Thursday, December 1, 2016

This Post-doc Life

An LCD screen in front of me
I wait, while the numbers 
Count down to 423,
I've been here an hour 
This is my monthly visit
To the Leuven town hall.
When my turn finally comes,
Ahead of waiting mum and wailing bub,
The lady at the desk
Scans my documents,
Murmurs in Flemish,
Shakes her head and 
Pronounces in English
I'm missing
The hosting agreement!
That piece of paper which says
The university is ready to host me,
Following which, a bureaucrat in Brussels
Can sign off on a card - a residence permit,
Stay of executioner's sword
And permission to stay
A few months more.
As I bike back to the HR department,
Through icy streets - it's freezing outside
For more rides around 
This bureaucratic merry-go-round
I think to myself
This is the price to pay
For a career in academia,
For a post-doc in mid-career
Or a professor without tenure
A vagabond's existence
No idea where I'm going to be next year.
Till recently - no family, no girlfriend,
Who's going to take in a drifter?
Chin up, mister!
I have to consider myself lucky
Think of the really stateless,
The wretched refugee on a leaky boat
Parched infant at her tit
Careening against surging ocean,
Or the landless labourer
Whose years of savings
For his daughter's wedding
Cash in 500 rupee notes, 
Rendered useless by government decree.
I am relatively secure
Thanks to random birth,
Fancy passport
And advanced degree
It's ironic that it's
The work of this itinerant drifter
That renders others jobless.
I will be fine, for at least another decade,
Till my own job is replaced.
I can't but be gloomy 
About the coming storm,
The twin disruptions of AI and climate change
That will make terrorism seem like child's play
They'll wreak havoc on a world 
Misled by demagogues and false prophets
Could this be our Great Filter?
The Fermi Paradox,
That natural barrier 
That stops our civilisation
In its tracks.

No comments:

Post a Comment