Sunday morning at Cubbon Park

I took my camera out after a long time on Sunday. Sharing some photographs from the morning photo walk with PIXELS group at Cubbon Park, located at the heart of Bangalore.

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With sixth semester officially done, I now want to invest more time in making pictures.

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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!

Neil deGrasse Tyson:

The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation.

For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.

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.

Untitled: Short Story

“This is a full stop to my career. I can feel it. It’s over!”

“Relax! You can’t be sure about it. Let’s wait for the phone call, I’m positive you’ll get the job. I really am.”

But Mark wasn’t listening to his wife anymore. He walked back and forth in their empty living room thinking of career alternatives and secure future plans. Random series of impulses hit his brain disabling him to think logically. He had dreamt about filling up the empty spaces of their home with cosy furniture and lavish interiors one day. That would make Riana happy, yes. He felt desperate.

“We’re going to make it through all this mess. You’ll receive the call anytime now and get that job. Calm down.”

“It’s impossible to calm down now! We’ve tried everything, haven’t we? This is our only hope. This call is going to decide my life! Our life……. I need a beer.”

Ria sat on the chair beside the table and observed the love of her life reach out for beer bottles in the refrigerator. He found 2 old bottles, both empty. They’d run out of money for food supplements this week.

What had happened to their life? The cheer from the office days didn’t last long. They were now only hopeful of a better future. They’d met 2 years ago via mutual colleagues at workplace and were hitched within eight months. It was perfect back then. Ria was a receptionist at their company and Mark, a business analyst. He was sacked six months ago and struggled to survive in this unruly economy. After pulling some strings, he was now hopeful of getting his old position back at the same company. They optimistically discussed their future every night. They realized that they could face any hurdle as long as they had each other. All the cliched movies and music had started to make sense these days.

The phone rang. Mark anxiously turned towards the table.

After three minutes of “yeses”, “okays” and “nos”, he placed the phone down in disbelief. He’d got the job! He bent down and hugged Ria so hard that her rib cage almost cracked. His tears wet her dress. She curled her arms around him and they stayed still for some time. Everything was going to be alright now. They were going to have a beautiful home and a beautiful life. The boss had offered an increase in salary too. In his mind, Mark started to make special plans for the night to celebrate their new beginning when Ria’s phone beeped.

She picked up the phone and opened the message over her husband’s shoulders.

‘From: The Boss. 

Job confirmation only after 9pm tonight at Hotel Le Grande, Room 301. Wear Red.’

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.

Mark’s morning

An indefinite part of Mark’s mornings were dedicated to preparing and consuming a cup of fully oxidized black tea. The gradual diffusion of tea molecules into the hot water prepared him to be calm and relaxed the entire day. Working as a toxicologist in a laboratory, he was accustomed to the odors of a lot of compounds but it was only the aroma of chai laves that could light him up with energy. He would spend a couple of minutes to smell the fragrance arising from the cup, then blow subtle air into it and feel the warm vapors on his face. It didn’t matter to him if he was late for work, he always took some time off to have his cup of nirvana peacefully while sitting on the platform outside the kitchen’s window overlooking the street. These few minutes were the deciding factor for his state of mind through the course of the day. He refused to believe it to be a compulsive disorder. For him, tea was his daily savior.

However, March 31st was not like any other day. It was one year since his breakup with his five year-long girlfriend. Mark woke up earlier than usual and headed towards the kitchen. Everything was at it’s regular place. He picked up the kettle and waited for the water to boil while browsing through the photos of his ex on his cellphone. In one photo, they were in Hawaii on the beach lying next to each other, he held her closely against the backdrop of a valley of flowers in another image from Yellowstone, images from their grad school, a photo of him proposing to her on his knees with a wedding ring in his hand, pictures of them at various parties – all flashed across his eyes that morning.

Sitting on the platform with the tea cup in one hand, Mark gazed as the morning rays slowly spread across the street and switched off his phone. As the rays lit up the kitchen, his hands hanged loose. The tea cup fell down and broke into pieces.

Mark was lying on the floor. The box of jellyfish sample from his lab had worked.

Mrs. Murray

Mrs. Murray dreams of a new residence in the last few years of her life. A new home atop the hill overlooking the ambitious mountains and plentiful streams. A new home receiving the sun’s rays prior to the entire downtown. Sitting on the porch of her new home, she wishes to stare at the birds fly into oblivion.

But alas, Mrs Murray cannot climb up the hill with amputated legs.

sixth semester: keep calm and carry on

After the long wait (I mean, after 2 weeks of holidays), sixth semester began today. The first hour of the first day of every semester is dedicated to course registrations, HoD’s address and coarse discussions amongst herds of sheep about GPAs (“she doesn’t even know how to use a micropipette in lab, how did she end up with a 8.36?” and the like). An interesting bunch of teachers would be facing us this time, trying to decode their area of science to us. The methods of dealing with the subjects and tests is refined every semester. We find newer ways to memorize or remember something and get ‘smarter’ by taking up tests.

A new change to the system was announced today – laboratory final exams to be cancelled this time. I don’t support this new change at all. I think lab exams are important. Labs are the only place where we get hands-on experience and where we’re forced to think for ourselves (during exams) while conducting an experiment. Theory exams on the other hand, are more read-from-textbook-and-vomit-on-answer-sheet kind. To be honest, I have understood a few experiments and their concepts  only while preparing for, and performing the experiment in lab during the finals.

There is nothing much to say, except that I’m looking forward to the next three months which will be filled with many unexpected events/occurrences and many more comic sans powered powerpoint presentations (lets hope not!).

personal contacts

This is a story about two boys pursuing engineering from the same college. The first boy was not very serious about his courses and just floated through the semesters without worrying or doing anything phenomenal. He got into this college because of the close friendship between his influential father and the college principal. He was also sure of getting a job at a huge company the same way later on. The second guy struggled, got involved and strove to learn the subjects. He may have not been the brightest in the entire batch or in the top 5 percentile, but he was very much interested in the courses and was willing to take ‘that extra step’. He got admitted into the college after getting a good rank in the entrance exam. He even took extra classes to prepare for these exams. He was thrilled to have gotten the opportunity to study in a prestigious university.

So what happened to these guys? The first guy ended up in a good company using his father’s influence and got everything without having to work hard. He completed his engineering with below average scores but still bagged a six figure salary job. (after all, marks aren’t everything, right?) His life remained to be easy and smooth. The second guy ended up with a mediocre job along with a major part of the rest of the uninterested bunch. His life cycle continues the similar way – striving to succeed in work too. His life is now merely reduced to a 9 to 6 job inside a cubicle of an air conditioned room with a five figure salary.

Christmas ’11 in photos

I met my best friend from school yesterday and we roamed around talking and clicking pictures. Here are some images of the Christmas celebrations /decorations. Shot using my favorite 50mm lens (bokeh!)…I think it did a decent job with the lights, colors and mood..

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Just a little update.

Fifth semester ended on Friday and life has been quite nice since then. I watched a couple of movies, roamed around the city, bought books to read and even took photographs! Today is Christmas and I’m sitting in my room writing this blog instead of going out with my friends or cousins. All the plans got canceled at the last minute i.e., today morning :-| Why does this always happen to me? Ugh. I’m guessing even New Year will turn out similarly and I’ll end up watching some television series till 4am without realizing when the date changed to Jan 1st 2012. Just.like.every.single.year.

Anyway, this blog got a lot of readers due to my previous post and now I’m suddenly embarrassed to write about stuff here. There was a time when no one from my real life read this blog and now, suddenly people in college come up to me asking about it. So awkward. College resumed normally after the incident and the exams went well too. My project topic /presentation was a bore to the external examiner I guess (the negatives of taking up a computer science topic and explaining it to a biology professor). But my guide is supporting me in taking it up even in the next semester and that is what matters.

I’ve got a huge writer’s block currently. I try so hard to write something. Anything. But it just doesn’t happen like before. Any help or suggestions for this problem? :(

Protest at PESIT – an account

Today, I witnessed something that was shocking, surprising, ruthless, emotional – all at once in college. A second year EC student committed suicide in his hostel room by hanging himself and without leaving behind a note. I got the news at around 9am while looking out of the classroom window where a huge crowd had gathered outside the boys hostel which is right next to our building. The classes still continued, with many rumors floating around. We had lab internals at 10am which was disrupted when a teacher walked in to announce that the day was called off due to the sad demise of this student. We were asked to leave the campus immediately. As I waked towards the main gate with my friend and the rest of the college crowd, we realized that the gates were locked and saw a big group of students shouting / protesting against the institute management (especially against the hostel warden). We didn’t know the real story yet and watched a bigger crowd gather near the main building and gates. Press and media had already arrived at the scene – students didn’t allow them inside the campus so they climbed the magnum gate and took videos. Cops came soon in jeeps and vans. Students continued to shout slogans against the hostel warden and the principal. I couldn’t fathom what the actual cause of the protest was – as some people shouted against the college rules while some were against the hostel warden. There were many mixed up issues about the whole situation. By this time, the crowed moved towards the main building along with the director as he struggled to walk through the crowd with the police without being pushed or pulled. Some unruly students then threw stones at the glass building and broke principal’s office. They were immediately made to stop acting this way by other students who went and calmed them down.

We moved towards the cricket field (due to larger area that could occupy everyone) to discuss the issue with the management. Agitated students gathered at the field to listen to what the director had to say. In between shouting and all the chaos – I gathered that an unofficial student union was being formed to discuss the issue with them – as 500 people can’t do it all together. A couple of students who had spoken aloud before – formed a group and would represent the student body. To calm us all down, the DCP took in charge and spoke up loudly. We obliged to her and sat on the field. First – the cops and media were asked to leave as it was now more of a student vs management issue. We told our problems to the reps. Some of which were:

  • 5 marks for attendance to be removed.
  • We should have 3 internals (best of 3) instead of the currently existing compulsory 2 internals. Follow the VTU system.
  • The minimum marks for semester end exam writing eligibility criteria makes no sense in the GPA system. It was asked to be removed.
  • Councilors and doctors to be in the college premises on most days. We have no medical center as well.
  • Support extra curricular activities. Not treat students as prisoners.

While these were some academic demands, there were many demands for the victim’s family as well – college should compensate for travel of his parents, cremation. Warden’s apology for his mishandling of the situation and letting in media barge to film the student – while he was still hanging from the ceiling. Apology for the late arrival of the ambulance which arrived 3 hours late. The principal also clarified that he had not given any statement to the media yet, and everything that was telecasted was based on assumptions.

The director listened to every point and agreed on most changes. (Some illogical demands came up too – which I have not mentioned and don’t think are necessary). I think the principal and the director handled the situation well, and took a stride to support the students. By this time, both the management and students were on terms. The student union announced a candlelight march in the memory of the victim. It was extremely intriguing to see such a huge crowd turn up for it in the evening (more than the number of people who were protesting). We lit candles – the teachers and the principal guided us through the campus starting from the boys hostel. It is the largest crowd I’ve seen in my campus – more than during the cultural fest times. It was something that I’d never though I’d witness in (my) college. It was an emotional and a proud moment.

My take – since the boy left no note, the blame game has started. Yes, the pressure is unbearable sometimes. Too many tests, reports, assignment submission along with project work takes a toll on us. But is suicide the last option? Certainly not. Many have survived this system (and even tougher ones) and passed through it successfully – with happy and depressing memories. Some rules can be removed or tweaked, but this kind of situation should never be taken advantage of. Some students protested today without sticking on to the actual cause and drifted towards irrelevant and illogical demands. Yes, this is probably  a good opportunity to make the management listen to us and bring reforms, but not at the cost of unruly behavior and breaking college property. But in the end, I think the students showed some great character by listening to the authorities and calming down. When this happened, the whole atmosphere changed and provided an opportunity to carry out talks and stop the chaos. One thing that sickened me was watching the video of the boy hanging being shown on television channels and media coming up with random cooked up reasons to justify it. Read more about how the media reported the issue here.

Amongst all this, we are just lost in between deciding what is right and what is wrong.

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.