“Any questions?”. One of the dreaded things in my life is to confront a question like this nature. In my formative years, after every classroom session when the teacher asked the question “any question?” I did not know where to hide my face so that I can escape his glare. Throughout my life, I always had a rueful face in asking questions. The only question that I am capable of asking is that “why no question comes to mind?” Is it that I understand everything that is being discussed or that I can’t make any sense of it? May be it’s my know-it-all attitude that discourage me from generating any question in my mind. One of my Professors recently commented rightfully that our curiosity to know things decreases as with our maturity. As we grow old we stopped making queries as if we are supposed to know everything. It does not have any scientific underpinning rather it is the convenient idea of taking things as given in most of the time. So we don’t see anything new in our surrounding to make an enquiry out of it.
The problem got aggregated more for me as I realized that I have an articulating ability of lower order. Even If something comes to mind, by the time I articulate my thought and convert it to English (I think in Assamese!), the bus has already left. Now the icing on the cake comes with my earned knowledge that “asking a question is not enough, one has to ask the right question”. Now what is this right question? How can I consider the question that I have in mind to be right? I am caught in a situation to take a mutually exclusive stand of asking or not asking. Most of the time, I opt for the second option for reasons to known to me only. So strong is my conviction of not troubling anybody with any question that I have managed not to ask some irresistible questions in life starting from a very simple question like “what is your name ?” to a little more complex one like “Would you like to spend time with me? Can I take you out for a dinner?”etc. Now you know why I have my status as single in Orkut while some of my friends have already contributed to human resources of our country. In our daily life also most of the conversation starts with a simple question like “how are you?” I am so resistant towards asking something that I have never been able to start a conversation in my life! Thanks to those, who took pity on me and saved me from solitary confinement by initiating conversations.
Till now I have also managed to survive my academic life somehow without asking many questions, but not anymore I can have the same luxury. The most lovable as well as fearful mark in the life of a Ph. D. student is the question mark. As they say, you love it or hate it but you can’t ignore it. There is this animal called “the research question” which the doctoral student need to have as his or her pet. You must shower affection to your pet so as to make the centripetal force work on it. May be someday it will sit on your lap and you may get a closure and detail view of your research question. There are stories of students struggling for years to ask the research question and now it’s my turn to get on this roller coaster ride. “What is my research question?” is the question that I am asking to myself these days and yet to make any headway. The little consolation in the form of a silver line in the cloud, came from the works of Prof Charles Tilly, who was an American Sociologist died in April, 2008. He was a professor at Columbia University and an academician with more than 51 books and 600 articles to his credit. You can visit his home page http://www.sociology.columbia.edu/fac-bios/tilly/faculty.html to learn more about him. In one of his talk, Prof Tilly discussed about the generating idea for dissertation and much of my relief, he suggested for first time researcher, to respond to already asked questions with a new logic or a new perspective to avoid the risk of never been able to complete the degree. You can challenge the accepted answer to an old question or can confirm contested answers to an old question. The contribution one can make by adding one more argument against or in favor of already existing debate is recognizable for Ph D students. So looking for a new perspective in already existing argument can save me from asking a new question. But I am no better off as such because the next hurricane that I have to face is what new perspective I can bring to which argument?