Elves from Princeton, Hobbits to Mordor

Following snippets are from the PhD campus visit I recently had in an awesome university:

# I reached the university 10 hours later than my scheduled time due to all kinds of snowstorms which cancelled/delayed possible flights and left me to rely on reluctant bus drivers who at one point actually controlled my fate single-handedly. Hungry, tired and with messed up hair, my series of interviews with various professors began 5 minutes shortly after I reached their campus. I was most interested in the following professor because he was not an engineer but a scientist:

"So Ms. Singhal, you're clearly at a disadvantage here. You missed all the morning sessions where the faculty gave their research overviews, so you've no clue what we do-"

I cut him and told what I knew. And I offered if he's interested in seeing some of my papers that I had brought along.

"Ah I see. So you've done your homework."

# Another professor that I liked went into more of a philosophical questioning.

"So Ms. Singhal your research is interesting. Do you think you can apply these concepts to the real world? How long do you think we may have before these technologies are available for the public welfare?"

I guessed 10 years and she laughed.

"Well, things change rather slowly in the US, Ms. Singhal. 10 years is too optimistic anyway. So, tell me, do you think you can change the world?"


# Once the interviews ended, I was quite happy and sort of imagined that I had bagged it and all. Little did I know then that the competition was incredibly fierce with candidates from Ivy leagues and such brand names that I didn't even feel like telling people that I was from Jaali University. We had a lot of free food and lot of socializing events, campus tours, lab tours etc which I enjoyed but hour by hour in those three days I kept on meeting stronger and stronger candidates. Prospective graduate students were from Georgia Tech, Berkeley, Texas Austin, Stanford, Penn State, MIT, etc and even Princeton for god's sake. And the only reason those guys were interested in this university was because they had lived 20 years in their hometown and now wanted a goddamn change. Secondly this university which we were visiting is supposedly ranked good in my tiny specialization but overall the university is not that much of a tagname as Caltech, Ann Arbor etc.

Once I saw the people, their profiles, and their high IF publications, I turned quite depressed and tried my best to passively convey that this university isn't really as good as the others they have applied to. I tried this hard on the Princeton elf, this smart, hunk of a dude with a royal breeding who was looking down upon everything anyway. I sometimes wonder how god can make people so intelligent and so hot at the same time. And why I ain't blessed with a single quality? I hope he goes to Harvard or something. But why would anyone leave Princeton anyway.

So well, near the final hours of my stay at the cursed campus I was quite upset and began to hate everything. I hated my own incapability, own lame existence. I just had or have no chance. Profs were being nice to everyone apparently and will let us know in 2-3 weeks. I know what they gonna let us know. . .

And then I felt like a lonely, weak hobbit stranded in the dark land of Mordor. And I felt, I felt, Elves may be strong and capable but they don't care about the battle. They are just too good to participate or fight. They have nothing to fight for, no desperation they have in their soul. And most of all, they and all the other creatures of this middle earth lack one thing, with which this poor hobbit is blessed in a surplus quantity. And it is due to that one thing, this hobbit was able to match her shoulders with tall elves for a couple of days on sacred grounds. That one thing which I cherish beyond all, my friends, is courage.

Current Book: "Selected Stories" by Edgar Allan Poe
Current Music: "Badal pe paun hain.." by Chak De India

Awards and stuff

So this is a totally useless post for this week so you may not really need to read it if you're looking for something which you usually look for when you visit this blog. However, if you happen to like me and are in the bandwagon of those silent yet loyal followers who are often curious to know how my life is screwing up as a function of time, you're welcome to stay.

So lately, I was given this blog award and all and am pretty much new n excited towards this stuff. I guess this isn't that huge a deal in the blogosphere but I guess it's a nice gesture especially when it is done to a lesser creature like us. So here we do the formalities for acceptance of Liebster award (I first thought I got a free lobster or something but no, no free food here)

So, thanks Devan for this kind gesture.

And now I guess I've to pass it on to five beloved bloggers. And that put me in lot of trouble first because I think I love nobody and then at the same time I love everyone a lot but only in exact same proportion. But then it occurred to me, there have been some regular people commenting on my rants and possibly in some deep, dark corner of my heart they are the most beloved to me. So naturally award goes to them (in no particular order) (really sorry if I missed some1, am very sleepy at this moment):

Shreya, at Life Unlimited
Neeraj, at Probing Life
Kirklops, at Interstate 42
Rangr, at Intasa

These people are kind of just awesome. Thanks for visiting here and making your presence felt guys because it makes my day. It really does.

And on other news on my life, this week I'm travelling for the ultimate PhD interview in a university which is supposedly #1 in my specialization in US. I'm pretty tensed. I'll share the details of the event live from their campus soon next week.

Current Book: "Selected Stories" by Edgar Allan Poe
Current Music: "Tanha Dil.. Tanha Safar.." by Shaan

Free Advice to a Random Romeo on Valentine's Day

Here are the first emails that I received ever seeking free advice.

"Dear mighty-all knowing-amazon of the universe, (A standard greeting for me which wasn't included in reality)

Read your blog about advising
Can you advise me on my questions regarding relationship.

Thanks in advance."

This followed another email:

Actually I want to give her a valentine gift
help me urgently.

Thanks & Regards,
Mr. Random Romeo +91-98-------"

Dear Mr. Random Romeo,

Thankyou so much for contacting us for advice as its seldom that our views are sought by the public and once in a while, when they are, our soul is filled with so much of gratitude (and a slight shadow of embarrassment) that we can't exactly explain to you how it feels, but it must be enough for you to know that we feel and we feel much better. And now I should be focusing on your feelings (which are the concern at this moment), instead ranting away at an innocent fan seeking advice.

Well, in the matters of relationship and love, I mostly suck, but then the most awesome advice comes from all the suckiest corners of the world, so you are not in that bad of a receiving end. Uhm-uhm.When giving gifts to ladies or women or female creatures of any sort, soft toys, bunnies, stuffed lame animals (consider sheep) etc most of the times do the job and I hope that you're aware of this universal fact. Of course we shall not pretend that you're unaware of the power of expensive Jewellery but guessing by your emails and the tone of urgency I can predict that you're looking for smarter/cheaper options and "Jewellery" is certainly not what you want to hear. Certainly not.

Hmm, crossing out stuffed toys, Jewellery, you may consider the normal clothes or apparels from some branded showroom but then again you may be doomed if you mess up on the figure/size and that option may also devour your pocket. (Sorry, we don't know why we're sounding so stingy today, but if you can afford stuff, go ahead, get plenty of gifts for her, play safe)

Lastly, what "we" would like ideally from our valentine (in some lucky, parallel universe we might have a handsome valentine waiting for us) would not be something expensive bought from a fancy showroom* but it would be something personalized, something unique (here's the point where girls go vague and incomprehensible), something that wins our heart! Something crafted, moulded just for us and our relationship, even if that's as trivial as a couple of old pictures stapled together in the shape of a heart with golden frills/glitters all around, it would work, in a nut shell something which would show that my guy spent time and effort on making that gift, and making that valentine's day special for us, just for us.


*On a second thought, for us, expensive Jewellery would work just fine. Thanks.

Current Book: "Selected Stories" by Edgar Allan Poe (guh no progress)
Current Music: "Valentine's Day" by Linkin Park

A Flame in Turmoil

As you may have guessed from my absence that I've been terribly busy (assuming, no, rather hoping that there are people who actually care about this blog), I kind of feel bad for not writing for a while. Life has been such that there was some travel and then there is growing pressure of my MS graduation coming closer.

I don't know how to explain the situation that I'm in as clear as I hope I ought to tell but I'll give it a shot anyway. Basically, I'm looking for PhD positions at various universities and turns out funding and stuff is terrible rare these days. And I had two unofficial offers from two normal univs in whom I was never interested in the first place and the profs sounded kind of pushy and wanted me to say yes immediately, which made me shrink away further.

I mean I would rather continue with Prof. X rather than go out and find a worse devil to be my jailer for the next 4-5 years. But lately, as the awesome universities I've applied to are acting lazy in sending me back their decisions (rejections?), I am constantly haunted by an old conversation that I had with Prof X.

"So Tanja, did you figure out where you gonna do your PhD?"

"Uhmm, no? I just finished applying. How can-"

"See Tanja, you must decide fast. I can't hold funds for you till the end. Either you continue your work here at 'Jaali University' or you tell me right away that you plan to leave. I've a Japanese girl on my top list that's planning to come here for PhD, I can't support you once I hire others."

"B-b-b-b-b-b-ut, how can I decide before hearing back from any univ? Couldn't you give me some time to decide? ("Oh you bastard, don't you blame Japan now" <- This is what I wanted to say but couldn't say)

"I don't care where you go. I need a PhD student starting from the next semester, either you or someone else. Maximum, I can wait till February, after that if you come to me asking for PhD funds, I certainly can't help you. Have a good day."

And with that he trotted away, that son of a ___, leaving me in turmoil. This happened three months ago, and so far I'ven't got a single offer. And I don't know what's gonna happen to my future. Worst case scenario, I return back to India, jobless and hopeless, with a degree which no one cares about.


Three days ago things somewhat changed. A university has now invited me for a campus visit on their expense; it's not an offer yet, but it's something like a streak of light, a droplet of hope, a flicker of a flame, or really I think it represents the loose, abandon, window door in my dark and dusty attic.

Current Book: "Selected Stories" by Edgar Allan Poe
Current Music: "Powerless" by Nelly Furtado

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