Yesterday, on Facebook, I found disparaging comments about India by some NRIs (Non- resident Indians) coming home for the vacations. They were blaming the country and its system for being incompetent because.. any guesses? ..all flights in and out of Northern India were grounded because of heavy fog. This just goes to show that Indians, especially the younger, working-in-IT-earning-in-thousands-spending-it-like-water-so-i-have-a-right-to-be-whiny set and the I'm-so-cool-cos-I studied/work-in-phoren (abroad) set of people have become so used to blaming the country and its system as a whole for any little thing that goes wrong that even the caprices of the weather will be blamed on the 'system.'
It is too much to expect these ungrateful wretches to do anything for their country that has done so much for them. So, I won't even broach that topic but what I would like to know is how many times they have appreciated the very same system they love to blame when the system got it right? There are so many government run services that perform well. The staff maybe unappreciated, underpaid and overworked but they still do their duty because they know how essential their services are and because it is the Indian tradition to consider one's duty sacred. The telecom service BSNL, the Indian Postal system and the Indian Railways.. every one of these systems is a vital lifeline of the country and each one has demonstrated extremely commendable innovations and re- inventions along with their characteristically smooth and efficient service in the recent years.
I noticed one of probably many examples of smart thinking by the Indian Railways, recently on a train to Chennai, the location of my visa interview. The innovation was to have the berth numbers show up on these night lights that are placed on the roof of the passage running through the train. This way, when the lights are switched off at night, the passengers boarding need not switch on the lights, disturbing their sleeping fellow passengers in order to look for their berths. All they need to do is locate their berth with the help of the numbers on these extremely dim lights that stay on all night. Kudos to the Indian Railways for coming up with this one.
Pink.. the happy color.. the girly color.. the color that is supposed to put you in a good mood and remind you of the fun things in life.. has unfortunately become the color of my worst nightmare.. The reason? I did not get my visa immediately as I had anticipated. Instead, I was handed a pink sheet which had a case number on it and said that further administrative processing was required before a visa could be issued. This process has been known to take as few as 15 and as many as 90 days.. There is nothing an applicant can do before the mysterious process consisting of unknown steps is completed but to wait.. Although I have a hunch about what might be the reason for this delay, I cannot be sure.. So, my only wish, which I hope will be fulfilled in the new year, is that, the visa Gods will soon be appeased and grant me the boon of a US visa..
The prospect of having to leave the place I've stayed in for the past 22 years and possibly not being able to come back for another 4 years is making a lot go on inside my head.. The sadness of having to stay away from my parents for the first time ever and of not being able to see my sis, my nephew and niece, my favorite cousin, my whole extended, crazy, idiotic family for another four years is killing me and that is quite natural.. What I did not expect to feel however, was this sadness at not being able to visit all the tiny places, the restaurants, the shops in my little corner of the world that make me feel that this is truly home..
the chaat stall in Big Bazaar which serves up the best chaat in Udupi, as I found out very recently..
the place on Court road where I get photocopies made and print outs taken when my printer acts up, which is often, I must add..
the tiny place near the City bus stand where I get credit for my phone.. Quick and efficient service is their motto..
the photo studio in front of Sanskrit College where I've had all my 'important' photos taken.. my graduation photos, my passport photos..
the internet centre within the Super Bazaar where I go when I need scans or went when I didn't have internet..
the two bus stands, City and Express.. since I always rely on public transport to get around as it's greener and safer..
the Jayalakshmi Cloth Store, Udyavar.. though it's technically not in Udupi.. for the latest fashions at affordable prices.. I even have a post up about it..
the shop near the bus stand where I get credit for my phone.. good for warm smiles and a quick chat in my mother tongue..
so many eateries that I'm gonna miss but if I had to choose one, it would have to be Snack Shack.. the best 'Potato Lovers' in the world and a great view..
the second hand book shop near Hangyo CTF, pricey but great second hand, almost new looking books..
riding on the pillion of a bike down Alevoor Road.. Ahh.. the sweet smell of pure freedom..
my favorite place for formal dining, the Royal Durbar.. the best Biryanis I've ever eaten..
movies at Adlabs and pizza at the Pizza Hut.. Bharat Mall..
dessert? pastries at Crumbz.. and ice cream at Pabba's..
Athri book store.. a tiny place crammed full of great books..
These places may not seem that special to some who's stayed in big cities or been abroad but these are the pieces that made up my life so far and I'll be sure to treasure them no matter what adventures I have..
I'm all set to leave for the US to begin my doctoral studies.. The only process left is my visa interview and god willing, if that goes well, I'll be away before the end of the month. During this long journey of 1.25 years towards this stage of my life, there have been many constants, animate and inanimate. The constant with the most unique character? My printer.
I can now appreciate my beloved's pain and the stuff that he has to put up with because I am, ahem.. somewhat temperamental myself and if there is something that can frustrate me out there, you can very well imagine how temperamental that is. My printer does not hate me.. Oh no.. It likes me a lot, in fact but it also likes to make me work for its affection. I always get the sweet stuff.. Beautiful, crisp, clear prints, lovely colors and great definition.. but only after I've sweat a little and prayed to at least one of the many crore deities Hindus believe in..
My diva of a printer does not believe in taxing itself too much.. So what if I have a poster to present or a project report to hand in the next day? I can hardly blame it for acting up when I try to take the final print outs at 2am.. It was my mistake to wake the darling up at that god awful time. Pretty printers need their beauty sleep.. Some form that requires the printer to be connected before you begin to fill it, failing which you'll never be able to take a print out of the confirmation page and effectively ruin your life? (You'll encounter a lot of these if you apply for a US visa in India) You should never have relied on it to be up to that kind of a challenge, thinks the printer. What? You did rely on it? Well, you better have a backup plan.. (I didn't, but thankfully, the confirmation page didn't disappear as soon as I hit print and stayed put long enough for me to coax the diva into doing the job..)
I never know which fascinating facet of its capricious nature the printer will decide to display on a particular day. It might decide to do nothing for hours until after I've hit print, requiring me to cancel the job and start over again.. If I make it print too many pages at a time or leave it on and idle for some time before the actual job, it might decide to maliciously chew up and spit out my paper.. "Take that, you ignorant fool!" If I allow it to heat up too much, it might make the ink too runny and smear it up to boot. Is it any wonder that I plan and strategise every print job with much more finesse, accuracy and precision than the most complex experiments I've performed in the Biochemistry lab?
All said and done, my printer and I have had some good times together. It has saved me a tonne of time, effort and money. As for the tantrums it throws? Well they make me appreciate it that much more when it is working along sweetly, putting out page after lovely page of prints. Maybe my printer lives by this quote of the original diva..
"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best."
So, these people and places I mentioned in my previous post lie far, far away, in a land across the seas. I will be travelling abroad for the first time at the age of 25. I will be staying on campus for the first time in my life. Just like the seas that I'm about to cross, I find turbulence in my mind and my heart. Doubts and fears swirl, waves of common sense crash on the rocky beach of anxiety and the tides of my confidence rise and fall while I scan the horizon for the storm clouds of trouble that I hope will never appear.
Will I discover new lands or will I be shipwrecked? Will the treasures of the highest degree that can be earned be mine or will I return home in tatters? Only time can tell..
I'm in love with my new, big bag.. I've wanted one of these for the longest time but since I'd been at home for the past one year, I hadn't really needed a bag.. But now, I've got places to go and people to meet once again and with my brand, spanking new bag on my shoulder, I'm ready to go :)
The Ph.D. student is a rare animal. A novel sub species whose habitat, hours of activity, sleeping patterns and most importantly, diet differs from the rest of the species. It is said that your are what you eat. So, what does that say about the humble grad student whose diet consists mainly of junk food, delicious as it is? This blog does not care because we strive to celebrate that very junk food.. The 2am noodles, the 3pm lunch of leftover pizza, the all day free food extravaganza that seminars are, the high calorie cookies at scientific talks.. every morsel of high fat, high carb deliciousness that sustains and nurtures us. So, send pictures of your Ph. D. diet with a description and time consumed to firstname.lastname@example.org and see it displayed here in all its unhealthy glory!