29 October 2008

28th October ... weather prediction ... light snowfall! Big day! I made sure I was dressed well. Wanted to look good when someone takes pictures of me and the snow. "My original idea of hitting 'M' with snowballs probably won't be fulfilled today" i thought ... its light snowfall ... but nothing can prevent me from dancing around Atwood Street.

Time: Afternoon. Venue: Lab. I was packing my stuff ready to take a break. Looked out the window. Tiny white particles were floating in the air ... with no sense of direction whatsoever. What the heck? Snowing? I flew on top of my lab technician and pounded him with the question - "Is it snow? Is it snow?" He first said "No!" and then looked out ... and again said "Oh yeah ... its snow alright!" That was the cue ... i dashed out ... the entire building shook in the commotion i was creating ... the elevator was too slow an equipment for me today ... i decided to fly down 6 floors ... 'J' kept calling me - "Arre yaar ... there is still a lot of snow you can see in the future ... come and have coffee" ... that moment, even chocolates wouldn't have stopped me (Ferrero Rocher maybe would have delayed a few moments of time though) ... i was moving with such violent speed that i kept knocking people ... they were gasping "Excuse me" ... "I'm sorry" ... to hell with all your formalities today ... i just did not have the time to give smiles to people and ask them how their day was ... and whether they were planning to get a divorce again that day ... i was just flying outside ... ground floor ... the doors to heaven were right in front of me ... the moment i open it ... i'd see snowmen ... Santa maybe and his horses ... or deers ... or bisons ... or whatever he drives ... and then i'd see kids thrashing snowballs at each other's faces ... and probably a university shut down ... maybe they'll cancel the statistics exam and say "Go have fun!" ... maybe i'll go skiing ... or ice hockey ... winter shopping ... the doors of Parran Hall finally opened ... and showered on me ... bright bright sunlight!

Sunlight? What the? Where the heck are those tiny white particles? I felt dazed! I found no one standing and looking up at the skies except myself ... everyone looked busy ... American girls still kept jogging with their i-Pods on ... Indians kept walking with big books in hand ... everything normal except me ... i felt like going up to people and asking them - "Did you see that?" I sadly walked to Hillman ... getting myself drenched in the rain which suddenly decided to hit me ... I had made a couple of phone calls as I flew down 6 floors ... asking my friends to get out of the laboratories and the lavatories and watch nature's spectacle ... they'll be fuming at me now ... they'll thrash me ... not with snowballs ... but with kitchen vessels now :-( But I swore ... i saw it ... it lasted for a few seconds ... but i saw it!

29th October ... it snowed. Yup! No ... i'm sure it was not cigarette smoke ... i'm sure it was not exhumes from a coal factory ... tiny white cute feathery substances that came close to you ... tickled you ... hit your face ... condensed to a water droplet ... and sent a chill down your whole body ... i danced around my backyard ... would not dare to do that on Centre Avenue ... i would not want Port Authority buses running over me ... i saw snow ... real snow ... but i ain't telling it to anyone ... they'll think i'm probably on drugs or something ... but personally ... am happy ... my first snow experience ... awesome!

23 October 2008

What do I say when my closest of friends dupe me into believing that i'm going home on 22nd October night at 8-30pm to do an Epidemiology assignment? What can I say if my room-mate is the culprit who has kept talking to a lot of people when we were in the zoo about their plans when I had no clue that anything was happening? And what the heck do I say if i'm splattered with cake all over my face? I say "Thank You So Much" ! All of you are simply super! And i got many presents ... but any guesses which was the best gift ever? Not the jeans that I so badly needed ... not the chocolates for which I can kill people for ... not the beautiful flowers ... Shreya Gopal ... Smartha Hoysala Karnataka Brahmin ... has decided to go veggie ... no more chicken! Thanks Shreya ... U r amazing! This undoubtedly is my most favorite gift! And this is now public news ... don't spoil your image! You know our deal?

22 October 2008

I am surprised my mother did not hire a sniper to hunt me down! Of course ... mothers don't do such things ... but probably she should have ... because today I know what a crappy son I was! Most of you know it already ... i am a person who hates monotony! I have to change my underwear everyday ... ok i don't think that was such a good example! Anyway ... i can't use the same plate for eating dinner for a very long time ... my water bottles have to keep changing ... phone ring tones have to be changing ... desktop wallpapers change almost every week ... and when it comes to food ... i am a monster!

It was impossible for me to eat the same food for more than once in a week. Mom used to prepare a separate breakfast for me ... and then pack a totally different item for lunch to take to college. If ... and if she dares to expect me to carry the same thing for lunch ... the same thing which I had for breakfast ... gone case! I would simply throw my hands up and say " Not happenin' ... mom ... no way!" Either I go to college without my lunchbox or mom cooks something separate for me ... 99.99% of the cases, it was the latter.

There's not much I need to talk about the breakfast menu I have here - it varies between oats and frosties and raisin brans. But surprise surprise! I did manage to bring about variety in my life here too ... for lunch i carry Puliyogare (puliyogare cooked by a Brahmin is one of the most tastiest dishes in the world !!) ... i have other options like sandwiches ... bread upma ... parathas ... and not to forget the amazing Scaife Hall which is a blessing for a pure veggie who gets to choose from veg burgers to flavored yoghurt to vegetable soup to salads (yuck!) to fruits to caramel chocolate coffee.

If this was not enough ... i have friends who prepare stuff for me! Someone's always calling me to their place for lunch or dinner ... or there are friends who even give me stuff to eat ... or are willing to teach me the magic of cooking. A friend of mine gave 'rajma' couple of days back and I gobbled it up like a pig! 'M-B' is a wonderful cook and she called us for lunch once ... her delicacies impressed me totally! Or else ... we always have 'S' and 'M's place to go to! My room-mate suddenly comes up with wild wonderful ideas like melting chocolate and dipping strawberries in them ... oh god ! They were so awesome!

Its true that my cribbing about food has almost come to a stop! I respect mom's patience a lot more now ... however, i still am the spoilt pampered boy of Bangalore! There ... mom did it ... here my friends do it!

17 October 2008

What's one thing in America that can put your situation to such an extreme that you either want to jump from the top of Cathedral of Learning or want to throw your professors from there? What's one thing in America that can make you feel so self-destructive, so cynical about life, so psychotic that the words 'murder', 'kill', 'hang', 'jump' and 'strangle' become a part of every sentence you speak? What's one thing in America that makes you lose interest in food, bath and daylight to such an extent that you end up persisting only on chocolate and orange juice for 2 whole days? No, its not your girlfriend ... its something called as a take-home exam!

A take-home exam is one ... which no matter where you take it to ... home or the student lounge or Falk Library or the Cathedral or to the zoo ... it never ever makes sense! Why the heck do they give us a take-home? They can give us a closed-book exam and we'L just use our creative 'Indian' techniques for copying. But no ... they want to make it open-book ... let us use all resources from the Internet to their lecture notes to every available resource on this planet and several other planets ... but make the paper horrendously tough ... so tough that maintaining a girlfriend would be considered far more easier.

I was wondering ... what's the common thing between a take-home and a girlfriend? Both end up taking all your time and effort ... both leave you horribly sad at the end of the day ... both are extremely tough to deal with ... every question asked is so tricky, it has so many dimensions that any answer you choose is invariably the wrong one ... and both last not for more than 2 days!

But what's the difference between take-homes and girlfriends? Not much, except for the fact that take-home exams are not stupid!

So i had my first such exam this week ... my first ever ... and believe me ... you will not like it. My room-mate had it a few days back ... a normally enthusiastic ... fun-loving ... let's fool around type guy that he was ... i suddenly saw him transforming into someone totally different ... like a man turning into a werewolf ... he looked miserable ... any amount of my coffee wouldn't change his skin color which had gone pale ... only orange juice ... no bath ... no life ... take homes can do that to you. They are like the dementors (the ones from Harry Potter) which suck the life out of you.
I am just done with one ... no reason to smile ... i have an assignment and 2 exams hell-bent to make my life more miserable. The moment I have enough money ... am booking a ticket and going back to Bangalore forever! I may have to push an onion-cart there ... but atleast I don't have to answer any such exams!

09 October 2008

Its finally falling! Ok that's terrible english. What I meant was ... fall has finally begun! And it looks so amazing now. Yeah yeah, i was talking of going back to India just a couple days back ... maybe i'L see the fall here and go ... and maybe haloween too ... and then maybe thanksgiving and christmas ... new year of course ... heck i'm going nowhere until December 2009.

But oh yeah ... fall has begun! The leaves of the deciduous trees finally change colour. The foliage looks so beautiful now ... golden brown ... purple ... mild red ... its such a welcome change! Of course ... fall is a harbinger of terrible winter days ahead ... but atleast lets enjoy this as much as we can. We never got to see autumn (or fall) back home. And what we call winter at home is not really winter. We never have winter. It just ceases to be real hot ... that's all. So we kinda have just summer and rain ... and transition periods.

Seen those red leaves? They are from the maple tree. I was wondering why exactly these leaves change colour. It so happens that ... as winter comes ... there is not enough light for photosynthesis. The food making factories shut down. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaf ... and other colours start showing up. These colours are inherently present in the leaf but dont show up as it is masked by chlorophyll. Sometimes, as in maple, the glucose turns reddish in colour presenting that colour. The same principal is observed in bananas ... bananas are green in colour as long as it contains chlorophyll ... when its chlorophyll breaks down, it shows up its yellow colour which was inherently present in it. Cool huh?

04 October 2008

Yeah ... another one of those "Everything went wrong today" days! Started on a crappy note and ended on a crappy note. Its such a day wherein things go so wrong that I am sure I am gonna come last in a running race even if I am the only one participating in it.

Slept through Science 2008 after a couple of really interesting talks. Walked to lab determined to get proper DNA bands. I had a weird intuition that my PCR bands are gonna come so beautifully that even Kary Mullis would be in tears for having created such an instrument. That was 100% sure ... Kary Mullis would have been in tears after seeing my results ... he'd have told me "Dude... PCR ... such a sensitive technique ... how the hell can you screw it again?"

And the pipetting ... that was one of my skills ... they were always perfect ... but when it came to discarding the tips ... i not only discarded the tips ... but the lower end of the pipette fell into the trash ... and it happened again with another multichannel pipette my professor reluctantly gave me. With two pipettes lying in the trash ... with tips still firmly attached to them ... my professor must have had enough ... "Suhas ... stop screwing my pipettes and spoiling my DNA plates" ... my first lab rotation ... what an impression ... another round of PCR failure and my PI would love me so much that he'd probably propose to me!

But no ... i can't complain ... i have no right to be dejected ... i dare not be upset! I was the one who gave all the big talk right ... I have to just keep smiling hiding my PCR results behind my back ... and tell 'M' not to feel frustrated if her results fail :-(

But although it was easy to talk big ... i realised there was some sense in what I talked that day ... my friends saved me!

Walked with heavy footsteps back home. 'S' was there for company but she kept scolding me for everything I did or everything I did not do. My room-mate and 'S' convince me to take a break and go to their house for dinner. 'M' and 'S' stay together. I had to say 'yes' because 'S' promised me that she'll motivate me that things will really get better. 'S' kept giving me wrong directions ... and I literally banged every door I found in her apartment. Found the place to be actually wonderful ... inspite of the weird accessibility of it as its in the basement. Inspected every nook and corner ... found a clean living room and the dirtiest closet (that explains the clean living room) ... had lots of kisses ... the chocolates of course! Saw lots 'n' lots of photos ... friends who are close to me know how much I adore seeing photos ... I can spend the whole day watching photos of strangers and still not feel bored. Had good spicy dinner that night. Watched 'Rock On' till 1am but still could not figure out if Purab in that movie was gay ... and could not understand why Farhan Akhtar had family problems ... and whether that heroine or whatever in the movie was pregnant or not!

'S' kept scolding me for everything ... but these days life gets duller if I don't do something wrong and she doesn't attack me ... and 'M' ... my first friend in America ... i have to pull her leg once every ten minutes ... took a long walk back home with my roomie because we were so late that we missed the last bus ... and he was there to tell funny laboratory jokes all the time ... feels good to have good friends ... and I don't really think it ended on a crappy note!

My refrigerator is empty ... and I gotta cook to survive next week ... will have a rough time next week in lab as I do innumerable small scale PCRs ... assignments still sit heavy ... each time I step outside ... my blood forms ice crystals and I have to thaw myself and sit in the centrifuge to restore normal conditions ... and it might end up being an even more crappy week ... but i'll still have these friends who keep reminding me that PCR works only if I remember to add the enzyme ... who cook for me ... say lab jokes ... scold me for everything I do ... and end up giving proper meaning to every word I spoke that day on my presentation :-)

02 October 2008

Oh God its cold!!!!! I had seen a really cold Bangalore. It was 12 degrees Celsius and that was like the coldest Bangalore in 16 years. It was 8 degrees today ... and i still see those mentally unsound girls running around with shorts. Morning ... i kept procrastinating ... i did not want to get out of the blanket until the temperature inside and outside the blanket were the same. There was not even a 0.1 degree change in the temperature ... i had to get up or else I'd miss the free pizza lunch in the Science convention. Sometimes ... i just want to go hug the girl standing right next to me in the bus stop ... not because I suddenly fell in love with her ... but that's an efficient way of heat conservation in the body. Have you seen penguins? They form circles, huddle each other ... and stay that way for a long time until the wind subsides. Those penguins who are on the periphery of the circle and whose backs are exposed to the wind enter the circle ... and in this way ... penguins keep moving into and out of the circle so that everyone gets a chance to stay at the center and conserve heat. Oh! Why don't American girls understand such a simple concept that even penguins understand? If this continues ... i would not need a frying pan to bake parathas ... i could keep my hand on the stove and bake 'em. The wind's blowing again. Oh shit!

This post had to come! When I left Bangalore ... i didn't really know what to expect in America ... but one thing I was mentally and physically prepared for was the 'free stuff'. There are a lot of free giveaways here ... and when there is ... I make sure I am there!

Free food! That's the fantastic yet depressing part of America. Fantastic because its free ... but depressing because you can't really call it food. We have a different definition of food I think. Food has to be this big plate meal thing ... after eating it, you are meant to feel satisfied, and heavy, and tired. American food ... it tires you alright ... but satisfaction - nope! Pizza for lunch? Muffins for breakfast? And ice-cream at a time i am trying to convince myself that the temperature is really 8 degrees Celsius outside ... and my laptop has not really gone crazy. But hey! Let's not complain much ... coz its free ... when it's free, you are not allowed to complain.

It was the time of Science 2008. The entire science community celebrates this year's scientific achievements ... there is a showcasing of advances in the research field ... and new therapeutic developments ! To me ... all this translated meant getting free food ... maybe a couple of CDs ... a few pens ... all for the cost of attending one big-time boring lecture. Yeah ... i did get all of those. I spoke to the Health Sciences Library System guy expressing my urge to know more about their system although my eyes were filled with the complimentary chocolates on the table. I spoke to some fat lady from Invitrogen ... hardly heard what she was saying ... but made sure the complimentary cookies were in my pocket when I left. And I warn you before you call this as 'the desi culture' of pouncing on stuff available for free! I've seen good old Americans ... just walking to a table to grab chocolates ... without even caring about what stalls there were ... just because their continually bulging stomach craved for more junk food. We are far far better ... we take free stuff, but we learn a little something too.

I remember there was this big event in Bangalore every year called Bangalore Bio. All the Biotechnology students used to create a stampede in that 3-day event ... most of them were just looking for career opportunities. The person who comes out of the place with the most number of brochures in his hand is like the ultimate winner. In America ... brochures are just too easily available. Every building and every department gives you catalogs, brochures, articles or advertisement cards irrespective of whether you need it or not. There's way too much paper being wasted. Its no fun to collect brochures anymore :-(

I always wondered ... why are free stuff fun to take? I mean ... lets say I have about twenty pens at home ... i see someone giving complimentary pens in some stall which I dont know even what its about ... what gives me the urge to go and grab that pen ... inspite of knowing in the back of my mind that I have way too many pens than I would ever need? Why do humans love free stuff? Anyone wanna base their research thesis on this one?

Finally I get back to blogging. Had an amazing blogging journey with http://itsmesuhas.blogspot.com for more than 2 years and over 130 posts. There was a time I was receiving threatening mails from my own friends that I'd be run over by their bikes if I ever posted another article on blog. But i braved it all ... and continued to make everyone's life miserable. Yeah its true ... my blog comes with the primary objective of making one's life miserable. All articles are a load of crap ... but with a good package. America is probably a wonderful place to resume my blogging days. It is a place filled with jokers! Every character here is a story in itself ... only comedy ones.

So i hit it off with 2 articles. Sometimes my articles are tougher than reading journals ... you have to look through a microscope to find sense in it. My blog posts and research papers are more or less the same ... both are filled with crap ... you wouldn't understand a word of anything ... you'll be left exhausted, irritated, and self-destructive after reading either of them ... and you will feel like killing the writer. The only difference is ... i don't have to cite references as all I write is unconventional and shamelessly meaningless ... i can never have any articles for reference apart from mine.

Its 12-19am now. The sword of the 'Biostatistics assignment' still hangs on my head. But my mattress is hypnotizing me and inviting me to sleep. While I decide on what to do ... you can go right ahead ... and punish yourself by reading what I write. Adieu!

I keep looking at the desktop without blinking my eye. Is it really 9 degree centigrade out there? 'S' went out to get milk ... and came back shivering as though he had gone into hypothermia. Yes... the fall is stepping in. The fall - a messenger to announce the onset of winter!

Odd semesters are always tough. Why? Coz they come around the winters. Winters are meant either for wrapping yourself with a quilt and going to sleep even if there is a world war going on just outside your house (or) they are meant to catch a plate of onion pakodas in one hand ... hot tea in the other ... and watch Katrina Kaif heat up the living room.

But Bangalore winters are mild. Its not the Pitt climate that worries me ... its the people here. I walked towards the bus stop right outside the public health school. I hid both my hands ... shrinked my body ... and moved like a robot. The blood inside had formed ice cubes. I looked more or less like the protagonist from Titanic (DeCaprio) in the ending scene ... only difference, Kate Winslet wasn't there to hold my hands. All of this did not worry me one bit ... but what worried me the most was this girl who was wearing little shorts (as small as what my 2-yr old nephew wears) ... and still smiling. My first urge was removing my overcoat and covering her ... poor thing must be dying of cold! Yeah ... right ... that's what I thought!

Now hear this ... she went over to Rita's and bought a cup of ice-cream. Ice-cream??????? A few minutes and i myself would have turned into a cone ice-cream ... and this girl ... the girl with tiny shorts ... eats ice-cream in this weather? I may not die of the cold ... but these little incidents really are increasing my risk of myocardial infarction.

I still look at the desktop ... still don't blink my eye ... its still 9 degree centigrade out there. My room-mate is watching a movie ... he is covered from head to toe. From a monkey-cap to a fleece jacket to a quilt to socks ... you can barely see his face. Two totally contrasting characters I got to see in one day ... America ... weird !

01 October 2008

Wednesday afternoon. I was at a place I always loathed - Starbucks! They have redefined coffee! Redefined in such a way that their coffee tastes as great as toxic waste. But why the hell was I there? Starbucks is everywhere ... its like you don't go to Starbucks, but Starbucks comes to you. Anyway ... I was sipping a vanilla latte (which translated in my language means coffee that tastes like agarose gel) and having a conversation with 'J'. He was muttering about the 147 death toll in an Indian temple. People go to the temple to pray for a long life ... if the same temple actually takes away your life much earlier in this way ... how ironical can it be?

'H' ... the Korean girl said with a smile - "Those people had to die ... that was their Karma". 'J' was perturbed by this statement. 'Karma'? Destiny? Yeah ... the same old concept of your life being predetermined ... things happen according to the pattern ... the date of my death has been decided ... everything is happening according to God's plan!

Somehow the whole concept of our lives being controlled by someone else did not seem very appealing to both me and 'J'. What if destiny has decided that i will be single all my life? My whole idea of doing a PhD so that I can earn enough to pay for my wife's cosmetics goes in flame. But 'karma' is a concept that can never be refuted. If you prove that you can change fate ... you can still say that it was destined that a different outcome would result. Its an argument that can never be won against. Yet ... its wholly unacceptable.

'J' mentioned about how low-class people could be (and were) ill-treated by brainwashing them that they were paying for their sins in the last life ... and suffering was just in their fate. Heck! There are genes which can determine our predisposition to certain diseases ... but even these genes fully cannot determine whether an individual gets that disease or not. Ever watched GATTACCA?

Sometimes it does make you wonder ... why did certain things happen? How come 'S' became my room-mate and not someone else? How would it have been if I was living with someone else? Things happened ... but fate certainly did not determine anything. I can suddenly decide to leave this apartment and live alone elsewhere (of course i wouldn't do that!). So i really have not been destined to live with 'S'. So i changed my fate. But what if it was predetermined that I would change my fate? It gets very confusing!

I don't know for sure about 'karma' ... but I do not like its concept ... i'm happier controlling my life ... i'm happier making delicious rasam when I feel like to ... i'm happier shopping at Giant Eagle when I decide to ... life is not a laboratory experiment ... you don't strictly have to follow the protocol!