And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
– Abraham Lincoln
“Dear Professor Poudyal, We are pleased to inform you that we have received your manuscript and that it has been sent out for review”, those were the opening words of an email that I received recently from a secretary of the editor of a reputed journal, where I had submitted a paper co-authored with my profs. (the real ones!). This was not the first time I had been mistaken for a professor or a senior research fellow. A couple of months ago, I had submitted an earlier version of the same paper for a conference and the acknowledgement email also started with “Dear Professor Poudyal”. A month or so before that, I had a mail in my pigeon-hole that was addressed to some “Dr. Poudyal”, which was ME apparently! In all these cases, I replied with an email explaining I was not a Prof. nor a Dr., but merely a PhD candidate, and that just in my first year!
If I meet somebody for the first time after some extended period of correspondence via email or other means, their first reaction would generally be “Are you really Mr Poudyal? I thought you would be a bit older”. Its not just the foreigners who have such perceptions about my age, I have been treated with exactly the same reaction from my Nepali colleagues as well. I am glad to say, however, that I have not had to prove my identity (that I am really a young researcher) on such occasions! And this case of mistaken identity, or rather mistaken age, is not anymore new to me. Nonetheless, I often ponder why. And the only reason that I could think of is the way I write/correspond with those people, with my “proper English” that we were taught in high school and colleges in Nepal – grammatically correct, immaculate sentence construction, and those gentlemanly addressings and closings, with “dear sir/madam”s and “yours sincerely”s, and with lots of “thankful”s, “grateful”s and “could you please”s in between! But those are the norms in formal correspondence anyway, is it not? So why am I sounding that old? OR may be the youths of my generation do not correspond the way I do! But I cannot imagine them writing an email or a letter to the editor of a journal that goes like – “Hello there, I am sending ‘this paper’ to your journal and expect to hear from you by ‘this time'”. Sounds a bit dodgy and disrespectful to me!
Anyway, I actually started thinking (again) about this today when I saw Zade’s comment on my blog, where she says I seem to be a “Bhadrapurush” (actually, she has been calling me “intellectual” and what not for a bit but “Bhadrapurush” really made me think about these things again 🙂 !)…. Well, I should first thank Zade for being such a kind soul, but that also rang a bell within, which said “mp, you are again being mistaken for someone old…really old!”, which obviously makes you wonder if nothing else…. Well, oldness is a relative thing, so compared to Zade and her generation, I’m a bit old at 27 but I find it hard to visualise myself as an old (gentle)man, which is what “Bhadrapurush” sounds like or is it really that?! Anyway, I really have no problem with people perceiving me as an old-wise-man, quite the contrary. I actually quite enjoy surprising them turning up a young short fellow with so much expectations (from those people) on my shoulders. Then again, when you are mistaken so often for some old person with lots of experience of life, work and this world, it really makes you feel uncomfortable, for you do really try hard to fill that perceived old-wise-man’s shoes – quite often unsuccessfully.
Nevertheless, life has been immensely kind to me so far, and although I haven’t achieved even a tiny bit of what many of my own age have achieved, I don’t have much complaints, regrets or dissatisfactions. I have been a student (I mean school-student) all my life, and even when I complete all my degrees, that’s what I will continue to be – just a student. As for being old, we all grow older and hopefully, a bit wiser too. But, as they say, when you reach the top, there is nowhere to go but come back down. So, I personally think it would be wise to be a very lousy climber (which I really am!), learning at every steps and every mistakes all my life than be an old-wise-man, an expert climber standing on a pedestal, some mountain top, from where there is only one way to go – fall down. Well, I don’t want to end this sounding like a pessimist….being wise-old-men must be cool, but lot of them turn out to be grumpy-old-men instead, which I wouldn’t want to be either….or am I already being grumpy here?! 🙂
Lets leave that grumpy-old business now. I must thank Zade again for stirring me to write today’s post, and for taking time reading my “mindless musings” and even leaving comments! I quite liked her last line, which said – “Je hos aba aja lai yeti, baki arko patra ma!”. Should I be waiting for a “patra”? 😉