozen thug taxi drivers surrounding me which was scary in fact.

In the long route going to Gorkha from chitwan, the bus was so overcrowded, when it approached near traffic post near Gorkha, asked some of the passengers to drop off and walk. I was so tired that couldn’t be bothered calling traffic cops who wouldn’t help anyway.

Population went bigger, public vehicles got smaller

Another surprising and completely illogical and damning thing about roads in my hometown Ratnanagar was that I noticed the population had almost doubled, house number increased, shopping centres and hotels opened. But the public transport had gone smaller!! There were smaller vehicles where you could hardly crouch. There used to be small auto rickshaws which were thrown out of Kathmandu because they were too pollutant, could carry around 12 people. Now they were still running plus there were many smaller vehicles that hardly carried 4-6 people.

I wondered whoever gave permission/ route permit to run that vehicles in Chitwan must have his head filled with pig’s shite otherwise normal person with common sense wouldn’t permit such crazy idea.

Masked Population

Everyone out of house were wearing mask in Chitwan. This was like everyone was out from operation theatre or as if there was some epidemic going on and everyone was dead scare to breathe. Well, Kathmandu is polluted and I would call it Narakpalika नरकपालिका (hell) instead of Nagarpalika (Municipality) but No one would expect Chitwan to be that polluted, being in the middle of huge rainforest and natural heaven.

But yeah, if you still run the auto rickshaw which were thrown out 20 years ago because they were so polluted, if you permit hundreds of tiny vehicles suitable for chicken, as public transport and dig roads leave the mountain of dust over people’s houses – what can you expect. So there were almost everyone (and me as well), sick with respiration related diseases and common cold, sore throat, sore eyes, runny nose. Despite the masks the smoke and dusts were clear winners.

An Ode to Dunnottar Castle

img_35361Standing on the pebble

Older than the tide

Assizes a castle

Mightier than the time

 

You endured the charge of Viking

O temple of picts

You witnessed the wrath of the Bravest

O den of the fearless scots

 

Kings, queens, and knights

Came and went like daylily

But you abided adroit

Like a timeless testimony

 

Slanting by deceitful the sea

Like a paramount of all pulchritude

Today, you enchant every stranger

With your pernicious lure.