Tuesday, January 30

Dark Room

I walk in. The darkness blinds me, and he shuts the door on me with finality. A frantic impulse to turn around and hammer at the door, plead to be let out. "It isn't locked", I remind myself. Shut in with my own thoughts. A situation to avoid at all costs, normally. But sometimes inescapable. Who was that who had said 'To love yourself is the beginning of a lifelong love affair'? He must have been an exceptionally nice person. I fumble for the light switch. Momentary panic, and then the flooding relief of the familiar switch against my fingertips. Red light gently washes over me. So gentle that I can hardly discern the menacing outlines populating the room. I still an overwhelming impulse to whip around and confront the stranger breathing down my neck. "There is noone else here", I whisper reassuringly under my breath. Willing myself to stop chasing shadows, an atavistic impulse at best. I reach for the familiar satin. Black, of course. I can hardly see it. But the touch brings back reality. The solid rectangle reminds me of my purpose, of the world on the other side of the door. Light, people (even the annoying ones), chatter. The darkness changes. It lifts off my eyes. It gives me back some space, generously. Claustrophobia recedes. I hear myself hum a tune. I roll up my sleeves and get to work. The darkness whispers in my ear. It is my friend. I smile.

Saturday, January 27

Of Science and Depression

A topic that I feel is amazingly underrepresented in modern psychology. Poets and artists have the luxury of creative depression. They can languish. They can complain about the unfeeling world. They can be neglected and ignored. They can be misunderstood or not understood at all. They can glamorously cut their ears off. The can go into a decline and die gloriously in penury on the streets. Monuments will be built for them. Their art will be feted. Their tortured souls extolled. But scientists! It's a whole, different story, and a very sad one.
Can you imagine Einstein having torments of agony trying to explain relativity to uncaring citizens? If he explained the theory to a grad student, and the grad student (poor chappie) had no clue what the great physicist was talking about, the said g.p would 1. be totally oblivious that the grad student had not understood it (mainly because grad students early in their career, as toddlers even, learn the art of nodding and looking alertly attentive - its an art form really) 2. assume that the grad student has no clue what gravity is in the first place, never mind a grand unifying theory and therefore be truly unperturbed by the grad student's lack of comprehension (in fact Albie might have had a fainting fit if the grad student had immediately understood the magnificence of the theory and asked pertinent questions) 3. not only ignore all signs of incomprehension on part of g.s but also reel out a series of experiments that have to be completed by the end of the week, to be included in a grant proprosal, to be written up and submitted on his desk by day after tomorrow.
It is indeed the sad lot of us scientists that we have to stuggle on with eternal cheer and optimism, explaining theories that people actually care about and which make a difference to the world at large. Not for us the incomprehensible squiggles on a large white canvas that will then be misinterpreted continuously for the next eight centuries by pompous art critics (in fact any incomprehensible squiggle will be called into question by the Thesis Committee and investigated to an inch of its life *sigh*). Nor the communion with stars in the bareness of space enclosed by four walls (mainly because it is of course logically impossible to commune with stars in the presence or absence of bare space), the blinding life-changing truths revealed by the inner soul and accepted as gospel (cos of course the blinding epiphany has to be subjected to *some* sort of experimentation -preferably in triplicate- before any conclusion can be safely reached, let's not even get into the number of reviewers who have to pass it before it can come close to publication), or even the comfort of estrangement from kith, kin and the world at large (for one, any Indian family would be unbearably proud of having a child who's a scientist-which of course is why there are no geeks in India- and for another, there are always other grad students grubbing for free food, snotty PIs shadowing your every move, warring post-docs each wanting a share of the pie, I mean it's a whole different world inside a lab, believe me! And a very crowded one, full of opinionated, arrogant, extremely intelligent people). Since all the respectable avenues for depression and a cheerless existence have thereby been removed from the average scientist's grasp, there is no choice but to be happy.
Imagine this scenario. A bunch of cancer cells arrive in the lab, the cells are plated, diluted and squinted at under the microscope. Now, if you were a poet or an artist, it would have been the work of a moment to picture the exceptionally brilliant, popular, 18 year old cheerleader who is right at this instant lying pallid and comatose on a hospital bed, waiting to hear news that could well be a death knell, depending on strangers to decide if she will live or die. This could lead to the creation of an epic poem, a masterpiece on the uncertainty of life etc etc. But since (for all events and purposes) you're a grad student, the conversation you'll have will be along these lines:
Grad Student 1: Wonder which patient these cells came from. Life can be so uncertain. One moment you're alive and the next minute you're dying of some genetic mutation that you might or might not have inherited from you great grand mother on your father's side. It makes you thi-
Grad Student 2 (with great excitement): Dya see that knob like thing on the left hand side corner of the field. Doesn't that look like aneuploidy? Man!! These chromosomes are so screwed up!! This is just perfect!! It completely proves our hypothesis.
Grad Student 1 (galvanised into action and elbowing GS1 out of the way): OMG! You could be right!!! But wait, though there's a knob-like thing there, look at the right hand side corner where you will see.......

See, what odds we have to struggle against? This whole week I've been struggling to stay depressed, but I've realised that inspite of the complete lack of sun over the past week, the cheerless grey skies, the incessant rain, the lack of any results from my various experiments, the having to work overtime, the fact that I didn't get some news about something that I was hoping to get news about, inspite of all this, I cannot keep up the depression. Science is a killer that way. I give up!

Update: I know that someone's going to point out that Einstein had what could be considered as a nervous breakdown during his career, so I counter that by saying it was complicated by a bilious stomach!! How can you romanitcize a nervous breakdown when it's accompanied by a stomachache????!!!!

Thursday, January 25

Flags of our Fathers

"It must have been so much easier when there was a common enemy, and the vision of a hypothetical, perfect country", she said. "It's just so hard to accept the reality of it. With all the lying, cheating, in-fighting, back-biting. And keep loving it, and wanting to be a part of it." She looked guilty. She wished more than anything that he would argue. Give her examples of the glory, the pride, the beauty. She hoped he'd give her a brief lecture on Indian history (the sort she used to abhor), complete with the chronology and the main players, like he'd done so often. She wanted to believe. She wanted to love. She wanted to be proud. She just didn't see how she could be. Everywhere she looked she saw reasons to despair, people to cry for, some to be enraged at, but mostly to be pitied. And she felt guilty. An accident of birth, and she could take for granted the sort of amenities that more than half the population couldn't even dream of. She didn't deserve it. Everytime she read about a fresh riot, a protest, a strike, a scandal, everytime she responded with anger and frustration, a little voice reminded her that she had left the country. She had fled. She had deserted. She had no right to criticise that which didn't affect her anymore, that which she wasn't a part of. It wasn't like that, she could argue. She was going to return, she would insist. She would always be Indian and because of that she wanted to believe, to see the light, to embrace the country that she belonged to. But she wanted him to make her, because what she saw didn't fill her with confidence. "Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, is not believing. When sight steps in, belief has no purpose." I read that in a Terry Pratchett, he confessed sheepishly. "A lot of hope has gone into this country, it's sand is steeped in the blind, optimistic-against-all-odds belief of millions. We're survivors. Time brings change. Believe." He had said the right thing. She felt happier. There was hope.

Happy Republic Day, you guys.

Cautionary Note: Was feeling soppy. And it is Republic Day. And I do love India :D

Tuesday, January 23


Like my closet just after I've gotten ready to go out for the evening. The lines between my closet and my bedroom are generally blurred by then. I'm always astonished at the sheer number of clothes I have, and even more amazed at the way none of them make me look good (yeah, yeah I know, there's gotta be something there to begin with, in order for clothes to help in anyway).

Like my living room after I've had friends over. Wine glasses behind the sofa, crumpled rug, throw pillows everywhere, books off the book shelf lying around on the floor, crumbs behind the TV, and under the sofa, and under the floor light, all the places which you can't imagine people designating as the one spot where they'd adore to have dinner.

Like my kitchen after a cooking binge. Pots and pans in the sink. Stacked, greasy, begging to be washed. Cutting boards and knives everywhere. A million spoons for a million reasons. Used and discarded. An assortment of bowls and mugs pressed into service as measuring cups (if you can call it measuring to randomly fill utensils up to different levels based purely on whim).

Like my car. Period.

My mind today. I believe I'm blue. Is this the SAD everyone's talking about? If only I could pick thoughts up, fold them and put them away, systematically into different draws and on various shelves. Sort through the pile on the floor with the laundry basket handy, a convenient depository for those that are to be (at some later date) washed out thoroughly and then re-examined for stubborn stains. Hang up the ones that I know I'll wear again, really soon, cos they're lucky (some clothes are lucky) for me. Strategically place lavendar sachets between the folds. Step back, knowing that everything's in its place. If I was God, I'd make minds like closets.

Update: I should move to Denmark. People there are very happy with their lives apparently. Way above the global average. Of course the root of their happiness is their perrenial pessimism. See, how well some people sort their lives out?

Monday, January 22

The True and Amazing Chronicles of a Commuter: Part 2 3

The bus lurches around the corner at seemingly ill-advised speed and stops dead. They clutch the overhead straps to keep from falling over but continue staggering to the exit. You're allowed to wait for the bus to stop, I want to say. Please don't exert yourself, I almost tell the old man standing next to my seat, waiting for his turn to step out into the winter cold. I have a grandfather like you, I feel the wish to confide. Old bones need cherishing. If I said it out loud, would he be offended? I spot an Indian in the queue of shuffling soon-to-be-disgorged-passengers. She's almost at the door. In another minute she'll step out. As she leaves, she turns back to the driver. Thank you, she says, and have a great day. A chord is struck. Board examinations, 1996, Physics. Newton's Laws. I knew them by heart, but I never bothered learning what the words meant either.

Culinary Note: (This is for Adi) You didn't expect it to be edible, didja?

Update: The first part for the curious (yeah, yeah the name has changed, and it wasn't a chronicle - which is why the name has changed, not that this is a chronicle either. Tsk, how complicated)

Update 2: Apparently there's also a second part, so this is actually the third part (d-uh!).

Tuesday, January 16

How to Move a Mountain (In one Easy Step)

The answer lies in a five letter word with f in it (faith in case you were wondering ). But before I fascinate all of you with the story of What Happened at 3 A.M This Morning, let me just add that I have not given up my ambitions of adding seriosity to this blog (in fact as proof of that, this post is gonna be...yeah u guessed it.. serious). But before writing the feminism-finance-geopolitical situation post, I got waylaid by this post that came pouring into my brain when I woke up for the second time last night at 3 A.M (and yeah I know that's this morning and not last night, and yeah it is the story of What Happened at 3 A.M This Morning that I mentioned earlier). This I apprehend is an example of How Life Happens and also How Time and Tide Wait for No Man (or Woman), and if I was a different sort of blogger I could stun all of you by providing sage wisdom on all of that. But I'm not (Thank God For That..and dont you love Capitalizing Words?). So without Further Ado, That Which Happened at 3 A.M This Morning...ta da (those are Drum Rolls FYI)......

Once upon a time there was a girl (who is me btw), who loved that her brain worked best in the wee hours when sunlight was yet to creep into the sky, let alone her room, and there were shadows on her walls, and the slightest noise started off a trend of thought that left her with the answer to How To Move a Mountain (and other suchlike Erudite Questions). Tis a pity though that these thoughts wouldn't stay in her head till the morning. Anyway getting on with the story at hand (more a parable actually, or do I mean fable?). One night, she woke up at 3 in the morning, with a start (it seemed appropriate). There were burglars in the house. Two of them. A man and a woman. All in black. Those catsuit type things, y'know? Masks and all. They came in through the balcony door. She heard it slide open and the rattle of the shutters as they slithered into the living room. The man had a coil of rope around his shoulder. Probably how he managed to climb up in the first place. Her lap top!!! It was on the red rug in the middle of the floor. Staring at them. Screaming to be stolen. What would she do if they took it? How would she go online? And chat? And mail? And blog? Should she dash out at them, yelling like a banshee? Would a pink pajama clad tiny banshee impress anyone enough to scare them away? She quickly scanned her brain to remember all the tips given in the million forwards she had received, which were supposed to help her in just such a situation as this. No help. She could remember how to get help if she was attacked in her car, or a parking lot, or a dark alley, but not in her apartment. She cursed her brain cells. She strained to listen for further creeping from the living room. Would they get a midnight snack (sheremembered reading somewhere that most burglars check your fridge for a snack)? What if they came into the bedroom? Should she crawl under the bed? Or make a dash for her phone and call 911 or something.

By this time she was exhausted (thinking did this to her sometimes, unused muscles and suchlike). So she snuggled deeper into the covers (it was a cold night), and thought some Deep and Most Profound Thoughts on the Power of Belief (if we consider belief to be a delusion, an imagined something that appears absolutely amazingly convincingly real even in the face of no evidence or facts to support it; I could make a snarky comment about the God Hypothesis right now but I won't, restraint is the key one feels). And as she dropped off to sleep, she discovered the answer to the question, How to Move a Mountain. It was most satisfactory and she decided that she had to share the Truth with all her blog readers. It was, in fact her last thought as she went back to sleep. So this morning when she sat down to write this post, she decided that the fact that she couldn't remember the answer to the Most Profound Question of How to Move a Mountain should not stand in the way of her imparting wisdom to all and sundry (especially with the newly acquired seriosity of this blog). So she hoped that if she was destined to achieve only one thing in her life, it was this: to know (and to spread the word) that waking up in the middle of the night and imagining burglars in your house can be a Profound Experience even if you don't have Anything to show for it.

Cautionary Note: You didn't expect it to make sense, didja?

Wednesday, January 10


In my continued (albeit apparently unsuccessful) attempts to inject some seriosity into this blog, I have immersed myself in research over the past couple of days (yeah, that's what I was doing, NOT slacking off or lacking things to say). The results of my research have led me to suspect that in order to have a truly serious blog, one has to talk knowledgably (or atleast pretend to) on subjects of grave importance. These belong to three main categories: Economics (finance, commerce, the state of capitalism in today's world, which btw I suspect is dire), Rants on Feminism (this will definitely put you into the A-list of serious blogs, if you can add a couple of personal instances wherein you were molested/abused or suchlike there is no saying how high you can fly) and finally Politics. If while talking about any one of these subjects or two or three of them simultaneously (any combination is allowed), you can also drop references to obscure Czechoslavakian authors/composers, hint subtly at even more obscure quotations by 10000 year old Grecian philosophers, and maintain a note of sneering condescension at the extreme stupidity of everyone else (ESPECIALLY the readers of your blog) who inhabits this planet, you shall be blessed with comments that read something like "Wow XYZ, you have changed the way I think about the world in general and my life in particular, I am eternally indebted to you". Or "You write so well. God Bless You, child" (OK I made up the God Bless You bit, I was thinking of a venerable nonangenarian writing that comment, and I got too much into character I think). Or sometimes, a comment of rare lucidity that goes "You poor bastard, get off your high horse, already". Think about the fun you'd have coming up with responses to these comments! That itself would make the writing of the blog a pleasure (even if reading it gives everyone else a headache).

[Psst! If you're truly worthy of owning the serious blog described above you would not reply to any comments, cos doncha know you're too good for that ;).]

I leave you, faithful reader, on this note of warning. My next post shall undoubtedly talk about finance, feminism or politics (since I know next to nothing about any of those three subjects I shall have to retire to do some more research). I will be BACK *said on a threatening note, so don't any of you dare get scared and run away *

Update: I am reliably informed that 'if you can add a couple of personal instances wherein you were molested/abused or suchlike there is no saying how high you can fly' is wince-worthy. Much apologies if it offends (I'm trying to adhere to a no-delete policy, silly as that is)

Update 2: Betcha most of you have seen this. When people have already written posts like that, what chance do I have of making myself a name by writing serious posts on feminism? *is disgusted with other people's brilliance*

Update 3: The 'serious posts on feminism' mentioned above does not refer to Falstaff's post, but the two posts that he's linked to. Just in case much confusion ensues from my clumsy wording!

Monday, January 8


As I warned you guys, this blog is going to become an extremely serious one. You might have thought to yourselves "Heh! How could she possibly come up with serious stuff" and laughed lightly at my claim. But now you will know that I meant it in all earnestness. As Dumbledore wisely said, "These are dark and desperate times." At least I think he said it, and if he didn't one feels he ought to have!

Under normal conditions of pressure and temperature,
Me = Happy

Me + Being Liked = Happy + Happy = 2 (Happy)

Me + Being Liked + Associated Paranoia (Generally-Being-Freaked-Out-ness) = 2(Happy) - Vague Unease = (2-n*)Happy

Me + Being Liked + AP (G-B-F-O) + Long Conversations with Best Buds About Source of AP = (2-n*) (Happy) + n*(Relief)

Me - Being Liked = Infinitely Happy?

* Where n is a function of the extent of being liked divided by the strength of associated paranoia

And Ramesh sir thought I never paid attention in Chemistry classes. Hmmph.

Thursday, January 4

A Date

Monday trudged into the pub. Friday was at the bar already (which was altogether appropriate since he was the owner and bartender-in-chief). He greeted her with a cheery wave and a thumbs-up sign. Yikes! Why people would stick their thumb up, she could never understand. Such an unbearably positive gesture. She nudged Tuesday with her shoulder as she settled down next to him. "So how have you been?" he asked. He was the most business-like of the 5 of them. No greeting, no smile, ice-breakers of all sorts were eschewed. She kind of liked that. "The usual" she replied with resigned gloom. Her head was aching, she was completely disoriented, she looked like she had just dragged herself out of bed and stumbled out of her house (which was a very close approximation of what she had done). She looked around at the familiar faces of Wednesday and Thursday. There was some comfort in routine. In an endlessly cheerless life, where every day felt like all the grey in the world had leeched into it, there was something almost pleasant about the daily stop at Friday's (even if the interior was done up in ridiculously cheery colours). Wednesday grinned sympathetically at her. She and Wednesday always got along well. They were shopping buddies, Marvin fans and W could sometimes bring her periliously close to laughing. Often, it was the thought of making it to Wednesday that kept her going, through the daily trials and tribulations she had to face. "A rum and coke as usual?" Wednesday asked her. Monday nodded glumly. Thursday piped up (in his ridiculously young voice), "I've got a new plan. Guys, wanna hear it?" He was the perpetual optimist, always expecting tomorrow to be the day everything would go right. He had an infallbile faith in the miracle that was waiting to happen, just around the corner. Monday shook her head. "Aww, c'mon you could just listen" he complained. Wednesday grinned at her again. Yup, it was almost nice, being right here in this place right at this moment. Monday settled herself down more comfortably. Friends made it all seem better.

Cautionary note (placed strategically at the end of the post): Felt it was about time to write about more serious things. This is to forestall all accusations that my posts are becoming too heavy! Flippancy is for the birds, one feels.

Tuesday, January 2

Of Irrational Anger at Other People's Foibles

Why do I worry about becoming fat? I can't claim to be insecure, I can't talk about a childhood experience that left me emotionally scarred for life, abusive parents..not even one, a lust for all kinds of fatty food which triggers an alarm response in my system making me skip meals..nope. In fact I can't think of one concrete reason that would make Freud lean forward in his chair and rub his hands together.

BUT I can admit that I have a fear of fat creeping up on me, unheeded, stealthy, molecule by molecule, until one day I will be like the man who couldn't walk out of his apartment cos he couldn't fit into the doorway anymore. Maybe its my generation? Maybe its a symptom of how shallow a person I am (though I honestly have no hang ups with other people being fat)? Maybe the constant presence on the television of stick insects parading around, defining the way women have to look? I don't know.

I know in the larger context this suggests a serious social consequence of the media portayal of 'attractive' women, but sticking (in persistently self centred fashion) to my own narrow perspective, I have to confess that some days when I'm trying on size zero pants in AEO and they fit perfectly, I'm happy with my irrational quirk.


I impress myself. Two huge issues that have been worrying me all morning, have miraculously vanished in a puff of smoke and left me smiling. We all know the moral to this one: when you think it must be freezing outside, it hardly ever is. Maybe its going to be a nice year, 2007 (bloopers and all :)

Monday, January 1

To 2007

No mistakes in it.....yet

Update: I amend the statement by including a technical disclaimer. What might be considered mistakes (viz phone conversations with people while under the influence, botching up several university applications, and forgetting to pay a couple of bills) are not considered mistakes per se, but simply as errors in judgement.