After a long period of time when the days and dates were long forgotten and lost track of (read: Vacation!), its back to gruelling weeks and even sad-der weekends with three assignments due and two essays on some stupid safety issue the next week. Still, friday brings a ray of hope giving that extra time to sleep in and finally finish those chores you always postpone for the week-end.

Grad-life is not easy. But it is enjoyable. Everything here is an experience in itself. Though the academic part is rather similar in terms of content and competition, the whole experience makes it so much fun. It is fun to grab those free pizzas lying outside the class and then after a couple of burps and downing two Dr.Peppers ask,’What was the food for?’ or the ability to munch a sandwich in class and sip coffee as the professor drones on about Helmholtz energy functions or to go check for boiled peanuts in the vending machines or discuss chinese high-school system with your neighbour in class. Though it is not particularly enjoyable to sit through 8 subjects a semester and brainstorm when 4 people get 4 different answers for the same question, I am liking the fact that my grey cells are being used again and over stretched . Its fun being busy. Though I always tried to keep myself occupied in BITS, the load was never the same. The motivation strangely lies in the opportunity. You want to milk everything that comes your way and that drives you to work hard.

Ah, I started off discussing my weekend and ended up writing about my week. There is a cute little club which drives down Indian students to the Indian grocery shop (located a far 25 miles away) every month to stack up on those frozen parathas and garam masalas. Usually the seats fill up in like 5 minutes after the mails are sent out, and this time I made it in! So I can finally give my Iranian store some time off from me! Food is not a difficult option if you are open to new tastes and are not too fond of the spicy fare you get back home. The world’s cuisines are at your disposal and you can really make the most of it (only if you want to!). Apart from that I’m really really happy that I have nearly 2.5 days ( i’m trying not to think of my workload which can easily swallow that entire time) and I dont need to wake up early tomorrow. Even the gym opens only at 9 on weekends!

PS: I finally found two really amazing professors (totally a.w.e.s.o.me and they leave me mesmerized everytime they teach or talk). Wow, I am back in love with engineering and academia and have never been happier!

Grad Life and Free Food

Three weeks into my grad student life and I know the single most important thing in a graduate student life – free food. Though it might seem odd to people actually not living it, trust me, it definitely is.

Free food is the single biggest lure of any grad student. A notice has no meaning unless food is offered. Offer a buffet, barbecue or even a mixer and wham! the entire grad student community would be there to bless you. We sneak or crash parties of the unsuspecting undergrads who happily dwell on other priorities like speed dating, dancing, finding a date and other trivialities of life. We are the focused lot. We enter the party, pass a few fake smiles, grab the food and head straight back to the lab. Free food surrounds us. The pizzas before seminars, the cookies and coffee before some guest lecture, everything forms a part of it.

First week was full or orientations and welcome parties and we being the diligent ones immediately drew up separate timetables for them. The ‘food timetable’ is of utmost importance and all invite mails to dinners and parties get flagged or starred immediately.
PhD comics makes so much more sense. It is a different life and I am so loving it.
The issue of Grad life and free food is so aptly told by this link

And here we go again…

Classes, homework, assignments, deadlines, presentations and the worst of all exams are all back in the spotlight. After nearly a year of having touched my books (Thanks to the excellent system at BITS where engineering is essentially a 1 year course – the third year), it felt as though I was getting back to studying after eons. I stepped into a beautiful classroom with over-comfortable chairs and a working air conditioning system at 9 am for the first class here and boy, it felt like familiar territory. The same slides, the deadlines, the consulation hours but there were certain things which made me smile and finally realize how deep technology has really seeped in.

No paper and notes systems here. Of course the Indians make notes diligently, forced by habit but everything else is online. You get course urls with downloadable material links, your login and password to access notes and print them if you want to and everything else is only by email, the grades and every other correspondence. After watching American teen and other shitty movies all through the undergrad, it takes quite an effort to appreciate the fact that you also have them talking about Navier Stokes equations and bessel functions (At the risk of sounding very partial and prejudiced, I gaped when a typical blonde raised her hand when the professor asked ‘Who is very confident of their vector calculus skills?’) You usually dont associate them with such things. Anyway, I guess I’ll get used to it.

Books seem to be a major problem. I never really loved my seniors more. I went to the bookstore to check out the price of my one textbook and it was just was 120$!!! Of course, you have ebay and amazon and others to hunt for cheaper versions but the seniors saved me. It has been raining the last couple of days and my severe allergy-cum-insect-bite-rashes have also subsided. So things now working in a good direction. Though, looking at this semester and the 21 hours of classwork that I had to register for, I dont think I can really enjoy myself too much. All my exploits on reader and others just pile up..I logged into reader only to retract when I saw 1000+ articles unread!

Life is settling down. I cooked for myself yesterday. Not bad, as long as I am able to eat whatever I cook, I guess it is fine. But one thing is for sure, cooking is not rocket science, when a newbie like me could cook something decent, it really aint such a big deal at all mostly!
It feels like im back in undergrad, only this time, I’ll have to really study!

PS: Oh man, I’m so much in love with the mac keyboard, I just keep wanna typing!

A fresh start

I write this post sitting in a godlike library on an amazing Mac monitor. I am now in Atlanta and also an official student and legal working girl in the USA. I finished 4 hour long paperwork today, completing a mindnumbing 15 forms with so many other formalities and finally I can take a deep breath and say, Whew! Now it can all be normal.

I came here on the 6th august 2009. Stepped into this country for the first time as a non-tourist. Everything wasn’t such a cultural shock to me since all my gaping and awing was already over. It felt good to be independent, to unlock the doors to your apartment, to be able to shop for your gorceries ( all of them rice, daal, masalas, oil, milk etc etc) and set up a working house from scratch. This included huge shopping trips to Wal Mart, Targets, Publix and other places to get the place up and running. Seniors were the life-savers giving us free food, accomodation and even rides to the nearby stores. My apartment is one among 9 others. Everyone there is Indian. All of them. Taking an average of 6 per house, there must be close to 50-55 Indians living there. It didnt feel like US even for a bit. Indian faces all around, hindi,gujrati, marathi in the air and smells of masalas and tadkas from every kitchen. Tumlin is one hell of a little India.

The place is fantastic. The department is every bit that I dreamt of. Glass foyers, sparkling floors, comfy sofas, just like the lobby of a 7-star hotel. The entire campus is fantastic and it lives upto its reputation of being in the top 5 engineering schools in the US. Only thing, it was very HOT and that automatically meant people were clothes-less here. I never saw anyone (boys or girls) wear anything below the knees. It was very hot and the UV is supposedly strong here so lot of sunscreens adorn the racks of every store. You have maps and trolleys to get around and a hundred odd places to eat around here. The cuisine is global with tacos,burgers, nachos, salad bars, pizzas available all over. The students are mostly Indian or chinese ( as expected) and everyone right now is really friendly helping around with stuff.

Thats about the description. I will upload pics once I get my own connection (hopefully tomorrow). I got to go back and scourge something for dinner from my stock of sabji and daal. Its been a busy week with orientation sessions and registrations and paperwork sessions.

PS:The swimming pool was the one used for Olympics in 1996. Man, I can’t wait to jump into it right now!

The goodbye

This is the post anticipated by many. But its contents are not the same as a vote of thanks speech for my country. It is a bittersweet picture of the truth. (Truth is always bittersweet, aint it?)
Firstly, I am very happy to leave this place. Personally, the only thing I will miss having around is my doggie (no surprise to anyone there). He was always with me, still is as I type this post (he is busily licking my feet only to put his head gently on them and sleep in a while). I will miss everything about him and everything I’ve done to take care this past month. Feeding, walking, running, bathing, playing and everything from splashing water on him from the swimming pool or watch him converse with donkeys..everything will be in my head for a long long time. What hurts is his innocent wait at the door hoping I’d turn up any moment or the hunt around the house still expecting me to be hiding under the bed. What pricks is that he doesn’t know. Wish I could explain it to him. Family is infact closer, dad and mom will be missed but technology esp VOIP, gtalk video chat and cell phones have ensured no place is too far.

Coming to friends, I really havent met anyone in person for sometime now. The only people I’ve spoken/ met outside the internet are Amrit,Dyno,rdx,Vinay,Nisha, Giz and Soxy. Everyone split up after third year and has gotten adjusted to their new lives. Everyone else is on either facebook or gtalk. It’ll hardly make a difference as to where I am geographically. My blogs will continue so will my updates on all these networks. So its no use saying “I’ll miss my friends” and all that tosh. To hell with all the sentiments then since I’ll be more in sync with the nocturnal junta of our college. Though sometimes I miss being geographically closer to these people I mentioned before. Friendships can sometimes cut across the virtual barriers.

India…well right now I am happy to be leaving it. Lets see if the missing-my-homeland sentiments hit me in sometime.( I seriously doubt that anyway). It is a fresh start, a chance to correct my mistakes (in matters of losing my heart to very wrong people)and begin all over again. I am all revved up and refreshed after a very enjoyable vacation. All the miseries of PS and heartbreaks forgotten.

So long everyone. Keep reading my blog. The next post’ll be from Atlanta.

The great gastronomic shift

Ghar ka Khaana

That, is the single biggest craving for all the hostelers and the entire group of people living outside their homes. I am no different. But it is only once when you are even out of the security and comfort of having a mess (which you can keep cursing for want of better things to do) that you truly relish those daal-chawals and bhindi sabjis your mom used to make.

I was just like any other pre-teen and teen, wishing for the McMeals, the McDonalds burger and fries, the occasional Wimpy or Nirula burgers, the Sundaes or any possible chance to eat out. ‘We are having dinner outside’ used to be the most awaited phrase and the entire process of going out to a restaurant, getting a chance to order any favourite and hogging like there is no tomorrow (to the extent of making your mom comment “It is as though we don’t feed you at all!”) was the biggest treat one could hope for. The excuses were innumerable, exams over(the most common), I-got-a-centum-in-math-once-again, I came-third-in-the-school-relay, birthdays, anniversaries, just about anything. Today as I told my cook to pack lunch for me since I was going out, refusing the option of eating out, these thoughts flooded my mind.

I repeatedly tell my mom these days “Even if you give me kaccha (raw)sabji, I’ll eat”. Even if she claims the curry isnt as good as she expected (thats rare) I think it is the most delicious thing ever. The charm of eating out has somehow ended. Maybe it is because of the frequent eating out trips or the nuances and flip sides you discover when you begin to depend on hotel food for months on end. I just long to eat home-food. This stay in chennai I hardly ate out save for a couple of meals with friends. Any shopping trip saw me equipped with my lunch in the car which I ate with sheer delight. The healthy side is just an added bonus.

I’ve come a long way today. I’m all set to start cooking now. (I dont know how it’ll turn out to be, all the best to my four guinea pigs! 😛 )