An academic at an institute like IISER Mohali has been an under-graduate, graduate student, post-doctoral fellow and so on at a number of different institutes. The faculty, facilities and general atmosphere that one observes at these prior places of study forms the basis of the kind of teaching and research facilities that we attempt to create in our current place of work. We try to get what we see as the best out of each of these priors and see how it can be re-created.
Naturally, we encounter difficulties in this process. The primary one often appears to be "Other People":
- Faculty members whose experience is different from our own may have a different vision than our own.
- Administrative staff would like to ensure that our creative process does not violate instituional and governmental norms.
- Students who have never been elsewhere may fail to appreciate the effort that is being put in.
However, I feel that the real difficulty is "Negativity". Even if someone does not share our enthusiasm for a particular project, they should not object to our own time and effort spent on it. Even if someone wants us to obey rules, they may want to show us how to work within them. Even if students may not appreciate our efforts right away, they are (we hope!) benefitting from them.
The core of Negativity is the act of taking away choices from other people. Of course, we understand that the other person's choice does not include bumping her/his fist against our nose! Social norms and rules are meant to ensure that this is prevented. However, it is best to limit rules to such cases where significant harm (physical or otherwise) to another is a likely scenario. Limiting the choices available to others in the name of improving society or individuals without their consent is another name for the exercise of power and control.
To paraphrase my high-school teacher: The blue bird of happiness is a hard bird to catch but remaining focussed on one's own positive goals is the best kind of salt to put on its tail!
One need not feel any satisfaction in seeing another person achieving their goals, but it is disastrous to have one's own happiness hinge upon another's failure!