Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Home, sick.

New years eve is just another day, right? I think I'm going to stay home and sleep through it this year, the damned weather outside is not at all inviting to go out and "partay" into cold hours of the night, and although I was planning on going out earlier, now I just don't feel well enough for it.

I wonder how some people feel about their salary being one of the earliest links that pop up when you google for their name. I just googled a couple friends' of mine from grad school and while I'm impressed, and a tad envious to see the whopping amounts they are making, i also felt irked and kind of uncomfortable. Don't think I ever want to do it again. And then I think about how, in India, people blatantly ask another how much money they make. I can't stand it. Why only India- once, I had a random lady at an eyebrows place ask me how much I make, while threading my eyebrows! And it was the first (and last time) I was there. When at first I was a bit taken aback, then I tried to evade it, upon which she pressed on "Phir bhi, batao na..." OMG. I told her I came to the salon to relax and not to be reminded that I probably couldn't afford it to start with.

I am really dreading dealing with this kind of crap when I go back to India. Amongst other R2I-woes. My friends warn me about people overstepping boundaries of all kinds- spouting unsolicited advice about your choice of upholstery to your making a baby. Deep breaths, I guess and hopefully snarky remarks that strike when they are needed and not 12 hours after the incident has passed, which is what typically happens with me. :)

While on the topic of unsolicited advice, its also funny how I've been getting a lot of R2I advice from people that are living here in the US. Seldom are they telling me what I don't already know, perhaps acquired from the same channels as them. I guess they are just making conversation, and its funny how sometimes innocent remarks can rub one off the wrong way. It is happening to me quite often.

I am also not sure if I continue blogging here after R2I-ing, especially if I join academia in India. Life is going to get that much more interesting, complicated, and blog-worthy :) after I move back, but I am worried about revealing personal/professional details with a lot less anonymity and in the midst of a lot more nosiness than my nondescript existence here in the US. May be I am being unnecessarily paranoid? I know that the blog has been my outlet like no other, so it will be hard to let go. I will perhaps start anew? I don't know. Lets see.

Some deadlines have been set. If things come together as I hope they will, I now have a fairly fixed return date. And R2I-woes apart, the joy of finally beginning to live with B will make a lot of the other stuff more bearable, I think. My biggest fears are finding career satisfaction and dealing with B's dad's sickness. Day to day life issues, I think, I will just learn to deal with over time.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

W O M M

Why is nobody blogging any more? So sad.

I read a funny tweet today "Once facebook starts tracking and letting you know who visited your profile how many times, we're all screwed". Hahaah. Then we'll start seeing those annoying orkut type messages "What ya visit and no scrap? I am hurt". Gah.

I am just going to recycle my old resolutions for 2011. Eat healthy. Exercise. Do not waste time or money. Call up people more often.

My biggest resolution is, a two drink maximum this new years eve. :D. Considering how over-priced things will be on NYE everywhere, this one should be easy to enforce. I generally live a pretty low maintenance life, but, have never gone an extra mile to save money. I spend impulsively sometimes, eat out often, and don't think too much before spending, when i do spend money. With my impending R2I, I have become a more conscious money-saver. Questioning purchases, avoiding eating out, etc.

I hate being arm-twisted into things.

I believe in things getting jinxed sometimes when you get too excited about them, overplan and such. I know its silly and illogical and unscientific, but. Well.

I was trying to help a friend deal with a rocky relationship- reminded me of some of my own friendships and how they have morphed over the years. I wish I could explain better how its ok for people to distance...to grow apart, and to attain a different place in your life than they used to. It is a natural progression of life and sooner or later, equilibrium will be attained, and we will be at peace with it. Some hurt and some misunderstanding is part of the bargain and nothing is ever constant, to use cliches. It all gets easier when you learn to accept the changes and not fight them, wanting things to be the same just as some kind of reassurance to you that you haven't failed a friendship. At most you are guilty of erring, a very human quality.

Some close friends I grew up with are still saddled with the best-friend tag, whether they like it or not- it's a lot easier than saying "my once best friend". :D. Jokes apart, I still believe these are the best friends I've ever had- even if, I talk to them only once in a few months, they are not my "Go-to" people, I have very little left in common with them, we've strayed apart over the years, I cannot any more relate to them, their mommy-talks drive me crazy...I just don't make such close friendships anymore as I struck with them, so, they get to keep their titles- no strings attached.

I am guilty of mis-judging my boss's words of late. I am glad he has my interests in mind. And, truly, productiveness from me can only help the both of us, so that's all we really need.

I was working like crazy, then lost tempo. I need to regain that tempo. Tomorrow.

Tonight I will send off a draft- its only 500 words, I really should get better at this writing thing at this stage. At least my boss had only good things to say about my first draft, a sign that I have gotten better already. :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

The weekend that was

On friday morning, as I was lazing and procrastinating, a friend said they were driving into the city and if I was free to meet them for dinner for that night, and I said yes right away. Suddenly, my weekend had gotten hectic. I had to rush to the lab, finish up work, make gulab jamuns which I had planned on making for my sister, and head out to meet my friends for dinner and then head out from there to my sisters place. Right then, I was priding myself about being such a shameless person, almost always available to take up any invite. One of the luxuries of single life that I love and will dearly miss once life becomes a two-person decision-tree. :)

Anyhow, I had a wonderful time meeting up with friends on Friday, after more than 1.5 years. The last time we met was when B was leaving the country, and they made the 3 hour drive all the way to meet B. My friend has had a baby in the meantime, and we had fun catching up, tourist-watching and general tp. I enjoyed christmas day with my niece, and then, as sunday morning dawned, the news of the upcoming blizzard surfaced. I had another dinner to go to Sunday night on my way home. In as much as I really wanted to go there, I decided to do the wise thing for a change and cancel on them. Instead, I made my way home early Sunday evening, despite my niece's protests to stay back so that we could have fun and play games all day Monday. :D. Aww. I had to come back and get work done, even if I couldn't go into the lab.

My first time in the thick of such a crazy blizzard. As soon as my train got out of the underground and entered surface lines, everytime the car doors opened, snow would come rushing through. People were sitting with their caps and gloves on inside the train. I was dreading leaving the train when my stop arrived. As I headed out of the station trudging through ankle deep snow, avoiding the gutters lining the side walk, it was near impossible to raise my head to see what was in my way. The snow came down in sheets, slanted at angle directly coming at my face. Cars were crawling when they were not skidding. The 25 minute wait at the bus stop was horrible. At some point I stopped feeling my toes and huddled in the space between the bus stop and the ticket machine to get some barrier from the snow that just kept on coming. Finally the bus showed up. The last leg of this journey was the 5 minute walk home, which, luckily I managed to walk on the street instead of the sidewalk, where car tracks had made it much easier to walk on. A cute snowman with a carrot nose welcomed me at the front of my building, and definitely cheered me up. :) As I rushed into my apartment, found that my hair was frozen, lumps of snow had entered my house through the outer pockets of my backpack, my coat, etc. Never did I want my warm apartment more. I got into warm clothes and relaxed with a cup of hot chai. Ah.

Today I decided to "Work from home" as I have no intention of wading through the snow fortress outside. Don't ask me how much work I got done. :/

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Don't leave before you leave

What an awesome talk, and what wonderful points. All please listen.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook: Why we have too few women leaders.


This thing about lesser women than men negotiating for pay is really striking and has been mentioned on various platforms. I am glad that I negotiated (Even a post-doc salary, that everyone tells you that there is no room for negotiation) when I was looking for my 2nd post-doc last year. Also, today, on my final paycheck for the year, I noticed that my income did not reflect the same annual raise as recommended by the NIH. While I should have really looked into it at the start of the year, I brought it up with my boss today and he said he will look into it. Lets see.

W O M M

I was wondering to myself, why is it that I am always stuck in lab over holidays and weekends, when everyone else manages to go off and enjoy the break? How come I always end up in such data-desperation? May be it feels that way because I am stuck in lab now, it is not like I never enjoyed time off..

Also have this miserable feeling about work..trying to put a finger on it and realise that, as always, I am upset at myself for not being able to achieve my own lofty goals. It is really high time I set realistic goals...the holiday period is basically 2 work-weeks, nothing more. Take off two days from it because it is really hard to work on Friday and something or the other will be missing and can't be ordered due the holidays..that brings it to 8 working days. Thats it. Hoping to achieve all kinds of grand plans by just working for 8 extra days is really basically flawed, especially in my time scale of 7 days for an experiment to go from start to finish.

And as far as work goes few things I need to fix to make me more efficient and productive

1) Get a handle on doing more than one project at a time. Typically, I race forth with one while the other gets forgotten, and it is very difficult to go back to it and pick up from where I left. To maintain some sense, I have started sticking an up-to-date post it on the project folder, writing exactly what experiment needs to be done next for that project, so that whenever I want to start, I can simply set up the experiment, instead of sitting at my desk, poring over the notebook, reorienting myself, and lamenting my loss of time.

2) Rid myself of mental blocks associated with some activities. We all have parts of our work we hate- it might be mind numbing activities like counting cells, or really repetitive or mundane work, or really detailed/difficult work which has a high failure rate. Every time one of these activities are embedded in my project, I put it off, thereby stalling the entire project. When I finally get around to doing it, I realise it was not so bad after all. So, I need to rid myself of mental blocks, and just do the damn experiment. If it fails, I will just have to repeat it. And again. No need for much drama, self-flogging, feet-dragging etc. to accompany these activities. Everyone has to count cells and organize samples and do the grunt work to get to the sexy part.

3) Also, make some of the grunt work more appealing , or less unappealing, by being more organized and clear cut and breaking it down.

4) Finally, must draw up a realistic time-table of goals. And stick to it. The operative word is realistic. Account for fatigue, boredoom, getting in late, not coming in on the weekend.

Monday, December 20, 2010

blah

Buying gifts is fun, except for dealing crazy holiday shopping crowd. I spent more time on lines at the checkout counters in various stores yesterday than the time I spent picking my gift. On the other hand, I got some nice gifts and was quite excited about them. Today I spent 45 mins in at the post office, with only one counter open and a line that went out the door. And here's the kicker- I spent more $$ on express shipping- because the stuff had to reach someone in two days in time for them to take it to India - than the cost of the gift. With some better planning, I could've bought my friend the nicer and more expensive gift using the money I spent on shipping.

Had to get it out of my system. Argh. Stupid things that I do.

Next time: buy online, get it shipped directly to the kind courier person.

That said, there is still some joy in picking a gift, packing the box and shipping it that cannot be the same as ordering online and having it directly shipped. I will go with that for now so I sleep easy and stop kicking my shins.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I want

The following ringtone for my phone, which I'm going to christen sheela

My name is Sheela,
Sheela ki jawani,
I'm to sexy for you,
Main tere haath na aani.

yeah!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On the choices we make, the paths we choose.

Bitter sweet. More bitter than sweet. I should be ecstatic today, got a really tough experiment to work after a lot of head-breaking. But, unfortunately I am not all that ecstatic. Because I had pretty much given up on it weeks ago and made the choice to pursue an inferior approach. There were deadlines and so we had to pick between keeping on trying with the new approach or going with the inferior approach that I had gotten up and running. So we committed to that inferior approach, which means we locked in $20K for it. We cannot back out of that. I continued to pursue this better approach in my "spare time" because I wanted to learn how to do it, and now, I have been able to get it to work, but unfortunately I won't be using it. Such a crying shame.

I hope my boss can remind me of all the reasons we made this choice and be happy with the choice we made. This back-and-forthness, even after committing, is so typical of me and is eating me up.

Life is like that, eh?

But its a good lesson in choices, short-term versus long-term benefits, pressures of deadlines and..what not. A lesson I will remember.

I am also sleep deprived, hopefully tomorrow will be able to think more clearly and make this out to be less of a tragedy than I am building it up to be in my head right now.

Merry Christmas

2001..I had just come to the US, very little general knowledge about jews and little awareness about the old testament and all of that. I mean, I'm sure we learned about it all in school at some point- but ..anyhow, I am all excited about Christmas and wish this very obviously jewish professor "Merry Christmas" in a loud booming voice. What was worse is that this was a prof I had an enormous crush on . - intellectual crush.

2010..I am a lot more aware and culturally aligned here now. Today I got out of a 3 hour discussion with a really nice prof- who I have been increasingly awestruck by over the past many meetings- just at his passion for his science, his meticulousness, his patience at explaining things to me...and of course, I end the meeting with a loud booming "Merry Christmas, Dr. K". Dr. K being an obviously jewish name.

Honestly, to me, "Happy Holidays" just doesn't cut it- it doesn't have the merry tone to it that "Merry Christmas" has. And I've always struggled with Happy holidays. What about people who are not taking off during the season? Like me? Should I be offended when you wish me Happy holidays? Crappy christmassy music and over the top commercialization notwithstanding, I love the spirit of christmas. And I guess I have this strong urge to spread that joy amongst people I love, either secretively or overtly. Only that can explain such stupid behaviour on my part.

What to do now? Do I follow up with an email to Dr. K and explain that I meant happy holidays even though I said Merry Christmas? I really like him and I want him to like me! :)

Merry Christmas, all of you!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

W O M M

"You'll be warm tonight" he said. And how thankful I was for him. For the fact that he came home late evening, while I was cooking, and spent 30 minutes..fixing my heat. Right now, the super is my favourite man..and indeed, thanks to him, I have heat! In this pre-war building that I live in, the heaters are ancient and while the management is busy getting the building beautified, upgrading these radiators is nowhere on their list. For the past few days I was wearing three layers at home, sleeping under two comforters and having a really tough time waking up. Everyday I dragged myself out of bed with weird body aches and went in late to work and still groggy. I blamed it all on over-sleeping. :) Coming home late at night after work and crashing, I was never in my apartment long enough to realise that my heat wasn't working. After a lot of self-beating over my inability to get up early, I realised that I was basically not getting any heat. It is fixed now, and what a world of difference it makes. :)

Yesterday I stepped out of the building to snow flurries that I wasn't expecting at all. It was pretty and cheered me up despite the cold - it was a good thing I was dressed well so I could enjoy the walk home. The winter, with its all its nastiness, can be pretty after all, especially when you have heat in your apartment. :)

Some people are very very resistant to help, I have realised, and that is probably the single most thing that brings them down. I used to be one of those people that found it very difficult to ask for help. I have gotten a lot better now- both professionally and personally. Professionally, it was thanks to PhDAdvisor's goading- she recognized that this was my weak point- and always chided me for spending too long trying to figure something out on my own before I stuck my head out and asked for help, and reminded me of the importance of time, and the smartness in asking for help. Personally, I have paid my price for struggling alone, not wanting to take help, only to realise my foolishness later. I have learned, finally, that help is just that- its a push. Eventually, you have to do the work, and you get to enjoy the results.

I don't know how to make others see the wisdom in this though- people who are struggling with their failings- feeling demotivated- stuck in a rut that I so very well recognize- and the only way to break out of it is to get some outside help and take baby steps. But so long as they resist it- wanting to do everything on their own - too ashamed or proud to get help- they only get further stuck in the vicious cycle. Its scary to see others fight similar battles that you fought and not be able to do much about it.

I am doing some mindless stuff at work these days. Working through a huge batch of samples in 3-day cycles. So every third day I am pretty much doing the same thing. I have never worked in such a monotonous mechanical fashion before. It is interesting. It is boring in some ways, but the challenge is in replicating the protocol "exactly" the same way on each of the sixty samples. I am enjoying the challenge in that, and pretending that I'm a robot. :)

The last 2 episodes of The Office (last of this season) sucked big time. Why is a comedy getting all mushy and preachy? It's bo-ring.

I am starting to put-together R2I lists. R2I-lab-list is a list of all the lab stuff I want to take back with me- protocols, tweaks in protocols, scripts, literature, notes from seminars, data slides, etc. R2I-personal-list is the list of stuff I own and want to take back with me. There isn't much in this list- unlike families that have lived here and R2I-ed, I don't have boxes of crockery and artifacts that I want to take back. Between B and me, we have a large collection of books, quirky coffee mugs and some street-art that I collected while living here. Then there is some stuff I want to take back as memorabilia. Bare minimum. Then I have a whole load of clothes that I don't even want to think about sorting through. I had earlier thought of a R2I-shopping list- things to shop for to take back with me (Backpacks, camp gear, DVD sets of our favourite sitcoms), but now I realise that I don't have the money to buy any additional stuff, and really, cannot think of what I would need to buy from here.

Recent R2I's - what did you take back with you?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Mess-magnet

I think I am drawn to mess. Messy house, messy desk. And this urge to set straight people that are messed up. I don't know where it stems from. I am beginning to wonder if its healthy- this innate need/desire to voluntarily counsel and reach out to complicated people. Of course, all people are complicated. But I seem to have some knack for bringing it out in some people, and then wanting to help them sort it out. God knows I'm not even qualified for it. Why do I do it?

How much can one really help another adult who is fully capable and needs to be responsible for their own decisions? Does talking, gentle nudging, tough love, help in these cases?

All I know is that I never got through challenges all by myself- I had my cheerleaders- friends who cooked for me, who gave me wake up calls, who yelled at me, who pushed me, who told me as it was, who nagged me on gtalk...and thats how the qualifying exams were passed, the thesis was written, the crappy relationship was ended.

So when I see people who are less fortunate than I am in terms of a support system, I want to do my bit. But this time I am utterly unconvinced if I am doing any help and worried about another person's problems consuming me when I have my own plate pretty full.

I guess the bottom line is that I should help so long as I can afford to, so long as I don't let it bring me down.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Saturday AM lazy I don't want to go to lab hence I blog blogging

Do any of you have friends who cut & paste ENTIRE JOKES into the gtalk window? Mostly dirty jokes? Three paragraphs long? What do you do? I told this friend to stop doing it since it could get me into trouble at work. So now she does it only on weekends. Heh.

From being anti-facebook my sister has gone to posting essays on facebook. I am not sure what to do with that now.

If I had one wish, it would be to please destroy the facebook "like" button. Please. Is there a facebook campaign for that? Why do people use "like" for things like obituaries?

Twitter: I am officially a twitter-lurker, even though I don't tweet. It is a wonderful time-sink. So much nonsense at one click. So many high-faluting people spouting opinions, witticisms, so many people blindly "RT-ing" all that nonsense and proclaiming lame jokes as brilliant and epic. So many people having full blown conversations back and forth. And so many fools wasting time on it all like me. :D

I am becoming dangerously close to crossing over into the dog-lovers world. I worry about me.

I have decided to give little christmas presents to all the people that factor in my daily life. That would be the super, the nice security guard that helps me out, the escort van driver, and the guy who washes the glassware at work and is always chatting me up. Now if only I could come up with something nice to give them.

I am enjoying outsourced. It is funny in its own way. Its like a parody of the opinion American Indians have about indians, and thats what is funny. Also Todd's dimples. Kinda cute. :)

Academia versus Industry take 542

So, I still haven't decided which way I am going. I have spoken to a bunch of people in India, in my field, who also followed similar trajectories like mine. The impression I get is that pharma R&D is pretty nascent in India, and not really doing much discovery to speak of, not in the areas that I am looking to contribute. On the other hand, academia is enjoying more funding, more encouragement and is a much more attractive option now than it was earlier. My feeling is that at least in academia, I will be in control of the quality of science I do, which is what my ultimate goal is, to do good quality science.

The good thing that came out of these discussions is that a good few people- again senior to me but in my immediate field- feel that I have a very good CV and am competitive enough to apply for academic jobs in the good institutes in India. That has bolstered my confidence a lot. I am slipping back into the mode where I wanted to be in academia for all the things I liked about it- the opportunities to teach, mentor, and generally enjoy academic lifestyle. But, I haven't slipped fully yet. :)

To complicate things further, we don't know yet which city we're going to be in. We want to be in city B2 but B is currently stuck in city B1. :) I know B2 has perhaps the best options to offer me in India, in terms of both companies and institutes. Then there is city D which is also very attractive science-wise- perhaps ideal fit for my profile but both B and I would never want to live there. No prizes for guessing which city that is. :)

Right now the way it stands is that if I am going to be in city B1, I will perhaps go the academic route, because the industry scene is pretty weak there. In B2, I will try for both and see what they have to offer..I am still information-collecting, CV-circulating, talking...

I now know what all those job-seeking seminars meant when they talked about taking the time to network, have informational interviews, etc. It is great that these people I am talking to are so willing and forthcoming with advice and their own stories. It helps me form a much clearer picture of what I am going for, and also lets guage my own worthiness for once, through less harsh judges than myself.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

HHMI awards for International scientists

How cool is this?

New International Competition Focuses on Early Career Scientists

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute today launched an international competition to select up to 35 early career scientists working at academic institutions in 18 countries on five continents with the goal of helping these talented individuals establish independent research programs.

“Science is an international endeavor, and HHMI wants to help develop the next generation of scientific talent worldwide,” said HHMI President Robert Tjian. “We are especially interested in helping scientists through the challenging early years, when they are just starting up their labs and research support is difficult to get.”

The Institute has committed $24 million for the International Early Career Scientist Program and will award each scientist who is selected a total of $650,000 over five years. The competition is open to scientists who have trained in the U.S., run their own labs for less than seven years, and work in one of 18 eligible countries. Those countries are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, Hungary, India, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, and Turkey. Eligible researchers in these countries are invited to submit applications.

W O M M

Sometime in the last six months before I defended, I set the following autoreply to my gmail id and stopped checking it

"Dear friends,
I am going into a self-imposed exile starting Jan 16. I have a thesis
to complete and a dissertation to defend. In addition, I have a job to
find and a class to teach. Of course, experiments are still being done
as I type this. I hope you will all understand and overlook my absence
from any social behaviour and communication in the coming weeks. See
you all on the other side of this madness. :-) "

I think a lot of the pressures are similar this time around. I don't have a thesis, but I have immense need for data and a solid story to produce and write. I still have to find a job, that too back in India. And no teaching, but shit loads of experiments to do. I need to go back into that exile mode. But ye saala twitter ko kaun band karega?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

WHY

Is writing such a paralyzing activity? WHY?

Is there anyone out there, who simply puts pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and writes away, without feeling like running away, getting distracted, etc? How do you achieve that kind of efficiency? I'd think having an outline is a start, and then focusing on each bullet point and trying to flesh it out, without getting distracted, staying focused on just that point. This is what Ph.D.Advisor told me to do. But I seem fundamentally incapable of it.

I have been "working on writing" this review article for the past 5 days now. Mostly it has involved reading the literature, getting distracted into tangential areas, doing dishes, baking a cake, blogging, worrying, reading some more, wondering, doing benchwork instead of writing, and finally, the lowest of the lows, hiding from boss.

All so familiar too.

Sigh.

Monday, November 29, 2010

On customizable browsers

Apparently we are still very far from having a google-for-life. I will keep waiting. In other news, I found my keys (YAY!) and my camera (YAY!). :)

But while waiting for google-for-life, I have a few other items on my internet wishlist that I think are a lot more do-able and perhaps the equivalents already exist and I just need to find out ?

1) You know how we set can set our homepage to be a certain page on our browser? Now, when I am doing certain tasks, there are a fixed few websites I visit for them. For example, while writing a scientific article, I visit google scholar, pubmed, my institute's library website, etc. While working on a particular kind of analysis I have a few set half-dozen tabs that are open. When I'm wasting time on the internet, I have a fixed few twitter/blog/reader pages open.

Now, I wish I could I create customized profiles on my browser (in my case firefox), so that, I have "manuscript profile" which automatically opens up the relevant pages each in a separate tab, "analysis profile" which automatically loads these 5 -6 pages that I routinely need to do this analysis?

Some may say I should just organise my bookmarks in neat folders and be done with it. But even if I had done that, I would have to manually open up each page. And given that this is a repetitive task, wouldn't it be a lot nicer to have such profiles? Just like having multiple homepages for a browser.

Also, I found an app called Freedom that cuts you off from the internet for whatever amount of time you set it. I have been trying to use it to help me stay focused on work and it is quite helpful, when I have to be on the comp to work but don't need the internet. I am currently using the free trial, if I continue to find it useful I might buy it. Let us see how long i last with it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Random memories from the wedding

Just got off the phone with an old pal who wanted all the details of my wedding ceremony. Sharing them with her made me want to write this down for memory, and also I am avoiding the dishes.

I mentioned how, in Telugu weddings, there is this custom of the bride's maternal uncles carrying her in a basket to the mandap. In my case, I was pretty sure that my er..BMI would dissuade any of my uncles from either attending my wedding or signing papers that absolved them of any such duties. Finally, I made a deal with my dad that we would cut that bit out of my wedding ceremony, and do the high BMI equivalent, which is the maternal uncles walk the bride to the mandap.

The morning of the wedding dawned, and I was whisked downstairs to perform Gauri pooja. I was doing this in a tiny room adjacent to the mandap up on the stage. It was then I discovered what a high-handed fellow this pandit was. He was loud and bossy and always yelling, even at my parents. I didn't like him one bit, and amongst other things, was caught on camera having a fight with him at one point :D. Not your traditional demure bride, this.

Anyhow, after the Gauri pooja was done - in full fast forward fashion, I heard him yell at his minions to bring the "Butta" = basket. We had like 5 minutes left for the "muhurtam" - the pre-appointed auspicious time when the groom and bride are officially married, and a time that is of utmost importance to the exact minute. So the pandit was yelling to bring the basket, and saying- "this muhurtam is five minutes away WHERE is the basket!" and I was trying to protest saying "Actually, my father and I decided that we would not be needing the basket" but my dad and mom were busy at the mandap, the pandit was not even listening to me. I began hoping that the basket was just symbolic. May be some tiny basket would be brought. Next thing I know, this huge basket has been commissioned. The pandit yelled at me again to sit in it, and I, swept in the sense of rush and urgency, alighted into the basket putting my best foot forward (My left foot- I am left handed, after all!). Then I heard the pandit scream some more "Ayyayyo! You didn't just put your left foot in! Get up and sit again, this time, start with your right foot, PLEASE".

Then, he goes out back and yells at all the guests - "The bride needs to be carried in her basket! Come forward to carry the bride!" Like he was rounding up volunteers to push a car that wouldn't move. All the yelling was being done in telugu, but clearly it was being translated and broadcasted because a lot of my dad's friends, non-telugu speaking people came up. The next thing I knew, there was like a horde of people, burly, tall men, and I was sitting in the basket, looking extremely petrified and upset that I was actually being put through this. My assorted "uncles" - there were like 7 of them at least, came forward to lift the basket. The pandit was yelling some more in telugu, and I, sitting in the basket, was translating it into hindi/english for my non-telugu speaking strong and brave uncles- "Hold it by the base! Hold it by the base!" They would have to carry me for about 2-3 yards to the mandap, and I was mortified of this spectacle we would be making as we entered the stage area, in full view of all the guests.

Memories of my sister's wedding flashed through me. Then, there were just 4 uncles, of medium height and built, carrying my demure looking sister, and smiling at the camera. I was beginning to see how my pics would look- an army of burly men, probably sweating at the brows, with no time to pose for pictures as they had to get this done before something or someone gave, may be even cheering one another on. And a defiant and scared looking bride glaring at the camera looking like she was being married off against her wishes.

Just as we emerged from the room, into the stage area, the lights went off- power cut! In the few minutes that it took for the generators to kick in, I was carried to the mandap and set down, no mishaps whatsoever, and I quickly got out of the basket and sat myself down. If there was such a thing as divine intervention, I had just witnessed it. There is no photographic proof and nothing on tape covering this most embarrassing event. While my uncles are disappointed that there is no evidence of their bravado, I, for one, am thankful for load-shedding practices in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Friday, November 26, 2010

W O M M

A place for everything and everything in its place is not a sentiment I subscribe to. Currently I am terribly frustrated with my penchant for losing or misplacing things. I am unable to find my digital camera since a month, and now, my keys have gone missing for the past few days. Luckily my neighbours had my spare set, but that only has keys to the house. Getting into lab has been an adventure every day- either entering through the neighbouring lab that connects ours or begging and pleading my way with the security guard. And I have, of course, turned my blackhole of an apartment inside out to find these things but cannot find them. As a kid, I was constantly misplacing my books, especially on the day before the exam. Then I 'd weep copious tears and hope and pray that my mom had hidden them to teach me a lesson. That never turned out to be the case, and the book would be found later in some random location in the house. I have even been known to walk in my sleep searching for misplaced notebooks. :) My mother was so freaked out she took to putting on an extra lock on the main door at nights so that I don't step out.

Top on my wish list is a google button for life. If only I could google "my keys" and find the random corner of my apartment where they are sitting right now, I would be so happy. I hope those smart folks at google are listening and working on this.

Thanksgiving was: experiments that didn't work, good food, friends, and good conversation. Lots of eating. :)

During one of my crib-fests with H recently, he was remembering the first time he met me- when I had just arrived in Lutom from India. I was full of spunk and outspoken and had no care in the world. And I had really short hair. :) Now, nine years later, here I am- a lot more mellow, and, along with these long tresses I have managed to also accumulate all this baggage from over the years :). H was saying that I need to work on going back to being that person I was then. I wonder if that is possible- after all, this is what life does to you. It takes you through some harsh realities and shapes you. When I left India, I really had nothing to worry about, at all. It was a carefree existence. Part of me misses that old me, but for most, I have come to accept what I have become as the natural progression of life events. If I were the same person I was 9 years ago, it would mean I had seen nothing in life. But the past nine years have been an enriching and fun ride, that I wouldn't want to reverse for anything. I think back to my lowest moments and am still thankful they happened because of all that I learned out of them. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Or, may be, chopping off my hair will do the trick. :)

I wish I could stay home and laze but off to lab I go.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

W O M M

Pet peeves: People who cannot say yes, or take proffered help out of politeness. I don't know how to push or force my way- if someone says no, i step back and desist. I have no way of telling if they meant no or yes, and most of the times, it turns out they meant yes but said no. What nonsense. I also HATE it when friends use terms like "don't take the trouble". WTF.

All the time I bitch about not having company around here or friends to spend time with, and the one time i get invited to join in some fun stuff, I get invited by two different people for the same day and time. Pah. Greedy me so badly wishes I could go to both.

There was much turkey-talk happening in this lab next door where I spend a lot of time using their equipment. I love going there mainly because the lab atmosphere is so chatty and fun-filled. Not quiet and morose like mine. So I enjoy eavesdropping into the conversations in this lab next door and the turkey-talk, even for a vegetarian like me, got me excited about thanksgiving.

Sorely miss the thanksgivings in lutom. They used to be such fun. Over the years, each one that I went to was different and and an experience in itself. My favourite part of it, second to the food, is just all the people getting together, in a great mood, probably thanks to the food. :)

I feel a lot more sorted out as far as all the going-ons in lab are concerned. Nice feeling to be at peace and have a plan and to not give a flying f*** about anything. Hope I can maintain this detachment.

Very nice post: Lessons from a recovering post-doc.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

W O M M

The wedding of one of our closest family friends going on in India right now. Of course as always, I am missing it, but my husband B is attending it along with my parents. I am enjoying getting to hear what a fun time my parents are having, meeting up with people from our childhood days after all these years. Getting to show off their new son-in-law and B being a good sport to all the uncle-aunty humor. :) Hard to believe that my mom hasn't been to Bombay in over five years- unable to visit even while my sister and niece transited there a couple years ago. I am so glad she was able to go now, and what better time than a wedding to be there. As always, I am sorely missing the hungama and so badly wish I were there right now.

I am glad B went and is having a good time with my buddies even though I am not there. It's fun to hear about all the folks from him, and get updates about the wedding going-ons. Its also fun to reminisce back to our wedding, and feel self-congratulatory about the fact that we didn't have to pose for those stereotypical photos to please the photographer and didn't have long ass lines of people waiting to see us at the reception - instead, we flitted about the room- often dragging each other in opposite directions as we'd see someone of ours come in. That had its own comic effect, though.

It's a happy feeling to think about my close childhood buddy getting married. I am happy for him - in some ways its almost surreal and another reason I wish I were there to see it happen. I am really enjoying the excitement in my mom's voice. It was hilarious to have my dad text me to ask me the name of "that gentleman who used to play tennis with Mr. Gupta- he was here and I wanted to introduce B to him but I couldn't remember his name" :) It's fun to exchange gossip with B- "did you meet her husband? - Isn't she just the way I used to describe her? He said that? OMG he hasn't changed one bit." heh. :)

This I know for sure, the next wedding in our family, I will be there for it along with B, stuffing my face with gulab jamuns. :) And, as I crib about not having friends here to hang out with on a regular basis, its gratifying to see that B makes an effort with my friends back home, so that, when I go back, we can enjoy hanging out with people we both know and like and that will hopefully lay the roots of some nice friendships.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

W O M M

There is now the equivalent of "So, when are you graduating?" in my life. It is called "So, when are you going to go back to India to be with your husband?"

Yeah, same people, in case they are aware of having just asked the same question few weeks ago, will turn it around and ask "So, all plans set for returning in March?"

Please either find other placeholders for conversation that do not involve raking up uncertainties that daunt my life, or else, kindly fuck off.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

W O M M

Reminding myself that I can choose what I want to focus my thoughts, energies and efforts on. What is the end-goal? What is the big picture? And how do minor irritants fit in? Answer: end-goal is data, papers. Minor irritants do not fit in anywhere. Should not take up more than 2 minutes of my day. I don't have the time for it.

The girl at the subway sandwich store used to be my friend - in that she was the one person I'd have a social, chatty conversation with in my day. That was enough to make me keep going there, but then I finally put a stop to it because I can't eat that stuff so often. These days, I work late and take the escort shuttle home. The van driver is now my buddy. It's nice to have a real conversation with him at the end of a long tiring, silent day. I wish I had some lunch buddies or something. The thing is, I save my lunchtime for talking with B on the phone, and therefore never made an effort to go out and seek friends to eat lunch with. But I miss having some buddies around here. People to meet and go out with, bitch about work with, explore the city with etc. But I crib about this all the time, may be I need to make a better effort at it myself.

I have been reading about the whole barkhagate shit. More than I should, more than I have the time for. :) The whole thing is so icky. And the realization that it is mere entertainment at best. Tomorrow is another day, everyone would have moved on to the next scandal.

Since I made a conscious decision to reducing eating out, even if its just boiled vegetables at the cafeteria, I am going crazy coming up with ideas to feed myself. What a pain.

Back to work. Kaafi timepass ho gaya.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On self-righteousness

Self-righteousness: confident of one's own righteousness, esp. when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others.


I have been accused of being self-righteous on several occasions. To reinforce it, let me say that I never understood why it was a bad thing. :) Finally H broke it down to me superbly. That there is no point in arguing for " the right thing" because a) it is extremely relative and b) we don't live in an ideal world. So in doing so, and doing it vehemently, aggressively, I only end up looking smug and arrogant. You'd think I'd have figured it out by now, but perhaps my thick head was in the way. :p

W O M M

The truth is, I am trying to avoid working as I write this post.

My neighbours- and the only friends I have around here moved out yesterday. We got along really well and I will really miss having them right next door, making impromptu visits and stuff. I also feel really bad that I wasn't too helpful to them during their move. I put in a few hours of taping boxes, lugging them, etc. but that was it. Partly because I am so unfit, I cannot do the heavy lifting work for too long, my knees and back just revolt. Also I had to work in the lab to make a deadline. We do what we have to do, right? But I can't help feeling a bit bad. Especially because I've enjoyed so much help each time I had to move. I remember the time I was leaving lutom, I didn't call my friends to help me because I was such a mess and wanted to sort it all out on my own before calling people to help. Finally, there was no choice. And all sense of shame/embarrassment left me as my friend M was scrubbing my fridge and cooking range while I kept tearing up junk mail and there were 2 hours left for me to hand over my apartment and get out of there. If not for her just coming in and taking charge, I think i'd have missed my flight.

Then I remember the time I was vacating my Philly apartment. I was dealing with an entirely different kind of mess: I was struggling to finish a paper and was under tremendous pressure to get it done before I moved out of Philly, since I was headed to India right away. So while I sat at my computer and worked, B, who I had been dating for a few months then, was sitting and emptying out my apartment into boxes and taping them and labeling them, and, in what I still consider an amazing feat, did not say a word about how much junk I had. :) That was the point I decided I need to marry this guy. :) :)

I think when it comes to packing up your stuff and moving, we all need the "Take charge" type of friends. People who will pick up and do stuff, and not come and ask you every little thing, while your own mind is filled with dozens of bouncing thoughts. I tried to be that friend for my neighbours yesterday, but wish I could've done more of it.

--

As I watch the way couples interact, I imagine how life will be when B and I finally start living together as husband and wife, almost a whole year after we got married. Right now it feels almost strange to say husband / wife in a marriage that has been solely long distance. I foresee a considerable amount of bickering once we get together because we have both been living on our own for so long now, and are quite set in our ways. I am actually looking forward to both, the living together and the ensuing bickering :).

And in spite of all the problems that come with R2I, I do feel that this might be the best time to leave the US - Job cuts, research funding cuts, and the instability that lies ahead. India has its own share, though, so that will be another struggle.

--

OK time to get back to work. Over and out.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Foreigners means copycats

My boss was invited to write a section of a review article, and like most busy bosses, he passed on the job to me. I gladly took it up because I enjoy stuff like that. Now the main author of this review article is another PI (lets call him Dr. mainauthor) and his post-doc from another univ. Today I sent them an email asking about word limits etc. In the ensuing chain of emails, in which every contributing author is cc-ed (totally 4 or 5 people) I find Dr. mainauthor asking his post-doc for a link to a plagiarism checker with a note

"I'd like to fw it to Dr. tgfiboss. We have to be careful with outside authors".


Then in the next email, he has sent us all a link to dustball.com with a note

"We use this regularly to check all our manuscripts, this is a good way to check cutting and pasting"
.

I got a bit irked by that but let it go. Then, he follows up this with another separate email to my boss alone in which he says

"Dear Dr. tgfisboss, Please dont take it personally, i admire your writing work, i just want to be careful and avoid problems as we have faced in the past. People from overseas have the habit of cutting and pasting"


What is worse is, this dude is a foreigner himself. All the authors on this review are, except tgfiboss.

What is even worse is, my boss replies to him with one line

"Do what you have to do"


- and cces it to me. Thats how I get to read this dude praising my boss and painting all foreigners with one wide brush. I am not even sure why my boss cc-ed me on it.

This whole thing pisses me off on various levels. The blatant stereotyping, the horrible attitude that it is only important to be respectful to the big guy, the small folks can be insulted/stereotyped all you want and finally, my boss being equally non-committal and dismissive of such attitudes instead of putting in some effort to stand up for the integrity of his lab members.

This is what i plan to write back to him and cc my boss on it (ETA: The text of this email is the result of my husband - B's editing, and hence a lot more professional and less frothing at the mouth :) )

"Dear Dr. Mainauthor

I understand your concerns. I am familiar with dustball.com having used it as a TA when I taught undergrad classes, where violations were prevalent regardless of nationality or country of origin. Please feel free to check my work using your resources.

Sincerely
TGFI

Sunday, November 07, 2010

W O M M

Amongst a few hundred milligrams and lots of warmth and fun, I also gained an hour overnight. Love it when that happens.

Fun weekend- just what I needed. Back to work, recharged, and snapped out of all the gloom that I was wallowing in.

Two nice friends of my sister at the Diwali party at my sister's place gave me a ride part of the way home. All throughout the ride I was struggling to remember one of their names. The two hour car ride was filled with me asking pointed and weird questions so that the wife would say her husband's name, and then thinking up some more strategies when she didn't bite. I am wondering if she is one of those people that just doesn't utter her husband's name or something. She always said "him" and "his" much to my growing frustration.

I don't remember anything that we talked about in that car ride. But now, sitting at home, the name comes to me. Why does this happen to me?

Compare and contrast.

Friday, November 05, 2010

W O M M

Missing being in India big time during Diwali. But i'm headed to my sister's place this evening and that should help.

The zero-expectations policy is helping. No expectations from experiments, from people, from systems..yeah.

I wallow in self-pity every now and then only to snap out of it when I see that I have precious little to complain about. Sure it sucks to be away from B and to be stuck in a rut at work, but really? I have a lot going for me and need to remind myself of it all every time I go down the self-pity party path.

I think of lutom a lot these days. I sometimes miss the security I felt there. A good bunch of friends to hang out with, more money than I do now, and happier lab-life....But then again, there were a different set of struggles then. I have reminders all over this blog :)

I am *this* close to calling in sick at work today, but I will drag myself to work and get busy and keep on keeping on.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

W.O.M.M

Paneer jalebis. Thats on my mind right now. Gosh. I crave so badly now! Anyone in Bombay reading this, please go and get a plateful of them from your nearest Brijwasi or Chappanbhog or..sigh. Enjoy.

Today I went and bought a whole lot of groceries- restocked after ages- only to come home to find that the lift wasn't working. :( The security guard who I chat with every now and then offered to help me bring my bags up. That really totally made my day, as I was mentally preparing to make 2 trips up and down 5 floors each time - with a bad back. She really didn't have to help me out, and I almost hugged her for her niceness.

Diwali is coming up! Happy Diwali to all of you.

I am starved of good blogs to read. Please to suggest. I generally enjoy personal blogs, well-written, argumentative, and don't take themselves too seriously.. :) Know any?

Today while in the grocery I am talking to my niece on the phone and she says "So what is up?" As if that wasn't bad enough, when I tell her I'm buying groceries, she goes "At 8:30 in the night?" and before I could react to that, she stops and then repeats herself "At 8:40 in the night?". :D

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Question:

WHY are people celebrating Halloween in India?

Pep talk

Lab politics have been unfolding over the past few weeks. I have learned some more lessons. May be someday I'll get very good at playing the game the way it is played. I am definitely getting better at it.

For now, I will keep on keeping on, until I reach the end, turning every problem into an opportunity along the way. I know that sounds terribly cliched, but it really is the only way to go for me, cliches be damned.

And the other thing is, things are only as big as I make them out to be. Two years ago I was obsessing over happenings in the philly lab. It has remained but a blip. This shall too. I need to work on my science, and keep having fun while I am at it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The weekend that was

My sis and niece came and spent the weekend with me. I had always thought about taking my niece around the city, showing her all the cool stuff and treating her to some of the best cupcakes I have ever eaten here. I finally got to do all of it and more. On Saturday we hung out in the city pretty late into the evening, taking in the crowds, the craziness and more. Against all my principles, I even took her to that big toy store i won't name and give google hits to.. :) Eventually my poor niece got tired and decided to hail a cab very expertly, all on her own. I was so proud of her taxi-hailing skills. Thereafter, she'd point to every swanky building that came in sight and ask "Is this your building, TGFI-pinni?" :) I wish. :) Speaking of cabs, another high point of the weekend was zipping about all over the place in cabs, as against long-ass subway rides, as that's my sister's preferred mode of conveyance :). Little surprise, then, that her daughter is such an expert cab-hailer. It totally spoiled me and in addition to the sadness I felt after putting my sis and niece on their train home and having to make my lonesome way back, I found myself complaining about the "long" subway ride I had ahead of me (one that I otherwise routinely do) and wished I had asked my sister for return cab fare too :).

On my second twenty-ninth birthday, (just the other day), a really nice guy played sport and brought a cake that wished me a happy 29th. This time though, I got none of that, as my niece insisted on announcing loudly in public that I was THIRTY-TWO years old. Sigh. What to do? May be I'll come around, eventually. Today we got to take part in some fun halloween stuff in the park followed by a yummy brunch in the city joined by my close friend N who was could most identify with my joy of doing stuff with my niece .The gorgeous weather was the icing on the cake, making it a super birthday weekend. Also threw in an impromptu trip to N's house which was even more fun. For probably the first time ever, I have uploaded photos from the day within record time, and couldn't help noticing that all the pics taken at at N's house have the most fun-filled, natural smiling happy faces in them. :) And over the past three years, no matter how rocky or strained my friendship has been with N, she has managed to make each of my past three birthdays so much fun - even the one time she was not here. That takes special talent. :)

On the train ride back home I began getting sad about coming back to my apartment and facing the week tomorrow. Things with nasty coworker reached a new low on Friday and I had a pretty bad blow-out with my boss. But I stopped myself from going down the misery trip so quickly- I was still riding my birthday high. As my sis and B have told me, this is life, this is the real world. I will face a lot more jealousy, pettiness and distasteful experiences as I go on and I just have to keep myself above others insecurities and not let them become mine.

So I go to bed with warm and happy thoughts. Of a lovely weekend- and an exciting week ahead, with a friend visiting tomorrow, bringing me gifts from B :) , and some interesting data waiting to be analyzed. Happy birthday to me. :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

W O M M

Things have gotten really slow uninspiring and hopeless at work. I am unable to come up with anything positive to say about my project, my lab-life or anything. All my boss has to say is "Keep plugging along". So I will keep doing that. It doesn't help that my lab atmosphere has gotten a bit caustic to be in, thanks to an annoying coworker. That bit, I have finally decided, is mostly part of being in a lab ecosystem. There are going to be some personalities that are unfriendly, inconsiderate and I just have to stop let them bothering me.

My target is to have decent data in two months. It's either that or I call it quits. Then I'll bring the other back-burner project up to the front- the one that I know will get published in a not-so-great journal for a clinical audience.

I don't know- if my life were any different and I didn't have to R2I and I continued in post-doc hell for another 3-4 years like most people in my field are doing would I then have hit pay-dirt and got to call myself an outstanding scientist with a top tier publication? I don't know and I never will. And I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

I sound very bitter and frustrated. I guess I am. But the upside- I am making it into lab everyday early morning. And plugging on despite all the hopelessness I feel. I am doing it quite mechanically, but I am doing it. I enjoy the early morning productivity, I must say, if not anything else.

May be a little detachment from my work is a good thing for me too. If I don't internalize it all and make it about it me, I can stop letting it drag me down and just keep at it. Work smart, work hard, and like I don't really care. That is my new mantra.

You know those combination locks? That say turn thrice clockwise, pass this number, then turn twice anticlockwise, stop at this other number, then turn once clockwise and stop at this number? And then feel the click as you unlock? I have NEVER been able to work those damn locks at work. I have two such lockers, one that I stopped using out of frustration - so my backpack, jacket, shoes etc all just spill over in my desk area- and the other locker I have to use because my clean lab coat is deposited there after laundry, I always get someone near by to open up for me after struggling with it for fifteen minutes. Half that floor knows the combination to it now. I don't care. if they want to steal my lab coat they're welcome to.

So anyhow - in other news, I am taking swimming lessons. (For the second or third time). :) Yesterday I spent my own money and bought such a lock for a locker in the gym to keep my swim gear in. I couldn't believe I was doing it but I had no other choice. So yesterday, before going in for my lesson I decided to stow my backpack in the locker. I peeled the sticker off the back of my new lock that had the code and it just tore up in the process. But I made up a smart way to remember the code. All throughout the lesson I was struggling to stay afloat while not gulping down gallons of pool-water and coughing and spluttering and all that fun stuff, AND remembering to move my legs (we're not doing the hands, yet) - so much work! It doesn't help that my teacher- an 18 year old kid - was telling me stuff like "Nice and slow like this:" and proceeded to demonstrate a slow graceful motion followed by "Not like this" and proceeded to demonstrate a cartoon character flailing and flapping about in the water and thrashing water all around her. Nice imitation, teacher. :/

So, while my teacher was mercilessly mocking my own individual swimming technique, I was thinking about how I would have to struggle again with the bloody lock once I got out. And what if I couldn't get it to open? And worse of all what if I forgot the code? Well - there were signs all over the locker room that said that lockers left locked overnight would be broken, so I figured these guys had a way to pick these locks and I'd just ask them to pick mine so I can get my stuff out. Only problem was it was the ladies locker room so I don't think they'd come in during working hours to pick my lock, unless of course- they had a woman locker-picker.

So imagine my feeling of absolute triumph when I got out dripping wet from shower after the lesson and could manage to finally work the bloody lock all by myself! Yeah! Who cares if I can't swim? I can open these darned locks now without help. :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pet Peeve of the Day

"Inbox" is now a verb? I keep seeing this on facebook "Inbox me your number". Haan? Yuck.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Still haven't found what I'm looking for.

Particularly disappointing day today. Had a very productive past few weeks in terms of doing experiments- and got back most of my results today. All of them are - well- just non-informative. Pretty, clean, perfect error bars, reproducible, and non-informative. Yes yes, I know that negative results are also results, but :(.

I'm trying not to cloud my approach by going after something which will prove my hypothesis, but the sampling I have done so far doesn't effectively disprove it either. Just tells me I need to look more. Question is how much more and for how much longer? And if I go through all my precious material and keep cranking out negative results, where do I go from there?

A little late in the day to revise the design- but may be I am going after the wrong targets- If I want to address that it would mean redesigning assays, and the whole shebang. An intimidating approach, but one that I need to take a stab at. If I want this to go anywhere.

Data desperation abounds.

Tomorrow I will wake up, bright and optimistic. I will bite the bullet and redesign some assays and see what comes of it. Some intelligent, informed redesigning. May be it will pay off. I will only know if I try it. May be the assays will work out faster than earlier- I have picked up a few tricks along the way- so I shouldn't be so scared of designing new assays.

Onward and upward. Onward and upward. Hum honge kaamyaab..... :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nature India

So I was quite excited when Nature began its Indian edition "Nature India". It has been a source of relevant job opportunities and a way to keep a finger on the Indian science pulse. But I recently happened upon the forum Nature India Forum- a nature networks forum, again, catering to India. I thought this would be superbly useful to me. But check this one thread out . And its not just this one- they are all like that. Seems to me like the Nature India forums is the rediff or cnn comment space of disgruntled academics in India. I have come across an articulate and reasonable post here and there, but most of it is just rediff-y. Sigh. Why is nobody moderating these forums? If I was looking for something to make me feel better about wanting to go into Industry, here is my reason this is definitely not helping: sample this

Saturday, October 09, 2010

W O M M

The day before yesterday I skipped lunch because I was busy. But I had a nice dinner, and woke up yesterday, ate a healthy breakfast. None of that mattered, my body revolted with a horrible migraine around noon yesterday. After a few blinding hours, squinting through my experiments and printing out my notes in big letters so I could see what I had to do, I ate lunch and waited to let the medicines kick in. I really need to recognize, once and for all, that i cannot afford the luxury of skipping meals. The aftermath is just not worth it. Next time I decide to skip a meal, I wish my body reminds me by giving me a tiny migraine-preview. :)

There is this girl down the hallway who is an absolute sweetheart- K. She is extremely pleasant, always smiling, and always chatting me up. I asked her to take care of my experiment for me later at night because I really had to go home- in addition to that, she also gave me a mini massage, which already had me feeling better. So, instead of going straight home, I decided to get a massage at this chiropracters clinic down the street. It wasn't the best massage- the guy was too chatty and ruined the peaceful experience. I tried pretending to fall asleep and not respond but he wouldn't shut up- and what was worse, he was mostly giving self-promotional spiels. Like how people should get massages more often, how he does things, how good he is, blah blah blah. Aaargh.

Usually, the day after a migraine I wake up with a lingering pain in my head and neck muscles. Today though, I woke up feeling great! So I will credit the massage, in spite of the blabber. I wish there was an easier and more affordable way of getting massages more often. And no, not those massage chairs - those are hideous and only good for free trials in shopping malls.

I also woke up to hot steaming cup of poha. Yay for leftovers. :)

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I read this last night. Gosh. The nature article touches upon all the points though: the kind of pressures that exist, the reward system in academia- the competition- surprisingly they don't mention the low pay. None of these are supposed to justify the act (A post-doc sabotages his lab-mate's experiments..they eventually catch him after setting up cameras in the lab!) - but they are all factors in the game in which some people do stupid idiotic things like this guy did.

Derek Lowe's post states this

...How often does stuff like this go on? To be honest, I'm surprised that there isn't more of it in academic labs. The competition between individuals is much more fierce than it is in industry (where people tend to work much more in large teams), and frankly, there are more unstable personalities in academia than there are in industry as well. At the same time, this is a thoroughly nasty thing to do, striking right at the basic workings of any research lab. ....


Frankly, I do think this happens very often, at all levels: your coworker gives you a protocol with one step missing, or an aliquot of something that is really old and doesn't work..or spikes your cells like in the story here. Not always do these get high profile coverage like the Nature article. Derek got some backlash for saying that there are more mentals in academia than industry - I don't know what to say to that- partly I do believe that fears of systems, rules and rigor are more in industry- for example you have to write your lab notebook in a specific way when you work in the industry- my paper-towels / post-it notes "to be transcribed" will not cut it. The other point - as was made by a comment in Derek's post - if and when such incidents happen in the industry, they more likely hush it up to avoid bad publicity and plummeting stock prices.

People that do not work in academia or science- what are parallel examples of sabotage in your work-lives?

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I am going to capitalize on my good mood and get out of the house- get into lab, go out somewhere..read my book..have fun. Over and out.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The WSJ: "For good luck, More Indians Opt for C-Sections".

"When the Stars Align, Indians Say, It's a Good Time to Have a C-Section" is the title of a WSJ article by Eric Bellman, with contributions from Arlene Chang.

Really? For a minute I had to glance up to see if I was reading WSJ or the Toilet paper Of India. I thought WSJ was a fairly respectable paper, no?

The reason it took me by surprise is because from my limited knowledge and interaction with moms and to-be-moms in India, I found that most of them do not want a C-sec, and that idea also partly stems from an "old-fashioned" way of thinking- that a normal delivery is a good thing and a C-sec is not. Someone I know had a C-sec and her mom related the news to me almost woefully, even though the baby and mom were fine. There is also some kind of notion that going through the pains of childbirth- particularly labour pains- is apparently fulfilling in some way and necessary.

I also know a lot of cases both in India and the US where the C-sec is the decision of the doctor. This could be due to a host of reasons: A genuine medical reason or A litigation-inspired fear that makes the doc want to cover his/her ass and carry out a C-sec or sometimes, its just a question of practicality for the doctor, his/her calendar, or no time to deal with prolonged labour. Most of the times, I know the mothers to be very keen on natural birth, but eventually give in to the doctor.

Then this from the article:

Indians have been asking astrologers for the perfect time to conceive for centuries. Now, with rising incomes and improved access to health care, many take their gurus' advice to their gynecologists to decide birth times as well.

"In the last three years, it has become rampant. Almost everyone prefers to choose timing," says Rishma Dhillon Pai, a Mumbai-based gynecologist. "It's strange, because you would think that as we grow more modern, this kind of thing would happen less."

While there are no data on how often C-section timings are decided by astrology, the number of caesarean deliveries has surged in India. In the early 1990s, around 5% of births in urban hospitals were caesarean. Today more than 20% are, doctors say, in part because of higher incomes and wider access to health care. (Bold emphasis mine)

In the U.S., the frequency of caesarean sections has risen to more than 30% of births, from around 21% in 1998. The rise has been driven by increases in the number of middle-age mothers and overweight mothers, according to doctors, as well as malpractice concerns.

While the vast majority of Indians still prefer natural birth, doctors say the number of caesarean sections where cosmic timing is a factor has jumped from perhaps one-in-10 a decade ago to as many as one-in-two today. Usually, the timing is chosen only after a C-section has been deemed necessary. But doctors say a growing number of women are opting for the procedure when there is no medical need.


Then the article goes on to describe Indians' faith in astrology, how time of birth is so significant, how in two or three anecdotal cases doctors actually gave in to performing C-secs to suit the mother's superstitious beliefs.

Now I do not expect peer-reviewed-quality in-depth reports replete with error bars and statistical significance from a newspaper, but perhaps the author should have mentioned just how many gynecs he interviewed before he wrote this story. After all, in the absence of any other data, that would've been informative.

To me it seems like the article is conflating all kinds of issues: I am not arguing the bit about how the "time of birth" is deemed important in astrology and how people make kinds of decisions based upon it, but it seems a bit far-fetched to claim that is the reason for increased C-secs in India. If the number of increased C-secs in the US can be explained by more practical reasons ["increases in the number of middle-age mothers and overweight mothers, according to doctors, as well as malpractice concerns"], I don't see why all of those can't apply to India, with the odd section of people who actually want to time their baby's birth so that it aligns with the stars. But of course, its more fun and eye-catching to cater to baseless stereotypes, no?

ETA: see this

Saturday, October 02, 2010

W O M M

It's bad enough that my Ph.D. Advisor and Post-doc advisor try to brain-wash me against industry...now I have my dad sending me subtle hints..like "Why don't you contact so-and-so uncle in ". I don't have the heart to break it to him that I won't make the cut in the mentioned elite institute. Then, every now and then, my dad sends me fws from his alumni e-group, where they are discussing some alumnus who has won a renowned science prize in India, or someone else who has made it famous.

My dad got his Masters from a very prestigious institute in India, and soon after that, took up a job from which he eventually retired after 33 years. But a lot of his classmates went on to get Ph.D.s and quite a few of them are now heads-of-departments at good schools in both India and in the U.S. My dad feels a tinge of envy/sadness that he never pursued a Ph.D... and, I think, would now like me to join this hallowed academic circle. I have told him time and again that I am going to look for an industry job for now and take it from there, and then he immediately backs off, saying "Ok, ok..but no harm in getting in touch with so and so uncle..he may even have friends in his institute in your area with contacts in the industry..". :)

Sigh. I never thought I'd be having to deal with this.

You know how they say in science things come together at the end? I didn't have that happen to me in grad school- it wasn't like i had a 5-year dry spell and then whoosh all this data fell in my lap- I was consistently producing, and wrote up my first first author paper when I was in year 4 or 5. Anyhow, the post-doc thus far has been a dry spell. It's been standardize technique, optimise technique, do assay, no results, go back to fixing technique. And time's a running out. But I strongly feel that it is all beginning to come together now. One technique that me and a coworker were working on for months, trying to adapt to our system, is finally yielding. And as it may turn out, there as no magic trick or quirk - it was just repetition a zillion times until I acquired the finesse it took. In my own project which is woefully data-sparse, I have come up with some "smart" approaches..so that while I take one step back, it might very well end up being two steps forward. I hope so. I am feeling optimistic. I have also learned some important lessons from my grad school struggles- if I have to tack on another author to the paper, so be it, if it gets the job done- and right now god knows I need all the help I can get, so I am not going to even attempt doing each and everything on my own, even though this project is my baby.

In my "copious amounts of spare time" as Ph.D.Adv used to put it (sarcastically), I have been printing out and reading pages from this wonderful resource on Science Careers. There is a lot of good advice in there...may be a lot of it is common sense or stuff that we pick up along the way but reading it in print really helps to fix it in my head, and adopt in my job-searching strategies. And we always learn something- for example- somewhere in there is a tip buried that tells you not to upload your resume to all company websites needlessly. Because, when the time comes to go through a contact you've made at that co., they will not be eligible for a referral bonus if your cv already exists in the company database, so you reduce the incentive for them to recommend you and push your cv in. Who knew?

Time to sleep. Over and out.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

On job hunting and resume-distributing

I really ought to have more patience with this, but I don't. I get very frustrated when people send me their resumes, not asking for corrections to it, but, asking for it to be forwarded to contacts for a job, and, they have really shoddy resumes- multiple fonts, sizes, typos, formatting, all of those and more! I don't know- these are people a lot younger than me, and presumably with a lot less exposure. But they have bachelors and masters degrees- that ought to count for something! And, they have net access. It is not so hard to google "how to prepare a resume" and follow the numerous most basic tips all over the internet. When I get back to these people with corrections to their resume, they reply that they are really desperate to find a job and therefore in a hurry to put their cv out there, without bothering to run it through a spell-check. What gives? That is such an innately futile move, I cannot even bring myself to comment on it.

Sigh. This is fast becoming a pet peeve.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gaajar ka halwa

To make Gaajar ka halwa is a lot of work, as you may very well know. I have made it a sum total of twice in my life. I recently got some nice fresh carrots from the farmers market and had been craving gaajar ka halwa ever since. So I set about making it. There's grating all those carrots, and the standing in front of the stove and stirring endlessly. It took me over 3 hours to make it, not to mention how a whole mountain of grated carrots - a result of intense grating and thumb pain- gets reduced to a small smidgen of halwa at the end of it. It is hard work with the results rapidly diminishing right in front of your eyes.

The next day, I took along the small dabba that was the fruit of my hard work to a friend's place who had invited me for lunch. Not wanting to land up with too little halwa, I exercised great restraint in not eating any of it, other than just tasting it to make sure it was cooked. All the way on the 2 hr train ride I kept thinking about the halwa in my bag. Soon after I got there, P began to heat up lunch and I brought out the dabba and kept it on her counter top. They were very happy and appreciative of my efforts. P even tasted a small bit and said it was nice. I then enjoyed the lunch that P put a lot of effort in making, and declared myself too full for dessert. That was perhaps mistake #2. Rest of the afternoon was spent discussing our respective weddings, photos, recent articles in the NYT, the great indian outrage and what not. I was having a really nice time with P, her husband and some friends of theirs I was meeting for the first time. Then P brought out the rasagullas. Now, I love rasagullas, but all the time they were being served I was eyeing my dabba of gajar ka halwa, still sitting on the counter. When I realised that it was not going to be served, I shamelessly asked out loud "Why is nobody having the gaajar ka halwa?". To which someone in the room responded- "no, no, I had it, it was really nice- just the way my mom makes it." Ohho. nice, I thought. Then more discussion on how each individual's mother makes gaajar ka halwa. All very nice, my inner voice was screaming out. Can we please serve some of mine, PLEASE? But ofcourse I did not scream it out. I just drowned my angst in the rasagullas and silenced my longing as no halwa was served.

Much more fun conversation and active debating ensued, and then chai and biscuits were served. Clearly, the time for halwa had passed and I decided that I might as well leave. It was getting dark and I had a long train ride home. So I declared that I was going to get going and as I got up to gather my things, P mumbled something about "hey what about your halwa dabba"..and right then, in my mind, I saw that this could go in several directions. I decided to make a quick deflection to the restroom and there I sat and mulled over strategies. First of all- why did she not serve it at all, and why was she talking about me taking it back with me now? Did she not like it? I could be offended, but I was so conflicted- I saw nothing offensive at all about getting to take it back with me. Or, I could ask her to serve it then. Or may be she didn't want to serve it because of the hassle (cups/spoons/dishes?) I could generously ask her to keep it. But I knew I couldn't do that with a straight face. So I finally decided to ask her to keep "Some" of it, that way she could have some of the halwa and I could eat some of it too.

So as I emerged from the restroom, empowered with my well-thought through strategy, I found P rinsing out my plastic dabba and handing it to me. Yeah- she somehow felt obliged to return me my tupperware, washed and clean, as she transferred all the contents into another bowl that went into her fridge.

There was nothing left for me to do now, other than take my khaali dabba and leave quietly. I was more or less done grieving the halwa on the long ass train ride back home, only to return to the the chore of washing the huge karahi in which the halwa was cooked and sweeping off stray crumbs and grated carrot off the floor. Nothing can be sadder than that. I have resolved to never make mistake #1 again, always save some of the halwa for myself to come back to before taking it to someone's house.

Sigh.

ETA: One week later, I text this friend P "Hey, I am in the city with some friends do you want to meet up?" She texts me back "No, we're having guests blah blah, but btw your gaajar ka halwa is still wowing me".

:/ Haan kyon nahin.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

W O M M

We're only half way into the weekend but mine has been very nice so far. Got to meet some people, old friends and new people, and had a wonderful time. If I can keep up my goal of putting in a few hours in lab tomorrow I will be happy.

I am currently nursing a headache and worrying about my career. I hope, soon enough, I can write a post that is a myth-buster of sorts, where in I say- "I stressed out about all of this and turns out I needn't have. I got a position I wanted, I am happy in my new position and enjoying what I do. All that I feared would work against me didn't really matter that much".

I hope.

I met half of another couple in an India-US long distance for as long as I've been (>1 year and still going strong). Misery loves company, and I was really happy to make this acquaintance. :)

I have been feeling all sorts of outclassed- from people discussing top tier journals they publish in, working for big name people...name-dropping and all of that. It has gotten the better of me and makes me feel small. :(

It's a lovely day outside.

I have a dishes-mountain to scale.

Sometimes I have trouble remembering that in some conversations, people are just thinking out loud. I get irritated by the things they say only to realise later that they were just brainstorming, not really making well-thought out and analysed points. I need to remember to be more patient.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fraud in Science

As I read more cases of papers being retracted etc. wonder what the fun is in manipulating results or falsifying data? I mean, if you falsified data and made up your conclusion, what fun is left in doing science? Where is the waiting, the guess work, the planning, the troubleshooting? And what do you get at the end of it- a paper in a high profile journal? How does it affect your science and your life after that? Do you continue to build on your faked data- thereby living in falsehood, or do you work always being aware of your dirty secret, and being mindful of it? If its the first, then, again, how long can you keep doing that? If you try to keep it in mind and go about working on it, doesn't it get confusing? How do you keep track of what you can assume and what you cannot, knowing that there is this body of faked work out there and probably spawning off other wrongly designed experiments and results? Such a mess. And for what purpose?

W O M M

Passive aggression has its highs. I came home last night a bit peeved off by my interactions with various people over the past few days and dashed off two stinker emails. I slept so well and woke up so happy. :)

Another small thrill this morning was setting out to iron my shirt and realizing that it didn't need ironing. :)

In continuing the industry v/s academia debate in my head: one very good point was recently made by someone: If i switch to industry now, at such a junior stage, making my way back into academia will actually be more challenging because in the few yrs I would have spent in Industry, I would be out of the publishing game, and hence, when I try to make my way back, will compete with people who have been actively publishing. Very good point. I must address and plan accordingly. (May be find an industry position that lets me publish and/or enter into acad collabs..).

My post-doc mentor, who is in the process of resubmitting his grants, woefully mentioned to me how he felt bad about not putting me down as post-doc in his next round of grants. :(

The CWG. What a sad unfunny joke.

Friday, September 17, 2010

W O M M

In which I am not whining :)

Things that made me happy in the recent past

1) B's friend calling and telling me to stock up on beer because he (the friend) was going to be visiting :). AND me proudly being able to say that I already had. :) :)

2) My friend calling and telling me "Main paanch min. mein pahunch raha hai tu chai ready rakh".

3) Friends dropping in unexpectedly to just say hello. :) Who said that happened only in India? AND my living room being neat and tidy. :) :)

4) Getting to see my niece soon! :) :) :)

5) Gossip-filled phone call from a friend.

6) Being able to share good news for a change with a friend who is my #1 Agony uncle.

7) Making travel plans to finally(!) visit the West Coast. Yeah! (And to you who may kill me for this, sorry but this will be NoCal only :p)

8) Being proven right. :) (Getting to say I told you so without having to say it :p)

9) Being excited about some papers I have been devouring and learning A LOT from. I may even have a solution to my problems hidden in there but that only time and experiments will tell.

10) Being told by my post-doc advisor that I am a natural teacher. :)

Yay me! :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

W O M M

Lab life sucks. Desperately need a break at work. Something's got to give. I can't have set myself up against all high risk projects all over again. :( Feel absolutely uninspired to bring ass to work and keep it here for 8 hours.

The other day my labmate came and showed me his reviews from an NIH grant he submitted several months ago. His grant got rated Excellent and he has a pretty good rank, but is on the border as far as funding actually goes. Thats the name of the game. He was very effusive in his gratitude for my input on his grant. The scientific idea, the conceptualization etc. was entirely his, but I will unabashedly take credit for whipping his grant into shape- I spent a good many hours first understanding the requirements and instructions of the RFA and then making him rewrite key portions to better fit it and telling him how to do it . Of course I could do all of this because I enjoy the advantage of having much better English, and, because, as he pointed out, I really understood his idea and what he was trying to convey and helped him convey it. I spent late nights up until his deadline and went back and forth on his final few drafts. After all those revisions, the grant ended up looking very different and very good. I am glad I could be of help and hope that he gets this grant. Labmate went on and on thanking me and even said "Every time I discuss the grant with my wife I tell her that the excellent reviews are because of TGFI's help". :) lol.

That brings me to one of the things I'll miss about academia. I have written and successfully gotten two grants so far, both small ones, but still- I think PhDAdv. really took a lot of pains to hone my skills at communicating my scientific ideas- be it on paper or through presentations- and at the end of it I do pretty well. At some point in grad school I thought the fact that a P.I is reduced to writing grants and struggling for funds for most of his time, was off-putting and a deterrent towards thinking about a faculty job, But over the years I have found that I love the process of grant writing- of thinking up ideas, formulating specific aims, fleshing it all out, brainstorming and drawing mindmaps- going through multiple iterations, enjoying the scientific exploration and ability to let your imagination run wild and spend days ruminating over ideas, researching literature... Well, of course, all of this was fun when I was not under any pressure to apply for grants. I applied, enjoyed the process, took my own sweet time with it- fully knowing that if I got rejected somebody was still going to pay my salary. Things are different when one is P.I. and this is pretty much your bread and butter..but well..I will miss this exploratory side of academia - and its a shame to underutilize this skill that I have learned over years...

Sigh.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

W O M M

Ganesh Chaturthi didn't really feel like it. I didn't even make my customary phone calls to people I usually call back in Bombay to wish them, reminisce all our old Ganpati celebrations etc. I wish I had gone someplace desi but I just chose to wallow at home alone. Ah well. This weekend was the exact opposite of last weekend. Last weekend I had a couple friends staying with me, lots of activity, going out every day and was thankful for the company. This weekend I wanted to just relax and unwind and do nothing. But it wasn't as much fun. I did have a very busy, tiring and productive week so I am happy to catch some rest.

The fun part of living here is the fact that I get to meet people...visiting/transiting/living around here. It turns out there are more of B's friends who either live around here or are visiting and make it a point to look me up and catch up with me. Some of them regulars and some of them I am meeting for the first time. Either way they do their bit to keep me cheered up and deliberately or unknowingly are helping me get through this LDR business. I am happy that he has such wonderful friends, enjoy meeting up with people with whom I can discuss him, and, of course, love every opportunity to rake up some dirt on him. :)

In spite of telling myself to prepare for the worst, when I finally came to face it, turns out I was not that prepared after all. May be it only means that the worst is yet to come. :/

I am contemplating my next visit to Bombay to visit B. I am beginning to doubt if I have it in me to go there, for another cruelly short amount of time, counting down the days and hours, and then deal with the horribly painful bit where he drops me off at the airport and I have to return to this cold country and huge apartment alone. Sometimes I think I should just stay put and go back only when I can finally put an end to this madness. But of course, that is a while away and it would be nice to see him before that. Given how continuously jinxed his plans to come here and visit me have been, I have given up on that.

I am going to be 32 in a little over a month. 32! Feels like I was celebrating my (second) 29th just the other day. :)

Jokes apart, I need to start working on the whole get fit get healthy plan. While the wedding didn't serve as a sufficient motivation/threat to lose weight, the idea of having a baby at some point in the next few years does make me think about the getting fit plan more seriously.

I need to be patient with others indecisiveness. Remind myself of the times, when I went back and forth and back again, changing my decisions, ideas, likes and dislikes and was always received with patient listening and understanding.

This social networking business at the same time manages to annoy me and fascinate me. The fading of boundaries in relationships and friendships doesn't sit well with me. The continuous exhibitionism bothers me. But the six degrees of separation business never fails to amaze and thrill.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Academia or Industry?

I have always been indecisive by nature (and hate that about myself) but I wish I had my mind made up about this. It's decision time for me- time to pin down positions I want to apply to and actually start applying- and I still am not a 100% sure which route I want to go. :(

May be I need someone to entirely talk me out of academia. Or someone to tell me I can do it, as I doubt my own abilities in making it in academia. I have even begun thinking about how "short" my 3-year post-doc stint is, and why that disqualifies me from academic jobs (Except another post-doc). Therefore, reinforcing this horrible long post-doc culture in my field. One that, prepares you very little for ANY kind of real job thereafter, be it industry or academia.

Well- at least I know I do not want to do another post-doc in India. That much I am sure. I think I am going to explore alternative opportunities in academia and apply to industry jobs alongside.

Deep breaths. Am also reminding myself that nothing is irreversible..and if I absolutely hate what I get into I can re-assess and revise plans. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

W O M M

I had a wonderful weekend. I didn't do a thing at work, although I meant to pop into the lab at some point. I feel slightly guilty about that, but hope I can make up for it over the next few days.

Although, right now, I feel like I need another day off to recuperate from the weekend fun. :)

Its amazing how some people bring people from all over together. I met two such people this weekend. An old classmate from our school days was in the city and people struggled, rearranged plans, drove a good few hours - did whatever it took so they could come out and see him. It was super to see him- a lovely blast from the past and a nice warm reminder of the good old days. I love it when I meet people from my old school days because they remind me of what I used to be like then. They haven't seen the transitions I've been through over the years so all the know of is then and now. And that means they always say how I haven't put on any weight. :)

Often, I find that people who are visiting the US or have only been here for a very short while have a lop-sided view of the country and the way it works, and are easily given to gross generalizations. Often, I have tried to correct them and felt like I had to explain to them that no, not all of America is like that, and no, NYC is not racist, even if they had a few bad run-ins. Part of the thought process in my brain, at that time, is also about how these people go back to India and spread these misconceptions back home. So I argue and butt in with my buts and no not really and offer some more anecdotal evidence to boost my argument. In the end, we're all arguing on the basis of personal experiences and anecdotal evidence and exceptions to the rule abound.

I caught myself doing it this weekend too, and then decided to give it a rest. Because I at some point I began to feel that these people are right in their own place, from where they are standing. In their limited world-view, what they are saying holds good. And thats about all there is. While they sound like they are painting with a wide brush, they are mostly either venting or relating their experiences with some amount of extrapolation or frustration. There is no need for me to correct them- may be they will never return to the states and never need to know that there is more to it. May be they will never see the other side of it, so it doesn't matter to them that there is another side. For now, this is what they know and experience. Or may be, they will eventually find out for themselves that there is another side to it- just like I cleared several misconceptions over the years.

The city is an amazing, energizing place.

The conversations we had were all over the place. From good old school days to B.P.Os to media in India to wedding ceremonies and the many ways of tying of a dhoti! :D. I was so kicked to be displaying my newfound wedding-ceremony-related knowledge. :)

I feel good. I have a happy feeling about how well all my buddies from school are doing for themselves, when, at some point back in the day many of them were written off as good-for-nothings and lafangas. I am continually inspired and awed by the stories of my friends who truly came up the hard way, against a lot of odds. Full power to them!