Masters Thesis Challenges Academia self discovery confessions of a doctor

I Take Up Challenges To Surprise Myself, Here's Something I Learnt During My Masters...

( words)
*For representational purpose only.
“I love challenges,” many achievers have said; however, I couldn’t understand what’s so good about them until I faced one. It was more than a decade ago, during my M.Sc., when floppy disks were just replaced by CDs.

I was in the last semester of my final year and about to begin drafting my thesis. We were well versed in computers and could manage most of them.

The challenge was that there were only two sets of PCs in the common room, and there were more than 300 girls in the hostel. The warden had restricted everybody and allowed only final years to use them after prior booking in the log book.

This log book had resulted in several friendships turning sour, and the hugely daunting task was to sit and write a thesis with someone asking every two minutes how long you were going to take!

There was another option too: a professional typist on the market, but the quality of work performed by him was below average, and there was also a huge queue. 

Finally, my father ordered a laptop for me, and soon I was kilometres away from the common room. I felt the richest! Now I was typing my thesis day and night, with only a month left for submission. Soon, I was in the last section of references.
Half way through the references around 3 a.m., a girl from an adjacent room knocked. She whispered, “Shubhra, I saw the lights on in your room; my hard disk drive has some problems. Can I check on your laptop?”

Saturated with working overnight and with very little ability to grasp what she was saying, I nodded. I left for the washroom while she was at my table, and as I returned, she was panicking through keys desperately.

What happened? I rushed and saw a blank screen! “I don’t know; as I inserted the cable, your laptop got shut. Anyway, leave; I will go now."
Now, what is that? My sleep had disappeared!

The laptop is connected to the plug; it’s not discharged, and then why is it shut? What should I do? Where is my thesis? I had not saved my work anywhere else. Using Google Drive, emailing, or pen drives—all these techniques were alien to us then.
The next seven hours were terrible, and finally, at 10 a.m., a local computer shop opened, and the technician said, “Madam, due to a virus, your windows are gone; you must install new windows."

The virus on the hard disk drive of that girl crashed my laptop; all my 150+ typed pages were gone, and I was 12 days away from my submission. I did not install any antivirus, and actually, I didn’t know about it.

To me, a virus is an infectious agent that multiplies inside living cells! It felt helpless and hopeless. Blank, confused, and discharged, I met my advisor, who was very kind. She told me to take help from typists in the market, but to give him content to type also required me to invest effort and time.

All these days, I typed the required information from papers, theses, books, etc. directly into my Word file.

After two days, my laptop was functional again after installing new windows. In these two days, I grilled my mind and thought of every possible option. From considering a typist to delaying my submission by requesting Dean to do what not. Finally, I knew what to do, and I was also functional again.

I walked to my advisor and said, “Madam, can I be excused from coming to college for the next 10 days until submissions begin?” She agreed, and I sat down on my table and began typing "Introduction,” which is the first section of my thesis. 
Any reader who has undergone thesis writing can relate to what it feels like when, midway through references, you are back to the introduction. But I firmly decided to write my thesis on my own. 

The way I will write it, how I will carve it, and my creativity about my work cannot be understood by anyone else.

Instead of writing it all in hardcopy and then giving it to typing and then rechecking it several times, it’s far better to do it on my own. I would get up for only my daily chores and sometimes to get some fresh air.

I experienced that while writing, I got favourably reminded of what information was written under which sub-head, which section, or which subsection was drafted originally. Interestingly, my typing speed improved, and so did my concentration.
My friends would empathise with me and feel sorry, but surprisingly, I felt light.

Making tables and figures was a bit tough, but it was finally completed, and yes, this time I did not repeat the past mistake, and every day after completing my work, I saved it on a CD. My submission was scheduled for the last for obvious reasons, and on June 15, 2007, it was printed with several copies.

I wept! I didn’t weep when my laptop crashed or when I was feverishly writing it again, but I wept as I saw my thesis in my hands. My submission was held at the stipulated time without any delay. 
Today, I am about to complete my postdoc, and all through these years, whenever any challenge appeared, I took inspiration from this incident and said to myself, I love challenges, for they reveal a better version of myself, and more than others, I get surprised.

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