Friday, July 28, 2006

"SO, when are you graduating???????????"

That, is the worst question you can ask a senior grad student. I've had enough of friends that were senior to me (see my navratna post) and saw them go through this phase long before I reached it. Consequently, I was always careful about hitting this nerve in other senior students and tried to not ask the dreaded question when I ran into them. But in my mind, I always wondered why they took it so badly. After all, we live in a university town. Everybody is going to grad school, and that Masters or Ph.D degree is the ultimate light at the end of the tunnel. So in as much as everyone tries to maintain a balanced life, a "life outside lab" etc, etc, at the end of the day, school is our life. Many may disagree, but I think they're either in denial or they're not really giving their work enough attention then. ;) When you bump into others on the bus, one can chat a bit about cricket, politics, weather, movies, but ultimately the "question" is raised. It's just inevitable. Unless, it's another senior student you are talking to, and who follows the unwritten rule of "never ask that question". But as a student in the beginning years, one is always curious about the others. "Are you going to finish soon?" "Do you have any papers yet?" and questions like that will be asked by newbies. It can be perceived as innocent questioning or cheeky presumptuousness. I don't know. Anyways, I never quite completely understood why my friends, who were senior to me, took so much offence to that question. Soon, we had a blacklist of people- stupid pesky kids who liked to ask others that question all the time, keep asking the same person the question, or start hounding people in their fourth year (the average phd duration is 5 - 6 years) itself about when they were finishing. And these were people they'd never really talk to otherwise. !@#$%s. We learnt to avoid them on the bus, or better still, avoid the bus they were on. :) And bitched about them within our own coterie.
Now, enlightenment has dawned on me. I am on the other side, and I can see exactly what is so irritating about this question. I like to say I'm a finishing grad student. But the "whens" of finishing- nobody knows. Research is unpredictable, and advisors and committees, even more so. Just when you hit the end of your fifth year, have turned the town inside out and have nothing left to do here, really want to move on to a new life, new project, the uncertainty and unpredictability of your situation aggravates you the most. And nosy peoples' questions about the same only remind you of your agony. The dynamics of "finishing up" are not dictated by whether you are a capable scientist, equipped with necessary skills to earn that Ph.D alone. There is a lot more that factors into it. And seriously, for each of those twits that meet me on that 15 min bus-ride, I do not see it necessary to spell those complications out. In fact, I doubt if they even care, anyways. And I'm beginning to see what my friends were talking about- there are some, whose face betrays that sadistic emotion when they're asking that question. And I've had my own share of fans too. Ones that were hounding me since last year, asking "So, are you graduating this semester????". !@#$$%#$%%Q#$&*.
Usually, I get on the bus and whip out my little book to jot down or go over my "To-do" list for the day. So it' s easy to avoid these idiots. I also carry a book to read. However, some people are particularly talented in crossing all these barriers and reaching out to me. Because they're just dying to know, "So, when are you graduating?". !@##s. They start their conversation with "So.." and you can already see that grin spreading over their face. For them, I have a nice smile reserved. And I give a lost, philosphical look, and say "bhagwaan hi jaane". Then, if this person is really irritating, he or she will grin and persist "hehe, but stilllll, you must be having some idea, no??? you have been here since when??". Then I keep a straight face and say "5 years". They go "oh myyy goddd", raised eyebrows and everything. I appear nonchalant, and say it doesn't bother me that much, I am very happy with my work, and enjoy school-life. The !@# doesnt get the idea. S/he persists "ohhh but stilllll you must be looking for post-doc jobs then??". I realise that such people are just beyond repair. The only way to not have to deal with them is for them to disappear right there. I patiently answer "no, not yet, still waiting to finalise things". "Oh.. " they go, as if they are now really worried for me and my well-being. As if my being there for five years and still going strong is somehow of problem to their well-being. I now am debating whether to open my book and start reading, or just look out of the window. The extent of their glee in asking me that question is directly proportional to any hints of sadness, frustration or worry on my part. So I maintain a happy face, and tell them I'm in no hurry to get out. They then look at me as if I am crazy. They realise that they're not going to get that crib out of me, or that tale of woe which will make their day. The say "oh, nice for you.." but it's accompanied with a look of disbelief or disappointment.
These days I'm running out of tricks in my book, it invariably happens to be the same dolts that corner me and ask me the same thing, every alternate month or so. And given how I'm late everyday anyways, I cannot afford to miss any more buses. So I've started a new strategy. I bore the living daylights out of the person, going into the nitty gritty of some experiment I am stuck at, I go on and on about it in the most animated gory detail and then say, " as soon as I figure out why this is not working, I can graduate". And smile enthusiastically. They are beginning to label me as crazy, but when has that ever stopped me? I love the look of boredom and regret on their face. So far, this plan is working very well.

And for all you curious buggers out there, ;) I was hoping to finish this December, but it seem like it'll be spring next year, thank you for not asking. :-)


I am off blogger said...

Me first!!!!!!
:) :) :)

I am off blogger said...

He he he Thank you for telling before our asking!!!

I am facing a somewhat similar situation, but am on the "other" see most of the ppl in college have been placed by now, so the ones who are left out are having a difficult time. Everybody asks "aur bhai kis compney mein hui placement".....and the poor guy gives a sheepish smile and tries to explain....
I have stopped asking this question from anyone even if i am sure that this person would have got job....

BTW, let ppl call you crazy, i don't think it matter much, you can't let then have fun at you expense!!

I am off blogger said...

Oops the last sentance should have read:
"BTW, let ppl call you crazy, i don't think it matters much anyways. You can't let them have fun at your expense!!"

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

oye sumite!
good for you. i am glad you're not being one of those pesky nosy brats. :)

Born a Libran said...

Well, the best answer I have heard to that question needs to be credited to ligne and the reply was "Tum meri mummy ho?" I have been saying 6-8 months for ages... :)

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

hahahahahaha! good one man! will try next time. would have even better effect since most of my pesky questioners are guys.

qsg said...

My answer would be: Before you..! I will get out of this s***hole at least five years before you! :) How cool is that!

Yea, I have a mean streak in me...!

Nirwa said...

DAMN DAMN!! This is the question I get asked so many times.. "ab aur kitna baaki?" Get your freaky self out of here you irritating relative! :P :P :P

You reflect my sentiments, Lajoji!!

That's why I never tell people that today is my result day! :P :P :P

The Smiling Girl said...

Now I understood it... :)

So Lajjo.. bol na.. Spring boleto kuch to idea hoga naa.. when will u be graduating??:)

But me thinks, u have to real weird and tell them - Does that matter you in any way?? and still accompany it with a smile. That person will take ages to know if u've acted sarcastically funny or were genuine..
This should do for those returning visitors..:)

Abi said...

Hmmm, a suggestion from someone who's even farther on the 'other side': Use this current experience as a nice training for what you are likely to face for the rest of your life.

This is a likely sequence of questions: "So, when are you getting married?", "So, do you have kids?", "So, when is the next one?", "So, which school is your child studying in?", "So, when is your boy/girl getting married?" etc.

Creeps. I tell you, they are everywhere. Even among the commenters.

So, ..., when are you getting married? ;-)

Born a Libran said...

Ligne did give the answer to a guy who looked up to me in surprise and I ditched him by saying that was a stupid question to ask and he should know it because he came in with me 4 yrs back ;-)

Same guy, another day: He looks zapped due to too much work writing up his first paper... We have lunch together and it was a one sided conversation with me doing all the chatting. After some time, I have pity on the poor guy and say "Toh paper ho gaya?" He turns to me with joy written all over his face and he says "Tu mera prof hai?"

greensatya said...

Lol @ 'smiling girl' and why everyone calls you 'lajjo', your pet name eh ?

And my thoughts like 'Abi' there are tens of thousand questions like this. All of them for sadistic pleasure of questioners.

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

another good one. will file it away in my list of ready responses.

so when is your results day?????

oye s.g,
*broad smile* Does that matter to you in any way?? ;)

Creeps, I tell you, they are everywhere. Even among the commenters
so true man! so true!! :-)

hahaha. such are the cheap thrills in our lives man! :)

why everyone calls you 'lajjo', your pet name eh ?
yeah! I have been wondering that too. What happened to all these girls?? crazy they are.:-)

and yes, those questioners, all bloody sadists.

Prashanth said...

Eh? I always ask PhD students who I know to be in their fifth year, when they're graduating. Just so I get an idea of how long it takes to graduate under a particular prof or in a particular department, on an average. Never really thought it was rude! You old people na, you're so touchy about these age-related things ;) ;)

qsg said...

You old people na, you're so touchy about these age-related things ;) ;

woooh.... ab lajjo ko gussa aayega.... let us now wait for the viraat roop of ms. lajjo....

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

YOU, boy, are the raison d'etre for my post!!!!! FYI, it doesn't take an aspiring Ph.D to figure out the average grad-school sentence duration. So, let me tell you, it's 5+/- 1 year no matter what lab, what professor, what field. and what are you going to do with that info? switch labs because prof A's student got out in 4 years? huh? huh? huh?

and you not only claim to ask the forbidden question , you make a reference to my age? and this is the SECOND time you're doing it here!! you do want to finish your Ph.D, don't you, in any amount of time????


ab kya karen jab aise bacche chale aate hain? lagta hai is area ko bhi age-restrict karna chahiye.

Janefield said...

achcha!! so this is where da party's at these days ;) thodi late ho gayi main...

gemini's answer was super cool just like the babe herself! SG also has a way with the words and the 'smiles' it seems! ;)

so...dealing with nosey q's eh...bane of every gal's (guys not as much, so stuff it y'all) life only! your own formula seems to be working mighty well...its like the joke on indians...if you smile at one and galti se mistakenly ask the bore "hi, how are you/how's life", he will actually proceed to tell you in full graphic detail!!! questioner's eyes will glaze over and you will never see said questioner advancing in your direction ever again :D

confused said...

Yes, it can be irritating I suppose. I remember when i was in high school, people would keep asking me, kab pass hoge? I got so irritated that I never went to college, I mean how can people do PhD's and such degrees, and spend 5 years? Gosh! But I guess if it makes you happy, it must be worth it. Glad to see you able to handle such questions well.

oh, btw Prashanth, I would place tgfi age at 27. Just a thought.

Born a Libran said...

@prashanth: Dude, whassup with u? I thought u were smarter than that!! Bacchalog, here is a set of rules that you should not break related to talking about graduation:

Rule number 1: The only time you are allowed to ask when a person is graduating is after you have heard that (s)he is scouting a date for his defense.

Rule number 2: You never point out to a woman that you are younger than her or why she isnt married yet or even not in a couple for that matter.

Rule number 3: You never collect information on how much time it takes on average to graduate from a department or a lab. It can either be taken to be a case of excessive bragging or it could lead to personal depression.

TGFI: Do you think I have got it right (based on his comment) or do u want to add like seven or eight more cardinal rules?

Sayesha said...

Hahahaha! I love Libran's "Tum meri mummy ho?" answer!! You should say that to guys too! That'd be AWESOME! They'd never speak to you again! :D

qsg said...

BaL: Great rules, you are good...!!! :))

TGFI: I think there is more material for you to be really mad! I think this confused person will be shortly banned from your blog.

TCO: What do you think TGFI's answer will eb now - I think it's time to have a quick "chat" tomorrow morning to resolve this situation...what say? Sash, up for another marathon post on your blog? You might get some ammo...! ha ha ha

I will be checking this comment space every 15 minutes - fireworks honge na...honge?

Sayesha said...

Sheesh! And to think that I am going to watch 'Thank you for smoking' in five minutes! Asli fireworks and smoke toh yahan hone wala hai! Will come back and check it out. :D

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

haan haan watever. i need to get to this confused guy's comment first.

QUESTION NUMBER 1: Did you eventually pass high school? because somewhere there, they teach you that it's bad manners to guess a lady's age in public. that too in her own house.
And the rest we will see you in New Jersey. You, in turn, will do yourself good by not being seen on here.

good. you forgot about telling some other people too, about basic etiquette. But i see how you might've given up, given that the people concerned are confused already. !@#$# @#$#$s. that is all i've to say.

that is good answer. and for anyone who tries to guess my age or other such obnoxious behaviour, I have even more hard-hitting answer up my sleeve. bol ke to dekh.

i couldn't wait for our little conference. but we can decide further action in our chat. i am so upset. all these rude people walking in and making my fun like that. no respect only.

confused said...


heh. I have been previously banned.


You want the truth eh? I did actually on second attempt. Its hard passing the school, I say..

btw, did I guess wrong? At worst, I might have underestimated your age. :)

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

second attempt is it? that does it, then. we do not get into fights with the inferiors.
especially one's that have no life except getting into arguments at 1:30 am on the internet.

btw, did I guess wrong?

i think the math is too complicated for second time pass high schooler. so we will let it go.

qsg said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
confused said...

nono, that is not fair. We were good in maths. We sucked in English!

so, we can try to do the maths. I mean. At least try.

So it is 27? :)

As far as having no life, guilty as charged.


The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

so, the other answer i was referring to, sash, loosely translated means, "What goes of your father". when rendered in chaste hindi, with effective intonation, it can be very cutting indeed.
just saying.

confused said...


Of course we are afraid. Can't you see I am one of those losers who pick up arguments on the internet? And I really have no life. :(

errr and I am feckless.

confused said...

heh. Nahi, mere baap ka kuch nahi jaata. :P

Janefield said...

hmmm....i can't believe you tgfi....a soul sistah pays a visit and she is literally brushed aside.

and obnoxious li'l kids who shud be royally ignored are getting the royal treatment (maybe of a diff kind). kya hospitality hai, baap!

Born a Libran said...

@QSG: Thank you... Just somethings I picked up the hard way ;)

@TGFI: I am sorry but I cant help you with such persistently confused lots...

Rebellion said...

OMG !!!

So this was what I was missing eh? I was wondering what party everyone was talking about!!! Btw.. I loved that 'Tum meri mummy ho' HEHEHAHAHA.. That was cool aur Lajjo jee.. Thand rakho :)

Vadde vadde deshon vich aisi choti moti gallan, hondi rehndi hai :P
And btw.. The other answer that you were referring to was also cool ;):P

Chalo, hope all's sorted out here and the gang's back to their den's :P:P

Okay, ab main pitne wali hun......
Btw, TGFI urf Lajjo jee.. You oldie girls na.. ul are really just too touchy about your age related issues :P:P:P

Take care,

sunshine said...

o i feel ur pain.. hate that q..

i have a rehearsed answer...

academics as a career demands total commitment and is by its nature quite unbounded. .
and when you think you have it all planned out, there is always a new question to ask, further analysis to complete, or another issue to discuss

and get completely philosophical on the questioner's ass!!!

(haven't read the other comments so i dont know if people have advised the same :))
great post tho'

satish said...


uii maa, u r sure not those kinda gals who once get a chance of being free, go to pubs, attend latenight parties and forget everything abt their own culture and sanskars?!! :O

best of luck for ur graduation!

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

sorry sistah. royal treatment was being reserved for absolute sweethearts like Mr. Confused.

:-) it's okay.

tereko main dekh loongi. this was just a preview of my viraat roop. ;)

hey sunshine!
hahhaahah i am learning your answer by rote right now. tomorrow on the bus, i'm going to be waiting for someone to ask me, so i can use some of these wonderful answers. :p. thanks. :-)


uii maa, u r sure not those kinda gals who once get a chance of being free, go to pubs, attend latenight parties and forget everything abt their own culture and sanskars?!!

who me? hai raam. noooo waaayyyyyy. we are very god-fearing and good girl - types. :)

Duhita said...

Silent treatment should be the best way forward with ppl with rude rude comments:D Interesting post, and I wont ask 'how long more', but say good luck for the remainder:)
By the ways, somebody's missing from all the fireworks out here, where is tgwstw?:D I'm pretty convinced the confused souls out here would've gotten a good piece of her mind!

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

hey duh, ;)
arre this mister confused was just confused about being funny. aur kuch nai.

thanks, i need all the luck.

Rebellion said...

viraat roop it seems!!

Can you really have that viraat roop with ME Lajjo???
No you can't :P

dhakki tikki dhakki tikki :P

Take care,

PS: Not my fault, all your threads have got me into total phunny & leg pulling mood :P:P

Sakshi said...

Being in the same boat myself, I so understand your pain. I have been known th reply that they keep me around so that you newbies will know what a good grad student is.
But I like your way better.. will help me maintain my BP, a throbbing vein and cuss words are not good for my health or so the docs says. Well he is not facing the ques 100 times a week so what does he know.

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

hey sakshi,
nobody asked me only today! i was armed with all the fundoo answer-suggestions i got on here. hope tomorrow will be better. ;)

The Inquisitive Akka said...

I UNDERSTAND!!!!!!!!!!!!it will pass soon, I promise!Now that I FINALLY reached the other side, I love asking people that dreaded question! Tit for tat, an eye for an get the picture!

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

hi akka :-)
that is just cruel. its not fair, because those you ask were not the ones that see what i mean?? :-)

it will pass soon, I promise

so they say, and so I hope! :-)

Rishit Jain said...

Hahaha, sadists :)