I was definitely being ambitious when I thought that I could return to work the very morning my plane landed, and actually even attend a talk. I ended up dozing off at the talk, in clear view of the speaker, literally doing that thing where people nod and fall off and suddenly wake up with a start...only to end up repeating it. Sheesh. I left the talk half way through because I figured that would be less insulting to the speaker than dozing off repeatedly and almost falling out of my chair.
The India trip was awesome. Week 1 was in Bombay- I pretty much stayed with B although various versions of the story were blatantly passed around to whoever asked- I have never lied as much to my parents all my life as I did for that one week-towards the end I had gotten pretty good at it. But I decided to do what I had to keep all parties happy and just have a good time without worrying or feeling guilty. It worked just fine. Except for the nosy bai in B's house nobody else had a problem. Good friends happily co-operated and told lies on my behalf. :) After all, I am sure they all did this at some point or the other- except that it was ten years ago and not now! :)
Bombay was fun- getting to meet my closest friends- and meet with B's close friends- and putting B through the "giggling girlfriends of TGFI" test, :) and having all my friends approve him whole-heartedly. :) Eating ALOT of food. Greasy, heavy, spicy food. Had to have it all. Vada pav and dabeli and regular water served in steel tumblers at ShivSagar with the waiter's fingers dipped into them didn't bother me at all. But a Rs 85 hot chocolate at Baristas did - I guess it was because of the dead fly found at the bottom of the mug after I had downed the whole thing.
I guess the one thing that struck me the most different about Bombay- I was there last 2 years ago- was the horrible traffic bottlenecks every where, and the fact that auto-wallahs don't go where you want them to. Each time I called a rick, they would contemplate my destination for a few seconds before just shaking their heads and taking off. It took me 3-6 tries each time I wanted to get into an auto to go someplace. I don't blame them for being picky seeing the sorry state of roads, traffic and everything all over the city.
The high point of my trip- well one of them- was making it in and out of the second class ladies compartment during rush hour from Kurla to KanjurMarg. Mmm hmm- I almost lost my specs in the frenzy but kept bragging about it like a typical NRI for days after that. :)
Hyd was also fun, but a bit fragmented. Too many things were going on. We had guests at our place for 2 days, which was fun, but took away from family time, and just made things more hectic. But the fun part was watching my dad reminisce with his friend about their good old university days- and my mom and aunty poke fun at them. :) My mom is recovering from chikun gunya- so it was quite disturbing to see her still suffering from it- having trouble walking about etc- and not fully enjoy things she usually does- like good food and shopping. That made me a bit sad.
Then my sister and niece and landed up there and surprised/shocked my parents. :) More fun and more craziness ensued. Of course, in the middle of all this the Telangana nonsense was going on- so my parents would get all paranoid about letting me go out too far so time was just spent at home- which was okay. My niece's favourite game was "I can't see properly, I have chikun gunya in my eye". My grandfather was in our hometown and not keeping well- so my dad was a bit preoccupied and eventually took off to check on his dad. B came over to hydie the weekend I was flying back to US, and spent time with all of us. He joined in the family craziness and it was nice to see him fit in effortlessly. My niece-who had gotten used to seeing B on his occasional trips to NJ when I visited them-and then began missing him- was excited and happy to see him and complaining about him leaving so soon. A day after B left, I headed back to US via Mumbai- stole some more hours with B and got on the non-stop flight to JFK.
When you have limited time with people close to you, its very hard to strike a balance- on one hand you want to make that time totally worth it- by trying to cram in all kinds of activities in that limited time- and at the same time- you want to be able to relax and not feel the weight of the numbered hours- and be able to simply enjoy their company without doing anything. I ended up doing a little bit of both- but constantly found it hard to walk this line. That said, I will always be thankful that I got to do it.
The past 3 trips I made to India, I had lugged my laptop with me - to work on that paper from my Ph.D. that was still in review. This time, it felt great to go home without my laptop and without that paper hanging like a sword above my neck. Then, while in hydie, I got the awesome news that I was awarded a post-doc fellowship from a private funding agency. Few months ago, I decided to write out a proposal and apply for whatever few fellowships I could- mainly because it would help me structure my research goals and plans for the next couple years- and also because it was something I planned on doing while in philly but never did- so I wanted to do it for myself. I am super kicked about actually being awarded one, now. The money doesn't even cover my salary fully, but it looks great on my CV and is a huge morale-booster for me- to have my research proposal evaluated by an outside committee who found it worthy of funding. Post-doc fellowships are quite competitive, hard to even be eligible for if you're not a US resident/citizen, and even more hard if you've crossed your first year of post-doc, so I feel really good about having beaten all those odds and gotten one. The news made my return to the US that much more easier, and I'm able to look at my work with a renewed enthusiasm and excitement now.