Wednesday, December 26, 2007

US up-bringing

This is a response to Aparna's blog about values in life to which I couldn't have agreed more. In fact, I always have realized that the kids here in US have several qualities that are almost non-existent in kids back in India.

1. They grow up to be more self-responsible due to the social structure of self-reliance after 18 years of age. Most of them start working and earning something by the end of their teens. I am impressed by the concept of trying to fund one's own undergraduate education with one's own penny; even though it often involves taking student loans- still it makes them self-responsible.

2. They don't suffer from the "I am a rich parents' kid" syndrome: dignity of labor is utmost. Most of my American friends I have seen, started working in some Mc Donald's or Subway: not because their parents did not have enough money; but because the joy of earning one's own dollar is marvellous!

3. I also have seen them cherish the ability to respect independent and variegated career decisions. I have often seen them to respect a History major person even if he or she is doing Physics.

I would always want my kids to grow up in US: despite the common desi notion that kids here lack parental attachment. I disagree, because kids in India often get entangled into parents' never-terminating pamper, which I think is not a great idea for development of the kid's personality. Hunting and accruing one's own identity, being able to take one's own decisions and the realization of the necessity to be self-dependent is very important. And then, after all, values begin at home: if I am able to impart the right education to kids about moral values, the topographical coordinates on Earth just wouldn't matter any more!

Nevertheless, there are always light and shades to both sides of the coin! Upbringing of kids in US has also its short-comings: the vulnerability to get into bad habits (e.g. smoking, drinking at an inappropriate age, doping etc) and more. But what I have learned looking at the manner I was brought up and several other friends and acquaintances of mine both in India and US, that culturing the right set of values begins at home. Being parents whether in US or in India is never an easier task! Yet, the first and the last education begin at home...

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I have often known and heard of women who would at their own will or under so-called cultural norms or family customs change their lastnames to the one of her husband's family. It is no doubt a personal choice: but one question always comes to my mind- why is this required?

On one hand, we have always tried to stick to the philosophy "Live and let live"; and on the other, we know that at the end of the day, all of us are, in some manner or the other, bound to societal ethics, established practices and notions. There is definitely a trade-off, and the reason the human civilization has been able to traverse a journey this far is because our ancestors had been able to strike a balance between the two poles. Then why is it so, that for women, the second proposition holds and not the first? I am not implying the loads of social injustice done to women: probably they are persistent amidst the folk of illiterate people in remote areas; but this is a more grave issue. I have known so many educated women from well-off and socially reputed families changing their lastnames.

The reason behind this is unknown to me: and that is the reason I find this to be illogical. I believe, when a man marries a woman, it is the beginning of a journey together- and not the women losing her previous identity. I believe, a marriage involves two different families, and therefore both the families would have equal representation and respect for each other. Then why should the daughter of one family lose her original identity?

It this beyond a typical feminist issue. It is about something our civilization had branded as 'morals'. I find it extremely objectionable that the women has to give up her lastname (and in certain situations her first name as well). As human beings, man or woman, we grow as a individuals and often the ultimate goal in our life is to build our own identity. How does it feel to lose it one fine morning you wake up?

I would not protest against the practice being following at a time forty or fifty years back from today. For, then, women were less educated, and therefore their sole identity was their husbands' identity. But the woman of twenty first century has broken free those shackles. Amidst all odds, she has earned her self-identity.

I strongly detest customs and practices that compel one party to sacrifice an abstract feeling close to their heart. Neither men nor women should be a victim to this. It is not about disobeying culture: culture is a set of norms that characterizes a society for the good on a road which can take it far towards prosperity, happiness and bliss.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Nothing ever has befuddled me more than the cliched tendency of all couples and love stories to consider Romeo-Juliet's as the archetype of all times! Just listen to your conscience: do you want your own or your loved ones' love stories to end in a tragedy as theirs? I am sure you will not; and herein lands the irony! The never-ending perplexed human being you are, you roam around the world and shout 'you' are the architect of your own destiny; and still at dusk, you avert the dark starry sky relying on acts which you do not really approve of! You do not want your love story to be tragic; and yet you go about idolizing Romeo and Juliet: and you say you are the most reasonable being ever on Earth - where is the contradiction, inside you or in the rest of the universe?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Answer of the 'Rebel'

Many of my friends and acquaintances, especially the ones from my undergrad college back in India ask me,
Tu abhee bhi padh rahi hai?
Aur kitna padhegi?
Kitna research karegi?
PhD kyun?
Kitna time hai tujhe graduate hone mein?
Tu bore nahee hoti padhai se?

The translation being,
You still in school!
How much more you want to study?
How much more research do you want to do?
Why PhD?
How many more years to go to graduate?
Don't you get bored of it?"

These folks are the ones who are quite 'settled' in life right now: earning a decently fat salary, with or without an MBA from somewhere in India. Now they are desperately looking for some pretty and hot girl whom they can date for sometime and then marry. Dwelling in the Fool's paradise that they have achieved almost everything in life, they loathe the very idea of continuing an academic career. To them, probably, being in school at 25 is so uncool! To the girls, the time is ripe to find Mr. Perfect, a guy who is reasonably handsome, earns a fat salary, owns his own flat and/or a car in India, or lives in US or been to US for considerable time and has reasonable bank balance so that he can buy her a diamond necklace every year on her birthday.

I am not being mean describing them this way: some of them are people with whom I have spend quality time in the past and I like them. Also, I totally respect their decision to feel complete with a bachelors degree. It is after all, a personal matter of choice and everyone has his or her liberty to take decisions for themselves in life.

The conflict occurs when the personal decision accrues the shape of a generic judgment which they seamlessly attempt to fit into one and all. And that is what flows out from these questions that they have been uttering all this while.

Joining the PhD program and the decision to go for research has been one of the best decisions in my life. I have forever been a risk-taker, right since I was 16 years old: I loved to do things which no one else would do; I loved the joy in doing those things and marking myself as different from the commonplace crowd. But just the desire to be different was not about it. As far as my mature conscious takes me back, I remember I liked pure sciences, I loved to question things around me and think crazy if any of the established truths weren't true today. When I was in 4th grade, I came to know about something called a 'scientist'. I participated in a painting competition and came out first rank holder when the organizers gave me an interesting prize: a biographical account of several renowned scientists in the world. I would read that book for long, discuss those scientists with Dad and then feel so happy that certain people can rise against appartently impossible odds and still be so much successful! I also wanted to be a scientist from then onwards, and make a mark in the sands of time by thinking the world from an altogether different facet!

Half of my dream has come true the day I joined the PhD program! While this feels so placated to me several times, I know each new day brings up a new vista of challenges to me. In an academic program spanning over at least five years, you are answerable to several people and several questions: ranging from these friends, to parents, to relatives and to professors and the advisor. Nevertheless, therein lies the real charm of life!

Research has taught me several things larger than academics and sometimes larger than life. It is no longer the pre-conceived notion that those friends possess about studies: research transcends studies. It connects you directly to your soul: a means to think beyond the constrained realms of mundane world. It teaches you perseverance, teaches you tenacity; above all, teaches you there is something beyond earning a fat salary and marrying a pretty girl or a handsome guy, and so called living happily ever after. The meaning of life has more to it: and research reveals this truth to you.

After all, life is not an algorithm where you execute certain steps and finally terminate into a stable state. It is stranger than fiction, as you know. And research and PhD just add a new degree of zest to it: you learn life, beyond books, alcohol or credit cards. Research is the tool of the rebel of today...

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Metaphor of Hypothesis Proving

Seldom did it happen that a bad weather outside your window made you morose and pensive to the extent that you were pushed to reflect on the life you have been leading. And ironical, how certain days turn out to be so difficult than some others!
One of all of us seem to running after some goal or the other in life: we fight, we strive, we sweat our brows day in and day out. Nevertheless, it is on those gloomy days when all your colossal efforts sever making much sense: the journey seems to have got lost in the meandering terrains of the zest to excel and 'achieve' the goal.
Where do we stand now? It is the 21st century: a life adorned with all the technology, intelligent-wares streamlining every work in our homes, work places, restaurants, gardens etc. A life with all the grandeur, if you have the cents to be the spend-thrift! A laptop, a modem, a DVD and a Heineken: you are all set to spend a wonderful exhilarating weekend, a drive away from the immensely bone-weary work.
But, wait a minute: are we missing something in this marathon of running after these mundane goals?
I feel I have lost the actual meaning of life somewhere. I had it once upon a time; but lost it as of now and as I stand today here at this juncture of my life, I only see myself running after some goals which probably will not make a difference to another person than me tomorrow. Because I am trying to spend my life doing something which probably I might not be good at; however much efforts I put, they are never enough for excellence. I am still running after that excellence which probably might be too far a land to swim to!
But the next moment, it dawns on my mind: I loathe being the ship without the rudder, running toward the excellence is necessary for getting the best out of ourselves, after all!
Life just seems to be a contradiction: we begin with a hypothesis; but ironically, move forward in life with all the evidences to disprove that initial hypothesis! What happens next? Only time will tell.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Story of the 'Inside'

Perplexed I was the entire gloomy afternoon,
Though an overcast day with the breeze swaying the skin so cool;
But nothing was as beautiful to me as it actually was,
A morose soul amidst the aphotic bleaky ambience of virtual wars.

A leap I took to look beyond the pensive tyranny of dingy daylight soon after,
Not a sense of withdrawal could further stop me thereafter,
Deep forest, monstrous ocean, mammoth mountain: none could put a bar towards that 'pasture',
The hunt: the search for the ultimate source of ecstasy and laughter.

Variegated folks did I all encounter,
In that voyage of the key to fun and banter;
But none could endow me with a terse answer,
I was depressed: only more eager to uncover the mysterious universe of all wonder.

Days passed, years dwindled, without a ray of hope,
The hope for the key to the sweetest of my dream that round the clock I wanted to grope,
Soon after, did dawn a 'sun' into my mind's realm,
Where is the hunt: where in the universe is happiness as it might seem?

I knew then, that all these years, I was wrong,
After all, happiness was just another habit which you adorn inside, not in some special throne,
I knew, the storm was 'within',
And I geared up with all new vigor to cull out the zealous, without giving in!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The world you live in, is an APPROXIMATION!

The physical world we live in is highly approximate. Consider the definition of a point in space: "a point is a physical entity which has no length, breadth and height but has existence only".

Can a point have a fourth dimension, like time? may be. But how do we justify this? Will a point travel in time? No it cannot. Since it does not have length, breadth or height, it cannot have physical properties that characterize other things, e.g. can point characterize temperature? No. So point is just an existential quantity in space, not time.

Consider the definition of a physical object:
"an entity that can be perceived by human beings in one or more of their visual or auditory senses".
This means a physical object will have existence as well as stability or volatility across space and time.

Now the connection between a point and a physical object which hints at the subtle but highly approximate definition of the physical world. This theory of approximation is demonstrated by the fact that physical objects can be considered an assembly of points and point does not have any dimensions: no length, breadth and height, only existence; then how do physical objects have dimentions? This is a contradiction which can only be supported by the fact that the objects themselves are approximations and points do have dimensions. Because, if it was not true, then, the following will always be true:
0+ 0+ 0+ 0 = 0 always. No physical object that we see around us can have dimensions.
Hence the universe and its contained physical objects are merely approximation of a bigger assumption that dimensions are inherent to entities around us.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

What are your plans for Christmas? :P

Here are some interesting vacation spots for you this winter (okay for me; I want to go to these places some winter). Enjoy!

1. Grand Canyon, Arizona: Beyond its fame as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, its beauty is multiplied in the snow covered gorges, mountains, semi-frozen waters of the Colorado river and the vegetation.

2. New York City, New York: The real USA: it has always been Hollywood's and Bollywood's favorite shooting place in winters. PS: Karan Johar's favorite site for shoots :P. While on one hand it brings out the harsh life in the depressing sun-less mornings, the flaky snow and driving through snow covered terrains is altogether a different adventure.

3. Hawaii: The hot honeymoon- perfect place for many people! Winter is a great time there to enjoy the warmth of the Central Pacific. Just checked farecast, great ticket prices to Honolulu.

4. Kerala, India: One of the most interesting adobes of natural sea-side beauty in India. Be ready for some interesting coconutty food!

5. Istanbul, Turkey: Istanbul is a great cultural and financial center in eastern Europe. Wikitravel says, "Located on both sides of the Bosphorus, the narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul truly bridges Asia and Europe both literally and figuratively." Winter is a great time to visit this cultural hub. The palaces, mosques and cisterns are a wonderful relax out of the din and bustle of the cities in US.

6. Mexico: Of course you cannot leave this out! Wikitravel says, "Mexico has nice and warm people, unique food, art and archeology, pyramids, museums, Haciendas, 6,000 miles of shores, superb architecture and cities, weather from snow mountains in the Sierras, to rainy jungles in the Southeast and desert in the Northwest, more than 50 golf courses, excellent fishing, world top destinations like Acapulco, Cancun, Cozumel, Los Cabos, Patzcuaro, among others amenities. Mexico is ranked 8th major destination for foreigner visitors, according to WTO." And how can you forget the most authentic Margaritas!

7. Canary Islands, Spain: The Canary Islands are an Atlantic territory of Spain on the west coast of Africa, near Morocco, Cape Verde and the archipelagos of the Azores Islands and Madeira Islands, both Portuguese territories. Abounded with wonderful honeymoon-like vacation resorts!

8. Fiji: Fiji is characterized by the combination of volcanic mountains and warm tropical waters. Its majestic and ever-varied coral reefs today draw tourists from around the world. Very close from US west coast and Hawaii.

9. Taiwan: One of the greatest tourist destinations in eastern Asia. It is amazing to see tradition, culture and westernization all in the same vista! Don't forget about the semi-American and Chinese-Japanese fusion of a variety of classic foods!

10. Miami, Florida: Check out some of the most soothing warm climates in US! Proximity to Cuban culture as well as the great sea coasts of the Atlantic make the vacation more than just enthralling and enchanting. Miami has the largest Latin American population outside of Latin America itself with nearly 65% of its populace either from Latin America or of Latin American ancestry. There are also some great Spanish monasteries and meseums and gardens.

Do you have any more suggestions? :P
Photos: Courtesy, Flickr