Friday, August 30, 2013

on and on

The day was great. Workwise. Even though I started late, having wasted my time here and there, trying to get into the right mood, the right setting, the right sitting, right amount of black tea and right music plugged in my ears - I finally resumed work after two days. Having watched one senseless comedy show or daily soap after the next (for my flu-inflicted brain specifically demanded that), I was surprised all I wanted to do today morning was to run to work lest I should laze or the medicines start to make me drowsy.

First I went to a computer shop right outside Thane station where I got this keyboard exchanged. As if it wasn't enough that my Mac's keypad went bad, mouse is tricky and mouse pad gives little electric shocks now and then; now the external keyboard also stopped working. I don't know how good this one is but it's making nice tak-tak sound. That's all I care about usually in a keyboard.

So well, the best thing to have happened yesterday was that I realized how much I missed work. Alas, how difficult, nay, offensive, it is to say to your friends. You see, It is against accepted social customs to enjoy your work, to look forward to office after 2 days of sick leave. You gotta have some life. Well, I don't. Not when I am away anyway.

As I sat analyzing the responses of a respondent I realized how interesting her story was. Add to it the previous 10 interviews I had analyzed, each woman's story, individual responses to similar questions were throwing up so many gaps, surprises, horrors and intermittent relief. And the more they were different, the more they settled into a particular theme. Each woman's present age, the age at which she got married, education, husband's education, household income and number of live issues and abortion history -  the basic characteristics - would also tell a story. It was perhaps in the 11th interview that I finally had the data 'speak' to me. I had heard some researchers talk about this earlier. How their data is or is not 'speaking' to them and how the latter bothered them. Also whether their data is 'rich'. And I would be left wondering, half dismissing them as dramatizing their work. But it happened, it did. Making me wish it were a working saturday so the office would be open.

I will take my laptop and this keyboard to a cafe nearby that I like. I like the cafe owner too but that's an aside. There I would order my favorite– Chamomile Tea– and finish sorting and analyzing the transcripts that I have brought with me from work. 

Soon I will post some pics from my field work.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Yeh shaamein, sab ki sab shaamein!

The days are being spent in office in the day and a movie almost every night. Starting Sunday, I have already watched Khamosh Pani, Sooraj ka Saantva Ghoda, Shatranj ke Khiladi and as I type this The Making of Mahatma stands paused. As for reading I have finished with Rashmirathi, a book I finished right before my trip home. Having returned I brought back with me Charitraheen. The former moved me to tears at times, forcing me to put it down and take a break. Such passion was there in the verses that it brought about goosebumps! An amazing amazing read. Ramdhari Singh Dinkar's marvel! Charitraheen is actually a bit of a drag right now, reason I've turned to movies. Usually I find Hindi or Hindustani literature unputdownable. It doesn't have to be racy - it manages to strike a chord deeper than similar stuff in English and so the unputdownability of it. As discussed with someone yesterday, may be it has to be about Hindi being our first language. But I have written about that before, wouldn't repeat now. 

You'd be wondering why all of a sudden I am taking names, of movies and books etc! I have been meaning to write about books that I read, movies I have watched recently or prose or articles I have found interesting and even music, ghazals, shayari. Usually people share such stuff on facebook. I have realized I am miser in that. The more I like a piece of art the less is the chance that I would share it publicly. Not because I do not want to 'share' per se, because nothing else would give me as much pleasure. But because I cannot bear it being out there among people who know not a thing! But then in some 'generous' moments I do do (share, ie) and am able to talk about the experience of something with those who know more than me and in that I undoubtedly learn a bit more. But I do share on email with those I know would appreciate and relish or at least think about it. 

Another reason is that i want to document it all and like I go back to read stuff two or sometimes three four years back, I might enjoy reading about what I used to read and take interest in, two-three years hence.

I have much more to write, but have also to do something for my dinner. Oh, by the way, I have caught slight fever and throat infection. Missed work today but tomorrow there cannot be any excuse. Either from home or office - work I must. I do not have too much time. While I finished with data collection ahead of my schedule, the analysis part is turning out to be more tricky than I thought. Heh, has to be. It is all about women!

More later. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013


For all the criticism I subject myself to, one day, and the day is not far, I am going to love myself so much that another's love might become redundant. A lover's love to be specific. It is so easy to tell the truth and so difficult to be honest. Have I been honest? No. I've had my share of wayward impulsiveness, and of indecisiveness where I took time deciding when time was of essence.

Here I go again talking about myself. The idea was to reflect, remember? To present a reflection on the outside world and not somersault on my own turf. Part of me is so self-satisfied and at ease here that it is an effort to care to be readable, to be understandable.

I will try.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

my first qualitative research

Today I come to term with things and write a loving mail to myself. Enough of nonsense. I am sitting in my office, looking pretty with my hair let loose. It feels good, the tip of the finger tapping the keys. I never noticed that before. You know how they say our finger tips are most sensitive and receptive to all touch. :) 

I had a presentation at the Santacruz office yesterday. I had already woken up at 5 to make the presentation and left home really early to reach on time. The presentation was more like a mid-research thing where I spoke about the data collection, the resistance I faced and also shared with the audience some initial findings which might or might not hold true as I analyse all the data. The meeting done with, I sat down with Mr. G, a gentleman from UCL who works with us and very senior to me in qualitative research. I had asked him for a brief interaction earlier in the day but the idea of brevity was brief. He and I sat talking and discussing my research for almost 2 hours. Though I enjoyed listening to him and posing a thousand questions, it has also made me anxious about the analysis and the subsequent writing of the report. If I was thinking data collection was difficult, analysis is even more so, not to forget the sheer pain it is glossing over people's responses again and again to the questions I posed, chalking out the important themes, grouping the themes together and then very very meticulously question my own assumptions and try to find supportive evidence. 

Then there is the thing about each individual respondent. I had promised each respondent that her identity will not be revealed. Each interview preceded a formal consent note which I had made them sign. So, of course, I need to code them. For instance, a respondent who is from rural background, aged 21, with two boys, is a Muslim and went to a public hospital for obtaining abortion needs to be identified by something like this:  R21MPu2B. Ahem. Similarly for all 30 of them respondent women and then the 10 doctors I spoke to. Not only does this codification helps retain their identity and hence my keeping my promise, but also helps us come up with findings when women with similar background or religion or experience at a health facility give similar responses (or not). 

Once the codification for the respondents is done I need to identify categories within broad themes as I go reading the transcribed data. Along side each category I also need to write the exact quote or paraphrase from the respondent, which is mostly in Hindi or translated in Hindi from Marathi. Once all of this is done for nearly 40 of all respondents I need to group the themes and do the triangulation part (which I still havn't quite got a grasp of). Having done all this I need to them collate the themes, question my own suppositions. At times also being skeptical of the respondent's responses and try to balance what the literal response is viz-z-viz what I feel is the real response, in light of other evidence.

All this while would continue note-taking and points to take note of later. I might need to go back in the field to make sure I am not making a mistake. Having done all this I will then start to actually write the report, go to libraries for literature review, get the latest statistics, discuss the findings, support it with evidence and if possible come up with few recommendations.

Though it is great that I now know a bit about qualitative research analysis, BUT without a good reference point about any of the stages and all I am currently feeling like a lost puppy in the midst of piles of data and voices and transcription and notes.


Sunday, August 11, 2013


I am listening to the same chill-out music I used to study to in London. Amazing how music and scents make us travel back to the time and place. It is Northumberland Hall, Edward VII Rooms, slight chill in the air. I'm in the computer room in the basement. I am found here at all times all hours, much to the surprise of many others. There, the corner PC and table is mine and those books and post-it notes and what nots. I would go out now and then to read my notes and pray for the printer to work each time I had a new stack to print. It was good then, wasn't it?

Back here with the music on actually isn't bad at all. There are some girls in the office talking in Marathi. Not a word do I understand. There's the 'Maushi' here who gets us tea and does the cleaning etc. Even after 3-4 months here I still cannot tell if she likes me. I think she has it against me that I do not know Marathi. 

The monsoon continues. As long as the sun is not out I am good. 

I am seriously planning for the PhD. At times I think it is a good idea, at times I feel may be I should wait. Also the fact that I don't want to be away from home for that long a time. But I have some good ideas for the research and with a little bit of support I can flesh it out and draft a nice proposal.

What is it with me that I wanna do everything. I want experience litigating, I want to also do rural research, I also want to travel and present papers on health issues and then I want to teach too. Somewhat. Why don't I wanna decide on one of these and just do it? Cz it sounds boring.

I have lots of pictures to post. Will do in time. Bye for now.

Friday, August 2, 2013


Stuck in a lodge in an unknown town. There is a power cut. It rained crazy all night and continues unabated. The pelting on the teen ki chhat is making a deafening noise, it is hard to even hear oneself. From the window I just saw a band of dogs chase away stray pigs. Pigs in distress make sounds similar to cats in distress. Had never heard pigs before.

There is a strange couple in the other room. The man keeps in the balcony for most times. Staring people, me, everyone. He is with a woman who I feel is not his partner. Of course I could be wrong. This couple never ventures out except in the evenings for dinner, around about the time I return. They seem to be keeping a low profile, hence my interest in them.

I am hungry now. I always need to eat first thing in the morning. Nothing elaborate but something, anything. There is a makeshift shop near by, a redi-wala who makes excellent south indian food. My first morning here, the watchman brought me dosa from the same guy, it was delicious. If the rain stops and the dosa guy opens shop I might be able to have it again.

My return is not yet confirmed. If I am able to secure interviews today I can start for Mumbai in the night and reach by morning. If not, I might have to stay a bit longer. I want to stay for tomorrow and visit Ajanta caves. Also nearby is the first philosophical institute of India named IIP and opened the same time the IITs where formed. There is also a temple of Mangal here where they suggest I must go.

It is now raining harder than ever.

The watchman/caretaker here, an old interesting man, just poked in through my open window. He has switched on the generator and would get me hot water now.

More later.