Friday, October 30, 2009


I missed out on my friend's wedding in India, and he called me while he was on his honeymoon to wish me on my birthday. What an absolute darling. Today I called his home and I yelled into the phone "Hi Auntyyyyy!!!" because I thought it was his mom- when it was actually the newly-wedded bride on the phone. Why do I do stupid things like that? She seems like a good sport though :)

After 7-8 years here, I'm finally warming up to the idea of Halloween. I think its mostly because of my niece and her excitement at wanting to get a costume etc. I also am beginning to enjoy the general festive excitement around during this time. And then there are lots of creative costumes so it can be fun. In the past- I always avoided Halloween parties because I didn't like the idea of it..This year I wish i had a few friends to go out into the city with and check out the hungama.

My sister just called me in slight consternation. She says my niece walks in the same way I used to walk as a kid. And when I was a kid- all through school too in fact, I walked the exact polar opposite of a dainty girl-like walk. My sis and others called me "ghoda gaadi" and my mom admonished me many times to stop walking like i had springs in my feet. My sis is not at all happy about my niece inheriting this trait. I am proud of her- go forth and gallop dear girl, no need to adhere to stereotypes. :D

Been over few days of bitching and moaning. All kinds of stuff bothering me: work has been sluggish as hell and other stuff too. But today I feel all cheered up. I am excited about the kids in my building coming trick/treating for halloween. That should be fun. I hope they come. And I'm reminding myself to think happy thoughts, find the good things to be happy about, because it is true, I have a lot of things to be happy about.For one i'm glad I can still get excited about small things in life- be it kids dressed up for halloween or a friend's wedding, or a cool paper that just came out and i can't wait to discuss it with other english speaking folks so i just took the initiative and joined journal club with the lab next door. Yay! :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


A very close friend of mine is stuck in what sometimes seems to me like a really unhappy marriage. I have gone through all sorts of phases- from wishing I had been a better girlfriend so I'd be up to speed with her life and choices when she started going out with him- then wishing I had voiced my disapproval when I finally found out who it was - then actually trying to vaguely tell her to reconsider- but there's only so much you can do from long distance- then even feeling happiness for her that her parents agreed to their marriage- but actually secretly wished they hadn't- then hearing her complain endlessly for the past 2 -3 years- and then seeing things for myself and wondering if things were really as bad or if she was just telling me the annoying parts and leaving out the happy bits- or if she had just not come to terms with the basic socio-economic-cultural divide between herself and her husband and never would.

whew. long sentence.

There were times I felt my friend's constant cribbing, unhappiness- or at least the way she projected them to me- via email, chat etc- were so overwhelming to me- but wondered if that was just her little vent and chance at offloading what was a clear conflict between the way we had been brought up and the house she ended up marrying into. Even later, I'd tell her to get out of it - but the next thing I know, she is working hard on having a child.

My friend is not dumb. Far from. She's smart and well-accomplished for herself. I don't think I'll ever have a realistic picture of the life she leads- all I hear are rants, cribs, complaints, general unhappiness. And they always end with "but you don't worry about me". When I visit her and her husband- he seems alright- yes- the socio-cultural divide is huge- but he respects her parents- is familiar and friendly with her family members- and these little outwardly signs made me wonder if its all that miserable as I was perceiving. Of course I don't get to witness his overbearing, dominating and suspicious attitude with her, or the fact that his mom makes her life miserable in petty ways and he won't stand up for her- all these things I only hear from my friend.

Today I asked her what she wanted out of life? Did she want to continue like this- did the good outweigh the bad enough? She said she has given it a thought and decided that she has to take life as it comes.

I know its easier said than done to get out of a marriage- especially in India- but I know of my own cousins who have done it- if anything- to just maintain their sanity. It is for nobody else to say what constitutes reason enough to get out of a marriage- if it something you simply are not equipped to deal with- its probably wiser to get out than compromise with a lifetime of unhappiness/dissatisfaction etc. And only you know your breaking points.

I have made a very cold decision today- to "be there" for my friend as her sounding/venting board- but only as long as it doesn't bring me down. In the past- it used to bother me- we have grown up together- and it pained me to see that she was having such a tough life. But I really think that she seems to have accepted her lot- for whatever reason- and its pointless for me to get agitated/dragged-down/debate in my own head about the kind of advice I can give her- or even feel remotely responsible for anything.

I don't know if I'm perpetuating her self-fulfilling cycle by being a passive listener. I feel compelled to say, every now and then- if its so bad what are you thinking about having a kid for? But I think thats the point- its probably not so bad- or not bad enough for her to be inspired enough to get out of it.

I have just decided to be slightly detached. Because I think at this point she needs to make her peace with it- find her own happiness in whatever way she can- or else seriously contemplate ending it- if it is indeed as miserable. I really don't know how I can help. I am out of ideas and, I am afraid, out of sympathy.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I had a terrible terrible dream last night and couldn't sleep for the rest of the night. I don't remember anything about the dream except the image of my mom crying. :( I so badly need to get it out of my head..I hope this post does it.

I had a lousy day at work too. Went in late, got nothing done besides getting my brain fried analysing data and ending just where i had begun. The good thing is, I reached out and asked for help before I waste any more time just trying to figure it all out myself.

I keep thinking about money. How I haven't saved any, how I will return to India in a year or so and have no savings of my own. Stupid post-doc life. I need to stop dwelling on it because there's really nothing I can change- rent will always be more than half of my paycheck- unless I move in to share a place with someone which I will never do. Besides that, I live a pretty low-maintenance life and can't exactly see what I can cut down on- except, may be eating at the cafeteria for lunch- which is really pretty inexpensive but the only regular habit I can break to save any money.

So many minor irritants in my day. Including all the errands I need to run around the house. I think I should just start doing them and will automatically feel better.

Over and out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

May be it's time to accept it?

Signs that this was not my second 29th birthday...

I slept through the 12-midnight hour and very grumpily and groggily took enthusiastic phone calls wishing me a Happy Birthday.


Had a Happy Birthday nevertheless. Phone calls, books, nice time at a friend's place ..people that couldn't be here ensured that I had a good time any way. Felt nice.

Will celebrate it all over again with niece soon..and that will be my second 29th. :)

Monday, October 19, 2009


I have no sympathy for the Chinese and their terrible English and total lack of communication skills- because the majority of them make no effort whatsoever to improve their English- stick to speaking in Mandarin amongst themselves even after spending years in the US grad school and post-doc system. And it just ends up being a frustrating experience to get things across and deal with them.


Which all reminds me of a funny episode in lab the other day. My chinese labmate is introducing me over email to another professor, and he says "Another guy from our lab, TGFI, will be contacting you".

When I explained to him that guy is male, he profusely apologised and said "but I hear some people say "Guys" to women too!"


Friday, October 16, 2009


As in, this blog is on a roll :p



2) Sometimes I have no sympathy at all for other peoples' complaints. Whatever it might be- I feel that they should just suck it up- of course, they are not very serious complaints- simple- life-stuff-that I am whining about too, other times. But I just get into one of these moods where I become totally bereft of any empathy- and just want to tell people to grow up and get over it. It happened to me today when someone told me they were missing old times, someone else was complaining about not feeling very well (this person is always complaining though- it gets old) yet another was worrying about experiments (really, darling) and then one more person sharing his job and money uncertainties. Sometimes, especially online- it comes across as cribbing when they are just sharing thoughts- so I guess i need to take it with some distance.

3) I met a really nice person today. To see someone make it through all kinds of hurdles, not yet reached where he wants to be but that much closer- and openly offer advice and tips in what I know to be a very competitive field- just left me with warm fuzzies. Hope he succeeds in attaining his goals.

4) I got some sad news about a good friend from school who lost her mom to cancer. Been feeling really really down about it. She lost her dad to cancer several years ago and now her mom. And she's just my age. That is so rough. I don't even want to begin blogging about the myriad of thoughts that flooded my head once I started off. :(

5) I am going to clean up and light my awesome electric diyas and improve the mood around here. Happy Diwali y'all.

Facebook Shacebook

Facebook is giving us new meanings to all simple english words. You know how a facebook friend is not necessarily a "Friend", a facebook poke is doesn't involve anything sharp or pointy or poky, etc.

One thing I have yet to understand is this "likes" business. Somebody has some thought, pithy saying, self-absorbed fact, slogan or joke, and a bunch of others go about "liking" it. I do not understand what it is they are liking here.

"Sunita made awesome batata wadas"
Eeena, Meena, Deeka and 3 others like this (thumbs up sign).

OK, so do they like batawadas, sunita, or the fact that sunita made the batata wadas?


"Jeff supports Obama's Health Care reforms"
Tom Dick and Harry like this. Again, what is it they like?

It gets more complicated when

Mala is missing Mumbai during Diwali
and Sonu and Pinky like this.

You like that which Mala is missing, or the fact that Mala is missing something?

I've even seen (I kid you not)
Natalie: "R.I.P. dear friend Victor. you will be missed"
And Joe and Moe like that!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

rant rant

WTF is up with the weather. its freezing cold. and rain. ugh.

And i'm sorry for all this TMI but I need someone to please explain it to me why the eff the restroom on our floor in the building is such a mess always. I mean unless people are taking a shower in the wash basin I don't understand why there's water all over the place around the basins, on the floor...and do people have no civic sense and cannot clean up after themselves-whatever the heck causes them to throw water all over the place- even when you have a never ending supply of paper towels spewing from anywhere the outstretched arm can reach?

What nonsense.

Headache mein pain. stay out of my way please.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It wouldn't take a genius to figure out that one of the most frequent triggers to my horrible migraine attacks is skipping a meal. To my credit, I don't do this too often, but when I do- mostly out of laziness- I pay a very heavy price for it. I skipped dinner last night and "forgot" about lunch until late afternoon, subsisting only on my breakfast (cereal and fruit) until then. The resultant migraine was so severe and blinding- I could barely see where I was going as I made my way to the cafeteria and got myself some food. Once the headache and aura begins to take shape, there's no stopping it with any medication. I came home, head in my hands and escaped into a dark room for a while. I hope that today's suffering will be a lesson for me, to never skip meals again, to eat well and to eat on time.

I am so tired.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Meet the parents

B the boyfriend went to meet my parents in hyd. My sister and I had discussed prepping him for this momentous occasion, but we finally realized that there are some things in life nothing can prepare you for. So we just let it be. In retrospect, I wish I had prepped him on a few basic things- like to not say "Yes" each time coffee was offered- or warned him about ugly swing..

Copious coffee consumption & ugly swing aside, I think it all went well. My dad went to pick up B from the guest house he was staying at. While B expected my dad to be waiting downstairs, my dad somehow managed to find his way up into the lobby right outside B's door. So when B came out expecting to see the guest house manager, he was face to face with my dad, and totally lost and clueless. Once they successfully overcame that awkward introduction, they set out home. Then on the way some car banged my dad's car and more drama ensued. But on the streets of hyd this is an everyday occurrence. So I guess that one was just brushed aside and they moved on.

Coffee # 1 was offered as soon as B got home. He readily nodded and downed one cup of my mom's awesome filter coffee. There was general chit chat..B met with my grand dad and then got offered and unflinchingly accepted coffee # 2 along with samosas. Now in my house we don't drink coffee as if the plant is going to go extinct or as a replacement for water. Coffee is had once in the morning, and may be once in the evening, if at all. But it is offered, for the sake of courtesy and in keeping with true south indian hospitality. Soon after coffee #2 it was made known to everyone in the room that they were out of coffee powder. B was also witness to a mini-argument between my dad and mom about who should've remembered about the coffee being almost over. One would think he'd make a note to refuse further coffees. Nuh uh- he hastened to add that he then overheard my mom asking my cousin to pick up some coffee powder on his way to our place and so felt reassured. How nice indeed.

At some point I called, and my mom, dad and B were in the balcony enjoying the view. After my dad and mom spoke to me, they passed on the phone to B and apparently politely left the room, one after other, so B could talk to me at ease. Heh. :) B said he was having a nice time, but it was not until I prodded (how could i have not?) that he told me in a shocked whisper that there was this hideous swing, and, to top it all, a green parrot atop the swing that he had to try really hard to not stare at. I sympathized and suggested keeping his head bowed down rest of the evening to avoid looking at parrot.

The family then went out to dinner..more my cousin is a bit of talker and can get quite carried away discussing politics/economics/cricket/music what-have-you. Apparently B would notice my mom glazing over every now and then and so would cleverly bring up my niece Kavita and her antics..and succeed in making my parents' faces light up each time he did that. Smart fellow. For dessert they ordered Qubani ka meetha and an argument ensued about whether it was anjeer or apricots and B sided with my mom first, then finally decided it was a mix of both, trying to appease all sides of the argument. Well done there too. Then they returned home and called it a day.

Next morning there was coffee #3 and #4 and breakfast. B insisted on seeing some of my childhood photos. Now this part I forewarned my parents about, but it was of no use. They brought out all the albums that were there around, and I get to hear, from B, later on, about an "awesome" photo of my sister and me grinning, standing in our nighties. Also references to my "bob cut". Why, I ask, WHY? And B also noticed that I was frowning in all my childhood pics while my sis was grinning from ear to ear. Well, she clearly had more practice than me, given that there were such few photos of mine ever taken. I'm sure poor me was wondering what one was supposed to do when confronted with that black thing. Anyway, that saga is for a different day. B got my dad to take out his photos of his university days, and talk about them- my dad did a lot of talking for the generally quiet person that he is. Then the conversation drifted to food and B made the mistake of telling my parents that he doesn't eat brinjal and got the patent mini-lecture from my dad about how one must eat everything etc. etc. Hahahahaha! I'm so glad! :)

Later they had lovely Andhra lunch made by my mom, followed by payasam and post-lunch as they sat around chatting my dad was nodding off to sleep sitting in the chair. My dad always does this, and he manages to snore too - it can be very embarrassing. So my mom tries to cover up for my dad and B manages to laugh it off and say "Yes aunty, TGFI does it too". WTF. Then the fool gets asked, by mom , "She does it too? How do you know". (implying, were you two living together, by any chance?). And so B has to hurriedly cover up with some lame ass "once we went to a friend's place for dinner and a movie and she dozed off...". Yeah. Not cool.

Some (more) coffee and payasam later its time for B to leave for the airport- my dad takes him to the airport and they enjoy more chat about my dad's university days and B's family etc. etc. Apparently there was never a bored awkward silence moment.

When I called my parents to get the low-down, they were both very happy and upbeat and full of praise forthcoming for the boyfriend. I expected my dad to say "nice guy" and leave it at that, but he was way much more generous and vocal in his approval. While I never really doubted that this would go well, it was so nice to hear my parents so enthusiastic and happy about it. They said all the good things they wanted to say, and their parting lines were:
my dad: "Congratulations TGFI, very good choice". :) (aww)
and my mom: "But he drinks a lot of coffee, no?". :)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

I have a plan

I feel good about it. Charted out my experiments and plan of action for the next 6-10 months. It gives me a roadmap to work along, and ensure that I do a good job at this post-doc, however long I'm going to be here for. I have decided to stop this constant battle in my head about "what if i leave in a year- what am i going to achieve.." kind of defeatist attitude and just work on my 12 month plan.

I also love the post-doc atmosphere I am in. Granted, I've only been in one other place before this, but I also have lots of friends who are post-docs all over the place, and as a rule, its mostly been a whiny-bitchfest type atmosphere. Over here, the post-docs also whine and bitch their share, but it is accompanied by proactive steps being taken, and a very strong sense of community and network-building. A couple faculty members take active care to oversee post-doc quality of life, and that feels good. Being in a vibrant city like this, with ample scope to network not just within the univ but outside with other univs also helps a lot.

I came across an exercise to help you introspect and better identify an ideal career path. It involves looking back on your entire life, and writing down 15 - 25 occasions that met the following criteria

1) you played an important role
2) there was a successful outcome
3) you enjoyed yourself while doing it

Then, select 7 of these occasions and write a story about each, including

1) The goal
2) The obstacles that had to be overcome
3) Explain your actions step by step
4) What was the result
5) Any specific measurable outcome to prove your achievement.

The idea is to identify recurring themes throughout your life that show what you are good at, what you enjoy doing, and the way you enjoy doing them.

I just listed a few of my stories and the recurring theme at the end "what was the measurable outcome" was always "I / we won a prize for it". :D Perhaps I will blog about my seven stories..or not..but I wanted to write about the exercise because I think its a worthwhile one and anyone who wants to assess their career path should try it.