Kiss

klimt-kissDuring my train journey from Aachen to Berlin, in a station whose name I can’t immediately recall, a couple boarded the train, snugly comfortable in each other’s arms, the woman’s head resting on the clavicle of the man. They sat a few seats ahead of me, and in no time, started kissing.

My voyeuristic instincts were piqued, but I am an honourable man, and I avoided watching them directly. Minutes whiled away, the playlist on my earphone threatened to repeat. I lifted my head from the book in hand, and saw that they were still in that fervid embrace, mouths busy in transferring genetic memories, beads of sweat glistening on their foreheads even in the comfortable air conditioning.

How were they breathing? The suffocating grasp of torrid passion clasped their bodies together, and the distance of clothing couldn’t dampen the needs of their writhing bodies. Perhaps they became a singular organism, breathing in through one pair of nostrils, and breathing out through the other. I was but a passive observer, but I was an audience to a cosmic dance of love; and by virtue of my keen interest and ability to decode the pheromones in the air, I was privy to their secret messages which spilled out in the surrounding atmosphere. I could hear their silent cries of lust, longing and despair, and feel the reverberations of their act of defiance against the whole fucking world. It was clear that the kiss was a farewell one.

Perhaps they started kissing in 1939 Berlin, before the man had to go underground to hide his branded star. Maybe they kissed across the jail rods in 1990 Cape Town, where the woman had been incarcerated for her colour. They could also have started kissing recently, in Aleppo, before the man had to take a boat to Greece for a recce journey. Maybe they just kissed under the star-kissed sky over Bastar forest, well aware that they by the end of the night, they will both be dead from police’s bullets. Or, perhaps, they were from the future, kissing across the orange wall bordering Mexico.

Outside, the German countryside was running backwards at a dizzying pace.

Did the microbiota in their shared saliva know that they were going to separate soon? A part of the other would continue growing in their own bodies, were the couple aware of that? Their whole future life would bear witness to this moment of passion, as millions of organisms from the other person would multiply and thrive in their bodies. When later they spend their lonesome nights separately, will they remember that they still harbour bacteria from that last kiss on the train, before they parted their ways?

The next station came, the train was to stop for a few minutes. They got up, and after waiting for the other passengers to get down, stood at the door, resting against each other. Finally, the man got down, the woman stayed at the steps, inside. She leaned outward, and kissed him. This time, a shorter, more matter of fact, reserved peck. The lips parted, the door closed, the bacteria separated. She got back to her seat, and the train started moving.

Roots

I was sitting in the lazy December sun, in the south facing balcony of our native house, reading English, August. A myriad of small town sounds surrounded me, successfully thwarting my desperate attempt to concentrate on the book. The tenant’s girl downstairs loudly read her secondary chemistry. Masons chattered away while working rhythmically in the house under construction nearby. Ma was chatting with the housemaid as she cut Note Shaak for our lunch. My grandfather, the sole resident of the house now, was reading the newspaper, unknowingly breathing in a periodic manner, according to a IMG_20161230_133915203.jpghalf forgotten exercise from a TV health show. I could hear my father on the other end of the house, talking in a highly accented Hindi with his clients on phone; they wouldn’t leave him alone even for a couple of days of vacation. Cycles and motorbikes plied occasionally on the road below, and exchanged pleasantries with the people on the road in a way only small town residents can. The quilt that I was using the night before, rested beside me to catch the sunlight, and a stream of dust spiralled up in the shard of sunlight above.

I was finding it difficult to read about the listless life of a young and disillusioned Indian civil servant with the humdrum recitation of the periodic table in the background. Nostalgic phantasms of halogens and chalcogens steered the mind away easily.

In the closed verandah, there was a small drainage hole where the wall and the floor met. As a kid, I had to judge its position accurately while playing with my exceptionally bouncy ball, much to my father’s ire. Another time, a bunch of monkeys raided our house for the guavas and Sajina flower, and climbed up the railings. I distinctly remember one of them sitting on the balcony ledge, oblivious to my grandmother’s loud excoriations. Only after finishing its guava peacefully and decorating the ledge with a freshly minted turd, did it take our leave.

Kanthi, the town, has a distinct old world impression in my mind. I used to visit the town, the native of my parents, only about once a year during my entire school life. Now that I live in Bangalore for college, the visits are even rarer. During each trip, my grandfather would announce a new list of acquaintances in the town that have passed away in the duration of our absence, and my parents would commiserate with anecdotes from their childhood. A thread of absurdity held all stories together, although they never felt out of place there.

Only the day before, while returning from Digha, the beach nearby, my grandfather was telling us the story of the first offer of marriage that he received. Apparently the girl’s father, impressed by his struggles in pursuing higher education, offered him his daughter’s hand in marriage along with half their land. My great grandfather, whose interest had been piqued by this incredible offer, decided to visit the girl’s family to see her. On the eve of leaving for their house, which was half a day’s journey away from his own village, he suffered a massive stroke and passed away. With such a sinister omen befalling before the possible union, my great grandmother went to a famous astrologer with the girl’s horoscope. After long calculation, the astrologer wrote down some numbers on a piece of paper, and connected them in the form of a serpent. Of course, marriage was out of the question. As we drove through the narrow road back from the beach, and the setting sun hid behind a grey, almost dark sky, and wispy fog rose from the paddy fields far away, the story sounded absolutely credible.

The tenant’s daughter raised her voice a notch. Restless, I got up and decided to take a walk around the house.

The roots of the present grow deep into the fissures of the brickwork of time, and sometimes, peeping into one of cracks in the plaster, we see time, frozen and immobile, shining out through the façade. Old photos and memorabilia scattered around the house offered snapshots of forgotten episodes of our collective history.

My grandmother had been diagnosed with cancer when I was in class 7. After months of treatment, which took away much of her strength, she returned to Kanthi, her home, in July 2008. Katun, as I call her, was deeply religious. Her days would revolve around the lunar cycles in the almanac, and ceremonies of varying levels of importance would be marked in her calendar. She hardly changed her schedule even as her stamina ebbed with the multiples doses of chemotherapy. She would call us in Kolkata and inform us about the ritual that had to be followed on that day regularly, but the strain in her voice grew worse with time. In August, feeling unwell, she came to Kolkata, and passed away on September 4th, of septicemia.

There was an old calendar hanging on the wall beside the dining table. Dusty and yellowed, it was from the Kanthi daily newspaper, and had an overlay of the lunar calendar with the normal Gregorian months mentioning all the festivals. Taking a closer look, I realized it was from 2008. The last page that had been flipped, which was the one on top, was from August, 2008. There, right in front of our blind eyes for almost nine years, was something that had been last touched by my grandmother, before she left home for the last time.

“Vapour of Chlorine is yellowish green in colour and ….”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry for Neera

This poem is for no one, Neera, but you,

This poem is directed to your empty mouth at midnight

 

When, you, waking up suddenly, sipping water,

Will bite your tongue and for a moment, wonder,

Who is it that is remembering you so late into the night?

Then, each line word letter comma dash colon and fullstop

From this poem, will race towards you, your face

Mellowed by the trance of slumber, hair undone –

My silent words like my warm breath in bed,

Will aim for you; like the arrow from an expert archer

Will pierce you, only you.

 

Don’t be scared, Neera, you sleep, I am in a land far far away,

My dangerous hand will not touch you tonight,

My impossible heat, passion, lust and muffled cries

Won’t frighten you; my passion

Flickering like the tepid candle flame,

Will reach you through my words and letters.

When they kiss you , you wouldn’t even know –

Even if they stay with you for the whole night,

In the same bed, you wouldn’t wake up; in the morning,

They will be at your feet like dead moths –

Their presence immortalized only in the deepest pores of your body.

 

When I meet you many days later, unplanned like a waterfall,

You would laugh, oblivious and innocent, Neera,

And I will keep looking at your beautiful face –

While continuing the small talk, I will caress you,

In public, only before my mind’s eyes.

 

You wouldn’t even guess – Neera, your whole body bears witness

To the words in my very personal poetry.

 

(Translation of “Neera-r Jonyo Kobita-r Bhumika”, by Sunil Gangopadhyay)

The GRE conundrum

 

My GRE exam is in two weeks, which implies that all my normative activities are currently abeyant. I had imagined that my endeavours as a budding scientist would circumduct  around science, but no, the ludicrous perdition of an exam requires me to improve my lexicon.

words_istock_000015756375_large1Now I was a tyro in this exam practice business, and put up a semblance of confidence about taking the test. I was at my Pollyannaish best, even being complaisant enough to help out others. I thought I was comfortable with the English language, so I shrugged off the  portends of the GRE exam insouciantly, almost with effrontery. Like others, I took umbrage at the obvious avarice of ETS.  But I underwent a vicissitude and my  chimerical bubble shattered soon enough; and I realised that while my English was savvy enough for quotidian activities like reading, writing and talking, GRE was a different beast to tame.

And soon enough I got exposed to the litany of Word Lists available on the internet, and they all turned out to be redoubtable. I thought maybe reading novels would be an expedient way of learning words, but none of the novels could tell me what a palimpsest was. Dolorous clouds hovered in the horizon of my mind, and prognostication of terrible, err, abhorrent marks in the exam became contingent. My earlier ephemeral complacence transmuted to  apprehension, and the maudlin nostalgia of a younger, artless life overpowered me. I started asking existential questions regarding the epistemology of life, and whether the travails of GRE vocabulary building would result only in a pyrrhic victory.

But my peripatetic journey through word lists were not without their perquisites. I learnt that noisome didn’t excite the ears as much as it did the nose; and maunder was just a proxy word for meander. However ,my attempts to  enrapture my peers with diction were met with repudiation; with many of them disavowing their friendship with a dilettante with an ostentatious choice of words. They impugned my importunate tendency to engage in turgid loquacity. They eschewed me when they had their occasional powwows, and I was left  forlorn and lugubrious.

With the universe conniving to stymie me in my journey to lexicographic glory, I turned a phlegmatic ear to the objurgations. Instead of becoming elegiac, I decided to take this ponderous journey alone, steadfast, with only Magoosh as my appurtenant.

However, sometimes in the middle of the night when phantasms of flashcards carrying unintelligible words wake me up, I try to remind myself that I was here to do science.

What the coitus.

 

Corridor Talks 1 : the social responsibility of future scientists

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Corridors in my hostel become centers of discussion on various topics at night, ranging from the extremely banal to the fantastically esoteric. What I missed the most in my summertime sojourn  in Germany were these nocturnal powwows in my corridor, where knowledge and opinions fly in the air.

I am into my last year in Bachelors, which means that most of the conversations with my batchmates revolve around the future. Being an undergrad in primarily a research institute, most of our future plans involve trying to become like our seniors in the institute – grad students, people whom we love to hate (especially when they are checking your papers) and hate to love (when they teach you better than your professors). The process to becoming a grad student is a stressful one, what with applications, exams and the hunt for recommendation  letters. But the biggest source of stress is in the decisions that need to be taken. Graduate School is the most significant investment of possibly the most productive phase in one’s life. So it’s not surprising that existential questions arise in our minds – one of the many battles to fight before we embark upon the next step in our careers.

Now this blog post isn’t about making peace with myself regarding the stress of the purported career choice, it is about another pertinent issue that shapes our future.

It all started after we attended a talk on the “Joys of discovery in modern science”, by Prof. Ananthanarayan, a senior professor in IISc. This kind of a talk is quite rare in an institute like IISc; it is often assumed that people who are in here are already enthusiastic about science and don’t need occasional motivation. No wonder the talk was meant to be a trial run for another talk that he was invited to deliver to a general public outside IISc. The crux of Ananthanarayan’s talk was that modern science has been largely driven by the urge of human beings to discover the unknown, the promise of scientific glory and the immense joy of discovery. While the talk went on for about an hour, we spent more time in our corridor at night, dissecting and analysing the talk which gave rise to some interesting insights. This blog post is a distillate of that nightly discussion.

The question that we tried to address was about whether scientists should pursue science with possible applications in mind, or whether the research that they do should be left aside to be something that they prefer to do, without the extra baggage of societal applicability. This is, in fact, not such a straightforward decision. In many professions we are inspired to follow our passion and that’s the end of it; it is assumed that the zeal of an individual can drive that person to maximum productivity. However, it is often impossible to turn a blind eye to the world around us when it comes to the career that we choose. A 15 minute drive around Bangalore is enough to evoke in you a sense of privilege that we have began to associate ourselves with, so naturally. The stark inequality and deprivation even in the lives of many people in a metropolitan city like Bangalore is enough to make you feel privileged. Recently when Noam Chomsky visited India and was on the same cab with Aruna Roy, he was shocked to see many mendicants on the road of our capital city. Roy, a social activist herself, told Chomsky, that in India, “you have to be blind in order to walk the roads.” Otherwise, the disparity in the conditions of the lives of people will engulf any sentient human being with a sense of guilt.

The reason that I am able to study in a premier institute in our country has to do with the financial stability that my family has gifted me with. Chances are, that if I had been exchanged at birth in the hospital where i was born, I would be leading a life of much less stability, and most probably without the freedom to pursue the career of my choice, which is to become a scientist.

When I was preparing for my entrance examinations after high school I was enrolled in a coaching institute where I was one of the more meritorious students, in the sense that the institute identified me as a potential “rank material” among my other colleagues. So my fees were waived off, and I was sent into a special batch with the most promising students in my batch and we were given the best set of tutors. On the other hand, lured by the promise of good rank, thousands others enrolled in the same institute paying the full fees, but they were not given the best professors. In a way, they were paying for us, and the system was rigged against them in such a way that they were not even getting the best education. If I extrapolate the situation to all aspects of human lives in our country, are we not a part of the privileged few with the opportunity to study in a premier educational institute, while our education is being subsidised by the thousands who are not  getting the same opportunities as us?

So does that realisation not immediately handcuff my liberty as a scientist to choose my research topic? Am I not automatically expected to give back something concrete to the society that has invested in me, almost in an altruistic way?

This is where the ethics become murky. Such an attitude will immediately bring to question the usefulness of ‘fundamental’ or ‘basic’ scientific research, most notably in fields like theoretical physics or mathematics. My interest is in theoretical physics, and I am fully aware that if I pursue the field of my interest, I am not going to produce any work that will affect the lives of the disadvantaged people around me in any way, not in any foreseeable future.

At this stage of the realisation, the most obvious thing to justify your career choice is by questioning the true meaning of the pursuit of science, civilisation and humanity as a whole. If we, as a part of the society, are not going to invest in things like art, music or basic science, then what are we achieving as mankind, on the whole?

This is tricky business. While being perfectly acceptable, this borders on being escapist.

On the other hand, more applicable sciences, like bioscience and technology research have the potential to revolutionise human lives in ways ‘fundamental’ science can’t even hope to do. But the important thing to ask ourselves is, how are these applications going to really impact the society?

If it is about creating a positive difference to the deplorable conditions in our society, chances are that these applications are not going to affect the lives of these people in any significant manner. Research in Artificial Intelligence, though highly applicable in our day to day activities, will not be able to lift the poor beyond the poverty line. Neither can material research with ground-breaking implications in electronics engineering. And the skeptic in me also believes that cancer research, if it comes up with a solution, is also not going to improve the lives of the economically backward class in any obvious way.

So the reason why people do ‘applicable’ research is much the same as why some others do ‘basic’ research; they get a kick out of it. To live in the illusory premise of doing his/her bit for the betterment of the society tantamount to not recognising the true problems that cause disparity in our society. At the end of the day, we must realise that as scientists our roles in the changing of the social fabric is limited. Hence, a theoretical physicist who spends her weekends teaching school children from slums might be doing more useful work for the betterment of our society than an experimental chemist developing materials to improve the next generation of electronic devices, who doesn’t realise that his research is probably not going to change the social fabric one bit.

The choice is finally up to an individual scientist. Do you want to get a kick out of doing something applicable, or are you going to derive the same pleasure by discovering something fundamental about nature? In either case, if you want to make the world a better place, you should probably be taking an active effort outside your profession.

At least this is what we, a bunch of naive undergrads standing and discussing in the corridor outside our hostel rooms, felt.

 

 

Confabulations

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
Oscar Wilde

At many points in my life I have wondered if I am retracing paths that have already been traversed before. What if each and every moment in these 21 years of existence has been lived before, in some chapter in someone else’s book?

But then again, there are moments, when these thoughts can act as support, can validate your existence. The fact that all your experiences are extremely banal when seen through the monocle of history, can at times be an unnerving, and yet an uplifting motivation to continue. And then, you can slowly retract from real life and allow your imagination to fill in the gaps in memory and reality. Transcending history and geography, the normal life can, then, become a passionate quotation in a novella. Characters become phantasms, and conversations, confabulations.

Standing at the north western cusp of our joint continent, looking deep into the Atlantic, towards the setting Sun hidden by lugubrious clouds, my vision blurred, and the wispy smoke of magic overpowered the rigid tenets of reality.

Suddenly, I was not standing in the modern cosmopolitan sea port near Amsterdam anymore. The scenes transformed before me, and there I stood, a sailor from the far orient, with a piece of brown paper, feather and ink, and an empty glass bottle, seated on the deck of my ship that was anchored at a promontory by the Atlantic, at the cusp of nineteenth century western civilisation.

And I decided to write to you.

gag
Somehow this reminds me of the alleys in Amsterdam. Painting by Gaganendranath Tagore.

 

I have some seashells by my side. They say that you can hear across the sea through a seashell. But an ocean is too large I guess, I couldn’t hear you through them. Still, as I held the shells close to my ears and looked across the ocean towards the horizon, a thought crossed me – what if, at that exact moment, you were facing me, from across the Atlantic?

When we parted our ways in the east, the promise of the west was too overwhelming for us to understand how far distance can be. Our world was divided into our country, and outside – of course there were mountains, oceans and continents in the map, but now that I am away from home, these miles seem much longer. When we said our parting words, and you sailed away on a different ship than me, we were both going to the west, to different lands of opportunities, but the sheer number in nautical miles hadn’t registered in my naive head then; not yet.

And my travels since then! Our ship, which was filled with spices and novelties from our country, stopped at many stops on the way. And as the merchants spent their time on shore selling the goods, I spent my time walking through history. In Venice I saw Moorish sellers selling their wares in Ponte Rialto and an English poet sitting by the Bridge of Sighs. In Florence I saw young artists transform a piece of rock into an upright, beautiful man in Ghirlandaio’s workshop. In Rome, I saw scaffolds being put up in the greatest church of the Catholics, and I saw artists lift themselves up, bend back and paint the empty ceilings with images from Christ’s life. Further west, I came across a traveller who had spent years in the orient! He spoke our tongue imperfectly, but even that broken language sounded as sweet as ma’s lullaby.

Now I am sitting off the western coast of this continent, a country the locals call the Nether – lowly- lands. Inshore, along the Amstel river, the engineers have salvaged land from the sea, and they have built the most important port of Europe here. Built on a dam on the Amstel, they call their city Amsterdam, with crescent shaped canals circling the port where the world meets Europe.

You know, yesterday, we were lodged up in a tavern in the city, when one of our mates suggested that we play this game that he had learnt in one of his previous trips. He emptied his bottle of wine, and placed it on the floor and spun it. When it stopped spinning, we had to ask a question to the person whom the bottle was pointing to, and he had to answer truthfully. As the smoke of cannabis spiraled up and filled up our room, and the thriving nocturnal businesses of the Amsterdam went on outside our windows, secrets spilled and were carved into stories. In the smoke filled room, I felt as if I was surrounded by multiple Scheherazade-s, each telling a story, waiting for the night to end.

There is no more space in this piece of paper, and even the ink is getting over. I am going to roll up the letter and put it in this bottle and throw it off board soon.

Will this ever reach you? I think not. We will probably return to our country before the bottle will even leave this sea shelf. But imagine, what if centuries later, someone discovers this letter on the coast! And imagine, what if my story is also his story, this Scheherazade from the future? What if his mind is also clouded with apparitions from the future and the past, like mine is? And what if he is also yearning to hear a voice from across the Atlantic through the seashells?

What if?

 

 

Beyond borders

This last one month has been quite a blur. I travelled around Europe in the weekends, and worked in the university during the week – all this while still discovering new hacks for this new phase of my life – and it has been quite overwhelming.

I was accompanied by my friends (from college, who are also interning in Europe) for all the trips till now; and we have had our own adventures on the road. From being robbed in Milan, pickpocketted in Venice to spending a night in the Munich train station after missing the connections, we, individually and as a group, have had quite a few mishaps. However, all the troubles seemed worthwhile when we walked through the maze of roads in Venice while listening to the wonderful stories of Byron, Shylock and Moorish business men of yore, watched a ballet performance screened live outside the famed Vienna opera house, cycled past the Danube through postcardesque towns and vineyards of the Wachau valley and stood mesmerized under the breathtaking ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

At some points, when I stopped on my track and allowed the moment to sink in, it almost seemed as if I was immersed in a dream. Not only because the sights were beautiful; I had never experienced foreign cultures, in situ, as a traveller and not a tourist, before.

And what remains with me, apart from a bunch of photographs and a few souvenirs, are these little interactions that I had with the culture that I had, perhaps wrongly, assumed to be so very foreign.

Perhaps the most memorable incident in my European summer till now, has been the time when I came across this guy from Tirol in Austria who spent a summer in a village near Kolkata for his internship as a medical student.

I was on my train back from Austria, and managed to get a comfortable seat in the train with my friend. We were both tired and were looking forward to a good night’s sleep in the train before it reached Frankfurt early in the morning. However, soon after getting aboard in Vienna, we were joined in our compartment by two young men. The white guy immediately recognised us as Indians, and asked us which states we were from. On hearing that I am from West Bengal, he told us excitedly that he had spent his 2014 summer as an intern in RG Kar medical college in Kolkata and stayed in Ichhapore, a ‘village’ near Kolkata, with his friend. His friend, an Austrian born Bengali had his ancestral home at Ichhapore and these two friends decided to travel to Kolkata for their internship.

If someone had told me before boarding the train that I was going to share a compartment with person from Tirol, a quaint township in Austria, born to a farmer couple, who also practised medicine in a village near Kolkata for a summer, I would have probably scoffed at him or her. But indeed, there we were, a melee of cultures and nationalities in a single compartment – a kind German lady with little knowledge of English, this guy from Austria, another guy from the Caribbean studying in Salzburg, and us.

It’s fascinating, how the perceived differences between different nationalities, traditions and cultures, often melt away when we defocus our attention for a view from above. As we chatted away in a language that was not native to any of us, cracking jokes at each other’s expense, sharing expletives in our native languages and conversing about issues that affect us, it became increasingly easier with time to pretend that the geographical distance in our respective upbringings was not an issue at all. We were all travelers with similar sensibilities, similar ambitions, similar thought processes, maybe only tempered differently with our traditions and nationalities.

As the train raced through beautiful Austrian highlands and meadows, I couldn’t but relate my co passenger to the Dr. Sutherland in the book Chowringhee, by Shankar, who visited Calcutta after a lifetime of overseas services in search of his roots. A romantic illusion indeed, but who cares when you have the gift of imagination?

Tirol came soon enough. After all the handshakes were done and the farewells were exchanged, and they got off, I realised that I had forgotten to ask him his name!

What da fuck!

With a Tirolese accent.

Blending in

When I first stepped out of Siegen station, carrying a luggage that weighed half as much as I did, I was surprised to find the whole city deserted.

The city centre was empty, the information kiosks were closed. No people on the road, except for an occasional bike or car. As I followed the trail in Google Maps towards my hotel for more than a kilometre, I passed maybe two people in total. I knew that it was a national holiday in Germany – in fact that was why I had to go to a hotel instead of my University – but I didn’t expect a situation where there would be hardly any people on the road.

It was not how I had expected to begin my first visit to Europe.

As I checked into my hotel after an awkward conversation in English with the concierge, it was about to be evening. I could hear the church bell declare that it was five. I could see picturesque cottages from my window, basking in the setting sun on the side of the hills. Apart from a few birds chirping in the distance, no sound were to be heard. The lack of sound in the hotel room was unsettling, to say the least. I could hear my footsteps as I stepped into the bathroom, I could hear the last drop of water splash against the sink, I could hear the crackle of the cover when I opened a packet of biscuit. Back home, our silences are filled with a fluid volume of the rotating fan. Suddenly, I was missing my ceiling fan in the comfortably cold weather of Germany.

After another awkward encounter with the hotel staff, I had my lonely dinner, retreated to my room and instantly collapsed on the bed to dream away the  fatigue of a long intercontinental journey.

There are days when time ticks slowly and painfully, and then there are days when things happen so fast that it feels like you are going through a trance. The next day in Siegen was of the second kind.

By evening, I found myself seated in my new office space, with my new colleagues – a vibrant international group – slowly getting introduced to the dynamics of their – our – research group. And my first Friday evening in Europe was spent with three people, whom I had gotten introduced to a couple of hours before, sitting in a roof top pub, enjoying my first glass of German beer as the Sun set against the backdrop of this beautiful European town.

It seemed that all people in Siegen had come to the city centre to enjoy the beginning of their weekend. The open pedestrian area below us was filled with a motley of people, of a variety of colour and nationality, enjoying their Friday evening. Only then did I realise how mistaken my image of the town had been the day before.

And there I was, sitting with my three new friends, from Italy, Switzerland, and Germany, listening to their stories, exchanging opinions on topics ranging from Reddit to Syria, Quantum Computation to music instruments, and interacting with them as if I had always known them. As the sound around me filled my ears up, I suddenly remembered my thoughts about the ceiling fan on the previous day. I silently chuckled, and then got back to talking.

 

 

 

 

How not to write your first blog post

Travelling brings out my most productive side – I plan all my work in the flight and the airports for days – collect all the books, transfer all the files to the right folder in my Kindle and make a To-do list on my phone before I travel.

Sadly, most of the time, I end up sleeping on board.

This blog, too, was conceived in the airport, months ago. I was going to Australia with my family, and starting a blog seemed to be the right thing to do before I boarded my flight to down under. I spent half an hour and more on the structure and template, and when the time came to write my first blog post, the time for complementary airport WiFi had already lapsed. And, the blog, with its ‘simple, economic and floaty’ template, ‘personal yet quirky’ name, and a ‘candid, light and evanescent’ About Me page, reached the same ephemeral end as a firefly on Diwali night.

So here I am, writing my first blog post, months after the rest of the blog was created, in yet another international airport, running against the ticking clock of the complementary airport WiFi. And if ever this blog takes off in the way my mind has already envisioned it to, and even if it doesn’t, I will have a fun time recalling the story of how I wrote the first post in the middle of the night in Dubai airport, waiting for my connecting flight to Frankfurt, groggy and sleep deprived after a long flight from home.