Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Fresh Start

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

What's annoying me

I had to cancel new year trip. :( Health doesn't permit. (Jeez- what am I, 79?) I am quite pissed off. The only saving grace is that Amtrak gives full refund on canceled reservations up to one hour before journey! Who knew? Now let me see what I can buy for that money and feel better about the sorry ass situation.

I refuse to subscribe to any blogs that have this in yo face plug that says

If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

And some have it in every post. It's just a blog for god's sake. Don't get all clingy and desperate like that!

Anyone who takes themselves too seriously needs a regular dose of vun tite slap. Learn to laugh at yourself. Learn to laugh at jokes others poke at you. Don't get all defensive or even worse, withdraw and sulk just because I made fun of the way your voice mail sounds. G-R-O-W U-P!

Why are you so aggressive about everything? Even when you say Happy New Year it sounds like you are looking to pick up a fight. Calm down buster. Save the aggression for when it's really required. Like rants like these. Other times, try calm.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!!!

4 easy steps to make me happy

1) Visit me when I'm sick, be brave enough to stay over.

2) Bring food

3) Praise my cooking

4) Do the dishes

Merry Christmas all of you! I had a lovely x'mas with wonderful friends visiting, good food, and an almost brand new me thanks to Alexander Fleming. :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Heart attack: the aftermath

My cousin who lives down the street from us in hydie has two cute little daughters, aged 3 and 9. These two kids were witness to all the going-ons, phone calls, tension, etc. when my dad had his heart attack. Their latest game is as follows (I simply have to narrate it in telugu to best convey the comic image, translations in brackets).

3 y.o: (clutching her tummy and writhing on the floor, panic stricken voice) ayyo naaku heart attack vacchindi. heart attack! heart attack!!! doctor ni pilavandi!!

(Oh no, i have had a heart attack! heart attack!!! call the doctor!!)

9.y.o: (in equally harried tone) ni talakai. heart akkada kaade, ikkada!. (points to chest area)

(your head! the heart is not there, it is here!)

3.y.o: quickly changes position, clutches chest now, and repeats "ayyo naaku heart attack vachindi. heart attack! ambulance ni pilavandi!!"

oh no i've had a heart attack, call the ambulance!!!

and the 9 y.o dashes about in pretend panic, and it goes on. :)

And did I mention that our apartment got broken in a day after my dad was taken to the hospital? Now, we weren't exactly in a big hurry to tell my dad about that incident. Of course, others had other plans.

My uncle who was asked to wait in our apt the night we returned home from the hospital was waiting at the gate as we arrived.

My dad (Seeing that he had the keys to our apt) : arre, you should've waited upstairs no, why wait outside?

My uncle: he he he considering what happened, I thought its better not to panic anyone and decided to wait outside.

My dad: huh? what panic?

I give my uncle one glare

My uncle: he he he.. i mean the incident when i went to the wrong apartment instead of yours yesterday, and tried to open it with your keys, he he he..

Me: (in my mind, good save, uncle, good save)

The next day visitors start coming to see my dad. First is M uncle from downstairs

M uncle: How are you sir! blah blah and other well-wishing things.

My dad: yes yes and other affirmative things

M uncle: more conversation about this and that

My dad: more nodding

M uncle: these days anything can happen. Who would've thought someone would break into an apartment in our building!

My dad: oh? i didn't hear. which apartment got broken into?

M uncle: looks confused. probably just realised his goof up. I dash into the room from the kitchen with the tea I was making. hand it to uncle and give my well practised glare.

M uncle: oh..that only.. the watchman's house got broken into..

My dad: oh how sad. why would someone break into the poor watchman's house..

M uncle: changes topic..

Now few hours later, M uncle's very well-wishing son R shows up. R is a clueless 28 year old fellow totally absorbed in his work and is rarely ever seen around in the building. Quite absent-minded and forgetful. You get the picture.. My dad answers the door.

R: (As soon as he enters, in a booming, shocked voice)
How are you uncle? My god I was so shocked to hear ! I didn't even know you had a heart attack, uncle, I didn't even know your apartment got broken into!

My dad starts saying: not ours, the watchman's house....

R: now even more confused...aa? the watchman's house aa? in his same shocked voice..

Me: (yelling from the bedroom): R! We haven't yet told our dad about it!!!! (In my mind: what is the matter with you? is this an inherited disorder of sorts?)

Then I enter the room to do damage control. my voice has traveled before me. R looks totally crestfallen, confused, and as clueless as ever. My mom, who has no clue what has been transpiring, makes an entry and asks R if he'd like some tea.

R looks at me, scared. Perhaps not sure if he should drink tea in our house now.

My dad. oh my poor dad! He has supreme confusion written all over his face. I tell him in a few lines, yes dad, some one broke in. nothing of value got lost. don't worry. And try to dissolve the tension by laughing,

R: finally finds his tongue. starts apologising. (to me!).

My mom: brings the tea. we all have tea and crack jokes. Later after R leaves my mom and I decide its best to tell dad ourselves. So we tell him brief details. We all laugh it off and try to keep it light. R and his dad's goof ups have actually added some mirth to the whole episode.

In the evening, the 9.y.o kid comes to see my dad. as soon as she sees him, the first thing she asks him, in a conspiratorial, low voice

"mi intilo dongavadu vacchadu ta????" (It seems there was a thief in your house???")

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I want


From this blog

Oh, not all those books, just one book shelf like that. I will supply books.

So damn good lookin!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I've come a long way.

Four and a half months into my post-doc and I've very little to show for it. First there was settling in , acquainting, learning to be patient with oneself, then came the india trip, so there was more lag, re-acquainting that's yet to happen because I brought back with me this nasty bug and have been under house arrest for the past few days. The tgfi of a few years back would be guilt-tripping herself and stressing herself out at this loss of time, fact that nothing is getting done, and worrying herself into further sickness. The only thing that prevents me from going into lab is the fact that its not really looked upon well if you show up at work hacking the daylights out of yourself. But here I am, all cool and calm about this. I am not going to lose whatever little drug-induced, coughing-fit-free sleep I am getting over how much time I have lost and how I'm really behind. I'm just going to get my rest, get well, and get back to work at a normal pace. I have even gone ahead and made my plans for new years, so what if I lost all these days? Again, the tgfi of yesterday would deny herself of all fun activities for the next several months just because she was worried about the time she lost. I have never gotten too far with that kind of thinking, and I think I've finally learned to keep things separate and desist from self-flogging because no good ever came out of it.

Yesterday things took a turn for the worse as I developed a nasty ear infection on top of everything else. I have never had one before and my heart goes out to little kids who suffer from this so often. It's the most ex-cru-tia-ting pain EVAR. So after trying all the home remedies that did not work, I took some ibuprofen and made it through the night. Last morning, I got online to find a doctor in my area, to find the number for a cab-service, etc. That's me. I could be dying but I will insist on getting on by myself. It's not something I am proud of, I promise you. So I snapped out of my thick-headed self and decided to call for help. Most people in my lab who own a car were away on holiday, so I looked through my phone book and found L - yes, my Amway friend! I called her at 7 AM. She gave me a doctor's name, came picked me up for my appointment, brought me some food to nibble on, took me to get my prescriptions filled, got me to do some groceries, and dropped me back home. The whole thing took 4 hours out of her work-day, since there was some trouble with my insurance at the pharmacy (turns out my prescription insurance is different from my medical insurance- if L wasn't there, I'd have no clue, and I'd end up paying $100 from my pocket just because I really wanted those antibiotics).

I still remember my whole wisdom tooth saga over a year ago in Lutom. When after surgery I had developed a dry socket and the pain was just effin overwhelming. Then, in lutom I had several friends I could call on, but I chose to go by myself, tears streaming down my face and jaw in one hand, driving with the other, to the dental clinic and get it checked out. The memory is very vivid.

Just one dose of antibiotics and some real serious cough syrup and I feel a lot better. I am so glad I have grown up and learned to ask for help when needed.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

W.o.m.m #6

I bought one of these during my stopover in Amsterdam. I have a soft corner for such tea-related fancy stuff. I got stopped at the baggage-screening for it. Sigh. I gave the guy one of my looks and said "I bought it right here at duty free!". Perhaps I shouldn't have gone for aggression right then. But I was tired. Luckily, after some discussion, he let me take it.

I am sick. Cold, cough, sore throat that hurts like hell. Headache. Fever. This all I brought from India. The eye allergies began acting up as soon as I set foot in Philly. So I am a walking dispenser of mucous right now. Eww. Sorry.

The tea-tube works nicely. But there's got to be a way of keeping the tea from getting cold while the tube does its thing. May be they should sell an attached cover with just a hole for the tube.

I think this is meds-induced delirium blogging.

See you around

No no, I am not closing blog or doing any such draama for now. :)

When you say "See you around" to someone what do you mean?

I have always used "see you around" for what those words mean: as in, see you around here, in my gtalk window or so. I have been recently enlightened that there is an implication of not wanting to talk to the person too often or trying to "blow one off" by using that phrase.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Am back in cold, cold Philly. My dad is recovering very well and should resume all his normal activities in a couple weeks, for now he just needs lots of rest. It was really hard to leave this time, but I tried to convince myself, by way of explaining to my parents, how important my work is and what kind of cool science I am doing here. The truth is, I have yet to form any kind of bonding with my work. Heck, I was still working on specific aim #3 of my proposal when the call came and I had to pack up and leave. So things are very much in their conception stage, and I feel very little attachment. Perhaps, after a small amount of re-acquainting, I will be more enthu. Right now, I only feel a bit overwhelmed at all the catching up I need to do in order to get things back up and running. So overwhelmed that I'd rather crawl into bed and go to sleep, instead of getting out in the cold and going to the lab. A very familiar feeling, the repercussions of which I am all too aware of. So I hope to keep that feeling at bay and get my ass to the lab soon.

Until now, things have been pretty frenzied. When I got the phone call and decided to rush home, I first called my international advisor here to see if I could travel easily. If there's one good thing I did, it was getting my F1 visa renewed in Canada while in year 5 of grad school. (or was it year six? god knows! ). The valid visa helped me travel to India after graduating and take that long vacation few months ago, and allowed me to travel this time on my O.P.T with minimum hassle. All I needed was a new travel signature from my old school in Lutom: when I called them that morning, they decided to print me out a new I-20, sign it and fedex it overnight. Next I found a really nice travel agent at mahabazaar travels who found me a seat on a flight to hyd for the next day; and it didn't cost me any limbs. Then I had to stop my experiments at a stopping point, freeze down stuff and wrap up tiny things in the lab. Thanks to my dilly-dallying over buying a laptop, I spent some time organising my data onto usb sticks to take with me to India: I wanted to be able to work if I found the time, and I actually did get a small bit done. Then I had to pay off bills: I'd yet to set up my utilities on auto-pay. Of course, the bills had been lying around for several days, but if i didn't pay them off before leaving, I'd come back to a cold and dark apartment. I had to empty the fridge, clean up the apartment, do laundry, go to the bank (because I misplaced my atm card and didn't bother getting a new one for days: but then I'd need the cash in india) and other such tasks. I am thinking back to see how many things I could've avoided in the last minute frenzy if only... Sigh. Some things never change, I guess. But it kept me busy and kept the worrying at bay for most part. I called up a few of my friends and told them what was going on. M and her hubby both took off the next day so they could take me to the airport. I was ready to fly out the very next day with all things in place.

I am now tracing those very motions back. I decided to use a shuttle service to get back from EWR to Philly. Dave's Limo. They suck. I had to wait for two hours at the airport when I could've actually made the earlier shuttle if only they had told me. Sick with a bad cough, cold and all that good stuff, the waiting was not fun at all. I got home, went and bought myself some milk and bread. I emptied my mailbox and more bills are already here! I set up auto-pay for them this time. I just re-updated all my folders so that it reflects the work I got done in India before I forget. I will go the lab, thaw out those very vials I froze down over two weeks ago, and get started. Sigh.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Home again

When my phone rang at the "unearthly" hour of 6 am wednesday before last, I buried it under a few pillows and went back to sleep: I had just gone to bed a couple hours back and was too exhausted to even pick it up and cuss, which is what i'd have typically done. But when the ringing persisted, and I saw that it was my sister, I eventually answered. Her news woke me up. Our father had had a heart attack: my mom assured us that he was doing okay, but we decided that I should fly out asap to be with them. I am in hyderabad as i write this post, my dad is doing well and all is under control.

My dad was alone at home when he had the heart attack. After a few hours of mild chest pain that didn't subside by midnight, he called my cousins who live down the street, and they rushed him to a hospital near by. At the cost of sounding dramatic, these cousins and the emergency doctor there saved my dad's life. He was administered the right first aid almost immediately and things were brought under control. My mom, who was in our hometown 6 hrs away took the next bus and came to hyd. Two other cousins also came as soon as they heard the news, without even being asked to come. My mother and my cousin's wife calmly and efficiently managed the entire situation. My various cousins and uncles pooled together the money that it was going to cost us. The day after my dad's hospitalisation, our apartment was broken into. A few small things were stolen, but more than that it just added to the hassles my mother had to deal with.

When I landed in hydie at 3 am, this blog friend and her hubby came and picked me up and took me to the hospital later that morning. By then, my dad had had his angioplasty and was recovering. The storm had passed, things were calming down, and my job was just to keep my parents in good cheer. I thought I was doing a pretty good job of it, until one look at my dad's face at some point that evening told me that joking about an american boyfriend was not the best idea for a dad recovering from a heart attack. How was I to know? At least we had established that his reflexes were as sharp as ever. Heh. :)

Dad got discharged a few days later and we came back home. There is a lot of running around to be done, finances to be organized, and little things to take care of. I am glad I can be here to help out and be with my parents. Truth be told, no one ever saw this coming. At 62, my dad has been quite fit and my parents follow strict and healthy eating habits. Besides a history of hypertension, there were no overt signs in my dad. The only thing he neglected after moving to hydie was his regular morning walk. I cannot overstate the importance and the huge help our relatives have been throughout all of this. All my misgivings about my parents move from bombay to hydie seem so trivial now. We were lucky to get the right medical aid and my dad was in good hands throughout. I am thankful that my dad was wise enough to call for help that night, that my cousins were just down the street and for our relatives who provided rock solid support in all forms to see my parents through this. It has also served as an awakening of sorts for us: to be more mindful about health, financial matters and such. Most of all, I am thankful my dad is doing okay.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Yeh kya se kya ho gaya

Five years ago, towards the end of my first year of grad school, I felt like I needed to buy my own laptop. Then, there were no second thoughts: A G4 Mac Powerbook (15") it was going to be, and I paid for it through my newly acquired Amex Blue card. Hobbes was a faithful companion through grad school, until he began dying slowly towards the end of year 6. I was in a "Mac-only" lab in a predominantly mac department. They all looked down upon Windoze, and over the six years I had been similarly conditioned.

Besides being a faithful, intelligent companion and a great looker, Hobbes also served as a great dude-magnet. At airports, coffee-shops, he always invited admiring glances and the occasional chat with other Mac geeks. We indulged in more windoze-dissing and jokes and exchanged tricks and such.

Hobbes now serves as a desktop at home since he has to be hooked up to an external monitor in order to function. He has also gone through one heart transplant and I don't think I can stretch him out any longer.

Now I am beginning to feel the need for a new laptop again. At work we have common work-stations, and it becomes inconvenient. Most of the post-docs have their own personal laptops hooked up at their desks and I guess I need to have mine too. I'd also like to be able to take my work or pretenses thereof to coffee shops and such.

However, this time, it's not all that obvious that I'm going to pick a new Mac. Unlike six years ago, the cost of a Mac versus a PC is actually a deterrent. It is very tempting, and very realistic, to try and save that ~$500 and settle for a PC. I guess the six years is enough time to teach one the value of $$ and also put one in debt from careless management of finances. A 15" Mac Book Pro is definitely out of question, at most I can afford the 13" Mac Book. Then, my current lab is largely windows friendly (i know) and so the thought that a PC will not only be cheaper, but also fit in easily dominates my thought process.

I have almost clicked "buy" after configuring a PC a few times now, only to be stopped by a heavy heart. Given my overall computing needs, either PC or Mac should work fine, but will I be happy with a PC? Will I ever get used to the shitty interface and not being able to seamlessly open up terminal and command-line my way when I want to? Will I ever convince myself to like the way a Dell inspiron looks? And really, what face will I have to show that cute mac user I run into next and what chance of even striking up a conversation with him?

Sigh. Life is such a bitch sometimes.

P.S: How many post docs reading this blog have laptops provided by their P.I as against having to buy their own?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Why I blocked my best friend on gtalk

S is one of my best friends from grad school. Now we catch up on phone every now and then and more often then never, each actual phone conversation is the result of a long-drawn phone tag between the two of us. In the meantime, the list of things we want to share with each other just keeps building up; often, I actually make real lists so I remember to tell her everything that I had meant to. Yeah, most of the time its inane stuff, the kind of daily conversation I miss having with her. Now we have each other on our gtalk lists, and of course, its sometimes easier to find someone online than to find them actually pick up their phone. (Sad!). So now, instead of waiting until we actually talk on phone, all that fun stuff is spilled on gtalk. We're both also the kinds who won't stop once we start, so all attempts to can the gtalk are a waste. Now real-time giggling is replaced by lol and LOL and ROFL. The chats are distracted, incidental and not those cosy phone talks we usually eagerly await every weekend or so. I really don't like this turn our friendship is taking. So now my best friend's name is in a list in glorious company of idiot folks that I find most annoying and have blocked off for entirely different reasons. Heh.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I'm so happyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!

I haven't been this happy in a long long time. This friend came back into my life. With the news of having just successfully defended a Ph.D! I am still not sure which is the bigger news. I haven't heard myself laugh out so loud and so heartily in a long time. I haven't stopped grinning since we talked on the phone. And no, there wasn't any room for sorries or what happeneds. We just caught up and moved on.

Heartiest congratulations to you, Dr.M! I wish I were there to celebrate with you, help you vacate your apartment, pack up and take that one-way flight out of lutom. Just like you were there for me. But we will have to celebrate at a later point.

For now, I am going to continue grinning from ear to ear and jumping around my apartment till my neighbours complain. :) And I might buy my lab mates beers tomorrow. :) In honour of your big day!

Things can only get better from here. :D

Free drinks on the blog to everyone ova here!

Q and A time again

Out of bloggable content, and a bit bored of my blog the way it is shaping up. I am throwing this space open for some "healthy" discussion.

My question is about "personal bloggers" (like your very own favourite deep_thought, for e.g.) i.e bloggers who blog about their daily lives and related insights, personal opinions etc.

1) What kind of expectations do you have from your comments space? Where do you draw the line at a comment being personal, and a comment being just that- a passing thought by someone?

2) As a commenter-when you read personal blogs and disagree with the author- how many times have you expressed it, and how many times have you walked away thinking "meh- his life his opinion"? How many times have you disagreed without disclosing your blog identity?

3) Why should it matter if the commenter (especially a dissenter) is anonymous or has a blog?

4) My point is, do personal bloggers actually favour healthy discussion on their blogs, or do they blog just to maintain a one-way dialog as an online diary and the comments are left open only for agreements ("oh i feel your pain, so true") type comments or praise ("oh tgfi you are so cool i love your blog") types or constructive advice ("have you tried this") type comments?

Plis diskass! Lurkers, this would be a good time to come out and say what you think. Anonymously, if you so please. :)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I have arrived!

L bumped into me two days after I had joined my new place of work. Of course, we made the desi-desi connection and got chatting. I impressed her with my fluent bengali and ever since that hallway chat, she's been always asking after me, how I am settling in, giving me tips on post-doc life, etc. etc. It was really nice to have someone looking after me like that. We met off and on and talked about visiting her sometime, "bring your sister and all also" she said, when I told her I end up at my sister's on most weekends. She even told me about some other friends of hers and said she'd take me to visit them some day. Me being me, I gladly and enthusiastically agreed, after all, I was keen to make new friends around this place.

Today I find out, L and her husband, and these other friends of hers are all involved in some kind of "business proposition" and if I had a couple hours, she would like to take me to their place so I could hear more about it and join them if I were interested. Of course, I luckily remembered about an experiment that needed attention right then. Heh. All my life I've heard of Amway and its derivatives, and how desis abroad are known for bugging people to join their little coterie. Now, for the past 6 years in small univ town lutom, I never came across those types. Today I got my first amway-type friend! I am so kicked! :)

New day, new lesson

Sometimes a freak coincidence is just that. Freakish, but plain and simple coincidence.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

W.o.m.m #5

On personal blogs

I find that I enjoy personal blogs that describe all and more about grad-student/post-doc life that i can so relate to, blogs that describe nitty gritties of other lives that I have never led and will never lead, blogs that present an interesting p.o.v on issues I have no clue about, blogs that are well-written, mom-blogs that revolve around the upbringing of children (to some point only, yes). But the one category of personal blogs I have no stomach for is those that describe relationship stories and draama in all their glory: even if I can tell that they are very well written, sans mush and such.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Happy Diwali!

I think I have graduated from home-sickness to pure nostalgia during festivities. It has become a way of life, seven diwalis, seven ganesh chaturthis, and thats the way it is! Diwali for me at home in Bombay meant being woken up by our crazy maharashtrian neighbours who woke up at 3 am to burst crackers. Then being woken up again, having oil-bath, wearing new clothes. :) It was one of those rare occasions I actually enjoyed dressing up, then. S, my best friend from downstairs would come up to show off her new dress. In the evening, we'd deck up, go to everyone's houses in the neighbourhood to exchange sweets. The same general mix would make the rounds- chiwda, chakli, laddus, some barfi, etc. etc. Sometimes things would go from one house to another and back to the house it came from! But it didn't matter. We'd come back to our houses to a huge spread of sweets. Then we'd change into simpler clothes and gather downstairs to burst crackers. Our building was like the meeting ground for all the people around the neighbourhood- everone pooled their crackers and the uncles and aunties looked over as the kids had a good time. Bhoomi chakras, anaars, rockets, and all those bombs. Oh yeah- there was a Lakshmi pooja in there somewhere I forgot. And also lighting diyas all around the house, something I loved doing.

The next few days would be spent eating all those sweets like there's no tomorrow. And the next many months would be spent swearing off sweets. :) Ah! fun times. I miss home like hell at such times- calling and listening to the firecrackers in the background totally does it for me. I don't know if it's the proximity to my sister's that's making me less home-sick than usual, the fact that I just went home, or the little voice in my head thats telling me that its a matter of a few more years and I will be home, eventually!

For now, I have lit a string of electric brass diyas that look really pretty. (But my mom says that doesn't suffice, I need to light an oil lamp too!) I will brave the cold and wear a nice new churidaar to lab today and take along some gulab jamuns. I'm happy. Happy Diwali all ye readers of Deep Thought!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

More w.o.m.m (#4)

Sometimes its nice to have a heart to heart chat with someone who knows you but has no clue what you have been doing or been through in the past several years. You get some objective reasoning, some frank advice unbiased by any a priori knowledge. And it's up to you to take what you get and make sense out of it.

I've lived in the USA for six years now. Heck, I have been Americanised a good deal. When it calls for it, I will stand up and argue for some of the practices in this country. It's not because I feel obliged to, but because I see the sense. This doesn't always go down well with some folks: especially those that revel in America bashing (I do too) and are suddenly surprised to see me on the other side.

(Or may be it's that devil's advocate thing that's actually annoying them..)

One more random peeve: I really hate blog posts written in third person style. "One thinks one must get over this one business and say "I" instead" like that style. The other kind that annoys me is the first person plural, or the royal we, that only few can pull off.

And and and I have a terrible allergy or itchy eyes syndrome or something. Have resorted to squinting when I'm not gouging my eyes out. I know I need to see a doctor or something (or benadryl) but I just don't want to see a doc. May be if I close my eyes it will go away. heh.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

What's on my mind #3

You are not a Ph.D until search queries like this that brought people to your blog earlier change to queries like this.


The next best thing to sex (after chocolate) is a one hour long whole body massage. Especially one in which the masseuse comes home, so you don' t have to bother about driving or getting there, and you can take a nice hot bath right after and curl up and go to sleep. Bliss. Pure bliss. I think I earn enough so I might make this a monthly ritual now. After all, I don't spend money on clothes, shoes, and other stuff that much- I can use this indulgence.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Some breakthroughs have been made

No, not of the scientific kind: more of the life kind.

I blogged about my unhappiness and general negativity in my work-life here. The negativity was pretty overbearing, and I tried several ways to overcome it. I avoided, I listened passively, I even glazed over and mentally turned off when the bitching began, and all of it helped to varying extents. The fact of the matter was, the very people who were drains on my mental energy due to their bitterness were otherwise really nice and fun people to be around, besides being my only social interaction in the work-week. So after a while, instead of simply being a passive listener, I tried to offer a slightly different viewpoint. I tried to make way for a small ray of sunshine in the gloomy tales. I was afraid I'd come off as annoying and preachy as is often the reaction when a ranter gets unsolicited advice. Worse, I was afraid of being dismissed as naive. But in fact, I was received rather well. My suggestions were taken, my views were appreciated. I noticed that the cribbing was getting lesser over the past few days, and wondered if they had run out of things to complain about. Today, my co-worker actually thanked me and said I'd made a huge difference to her morale ever since I got here, and she was glad to be able to talk to such a well-grounded person.
(If only she knew ;) )

On the other hand, my own dissatisfactions at work have also begun clearing up. I had no clue what I was getting myself into when I switched fields in such a huge way. I was having a tough time understanding things, catching up and keeping up with an actively growing field of literature, and coming to terms with being the lowest on the totem pole. At the end of two months, I still don't have a defined project. And it didn't help that I was being so hard on myself, as I am wont to be, giving rise to a vicious cycle of less productivity and more despair. While I was busy hating myself for being so lost or having assimilated so little, I was making intelligent contributions to lab-discussions and every meeting with my boss always ended on a positive note with him being very happy with my progress. Clearly, things were not as bad as I was making them out for myself, but I was unable to bridge that gap.

I then made a conscious decision to lower my standards for myself. It sounds regressive, it was not easy to do, but it made me a much happier person and much more productive. Instead of aiming to present to my boss ground-breaking hypotheses or 3 specific aims for a grant proposal, I let myself be content in reading and understanding a few papers, and being able to put forth an intelligent idea. We would talk some more, and I'd take it from there. Of course, things are moving a lot slower than I hoped/imagined, but I have come to terms with that. With that, I have begun enjoying what can be a really fertile period in one's post-doc life: lots of out-of-the-box thinking, exploring and ideas that keep me up at night. Being new to the field has it's own charm- it allows me an unbiased view into things that can sometimes be very useful (and at other times, make me feel like a fool!). But in the end, it has revived in me the joy of discovery, an innocent fascination at how things operate in this system, and I am now enjoying this opportunity to find my own question and come up with how I want to answer it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Memories of a friendship

There aren't that many people who

  • offered their unconditional support and encouragement. Always.

  • would run out to the mall every time you had a conference to go to and buy you a new outfit to wear for it.

  • would lend you the keys to their car before you could even ask.

  • would cook and bring you food when you were sick.

  • would trouble-shoot your experiments for you over a cup of chai

  • you could call to your messy apartment in the middle of the night to help you find your passport since you need to catch an international flight in a few hours

  • would proceed to find your passport for you and drive you to the airport

  • knew what you liked, always made sure you got it

  • understood you, stood by you and goaded you on

  • got all your jokes and laughed with you

  • would drive 2 hours to get you from the airport at 3 am

  • indulged in you and your impulsiveness

And there aren't that many times in life you meet a single person capable of being and doing all of the above and more!

The sad part is never being able to get a chance to say thanks.. or sorry.

I continue to remain optimistic, and hope dearly for that chance.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Heppy Budday to me!

While I usually like to make a big deal of birthdays, (yeah, even mine); I really wanted to have nothing to do with my birthday this year. I wanted to sulk and brood and was in no celebratory mode. But then I stumbled upon this post by sheer chance and it struck a chord.

"Suddenly you wake up and realize that, many years ago, on this very day, you brought joy to your parents just by becoming present."....

I had never thought about birthdays like that before. Indeed, birthdays belong to the parents. Calls/mails/smses came in - friends (both real and unreal :) ) who cared enough to remember and call/mail in spite of everything else - all just to say "Happy Birthday". And of course, my little niece who has apparently been waiting since yesterday to scream excitedly into the phone "Happy Birthday to youuuuuu tgfi-pinni!" :)

Awww. How can I not be happy?

Life begins at 30: I have a year to do my homework!

P.S: And now if you will all excuse me, I have an hour long massage scheduled. :)

P.P.S: Yes, you can all each buy me a drink of your choice, I am partial to margheritas and vodka-anything. No beer please. Thank-you. :)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Show this to your mom

At lunch the other day I met a post-doc who seemed a bit low: she had just found out that her mom in India was diagnosed with breast cancer. Apparently her mom realised that something was wrong for a few months, but waited to go see a doctor about it because she wanted to complete the teerth-yatras (pilgrimages) she planned to go on and didn't want anything to interfere with those plans.


The irony of it all was harder on this post-doc, being a cancer researcher herself and in an environment where there is so much publicity, awareness, campaigning and discussion about breast cancer. It makes one even more sad to think about the absolute lack of these things back home, and the slightly more fatalistic approach I've seen in India about health and disease, even amongst the better-read and more well-to-do sections of the society. The value of early detection in breast cancer cannot be overstated. Chances of recovery and survival are highest when it is caught in the early stages.

Women living in North America have the highest incidence of breast cancer in the world, but since 1990 there has been a steady decline in the number of deaths from breast cancer in the US. This is mainly because of early detection and of course, better treatment. In India, we should see this as a warning of things to come. Breast cancer is already becoming increasingly prevalent in India. It is now the second most common cancer to affect women in India, more common in urban areas among higher socio-economic classes. This is possibly an effect of lifestyle changes that increase one's risk (alcohol, diet, stressful and sedentary lives, late childbirth, early onset of the menstrual cycle, etc.). This same high-risk group has access to more information and resources that are sadly, not being tapped. More than 50% of breast cancers detected in India are at the locally advanced stage (tumors greater than 5 cm), while in the US, more breast cancers are detected in the early stages and consequently easier to control and treat.

Every woman over 40 irrespective of identified risks should learn to perform a self-breast exam correctly and monitor herself regularly (once a month) for any tell tale signs. Regular self-exam (done correctly) helps a woman to become more familiar with her breasts and detect small changes. This should be supplemented by yearly or bi-yearly mammograms and any other tests that the doctor might recommend. 80% of lumps detected in the breast are non-cancerous. But early detection of a cancerous lump means a very high chance of survival and mammograms can detect a cancer much earlier than the symptoms begin to show.

I don't usually say this to my blog readers, but I want you all to show this post to your mom. Exhort her to get pro-active about this and schedule an appointment for her with the doctor to better educate her on breast cancer if she is not already aware. Simple steps towards breast cancer detection and prevention are very do-able and go a long way.

More related links

Edited in: The risk of breast cancer does increase with age, but as pointed out in the comments below, all women must be vigilant about it.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Just when you think you've hit rock bottom

I got tired of not having furniture and decided to buy a table and two chairs off craigs list where the guys said they'd even deliver the stuff. I consulted everyone in my lab with the picture and took a poll on whether I should buy without actually seeing it. Much discussion followed on colour, upholstery, how to redo if ugly, sturdiness, indoors or outdoors, formica or laminated blah blah. The consensus was, it's a good deal, go for it, you don't have much to lose, and you're tired of living on your futon. So I got it. The two guys hauled it up too, and the table itself was pretty heavy, so I was quite grateful. I reported in lab yesterday that the table actually looked okay, it was nothing like I'd feared and totally agreeable. And finally I had a table, on which I could set up my computer and blog my emo posts. Yay.
Today, around the stroke of midnight, to be precise, while I sat in front of the computer, chatting, I felt a sinking feeling as the seat of the chair gave way and..

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's not looking good

and perhaps I am being a baby about it. But that's all I have the energy for right now. Life's one unhappy mess. And I know some things I can fix and some things I can't. And I should focus on what I can fix instead of brooding over what I can't. But I'm only human, and I will continue to wallow in self-pity and misery.
F!@# everything.

Monday, October 15, 2007

On not wanting what you can't have

When the realization dawns, that you may indeed, never have it, do you

a) Start questioning why you ever wanted it?

b) Make do with the next closest thing?

c) Weep?

d) Stop wanting it?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What's on my mind #2

FYI, w.o.m.m is a new series on this blog, extremely random, the main goal being to vent.

Downstairs desi neighbour. Plays LOUD desi music at night. Now I do not grudge him the loudness, the apartments are really not soundproof here. But the music is always sad songs or ghazal stuff. Like "tum aa gaye hoooo....noor aa gaya hai..." and "Tujhse naraaz nahin ...zindagi.." and lots of stuff in similar tone that I wouldn't even recognize, except for sad tones.

I mean, for real? So much depression comes every time I open the window or go to the bathroom.

Now I am beyond those volume wars where I turn up my music just to drown neighbour's annoying music. But methinks its time to go over and introduce myself and lend him my dhinchaak bollywood cd, and introduce him to the likes of this.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

What's on my mind

The bastard bike vandals. Last night, someone tried to steal my bike seat (but couldn't get very far, so I found it this morning with the seat all wobbly and tampered with). Since they couldn't get the seat, they went for my bike rack.

Now this was not parked in the same place as when they took my light, so they're obviously all over this place. I have learned my lesson and will never park my bike in places besides apartment and department. Although, I had one bike stolen when I was in Lutom, right from in front of my apartment! I am aware of the menace and stick to no-frills bikes to minimize my losses, but every time shit like this happens, it makes me feel so angry and violated. I also feel sad because my current bike was one of the things that moved with me from Lutom and is therefore special. The thought of these idiot people screwing with it is not a happy thought.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Lesson of the day

Do not take anyone/anything for granted. Easier said than done, but very important in order to make the best of the present and minimise future hurt, pain and regret.

Monday, October 08, 2007

My first you tube post

(yeah, I'm late to this party)

One of the gems in this awesome dhinchaak autorickshaw myoojik CD gifted to me by this blog friend when we met in bombay.

KK's crazy almost shirtless dancing is delish and the song has me dancing in my head on my worst days.

Main aur verizon wireless..aksar baatein kiya kartein hain

When I was trying to get a DSL connection set up at home, I spent a total of at least 3 to 4 hours chasing the verizon buggers and their stupid voice-recognition software that would always answer the phone. After a frustrated hour of trying to get someone to help me about my online order, and never encountering the right menu option from the list that was pre-recorded, I got online and chatted with one of their reps, who suggested that I follow the option "billing" when i called in again, instead of "new orders". One of the confounding issues was that I did not have a verizon wireless phone number to identify myself. My last conversation with verizon went like this:

VW (irritating nasal twangy bot voice) : Welcome to verizon. you've reached verizon internet services. starting with your area code please say or enter your ten digit phone number now. or say, "i don't know it"

Me (calm and composed voice- i've done this before) : I don't know it

VW: Which are you calling about? "tech support, billing, or sales?"

Me: (still calm) Billing.

VW: In order to better assist you,I need to know the exact nature of your problem. Which of the following do you need assistance with..blah blah blah. Or say other. You can also go back to our main menu...blah blah blah

Me: (even before she finishes, loud voice) Other

VW: I'm sorry, I did not hear you. Which of these options did you select. *Rattles all the bleddy 34 options again.

Me: (waiting patiently till the end, and then screaming) OTHER

VW: I'm trying to get to know the exact problem so I can direct you to the relevant associate. Our support staff is trained to handle different issues...blah blah.. so , if you're calling to find out your balance, say balance. If you'd like to ...blah blah blah blah blah blah or say continue

Me: (calm voice) Continue

VW: I'm sorry, I did not understand you. If you need to know your current balance, please say balance. If you're calling about blah blah blah blah blah Otherwise, say continue.

Me: (calm voice, gritting teeth, using all my will power to not fling the phone at the window) CONTINUE

VW: I'm sorry, I still did not understand. Did you need help with your current balance? If so, please say balance. If you....blah blah blah blah blah Otherwise, say continue.

Me: (very calm voice) How about F**K YOU?

VW: You said continue. Please hold on while I transfer your call to the right agent.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I need my sunshine

It's soon going to be two months since I started my post-doc. I haven't been the happiest person in the past several weeks since coming here. I hadn't seen this coming- I expected myself to be excited and upbeat about all the things new, all the exploring, discovering awaiting me, science-wise and life-wise. But it didn't turn out that way, and I found myself slightly miserable and a nagging unhappiness overshadowing my daily life.

Every once in a while, I'd try to dissect out what was making me so unhappy. Some of the obvious reasons were missing home, missing my well-lived in and nice apt with internet and my car, missing friends, missing the familiar comfort of lutom, and struggling to learn and understand all the new stuff at work. I found that I had very little patience for the feeling of not understanding or not knowing- and I encounter this all the time thanks to switching to a whole new field. But those are all a part of the game, things I had come to terms with.

Over the past few days and in the course of writing a post about it, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that what I miss the most is a bright positive influence in my life. I always thought of myself as a positive person, but that positivity was always helped on by an outside influence: and I lack that here. Back in lutom, my biggest positive influence was my phd advisor. Her ability to always hope for the best, celebrate little successes and her endless optimism sometimes surprised me, but also rubbed off on me and goaded me on. Then there were some really good friends, who could always make me see the brighter side of things and continue to do so when I call them and pour out my woes. The presence of such people in my life ensured that I didn't let things get to me.

Here, folks at work are nice and friendly people, but I find a lot of negativity around. The typical struggling post-doc is high strung about getting papers out and finding a foot in the door to get to his/her next step (academia or industry: both terribly competitive ); struggling to find a work-life balance or trying to justify to a significant other why s/he has to spend weekends in the lab and have a sorry paycheck to show for it. To add to these frustrations, there is a lot of people politics: something I just do not have the stomach for. I realised that if I wanted to be social, I'd have to put up with the gossip and the bitching, else I could choose to simply keep to myself; again, something I cannot do. Ever since I came, I have encountered a lot of negativity, anti-boss propaganda, and one-against-the-other bitching, without even giving myself a chance to enjoy or find out for myself how good or bad things really are. The one person here whose company I quite enjoy because we level well and she has a great sense of humor also happens to be a very negative, bitter person, and putting up with that sort of attitude has been pretty draining on my energy. Even though I tried to guard myself against this negativity, it caught on pretty soon, I suspect because I was simultaneously dealing with all the issues of moving into a new place and trying to find my bearings.

Now that I have become aware of the reason for my nagging irritation, I feel a lot better. My old friends have put me in touch with other folks who also live in Philly, and I am hoping to build a better network of non-work friends to socialize with. There are still a few good sunny days left, and lots to explore in the city, even by myself. Above all, I need to remember to be my own sunshine.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


It's amazing how much happiness can be contained in a modem with three green lights glowing. When I had just moved into my apt a month ago, I resolved not to get an internet connection and wanted to spend time more productively, make use of the sunny days left and catch up on books, friends, etc. Ah well, for a few days, it worked out well. But pretty soon, the withdrawal symptoms began showing up pretty bad, and limited access to a computer at work made it worse. I could no longer keep in regular touch with friends, and I couldn't blog or blog-hop! When I found myself reading email at home on my cellphone, squinting my eyes while each email took eons to load, giving rise to obscene cellphone bills in the bargain, I realized that enough was enough, and I had to get this problem fixed.
So I caved in and got a connection, and just hooked up my wireless modem so that those green lights lit up. I am so happy to back in blogsville! Muahs to everyone around here and unlimited drinks on the house!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rants R Us

Don't say I didn't warn ya. Nothing happy or feel-good about this post. It's pure unadulterated rant.

1) I hate my apartment. The apt.was fixed up by my lab and I thought that was super convenient: really inexpensive by the city's standards and a ten minute walk to the lab. When I asked about it while interviewing, everyone who had lived there said with a shrug of shoulders "it's's nice.." . Next time someone shrugs their shoulders and says  "it's allright.." they mean it sucks and they don't want to tell you that. So well, first of all, the concept of cross-ventilation does not exist in this building. The building is stuffy as hell and when I enter in everyday, I am greeted by a mixture of smells: international cooking aromas and laundry smell all mixed up in the carpeted hallway. My apartment is on the topmost floor and gets a whole lot of sun which I'd typically like. But, by the time I hold my breath and run up the stairs to my apt, I feel like I am entering a hot furnace of sorts, causing me to want to leave right away. The only thing that keeps me is the horrible stuffiness that I'd have to endure to get out again.  There's barely any storage space in the kitchen and since I haven't bought any furniture yet all my masalas are sitting in zip lock bags in a carton. For now I have three pedestal fans positioned all around my futon to help me sleep, so that there's only so much I can do to avoid tripping over one of the wires or bang into one of the fans when I wake up every morning having forgotten the previous night's placement. Well, with the winter around the corner, I guess I won't be complaining about the heat for too long. For now, I hate my apartment.

2) Someone stole my bike light. Who does shit like that? I hope you rot in hell.

Thank you for the listening.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

On A Thousand Splendid Suns

Un-put-down-able. I picked up the book because I was curious to see what it was all about, and what had made it a chart topper in the U.S. I read it over a weekend non stop. While typically, that is said of books with gripping story lines, in this case, it was not so. I just wanted the agony to end, I wanted to see how it ended and I knew I would never feel like picking it up again if I put it down before I finished it. It was a painful saga, and the story rode on stereotypes through and through. I'll give Hosseini the credit for holding the thread well enough, and for well-rendered descriptions of war-ridden Afghanistan. But to be honest, I found no quality in the story, no depth, and quite overdone pathos and drama. I didn't quite understand what made it such a success.
The other day while cycling around, I noticed a sign near the public library saying "Book club discussion: A thousand splendid suns". Quite some coincidence, I thought, so I decided to go to it to listen to what other people have to say. I also thought it would be a nice way to make new friends. I got late at work, and ended up hurrying down to the library and caught a glimpse of the discussion winding down. About 8 people were gathered around a table, with coffee and snacks. So much for hoping to make new friends, they all just happened to be in the age range of 60 years or so, and friendless as I am in this new city, I wasn't about to join the geriatric club yet. I observed silently, and could see routine expressions. One person's face looked grave and serious while narrating something, and the other 7 around the table had a permanent ":o" expression stuck on their face. Of course, they were horrified to read about how women are treated, violated, exploited in "aff-gan-ees-tan". I could see how this book could've become a success in the West- how everyone found it "stunning" and "heart-warming" and all that and more. Frankly, I thought it was a glorified soap opera with its moments of literary creativity and beauty. I do think it will make a great movie. A long, sad, tear-jerker that I am not going to go to.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What is worse?

That she will never find out where she went wrong; or that she will never know if she went wrong?

Thursday, September 06, 2007


I think the alone-ness has hit me finally. Last week a bad migraine and a long day at work made me yearn to go and find a friend, get a drink or a meal with, and just sit and yap. Today I burnt my hand in the lab, and I don't want to get all wussy, but yeah, i could give in to some whining. I find myself missing all my close friends from lutom, even though they left lutom a year before me, and the few other buddies that were around when I left. Phone calls can only come this close to making up for it, and at some point don't help because they make you miss the real thing even more. I miss dowtown lutom. I miss the night-time janitor in my building. I even miss my Ph.D advisor!  It doesn't help that I find this whole new resistance in me to make new close friendships. I have met some really nice folks around here but am keeping them at bay. New place, new friends, but that is going to take a while to happen. This is the downside of two-month long vacations at home- you almost forget how it is to live alone, deal with your problems alone and cook for yourself, which I haven't done since I got here. And to think I was complaining about how stifling it used to get at home sometimes. Heh heh heh. So glad my parents dont read this blog. ;)
Sigh. I gotta get with the program. And if anyone of you even dares to suggest marriage as a solution, I will hunt you down and beat you up. So be warned. :@ :)  

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Welcome back

Once, you were an integral part of my life. I needed you, and without you I'd go nowhere. Then, before I realized it, things change. You cannot blame me entirely for letting you go. I admit, I had begun to care less, but those were stressful times; I was always fighting time and giving in easily. I should've "made" time, you'd say, and you'd perhaps be right. But the damage was done, slowly and gradually, and one fine day, you stopped being a part of me, a part of my life. I was not happy with this new me, but that was how it was. I decided to leave it at that simply because I couldn't deal with it. Life went on, the stressful times gave way to happy times. In the cosy comfort of home, I did not even miss you as we distanced even more. Sometimes, I looked back on the times I had you and wondered if we'd ever get back together again. Deep down, I wanted to, but I did not see it happen easily, I knew that it would take time and effort.
Today, I found myself reaching out for you. I need you back in my life, right where you belong, just like the old days; and I am overjoyed at the very prospect.Welcome back, dear belt.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Adventures from week 1. (warning: not for the faint-hearted, although I survived)

#1: Instant cervical dislocation: Sign up for a pregnant mouse, and on day 9 post-conception (going by appearance of vaginal plugs, hence daily monitoring required (monitoring duty rotates)), bring the pregnant mouse from the animal room. Even if the only life forms you have worked on so far were microscopic, did not squeak or have the ability to run, do not be scared of mouse. Hold the  mouse dangling by its tail, which makes it naturally cling on the the railing of the cage for support. This makes it easy for you to whack it on the base of its neck with one swift motion of  the end of the forceps. Mouse dies instantly. Lay the mouse on its back, make one long cut along the abdomen area, push aside the intestines and find the ovaries. Snip off the embryos that are arranged like a string of pearls beneath. Keep embryos in petri-plate on ice and move on to dissection scope for appropriate use. Dead mouse is wrapped in the same glove used to kill it and flung into a freezer, to be disposed off when full or stinking (emptying freezer duty rotates). Blood, gore. bad smell and involuntary twitching of dead mouse is expected, do not faint at any time during procedure.

#2: Stuck in an elevator: Sometimes elevators malfunction, and you may be stuck on one between floors on a friday evening after hours. That's why they have that calling bell in the elevator. Push it, do not panic. Some kind soul might finally hear you "Are you stuck? Hold on, I'll go get some help in a minute". Help arrives in fifteen minutes in the form of the maintenance guy. "I'll get you out of there in a minute," he says. By now you should know that it won't be a minute. He turns the mains off and on, which is supposed to make the doors open. They don't. He gets a key that is supposed to help open the inner doors from outside. He gets to pry open the outer doors to a crack, finally after 20 minutes, and you can see another person and get some fresh air to breath. The whole emergency key system does not work to unlock the inner doors because the door locking mechanism is jammed. He tells you to stay calm and he will go get help (in a minute). You are alone again , and even the outer doors that he got to open slam shut. Ten minutes later they return, and help you wedge the outer doors open with a crowbar. There is lots of banging down on the inner doors using heavy iron poles and crowbars, trying to forcefully break the locking system and open them. All you can see is the beams of the door getting dented and broken, but no signs of the doors actually giving way. Of course, don't panic. Don't curse your stupid self for getting on an elevator (to go down!) just because you didn't know where the stairs were in the building. This is so not the time. Take a deep breath of stale air, and study the door locking system that the guy is trying to get to unjam. Ask them to bring you a screwdriver and a wrench, use all your collective might to open the inner doors just a crack so tools can be passed on to you into the elevator. Work on unscrewing the aluminium panel that covers the locking system and then take apart the locking system. Doesn't matter, just unscrew any screws till you can see the cable that holds the doors taut loosen up. After 20 mins of heavy turning and unscrewing (the screws can be old and heavy and very tight), the cable comes loose and the doors give way. You can jump out now, you are a free woman!

And if the whole mouse incident was too traumatising to handle, you have a new job offer now, to work with the elevator repair guys who were clearly impressed with your (outward) calmness and handy-ness with tools.
P.S: Posting via email from a work computer, cannot answer comments, sorry. :(

From grad student to post-doc (via long and lazy fattening vacation)

My glorious extended vacation (thank-you, USCIS) finally came to an end. My O.P.T finally in hand, I am proud to report that I boarded my flight out of India with little drama. I found that logic over-ruled everything else in my head this time- I was sad about leaving my parents, especially having been at home for so long, but I had had my fill of lazing and more, was ready to get started and this just had to be done. I was actually quite high-spirited and also excited about my first non-stop flight from India to the US. (Which, by the way totally rocked and I'd fully recommend it, the 15 hours literally flew past and the best part was no delays caused by stopovers).

My sis and b-i-l drove me into Philadelphia and helped me settle in, which made my life so much simpler. An apartment had already been reserved for me, I had a futon (thanks to my b-i-l and sis) to sleep on from night one, my alarm clock - radio plugged in, and the essentials to make my morning chai. I was all set. My first week  has been mostly "getting settled", paper work, formalities,and losing and finding my way around. The first thing that struck me was how much time I have now in the lab. A whole day just to do research! No T.A work, no classes to take, no grad-student responsibilities, just science! Wow!  There are very few grad students and no undergrads on my floor, so the other thing that jumped out soon enough was suddenly being surrounded by only 27-28-year olds and older. No inane conversations, silly undergraduate sense of humour, and such like. Post-docs seem like a more focussed, busy, and mature crowd of people, and I like being one among them. However, along with that, some of them also bring along a  strong shade of jade, something that I want to guard myself against for now.

Day 4 found me setting up for my first experiment in the new lab. It was a preliminary, straightforward experiment, a technique that I had performed a zillion times as a grad student. Still, there was  a broad smile on my face and a slight sense of nervousness as I went about doing it. How I had missed the pipetting all these months! The experiment worked, and I found myself saying "it had to work, there was no other way,  and it did." I had expected a bit more elation what with it being my first experiment in the new lab and everything, but apparently, it will take more for me to break into a dance over experiments that work, now.

Comparisons to my past life constantly dot my train of thought. "Can you believe they don't even have an online inventory  here!", and "The way <i> I </i> used to do it in grad school was different, but this works too..", and so on. The whole sharing bit is not coming that easy to me, having enjoyed the benefits of being the only student in my lab in lutom for many years. After a few days of trying to assimilate all the new stuff I was hearing and learning here,  I called up an old lab-mate in lutom, desperate for details about my old life.  It felt so good to talk in a familiar tongue, familiar words, familiar science.  Who is taking care of my frozen down parasites? What did E finally found out in his project? Did K's stuff finally work? What's the gossip from the meeting? Did they fix that centrifuge yet? And most important, who is using <i>my</i> bench now?

I then realize, I am the one using my bench. Because my bench is here. Yes. the science, the system, the vocabulary, are all very very new, but I chose to get into it, and I love the challenge and the excitement that the newness brings. The start has been smooth, but I get the feeling that it is a bit like the calm before a storm. A storm that should be fun tackling.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Some more Bombay bits

I guess it's natural for one to be madly in love with the city they grew up in- [even more so if it's Bombay ;)]. Here's a list of things I really relished when I went back after living in Hydie for two months .. some of these are, indeed, associations and memories I have with the city (that anyone could form with most any place), while others are true Bombay-isms, that make Bombay what it is.

1. Autorickshaws: They are (mostly) always willing to take on a passenger even if it'll get them minimum fare. They charge by meter, and not a paisa more. They have (mostly) zero attitude (Yeah, two months in hydie and you will really start appreciating this). But most of all, I love that you can hop into a rick and strike up a conversation with the auto wallah about Shiv sena, current affairs, rain, or an impending World War. (Yeah, I have covered all these issues with autowallahs). A priceless snippet of one such conversation from this trip..

Me: Public aur press ne usko fukat ka chadhake rakha hai...(Sanju baba, of course)

Auto driver: Arre! aap jaisi hi-fi madam koi ro rahi thi usko jail hua iskeliye. Kayko roneka? Usko apni kiye ki saza mil rahi hai bas.

Note the words "hi-fi madam", yes, they made my day. :)

2. Bindaas Bombay: It was pouring cats and dogs. Bombay now presses the panic button every time it rains longer than 10 - 12 hours at a stretch. I got on a bus to go to Siddhivinayak, and we were in one of those low-lying areas in waist-deep water, the bus had stalled. Everyone seemed tired, hassled and worried. A man got on the bus and slipped. Some stranger helped him regain balance. He thanked the man, a joke was made, and an entire bunch of drenched and hassled people who didn't know each other broke into peals of laughter.
I was smiling too, even though I didn't hear the joke. :)

3. Help is always forthcoming: The first thing I had to do when I landed in the city, was to close my old bank account. So I went straight to the bank, bag and baggage, wet and umbrella-less. I put forth my best marathi (quite rusty now) and explained to the security guard at the bank what I needed to do. He offered to watch my bags for me, explained me the procedure to close my account, brought me a blank sheet of paper to write my letter, pointed me in the direction of who to see and essentially made it a breeze! Also made small chit-chat with me while I was waiting and told me where I could get some nice hot chai near by. :)

Since I didn't have a cellphone, the P.C.O machines and my little book of numbers were my lifeline for those 5 days. Not once did the shop manning the P.C.O refuse to give me change for a ten-rupee note so I could make my calls.
[Yes, this has happened umpteen times in hydie. I don't know why]

4. Food: I ate duniya bhar ka kachra when I was there, and it tastes best when enjoyed from the street-side vendors. For the wusses there are several new joints that serve all this kachra made from mineral water. Then there's Monginis, Naturals Ice cream, Gaylords, K Rustoms, Swastik, Shiv sagar and a host of other places I didn't even get my fill of.

5. The sense of purpose: Everyone strides about in urgency and hurry. I loved the crowds and the hectic current running through the city, wherever I went. I loved waking up with the city, and sleeping late, watching it still awake and abuzz.

6. The public transport system: The local train network and the BEST bus system can pretty much take you from any point to any point. To fill the gaps, there are rickshaws and taxis always. It felt so good to navigate myself in familiar territory, get from one end of the city to another without too much trouble and make it in good time too.

7. The sea: Nothing beats sitting along Marine Drive, watching the traffic, hawkers, couples, and assorted joggers and tourists, or just watching the sea and the Mumbai skyline. Complete bliss in the middle of chaos.

Yes, it will take me a while to stop fawning, I have been Mumbai deprived for two years and was living in hyderabad for the past two months! :p

Monday, August 06, 2007

Yeh hai Bambai meri jaan: redux

Bombay was calling. One last fling before I left the country, she beckoned, and I had to go. I landed in Bombay with a broad smile on my face. For those five days, my life was the exact opposite of how it has been for the past 2 months. Wake up early, meet A for lunch, B for coffee, C for dinner. Get up, repeat with a whole new set of people. With most of my friends either working or at home with little babies, it was not easy to get them to come out and meet in the same place. So it was a nice logic puzzle to combine folks on the same train line with old haunts I wanted to revisit, simultaneously finish my shopping, errands and of course factor in the great mumbai monsoons. And it was a total blast from my past!

I was living with a couple different friends who had given me the keys to their house so I could return as late as I wanted, no questions asked, and no feelings hurt because I wasn't exactly spending time "with" them. This made for the best arrangement of all! I got to experience the Bombay that never sleeps, in a way I was never allowed to do for all those years of living there, since I lived with my parents.

Meeting friends was a mixed bag of emotions, as always. Lots had changed now, what with husbands, in-laws and kids in the picture. There were stories of sad and happy marriages, separations, and everything else in between. It was nice to see some very welcome changes and also nice to see that parenthood hadn't changed a thing about some of them. When we got together and caught up over street-side food and shopping, it was crazy laughter, leg-pulling and lots of heart-to-heart conversations, just like the good old days. We managed to pack the past two years or more within the 3 - 4 hour long meetings and were back on the same page with each others' lives. My friends also noticed several changes in me, but did not resist them. They insisted on buying for me little things that I felt like buying for myself and made it a point to ensure that I got my fill of all things Bambaiyya. The simple things made me realize how precious these relationships are- and how lucky I am to have them.

One on really terribly rainy day, I had planned to visit my school and college. Visiting the school I went to 20 24 (no thanks to CC for pointing that out) years ago was quite an overwhelming experience, and my day was made when my junior KG teacher actually remembered my name, and introduced me as one the school's best students! They were all very emotional and very proud of me and my achievements. My teacher opened up her secret stash of candy and handed me two chocolates- these were special. They were reserved for students who did a good job in cursive writing and did not cross the red and blue lines in the notebook. :D The classroom of little 3 year olds kept staring at me , envy mixed with wonder.

On the same day, I went to my college, where I got my Bachelors and Masters degrees. Having made it through waist-deep water (often thinking about turning back and dropping the idea) I approached my old classroom and waved out to my prof who was in the middle of a class. She stared at me for a second, trying to figure me out, and then yelled "Arre TGFI! Kitni moti ho gayi hai tu!!" (= Hey TGFI, look how fat you've become!) to which the entire class turned around to look at me. Thanks, ma'am, for the warm welcome, I said. :D It was so nice to see all my profs, lots of improvements to the labs and facilities in my department, and getting offered chai and samosas in the teachers' staff room, again, a much coveted indulgence. I had been carrying around my bound thesis (in two plastic bags , much like that Bheja Fry guy) and it got lots of cheers and congratulations from my proud professors. I was so glad I made that trek in spite of the rain and managed to actually meet all my profs.

Another set of people that were on my list to meet were parents of my best friends, even if those friends were not living there. These are the people that saw me grow up, fed me when I landed up unannounced, chided me when I didn't perform well in exams, and were proud of every milestone in my life. There was a great feeling of strength in seeing them, sharing my good news with them and enjoying their warm indulgences just like it was in the old days.

At the end of five days, I had had a great time, revisited wonderful memories of my past, and added a few firsts too. I left Bombay with a broad smile on my face.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A day or two in the life of my mom

My mother had to leave town to go take care of her sick mother in our hometown, while I stayed back with my dad to look after my grandfather who stays with us. I have been holding fort for a little less than a week now, with my mom away. My father takes care of coffee early morning, because I cannot make half as good filter coffee as my mom, and my grandfather will not settle for any less. Then I take over, my father's lunch box has to be made, there's water to be collected, laundry to be done, and cooking. All morning, my granddad has to be given his light breakfast, milk, etc. interspersed with a zillion medications all at the right times. I always thought I had done a pretty good job cooking and taking care of my house as a student for the past six years. But when a house has to be run keeping in mind the preferences, habits and activities of people other than oneself, it's not that simple any more. I never realized what a pain it is to cook without running water. I had no clue how frustrating it was to run a single load of laundry in the washing machine with several intermittent power outages, and very limited space to then dry those clothes. I simply cannot tolerate my mother's maid, her skipping work every alternate day, her slipshod jobs, and her brazenness in the face of it all. I don't know how my mom figured out how to exactly cook to match my grandpa's tastes, it is quite a mystery to me. My grandfather was once the supervisor of catering services in the railways. Needless to say, he is very exacting in terms of how food has to be cooked and let alone the sabzis I make, even the rice I cook does not match up to his expectations. My aunt lives down the street from us and has been sending some food across as "back-up plans" to my cooking, which I resort to unfailingly.

My mom returns today. Her welcome back gift from me is a clean house, an empty laundry basket and the dinner cooked for tonight. And of course loads of appreciation. I have no clue how you do it mom, I'm glad you're back, please take over now! :p

Friday, July 27, 2007

The post-doc oath

I am gearing up to start my new phase in life. I am excited about the science, and at the prospect of living in a new city etc. but over the past year I've read and seen enough post-doc disillusionment/complaining that make me expect very less in terms of quality of life. But I'm made a few resolves for myself, lessons learned from my grad school experience and seeing other post-docs around me that I want to put into use when I start.

1. I will not procrastinate. Procrastination is for grad students. I am a post-doc. I will provide my P.I. with drafts before he asks for them.

2. I will not let new techniques intimidate me. This happened to me a good bit as an early grad student, but not anymore! I will remember that I brought several techniques to my Ph.D lab and standardized them all by myself.

3. I will be professional. Report to work at the same time (preferably early ;) )everyday. Keep a neat desk. I got away with a lot being the only grad student in my ph.d. lab, and a lot of space to myself. This new lab is going to be very different, lots of people, little room and my disorganization can affect others.

4. I will have a life outside lab. :p

5. I will not eat vending machine meals anymore. Again, that was for grad school. As a post-doc, I will carry my lunch box everyday. Hah!

6. I will never give my P.I. a draft containing mistakes I am aware of. I did this sometimes during my Ph.D., often because I was just sick of the manuscript and wanted to send it off to my boss. But my post-doc advisor looks up to me as an expert. I cannot get away with that any more.

7. I will take full responsibility for myself and not wait for my advisor to dictate my research direction entirely.(I never did that as a grad student either, but have seen post docs suffer from this problem)

8. I will be self-aware and people-aware. I am making a big move from what used to be a one-person lab for the longest time to a huge bustling lab. I cannot be oblivious (as I often tend to be) about people and vibes around me.

9. I will try to make friends outside of work to socialize with.

10. I will start working towards a paper after a couple months of "settling down and learning my way around" time, not later.

11. I will refrain from using the "This is the first time I'm doing this. I'm new to this" excuse for every damn thing. While sometimes understandable, I will do my homework and draw from years of trouble-shooting experience as a grad student.

OMG OMG OMG I'm so exciiiited! :)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Random number 8

Tagged by Sayesha to write 8 random things about me. This blog has been O.D-ing on the self-indulgent bit of late, but that's the way it goes. And also a gentle reminder to all those who have yet to do my tag and still have the nerve to come read my blog. Chih! No shame comes???

1. I snap at people that are the closest to me when I'm in a rotten mood, even if they are not at fault. Thankfully most of them understand.

2. I have put on weight. First dissertation fat, then vacation fat. If I don't do something about it now, I will have three chins to show for it.

3. Things/people/events that were so important to me a month or more ago don't matter any more. This seems to be a recurrent theme, and is sometimes disturbing.

4. I love kids and am great with them. That's what I'd do for an alternative job, baby sit!

5. I don't watch many mainstream hindi movies, but in this vacation I've seen bheja fry (which i don't count as mainstream, and it was hilarious, btw) , sivaji (in telugu- it was pure torture), cheeni kum (which was kinda sick and made me want to throw up) and naqaab (which was passable, but akshaye with an e khanna is the cutest EVARRRRRR) *SIIIIIIIIGH*

6. I hate cats. (there, I said it)

7. I got a new haircut in hydie which I really like.

8. I love AkshayE with an E Khanna very much. I haven't stopped thinking about him since I wrote point #5. Siigh.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Depression is coming!

I don't wanna leave home!!!
I don't wanna go home!!!!!!!!

Mummy!!! :'(

It's the longest vacation I've ever had in the past six years, and the best time I got to spend with my parents. Them moving to hyd was a blessing in disguise, I didn't run out the door every day to meet friends and shop. I had no fights with my mom arguing over where I was going, when I would be back, where I didn't want to go, etc. etc. Instead I got to spend quality time with my mom, eat and get fat(ter). AND I had no boss! It couldn't have been better.

When I was leaving bombay for the first time to go to the US for my Ph.D, I was a complete cry baby the few days leading to my flight. I would break into tears at the drop of a hat and couldn't deal with all the good bye visits and phone calls from friends. My friend K gave me a mini lecture about being composed at the airport for my mom's sake and I managed to behave. I don't talk to K anymore, but I will always be thankful for that mini-lecture, I would've been a mess otherwise. Over the years, I made two trips home. Short one month stays that were mostly hectic, and the return back to the U.S was never easy but there was always a sense of urgency to get back to my life and work in lutom.  I had also hopefully gotten stronger and better at the whole leaving home thing

Leaving lutom was pretty bad. The days leading up to my exit were crazy busy and I didn't really have time for a proper full-fledged cry. When I finally got on my one way flight out of there, I was exhausted from all the work that went into vacating apartment etc. and overwhelmed at the thought of leaving lutom and all that it meant. For the first half of the flight I sobbed uncontrollably, and for the rest of the flight, I slept, with my mouth open. I think  my co-passenger was pretty disturbed by it all. :D

Now I've a week or so before I get on one of those tearful flights again. I have been very irritable the past few days, and now I know why, my lovely holiday is coming to an end, and I am very sad. Yes, I am luckier than folks that didn't even get to go home, and I have a new life, some really nice old friends, a darling niece and an exciting project waiting for me back in the US, but I am still sad. I am glad I got to writing this post, it reminded me of K's lecture and hopefully that will ensure that I desist from any melodrama at the airport this time. :)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yet another 8

Everyone is tagging everyone, and I am losing in the race. So I started another tag to tag everyone. It's not an original, I lifted it from here, but hopefully it has not yet made it to the circles of people I want to tag.

Write about eight events or reasons that make you proud of yourself. Wah! what a feel-good tag. It took me time to come up with eight, and towards the end I had to go back ten years to find something, but it was fun. All who are tagged must do, seriously. Otherwise I will shut this blog and "that" blog also. And this time I mean it! *serious glare*

1. I give good talks (as in scientific presentations). The position I am soon going to take up for my post-doc was offered to me the very same day of the interview, right after my talk! :D

2. I finally paid off the loan on my late car Candy the day I graduated.

3. I spent a couple months nursing my grandpa in the hospital in his last days (not fainting once), despite having the tendency to faint at the sight/smell of hospitals and blood.

4. I was able to pull together resources and help a dear friend in the time of serious need. It was one of the most confusing and scary periods in my life, but I stood by and for my friend throughout (with a lot of outside help).

5. I knew when to call it quits.

6. I have some wonderful friends I can count on anytime, anywhere.

7. While appearing for a competitive exam a long time ago (perhaps one of those numerous medical school entrances) I found the invigilator helping a student with answers. I raised a huge ruckus, got a lot of dirty looks, but he stopped helping the student.

8. Two friends who are doing exceedingly well right now mentioned to me recently how they took inspiration from my resourcefulness and stick-to-it-iveness, relating examples of mine I had myself forgotten. I am so happy for their successes and feel good to be a part of it in some way.

I tag
CC, Janefied and QSG (to see some positivity on your blogs)
CC (to see some substance on your blog) AHAHAHAHAAHHA!
Sayesha (you tag my blog I tag your blog)
Kaushik (so that will make two tags of mine you need to do, else face the consequences)
Greensatya (for old times sake :p)
Rebellion, Shek, Neihal, Sakshi(returning the favour for all those wonderful comments you made here)
Confused (I know you love a challenge. Heh heh heh)
Ferret (So I get the honour of being the second tag on your blog at least)
Pri (Because at least you will actually do the tag and also may be take my threat seriously).
Sumit (It's high time ;) )
Shripriya (just checking if you're alive ;) )
New additions: sd and b.a.l (and you thought you were spared? muahahahah)

Upon completion of tag, please leave a comment so I can hyperlink your names accordingly. (I am also too lazy right now to sit and hyperlink all)

P.S: If anyone was inadvertently left out , please consider yourself tagged as a result.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Eight ways to irritate mom

1. Wake up late, preferably after the water supply has stopped. Take a long bath and finish up most of stored water.

2. Complain about the lack of hot running water for bath.

3. Use yellow mug with red bucket.

4. Sit around while she watches saas-bahu serials and complain about how lousy they are and how she needs to stop watching them.

5. Walk around aimlessly while your mom is busy taking care of household chores. Offer to help but don't budge until the work has been done. Then say, "Arre, i was just going to get to it!". ahahahahahaha (laugh is optional, entails small risk to life)

6. Complain about feeling hungry even as food is being served.

7. Make expert comments on the food she has cooked.

8. Spend hours at the computer or phone.

Of all the things I have enjoyed at home after a long time, nothing beats a proper full-fledged scolding from my mom. Ahahahaha! how these ears have craved for it. :D

Monday, July 16, 2007

Eight confessions

1. I used to listen to Evanescence.

2. Blogging has gotten boring. One of these days, I'm going to kill this blog.

3. I blog elsewhere. Nobody reads, nobody comments. The privacy is nice. There is no guilt of not replying to comments. The silence is boring.
One of these days, I will kill that blog too.

4. I have always fancied being involved in some top secret sinister activity. Points 2 and 3 make me feel like I am living that fantasy.

5. I used to adore Ricky Martin. I had posters of him. Thank god it was a phase.

6. When I was a kid, I hit up another kid with my gum boot. He messaged me on orkut the other day, reconnecting after ages. It was a friendly message. Hopefully he has forgotten.

7. I used to refrain from passing judgments on people. Nowadays, I catch myself doing it more often. Friends who lovingly refer to me as a "righteous bitch" will be happy. :)

8. My vacation has been awesome. I don't want to leave home. But I want to get back to a life where I have to chase buses, troubleshoot experiments and procrastinate before deadlines.

Please consider yourself tagged. After reading this, you will dutifully complete the tag if you have a shred of decency in you.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Update on previous post

I hear that all is under control. So the worrying is off for now and
will hopefully remain so. I am now busy enjoying with family and
relatives in my hometown, hence the blog-silence. Thanks all for your
wishes in the previous post, I think they worked. :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


I am worrying about a situation that I can't do much about. It's not fun when someone means so much to you, but there's absolutely nothing you can do to help and ample scope for your worst fears to come true. I think I am almost beginning to understand the kind of paranoia my mother goes through when she doesn't hear from me for a while and her mind runs riot thinking about all that could happen. There is one incident that I can never forget, during my final year BSc. days. My exam center was about 4 train stations away from home, and it took me less than an hour to get home each day after the paper. My exams weren't going well at all, and I used to return home every day with a long sad face. On the day of the last exam I decided to take the bus home instead of the train, just to clear my head perhaps. The bus took its own sweet time through circuitous routes and traffic jams, that I hadn't even given thought to before getting on it. Of course this was the pre-cell phone era, and I didn't want to get off in the middle to call from a public phone for fear of getting further delayed. When I returned home it was 3 or 4 hours past the time I was expected. My mother was sobbing. I had never seen her that worried or that emotional. I never even got yelled at for my stupidity, but seeing my mother like that was bad enough. I cannot imagine the hell I put her through then.

Even today, when my parents make unreasonable requests about me calling them and keeping them posted when I'm traveling etc. , I start out arguing and then cut it short, and comply silently, because one can never argue against something like this. I don't know why this comes to mind now. I am not even a mother, but the pangs of helpless worry and unease I am going through right now reminded me of all of this. It's at times like these that praying offers some strength. I am not a very religious person, but I am admittedly a selfish believer, I seek faith and strength in some force when things are entirely beyond my control and I still want for them to work, badly. And on several occasions, my prayers have been answered. I hope they work again.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The post that never was

You know how we sometimes mentally blog about things we plan to blog about? When I came here to India, one of the first things to hit me was that none of my beautiful indian clothes I had left here two years ago fitted me any more. It was super depressing, the fact that I gained more inches and even more so because these were beautiful churidaars I had rarely worn. I was not even in a mood to make resolves about losing weight and fitting into them, I have other, more recently bought clothes already in that category. Anyways, it was a post that was forming in my head, but I then found a few clothes that actually fitted me and I was thrilled to bits. The sad post was now morphing into a happy post in my head. I never really got around to blogging about any of that.

Soon enough I had just begun enjoying having my clothes ironed by the dhobi, instead of having to do this chore myself. I had forgotten what a luxurious feeling it was, to have all my clothes ironed and ready to wear, so I could choose from several, instead of having to decide what to wear based on whether it needed ironing or not, how much time I had, etc. More happiness to blog about, I thought. However, the dhobis here in Hyderabad (like most services) are extremely slow. They pick up clothes for ironing and do not show up for days together. Overall, I cannot help comparing the work ethic in Hyderabad to that in Bombay, where things are mostly delivered on time, as promised. Here, maids and drivers show up late or never, tailors and dhobis take their own sweet time to return stuff, and things are never ready in the store the day it is promised to be. Now, a mighty rant was soon replacing all the happy thoughts in that "post in progress" dancing in my head. Even that irritation slowly subsided as I learned my way around here, lowered my expectations and stopped comparing, thus making the best of my vacation, and the post that was never made started dying its own death.

Last evening, the dhobi  came back with my clothes that were given for ironing last week. There were large, gaping holes in two of my dresses, of the only three that fitted me from my old haul. Rats ate them up, she said, and even made a half-hearted attempt at insinuating that the rats were in our house and we had given partly eaten clothes to the her for ironing. I all but cried, to see my two beautiful kurtas and one  dupatta , all of which I have hardly worn, destroyed beyond recognition or repair. The grief has finally made its way into this post, as I see  the maid use these newfound colourful bandhini printed scraps of cloth for cleaning around the house.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Search query of the day

"brazil girls shek aas"


Shek, you are attracting the wrong kind of people to my blog!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Watery woes

My mom is a huge stickler for cleanliness, and maintains all kinds of weird rules in the house. I am glad I inherited some of it, that ensures that I maintain some standards in my house. I am also glad I didn't acquire all of it, because in my book that borders on pathological OCD. Now for all the 22 years we lived in Bombay, we never had a water shortage problem. The move to Hydie has brought with it this new problem, and a new facet of my mom's OCD comes to fore.

The water management issue is a whole science in itself, one that only my mom fully comprehends. The rest of us are best off if we follow instructions to the letter and not ask any questions. I was given my introductory lesson the day I set foot in the apartment. There are two sources of water: Manjeera river water, which can be used for cooking purposes wonly (and is supplied every alternate day so has to be collected and hoarded in every container possible) and bore-well water, which is hard water and can only be used for dishes, in the bathroom etc. Bore-well water is supplied 24 hours, but every alternate day or so the pump breaks and then we don't have that water till it gets fixed. So that has to be stocked too. Now of course, to the layman's eye, water is water, but god forbid you end up mixing one for the other, as they say in telugu, your forefathers will descend upon you. So these two kinds of water have to be stored separately and used appropriately when the need arises.

Now all types of water is collected and stored in the kitchen and tiny surrounding area, between kitchen and bathroom, for lack of any other space in this matchbox apartment. So this zone is what I refer to as the high stress zone. If any piece of plasticware or metal used in either kitchen or bathroom crosses across the divide, the sky will fall down.  In the high stress zone the buckets and respective mugs are color-coded. Red mug for red bucket and yellow mug for yellow bucket. The red bucket sits in the kitchen and is used to collect hard water. There isn't enough space in the tiny bathroom to store an water there, so one has to carry water into the bathroom, using the yellow bucket. The red mug can be used to transfer water from the red bucket into the yellow bucket, but only for that, and constantly ensuring that it doesn't actually make any contact with the yellow bucket. Yellow bucket sits just outside the boundary of the kitchen  while the transfer is in progress. This yellow bucket can be carried into bathroom and used to pour water into smaller yellow bucket inside the bathroom, and then has to be brought outside and left to be refilled. It cannot be laid on the bathroom floor under any circumstances. Failure to adhere to this rule will result in dire consequences, mostly high pitched.

During my first few days here, my mom had very little confidence in her daughter, Ph.D., to be able to follow these instructions correctly. So every time she saw me hovering in the zone of stress, she dropped everything she was doing and came to supervise me. I was able to extricate mom from her favourite saas bahu serials and also compel her to hurriedly hang up on important phone calls (the kinds that call and ask for my date, place and time of birth and photograph) , all to ensure that I was using red mug with red bucket and yellow mug for yellow bucket, never mixing the two. It didn't help that I badly needed to pee and the nervousness from her watching over me wasn't making anything easier.

Now finally the trust has been established, I can pee without duress and mom doesn't have to miss another "jo hua woh theek nahi hua" type scene.  But simultaneously, the probability of me getting hitched to a "nice" Andhra boy who is a software engineer and lives "there only" (some random state in the US) has gone up by a notch. Such are the trade-offs in life. Sigh.

P.S. Answering comments made me want to come back to blogging! Who would've thought? (OK, no need to spam, shameless people).