Tuesday, December 22, 2009

W O M M

I have come to this blogger page several times in the past few days, just to vent out and left without typing anything because I just didn't feel up to it. I have all kinds of holiday blues now. Taking time off before the rest of the world does is not such a brilliant idea after all. :p

We worry so much about things out of our control..I have gone into a downward spiral over the past few days, worrying about my parents, their health, my dad's retirement blues, my grandfather's health, fiance's brother's surgery..OMG. It's got to stop. Life happens, and one just needs to accept that stuff is bound to happen along the way. We make the best of it, deal with shit, find joy in the good times and just move on. Life was never meant to be fair or perfect. I need to remind myself of this little ditty every once a while.

Also, there's only so much worrying one can do for someone else. At some point, you've got to let go and give the other person the credit for being able to deal with their situations.

There's a dept. party today..I hope that it cheers me up..but I doubt that will. I need to start going back to the gym- I know that did wonders for my mood.

I will also brave shopping crowds and sticky sweet christmassy store music and go shopping this weekend. I need a serious winter coat. And a decent pair of shoes that won't turn to mush and freeze my toes when I walk in snow-puddles in them. And may be some nice new clothes? :)

I promised to list a few happy things to pep me up. Amongst them are 1) I have some kind of a plan taking shape as far as my job search in India goes. I went to a job-search seminar some weeks back and they mentioned that the one year it takes for someone to find a job is not all about applying to jobs for a whole year. It is actually building up a network of contacts, researching companies and job profiles to identify what you want, so that, when its about 3-4 months left to finish your current job, you are in a position to write customized cover letters for each position/company you plan to apply to , and have an internal contact in each place that you send your cv/cover letter to. So I am working along that plan, already managed to find a couple contacts, and that feels good.

2) I also have a lot of plans work-wise for my daily lab-life, to keep things structured and on-the-move. That plan looks good. And there's the post-doc fellowship I got! :)

OK, I think I did a fairly decent job shaking off all that negativity, so off to work I go!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow weekend

Was awesome. I managed to create this crater-like depression where I sat planted on the couch for most part, watching the snowfall outside. Lots of chai, hot chocolate and Malgudi Days and The Office to keep me company.

A long time ago, I put together all the Hindustani instrumental music from my collection and from cds from my sister and friends' collections into a single CD for a friend. I had a lot of fun putting it together, but I realized that I never sat and heard the whole thing myself. My playlist of choice is mostly peppy stuff- mostly "bad" bollywood dhinchaak. But I finally heard this collection over the weekend, and wish I had done it earlier! Some lovely, calming/soothing/beautiful tracks in there.

It's Monday morning, I need to get out of the house finally, and I am terrified of stepping out now. :-o

Friday, December 18, 2009

More jet-lag inspired

Work plans: My plan of action is to get as much done for that minimum publishable unit as I can in the next one year, while simultaneously hunt for a good (industry) job in India. My (self-imposed) deadline for all of this is Dec 2010. When I assessed things few months ago, that seemed like a reasonable one.

It so turns out that one of the starting material for which I had been proposing all my studies on has yet to be generated- and I have ended up taking the responsibility for generating it. I don't begrudge the responsibility so much-just wish I had known earlier- someone has to do the dirty work and if I need this material, I may very well be the one generating it- even if it is going to be used by others in addition to me. Plus, it is the unique aspect of my study- using anything else other than this doesn't make my study that appealing.

Now that I am actually getting my hands dirty in the technique of generating this starting material, I have realized its a far from standardized protocol and there's a lot to be done. I can easily see the next 3-4 months will be lost in just perfecting the technique, before I can start generating the samples for my and others studies.

My boss has also signed me up for the analyses of some of the other studies stemming from this material. What all of this means is that I will still be generating starting material into March, and actual experiments begin April or so.

Then, for me to bring things to a winding up point by Dec to a large extent means that I really won't enjoy fully the fruit of of these 3-4 months of hard work. Experiments that are planned with these samples easily span a year. This procedure of generating samples is quite labour-intensive, and I will have ended up using a good chunk of my time here just generating samples that others will end up using after me.

I guess I can ask to continue to be part of the downstream analyses by working in a remote way, but that also requires liaising with other experts on campus so me going away will not really make me the best person for those analyses then.

I am trying to see what would be the best time to tell my boss that I plan to curtail my post-doc by the end of this year. If I do it too early, I run the risk of being sidelined from now itself. If I wait for too late, I may end up being signed up for tasks that I won't probably get to do, and also end up not making the best of my time here.

Overall my boss seems like a nice guy, who definitely has post-docs interests in mind. But there's no telling.

I also see myself slowly inching into that zone where I will find it hard to cut my work short here and return to India, the more I invest in it. I can keep feeling that a few more months might be ok, and then some more. Now I also got this fellowship, which expires in June 2011, so it will be quite a sorry waste to throw that away before it runs out or when I could even possibly get it extended.

Sigh.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jet-lag-inspired

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.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'm back, baby!

Just got back from a 2 week trip to India. Was so good to be home. Just one week at home in hydie (the other one week was spent in Bombay with B) was painfully short- but, I am not complaining. I am lucky that I got to go, have a wonderful time and feel refreshed. Coming back home (to the US), the loneliness of my apartment here hit me. I will soon get to work, get busy, and the loneliness will go away, but for now, it's quite pronounced.

I don't know what to call home anymore. I think that my parents home will always be my home- whether they are in Telangana or Rayalseema or wherever. My current place in the US is definitely home for me, for now. Hmmm..

More later, just felt like establishing some familiar ground by blogging.