piyush kaviraj

feelings and musings…

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What’s in a name!

They say what’s in a name!

Well, it seems there is, and a lot; sometimes, an awful lot.

A name may assume a silly meaning in cross cultural contexts and no one knows it better than this gentleman.

This Viatnamese Australian person has all the reason to get irritated when he says “Nobody seems to believe me when I say that my full legal name is how you see it.” Facebook has blocked him umpteen times considering the words spelt in his name. Out of frustration, he uploaded his passport scan to prove his name is what he writes.

And now his name: Mr. Phuc Dat Bich.


Mind you! It is pronounced as “Phoo Da Bic”






PhD : The untold and never discussed side effects

A 2015 study at the University of California Berkeley found that 47% of graduate students suffer from depression, following a previous 2005 study that showed 10% had contemplated suicide. A 2003 Australian study found that that the rate of mental illness in academic staff was three to four times higher than in the general population, according to a New Scientist article.

Read this article to get a glimpse of what PhD scholars may go through in the hindsight..by Jennifer Walker (Jennifer Walker is an ex-physicist turned culture and travel writer living in Europe.)

One night during the third year of my PhD program, I sat on my bed with a packet of tranquilizers and a bottle of vodka. I popped a few pills in my mouth and swigged out of the bottle, feeling them burn down my throat. Moments later, I realized I was making a terrible mistake. I stopped, trembling as I realized what I’d nearly done.

I called a friend and met her in a bar exactly halfway between my house and hers. That night changed things for both of us. She met the love of her life—the bartender, who she later married. And I decided I wanted to live. The morning after, I found a therapist and considered quitting my PhD.

It’s common knowledge that getting a PhD is hard. It’s meant to be. Some even say that if you’re not up all night working or skipping meals, you’re doing it wrong. But while PhD students are not so naive as to enter the program expecting an easy ride, there is a cost to the endeavor that no one talks about: a psychological one.

The days I spent pursuing my PhD in physics were some of my darkest. It wasn’t the intellectual challenges or the workload that brought me down; it was my deteriorating mental health. I felt unsupported, isolated and adrift in uncertainty. Anxiety attacks became a part of my daily life. I drank and cut myself. I sometimes thought I wanted to die.

I might not have felt so alone had I known how many people struggle with mental health issues in academia. A 2015 study at the University of California Berkeley found that 47% of graduate students suffer from depression, following a previous 2005 study that showed 10% had contemplated suicide. A 2003 Australian study found that that the rate of mental illness in academic staff was three to four times higher than in the general population, according to a New Scientist article. The same article notes that the percentage of academics with mental illness in the United Kingdom has been estimated at 53%.

But the stiff-upper-lip attitude that pervades the ivory tower can prompt many people who struggle with mental health problems to keep their problems hidden, while others simply accept depression as par for the course. And in the often-Darwinian culture among graduate students competing for a handful of professorial jobs, too many people assume that psychological problems are only for the weak.

“I assumed and hoped that simply taking antidepressants and just ‘working harder’ would help enough,” says Jane*, a PhD student in biology who’s been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. “And when things did not quickly improve, this further affected my mood.”

In essence, many PhD students are so accustomed to hard work and self-discipline that they beat themselves up when their efforts to manage depression fail to generate perfect results.

A general feeling of isolation can also weigh down graduate students who spend much of their time buried under a pile of books or alone in a lab.

“The issues that affect students in general, which could also factor in for PhD students, is living independently and having independent work,” says Anoushka Bonwick, the projects and relationships officer at the UK charity Student Minds. Equally stressful is the fact that PhD students face “uncertainty about the future, such as funding for research and what they are going to do after a PhD.”

These issues can have an even bigger impact on students who lack supportive advisers.

“My biggest difficulty was the feeling of being cut adrift,” says Andrew*, a former PhD student in physics who dropped out months before finishing. “I didn’t have a very involved or hands on supervisor.” While he left the program in part to relocate with his partner, he says that “a more involved supervisor might have changed things.”

Other PhD students often suffer from imposter syndrome. This was part of my problem even before signs of serious mental health problems arose. I felt as if I’d gotten this far in my academic career by fluke, and that the top grades I’d received during my undergraduate and master’s studies had been an administrative mistake. This fed into my anxiety as well as my depression.

Imposter syndrome is a frequent problem among high-achieving students who find themselves surrounded with others like them, according to Linda*, a sociology professor from New Jersey. “It’s very common to feel an incompetent fraud, and usually to assume you’re the only one who feels that way,” she says.

The frequency of these problems shouldn’t scare prospective students away from pursuing PhDs. But they should be prepared going in to think about how they will handle psychological challenges as well as intellectual ones.

 “I think firstly it’s really important to scope out support services that the university offers,” says Bonwick. This can mean everything from university counseling services to student support groups.
 More universities and colleges are also making efforts to do more to support graduate students. Student non-profits like Student Minds in the UK and Active Minds and the Jed & Clinton Health Matters Campus Program in the US collaborate with educational institutions to raise awareness for mental health issues among students, as well as establish a support network.
Beyond these initiatives, universities need to do more to train supervisors to recognize the warning signs of everything from low-level depression and anxiety to suicidal tendencies and substance abuse. And they need to create a culture of openness that not only removes the stigma associated with mental-health problems but encourages students to ask for help.

“Academia is understanding, but perhaps too accepting, that everyone has problems,” says Jane. “Just because many people do have mental health problems, it’s not ok that that’s ‘how it is.’”

Finally, it’s important that both prospective and current PhD students directly confront the tenuous realities of the academic job market and plan accordingly. Uncertainty about the future can take a major toll on students, but they’re less likely to suffer if their entire identities aren’t tied to graduate school.

“If you do want to be a professor, think about what your life might be like if it that doesn’t happen,” advises Linda. “What else will make you happy? Aim for balance in life so that a rich world of family, friends, and hobbies give fulfillment where work may not.”
In my case, therapy helped me survive and complete my PhD—and so did planning my way out of academia before I even finished my thesis. I’d decided to become a writer. These days, I seldom use my physics knowledge. But I still rely on the inner strength that I developed during my time in graduate school, which gave me the courage to mold my own life.


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Interview with Piyush Kaviraj- By Nainika Gautam

Following is an interview of mine by Nainika Gautam, Gargi Publishers.
Author of “Mahlon Ko Bikte Dekha Hai”, Piyush is a research scholar working on cancer biology at present. He has always been an avid reader and writer, and he got addicted to poetry during his school days. He loves to use the name ‘Kaviraj’ when he is in his land of rhymes and rhythm and uses his blog and other websites to convey his feelings and musings. He has a love for languages, especially Hindi.
Piyush aspires to be a socio-political activist to help society. He believes that we owe so many things to the society that we can’t get rid of our responsibility of paying back/returning the favour. He, along with some like-minded friends, tries to contribute to society through social services, be it through guidance to cancer patients and their relatives, blood donations, or visiting orphanages/shelter-homes. 
He can be reached at
To read his story in Crumpled Voices-2, order your copy here: Amazon/Flipkart
Here we get to know him more closely:
Nainika: Hi Piyush, please tell us something about yourself.
Piyush: Hello Nainika and all the literature enthusiasts.
I am Piyush.
I am a cancer Research Fellow at Tata Memorial Centre. I have been writing poems in Hindi and English since my schools days and of late, I have also started to write short stories. I enjoy both research and literature and have published research articles as well as literary collections. I also try to help the underprivileged, cancer-patients and needy people, with the help of my friends around. We have set up an organization called ‘The Benevolent Fools’ for this purpose.
Nainika: Since you are a research scholar working in cancer biology, how do you think can your passion of writing help you there?
Piyush: My passion for research and writing complement each other and enable a mutual growth. Research not only involves experiments but also communicating our research and findings to the peer and people in the most effective way. Thus writing comes into rescue there. Science research helps us to identify problems, think logically and find the most feasible solution. This aspect has helped my writing which has become more methodical and logical with time.
Nainika: Being a social activist, how do you think can your write-ups help you to make the world best place to live in?
Piyush: I have been trying to contribute to the society in my own ways, but I need to do more to qualify as a real social activist. As I mentioned earlier, Science research helps us to identify and solve problems. But writing helps us in bringing our findings to the general public as well as the specialists. Thus I can do a better research on the problems present in our society and can collaborate with personnel who can help us solve them. Our writing skills can make people aware of the situation in the society and also brings to the light the people who have, in their own way, inspired others to make the world a better place.
Nainika: Which genre do you feel most comfortable to write?
Piyush: I feel most comfortable writing poems. It comes naturally to me. I try to write more on social aspects now.
Nainika: If you would not have been a poet, what would you have loved to be?
Piyush: I would have loved to be a musician, if I had not been a poet. Music gives me a strength which I can’t express in words.
Nainika: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Piyush: I am not sure if I have understood the question properly. I try to avoid flowery languages and complex sentence constructions so that my readers are able to understand and appreciate what I write, not how I write. And writing in a simple but lucid language is actually tough. I also find it a bit difficult to write stories and am trying to get over the problems.
Nainika: Please throw some light on your story “The Guinea Pig” in Crumpled Voices-2
Piyush: When I was told about the concept of the Anthology- Innocence lost (Crumpled Voices 2), I liked it very much. News on child mishandling and exploitations are a daily affair in the leading newspapers. Many a times, even educated parents lack the awareness on these issues. Hence stories can be a good medium to highlight such issues plaguing the society and inform people. When I heard this concept, I was reading about ‘holocaust’ and the atrocities on Jews. Thus I wrote this story to underline the ordeal children might have gone through during the Second World War. It was not a usual war where people were just killed. They were exploited even after their gruesome death. The situation of children remain same; the method of abuse changes. In a so called ‘peaceful’ society, war is replaced by other measures. We need to figure them out and act against them.
Nainika: How do you think your story can inspire society?
Piyush: ‘The Guinea Pig’ tries to tell us that children are most-affected by all the calamities. The situation worsens in case of a man-made one. Children are abused physically and emotionally. Even today, they are being used as domestic helps and child-laborers in spite of legislation against it. They need to be educated and nourished for a better future of the nations and those of us who are privileged enough have to assert our moral rights to take care of such unlucky children. We need more of the likes of Kailash Satyarthi.
Nainika: Please tell us something about the lead characters of your story.
Piyush: The lead character of the story has undergone a traumatic condition in her war affected country and suffered all sorts of weird experiments in captivity. She would have lost faith in humanity and could have died unknown. But she got the guidance of a nice lady. Thus she grew up to be a responsible person who fought for the rights of children and rehabilitated them to better conditions. Having gone through a tormented childhood, she understood what children may go through; children are meant to be loved and nurtured, not to be experimented upon. They can’t be treated as guinea pigs, lest they are scarred for the rest of their lives.
Nainika: Would you like to give any message to our readers?
Piyush: As I said, we need more of the likes of Kailash Satyarthi. But isn’t it shameful that most of us didn’t know about a person who had been working for child welfare? I am ashamed that I had not heard about him till the day Nobel Peace prize was announced last year. We try to give our own sons/daughters all the comfort while don’t even notice the rag pickers on garbage heaps, beggars on traffic signals, and waiters working for chai-wallas. Let’s be more generous. Let’s help at least one unprivileged child, other than our own and we will actually rebuild and refurbish our own future.

(This interview was taken by Nainika Gautam under the internship program by Gargi Publishers)


No one wants war, yet no one denies it

Given the first opportunity, states have jumped into the warzones on command of the so called administrators, having mandate of their citizens. In the name of the land and people, wars are summoned and brought to the shores of those very citizens’ home. We all know and understand who has to bear the brunt of wars, strives and conflicts. Insurgency across borders, quest to seize more land, desire to have new nations, fanaticism to propagate one’s religion, or the insatiable hunger to be the world power have lead to numerous expeditions throughout the history, be it Alexander the ‘great’ or Hitler; ISIS or Chechen; China or USA.

The recent photographs of a drowned Kurdish child have been doing the rounds across the internet. It is actually ironic that the selfish needs of few lead to horrific experience for millions of innocents. As the photographer, Nilufer herself has accepted how difficult it was to click those pictures. She claimed her reaction on seeing the corpse of the small toddler was “becoming petrified”. In her own words, “Three-year-old Aylan Kurdi was lying lifeless face down in the surf, in his red t-shirt and dark blue shorts folded to his waist. The only thing I could do was to make his outcry heard” She took the pictures to share her feeling and make an “outcry”


Let’s ask ourselves honestly. Who is responsible for Aylan’s death? Who is responsible for the death of Children in USA, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand our very own country? It’s all of US-every single person from each country who remains nothing but mute spectator while carrying out the daily chores for him/her and the immediate family members.

We will make hues and cries on the social media for a few days. Some of us are so damned that we do it mostly in hope of getting more likes and retweets. Oh yes, Candle light processions are not to be forgotten, for a few days and then…. who cares! Life moves on, so do we.


Another crisis till I write another article, self-bashing. Let me enjoy till then.

Piyush Kaviraj


(Photo Credits: Internet)

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ज़िन्दगी ही तो है.. जी लेंगे

ज़िन्दगी ही तो है..
जी लेंगे
कभी पानी की तरह,
कभी ज़हर की तरह
कभी गुस्से के दो घूँट
कभी जाम के दो बूँद,
पी लेंगे.

ज़िन्दगी ही तो है..
जी लेंगे
© पीयूष कविराज

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RIP James Horner: My Heart Will Go On

Aliens, Titanic, A Beautiful Mind, Braveheart, Avatar…. The list goes endless. The background score for these movies have been their spine and the spine was provided by one person, the celebrated musician James Horner. It’s a sad day for music lovers (June 22, 2015) amidst the report of his death in a plane crash near California. Musical scores may never be the same again.


Already an accomplished concert hall composer, Horner got his movie break in 1979. However, his taste to fame came in 1982 with Star Trek II while his share of glory came with Titanic. The year 1997 was historic for Horner. Titanic smashed all records for an orchestral film track till then and won two academy awards: one for best original dramatic score and the other for best original song ‘My heart will go on’. It will not be an exaggeration to say he shaped the career of the singer Celine Dion. Besides, Titanic also brought accolades to him in the form of 3 Grammy and 2 Golden Globe awards for the same. His relationship with Titanic director James Cameroon flourished once again post ten years of Aliens with Titanic and the duo went on to make the marvelous Avatar.


Horner composed for over 100 movies, collaborating with famed directors like Ron Howard and Mel Gibson and many others. Among other awards he received include Satellite awards, Saturn awards and a dozen of Grammy. Impressive!

Horner has had his share of controversies with allegations of getting ‘inspired’ from his previous compositions as well as other works, and suitably modified to suit his tracks. To quote a review from ‘Filmtrack’, Horner was “skilled in the adaptation of existing music into films with just enough variation to avoid legal troubles”.

However, none can deny the talent Horner was and we all pay homage to him. Music has suffered a great loss from his untimely death. He was one ‘Beautiful Mind’ for whom My Heart Will Go On, and on.

© piyushKAVIRAJ 

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