Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: The year that whizzed past

I’m writing this post to keep up with my tradition from the last two years. I was just reading my post from last year. I think that the issues I had last year are not major issues anymore. So I guess it means I have made some progress with my life. Or that other issues have taken precedence.

I prefer to do my stock-taking-on-life at the end of the year. As some of you will know, I am ..erm.. lets just say…. not a very happy “birthday person”.

Made fewer trips this year, compared to the last. The major one to USA happened (thanks to a conference again), the highlight being the trip to the glorious Yosemite.
Travelled home to India not once or twice, but thrice this year. Not to mention, I am here at New Year’s Eve. Now, that must mean something, right?

Caught a few good concerts in 2011, Shaan and Raahat. Sadly though, I’ll never be able to witness Jagjit Singh and Bhupen Hazarika, live in action.

On the professional front, the research is going somewhere, I think. Presented my work at the conference this year. Took my Qualifying Exams and actually passed them. Hopefully, I finish in a year and half. Fingers crossed!!

But mostly, this year sucked! Really. I can think of more unhappy things that happened than the happy ones. And yet, I will choose to remember only the happier moments.

2011, I’m happy to see you go.
I hope the one coming up is a better one.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


This was taken last month at my sister's engagement. Yes, that's my excuse for the missing posts, the last few days ;)

Monday, November 7, 2011

In concert: Shaan se!

Yay!! This is my 50th post. I know it comes a little late but what the hell, it is still a milestone.

Would you believe if I told you that I was at a concert in which the star of the show was right on time but the audience wasn’t? What if I told you that he was there on stage the moment the lights went out and stayed on stage until it was over! Well! You just had to be there to believe me.

After my experience with the last couple of concerts, which not only started late but also started with extra un-needed fillers, I was expecting a similar story at this one too. But there he was, right on time at 8 sharp as soon as the lights were dimmed. It’s a pity that the audiences kept trickling until 8:30 or so. (I’m sorry but I’m I am a stickler for time. And I really respect people who respect time. )

There he was, Shaan in person, dressed in all black. I’ve loved him since his ‘Love-ology’ and ‘Tanha Dil’ days. I was in awe for the first few minutes. Once he started singing, I had to restrain myself from jumping up and down, clapping my hands in glee .He was all I expected him to be and more. I just kept grinning ear to ear throughout the concert.

Starting the evening with “Behti hava sa tha woh” and introducing Kishore Kumar/Kishore da, whose memories the concert was to relive. And after that he wondered out loud, “ I was told it is a full house, but I see so many empty seats” adding, “ Well, its an Indian show, we have to prove a point here!”

This time the concert was at the esplanade theatre and the acoustics were really great. I wish more concerts were held here instead of the suntec convention centre or elsewhere.

Throughout the concert, you could see people enjoying themselves. People absent-mindedly bobbing their heads to the beat, doing subtle head banging moves, tapping their feet and clapping their hands in glee. You could see that everyone was really happy.

I know it would sound absurd to many if I told you he sounded so much like Kishore in some songs but I must say he came very close. I can’t think of any other voice that would do so much justice to Kishore’s songs. Shaan executed each song to perfection.

He did quite a few Kishore numbers followed by some medleys. He sang most of the favorites: Yeh dil na hota bechara, pal pal dil ke paas, O meri hansini, Tum bin. He classified them based on the actors Kishore sang for, starting from Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Shashi Kapoor, and ending with Sanjay Dutt and Rishi Kapoor. It was an excellent mix of songs. Yeah, I know you can’t probably go wrong with any of Kishore Kumar’s songs but it must have been one hell of a job to pick just a few from them. As he sang the songs, he tried to mimic the actors and their mannerisms of the actors in question, which was fun to watch.

There was a female singer June-something, I think. She did the duets with Shaan and did a decent job of it although I’m happy that he did most of the singing. I went there to listen to him.

People who were hoping he’d sing his own songs too were not disappointed. He did a great “Main hoon don” and my favourite “Tanha dil” too, in addition to quite a few of the popular ones in the last hour.

When someone asked him to sing a Bengali song, he said “Arrey, tab to marathi gaana bhi gaana padega”. But sweet that he was, he sang a couple of lines in Bangla.

He kept forgetting his lyrics when he dropped some lyric-sheets during a song and sang adding his own words, which he admitted to doing and apologized profusely. I thought that was very endearing. He is one of the most down-to-earth singers that I’ve seen.

His message to the public was to quit smoking and chewing tobacco and apparently it is a message he gives at all his shows. He gave his message right before he sang “Khaike paan banaras wala”!

He was one of the nicest “stars” I’ve seen so far. He was extremely nice and he was one with the crowd, understanding just how to keep them happy. He sang most of the songs people asked for and even when he didn’t have the time, he sang at least a couple of lines when someone asked for a song.

It was one of the most memorable concerts for me. I loved him before but now I’m bowled over.  Shaan, I just became an even bigger fan of yours. Thanks for the great show!!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why blend in?

.....when I can stand out.

The otherwise-ordinary-looking flowers look so good in the contrasting background.
Don't you think?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A little something...

...I did, this Diwali. So it feels a little more festive.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 22, 2011


I love to take pictures of different hues of the sky. This was taken at Twilight.

I like the light in this one. And the mysterious feel of the photograph.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My little model!

This photograph was also taken in Yosemite. All right, this will be the last one. 
This is one of my favorite pictures. It is one of the million pictures I took of squirrels on this trip. This cute fella kept posing for me.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Paradise must be like this

This one was taken when I went to Yosemite, earlier this year.
This place was closest to my idea of heaven on earth.

Close enough to the snow that I could see it but not close enough to freeze. I could still breathe the fresh mountain air. The stream flowing by brought with it a feeling of relaxed bliss. All I could hear were sounds of the stream, the birds and the breeze.
It was so beautiful I can’t begin to describe it. Even my picture does not really do it justice.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Introducing......Pic of the week

I was reading through my previous posts and I remembered that I had decided that I will post more of my pictures. Actually, it was a sort of resolution for the new year. I know it is October already but better late than never, right? So starting this saturday, I will post one picture that I've taken every week. Yeah, I know it means I have to use my camera more. But for now, I'll cheat a little bit. You see, I have a few which I've been meaning to post, but never got around to doing it.

Any feedback with regard to the pictures are welcome. In fact, it will be nice to know what you think.

I took this photograph during the New Year celebrations, 2011 in Singapore. One thing I learnt during that photography session was that only the first few photographs turn out good. After a while, the sky is covered with smoke. You can actually see the smoke appearing already.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


When I started this blog, I had decided that I would not do movie reviews here. Don’t ask me why but that’s one of the things I had told myself. But after I watched this movie, I just had to write about it.

Contagion was probably the only movie, which was not only entertaining but appealed to my brain too. It was one sci-fi thriller I could actually watch without cringing once at the “science” involved. This movie was also special to me because it is probably close to the kind of work that I do. Ok that is not exactly what I do, but it comes quite close. 

Here's my take on the movie. Be warned, there are spoilers ahead.

Contagion has a star-studded cast: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne to name a few. But the highlight of the movie is definitely not the cast.

The movie is about a deadly pandemic and how the CDC along with other international research organisations and public health workers combat the challenges that come along with a pandemic of such magnitude.

It was a very well thought out movie covering all aspects of a pandemic and very close attention was paid to all the minute details. I read about how Prof. Lipkin and his team built a 3-D model of the said virus and then worked out how it would spread and evolve and how vaccines would be developed. They actually worked with scientists to plan the movie, no wonder they got the science right.

 The mass hysteria, which is brought about by various situations during a pandemic and the collective behavior of people is well depicted in the movie. The helplessness, the ignorance, the panic and the outrage of the masses due to lack of communication from the higher ups and the loss of social order due to that is definitely something to worry about during a pandemic.

I was also impressed by the accuracy of scientific protocol in the movie. The protocols followed, the steps needed to identify patient zero, the difficulty and the timelines to generate a new vaccine and the characterization of a novel virus are all dealt with precision. It was so different from the general “Oh, I’ll have DNA evidence in a jiffy” kind of depiction mostly made in sci-fi thrillers.

I thought it was nice how scientists were projected as people with lives outside of the laboratory. The nature of researchers and their obsession with their own research is well depicted. Dr. Sussman, in the movie continues to experiment on a cell line in spite of being given orders to destroy his samples but he is the one who comes up with a way to grow the virus. Also, Dr. Hextall tests the vaccine that she comes up with on herself first, violating several protocols. Yeah, scientists love to break the rules.

Jude Law-very annoying: both the actor and the character he played. He played the guy that scientists love to hate. The amateur blogger making false claims about a homeopathic cure and spreading rumours about quack medicine. I would agree that there was some truth in what he said about pharmaceutical companies and their mission to make money. There was an amusing line in the movie when someone said to Jude Law- “a blog is nothing but grafitti with punctuation marks” LOL!

The movie kept the audience at the edge of their seats all through. It gave the audience a scare of what might come in the future. In fact after the movie ended, nobody dared to cough or sneeze. Even if someone did, it was not without getting stares from people around.

The movie ended with identifying how the virus infected the first human being (patient zero). A bat initially harbours the virus. The bat then drops a half-eaten banana in a hoghouse where it is eaten by a pig. The pig is then slaughtered and is being prepared by a chef in a casino in Macau. This is where patient zero shakes hands with the chef who has not washed his hands and she gets sick with the virus. 

The lady sitting next to me in the theatre exclaimed, “Oh, it was the pig, who was responsible”.
“No”, I wanted to tell her, “It was the chef who didn’t wash his hands.”

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Smile Spreader

  • This man is 78 years old and he still works for a living. 
  • In spite of that, there is never a bitter moment around him.
  • He is almost toothless but his smile is perfect.
  • He always sports a smile and you can’t help but smile back at him, even when you’re having a really bad day.
  • No matter what you say to him, he always has a funny retort. There was this time when I asked him, “What’s in your pocket?” and he said, “my girlfriend’s letter, don’t tell my wife”.
  • He walks with a stoop but he always opens doors for the ladies.
  • He plays pranks on the aunties on the floor. In spite of that, they all pamper him.
  • He has nicknames for everyone. He calls me Mona Lisa. And tells me I must smile more often.
  • He reminds me to comb my hair.
  • He is one of those people who make you want to believe the world is good.
  • He told me today was his last day at work today.
Goodbye, Pachek. I’ll miss you.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Simply Raahat

This post is long overdue. I went to this concert over a month ago and this half-written post has been in my drafts folder for too long. About time I posted it!

I’ve been a long-standing fan of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and I’ll always regret that I never got to see him perform live. I’ve also liked the songs sung by Raahat Fateh Ali Khan and he does seem to have a style of his own. So when R called me to ask if I wanted to go to this concert by Raahat Fateh Ali Khan, I was quite eager to go. After waiting eagerly for so long, D-day finally arrived.

One major grouse I have with these concerts is that they never seem to start on time. So far, only the Manna Dey concert started on time; all other concerts I’ve been to, started late. So it wasn’t a surprise that this one too started about 30-45 minutes late. But the good thing was there were no opening sequences or singers.  Raahat came on stage almost as soon as his musicians did and introduced themselves.

I don’t need to tell you that Raahat is indeed a very good singer but one thing I can tell you is that a performer, he is not. He did not seem to interact with the audience. Though it was quite obvious from the audience’s reactions as to what kind of music they preferred (bollywood), he refused to take the hint. Though I enjoy both bollywood and sufi music too, the overall audience obviously didn’t. He kept coaxing the audience to cheer for him but even when they didn’t, he refused to take the hint.

His team of musicians was obviously for qawwali music. The musicians didn’t really do justice to his singing. I thought they were out of sync a few times and the music wasn’t that great either. Even the acoustics of the hall and the sound organized by the organizers was bad.

But there is not a seed of doubt that the man himself is very talented. His voice was magic. His singing has a quality that I’m sure cannot be achieved without years of practice. Raahat sang some beautiful songs of his own like the bollywood numbers ‘Dil to bachcha hai ji’, ‘Teri ore’, ‘Surili akhiyon wale’, ‘Aaj din chadeya’ and many others. There was also some sufi music with like ‘Mera piya ghar aaya’, ‘Allah hu allah hu’. He also sang Nusrat’s ‘Afreen afreen’. He sang it well but I still like Nusrat better.

Over all, it was a decent concert. Not so paisa vasool.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mind games

“Don’t touch those sweets’ I was told. And just by uttering those words, my mom made the sweets irresistible to me. I don’t even like sweets all that much but now that she said I couldn’t have them, I wanted them.

My mom, clever as she is, uses this technique to make her grandsons eat veggies.  Don’t eat that vegetable, she’ll say. It is only for grown-ups.  And in a while you’ll see the kids eating more of that, just out of curiosity to eat the “forbidden fruit”. For a long time she had them drinking bournvita, calling it tea and feeding them bournvita, when she gave the grownups tea. It made the kids feel all grownup drinking “tea” with elders. It was not until much later until they realized the truth behind this.

 I’m sure a lot of moms, including my own have used this techniques to make their kids do the “good” things, in spite of being rebels. “Reverse psychology”, it is called. But the kids soon start to realize that they are being tricked and learn the wiser ways. I see that happening with my nephews. But the longer the phase can last, that’s the advantage you got.

Why is it that when we are forbidden to do something, those things become even more lucrative to us? Is it the feeling that we have something that we shouldn’t? Or is it the little rebel in each of us trying to prove a point. To say, yeah I can stand against the world and flout the rules, in the simplest of matters.

But you have to admit, moms are much smarter than what we give them credit for.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Don't ask me if I know you

Has somebody ever come up to you and said “ Hi, (your name), do you remember me” and you don’t have a clue who that person is. It happened to me today.
I am usually not forgetful and I don’t generally forget people but this was one exception.
This girl came up to me after a class and said, “ Hi, how are you?” 
Looking at the blank look on my face, she said, “ You are Maya, aren’t you?” and I said, “Err, yes.”
“Do you remember me?”, she asked.
And the faintest idea of seeing her somewhere ran in my head.
“Oh yes. I do. Of course I do.”
And she had to embarrass me further. “Do you remember my name? “
I gave her a sheepish grin before she told me. “My name is xxxxxx.”
So embarrassing!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Here it comes, AGAIN!!

Disclaimer: This is a post written under the “birthday blues” and a severe bout of depression. Read at your own risk.

I love birthdays. Other people’s birthdays, that is. I love to make it special for the concerned person. Whether it is to buy them gifts that I know they’ll like. Or to surprise people with things they’ll love on their birthdays. And I like to think that I’m pretty good at doing such things.

When it comes to my own, well…I’ll just say it’s best avoided. I can’t wait for the day to be over. I wish people wouldn’t make a big hoohaa about it. It’s not about my age, I  really can’t be bothered about how old I am or will be. It’s not about growing older. But as the people in my life would tell you, I have been very grumpy on my birthdays in the recent years. They would probably also tell you that I’m not exactly on my best behavior on my birthday. I really can’t tell you why it is so. I used to think it was PMS-induced but now, well, I know it is not.

And speaking about birthdays, earlier I used to love it when long lost friends used to actually remember my birthday and call me. It used to be so touching that people actually bothered to remember and call too! At least, I loved the fact that you would get to speak to people at least once or twice a year, on birthdays. But now, ever since FB reminders happened, even good friends think they can just get away with a post on my wall. Don’t even get me started on the random acquaintance, who thinks it is necessary to “wish” me and the usual “wassup” stories which follow.

I know I’m a bit touchy-feely about such a silly thing. But maybe it is just me! Maybe I’m flawed. But off late, it got me thinking. Maybe I just behave all grown up. Maybe I do expect that people would do something nice for me on my birthday. OK, I’ll admit it. Maybe that is what it is! But the best thing is that this time around, I decided that I’m not waiting around for somebody to do something for me. I did it myself!! It may sound a little pathetic, but it’s not. Really! And boy, does it feel good!

You should try it. You owe it to yourself.
Indulge, splurge, whatever makes you feel good….Just do it.

What? I told you to read at your own risk!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


On my way to work this morning, I saw a young mother pushing a pram with a little kid. The kid must have been a year old or so. He stared intently at me. I smiled and waved at him. He still kept staring but didn’t wave back. His mother prodded him gently to wave at me but he refused to do so.
Soon I lost interest and moved on. And then something caught my eye. This other kid walking behind them, probably the younger boy’s brother, not much older than him. He was almost running to catch up with them. He was waving frantically at me trying to catch my attention. And when I looked at him, he waved at me and gave me his sweetest melt-your-heart smile. 
He was trying to say, “ Look at me. I am here too!”

Monday, July 4, 2011

Face the music

I doubt that you would want to but if you ever want to stop liking your favorite song, I have a solution.

Just make that song your daily wake up alarm tone.

And I learnt this the hard way.
I used to love the song “ Beautiful Day “ by U2.
Now every time I hear the song playing, I have the strongest urge to make it stop. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tongue in cheek

So, I came to work on the weekend to finish some experiments. The lab was generally deserted and only a colleague and I were working.

As I was working on my lab bench, I heard some noise. It sounded like someone was chanting something, saying something over and over. I looked up to see my colleague at the other bench muttering some gibberish. I first thought she was talking to someone. But no, she didn’t have a phone. I looked closely to see if she had a Bluetooth headset? (It happens all the time these days! You think someone is talking to themselves and you realize they are actually talking on their headsets). But clearly, she didn’t have a headset or anything like that.

She can’t be talking to herself for so long, I thought. It was more like she was having a conversation with herself. But I couldn’t make any sense out of what she was saying. Didn’t sound like anything English or even chinese. But she kept saying the same thing over and over.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I walked up to her and said casually, “ Hey what’s up? Are you chanting a mantra to work magic on your experiment? “
Hahaha, she laughed.
“Oh no, I was just practicing my Portugese. I just came back from my lesson. So, I’m learning how to say some phrases!!” 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Trendy mess

There is this old Malay man, who works in my office as a cleaner. He is supposedly 78 years old and yes, he still works for a living. And he is always jolly and flashing his ready smile at everyone.  With a broad smile or a joke to crack or even dishing out random advice, he keeps us all entertained. He is fondly called Pachek (translates to ‘Uncle’ in malay)

After years of sporting poker straight rebonded hair, I was dying to go back to my natural curls. I finally went to this new hairdresser and chopped off all the straight hair and my hair was again curly although short. I finally had a nice ‘messy’ look which I loved.
Until, pachek took one look at me and said, ‘You still young. Why so messy? Must comb your hair.’

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Last leg

Today is my last day in San Francisco and I'm actually feeling bad about going back.  I've enjoyed every bit of this trip. I'm not looking forward to the long flight back but I am looking forward to going home. I've learnt so much on this trip. Thought i'd just share some gyan.

  • Girls really know how to have fun. It doesn't matter which country, culture or background they come from. Trust me, I think girls know how to have fun, much better than the boys.
  • Most people you meet are nice to you, as long as you are nice to them.
  • If you need help, you just need to ask.
  • Always make sure you travel with like-minded people who at least share similar interests. It helps.
  • There will always be a million ways to get from A to B. To find the easiest way, you have to ask other people!
  • There is such a thing as "too much shopping".
  • Don't judge people, not even random strangers. You know nothing about them.
  • No matter how much fun you have had on vacation,  you'll always miss home! I know I did.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mind versus Body

Today we went on a long hike to Yosemite valley. Like I said in my last post, this trip has been full of self discoveries. I discovered that I am an outdoor person. I really enjoyed myself on the hike today. The mountains, hiking alongside the waterfall....the whole experience was wonderful. I also found out that I am a natural gardener.the rose and gardener theory, anyone? 

Our guide, Dave is a good hearted guy. He took us around, gave us plenty of info, brought food and also kept us entertained. He is a lot of fun but he refused to let anyone take pictures of him, because he said it's like it takes away his soul or something like that. Funny guy!

It all started as good fun in the beginning with everyone in good spirits and enjoying themselves. But once the hike started, it separated the best of us from the rest of us. It was a tough climb but I really enjoyed it. I helped a few of them make it through and it was a wonderful experience.

Though I had seen snow and snowfall in Switzerland last year, hiking through twelve  inches of snow was another matter. I'll admit it was a lot of fun, complete with snowball fights but falling on snow, not so fun. Considering I was hiking with my crocs (really a bad idea, btw), I was lucky I got away with just one fall.

The giant sequoias were amazing, grand as they stand. Each one a few hundred years old and some funny ones as well....the grizzly bear, three graces and a bachelor, faithful couple and a few others. Aren't they breathtaking?

I am really tired as I pen this post, but I had to do it now, because I know that once I go back, it's gonna be a mad mad rush all over again.
Dave was telling us today that a lot of people who come here say they want to come and live here. It ain't easy, he says. People say they can but it only takes a special kind of person to come and live up here in the wilderness. But I think I can do this. I would love to. Maybe some day!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I travel, I learn

They say that you don't really know a person until you've lived with them. And  I think that applies mostly to the people who you are really close to. Like your closest friends and maybe your partner.

I have now decided that you don't really know people well enough until you have travelled with them. I thought I knew my colleagues, now friends. Now as I travel with them, I've learned so much more about them. Not that I meant to, but i have. You really know what kind of a person he or she is. It opens your eyes to this whole new side of a person, a side that you didn't know existed.

And that is true about myself too.I've learned that as you travel you learn so much about yourself. I find myself discovering a lot of things about me. Things that I didn't know before. Really!

I met so many people. Most people are nice and well, few are not. I've enjoyed this experience of meeting new people. Its something you don't do unless you are traveling alone. To be honest, I'm not a very outgoing person. I take a while to warm up to people. But it has been a good experience, almost fun even, to meet and chat up with a stranger from a different country.I've learnt that it's not that bad. I can talk to strangers. And I can still make new friends.

Have you ever felt this way while on vacation? Have you learnt newer things about yourself? I don't know what it is. Maybe it is that you have a lot of time to sit back and reflect. Maybe it is because your mind is really free. And maybe also that you do so many things out of your routine.

Ok maybe I'm getting all philosophical here, but it is true. Think about it. Haven't you ever reflected on your life on a bus or train journey? Looking out the window, with the breeze in your hair. You get a clearer picture of your life? You want to do better things with your life. Has it ever happened to you?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It's amazing what a little fresh air can do!!!!

One thing you must know about me is that I love the outdoors, and by that I mean mother nature. I love the forests and the mountains. So, having come all the way to San Francisco, there was absolutely no way I could go back without visiting the Yosemite forests. So, being all enthusiastic I booked this tour to Yosemite. We were supposed to take a van up to the mountains. When we got on to the cab, I ended up in the last seat squished between two big guys. And there began my nightmare. We were not even out of the city and I wanted to turn back.

You see San Francisco is all about ups and downs and by that I mean the roads are all steep and of course they are all one way streets. So, we ended up going up one street and down another.

Another thing I forgot to mention is that I have motion sickness and it's the severe kind. I remember a time I used to walk all the way to school, just to avoid traveling by bus. That's when my parents gave in and bought me a bicycle. And since then, I have always been a two-wheeler person. From bicycles to scooters to motorbikes, I've had them all. I had a problem traveling by car too. Though I used to force myself to travel by car whenever we had to go a long distance, I can barely remember a trip where I didn't get sick on the way.

Then I decided enough is enough and that I had to get over it. I love the mountains too much to give them up ( I know I can ride, but not possible always).I came up with my own coping strategy. I always sit next to the window and I need a lot of fresh air. No sir, no air-conditioning for me.

And today when I was on the verge of throwing up, I suddenly remembered. I haven't travelled by car in a long long time. And I explained my situation and thanks to Dave (the guide and driver), I came and sat in the front seat with the windows open. He helped distract me and asked me to put my head out the window, every once in a while. Ten more minutes into the drive and I began to feel better, I enjoyed the drive even. Life was good again.

One more thing I've learnt on this trip is that I need air. Time and again, I need to remind myself to breathe. And that's exactly what I'm doing now. Breathing my share of fresh air!!!

And the whole thing was so worth it. I'm so glad I came.

That's Yosemite for you! Up in the clouds, literally.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The long haul

It all started on a Friday morning at 6 am, when my colleagues and I set off to the airport to catch a flight to San Francisco. We were all very excited about this trip and it had very little to do with the conference we were supposed to attend. We were all very chatty in the cab and kept talking all the way until, my colleague realized she hadn’t brought our conference posters. (These posters are basically research presentations that grad students like us present at conferences and the very reason why we get funds to go) By the time we realized this though, we were so close to the airport and we didn't have the time to make a trip back again.

My colleague called someone and asked him to get the poster to us at the airport. That smart person though, didn’t want to make a trip to the airport and put our posters on a cab and asked the cabbie to deliver it to the airport. I find it strange that the cabbie agreed to do this because if he was late, we would have left and he would be stuck with some posters and no fare. Anyway, the poor cabbie sped all the way to get to us just in time before the check-in gates closed. You see, we couldn’t hand-carry these poster-tubes. They look like some kind of weapons. So, we had to check them in.

And then, we had to run to board our flights. And when we were at immigration, we saw these excruciatingly long queues of people. Turns out that the automated system was down and only manual immigration was possible. This almost never happens in Singapore. After requesting a few kind people, we moved ahead and then ran all the way to our boarding gates. We were the last people to board the flight. In the end, whew, we made it!

When we reached Hong Kong, the flight kept circling around the airport for half an hour. It seems they didn’t get clearance to land or something like that. And we had a connecting flight to catch in an hour. Guess what, the mad rush started all over again. We made it by the skin of our teeth. But yay, we made it.

After all this, I was really tired. After almost losing my conference notes, almost missing my flight, I found myself sitting next to a cranky old lady on the long haul flight. It must have easily been the longest flight of my life and add to it, some really bad weather. The worst turbulence I’ve experienced, ever! At one point, I almost said my last prayers, thinking to myself ..."What a way to die!".

When we landed in SFO, it was then that I realized that it was Friday, the thiteenth. I am not a superstitious person but after what happened all day, I would have believed anything. But thank God, it was over now. But then, wait a minute I travelled the whole day and when I land in the USA, its still Friday the thirteenth! and only morning at that. The whole day is ahead of us. Oh boy, has it been a really long day!!

After flying for 19 hours straight, I really dread the flight back. Thank God that I'm gonna be here for a while. I didn't think I would be jet lagged and SO jet lagged at that. My friends are fast asleep and I don’t feel sleepy at all. I am amazed by how little sleep I can get away with and still remain functional.

I am still up at 4am. I have not slept a wink since we got here and it has been 42 hours since I got here. It's amazing that I'm still functional after that. Do forgive me if this post makes no sense at all. I'm sleep-deprived and can't think of anything else to do!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Ta na na Ta na Na na Naa
Ta Na na Ta na Na na Na
Ring a bell?
When I saw this book in the bookstore, I just had to pick it up. And although I am not a short stories person, this was one exception I was willing to make.

This has been one of the books I’ve most enjoyed in the recent past. And I don’t mean just reading it.  The memories that they bring back are another treat.

R.K. Narayan portrays the extraordinary stories in the ordinary life of the common man. He almost paints the stories in your head. The short stories are all witty, some are ironic and all of them very simply written. But why this book is also special to me is because of the sweet memories they bring of the old episodes of “Malgudi Days” on DD.

As I read through the stories, images of those particular episodes flash through my eyes. That was one hell of a production not to mention well cast. Whether it was Anant Nag as the Mithaiwalla or master Manjunath as little Swami, all of the characters stayed with you. My favorite episodes back then was “Swami and friends”. I really enjoyed watching them as a kid. What I didn’t know is that Malgudi is actually a fictional place and is not actually on any map.

The book and the serial definitely made a lasting impression, not to mention the cartoons by R.K. Laxman. But what I’ll probably never forget is this music. I’ve been humming this tune from the last few days. If you heard me, now you know why.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Now you don’t see it, now you do

It so happened that we had this safety audit at work and so we were all being briefed regarding some of the safety aspects of the lab.

While discussing fire-safety, the person in charge mentioned this particular fire-exit in one of the corridors. All of us were thinking the same thing, “ Wow, Is there a door in that corridor??” Try as we might, none of us could actually place it.  We all refused to believe her. And just to prove her point, the safety warden actually took us down to the corridor and pointed it to us. We were all amazed that none of us had noticed this door before, even though we pass through this corridor a hundred times every day.

It is true, isn’t it?
Many a times in life, we just don’t see what’s right under our nose until someone points it out to us. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Going Incommunicado

So, a colleague and I were scheduled to go to the US embassy to apply for our visas. As we were making plans to meet up at the bus stop before going to the embassy, we came across this set of instructions, which said the US embassy does not permit cell phones or ANY electronic devices inside. “Please leave everything at home,” the website said.

My colleague: How can we manage without our cell phones? What if one of us is late? What if we miss each other?

Me: Lets just try not to, ok. Lets try and be there on time. And, we might have to spend about 2-3hours waiting there, you know. So, bring something to keep yourself occupied.

Her: Oh,That's not a problem. I’ll just play some game or listen to music.

Me : It says, no electronic devices. That means, no laptop, no iPad, no PSP and definitely that means no iPod as well.

Her: (with a look of terror on her face) Whaaaaaat? The horror!! So, how?

Me: Maybe, you should just take a book.

Her: a book, huh? But I have all my books downloaded on my iPad.

Me: They still have the print versions, you know. The ones with paper and all

Her: Umm, yeah. Maybe I should buy one of those.

Her (still, terror-stricken): Oh God, oh God! How am I going to manage for a few hours like this? Nobody can reach me. I can't communicate with anybody at all!!

Me: This is how it used to be about 10 years ago (probably lesser than that for some of us), you know!
And we managed pretty fine. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Life's Little Pleasures

I can’t quite describe it,
This feeling that I get.
Brings a twinkle in my eye
Adds a spring in my step.

On Wednesday it appears,
But it’s ever so slight.
On Thursday it’s more intense,
This feeling of delight

On Friday morning, it is definitely there
And it lasts all day.
By evening, it reaches a crescendo
The feeling is here to stay...

What more can I say…
Thank God It’s Friday!!

The weekend’s finally here!!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The madness that is cricket!

Picture this: A country with a population of over 1.2 billion. It’s a working day but lots of office goers are suddenly on sick leave. There are not a lot of people on the street. Shopkeepers not interested to sell you stuff because they are busy doing something else. Crowds are thronging outside electronic stores and tension is in the air. All is quiet and suddenly you can hear collective roars of applause or sighs of dismay. What else can this be?

No prizes for guessing what triggered this post. It’s world cup time and whats more, there was an exciting India versus Pakistan semi final match that India won last night! I should have posted this last night but I was busy, you know doing what.

Cricket has always been special to me. It was the one thing my dad and I bonded over. I can’t say that about a lot of things but cricket was one passion we shared. I can remember how he would jump up and down when he saw India scoring that last run or taking that last wicket to win the match. And that grin on his face, it is something that I can associate only with cricket. I can think of few other things that made him respond like that.

So, my colleague and I were discussing the popularity of the world cups yesterday: cricket versus soccer. 
“So, every one in the Indian sub continent is watching this cricket match?” he asked.
“ Well no,” I said. “ I think every Indian, no matter wherever in the world he/she is, is at least following this cricket match”

Non-Indians at my workplace are amazed to see so much enthusiasm amongst us. Is it your National game, they ask? Errr no, that would be hockey. But I can’t name all the hockey players nor do I remember where they played last, which is sad, but true. No other game in India gets as much importance as cricket does. Though we do complain, we are all party to that.

But one thing cricket does, is bring out this deep sense of patriotism whenever India is playing. Or how would you explain smiling at random Indian strangers and sharing that look of pride, whenever someone is making conversation about last night’s match. Tomorrow we shall all be strangers again, but for today, we’ll celebrate together. India won last night’s match and that too against Pakistan. We are all united in one thing. We were cheering for India to win and we are so excited to be in the finals.

I can imagine the tension that would be back home in India. One of those times when I wish I was back home. Back home to be a part of that frenzy.

But wait, it’s here too. Watching a game in India amongst our own people is fun. But what I realized is, watching it with people of different nationalities is fun too. Especially when we’re doing well. Its fun to go to work in the morning and say, “We won, you lost. Tough luck, eh?” The Singaporeans have no clue what we’re talking about. Even though their team lost, the aussies are still are good sports. I say that because they are now supporting India. My British boss enjoys a good game of cricket too. Thank God, we had a tie with England. My boss and I were both happy. I know how important that match was to him. It was to me too. If we’d won, I would have had to stay out of his way for a week.

And what’s more. We’re in the finals. It doesn’t matter whether we win or not but I just hope we can give them a good fight. May the best team win. But, I sure do hope that team is ours.