Monday, July 31, 2006

The boy who always smiles

Today was good-bye lunch with a good pal of mine, D. My first few encounters with D had been on the bus, (Seems like my social life revolves around the bus ;) ) and the first thing that struck to me about him was how he was always smiling. Later on, we often crossed paths in the building, and I found out that our labs were in the same building. I assumed he was an undergrad kid doing part-time research in one of the labs. We always chatted up when we met on the bus or in the building, and he was always upbeat, always making me laugh. One fine day, I was having a conversation with Dr. L, a professor, who mentioned in passing "Oh, a graduate student in my lab D is working on that". D? While picking up my dropped jaw from the floor, I asked her again, gasping. D is a graduate student?? Yeah, she said. Why was I so surprised?

Graduate students are not supposed to be happy and smiling all the time! Graduate students have to look worried about experiments, papers, and other shit every now and then. They have to have dark circles under their eyes from all those night outs in the lab. They cannot go about being all cheerful all the time! In the umpteen encounters I had with D, I never, ever, saw him down. Bumping into him or talking to him used to uplift me, his positivety was contagious. When I discovered that D was applying some similar techniques that I used, we began meeting often, to discuss ideas and science. Over time we became quite good friends. Like me, D was a foreign student in the U.S. His visa restrictions were even worse, he could never go home to visit his folks in the past 5 years after he got here, nor were his parents able to visit him. He had to have been through similar woes and downs that most grad students go through, especially the foreign ones. Nevertheless, D had a smile, and a very genuine, warm one at that, plastered to his face. He was always friendly, discussed science and life with the same gusto and always had a kind word for you. He was not excessively loud either. Just a simple, smiling guy. :) D recently turned Dr. D. In his defense seminar, his advisor gave him a glowing introduction- she said she wished she could be like him and smile through all her worries. His seminar showed that he had done a massive amount of work. He evidently had his share of night-outs, disappointments, and lows. But as L described him, he never let anything bring him down, constantly maintained high spirits through everything, and produced some wonderful work in his stint here.

How he can be like that remains a huge mystery to me. He is going on to an awesome position and I'm very happy for him. Over the past year or so, we exchanged several ideas and approaches and he was very generous in acknowledging my help during his defense seminar. I may have taught him a thing or two about proteins, but he taught me way much more- about science, and about life. Hats off to D!

Kanfushan is kilieared

of most of his labels of being a rude shameless drunk fella.

He says to me now he was being funnay. I am tempted to believe, knowing what I know of him. So we have had an out of court settlement, he now owes me 4 beers.

all can stop expecting further fireworks here. i am learning to be calm and composed these days.

Friday, July 28, 2006

"SO, when are you graduating???????????"

That, is the worst question you can ask a senior grad student. I've had enough of friends that were senior to me (see my navratna post) and saw them go through this phase long before I reached it. Consequently, I was always careful about hitting this nerve in other senior students and tried to not ask the dreaded question when I ran into them. But in my mind, I always wondered why they took it so badly. After all, we live in a university town. Everybody is going to grad school, and that Masters or Ph.D degree is the ultimate light at the end of the tunnel. So in as much as everyone tries to maintain a balanced life, a "life outside lab" etc, etc, at the end of the day, school is our life. Many may disagree, but I think they're either in denial or they're not really giving their work enough attention then. ;) When you bump into others on the bus, one can chat a bit about cricket, politics, weather, movies, but ultimately the "question" is raised. It's just inevitable. Unless, it's another senior student you are talking to, and who follows the unwritten rule of "never ask that question". But as a student in the beginning years, one is always curious about the others. "Are you going to finish soon?" "Do you have any papers yet?" and questions like that will be asked by newbies. It can be perceived as innocent questioning or cheeky presumptuousness. I don't know. Anyways, I never quite completely understood why my friends, who were senior to me, took so much offence to that question. Soon, we had a blacklist of people- stupid pesky kids who liked to ask others that question all the time, keep asking the same person the question, or start hounding people in their fourth year (the average phd duration is 5 - 6 years) itself about when they were finishing. And these were people they'd never really talk to otherwise. !@#$%s. We learnt to avoid them on the bus, or better still, avoid the bus they were on. :) And bitched about them within our own coterie.
Now, enlightenment has dawned on me. I am on the other side, and I can see exactly what is so irritating about this question. I like to say I'm a finishing grad student. But the "whens" of finishing- nobody knows. Research is unpredictable, and advisors and committees, even more so. Just when you hit the end of your fifth year, have turned the town inside out and have nothing left to do here, really want to move on to a new life, new project, the uncertainty and unpredictability of your situation aggravates you the most. And nosy peoples' questions about the same only remind you of your agony. The dynamics of "finishing up" are not dictated by whether you are a capable scientist, equipped with necessary skills to earn that Ph.D alone. There is a lot more that factors into it. And seriously, for each of those twits that meet me on that 15 min bus-ride, I do not see it necessary to spell those complications out. In fact, I doubt if they even care, anyways. And I'm beginning to see what my friends were talking about- there are some, whose face betrays that sadistic emotion when they're asking that question. And I've had my own share of fans too. Ones that were hounding me since last year, asking "So, are you graduating this semester????". !@#$$%#$%%Q#$&*.
Usually, I get on the bus and whip out my little book to jot down or go over my "To-do" list for the day. So it' s easy to avoid these idiots. I also carry a book to read. However, some people are particularly talented in crossing all these barriers and reaching out to me. Because they're just dying to know, "So, when are you graduating?". !@##s. They start their conversation with "So.." and you can already see that grin spreading over their face. For them, I have a nice smile reserved. And I give a lost, philosphical look, and say "bhagwaan hi jaane". Then, if this person is really irritating, he or she will grin and persist "hehe, but stilllll, you must be having some idea, no??? you have been here since when??". Then I keep a straight face and say "5 years". They go "oh myyy goddd", raised eyebrows and everything. I appear nonchalant, and say it doesn't bother me that much, I am very happy with my work, and enjoy school-life. The !@# doesnt get the idea. S/he persists "ohhh but stilllll you must be looking for post-doc jobs then??". I realise that such people are just beyond repair. The only way to not have to deal with them is for them to disappear right there. I patiently answer "no, not yet, still waiting to finalise things". "Oh.. " they go, as if they are now really worried for me and my well-being. As if my being there for five years and still going strong is somehow of problem to their well-being. I now am debating whether to open my book and start reading, or just look out of the window. The extent of their glee in asking me that question is directly proportional to any hints of sadness, frustration or worry on my part. So I maintain a happy face, and tell them I'm in no hurry to get out. They then look at me as if I am crazy. They realise that they're not going to get that crib out of me, or that tale of woe which will make their day. The say "oh, nice for you.." but it's accompanied with a look of disbelief or disappointment.
These days I'm running out of tricks in my book, it invariably happens to be the same dolts that corner me and ask me the same thing, every alternate month or so. And given how I'm late everyday anyways, I cannot afford to miss any more buses. So I've started a new strategy. I bore the living daylights out of the person, going into the nitty gritty of some experiment I am stuck at, I go on and on about it in the most animated gory detail and then say, " as soon as I figure out why this is not working, I can graduate". And smile enthusiastically. They are beginning to label me as crazy, but when has that ever stopped me? I love the look of boredom and regret on their face. So far, this plan is working very well.

And for all you curious buggers out there, ;) I was hoping to finish this December, but it seem like it'll be spring next year, thank you for not asking. :-)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Thursday, July 20, 2006

How much is too much?

Post inspiration: Sayesha's recent dilemma.

I lived for 22 years with my parents, before coming to the US to go to grad school. Ours was an extremely liberal home atmosphere- we discussed the crazy, dirty jokes with our mom and always felt free to express our opinions to our dad. My mom knew many of the little "crush stories" of school, and would often tease my friends when they came over. My elder sister had a few more restrictions than I did, an off-shoot of being the first child, and also being the pretty, girly one. I was the tomboy, it was hard to imagine me getting into trouble with boys, et al. Unlike some other girl-friends I had then, having "guy-friends", getting phone calls, going out with friends within reasonable hours, having people over, were never an issue for both me and my sister. Consequently, my life was pretty much an open book then. My parents knew almost all the on-goings in my life, and the respect and trust was mutual. Although my mom would've loved for me to become a doctor or an engineer (who didn't in those days?) they completely respected my choice of what I wanted to pursue, and let me go all out to live my dreams.
When I came to the US, a whole new life opened up for me. Being away from home meant that I was responsible for my own decisions, and the initial home-sickness and feeling of alienation brought on a whole new sense of vulnerability. My weekend hour-long phone-calls to my parents involved me narrating all the incidents of my life in painful detail. There were also several new experiences, that I wanted to share with my parents, wanted them to see and be a part of my life here, just as it had always been. These all-revealing phone-calls continued for a while, unaffected by the twists my life took, and all the growing-up I went through in those years. My mom was aware of my headaches, heartaches and most everything in between. Often, my friends would express surprise at how much I told my parents. For me, it wasn't an issue. I loved doing it, and never felt stifled.
Finally, it was my first experience with alcohol that struck the first dischordant note. I was proudly regaling to my parents that I drank an alcoholic drink, and it was no big deal. I wanted them to know of my latest adventure, like every other. Of course, what ensued was a long, angry lecture from my dad. I put down the phone quite confused, not knowing how to react. I thought long and hard and realised that somethings just had to be left unsaid. I was living in a different world than them, and the gap was very much there. For myself, I felt secure and confident about my decisions, and was beginning to get a bit disturbed at their strong reactions. At this point I began filtering things, or holding back information. I embarked on my first long road-trip alone and only told them after I reached my destination. [When I called my mom, she said I should leave my car there and fly back to my city, so as not to drive the 14 hours by myself again!]. I went sky-diving and broke it to them after the event, when I had my dad sharing my enthusiasm and my mom asking me to pack up, quit my Ph.D and come home.[Turns out they knew of a very unfortunate incident where their friends lost their daughter to a sky-diving accident.] Some of my biggest upsets, mishaps and disappointments I've chosen to not tell them, because I know they'd worry and hurt for me. And keep worrying much after I'd gotten over them, and insist I call them everyday or some such unrealistic thing. Sometimes, I'd love to be able to bare it all, there was a unique feeling of release and comfort in doing that. Other times, I realise that things are indeed not the same, and I cannot wish them to be. I need to decide for myself where I'm crossing the line and justify the effort they put in raising me.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

One too many shots, too much fun

I just got back from the first bachelorette's party I've been to. I'd shied away from going to a couple of these earlier, because I never knew the people that well, and didn't feel all that comfortable. But this one was for a really good friend, D. I knew most of the gang through her, and there was no missing it.

If you ever looked disapprovingly at that group of raucous, loud girls on the street, today I was part of one such ensemble. And it was so much fun. We got together at a restaurant, where everyone gave D naughty gifts and pranks, and things were starting to get pretty loud right then. After dinner and drinks (D had to drink hers through a rather obscenely shaped straw) we moved on to the streets, playing a game of "dares" where each girl had to enact a dare based on the card she picked. Most of the time these involved approaching a random person on the street and asking for something. There was loud hooliganism, cat-calling, and what not. Twelve loud girls on the street is not a sight to miss. D was wearing a sash that proclaimed her bachelorette status, so most people got the drift. We went about rounding up unsuspecting passer-bys for some fun. Most of them were sports, some of them shirked us off and walked away. I live in a small town, and if you've lived here long enough, you cannot walk around downtown without running into someone familiar. Soon enough, I ran into a couple of kids I might've taught in some class. They looked aghast to see me as part of this gang. Later, I bumped into another friend and his wife, who waved at me rather shyly, while I was all smiles and waving a big HEY. :D It was funny to see him scurry away, with a look that said "I don't know her". We settled at the next bar where we played another silly girly game, and the bartender there treated us all to shots on the house. Our boisterous group got only more unruly, but he didn't seem to mind at all. We spent time chatting, cracking silly jokes, and laughing our hearts out, giving D the best time she deserved, a few days before her wedding. We then proceeded to the next place, not without a good amount of time invested in arguing where we should be going next. The last memory I have of screaming myself hoarse like this was when I was travelling with a bunch of people on a girl-guides camp. I almost lost my voice.
More fun was had, more jokes, giggles and secrets were exchanged at the next place. It was a week-night, and everyone had to report to work the next day. So as much as we'd like to stay outside and party, we had to all begin to head home. But D was happy. She had only expected a dinner and didn't expect all of us to turn up and let our hair down like that. For a tuesday night, this was indeed some night. And I'm glad I went, and got to be a part of this fun.
Here's to D, may she and her soon-to-be-hubby have the best of times ahead!

On disagreeing

Disagree all you want. Lead as much as you feel equipped to. Prove your point even if you have to go down fighting. Question, because it is necessary. Investigate, because that should come instinctively. Stand up for your convictions. Make a big deal, if the situation calls for it.

But do you have to be so obnoxious while doing it? Is there really no better way to be heard? I find that hard to believe.

Sometimes, also listen.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Some relevant data points

OK. Not to open the whole debate again, but this is so timely, I couldn't resist.
Everybody must go read this. I insist.

Space filler

Pet peeve of the day: Have you noticed how, if you're with company (often of the opposite sex) and bump into someone familiar, whom you're seeing after long, and go "HEYYY JOHN, HOW are you.. long time no see"... John, in turn, goes "heyyy...tgfi.." but is busy looking (checking out questioningly- not even smiling) at who you're with?

Sooo irritating! Arre, I am the one who said hi. Look at me and talk!

Anyways, here's my shamelessly self-tagged exercise. I think these are fun to do

I am thinking about:
doing the dishes

I want: to get out of here

I wish:
I was at the right place at the right time

I miss: the 9:45 bus. everyday

I hear:
the fan whirring, the birds chirping

I wonder:
why some things that are so hard to make are so easy to break

I regret :
nothing, really.

I am: terribly disorganized

I dance: to my own whims and fancies.

I sing: silly songs and get stuck with them in my head all day.

I cry: every time I'm at a Ph.D defense and the person gets to their acknowledgements at the end (ok, not bawl, just get misty-eyed and all)

I am not always: as patient.

I write: with my left hand

I confuse: left with right sometimes :)

I need: to practise yoga more often

I should try: getting up early for a change

I finish:
the last piece of chocolate, always

I tag: you, you AND you, yes, you.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Should I stay or should I go?

For things that really matter, fight on, they say. That means one often fights, almost blindly, with only the end-point in sight. Because it means more than anything else. Small unhappy moments are quickly dismissed, and only the big picture is kept in mind. It's all that matters.

Sometimes, in this process, you miss more subtle hints. Signs that tell you that this is actually not what you wish it to be. The speed-breakers were there for a reason- to make you stop, rethink, and proceed with caution. They were not mere roadblocks testing your tenacity.

Don't fight so hard that you lose sight of the goal. Or fail to realise that it may not, after all be what you want. There is courage in accepting that even after coming so far, this may not be it, so it's a good point to stop. Reflect, put some distance, do whatever. But accept that things are not the same. Don't wish it to be the same simply to justify the efforts invested.

Stay if you must, go if you can.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I'm back and this is what I have to say

So I had a big presentation today. Of course, in true procrastinator style, I had been putting it off since it was scheduled, a month or so ago. Of course, the thoughts were all there, you know, I was thinking about it. Then I chose to post about womens' issues on Friday night and invite all those comments and arguments. I was itching to answer each comment as it came in, but tried my best to focus on work instead..and failed miserably.

So yeah, I went to bed saturday night without a single slide made, and had a nightmare that I was shouting feminist slogans in my presentation, in a room full of professors. :0 So I decided to get serious and get to it..then there was the soccer final, and then, and then, oh well. It's over, it went well, some of them laughed at my joke, and now I'm just glad it's over.

So I'm sorry I took so long getting back at you all (especially the ones that disagreed with me ;) ) but here I am.

Ahem, will ignore that IM-like convo between me and aarti ;) and get right to business.

Smiling girl, I was not lobbying that an inferior candidate be given the position "just" because she was a woman. In terms of qualifications and capabilities, both #2 and #3 came really close. The 85-90 ranking was assigned by the dissenter, J, not me. It is possible that the faculty got to make a better evaluation of the candidates in their one-on-one meetings, etc, and that cannot be ruled out. Neither am I pushing for "reservations" as some pointed out. We invited and evaluated applicants of either gender, and they were both evaluated in the same manner. We happened to find a candidate who was excellent, and also brought something more to the table, by being a woman.
well.. this doesnt hold good for the normal female bosses and guides though..:).. Most of them are normally khadoos..

:-) hehe, I cannot disagree. that seems to be a well known fact. But I have come to believe that it is not without good reason. More about that in some other post, some other day.

For sirius and others who raised the issue about how a woman would react when offered a job 'because she was a woman", if I were her, and it was explained to me correctly, I think I would understand the need for a female professor in the department, and do my best to mentor students and make myself available to female grad students for counsel. I would take my job as being a female professor quite seriously and try to bridge the gap the best I can. Does that sound too naive or oversimplified? I was not intending for it to be a "Sympathy offer" to #3.
And yes, in an all-boys school , if majority teachers are ladies, and the boys did have certain gender-specific issues, I think it's fair to want to have more male teachers to be able to address them.

Which brings me to Satya's comment. :-) It's clear that you disagree, ;) and I hope you're still ready for the brickbats. :-) Most grad students are spending 5- 6 years of their prime time life in grad school. Issues like marriage, family, managing to balance the two, come up. And no, men cannot address them in the same way as women do. Several male professors in my dept have stay-at-home wives that take care of the kids. I want to see a female professor who's juggling the act of lab, home, kid, being a successful scientist and see how she does it. I am not talking about rules so much as I'm talking about issues, for which no rules exist.

The post was not intended to be "feminist". But it could've seemed that way. So? have a problem ? *raises militant feminist eyebrow* :-) j/k

Satish, yes, as many others have said on the comment space too, women have not had it easy. A little bit of tweaking to level the playing field is required. And that is the reality.

Andy, I would've definitely not made the argument had the differences in merit been huge. You are right, (not about me having a smooth sailing with my thesis, but thanks for that vote ;) ) the small difference in their merits, to me, seemed less significant than the positive outcomes of hiring a female in a male-dominated field.

Libran, I am sure she got another, equally good offer. The loss was ours, more than hers.

Confused? hi! me too. well, for that potential free beer when I come to south jersey, I'll be nice to you. I am not asking for an all-woman club, but is asking for a move to restore a little balance too much?

Prashanth, yes. We can either wait for eons to women to stick it out, fight it out, and make their place.. or give them reasonable, deserving nudges to push them forth, and make the struggle a little easier for them, in a bid to achieve equilibrium faster.

, *drum roll* Ab mujhe Nirwa se koi dar nahi hain!

Erimentha, hello there! very well said! Why didn't I think of putting it like that earlier? Would've saved me so much explanation! Or would it?

Aarti, S.G,
thanks. :-)

, and what did you think? The rechristening won't happen for a while now. For a more comprehensive answer to that question, watch this space. :-)

qsg, I liked your powerful post in response, and understand that it was not meant to be argumentative. But I'll pick up a couple points anyways, One, the fact that the few women stalwarts made it on their own and did not wait for role models is great (and inspiring) but like I said to Prashanth already, it's not enough to bridge the existing deep gap between genders and opportunities. A lot more is needed, and deserving opportunities like the case of #2 versus #3 are important instances where the difference can be made. Finally, it is insulting to a woman if she's wanted in a place because the old boys do not have enough eye-candy. But if she's wanted for what she can bring to the table in her capacity as a woman (and i'm not talking about being eye-candy) then I don't see why it should be insulting or self-esteem shattering.

Sudipta, waiting for a "visible" or "tangible" problem to arise to fix it seems to me an approach which lacks foresight. The signs are there, although I admit, nobody in the students population came out and said it outright. Perhaps we should've done that to make it more "visible". And like I said, we don't get to hire a new faculty every day, it's the first search I've witnessed in the five years I've been at this univ.

Sunil, yes.

T.C.O, will go there and read. :-)

Round 2 commences here. Bring it on!! ;-)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Cause for silence

Pic courtesy

The first slide for my presentation today.
Will get back to the women in science post later tonight (you know I'm dying to!)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Women in science

Dinner at Bombay Cafe, with a friend who'd just defended her thesis. The divide at the table was subtle but I couldn't help noticing- J and I - two "almost ph.ds" on one side, and S and R, two Ph.Ds on the other. I guess I'm just becoming more sensitive to these things these days. Gender-wise, we were well balanced. So as conversation went from the gripes of thesis writing to Indian and Mexican cuisine to department politics, we began discussing the latest faculty-hire hunt going on in the department. The department was looking for a new professor, and there were three candidates that came to our univ, interviewed and gave talks about their work. All three spectacular candidates with kick-ass resumes and credentials. #1, though, had clear public-speaking issues and was vetoed right away. The choice remained between #2 and #3, and a tough choice it was.

Both held Ph.D degrees from well-known labs, hefty publication records, and exhibited strong command in the area we were looking to fill up a gap in the dept. And both were great communicators, which is oh so important in scientists, especially in abstract and theory-based areas like this particular position was for. #2 had a couple years more experience over #3. On a relative ranking scale, #2 could be a 90 and #3 an 85. (100 being the top end of the scale, that is).

#2 is a man, #3 a woman.

At the aforementioned table, three of us were hoping that #3 was chosen. Yes, because she is a woman. And that was the opinion of the student population on the whole. J (a guy) took strong objection to this, and of course, heated debate ensued, over by-now-cold samosas. He didn't see why that was even a factor. Our department has 25 full-time faculty members, 4 of which are women. 27 of the 40 grad students in the department are female. This distribution is not restricted to our dept alone, it's quite the norm in academia. The paucity of women in higher positions in science is a well-known issue, and the reasons for it range from the obvious to the lesser-known. So when the time came for us to vote for our choice of candidate, (the student body gets a single collective vote) the student rep J put forth our almost unanimous choice for #3. We got to hear that one of the female faculty members in the department apparently "took strong offence" to the fact that candidate #3 could be picked because she was a woman.

Why not? As a female graduate student and a member of the majority sex within the student population, I strongly feel the need for a larger female presence in the faculty. Having good female role-models to look up to, and help us believe that it can be done, is important to us and something we severely lack. Women in the department will also be more sensitive and clued in on female issues, be it adjusting the tenure clock to accomodate womens' needs, maternity leave, discussing child care possibilites on campus, or someone to talk to about career/life decisions for us female grad students. As a graduate student with a female mentor, ( in as much as I don't always have good things to say about her ;) ) I feel priveleged and fortunate to see and learn several things first-hand about being a faculty member of the minority sex in what can easily pass off as an "old-boys club". And whoever says that there is no difference in the hurdles faced by men and women or in the treatments they get needs to get real.

Our voice of dissent Mr. J felt that "we need to hire the best person" for the job, and being female wasn't a qualification. I think it was. For all the reasons I outlined above. The female professor who protested against such a consideration said that it would be doing a "Grave disservice to the exisiting female professors" if someone were chosen "Because she was a woman". I thought she was missing the point. While good credentials, publications, strong science were of course main criteria , and these had already been established, being a faculty member in a scientific community entails a lot more than that. And a department with a 67% female student population and less than 20% female faculty population only stood to benefit from hiring a well-qualified woman into the dept.

The final vote went to #2.

Addendum: With all the funding cuts towards research in the US these days (thanks to you-know-who), getting the $$ to be able to hire a faculty member is a big deal, and a rare opportunity. The selection process is quite transparent here in our dept. All the students and faculty have full access to each candidates dossier (except to the letters of recommendation). After the candidates present their work in a public seminar attended by all, the students get together to decide their single vote. Each faculty member, however gets one vote per head. So, I guess, the #2 supporters outnumbered the #3 supporters, perhaps because he was , after all, a shade "more qualified" on paper.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Today, I got chased by a duck

Need I say more?

Ok, for all those who are laughing their guts out, like those old ladies in the park were, laugh, laugh. Just remember, what goes around, comes around. Big time. Not that I'd wish such an evil thing on frail old ladies. I am glad I provided them their entertainment for the day.

Hua yeh, ki I went to the park near my place, my usual adda for thinking/dreaming/reading/walking. And starting today, for running for my life. I've been quite engrossed in the book I'm reading these days. "The Beach" (Alex Garland) - awesome book, by the way, but I'll save the review for when I'm less traumatised.

So, this book is superbly written. It makes one live through the adventures of a bunch of stoned people on a secret island in the middle of nowhere, Thailand. And if you've an imagination as vivid as mine, you can easily transpose yourself into the shoes of the author, one of the main characters. Lying down on the park bench, I was going through this almost surreal danger-to-my-life feeling, as I was reading the part where the author has a near death experience, swimming and thrashing his way back into life. Pretty intense. I shut the book, get up from the bench and begin walking around, reliving the scenes in my head. Suddenly, I wanted to be a hippie on a secret beach, doing all kinds of undercover stuff. It's always been one of my fantasies anyways, to be a part of some secret underground organisation..ah .I digress...well, blame it on the trauma.

So I'm walking, totally transported into this fantasy world, when I see two ducks around a bush. I think "oh, pretty ducks" and go on, thinking about Richard, how he saved himself from the jaws of death, his struggles, and how risky this whole thing was. Suddenly, I find one of the ducks following me. I start walking faster. I can see this huge duck conspiracy building up against me. The duck starts waddling, faster, keeping up with me. I panic. I start jogging. The duck starts its equivalent of jogging. I freak out. All I can think of is Richard, and how he didn't give up when he was almost dead, and fought back for his life with every shred of strength left in him. I scream at the duck to leave me alone, but he won't give up. I run and take refuge on top of a table. The duck jumps onto the bench, and flies up onto the table and pecks at me. SH!@# this duck means serious business, I think. I leap off the table, and see those ladies laughing at me , at a distance. They're all a part of the plan, I think. I run , run , run, choosing the path uphill, knowing that the fat duck won't be able to keep up. Stupid fat duck. I sprint away, reach my car, get into it, panting, and lock myself in.

I need to get into shape.

P.S: and I forgot to say so in my post, but one of the characters (and a really dark one at that) in the book is called Mr. Duck! Those of you that saw the movie would know

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Grown men do cry

Yes, it's about futbol. Whoever saw Argentina vs Germany, and England vs Portugal, saw that. The lab down the hall on my floor is populated by Argentinians. I often go there to borrow stuff. Yesterday, when I went to mooch off some more stuff, the gloom could be felt a few feet away from the door. As soon as I went in and approached M, she wailed "tee geee efff iii....i am depressed!! I just talked to my family. they are was so bad". I looked down, uneasily. I hid my little begging bowl-tube behind my back. "what was i thinking? how insensitive of me" - I thought to myself. I told her "it's a game..after all, there will be another time" you know, those words of sympathy that never help. I hugged and consoled her, quickly putting the tube in my pocket. Then I looked around uneasily- torn between finding someone else to ask, or just leaving. I really wanted to do that experiment that night, but I was also feeling bad for them. I heard prof S's voice. Okay, I'll go ask him, I thought. I approached him after M was out of earshot. He looked up at me with a grim, forlorn look on his face. Oh my god. I left. I went back at night and poured out some of the Tween-80 for myself, with a note saying that I'd replace it as soon as our order came through.

Today I joined my friend D in cheering for Brazil. Brazil has been a lab favourite, since we've several Brazilians in our lab. In fact, they're the only reason I got drawn into the world-cup mania (the other being the ample eye-candy). The bar they were all going to be in was packed and I couldn't trace D or any other lab-mates. So I stood near the door, and figured out from the cheering which half was French-supporters and which was Brazil. The French supporters were a mixed-lot. I think all the europeans clumped together. They were sombre, and enocouraged their team by polite applause and some amount of shouting. The Brazilians, were all in their yellow-green shirts/jerseys, had brought along big drums and other sound-making devices, and were a boisterous lot. I made my way through and met D and others. This was just after France scored their goal. "Tee gee eff iiii......pray to your Ga-ne-shaaaaa make our team play better!!!!" wailed D. Of course, she was tapping into all possible resources at that point, drawing from the stories I'd told her a long time back about the Indian god of obstacles :) Yes, yes, I will, I said nervously. For the next hour, all I heard were loud Portuguese expressions from her and others that I never understood. D is teaching me portuguese, so out of habit, I was tempted to ask "And what does that mean?" but quickly caught myself, realising that this was not the time for lessons. Maamla gambheer tha. So I stood, and found myself actually praying! But it didn't help. Brazil lost, the french-supporters smirked at us, but I must say, the Brazilians were great sports. They said to each other "ah, well, 2010 it will be " and quickly dispersed. I am afraid about Monday tho. The whole floor is going to be gloomy and depressed and I wonder if I should smile at all.

Portugual versus France. Italy versus Germany. Ah well, as far as the sport goes, for me, the world cup is over. But I will go back, if only to indulge in some bird-watching. :-)