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Navigating the Tracks of Research: Lessons from the Local Train Commute

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Explore the parallels between catching a train during rush hour and honing in on a clear research question, drawing insights from the chaos of both journeys.

In the vibrant pulse of Mumbai, where local trains crisscross the city like vital veins, my daily routine as a commuter and my profession as a research administrator have allowed me to draw parallels between the bustling train commute and the intricate research journey.

Beyond the mere movement of trains, the analogy extends to the very essence of travel. Just as the quality of a train commute is influenced by navigating various stops and switching between stations, the richness of one's research expedition is not solely determined by the number of obstacles but by how adeptly you navigate them, emerging as a seasoned traveler with a wealth of experience and enrichment.

1. Catching the Train: Navigating the Tracks of Research

The chaos of catching a train during rush hour mirrors the initial phase of a research journey. Like weaving through the sea of commuters, my mind navigates through a myriad of ideas and problems. It's a struggle to secure a focus point or (as you get lost in a train of thought) and miss the actual opportunity (train). The key lies in preparedness and focus!

Just as a seasoned commuter has multiple time slots and trains in mind, a researcher must navigate through countless ideas and problems, honing in on a clear research question to focus on. Literature searches become the timetable, and understanding the problem and its possible solutions is the guidebook—showing the path to catching the metaphorical train of knowledge.

2. Train Crowd and the Symphony of Collaboration

In the daily commute or the academic journey, the crowd is a constant companion. The familiar faces or entirely new crowds represent the diverse perspectives encountered during the research journey and collaboration. Much like the commuter learning to enjoy the journey, I've discovered the importance of observing, understanding, and building connections. Collaborations, like finding a seat on a crowded train, require breaking down preconceptions and seeking help. My journey thrives on the symphony of collaboration, where diverse perspectives harmonize for a singular purpose—progress through research.

During this journey, it is crucial to refrain from crying out failure or lamenting causing disruptions to the crowd. The manner in which one confronts failure, whether with defiance or diligence, becomes a defining factor. In the confined spaces of both train commutes and collaborative efforts, discretion is paramount. Secrets whispered in the train become public knowledge, reminding me to carefully choose my words, mindful of the perceptions being woven around a person.

3. People with Baggage and Unavoidable Realities

The train is not just a mode of transport; it's a microcosm of unavoidable circumstances. People with bags in the front and unruly hair are reminiscent of the occasional snide remarks and ethical challenges in the academia-research world (or any other profession). My role as a research administrator requires navigating these unpredictable elements. It's futile to control how people carry their bags or manage their hair, trying to control the actions of others is a waste of energy. Just as I accept the inevitable scenarios on the train, I recognize that not every aspect of collaboration is within my control. Some baggage, like some behaviors, is beyond my influence. Understanding this allows me to channel my energy toward productive avenues—focusing on what can be controlled for the greater progress of the journey.

Conclusion: Navigating Two Journeys

As I juggle between daily train rides and research missions, I will let you in on a secret that I learned recently—every journey has its own finish line (come on, that's not the learning, what comes next is!). When folks advise you to "focus," here's a trick I've learned: slap an expiry date on your goals. It's like a ticking clock that makes you push harder, turning failure from a disaster into just another option.

In both my train adventures, research quests, and administrative struggles, I've found that giving goals a time limit is like turning on turbo mode. Teams rally together, procrastinators jump the train, and we hustle with a clear purpose. Setting a date is like having a GPS for success—it keeps me on track, making every effort count. No more dwelling on what could have been done better; it's all about moving forward once you reach the goal- sometimes alone (introspect the failure) or as a team (celebrating a success).

In this journey, dealing with colleagues and leaders isn't just about "being yourself." It's more like a game where you need to not just perform but outperform with the unique skills you possess. Kind of like mastering the chaos of train crowds or steering a research team—my journey isn't just mine; it's a team effort, a collective dance towards progress.

So, as I tackle the hustle of train crowds and the intricacies of research collaborations, I carry with me the simple wisdom of setting deadlines, keeping the rhythm of hard work, and understanding that, in life's big show, every step counts before the red flag is raised. Hope this read was enriching for you and helped give you a new perspective.



Hi Parvati,it's superb thought on daily routine


mokshu Naidu
mokshu Naidu
Nov 23, 2023

Mind blowing!!!!


Becky Thomas
Becky Thomas
Nov 20, 2023

Very well articulated and so relatable...thank you...

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