Category : FACE TO FACE:
Author : Aura Staff
A PhD at 54. Tell us a little bit about this journey?

The acknowledgement page of my thesis begins with a quote of American author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar stating that “Your attitude, not your aptitude will determine your altitude.” True to this statement, I embarked on the journey of my PhD in the year 2014 at 48 years of age. This was possible because of the support extended by my family members, especially my daughter. My parents encouraged me to pursue my Higher Education. After my marriage, my husband and in-laws were supportive, so I enrolled in a Masters in Tourism through Distance Learning mode and pursued my Advance Diploma in Tourism and Travel from Cambridge University through blended learning mode with financial assistance from the bank in the form of an educational loan for working women. This facilitated me to ‘earn while you learn’. A conducive domestic environment and a zeal to update my tourism industry knowledge brought me to this point in life. Being in academics and working in a University, I was always learning new subjects and skills. But my research sojourn taught me that one has to unlearn in order to learn. My doctoral journey can be compared to Alice in Wonderland wherein one encounters unforeseen situations at every stage.

What motivated you to hold on to your dream for two decades?

There was always an inherent interest in me as to stay updated with the latest trends in tourism and travel and the dynamics of the aviation industry as I had started my career with the German airline Lufthansa. So I kept the fire of knowledge in me ignited and never stopped enrolling in new courses in spite of my domestic roles, one of which was that of a mother. And of course, to have those three letters after my name – Ph.D, which is considered as the highest accolade in academics.

What were the challenges you faced in your journey so far?

My Major challenges were finances to support myself in terms of fees, books and data collection and attending course work classes during the weekends. It was tough for me to manage my academic work load, domestic chores and a teenage daughter who needed attention, care and love. Doctoral research is all about quantification and qualification of the study undertaken. Statistics and research methodology play a pivotal role in writing articles and the thesis. So my major challenges were to learn the Qualitative and Quantitative techniques. A doctoral study requires sharp acumen for analytical comprehension. As a student of humanities, I found this aspect very challenging. Secondly research paper publication is an arduous process, which is dominated by uncertainty of rejection or acceptance.

Tell us about your experiences as a student through the PhD.

Every student has to qualify for a PhD through an entrance examination. In the year 2014, an online examination was conducted. To qualify the entrance, one has to secure a minimum of 35 marks out of 70 with negative marking. I attempted all the questions and was praying to God. I submitted my answer sheet online. The scores were declared instantly. On the screen, it showed that “Congratulations. Your Score is 35.5.” With 0.5 per cent, I managed to embark on this academic sojourn. There is a mandatory course work on Qualitative and Quantitative Techniques for 6 months and Research Methodology for 6 months. I was going back to Statistics after 27 years, so it was very challenging. During the first class test, out of 10 I scored only 2 marks and I failed my exam successfully. This brought a paradigm shift in my daughter’s approach towards my Ph.D journey. She identified a coaching center and we walked in for admission. The counsellor thought I came to admit my daughter. Then my daughter informed them that it was the other way round. The first month I sat with the 10th Class students and the second with 11th and so on till my course was done. The result was that I got distinction in the final examination. The most memorable experience was that when I entered the class room as a student, the children would stand up and wish me as they were 30 years younger than me.

You have been associated with travel and tourism sector for 20 years. What is the nature of your work?

I pursued my PG Diploma in Tourism and Travel from Institute of Hotel Management, Hyderabad in 1989 after my graduation. Tourism industry in those days had career options to work in airlines, airports and travel agencies. I hail from a conservative Dravidian family and pursuing this course itself was a big decision. My nature of work involved ticketing, designing tour packages, visa facilitation, passports, etc. Working in the travel industry for a decade, I shifted to academics by imparting this knowledge to students in the form of skill based and vocational education. I would design my classes with a lot of practical inputs. Presently, I am associated with a government organisation, working on policy making, capacity building, projects on beach development, etc.

How do you propose to use your PhD knowledge in the social work that you have taken up?

The topic of my research is An Empirical Study on the Socio Economic Impacts on the Development of Convention Tourism – A Study on Hyderabad.

During my research, I identified that Hyderabad holds a strategic position among the cities of India with specific reference to convention tourism. Each event organised in the city contributed to small and medium enterprises by way of shopping and contributed to the economic benefits of the city. The further scope of research of my study concluded that there is a need to promote local artisans and women. Therefore I would like assist these women artisans to market their products through geotagging and social media.

What is your message to the women of our country, particularly housewives?

I prefer the term home-makers.

My message is 2 Cs. That is Communication and Commitment. It is essential for every woman to express her dreams and desires with her family and friends so that they do not regret in the later part of life. Most women fear to express their desires. Also, a commitment to convert the cherished dreams and desires into reality is necessary. Challenges are there in every woman’s life as women play multiple roles, both in the domestic sphere and corporate life. In this process they prioritize themselves least. It is important to take out time for themselves and contemplate on their individual interests and pursue them. Education paves ways for economic independence. Therefore, it is important to be financially independent. The pandemic brought a paradigm shift in our lifestyles. With the help of technology, I advise all women to find out an opportunity according to their strengths. Also, pursue a hobby or an interest. This can be academic, artistic, contemporary art writing, gardening etc. which can give happiness and inner peace.

What next? Any more dreams?

Of Course! Presently I am writing two books. One on the Inspirational journey of a Cerebral Palsy Child who is into poetry writing. This book is aimed at parents, care takers and general public to tell the world that there is ability in disability. I am writing about the stigma attached to the girl child with disability and how the mentoring and support system enhances the child’s abilities. The eco system in the society about specially-abled children and how their talents can be enhanced are discussed in the book.

The other book is on Responsible Tourism. Pandemic brought Tourism industry into a grinding halt. So, it is imperative to sensitize individuals and tourists on issues related of climate change and sensitizing tourists to Dekho apna Desh and Swadesh Darshan. The book talks about future strategies on skill development, Beach development , conservation etc.


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