Monday, April 25, 2011


From my 5 yo niece, as she peeks into her mom's laptop screen and sees the Google homepage:  "You're not working, you're on the internet".

Saturday, April 23, 2011

On Tough Love

I am constantly conflicted between being sympathetic and giving tough love. I wonder how I will ever be a good parent, if I cannot learn this tough love bit. It doesn't take much for me to melt and give in to my five year old niece while my sis and b-i-l behave like horrible cold stones. Hopefully I will get better when its a kid of my own that I would not want to turn into a brat.

People suffer all kinds of unthinkable tragedies in life. Things like the loss of a parent at an early formative age- shoes that you don't even dare step into for the sake of better understanding- it only tells you how much for granted you have taken some things in life. But then, how long can a person continue to blame such life-altering tragedies for everything? How long do you let one flounder aimlessly, live in his own bitter world, blaming every one for his situation, and when do you ask him to snap out of it? No one can ever get over such tragedies, but people have to move on, gain a sense of self and take responsibility for their own lives. No? What do you do when they don't, and get stuck in the rut of inertia and lethargy and just about manage to stay afloat in their self-pity pool?

I am beginning to think that some amount of bluntness is required, but I feel much too privileged to be able to say "Look, I know this all must be tough on you, but you need to take responsibility for your life" - because I don't really know how tough it is for them, do I? But I do very well know that they need to move past it and end the blame-the-world-for-my-sorry-state cycle- for their own sake. At some point, the fragility and the sadness and the inertia are all mixed up and its hard to separate one from another. And I suspect that it is this very conflict that allows such a situation to go on for years on end. But how long do you keep hoping for the person to learn from his failings, and when do you tell him outright?


Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I have become one of those people that cannot find the time to reply to emails. (or comments here). Atleast for unanswered comments, I can apologise here. :-)

I don't understand how girls walk in heels, having never owned any myself. Really- how do you manage, when your feet are at an incline all the time? It has got to hurt! I don't see how it cannot. I have been suffering from acute foot pain for a while now- called plantar fasciitis. I bought some really expensive walking shoes with "full arch support" and plod around in them all the time. Even they have stopped helping after a while. But while I'm confined to putting my feet in sports shoes, I find myself staring at women all around me in heels of all kinds  - not in envy- but pure curiosity and wonderment. Those tall pointed stilettos, those boots with heels, even those ballerina shoes with a tiny heel- how does it work?  I am this close to walking up to one of these girls and asking them how they do it. Are some people just better equipped than others to walk on an incline? Cross the road, climb into a bus, train? Get through a whole work day - do experiments, shuttle between the ice machine and the lab, go to seminars, lunch? Do they simply get used to it? Quite some mystery, this.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Am in that phase where i type out a whole block of mind-dump and then just delete because I don't feel like posting and the job is done, the stuff has stopped bothering me.

Detachment is what I need to learn.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Thoughts from the conference

So I'm almost done with the meeting I'm currently attending. This is a huge meeting - 16,000 attendees - and the organization of the conference has been superb. Anything you'd want or need or wish for was available- on site child care, on site fedex, efficient and warm customer service and what not. I hope I can keep coming to this meeting even after I R2I- this will remain one of the most well organized meetings I have been to. I am in total awe of the organizers and almost wished I worked behind the scenes of such a fantastic event. :D

I have a nice hotel room in a very functional hotel. I steered clear of the fancy hotels because I didn't want to waste money on a room I'd only be coming to sleep in. I am happy that I only went ~$200 over the travel grant I got. This room doesn't even have cable-tv unless you pay ~$15 - $20 for an episode of something you want to watch! It has wired internet though, and that's good enough for me. I have a nice view from the window, am close enough to the conference and well-connected and overall happy with this room. My hotel-room craving has finally been fulfilled.

Last year my entire lab attending this meeting. This year I am alone. It totally sucks being alone. I think back to my grad school days and I don't think I went alone to too many meetings, it was always with my lab group or P.I. When I went alone from the lab, I had made a good enough network at the meeting beforehand (part of some committtee/volunteer group etc.) and always had company. Otherwise, it was a small meeting and people mingled easily even if you didn't know them before. I ended up striking close friendships with some people I met at those meetings.

At a big meeting like this, its very different. Everyday, between sessions, I have been enviously looking at groups of people who exchange notes, plan their meals/sight-seeing together etc. I don't have anyone to do that stuff with, and it has been bothering me. I tried my bit but its hard to break into well-established groups. At most people humor you for a few mins following introductions and then go their ways. Today was the heights of desperation and I even pulled the "Lagta hain aapko kahin pehle dekha hai" line on this desi girl in the hope of striking some kind of acquaintance with her so that I could get some company for dinner. But she said no she never saw me anywhere and went back to chatting with her friend. :/ I feel for all the guys that have tried this line and failed. :D On second thoughts, may be I should've tried it on a guy. :)

I tried my hand at the whole networking thing to make some professional connections. It went better than the attempts at trying to wrestle a dinner invitation, :) but I didn't do much of it either. I tried to advertise my poster a bit, talk to a few people, etc. But I made some starts, overcame some inhibitions so I am happy.

And while I didn't get to make any acquaintances to group with here, I found out that a very dear friend of mine from my grad school days was attending another meeting in the same city so I got to catch up with her yesterday. It was by far the best evening I had here, and it was so wonderful to meet her, sit and gossip and exchange notes on the past 6 years and feel like the good old days.

Science-wise it has been great as always- talks and posters of the highest caliber. The entire experience has been intense and inspiring. I have some nice ideas for what I want to work on if I start up a lab in India. :)

I did a lot of people-watching at the meeting. I noticed that all the company types were always busy between sessions, black berrying and clearing out work email and such. The academic types seemed more relaxed, enjoying scientific or non-scientific conversations and not glued to their smart phones. Of course, there were the poor sods working on manuscript revisions and such. :D. So many people were flashing their ipads, using it to keep track of conference schedules, take notes at talks and posters etc. The were better off than those that had to lug the fat ass abstract book around.

I didn't lug that dead tree with me- instead I made use of the online scheduler the meeting had and planned all of my days before hand and took printouts of it with me for each day, so that I only had the relevant info per day and knew where to go next after each session, which posters I wanted to see etc. For a meeting of this size, a few hours of advance planning is essential and I'm glad I did that. Today, I skipped the afternoon to come to my room and nap and that was also a good thing I did.

I am not going to do any touristy stuff here- I have been to this city before and there's nothing in particular I want to see. I will take advantage of the awesome weather though, and go out for a nice long walk and get some desi dinner. :-)


Monday, April 04, 2011

"Happiness is the best form of revenge"

When my first post-doc wasn't working out, I went and spoke to the head of post-doc affairs at that institute, a famous woman scientist. She was very supportive and sympathetic about my decision to leave and admitted that my situation was not the first she had seen come out of the lab that I was leaving. She gave me some advice on how to find my next post-doc and her parting advice to me included the line about happiness, but I know how miserable I was in the months that followed.

Two years later, at a huge international meeting I bump into her. I introduced myself and thanked her for her advice and support way back then. She seemed to recollect. Then I  told her how well I am doing now, about my work and the awards I have gotten. That her advice was well taken and I am indeed a very happy person today. It felt so great to share my accomplishments with her and I am riding on that high ever since.