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.


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


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 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?


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


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


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...


Sunday, September 12, 2010


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


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!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Peepli Live

I caught Peepli live this weekend, amongst other things. Quick thoughts:

It was a really well-made movie that hit so close home.


I don't get why people were L-O-L-ing in the theater.

It was hard hitting satire. Very tragic-comic. Hardcore satire. It got me riled up and made me angry/sad and S-O-L (smirk out loud) at a few places.

Why are people calling it "Hilarious"? It was not hilarious.

And finally, what's up with people giggling and laughing every time a swear word is uttered on screen? That is an honest question. I don't get it. The movie was depicting a setting where people one breathes. There is *nothing* funny about it. But every swear word brought on a host of giggling and guffawing in the movie hall. I really wanted to ask people what was funny about swear words.

And giggling at swear words apart, what were people giggling about when the movie showed the the true face of the very dregs of media, sensationalism, corruption and politicking.

I hope everybody in India- especially the ones that follow network news channels- see it and get the message instead of L-O-L-ing, they make a decision to stop giving networks and high-faluting talk shows and what-have-you any TRPs.