Saturday, July 31, 2010

W.O.M.M.

I am glad I have this blog: on the days I feel low and question all my decisions, it helps me a lot to read past posts wherein I have detailed my reasoning behind everything B and I putting ourselves through. Even though those posts read a lot like rambling, they strike a chord in me, because I am reminded of the very exact arguments I used to justify staying behind and working on my post-doc. Even if that logic evades me now, it still holds good. I just realised I need to label those posts for my own good, so they are easier to find and not just a series of "W.O.M.M". :)

Recently, I had what is probably my first workplace confrontation. In my phd lab, I was for most parts the only student in the lab, and then, when the lab grew, all my labmates were wonderful and co-operative and good lab citizens- so I have mostly been sequestered from unpleasant situations with coworkers.

Over the past few months, I had begun to feel a situation brewing in my current lab. Projects that I had initiated and spent several months standardizing and optimising were slipping out of my hands and I began to pick up on signals that seemed like I was going to be supplanted and displaced from them entirely. It became even more apparent when I came back from my month long holiday as I sensed some degree of hostility in getting access to the data that was generated. I was very conflicted on how I felt about it -I felt like I had lesser bargaining power because I had taken a month off and people that were running with the project were actually getting the work done and generating the data. However, I was still the expert in the data analysis and wanted to stay on in those areas. Morever, I had spent months optimising protocols in the initial phase of the project, and even if it actually began showing results in the hands of someone else, I wasn't going to let that initial investment go to naught- because I am sure it contributed to the progress of the project. But its not easy to stake your claim for months of trial and error with a technique that generated sparse results, versus someone who came in when the technique was near standardised and generated reams of results.

When all of this began churning on in my mind, in the context of me being aware that I am here for a limited amount of time- and perhaps partly the reason I wasn't being assigned the meat of the project that required some degree of permanence, I felt even more defeated. I finally brought it up with my supervisor. I am very happy with the way those talks went. It has boosted my confidence because I was able to successfully demonstrate my expertise in the downstream data analysis parts of the project- and he made it very clear to me and the team that that I was required for the analysis and that would continue to be my role in the project - that I should get unhindered access to all the raw data- and also recognized my initial contribution to the project.

He also recognized that territorial feelings were creeping into people in a project that was by all means a group effort- and made it clear that no ownership could be staked by anyone in the team. I am glad he recognized this for himself and I didn't come across as being bitter or paranoid.

After my Philly post-doc experience, I had very little faith in bosses- I felt that the boss would always pick the path that worked best for them- but I am happy to see that I work for a reasonable and fair person who respects me professionally and personally, looks out for me and is capable of handling these situations very well, instead of shying away from it. This will definitely make it a lot nicer for me to work here in the face of all the personal sacrifices I chose to make while doing it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

W.O.M.M.

It's day 5 since I got back- I have finally gotten over the jet-lag, having pulled off a regular day and night yesterday. It helped that I had a friend visiting, and couldn't just go to bed at 5 pm like I had been doing earlier. I feel a lot more refreshed and happy today - setting my clock right and having company have done wonders.

B and I are back to our long-distance routines. Bridging the time-zones and making time for phone calls and syncing lunch breaks and wake up times and bed-times so we can have time to talk and chat. Resuming this routine was not easy in any way, but the transition was so quick that on the surface it seems so smooth- almost as if the past one month never happened.

Thats when the photos and reliving the memories of the past month help. My sister made fun of my dad who, after the wedding, kept reviewing, on a daily basis, the photo slideshow that my b-i-l made and sent him. I find myself doing the same thing now.

One of the cool things my dad did was to have the slideshow to be projected on a screen during the reception, which took place a week after the wedding in B's hometown. All of B's family were there here and as they couldn't make it for the wedding, they enjoyed seeing the photos like that and this idea became a big hit.

Our reception was also fun because we did not use those huge throne chairs and sit atop the stage. B and I mingled in the crowd, got introduced and got to chat up the guests- even if for a fraction of a second before getting pulled away to someone else. I like all those photos because they are all in the moment- my eyes widening with recognition when a friend I least expected to show up walked in, a bunch of B's aunts herding me and fawning over me... Group photos with various people - I did not need to have that plastic smile everyone warned me that I had to put on for the reception..The photos I can't stand are those of us or the guests stuffing our faces with food- I cannot understand why photographers have to take such close ups- this is after telling them multiple times not to take pics of people eating. I absolutely abhor those photos.

One of my closest friends from my grad school days- M, made it for my wedding- she was the only friend of mine there, and I am so thankful for her- she helped me get ready at the unearthly hour of 3 am, along with my cousin sisters. My sister, who's the one I'd trust in these matters had a billion other things to take care of, and I don't know what I'd have done without M. Her presence totally calmed me and put me at ease.

While I was really happy for everyone that came, the people that made it really easy for us were the ones - like M- that made their own way there, avoided calling us for directions the day of or the day before the wedding, took care of their own accommodation and simply showed up at the wedding. These were more often than not outsiders, who navigated their way without knowing the local language even. I hope I can attend a lot more weddings from now on than I 've done in the past, and I hope I can be like them. Then there were relatives- for whom putting up with family was not good enough - who wanted to stay in hotels, and then wanted my dad to make those arrangements. Then there were also relatives, who, did nothing useful except sit in a circle and chat and gossip all day long and wait for teas and coffees to be served, while a zillion things had to get done around the house and the few people that actually did work ended up doing all the work. It was quite an eye-opener, and I am told this is standard operating procedure at weddings- it was new to me simply because I haven't been to enough weddings.

While I enjoyed every bit of my "big fat" Indian wedding, I don't know where my parents got the energy, the drive and inclination to pull something like this off. I don't think I will do it ever. Because I don't think I am up to it, and more so because it reinforces a lot of things that I fundamentally don't agree with...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Happily married!


I loved most every bit of my wedding! I loved getting pampered, being the bride, not having to be involved in any of the organization - just sitting back, relaxing, playing silly games with my niece while my parents, sister and b-i-l did all the running around and all the hard work. I'd be lying if I said I didn't go through moments of feeling angry and sad that there was so much stress on my parents, but at some point I learned to set it aside and just enjoy the ride. And in sum total, I had a blast! I loved my wedding saris, and how nice I looked all decked up- I loved how so many of our close family friends made it all the way to my hometown for the wedding- even though none of them know telugu- and my hometown is not a simple flight away from anywhere. When I saw all these uncles and aunties-who have seen me grow up - show up and fawn over me and join us in the wedding- it felt great. I realised that I missed out on so much wedding fun having missed all the weddings in my family and in my closest friends circle- that I had the most fun at my own wedding. :)

[Pic: The moment just before the "muhurtam" - at the exact time of the muhurtam the barrier is removed and the bride and groom place this paste of jaggery and jeera on each others heads and the sticky gross looking mess is thereafter left on the hair - but this is the most significant moment that defines the marriage- the jaggery and jeera paste signifying that bride and groom are now supposed to be inseparable thereafter through life's sweet (jaggery) and bitter (jeera) times. B and I made sure we did full justice to this being inseparable business ;)]

The honeymoon was superb too. We went to Coorg and stayed at Kadkani resorts which I highly recommend: thanks for all those suggestions to my earlier post...

Throughout my stay in India, I couldn't help thinking about how challenging R2I is going to be- I saw in practice all the things B cribs about daily life- I saw at close quarters how it is going to be to live with his father and for all of us to cope with his dad's illness- and I got tired of people - fully aware of his dad's condition- asking us why we are not staying back in the US. In spite of the inconveniences of life in India, leaving India was the hardest part.

I just got back and while the seamless internet, my spacious apartment and general peace and quiet and ease initially make me feel happy, I am suddenly aware of this huge gaping distance I put between B and me in an overnight flight. I am full of mixed feelings now, but hope that as I get back to work and get into the groove here, I will feel a lot better and learn to organise my thoughts and take things one day at a time...and naturally veered to the blog to offload my thoughts before I go off to work.