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Sumangali Radhakrishnan
Careers and professional development, Children, young people and families, Education

Not there yet

Sumangali Radhakrishnan brings us a short poem that focusses on the lived experiences of precariously employed, qualified academics in higher educational institutions in India.

03 January 2023

She is a woman of science
Anecdotes backed by evidence
Clean research designs
And some personal experiments
Single sample method
Initiated as she feels
She is not there yet

Her* hands, a research site
Threads black and red
Running around the wrist
Hypothesised to protect from evil
And fulfil wishes
She tests knowing
She is not there yet

Things to bring her back
On a track of milestones
Decided for her
By academic top scores
Fuelled by aspirations
Others and her own
She is not there yet

Study, study some more
And get a job
A career, a house, and family
You can have them all
Smart and bright
They called her a star, but
She is not there yet

Her experiment tests
Possibilities of a better life
By appeasing stars and planets
As she carries on with a job
She does with one-sided love
She tests the ideas one-by-one
She is not there yet

A coral for Mars
To bring stability at work
An opportunity to stop
And stick at one place
No more displacements
On others’ whim change
She is not there yet

An emerald for Mercury
To keep her sharp
As she battles with mundane
Reserved for the ‘temp’ class
Besides the real work,
Her job description
She is not there yet

A cat’s eye for Neptune
To remove all creative blocks
And let energies flow
So she can write papers
Her ship is anyways docked
In Port Publish and Perish
She is not there yet

A yellow sapphire for Jupiter
To keep her enthusiasm alive
On days she wants to give up,
The ones that compress her
In power flights
Those above her take
She is not there yet

A ruby for Sun
To bring some success at last
Especially for days
There are new laws
Ones that push her on a spiral
Dreams of tenure
She is not there yet

A pearl for the Moon
To bring some mental peace
She lost on her way
Becoming a celebrated
Always-there-for-you teacher
She is not there yet

The experiment is on year five
Science left at some point
But the stones remain
Hopes of stability and success
Fairness and mental peace
She is not there yet

Further information


*‘The “her” in Not there yet embodies the lived experiences of precariously employed, qualified academics in higher educational institutions in India, who are employed on a temporary or ad-hoc basis with little to no job security. From constantly changing regulations to a major power imbalance, which makes organisational bullying easy for some; from a lack of maternity leave, until recently; to loss of pay in case of illness during the semester, the system can make you feel unfairly treated. The support received from colleagues and superiors, positive feedback from students, and the nature of the job itself become the primary reasons for one to continue one’s work with almost the same level of drive everyday. My piece is an attempt to provide a voice to colleagues who are living precariously on a semester-to-semester basis.

References to the various stones in the poem are based on Indian astrological beliefs, wherein certain gemstones are associated with specific planets, and wearing them can have a positive impact on one’s life. For instance, wearing a pearl is believed to help deal with gloom and depression, symptoms associated with the maleficent effects of the moon.’

About the author

Ms. Radhakrishnan is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology, Jesus and Mary College, University of Delhi. Her primary interest revolves around contributing to research and training that promotes meaningful work and decent working conditions for all.