Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The year-end thing.

I now have blogger on my phone so I can write whenever I feel like.

The year is ending. Looking back, it's been a good mix of very different experiences. Mostly good ones. 

And I will be at Times Square, New York at midnight. I haven't been out of this place since I got here in August. It's high time I did. I need a break, I need to see more life. 

There are things I need to do, things I need to stop doing. Call it an end, call it a beginning. 

I should listen to music more. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Snow stories

I didn't even realize it was snowing until I went out in the morning.
And the snow fell in silent white flakes, thicker and thicker. It wasn't very cold surprisingly. 
And suddenly I was just overwhelmed by how beautiful it is. I never really thought it would be such a big deal. It's not really the first time I'm seeing snow. But I don't have memories of my first time seeing snow last time because I was 5 years old.
And my feeling like crap because of sleeping 2 hours last night and having way too much work and screwing up experiments is gone.

It's quiet and very peaceful. Everyone has left for thanksgiving vacations. The cafeteria and lounge is empty except for me. So I get a nice table by the window where I can see it snowing. It's so quiet I can almost hear myself think. And every keystroke as I type. I'm taking a break for a little while. Also because I can't keep going out in the snow for coffee which I'll need later so I'm sitting and having lunch and coffee. I brought my work here but I can probably finish it later.

I finally bought winter stuff but probably need snow boots. I also managed to make my room look livable finally. So I feel relatively like I have some sort of a home now. It's thanksgiving tomorrow and we hope to inaugurate the oven. Though I have no idea how. I'd love to bake. It's something I haven't done in a while. And it feels good to bake things for people. But I guess it's just going to be a small thanksgiving dinner. Probably just the 3 of us as usual. Maybe it's better that way. I might even cook. And hope that something edible turns out. 

Oh well, I'm going to trudge back to my lab through the snow. And enjoy the snow while I can.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Here and Now

Eggs, black forest ham and pepperjack cheese can get you so much happiness. Like waffles and maple syrup for a lazy saturday breakfast.
As can faux-leather jackets, pretty damn high-heeled boots, green dresses and red coats.

Many things have changed since I got here. I no longer like being alone much because the alternative is just so much happier. It's scary because I'm afraid I might lose the ability to be on my own. And I was thinking I'd get a lot more alone time after I get here but it hasn't happened. So looks like a few months have changed me into a pretty social person. Yes, I actually like people. I wouldn't even mind parties now. Heh.

I still haven't  had time to make my house look like a place where people live. And maybe that's more why I don't particularly like it there. Though 'living' there at the moment consists of occasionally going to sleep for about 3 hours. Note: my definition of 'sleep' has changed. Anything more than 2 hours qualifies as sleep. Less than 2 hours will be a nap. My sleep pattern over the last few weeks, with the exception of maybe one day has been a staggered series of naps. Oh well, what to do!

I also got pretty attached to my last rotation lab, which was weird because it's one of the most intense and demanding experiences I've ever had. Maybe it was because I spent way too much time there. It started feeling like home. The one week break between rotations, I felt like a nomad. Of course, it was a relief - I got a much needed break. I wasn't extremely crazy about the lab, to be honest, but I learnt some cool things, and did get something out of it in the end. Pushing myself to the limit was part of it, and I'm probably glad it happened that way. Maybe it was also because it was a long time since I'd been in a lab.  And maybe the last time (during my PhD atleast) that I'd be affiliated to a 'Department of Chemistry'. My program has labs everywhere and I probably won't be rotating in Chemistry after this.
And well, I liked my shiny white lab coat and radiation badge and beep-beeping Geiger counter. When I left and handed in my keys I almost felt like I'm leaving my hometown or something. Though effectively I'm just moving to the next building. Biology.

I'm excited about my next rotation because it's a lot of things I wanted to do.  Single molecule biophysics and protein folding. Kind of a step away from my whole attraction to nucleic acids. It's like when you read a paper and you completely fall in love with what they're doing. Love at first read? Something like that. And you think, OMG, this is what I want, this is what I've been waiting for - I just had to know it existed. Fortunately, we get to rotate and try things so I'm looking forward to it and let's see how it goes.

And here we go, another week of too many things and 2 hour naps. And then there's Thanksgiving break. But I'm going to have a good saturday night (something I haven't done in a pretty long time) and then go back to worrying about the rest of the things I need to worry about. Sometimes maybe you just really need to let go for a bit. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Lessons from Graduate School.

1. In graduate school, you are on your own. No one else does the same thing. No one else goes through exactly what you do. And so, no one else will understand your situation. You're alone, and you have to learn to deal with it and maybe stop trying to explain yourself to other people.

2. No one gives a damn about what you're doing, so it's a good idea to get used to that and stop worrying about what other people think of you. We don't realize that half of what we do is moulded by our concern of what other people think. The thing is - everyone is too busy trying to get a handle on themselves, they don't have time to think about other people. And even if they do - you simply have to stop caring about it. Because there's already too much to handle. In the end it's your journey. 

3. People get screwed up, but many do survive well enough. You can never judge another person, and you shouldn't, because again, you can't really know their whole situation. 

4. You need friends. You need a social circle, because you will need all the support you can get. Isolation will inevitably get you depressed. I used to be a person who loved being alone and did great without friends or a social circle, but being alone is not easy when you're overloaded with things. You need people to distract you sometimes.

5. It's hard to make friends because it's hard to meet people who will be interested in interacting with you beyond a purely professional level. So you should probably not have too high hopes about making friends. 

But if you like science and you like to learn, you can probably stay happy enough through all of it.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Here I am.

So, here I am again. It's been a little more than two months since my graduate school life started.
My life is extremely crazy right now but yeah, I would rather be here than anywhere else.
Whenever things get too bad (it usually is quite bad), I remind myself where I am. And try to be amazed that I'm at such a legendary place, walking through buildings where legends have worked, legendary science has been done, and is being done.
My house looks like its been robbed, my kitchen has not been entered for a month, I still have no furniture and I'm still living out of a suitcase and a sleeping bag (some improvement: I have a mattress).
I have no idea when or where I'm going to eat or sleep next, which makes me essentially nomadic.
Though thankfully I have friends who cook.
I try to get some sleep about once a week.
Summer is going away, and the lush green is slowly turning yellow and orange.
But I'm becoming better at things like programming. Which I always wanted to do. So I am pretty much getting to learn and do what I wanted.
Just like anything, it's taking time getting used to the language of biophysics. Like how learning biology was like learning a new language.
Here, I feel like I know something. I feel satisfied that I know things, sometimes things other people don't, and I can participate, and contribute to the common learning. Be atleast somewhat aware of discussions during group meetings and seminars. Just goes to show how every experience you have is valuable.
I'm still as scatterbrained as always, though purple and orange post-its all over my desk are keeping things in control. Also, my lab bench is pretty colourful :

I also have black muticolour polka-dotted boots that are colourful and cheer me up when it's grey and gloomy and raining.
Oh yeah, and I still don't use american spelling. I doubt I'll get into the habit.
Fall should be pretty, and colourful.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

On starting life as a legitimate adult.

It's been about 3 weeks since I moved to Baltimore. And now I realize what being an adult really means.

You're not an adult when you're 18. You're an adult when you sign a lease, rent an apartment, buy furniture, pay rent, set up utilities, buy routers and get a new wifi connection, cook, clean the house, create a bank account, use your own debit card and keep track of your finances, sign a bunch of legal papers, make sure you always have your keys, pay electricity and phone bills, shop for groceries - all on your own. And of course manage graduate school at the same time.

Surprisingly, I do have some kind of a social circle already (improvement improvement!) because it tends to get very depressing without human contact. I'm not as bad at meeting people as I used to be, and I don't dislike it. I've been making and effort and it's easier here because people are friendly. I am still to make friends with people in the classes I'm taking, but I think I'll get there.

It's exciting to be at Johns Hopkins - the place is legendary after all. But it's equally terrifying. If I was among the 5 to be entering this program, I apparently can't be all that bad, but I do have a lot of new things to learn. I guess the only way to not be overwhelmed is to try to be more excited than terrified. Not easy, admittedly.

Well, the semester is just about to begin full fledgedly and it's going to be  very busy one. Let's hope I manage to make it through in one piece!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Because I decided to not be lazy for a few minutes and post something.

This rainy gloomy weather is making me extremely lazy. As much as I like that it's not burning hot, it would work better for my mood if there was some sunlight sometimes.

So, I am lazy. I'm addicted to 2048 and I'm binge watching Grey's Anatomy. I make pasta sometimes and drink quite a lot of green tea and buttermilk.

In 3 weeks time I'm going to be in Baltimore, starting my PhD at Johns Hopkins. The excitement has abated a little. (It shouldn't. I'm going to Johns Hopkins, for heaven's sake!) I'm going to my dream school. So I should be so damn excited I can't keep my head on.
Sigh. I'm probably too lazy to be that excited?

Well, anyway, it means my lazy days are coming to an end. I can't wait but I will miss doing nothing all day. I've had a great break. I haven't done much, but I've done the things I love doing most. The simple pleasures of being able to sleep as much as I want, not having to talk to people a lot, reading a lot of books and watching a lot of movies, singing and swimming. And enough laziness to last me a few years.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014


It's hard to believe school was 5 years ago. Really, what happened in the time in between? Just as high school seemed like 2 very very long years, 3 years of college went by in a click. Chemistry, friends, relationships, all that. But school is what I remember.

It can't be that long ago, wearing those blue skirts and black shoes. Backpacks with notebooks with doodles on the last page. Gossiping about boys and girls from other schools. Music practice. Tuitions after school. Quick bites of chicken roll in between.

Twisted bylanes of Golpark, going away from the busy road to the quiet little street. The building by the little shop, the dark staircase leading up to the 4th floor room, buzzing with talk, laughter, anticipation. Silence as the teacher comes in, and minds whirring like machines. And the way back to the main road, the same phuchka stall and ice creams. Today, I went back there. My feet took me down the road like I was just going back to tuition after a week. Up the stairs. The door was closed.

Nothing has changed, except me.

Back then, I knew nothing. I didn't know what I wanted to be, and just assumed I had to be like everyone else. I was there because everyone was and I found my way out of the herd by being in it. I wasn't as good at everything as I would have liked. Now, I am more confident of myself, I know who I am. I am bold enough to go back there and say that I didn't go the way you all tried to. I'm not as brilliant at physics as I would've liked to be back then, and hated myself for not being, but I'm good at something. I may not have gotten into IIT, or even tried hard enough, but I'm happy enough and successful in my own way. 

And I grew out of my cocoon. I made friends, fought and went through all that drama, and I am glad to have experienced every bit of it. Those rooms and roads made up more memories of my school life than school did. And somewhere along the way, I don't know when, I grew up a little bit more. But only a little bit.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Winter rain

Chilly wind, the smell of wet earth, lush green and the sound of raindrops pitter-pattering, everything outside washed and glistening, the pigeon on the windowsill and the grey, dark, melancholy sky.

The first rain of the year.

There's something so profoundly and beautifully inspiring about rain, maybe because its a reminder of one of the many facets of the beautiful planet we live in. The urge to embrace and express this beauty through art, words and music hits with the sound of raindrops. We channel our beauty through that of nature.

Rain is Raag Brindavani Sarang played on the sitar, watercolour paintings of flowers and leaves and dewdrops, a fountain pen running across the pages of a notebook, and the intricate but simple beauty of mathematics and the laws of physics.

It manages to unchain thoughts we otherwise couldn't express, talents we never knew we had.

It's a beautiful sunday I'm fortunate enough to enjoy, curling up with some good old Famous Fives I never get tired of. They take me back to my childhood, transport me to another time while the cold rainy wind blows in.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Valentine's, blah blah

Valentine' week has begun and either I am getting old or I find Valentine's day and the associated crap overhyped. It was probably fun and a big deal in college but Rose day and Teddy Bear day? Mostly a huge marketing gimmick to make people buy roses and teddy bears and thousands of gifts. Cute for some people, not for me. A whole week of mushiness and trying to outdo each other with gifts - horrifying! Well, probably not surprising since I prefer to keep human contact to a minimum.

Of course it is fun to have this one day when you plan something with your partner, but I sometimes think it's something like a saving grace for people who don't bother to do it every day. It happens. The story behind Valentine's day is actually sweet, but it probably makes more sense for couples to celebrate a day that means something to them. Like an anniversary. Though it's understandable that normal people (unlike me) will look for an excuse to celebrate.

Or maybe I'm just too distanced from civilization and being cynical. Or irritated because I have to talk to people before I drink coffee after I wake up. I'm binge-watching Castle (I have a major crush on Kate Beckett) and reading too many food blogs (I am in love with food).

I recently watched Frozen and I love this song

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Virtual Reality

I should probably be living in another decade, not this one with all the social media. Doesn't anyone else find it exhausting and invasive to be in contact with people all the time?

This is why I don't own a smartphone with an internet connection. Of course there are a lot of useful features like GPS and the ability to get information about all the restaurants in a 10 mile radius, but I can actually survive with them. And despite persistent badgering from every single person I know I refuse to install Whatsapp on my phone. Look at it this way, people did quite well before cell phones were made.

Technology is taking over our lives. Almost nothing is private anymore. Its great to share, but it's come to a point where we think a memory is wasted if we don't take photos and write about it and post it for everyone to see, but what we don't realize is that maybe we're not living the moment itself, and the memory will stay just as a long-forgotten photo we'll probably never see again rather than in our minds.

It's also very irritating when people are fiddling with their phones at social gatherings. Fine, you may be a little bored, but the objective of a social gathering, like a lunch out with friends or a dinner with family is to communicate, or make an effort.

It's actually ironical that social media, while enabling us to be closer to people is actually distancing us from them. When someone is on our friend list, we become complacent. Because we are already tagged as friends. Why do anything more?

Other than that, it's tiring. It's too much. One social network is enough for me, and I simply can't be bothered to make Twitter and Tumblr and Instagram and a thousand other accounts, just because everyone else is doing it.

I don't want to be accessible all the time. If people really want to contact me, they will. If I want to contact anyone, I will. I need to have an excuse for not talking to people when I don't feel like it, or when I'm doing something else and that's impossible to do if I'm visible 'online' all the time.

I'd rather have a real life and not a dominant virtual one. There is a virtual me, but it's not a copy of the real me. I want to live for the moment, and not for a photo or status update or a photo, and make real memories stored in my real self than memories made for the sake of my virtual life. It's not a very easy distinction to make, but once you think about it, you'll start to understand what I mean.

Friday, 24 January 2014


Just another one of those days I don't feel like doing anything, and am pissed off at everything and craving things I can't have and trying to write for days and days but not being able to make much sense. And then the moments of creative inspiration have been done to death, in trying to create something out of a random web of ideas, phrases, images, feelings and words.

I sometimes feel like I'm switching off from everything and everyone, one by one. It does scare me a little. But not a lot. I don't really mind switching off. That again, is a little scary. But from what I've seen, life is made of these different phases which are often disjointed, and you might as well accept that you can't have everything at once. So it's nice enough looking back at moments that were, knowing you enjoyed them, but that they are over and can't come back. If they did, they wouldn't be the same, and that would depress you even more. That's how time works. Goes forward, never back. And even if you could time travel, you would still be a passive observer.

I think writing spontaneously works out best. Have an idea, write it down. It's happened too many times that in the attempt to make something beautiful and perfect, I lose interest in the actual idea and it just gets wasted. And later attempts don't do justice to the original spark of enthusiasm.

Maybe I should just go back to reading Harry Potter. That works as a cure for everything.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Happy things.

I'm thinking of starting the 100happydays project. I'm already a pretty optimistic person, and usually always manage to find something little to be happy about. It just means I have to take a photo of something I'm happy about every day and post it. A bit of work, but I like the idea. I have a suspicion most of the things that make me happy will be food.

I finished Catcher in The Rye. Some parts are quite nice, but overall I just didn't get it. I'm also reading The Emperor's New Mind by Roger Penrose. It is really brilliant. I should also probably start watching Sherlock. I just don't particularly like remakes of classics but this one is supposed to be very good as an independant series, so I should probably just forget about the Sherlock Holmes I read. 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Cooks and books.

I'm currently reading The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger. It's supposed to be a terrific classic but the language is really getting on my nerves. Sort of the complete opposite of the last book I read, Wuthering Heights. If it hadn't been a famous book and all I wouldn't have read beyond the first few pages. Anyway, it's a small book so I should probably plough through and finish it. I love reading and I love literature but honestly, I'm not some great literary critic. I don't like all the classics. I hated Pride and Prejudice. Actually, it got on my nerves so much, the most I managed to read was 5 chapters, in 5 attempts. And I tried it that many times only because it's proclaimed to be one of the greatest books of all time. But it's just not my type.

I've also started making some food. Not cooking exactly. I made begun pora (or baigan bharta, whatever you call it) a few times, I make raitas and the old scrambled eggs. My whole diet plan is not going great (not surprising!). I don't seem to be able to stay off either chocolates or coffee(which obviously needs a lot of sugar). Well, once the supply of chocolates at home is exhausted it might help! And I had coffee because I had a bad cold. I'm liking yoga, it actually feels quite good and contrary to what I thought before, it's great for toning up. It's not very easy.

It's dinnertime, and I'm going to bake some fish today and make more begun pora. I love that stuff. Goodnight! 

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Woes of an idli-dosa-sambar craving Calcuttan.

One thing I don't understand is why Bengalis hate South Indian food. Also there are very very few places that serve authentic South Indian food in Calcutta, and even most of those who claim to be authentic have no idea what sambar tastes like (they assume they can get away with serving daal) , make strange half-cooked stuff they call idlis and dosas and not a trace of coconut is to be found in their chutney.

And this is incredibly sad for a person who has grown up in Bangalore, surrounded by beautiful crisp masala dosas, fluffy idlis and utthapams and fragrant rasam. And unfortunately, I have dosa cravings like I have chocolate cravings, and have NOWHERE to go.

Once I ended up trying to satisfy this craving at one of the mall food courts, after which I vowed never to try South Indian food in Calcutta ever again and I'm still looking for something to neutralize the taste it left in my mouth.

So really, why do people here hate South Indian food? Even if I find a place, I can't find a single person who will go there with me. Is it because Bengalis have a deep dislike for anything vegetarian, or they simply haven't tasted the real thing? I think it's some combination of both. But then, even all my friends and relatives in Bangalore/Hyderabad/Chennai complain about the food. All the time. I guess the palate is just not something they are used to.

Anyway, I don't mind going anywhere alone, strictly, but it's no fun eating in a restaurant alone and not have anyone to gossip with over it and talk about the food and the flavours and appreciate the beauty of it. There are 2 new restaurants I found out about, one is Sambhar on CIT Road, and the other is The Chennai Restaurant, on Prince Anwar Shah connector. I can't wait to try them.

I really must visit Bangalore soon, and when I do, I will make sure I stick to a strictly local diet. Idlis, dosas, vadas and utthapams ALL DAY.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Reflections and resolutions

 The usual new-year stuff of course. The cliched 'another year gone by, a new one to face'.

Well, 2013 was a blur for me. For half the year I oscillated between very happy and very sad. Which eventually gravitated exclusively to extremely depressed. But then, I did what I thought was right, I got myself back on the track I believed I was meant to follow without wasting any more time, and so, without sustaining much damage. I took some major risks and in the end they did pay off. And of course, in the process, I gifted myself something I always wanted more of but never really had : time. I would say it was not an extremely eventful year, but eventful enough for some things to last.

And I realized that this gift of time is really the best I could have. So I think I've been extremely lucky. We never get a break. Like a real break. It's always a continuous one thing to another - hardly any holidays or holidays spent cramming or preparing for the next thing you have to do. I mean, I know that's how life is, but being free is such a blessing. I have time to read books, something I hadn't really done for a long time. Write, cook, watch sunset, learn music, read about random things. Just let the world soak in. Learn because I wanted to and not because I had to learn it for an exam. It's quite refreshing to do that.

I do admit I've mostly been a recluse all this time. Even more reclusive than I used to be. It might sound scary that I love to live in total isolation for very very long periods of time. It probably borders on sociophobia, but I just need that peace. I can't stand crowds, I don't particularly like talking to people, I hate telephones, large groups of people completely freak me out and even TV noise with too many people talking makes me want to scream. Parties and loud music get on my nerves. I need quiet. I don't even particularly like the idea of going out to meet my friends (not that I actually have many) if I'm not really close to them or it's someone I don't know very well, but am interested in getting to know. That way there are new things to talk about and that's exciting. Otherwise, it feels like a waste of time I could be spending on my own. Science is very social though, I'll have to find a way to deal with that. Though of course, discussions on something you like and know about is certainly different from awkward silences while meeting people normally.

My resolutions for this year are simple. Take good care of myself, mind and body. Sort out all the health issues. Follow 'early to bed and early to rise'. I don't care if I sound old, an unhealthy lifestyle is certainly not cool. I want to learn and expand my knowledge. Read more, write more. Be happy. Get fitter and lead a healthy life in general. Go organic - cut out as much as possible on nasty chemicals and try to use completely natural products as much as possible. Sounds funny I know, being a chemist and all, but I also know how bad these chemicals are - the stuff we use in cleansers and shampoos and food with preservatives. I've always had a fetish for bath products (no, actually I have a fetish for anything that smells nice, like shampoos, soaps, lip balms and perfumes) so as usual, I will go around trying new things, but stick to the natural stuff this time.

 I also should learn to drive though I'm not that crazy about it. I'd rather cycle. I've started yoga classes and will start meditating and working out too. I really have to. Unfortunately, I've crossed the age where I could eat anything and not get fat and boast about it. Well, I guess I'm paying for that now, all that carbohydrate and fat had to go somewhere over these years! :P The only problem is that I love food too much. Anyway, there has to be a trade-off somewhere. And I think I actually don't mind the idea of eating healthy. It's not that hard.

I also updated my flickr photostream and hope to take more photos when I feel like it. You can find the link on the right side of the blog in the links section. Have a look! I'm not an obsessive photographer unless I'm on a trip somewhere so it might not be very often. But I hope I will blog more, if I'm not too lazy and if I don't feel too cringy about expressing myself. Also, I gave the blog another makeover. It's serene enough but not boring, and bright enough without being overbearing. I love green. I think it looks good enough to eat, candy colours and all!

Well, goodbye for now, Happy New Year and good luck with everything you wish to achieve this year! :-)