Friday, 27 November 2015


So I've been preparing to spend another holiday alone. It's thanksgiving, a time where families get together and eat a lot of turkey. Obviously, there is neither family here nor turkey (I'm not one to take the trouble to cook turkey if I'm eating alone. I don't like turkey anyway). It's just like any other day I spend alone except almost all the shops are closed including my favourite coffee shop. The library is closed. Also I know everyone else is having a great time with family or friends.

I guess sometimes you need to live your life and not wait around for people. It's important to learn to live alone, because there's just no other way. So I spent the day talking to people back home, catching up on Netflix (I finished Jessica Jones).

I went out for a walk in the evening. Somehow, evening skies never fail to inspire me. I guess sometimes we need this profound inspiration. It just made me rethink everything. Feel better. I felt more positive than I have in a long time. I played some songs I hadn't listened to in several years. Maybe it's the first time I really reclaimed a song. Made it mean something different. Because what it meant years ago no longer matters. It faded away, in the years in between.

I try to be in control. Powerful, impassive. But you don't imbibe that power. It comes from within. What you make of your life is upto you. You can sit around waiting, hoping, and then curl back up in disappointment. Or you can take control of how you want to feel. Some people say the vast skies make them feel insignificant. There is so much out there. Stars, Black holes, galaxies, galactic clusters, maybe more universes. But that does not mean you are insignificant. Because you exist. You exist too. You are part of the universe, the galaxies. You are made of the clouds and stars. And you have every right to be here, belong here. And you need to do it yourself, make yourself at home.

So there are a lot of things I am thankful for. I'm thankful of course for the people who care about me. But also to universe for being so beautiful and inspiring, because that's what keeps me going.

Monday, 5 October 2015

October moods

The bright cheery summer has suddenly changed into cold, rainy, grey October.
It's windy and the skies are always overcast. It's been like this for a week. In the beginning, it's a refreshing change from the heat but then you wish you could see blue sky for once.

So, today I was really craving soup and then I thought I saw a little bit of blue sky for a few minutes and then I got out to go to the cafe and get soup and sit outside and enjoy the weather for a bit but by the time I got out it was just grey. And it was too cold to sit out and eat soup. So I just came back home with the soup and watched the garden and courtyard from the window. Well, the soup was delicious. I'm certainly having it again. Or maybe if I feel like it I'll try making some at home.
Well, a cold Sunday evening with hot soup, toast and a nice book - not too bad.

After all, you've got to figure out a way to spend time alone when you're an adult. I know I always dreamed of having my own place. I quite like it most of the time. But sometimes I feel like I really want an actual conversation with an actual person. Not virtually. I realize I go days without speaking at all. Other than passing 'hi', 'hello', and 'how are you' (which, by the way, I feel is overused around here and I still don't know how to reply). If you count all that it's maybe and average of a minute a day. Or sometimes, the only non-virtual person I've spoken to all week is my advisor at our weekly meetings. Even worse is the very rare conversation you have really pissing you off. And then I think - well I'd rather not be talking at all. And that's how it's been.

So yes, this is not what I imagined it would be like. I always imagined I'd have my own space, but also that there would be gatherings I would host in my small but prettily decorated apartment, and there would be good food and deep, interesting conversations. Not only have I not had the time for that, no one else has either so it's difficult to get people together at one place and time.

I think the bigger issue is navigating socially in a new country. Social norms are different. Maybe I read things differently. For example, the 'how are you' from a person you meet every day would be odd in India. It's only something you say if you're meeting someone after a long time. So when in doubt I just be as friendly and nice as I can but really, I can't get around it. But I see that people do make friends, very good friends. I don't quite know if I'll get there. I suppose we just take for granted that when we move to a new place we'll meet new people and make friends. We never even think about it. After all, isn't that what we've always done? From moving schools - elementary to middle school to a new high school, then new college, institute/job - all that. We've done it every single time.

I wonder sometimes whether all this is really worth it. Living alone, so far away from home. And then I need to remind myself where I am and how lucky I am and I have every research tool I could possibly want literally at my doorstep.
But even then. Is it worth it? Spending a Sunday evening alone, while at home I'd be sitting with my family drinking tea and eating muri-chanachur and telebhaja. Sometimes I feel like wow, what would life have been if I just stayed in Calcutta and got a job and made it back home in time for tea every day. Of course, it's a different matter that I'd need a PhD to do even that!
Well, it doesn't work that way. I worked hard to get here for a reason. And I also love the independence. I guess there's always a price to pay, anything you do. It will all never be perfect.

So yes, I sit alone by my window as dusk falls and the lights fade. But it is my place. My window. Everything I've put together from scratch. The computer, phone and Kindle, dining table, chairs, couch lamps and shelves I bought. And suddenly it hits me what a long way I've come. It's a different life.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Little big things

There are some things you grow up learning but you don't realize you do.

In the process of growing up, for a long time you struggle with just not being enough. Not knowing enough, not being able to do enough, not quite catching up to other's expectations of you, and most importantly, not measuring up to your own expectations. 

Then what do you do? In a few years you realize that it's a never ending process. There is a lot that is out of your control. There are always going to be people smarter than you, prettier than you, more talented and accomplished than you. But there is one very important thing that is completely in your control - being a good person. And that is much much more important than anything else. It will make you feel better about yourself than anything else. 

It's not that nice people don't do bad things. But I think it's important to be the nicest person that you possibly can. It's one thing you can be good at if you try.

The best part is it's not very hard. It's one of the easiest things to do, actually. It never hurts to be nice. It's always safe. 

It doesn't mean you take everything that comes to you - you stand up for what's right and be honest. When in doubt, be nice. Because you never know, you might just make someone's day. There have been countless times in the recent past when a small act of kindness from a complete stranger made me feel better when I was having a horrible day and felt like there's no reason to exist. And I just want to put back some happiness in the world. Everyone should.  Because that's just what everyone needs. When you're having a bad day, every little thing begins to matter and sometimes someone being inadvertently rude or difficult can be the last straw and just send you into a breakdown. So, When you feel like everything in the world is going wrong, you need to be reminded that it's not all so bad after all. And I guess if you're nice, it will come back. And it will atleast reassure you that good people do exist. 

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Birthday lessons.

Another birthday gone. One year at Hopkins done. I feel like I'm back to square one. I need to begin again. 

True, every day can't be a good day, but my 24th birthday was just overwhelmingly "hello, welcome to being a real adult". Sometimes, everything that can mess up will.  And a lot of days are going to be really bad days but you have to find a way to get through them.

This is life. Get used to it. You're not a child anymore. You can't just cry and hope for something to make it better. 

No one will do things for you. You just have to take control of your life and do things for yourself. Go out and get what you want and screw what people think, because you have the right to do what will make you happy if no one else does. 

In the end you're on your own and the only person you're allowed to expect anything from is yourself. 

I realized the only way to do this is to just remind yourself of what you can do, what you have achieved and why you're great. Because every day, you're going to be reminded more than you need about what you're bad at. 

If all else fails just go to bed and sleep it off and hope tomorrow is a better day. 

Monday, 29 June 2015

The old and the new.

Reading my older blog posts I simply cannot believe the person I was and the person I am today.
It's not like don't relate to that person. But teenage to mid-twenties is an enormous change. It's nice to be able to see that change. Mid twenties. Almost. Wow am I old.

I cringe at the way I used to write. But I was young, innocent, exuberant. I still am, but I express very little. I write anything about myself and I think a hundred times before hitting 'publish' and more often than not, I don't. I felt everything deeply and passionately. Now I don't, at all. Do those few years really impact you so deeply that they turn you into who you are? Thinking back, maybe they do. Except when you're older you have more control over being who you want to be. Pain never lasts. You get over things you thought you never could. Time does heal everything. And then you think it's all gone, all over. But many years later, you wonder why you are like this and there it is - the answer. What you went through and what you chose to do when you were 16.

Change is natural of course. Change is great. The coolest thing is I still have this blog.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015


Stormy evenings are all the same.
Thunder and rain. Today, and seven, eight, nine years ago.
Here, or back home on the other side of the planet.

I wonder what happened to all the people I knew.
Those friends I texted all night on 11 Rupee SMS packs.
The best-friend-turned-girlfriend love stories I found so cute.
Dreaming of doing something great.
Becoming musicians and gypsies.
I guess you grow out of things mostly.

Rains were dark music and dreams.
What I was and what I wanted to be.
Wishing I smart like him, confident like her, fearless like her.

So many years later, so far away, the rain brings back the old dreams.
The people I looked up to, and wanted to be like, I wonder how they are now.
I see now that couldn't be like them.
But I don't need to anymore.
Because I am better than the random bits and pieces I wanted to put together.

I guess they have become who they wanted to be too.
I wonder who they are now.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Breaks and beginnings.

And vacation is done. 
California happened. Great home cooked food, orange juice in fancy wine glasses, days of cuddling in bed with books. Quaint, beautiful San Francisco with steep roads and lovely coffee. 
Pretty Monterey and the cold Pacific Ocean. 

It's time to go back. New things to be done. I'm equally excited and terrified. Maybe a little more terrified. I've never done a PhD before so obviously I have no experience. 
There's much to be done. Decisions to be taken. All that doing everything yourself alone adult life. 

Monday, 20 April 2015

Hello, spring.

The weather's great. The trees are colourful. We don't need jackets and boots anymore.
I took a solo trip to Washington D.C. to see the cherry blossoms.
I've always wanted to travel alone, I finally did it. Though it was a tiny little trip. And I ended up not being alone, but there's always next time.
Washington D.C. is beautiful. It would certainly be a great city I could run away to when I have time. There's a lot to do there.

I just prefer being on my own a lot. It just works better for me. It's what gives me inner peace. I guess some things don't change no matter how old you get. I like doing things on my own time. And I'm getting a chance to do exactly that and I'm going to make the most of it.

It's going to get hotter. I like the cold but this will be a welcome break till I get tired of getting sunburnt.

I will (hopefully) be going on a proper holiday for the first time in more than a year, soon. I can't wait. I'm also excited about my work and can't wait to learn more about what I want to know.
Geek or whatever. I've always been a geek. I don't mean the 'popular geek', I've just loved science ever since I can remember having any memories. I get to now be one of the people who actually find out new things. What could be more awesome to a person who gets high on the new?

And, it's time to get ready for monday. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Spring rain

Life's sort of good. 

The cold winter has died out. 
All the snow has melted away.
You can see the beginnings of green in the grass.
Spring is waiting to bloom.
Rain falls gently , feeding the earth. 

Spring break has begun.
It's a beautiful day for books and vanilla tea and family far away.

Life's sort of good.
 I love my new lab. 
It's the point in the semester when you eventually get to the cool stuff. 
I'm finally beginning to feel like I'm in the right place, doing the right thing. Solving a little piece of the puzzle of how Nature works. 
My hair is finally growing out and I also have more good hair days. 
I cook more. 
It's not so cold so no more thick jackets.

I guess you just can't help feeling better in the spring - sunshine or rain. 

And here's hoping for a good weekend. 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Screaming into vacuum

Still, white noise
Chaos inside your mind 
Trying to break free
Bleed out

Life comes back
Full circle
To push you all the way
To where you began. 

Unlearn, relearn.
An empty page
Waiting for a story to begin
From nothing

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Cozy corners.

Bustling cafe
Chai tea latte
Bright lights and bar stools
Haiku and strains of the flute.

The smell of books and coffee
Cozy chatter
A little blip of solitude
An hour of stolen silence.

Dreams of home and kitchen shelves
Mirrors reflecting empty rooms
Time gone
Now buried in bookshelves

Cloudy skies
Another day
Coffee and laughter
Killing loneliness.


Monday, 2 February 2015

Sunday scribbles.

One week through the semester. I like my classes so far. 2 more weeks of my rotation and I'm kind of lost there, but trying to muster some hope to face each day. Research is hard. I'm closer to taking the biggest decision of graduate school life - my PhD lab, and I definitely need to put a lot of thought into this.

I didn't realize this last sememster when I was very busy, but I like to be busy. Reasonably busy atleast. You would say it's easy to be busy when you want to, but it's actually not. Well, it's not like Baltimore has much to do anyway. Nor do I have a burgeoning social life (I probably don't want to either, but it certainly would not hurt to know some more people and I know that means active effort on my part). Life tends to get stagnant sometimes. Which is why it's good to be busy. But like they say, be careful what you wish for, it might just come true.

I'm enjoying my weekends pretty much. Dinner and drinks on Saturday night. Sleeping most of Sunday. Not a bad life?

I'm devastated that I'm missing 2 brothers' weddings. All the fun and excitement and gossip and dressing up and food all that. I sincerely hope I don't miss the others. And of course I miss Calcutta. The bustling, noisy streets, randomly meeting friends at South City, gelato, autos, the metro. Oh, so much.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Here we go again: Spring 2015.

The Spring 2015 semester begins. After a pretty long-ish break. Which I must say I enjoyed, but I certainly look forward to starting classes again. Being a little busier, chugging coffee while rushing to class, seeing more people, being forced to do more reading and thinking and learning new things and marvelling at science - that sort of thing.

I did some things I missed doing last semester - like lying in bed all day and reading. I'd forgotten what that was like. Reading is a great way of going on vacation without actually going anywhere. Which is why you should do it when you really want to get away. You'll be living in a different place, living someone else's life. It's very refreshing. I just read The Fault in Our Stars, which I got as a Christmas present. It was sad, but not earth-shatteringly tragic because you expect the tragedy, you know it's coming. But there are some very beautiful thoughts in there.
I got to spend a good amount of time in the very peaceful cozy library.

I also did some cooking. Home-style. Things like daal and spinach. With detailed step-by-step instructions on the phone from my mother, of course, which I hastily scribbled down in my notepad and kept next to the stove and periodically squinted at diligently to make sure I got everything.
Can't wait to make maach-er jhol. Slightly longer instructions for that. I guess cooking is a lot like doing experiments. It feels like that to me. Like reading a protocol and adding things and heating and stirring and then optimizing it. You need to be organized. Maybe if I cook more I'll get more used to it.

I also discovered the most amazing cookies-and-cream milkshake at the cafe in the Biology lounge. No wonder I gained a huge amount of weight in the last 5 months. (I officially fall in the category of 'fat' now.)

It's been raining and snowing on and off lately. I like snow but I don't like rain. Snow is just so white and pretty.

I am currently listening to a lot of Hindustani Classical and Coke Studio. Currently playing on loop (thanks to Pritam): Cheene re mora chain', sung by Rashid Khan.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Beginnings update

And so, my year has begun with confusion.

I'm confused about my work, confused about what I really want to work on, because I just realized everything I thought I'd like to do isn't quite turning out to be something I want to do. Learning new things has changed my perspective. So I have one more rotation left and I need to think very carefully about it. Because I have to decide on a lab after that.
Not to mention my experiments and what I'm getting out of them is confusing.

And life in general is confusing and I'm having a hard time trying to figure things out.

I would say the vacation is going pretty well - no classes for a while is probably what I needed but it's made me lazy. And I'm somehow ending up making a lot of mistakes. I can't believe I'm actually looking forward to the semester starting again. I'll be stressed like crazy, I remember last semester. But I'll be more active, I'll see more people and I'll always be doing something. I might be depressed but I won't have time to feel it. But well, it's good to enjoy the break while it lasts. I should have done more during this time though. I didn't write much or read much. Or cook yet. I basically slept a lot and ate a lot of waffles and ate breakfast every day. And spent some time underground with the optical tweezers.

Just 2 more weeks till normal life ends.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

And starting off

I know resolutions are cliched, but I like to make them every year more as a reminder of the things I would like to focus on. It's just an opportunity for a new start. A chance to re-focus. Nothing dramatic.

Well, to start off with, I did cross off one thing from my bucket list - watching the Times Square Ball Drop. Arguably, one of the biggest new year events in the world. Despite (literally) freezing my ass off in the cold for 7 hours and not being able to walk much after that, that's not what I remember. I remember the people around me from all over the world, the excitement as we counted down the long minutes till midnight together. It was great meeting so many different people, becoming friends for those few hours. There was a girl from Ireland, a bunch of Bangladeshi college students, a software engineer/video game designer from California, a Stanford graduated mechanical engineer from Hong Kong, an orthopaedic surgery resident from Mexico. And us, Hopkins graduate students. It was bearable only because of them. We stood and talked about our work and what life was like where we came from, and shared food and heating pads and shivered.

I guess sometimes you need to be forced to standing around with a bunch of random people in order to really socialize. I probably wouldn't have bothered otherwise. It was a pretty good experience to get out of this place, where sometimes I feel like I'm the only one here. I was reminded that a huge big world exists out there, with very different people who do very different things and are chasing their own dreams and have their own stories.

Times Square reminded me of Durga Pujo in Calcutta. College Square and Mohammed Ali Park on Ashtami evening.

I think sometimes we undermine the value of good conversation. We get so caught up in the other things that we forget that sometimes, you need to sit back for a while and just talk. Even better with good food and cocktails or coffee. Maybe I will do more of that when I find time.

One of the things I should probably do is try and feel good about myself more. On most days I wake up feeling stupid and inadequate and demotivated. It reflects on my outward appearance too. Because there will always be so much I don't know, so much I haven't done. I need to figure out a way around it. And the only way I can think of is to make sure I know more and do more. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's feeling crappy because I don't understand or know something.

I want to read more books. Write more, as always, though it turns out writer's block is my default state. Cook more. Try something totally new, like dancing. Join a dance class next semester. Try to make my life a little more balanced and healthier. As much as I can atleast, with graduate school life and all. Simplify and uncomplicate. Talk more. I'm sure if I tried talking to people it wouldn't be so bad. And I shouldn't skip parties if I can.

And as usual, I start off with a whole lot of hope. Here's to the (highly overrated) new beginning!