A new phase and a new blog

Hello everyone,

Priceless Junk was created when I was a high school student back home in Bangalore. This blog has always been very close to my heart albeit its ups and downs over the course of many years. I originally fell in love with blogging because it provided me an opportunity to open up myself (and my life) to a tiny part of this world. Turning over a new leaf is my attempt to get back to the roots with a fresh start. I have been wanting to write about science and education (among other things) for a long time now and I don’t think Priceless Junk is the right platform to do that anymore. The last year has changed me to a huge extent and I just can’t relate to this persona any longer. I enjoyed my time here as an ambivert, confused high school and college student who was trying to figure herself out. The past year has given me a great deal of exposure, perspective, confidence and determination to renew my attitude towards life.

Priceless Junk encompasses one phase of me and now it’s time to move on to the next. I no longer feel the need to bury this space under the deep dark corners of the web. I am truly grateful that I had the chance to share my thoughts with you all. I have known some of you longer than I’ve known my friends, and it delights me to witness all of us moving ahead in all directions to achieve greater things!

This is definitely not a goodbye and I hope we can keep in touch through my new blog or my twitter account, where I chatter a lot.

Priya

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It has been a month since I started a new chapter of my life as a graduate student in a foreign land. What may I tell you about it? I have been meaning to put my experiences into words for the blog but it seems so hard to write now. Please help me get back to this hobby that I once loved dearly. I’d very much like to contain my memories in this tiny part of the blogosphere. Let’s see where this takes me.

Phase 3

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This part of my life is called Phase 3. After school and college, it’s now time for university. Time to get real. Time to put the “i” in individualism.

Life Update

The other day, someone asked me why I’d stopped blogging. I am getting old and conscious of revealing my life openly on the web, that’s why. Seeing an old post of mine being shared on facebook was so embarrassing. I had to edit half of the text and correct a few lines to make it seem decent enough for the people who were going to stumble upon it. When I started blogging many years ago, I used to do it for me – simply to record random (un)interesting occurrences in my life. Anyway, because I don’t talk about myself a lot on here these days and maybe you guys want to know what’s going on with me (maybe not? oh well), here it is.

I have a week left in Bangalore before I take-off to Indiana and survive all by myself. It took me long time to realize what all of this really meant. I am finally flying away from my protective humble abode to go out there and create myself. It is scary and exciting at the same time. I am currently packing away my life into suitcases. I wish I could take with me everything that I have here, but I can’t. Life from now is going to be hard and painful. This has also made me realize how I took everything for granted here. Learning to take care of things that belong to me, show responsibility and gratitude is what I have to learn first.

What’s my forte?

Have you ever felt like you are so confused with yourself that you need to catch hold of every opportunity that comes your way and experiment with different things simultaneously? This is exactly my life at the moment. The problem with me is I get into a lot of things, with enthusiasm at first and eagerness to know what the outcome is going to be. I’m not complaining. Some of the best things that have happened to me so far have been a result of this random experimentation.

When I walked into the college gates on the first day, I was a confident person and was pretty clear about the decisions that I’d made in the past couple of months that year. Now, after four years, I find myself lost again, unsure of which path to take. I’ve met people who’ve always been focussed about what they expect from life. People who can see themselves working at a specific company or studying at a particular university five years down the line. I’ve grown up with such people from high school. Sometimes I feel all the freedom that I’ve received, like the freedom to choose whichever field to pursue, etc, has left me spoilt for choices. Maybe the best thing to do right now is to not over-think things and just dive into an uncertain future. An exciting future filled with infinite number of possibilities!

Prayer

I recently got acquainted with this girl for my project work. She is sweet, polite and some-what oblivious to many new things (like technology, etc). At the same time, she is very street smart. A thing about her that caught my attention the most was that she prays before every meal that she has. We’ve been having lunch together everyday, and before she digs in, she takes a minute to close her eyes and pray to her god – Jesus. Today, I asked her what she says in her prayer. She said she thanks Jesus for the food, asks him to take care of her family and friends, asks him to help the poor, and thanks him for everything in general.

I felt very uneasy at that moment not knowing how to react and just smiled. I would generally think like this – thank my dad for his job for that provides money to my family (and thus becomes the source of my lunch money), humans take care of other humans (so I should take care of my parents and vice versa) and accept the reality of the world (poverty, hunger, draught, inflation, etc). But then, I got thinking – she is smart and well educated to be aware of the world. Why would she feel the need to escape? How could she actually believe that Jesus had only 23 chromosomes (she really told me this!) especially having studied biology in such depth? The answer is – religion is not as feeble as we think it is. Sometimes, people have the need to rely on something -or someone- to convince themselves that hope and faith can be powerful. They are not delusional. They are aware and wide awake. If praying gives them strength, so be it. If religion lessens their burdens, so be it.

I have never been a very religious person (except when I think praying to ‘god’ is the last resort to make something really happen). I don’t get the idea of having to pray to some supernatural being for the food we consume or the clothes we wear. I guess I’m just grateful for my folks for having the luxuries that I have. I am not against any religious people or their beliefs, I just don’t agree with them. We did have such prayers in school in the mornings and before lunch breaks. Everybody just lets go of such things once they move on in life. But I have a sense of respect and appreciation for those who stick on to it. It takes a lot to be regularly dedicated to something, let alone your religion. Even if it’s something that’s as simple as praying.

The tradition of praying in the mornings and before meals exists in many families even today. I think it teaches people to respect things and other beings. It teaches them to have compassion and appreciate the things they have in life. I have reality checks about these things too, but never through religion. I may never follow it, but seeing someone else humbly follow it doesn’t disturb me. Everyone has different ways to cope with the world.

10 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Teenage Self

When I turned 20 last year, someone commented on twitter saying that I could now use the phrase “during my time..” in conversations. Being officially on the ‘other side’ for more than a year, I don’t quite remember my teenage years as well as I thought I would. Surprisingly, for me, the times filled with sadness and depression are more clear in my mind than the happy times.

I cannot label my teenage self. I guess I was a little bit of everything. I was very average, normal and somehow just ‘fit-in’. If I had a chance to go back in time and fix things – like broken friendships – I probably would. But sadly, I can’t. I’ve gotten past the stage to even feel miserable about these things now. One major advice I would have given my teenage self was to be confident of who I was. As a young girl, I wasn’t very outstanding and confident. I admired other girls who were “out there” – grabbing opportunities and achieving things. I was always the second option at most of these things. A replacement for another artist at representing my school at a painting competition. I was a good artist – but not the best. I never got selected for any major event – I desperately wanted to be a part of the MUN and debate team. Sadly the teachers thought I wasn’t worthy of this. School was sometimes very demeaning for me. Anyway, all this changed in college and I can’t be more happy about it. The thing is, in college, we get to take decisions for ourselves, teachers don’t.

10 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Teenage Self -

1. Be confident about who you are. You are no less or greater than anyone else. Don’t be afraid to present yourself to others. Be proud of your accomplishments, however small or insignificant they seem to be. They are going to boost your confidence for bigger things in life later on. There is absolutely no use in comparing yourself to your peers.

2. Don’t be afraid to fall in love. Accept love as any other human feeling and be okay with it. Love isn’t a magical fantasied experience as how Disney shows it to be. It is beautiful and great, yes, but don’t exaggerate the boundaries of the feeling.

3. Talk to your parents more often. Get to know them. Be open and honest with them. The bond that you form now will determine the one that you have in the future. Make it easier at this age, so that it doesn’t have to be awkward and odd later in life.

4. Build your stamina, exercise regularly, take care of your body. Make it a practice. We tend to realize the importance of being healthy only later in life. It’s not really about having a good physique. It’s about being healthy and active. Learn what’s good for your body and how you react to different situations.

5. Hang on to close friends. True friendship is hard to find and it takes efforts from both sides. Have friends who like you for who you are. That being said, know that it is okay to drift apart… What matters is that you both acknowledge your friendship even after many years. They are truly your friends.

6. You can be anyone you want to be. It may seem like you have very limited options in front of you for your future. But really, there are going to be many many more options ahead of you. Choose wisely.

7. Talk to more people, all kinds of people. Make connections. Build bonds. Every person has something to offer that you can learn from. This is going to open your mind to many new possibilities. Know their stories, it will help you in creating your own. You will learn more from other people than from books and lectures. Have your own opinions in conversations. Have plenty conversations.

8. Do the things that you love more often. Interests may change frequently, but stick to one thing and excel at it. It may take you a lifetime, and that’s okay.

9. Be Proactive. I cannot stress upon this more. Take decisions – even if they fail – and make things happen by yourself. Learning to be independent and responsible is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

10. Don’t worry, just be happy! Things may seem confusing and bitter now. It won’t get any better later (sometimes it may), so learn to cherish what you have and just enjoy the days! :)

You can’t play on broken strings

I’ve always wanted to learn a musical instrument. When in 9’th grade, I joined a music school and signed up for guitar lessons. My instructor, Julius, was a very cool man. He didn’t believe in conventional teaching. Being self taught himself, he introduced me to some simple beginners’ chords and tabs. Starting with easy 3 chord rhymes, I advanced to the next level songs and learnt to play their solos. He emphasized a lot on solo to make my way through the frets more easy. It wasn’t really the ‘phoebe-way‘ of guitar learning, but it was all about enjoying what we played. We would sit in a circle and he would start off with a simple chord progression and we would follow him, which would eventually lead to a song. The entire room would vibrate with the strumming and singing!

I would come home from school and catch a bus to the class on every alternate weekdays. My guitar was (is) a classic acoustic instrument, which Julius picked out for me himself. He always said I have to use my long fingers to my advantage and play till they hurt (bleeding fingers is a sign of progress). After the class, a couple of students would stay back and discuss concerts, artists and their heroes. I too would sometimes stay back and listen to them in awe. Each one of them would speak so passionately about music and I then realized how the smallest of the things inspired them to pick up a guitar.

I continued for 2 years and enjoyed every bit of it. I would come home late sometimes which wasn’t quite appealing to my folks. I travelled by bus then, with a guitar hung on my back making my way through the crowd. I would leave by 5 and return only by 9, sometimes really exhausted. This left me no time to do anything for school the next day and to an extent, also affected my lifestyle. All this obviously ticked off my mom a bit and I eventually had to give it up when I entered the 12th grade. I promised myself that I would resume immediately once my exams ended but that never happened as then came more entrance exams. JEE, AIEEE, CET, AIMPT, everything took a toll on me and the guitar stayed on the attic, comfortable in it’s casing. (This was the time when I had taken to photography as an alternate hobby and continued it to make up for the loss of another hobby).

My first year of engineering was what one can say “light”. Being a CBSE student and having undergone a hell load of stress and studying, the engineering internals didn’t seem that pressurizing in the first semester. How I got interested in a Carnatic classical instrument is a strange story. Rolling back to many years, like in every other Hindu brahmin family tradition, I too was made to learn singing at a young age. Singing wasn’t really my thing, I just completed the basic course for the heck of it and then quit happily. No more was I made to sing in family gatherings and in the functions at my locality.

The Veena is a fascinating instrument. One night, my mother was watching a Carnatic musical program on television and I happened to not argue and watch it with her. 2 men were sitting on the floor, playing the veena so effortlessly. It seemed so easy, but I knew it wasn’t. Firstly, they were playing continuously for more than a hour and their left hands moved from one end of the fretboard to the other, with the support resting on their laps. It was the first time I noticed that the fretboard tapered into a dragon’s head! How amusing! It was all very grand and unique. More over, Carnatic tunes never sounded more powerful to me before. I made a passing comment about how cool it would be if I could learn the Veena. My mother immediately agreed that I should! (Better learn a carnatic instrument and become a good Hindu woman instead of the late night guitar strumming hippie, yeah?)

I took my dad along to Guruji’s house, to talk about joining Veena classes. He spoke to me directly, “Why do you want to learn the Veena?”. I wasn’t expecting that at all. “I like the sound it makes and want to be able to play it myself”, I said sounding silly and regretting it later. He was a relatively young man, with the tilak running across his forehead, dressed in lungi and kurta. His mother was a renowned veena player and he was blessed with the same gift. Although he worked in the IT industry for many years, he never gave up on his passion for Veena during the time. Later, he quit his IT job completely for promoting the Carnatic music fraternity and pursuing his mother’s dreams. I liked the story and was impressed. My first class was interesting. There were rules. Rules that every student had to follow to learn from Guruji. No jeans and tops, only Indian salwar kameez or saaris. A bindi on the forehead was a must (sometimes I forgot in a hurry and had to quickly apply kumkum before beginning with the lessons). Pray to the veena for 2 minutes before keeping her on my lap. My legs pained for hours, my fingers hurt even more. The sounds thundered in the room with others when we played. The vibrations lingered in my head for many hours after the class.

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I picked up the lessons faster than others due to my history with the strings. “In one year, you should be able to play a simple devarnama in our music school’s anual day”, he said. Unlike Julius, Guruji played by the rules and taught me every note and tune from the scripts and made me memorize names, numbers and progressions. I knew I was going good for a year and would play well past all the rules and other difficulties. I was suddenly pressurized into having to learn more in less time and prepare myself for the annual day. Expectations grew and playing the veena was no more an enjoyment. Every time I placed the Veena on my lap, I thought about what I had to memorize and forced myself to play. She still sounded wonderful and echoed in my room, but other thoughts overshadowed her sounds in my mind. Guruji preached Hinduism and our culture along with the music lessons. I sat there blatantly listening to his words, pretending to follow it, while in reality, I would go home and put on some Dream Theatre or Opeth on full volume to get over it. The joy of learning to play a grand musical instrument had turned into a burden of having to satisfy expectations and pass tests. Moreover, I was made to believe in things which I didn’t want to believe in. Knowing them is one thing, but forcing myself into agreeing to them is an entirely different thing. Guruji imposed a strict learning atmosphere that didn’t have space for any mistakes. Only his ideologies were correct in his class, and people had to agree upon them if they wanted to learn to play the Veena from him.

After my first year of engineering (and first year of Veena classes), I told him that I had taken up a small internship during my vacations and would help a company in social media marketing, etc. He blamed me for wasting my free time doing unnecessary things when instead, I could’ve easily learnt a lot more of music and perform in front of a large audience within months. I could practice for the whole day and improve very soon. Practice practice practice, perform perform perform! I didn’t have to guts to tell him openly that I had wanted to learn to play the Veena purely for MYSELF and didn’t really care about performing or showing others. I wanted to take it slow and actually ENJOY it. I started missing classes and over the course of time, I told him that the engineering load is getting on to me, with project work happening after class hours and internals coming up soon. I had to quit unexpectedly. I owed Guruji an explanation. I knew that he only meant good for me, but I was so scared of him.

The Veena still attracts me, and I sometimes feel I should probably get back to her again and learn by myself from scratch (the load of notes and books can easily help me get back on my own). I am not sure though, maybe listening is at one place and learning to play is in another place altogether. As far as the guitar goes, I took her out of the attic yesterday. One of these days, I plan to replace her broken strings with new ones and start learning by myself again. Maybe my time with stringed instruments isn’t done yet.

Living with grandma

Hello! So I figured that I should write more often here, rather than aimlessly describe days and people on my offline journal (it’s a very effective way to release energy, I guarantee you!). Anyway, I’ve been living with my 70 year young grandma for the past ~2 months and now have some knowledge that I can share with you if you’re ever in a similar situation in the future. Grandparents are inevitably sweet and friendly people, we all know that! But they also have a bittery irritable side to them (with their uncontrollable chattering and stone age views). This can be ignored in most circumstances, it only gets on our nerves if we happen to live with them for a really looong time. (I may sound very harsh, but it’s just a wee bit exaggerated, okay? Okay.)

Rule #1 while living with a person >60 years of age is to BE PATIENT. Yes, be calm and composed in all situations. Do they go on and on about the health benefits of cucumber or papaya that you absolutely have no interest in knowing? It’s alright. Be patient. Hear, don’t listen. It’ll end for a while till pumpkin and ginger comes up. Also, who knows? We may unknowingly pick up pieces of this information and preach about it to our grandkids one day!

Rule #2 is to LET THEM DO WHAT THEY WANT TO. You tell them not to spend all their day in the kitchen, not to work, not to wash the vessels (what will the maid do the next morning?), not to clean…It won’t work. They will still do it once you disappear into your room and turn on loud music. It’s how they spend their time. By keeping things in order. Let them have their share of work (if they want to) as well. Keeping restrictions will only make them more miserable and make them handicapped. They want to be energetic and still be able to do work. Knowing that they can still perform these tasks like before is liberating and a part of being young.

Rule #3 is to NOT SHOUT AT THEM. I am guilty of shouting at my grandma and I feel terrible about it. There was a time when I just couldn’t take some of the things she did (let’s not get into that) and sort of yelled at her. She recovered pretty soon and got back to normalcy within minutes, but I couldn’t. She even cooked some AWESOME FOOD the next day to make me feel better. Ugh. I was eaten up by guilt the entire time.

Grandmoms (and probably granddads too, I wouldn’t know) are programmed to be the friendliest people on earth. No kidding. I can talk anything with her, things that I never discuss with my folks, y’know? Also, they cook the BEST FOOD EVER. And most importantly, they have a solution to everything. EVERYTHING. Whatever said and done, I love my grandma! She’s such a cool person. We eat pizza together, go on walks, shop like crazyy and cook together (she’s taught me so much). She even happily poses for my camera. She’s just the best!

Turning 21

…and finally, I am on the other side of twenties. Some people asked me what was on my ‘birthday wish list’, and quite honestly, I did not know what I truly wished for upon turning 21. I already have everything a girl my age can possibly need (very cliched, yes). I am thankful for having the most supporting parents, an always encouraging sister, an ever sweet grandmom, and the most cheerful friends. S baked me a cake and took me to my old school, after which we visited a government school for a while where I got an opportunity to interact with the kids. At home, dad bought a cake and they all sang for me. It was a blessed day. The annual birthday visit to the temple helped me to focus upon the important things that life has in store for me this year.

A lot has to be conquered and achieved. A lot has to be changed. I promise myself that I will cherish every special moment and not take anything for granted. My life is special and I am born with a purpose, to make a difference, to spread goodness, and to inspire. When I foresee my life on a timeline, I want to remember it for all the memorable moments and people involved. Turning 21 is burdening, filled with a lot of expectations. I should challenge myself and rise above the expectations. I shall figure out what I wish from life, or it may randomly hit me on the head one day.

That day, I will catch hold of it, and run with it.

We learn by teaching.

“Akka, what do you want to do next?” she asked me.

The gleamy eyes of a eleven year old waited for a reply while I was setting the video playlist in the science exhibition organized by our department for the government school children of classes 6, 7 and 8.

“I want to go out and eat something; I’m hungry.” I told her.

“No no, not now. What do you want to do after studying?”

Whoa! A eleven year young girl wanting to know my life plans! Even my folks haven’t asked me this question yet. I wanted to tell her something that she could comprehend easily.

“Oh! Erm, I’ll be an engineer in one year…” I thought out loudly, still thinking of something appropriate to tell her.

“So you will work at a company?” she stopped my thought process.

“No no, I will study more…”

“Why?”

“So that I become a good teacher and come back to teach…”

The reply was spontaneous and almost came instantaneously. Maybe sometime in the future, given the opportunity and right circumstances, I wouldn’t hesitate a bit to be a teacher. I understand that there is still a long way to go for me, but it is one of the noble ways to give back and gain a lot more in return.

Our college has adopted many government schools across the state. Students help them out during the weekends by teaching english, computers, science and mathematics. I learnt a lot of things yesterday while teaching the children some basic physics experiments involving temperature measurement and thermometers. These kids had never seen any practical experiments before. I felt that the teachers in these schools need more help than the students. They are unaware of many concepts and in turn, misguide the students. Many kids were really smart and interested, and asked many questions too.

The kids viewed microorganisms through microscope for the very first time (Oh, The Joy!) , saw different metals flame up in different colors and awed while white light dispersed into rainbow colors from a prism, to name a few.

the importance of being alone

Today, I walked back home from college all alone, and it was one of the most satisfying experiences that I’ve had in a long time. I usually travel by bike but today I decided walk. It was sunny at first, but later became cloudy and drizzled a little. It was so pleasant.

Many years back, when I was in school, I used to travel by bus all around the city, sitting by the window, staring at strangers pass by and thinking about myself, my future, and the like. I miss that now. I’ve never given any time for myself in the past couple of years at all. There are always multiple thoughts running in my mind – all at once. It’s like one big traffic jam of thoughts in my brain, directionless and annoying. Today I learnt how important it was to spent time for “me” and not think/worry about anything for some time. I also realized that I am the most happy when I’m with myself. I don’t know how to confer this, but yeah. In his post to the class of 2010, Ben Jones writes, “#9. Carve out an hour every single day to be alone. (Sleeping doesn’t count.)“. This is such a simple thing, but so important and powerful. Of course, I am always alone in my room, but am I really with myself during that time? Not at all. Internet and books provide the best company, but they cannot think on our behalf. We are constantly interacting with people virtually, we never interact with ourselves. I had forgotten what I liked, what I wanted, WHY I wanted what I wanted…

I think the time has become such that we sort our daily schedule for everyone else, but never for ourselves. Our calendars are filled with appointments with other people; one has to take a lot of effort to make an appointment for oneself.

about my camera

I have a confession to make. My camera died two weeks back during the Pondicherry trip. The waves of the sea washed away my bag (which was safely kept far away just so you know) and everything in the bag got wet – along with my mobile phone and camera. I cried myself to sleep the next few days. I didn’t have the nerve to discuss it on the web so I just let it be. I felt that the news would hurt the people who made it possible for me. This is my first digital SLR camera and is the most special gadget that I’ve ever owned till date. Many memories are attached with it. It was something that I earned for myself, if I can say so. I remember the day I bought it with my dad. I remember everything – the past and the present associated with it. How many months I had waited for it! And all those moments and experiences of shooting with it!

I gave it for servicing today. It must be in working condition in 2 weeks, according to the confident service person at Canon. “I’ve repaired many big cameras which were drowned in oceans before, this will be ok madam” he said. For him, it is just another camera and another lens. For me, it is a dream turned into reality.

They say that if you lose something, you realize the worth of it. This is just like that. I don’t know if I should feel ashamed or guilty. That day on the beach, it was like I didn’t deserve a vacation. My friends’ phones got screwed too, but nothing even remotely comes close to this. I will NEVER EVER take a camera to the beach again! I am so glad that it’ll be alright. I have learnt my lesson. My sister always used to shout at me “you don’t respect the things that you have”. This keeps echoing in my mind every time something crappy like this happens or every time I buy something. While coming back home, dad told me that all gadgets get conked during their lifetime. It’s a part of the entire ‘gadget owning’ experience. After all, they’re just inanimate things. Good part is that they can be fixed.

Deepavali 2011 and the changing times.

Deepavali 2001

Woke up at 5:30am to join the kids army of the colony to burst the loudest patakas to wake up the locality with a bang. Beginning of the most awaited festival. Prepared for it from days before by buying huge boxes of fancy crackers, new clothes and sweets. Spent the entire day on the streets blocking vehicles and hopping from one neighborhood to another. Consumed so many sweets given at every house. Twilight meant lighting diyas and arranging them on compound and all around the house. Collecting dry fruit boxes and diaries that mom got at work. After the day’s excitement, spent the last hours on the terrace watching the night sky dazzle with delightful rockets.

Deepavali 2011

Woke up at 9:30am to the sound of a cracker burst by a dude somewhere far away in the locality. Had breakfast while watching national news on television. Had a single piece of cashew burfi. Spent the rest of the day working on project, tweeting, reading and sleeping. Sat by the window and watched heavy rain and thunderstorms in the skies while sipping tea. Skipped lunch. The sun will set in a couple of hours and I’m going to light as many diyas as I can and decorate the house, to keep a small part of the old times alive in my life. Also, if it doesn’t pour again tonight, I plan to stay in the terrace on a floor mat, covered up in a blanket and stare at the night sky forever, probably thinking about how Deepavali 2021 will turn out to be.