Scenes From Europe

Disclaimer: The scenic rendering and subsequent comparisons between various cultures and continents are the result of author's limited experience and biased perspective. Peruse Wikipedia if you like to read facts. 

# 1 I recently attended a conference in the new country (which I intend to keep anonymous - as long as I can) in Europe where I've started my PhD. I can say that here food and wine are more exquisite, and especially the food has actually salt in it as compared to the bland American food to which I had grown so accustomed lately, and as for the wine, there were hundreds (yes literally 100's) of wine glasses set bordering on the circumference of long tables, shimmering together under candle light - but of course no matter how lucrative, they were equally useless to my sober tongue. 

# 2 After owning and driving my own car in the United States for two years, which was a huge shift already for a person who rode a rickety bicycle in India, I'm finding it a bit inferior to step down again to the lowly level of a bicycle-riding-person. But the biking culture in this place is slightly amazing if not overwhelming, and it's almost beginning to affect both my sense and perspective. It's helping me stay slender, giving me that daily exercise which I used to often plan in my schedule but never actually accomplish it, and saving me some money on gasoline. And yes of course, when even professors are driving these bikes, I don't feel so bad (besides it gives one a false sense of pride and importance that one's not screwing up the environment and stuff)

# 3 Well, I really want to keep this blog clean and shouldn't really say this, but perhaps I can't stop myself already. The guys are sort of cute in this area of the world. And quite different from the mixture that you get in America. No cases of obesity so far have crossed my vigilant eye. But of course, some of the male population with overly hot features and lean body structures, tends to remind one of gay people.  I mean, happy people. And the ladies are a bit too fashionable, being typical with their angular features housed in leather jackets and huge sunglasses, which often helps in kicking up my inferiority complex whenever the superiority one is on rage.

# 4 The foreign, undecipherable language is the biggest challenge for living in Europe. At times, its interesting to explore all those little shops and restaurants with mysterious names, for mind is a curious organ indeed. But at times, it becomes a frustration, when one can't read any notice on the department's wall, or one can't figure out the nutritional/expiration traits of a food product, or one feels left out from a spicy conversation around the corner. 

And as for my PhD project, I am still not sure, what I've gotten myself into, for this field and area is supposedly new and intricate for me. And it's a nasty project, with different PhD students from collaborating universities handling different sections of the main work. Then, on top of that, they tell me, soon after I've started, that I'm handed the most difficult part of the project and if I can solve it in 3 years, only then there's some hope. And it's a fool's hope, they say, because they themselves know that it can't be done. So I feel like this little hobbit, who has been asked to destroy the ring - and instructions for the job are written in elvish.

Current Book: "The Portrait of a Lady" by Henry James (Why Sir James, I LOVE YOU, is your ghost still around by any chance?) 
Current Music: "Castle of Glass" by Linkin Park (mindblowing stuff, as usual)

Alcohol vs Scientific Research

Recently, a fellow blogger, Mr. What Ho made a nice gesture by asking me to do a guest blogpost on his super-famous humor blog (which I find truly comic), and I had two pieces for him, one is on his blog now and the other is here (it's an old post written a few months ago). I like the idea of doing guest blogging on other blogs (so contact me if you want me to write for you) but it becomes awesome when you're doing it for an upcoming author

I was at this giant conference a few days ago where I learned the unique symbiosis between alcohol and research. No kidding. Believe me or not, it's true. But yes, your mommy might not like this fact. 

My purpose at the conference was to acquaint myself with the current state of the art research and listen to as many presentations as possible. And like a good and sanskari kid, I've been staying away from alcohol, parties and similar shit. Turned out, staying sober may not be the best thing to do in Amreeka. 

So there was this nice young professor who was discussing his research with me, and I like a sincere graduate student was appreciating his intellect. And that's when he turned all weirdo, 

"So Tanya, what are you doing this evening?

"Uhmm? (Insert awkward expressions and inarticulate sounds a socially inadequate being could produce)"

"Well, there's a party organized by __ organization. There's gonna be free food, and free drinks too. Would you like to join? WYQ Conference is all about drinks."  

I was then in this quandary to say yes or no. Saying an immediate yes might have sounded desperate and an immediate no a bit rude. And also, I didn't have any party dress with me. My European friend had advised me to bring a piece or two but I am good at ignoring good advice. So I paused and reflected, but eventually said a yes, calming my conscience with the notion that my motivation to go to the party was only food, and nothing else. 

I accompanied the guy and found the party to be horrible. No free food at all! Liar, that bloody...Only drinks! How useless are unlimited margaritas for a person like me! In a small suite, 30 people were packed in darkness, drinking and smoking like the world's coming to an end. In about 30 seconds, I said goodbye to the professor and ran back to my own room, while on my way I dodged several lovely ladies dressed in golden gowns as they were scattered randomly all around the five star hotel the conference was organized at. 

I went to sleep after planning the next day's research sessions I was going to attend, when after a couple of hours the European friend I was sharing the room with, entered our room, mouthing expletives. She was heavily drunk and was staggering on the floor while undoing her high heeled sandals. She looked quite skimpy tonight and I slightly felt jealous of the life she was having at this conference: going to several parties every night, drinking heavily, dancing, rejecting cute guys, being happy overall. And then she started muttering something, which made me feel a lil bad first, but it countered the jealousy feeling I had before and I guessed that staying sober and nerdy wasn't that bad after all. 

"I hate these fucken old men. They keep staring at my goddamn legs. I want people to like me for what I am, not for my, my..." and then she passed out on the bed. 

And I went back to sleep, wondering if I'll be able to attend the next morning 8 AM paper presentation session. Some big shot from MIT was coming to present. 

Current Book: "The Portrait of a Lady" by Henry James
Current Music: "Call me maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen

Trivialities of Life

1 week ago...

The little things. It's always them. Them, little things.

Nourishing by the mother, support by the father, care by the sibling, and love by the lover (?) - summarizes the littlest things in my life and which very rarely makes me pause, and wonder why I'm running the way I am, and why ain't I taking life slow the way everyone else is. The recent 1 month spent in India has been full of such little things, things which are almost impossible to find anywhere else. The relaxed atmosphere of spending every day doing nothing, really nothing, watching time pass-by by idling on the endless list of TV channels, lying on the cushioned sofa with feet pointing towards the cooler, savoring the makhan on fifth and sometimes sixth aloo paratha, going to bed without an alarm clock on the side, and the mobile switched off and thrown in some forgotten corner of the house, waking up late and finding food set on the dining table, seeing others doing chores and not participating at all in anything that's going around, and lying sprawled on a floor mat in pyjamas on a hot afternoon reading that long lost book that you always wanted to read in the summer...

But well, now I must say goodbye to all this, and resume the hard path that I've chosen. The self-afflicted horror of pursuing a PhD in science awaits me and I must part with all that is little, and seek all that seems so grand, at least for now. And everyone has illusions, perhaps this is mine. After all, what is life without a sweet, impossible illusion?


It's been a week that I've been in this strange land in Europe. There is no time for little things, only a soft remembrance lurks in my vision that once such things were.

Research has gripped me early on, but what's more impacting is the strong culture shock that I'm now going through. This shock is stronger and deeper than the one I felt in United States two years ago, and it is full of events that leave me sometimes in exultation over my choices in life and sometimes in this powerful kind of agony that is hard to tame. . . (to be continued)

Current Book: "The story and its writer" edited by Ann Charters
Current Music: "Somebody that I used to know" by Gotye

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