Column: Vishal Onkhar


This is Vishal Onkhar’s last column for Delta. Writing has been good for him, but not always easy, he says. It often felt like a three-way wrestling match. Nevertheless, he expresses his gratitude to all of you readers.

“I grew from a bright and hopeful MSc student to a tired and somewhat jaded PhD candidate in the final stretch of his endeavour.” (Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

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“I regret to announce – this is the end! I am going now. I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye!” And with that, Bilbo Baggins put on the One Ring and vanished. If only it were so easy in real life. But even old Bilbo didn’t leave without giving a speech first. I guess I have no choice.

My dear readers and editors, critics and well-wishers, colleagues, students, professors, strangers, friends, and family. Today marks the end of four years as a Delta columnist, another two as a student contributor, and a few dozen articles. What an adventure it’s been! To say I am sad it’s over would be an understatement. But as they say, all good things must come to an end. And while writing for Delta has been good, it has not always been easy.

Coming up with interesting columns each month has posed a challenge. You very quickly run out of ideas. Sometimes, you run into illness, physical or otherwise. Articles also have a habit of turning up in one way in your head, but turning out in another on-screen, leaving you feeling conflicted. Not to mention the countless hours spent on background reading and tweaking every word, and the many, many scrapped drafts. Eventually, you resign yourself to the fact that despite your best efforts, not every piece is going to be impactful or go viral. In fact, many of your articles start to feel like foolish ramblings after a while. Wait, are we still talking about columns or research papers now?

In one corner are the stalwart Delta editors, and in another are the nimble readers

Joking aside, even when a good idea has materialized, writing a column can often feel like a three-way wrestling match. In one corner are the stalwart Delta editors, with their insistence on word limits and topics relevant to TU Delft (highly subjective), and in another are the nimble and (rightfully) demanding readers, quick to pounce on any inevitable opening, such as insufficient nuance or depth. In the third corner is me, teetering on the top-rope of the ring, in a desperate attempt to take out both opponents in one leap of faith.

In truth, I owe an immense debt of gratitude to both these challengers. Without them, I have no sparring partners to hone my technique, and cannot hope to write much that is worth reading. So, thank you for your time (especially those of you who’ve joined me along the whole adventure), for your patience (I recall a few rants, some arguments, and bouts of writer’s block), and for your feedback (having flaws in my arguments pointed out has taught me to think better). And if you liked my work over the years, and just so happen to know somebody hiring hungry young PhDs / writers, I won’t complain if you whisper behind my back 😉.

Regardless, I am certain we shall meet again in different circumstances. After all, the end of one adventure often sparks the start of another, just as The Hobbit led to The Lord of the Rings. And so, I’m glad to announce – this is the beginning!

Vishal Onkhar is from Chennai, India and pursuing his PhD in Vehicle Engineering at TU Delft. He is an avid player of chess and video games, but he also harbours a special interest for reading and writing fantasy fiction. He doesn’t drink coffee but good music and film have the same effect on him.

Columnist Vishal Onkhar

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