Monday, September 26, 2005

Not Quite a Fairy Tale

Once upon a time ( fairy tales are supposed to begin like this) there lived this guy somewhere in US. He came across the oceans from Kolkata, hoping to get a Ph.D sometime in his chosen subject. As like most of these students, he found it difficult to have a social life initially and was drawn to the fascinating world of Yahoo Chat rooms. Not everyone was nice - as long as he could see faceless people from around the globe talking and singing in Bengali, he did not really care. And one day he came across this girl - she was one of those kids who were born over there in Kolkata - but pretty much grew up here as an American. She spoke Bengali with a funny accent but understood it perfectly. She was doing her Ph.D too and in a real good school. They liked talking to one another - and soon went beyond the confines of instant messaging. Both made full use of their free weekend and night minutes - staying up till early morning oh so often. She liked the way he spoke Bengali and saw life from an entirely different perspective than hers. He liked her self confidence and sheer unpredictability. They talked about everything - from her Italian boyfriend in Boston who she cant marry to her broken family - and he about his fears in a big bad new country. They poured their hearts out to each other. She said she was an amazing skater and a fitness freak - and taunted him about his lethargy for workouts. He made fun of her fear of driving. They planned to meet sometime in near future. Everything was going great. Or too great perhaps? It was too good to be true!

After a few weeks, which flew past like a pure dream - something went terribly long. They had an usual wonderful conversation the night before - everything was so right. But next night, she did not pick up the phone. She never did again. She did not reply to his mails nor provided any explanation. She just disappeared from his life - never to get back again. No , the guy has no idea till date why she did what she did. Was it something the guy said unconsciously? Was she feeling vulnerable that she started liking the guy too much? Did something dramatic happen in her life ?

And yes - she is a real person.

(P.S - This was in early 2004 )

Thursday, September 22, 2005

What makes a graduate student really happy?

Take a wild guess. No its not the promise of more money/less work from the advisor or an invitation from Europe for an all expense paid summer school. Its neither publishing something in some journal nor a job offer after graduation. If you are still wondering - its free food in any shape, size and variety. Starting from free coffee and cookies at weekly colloquium (even if one sleeps the whole hour and walks out not understanding a single word) to free pizza in Female Physics Forum meeting (who cares what happens there anyway) to the leftover food and wine in a conference - everything is equal in our eyes and quickly pounced upon. I wonder why departments don't realize that the easiest way to graduate students heart is through their mouth !

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Whats wrong with JU?

From today's Telegraph - JU (as in Jadavpur University - my Alma mater) administration claims -

"Most of our courses meet international academic standards. We must be more ambitious and target students from the US and Europe."

Are you kidding me?

JU would be JU -

As long as "sem" would just mean the final examination in student lingo.
If you ask anyone on campus "sem kobe?" (roughly translated as - when is the semester starting?) the invariable answer would be the end term exam dates.

As long as browsing the catalogue would be closest to the books a student can get in the library.

As long as the computers are there for display only - students wont be trusted enough to let them use those.

As long as the they believe in "every student is born equal" so should be taking the same courses.

As long as the departmental web pages use the same bland template with an alphabetic listing of faculties names.
A name is just a name unless there is other relevant information!

As long as the administrative guy you want to meet would not be "in his seat" or "busy" sipping tea and gossiping.

As long as research means recycling other people's results - at least for a majority.

As long as political affiliation would be the main criteria in recruiting.

Undergrad education in JU is good - in fact we had one of the best undergrad Physics program in the country - which placed students in top institutes/ universities all over the country and abroad - and Engineering was second only to IIT's. Its not that students in US on an average are much brighter - on the contray they are not. But until one has a fair idea about the education system in US or Europe - how flexible it is and how much respect students get - these claims are simply audacious!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Monday Morning Blues!

I hate Mondays. Especially when I have to wake up at 8 am to come to school. Seriously that's not fun.

But blogging is fun! The only problem is the life is so amazingly monotonous at times - its difficult to come up with something I can talk about. None wants to hear about the classes I slept through, the assignments I could not to finish , the deadlines I failed to meet and the girls who refused to date me ( Just kidding - good boys don't date girls!).

How times change. I have this friend from my high school days - back then he was a vociferous communist - heaping scorn on "America" for every vice in the world. Fast forward to present - he is working with some software company here, and enjoying life in general. This is not meant to be an indictment - he is a really great guy - but to show how all of us have inherent inconsistencies. I know most of us would stay back here or at least try to - but when asked they would vehemently say how much they love India and their family and how they just can not tolerate the American mindset.

I just don't think these are contradictory. You can love India and do a lot for it if you want to , no matter where you are. And if you are selfish - care about your career and a comfortable life (which I probably am) you wont do anything for the society wherever you are!

P.S - Birthday wishes for Shubhoshree (22nd August) , Saswati (8th September) , Debashree (20th September).

Sunday, September 18, 2005

What A Win!

I know this is getting too much. Three consecutive posts on football - and most of my readers (I am sure they exist - why don't you nice folks put a comment in sometime?) just don't appreciate football. But can not be helped - that was perhaps the only thing which was on my mind the entire weekend - afterall such high stakes game don't take place too often.

The offence was mediocre in most parts. Chris Leak did not throw for a touchdown pass after ages. Two of our best playmakers on either side of the ball suffered potentially season ending injuries. But we made plays when we needed to. Our defense and special teams could not have played any better. The key moment came when after review a Tennessee catch at our 1 yard line was called incomplete on a 3rd down play and their field goal was blocked in the next play. That changed the whole complexion of the game. And this team showed true character to hold on to the advantage.

But lets not get carried away. This team is not yet a national championship material. We should win the SEC - giving us a BCS bowl game. That would be a great year for us - and then with Leak in his senior year next season - we should be going all the way.

But after last few years of disappointments and close loses - this win almost ignited Gainesville. I went for a drive along the University Avenue just after the game ended - it was choc-a-bloc with traffic, honking like crazy, with delirious fans clad in orange and blue clapping, cheering and singing. This is what makes college football so special - the passion, the intensity - which you can never see in professional football.

(And I promise - I wont mention the word "football" in my next three posts!)
We made the BIG plays and we WON.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Go Gators

This is as big as it gets. An early season game featuring Florida and Tennessee with Southeastern Conference, possibly National Championship implications on the line. And when you throw in the fact that how Tennessee stole the game last year from us helped by some extremely poor referring - the plot thickens. The entire town is talking only football - and the student tickets are being sold at triple digit amounts.

This Florida team is much improved from last year's which almost won at Knoxville. Everyone loves talking about Meyer's offence - but defence has so far made big plays. And as long as we dont make stupid mistakes or turn the ball over - I'm sure this team wont suffer those infamous 4th quarter meltdowns - Leak should lead the gators to a memorable victory and give his Heisman aspirations a big push.

And did anyone notice what Ron Zook is doing this year? He has already lead fighting Illini to a 2-0 start (which is more wins than what they achieved in the their entire last season) and getting ready to battle UCLA this weekend!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Born Into Brothels by Zana Briski : A Review

Last night had a chance to watch this much talked about documentary film.It is mostly shot the red light areas of Kolkata - but what makes it so touching is that it entirely deals with the kids from there. The film opens pretty quietly - giving a chance to the viewer to get used to the surroundings - a separate world within the city - as she describes it. Then slowly we get to know the protagonists of the story - the little kids who are growing up there suffering all the abuse seeing all not so nice stuff going on.

The story moves forward when "Zana Aunty" hands them click and shoot cameras and teaches them basics of photography. And from the dingy bylanes of Sonagachi to Calcutta Zoo to Digha, wherever they go, they end up getting some real nice pictures as they learn the techniques of composing a frame and all that. When one of them says she loves taking pictures but doesnt like picking the good photos from pile - I am sure a lot of us can identify ourselves with that little girl!

And all through this - we start getting friends with the characters - some of them are so unbelievably spontaneous in front of the camera. Sometimes the dialogues do appear way too mature for those little kids - but I guess that much artistic leeway can be given. As their photos start getting the attention- Zana tries to put them into residential schools. Its not an easy job to convince the parents to let go their kid - sometimes a potential "earning member" of the "family" - but her relentless effort does get rewarded to an extent - although we learn later that most of them do not continue their studies.

Its not a sensational story - just capturing images from day to day lives. But the photography is amazing and incredibly real - and the sheer liveliness of those kids brings a smile to your face. And since the setting is undeniably Kolkata - my home town - all the sights and sounds do make me nostalgic. After all how many times I get to watch a film with that familiar settings sitting 10000 miles away from home!

Its a pity that political powers did not allow the film to be screened over there. The film is entirely focused on the children - not at all a reflection of Kolkata and never pretends to convey any political message. Its just a human interest story - viewed through the eye of an westerner - where the settings play a passive role and the those deprived children for once take the front stage.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Its a Mazda 626

Okay, I was cheating a bit. It was a photo from the Honda dealer's website (which unfortunately showed my shining silver color car as white) with Wade Raulerson Honda written somewhere. So to clear any confusion - its sadly not a Honda - someday I would love to own one - but for now I have settled for a 2000 Mazda 626. Its as big as a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Accord and is loaded with all the nice stuff plus a V6 engine.

I hope to get some better picture of it soon!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Weekly Wrapup!

For the past couple of weeks I have been really sporadic in coming up with new entries. Thats partly because all the associated hassles with the start of a new semester (as any fellow suffering graduate student would understand) and partly because I cant decide what I want to talk about.
Last weekend I was there when "Urban legend" begun. The team looked sharp but not as sharp to make them a national title contender as yet. Time will tell how the season shapes up - but being at the Swamp (thats the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the uninitiated ) among 91,707 screaming fans is surely an experience.
Then the Sunday trip to the Clearwater was fun too. It boasts of really pristine white sand - and water is not too deep for a while into the sea.that allows people like me with zero swimming skills to enjoy the water with getting swept off my feet!
Although she lost, I must admit Sania Mirza was awesome. I was watching her earlier round matches live - and she has no fear. She dictates every point - they are either decided by a winner from her or by an unforced error from her again. If she works on her serves a bit, she can be right up there. It really feels proud to see an Indian matching stroke for stroke with all those superstars - Leander Paes did that in Davis Cup matches - but doing that consistently week after week requires much more than just skill.
Anyway thats all for today. I really want to write a political blog next !

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Conversation!

A Few days back I had this online conversation with someone, who hails from Pakistan, of Kashmiri origin and goes to college in Gainesville.

Someone: just wondering... why do you hate Pakistan?

Deepak: Its nothing personal - I know the ordinary people are not to blame for this - but I feel that cross border terrorism in Kashmir is being instigated and helped by Pakistan government- and that doesnt appear very nice to me.

Someone: well again...I have read a lot of your "personal" statements.. and some of them...or I mean a lot of them are pointing to a normal citizen, its just sad to know how less of a knowledge u have abt Kashmir..I am a Kashmiri...and no I am not taking no sides (India or Pakistan) but its just not only Pakistan..as a matter of fact...mostly its Indian army who is doing the things that dont look nice to u!

Deepak: Thats the "normal" excuse...which I refuse to believe...in our land we have a right to do whatever we feel needed to eliminate terrorists... its hypocrisy at its best when Pakistan trained terrorists blowing up places and killing people is not considered as bad... its not physically possible for any army to get rid of terrorists "cleanly" - the inconvenience caused to the general population is unfortunate to say the least but unavoidable.

Someone: wow wow Deepak..wht do you mean by "our" land.. that aint your land...it not pakistan's either... its our... it belongs to us...and we want you and Pakis to leave...like right now... and Pakistan isnt training no body....wht do you have to say abt your "nice" ppl in Gujrat... I dont think that shit is happening to Hindus or Indians in Pakistan... no account of nothing like that... you are just not well informed... go and join PSA...u might learn something... also people are thinking abt opening KSA (Kashmiri student asso.) you can join that too... no one will stop you...unlike ISA...

Deepak: Religious fanaticism in any form is condemnable - what happened in Gujrat IS bad - unequivocally. But there is a reason why so many people support the BJP (and anti-minority one may add). Certain policies/laws practised by succesive goverments just lead to using the Muslim community merely as vote block - which definitely lead to repurcussions. I am ready to give you the details if you want.
Kashmir is definitely your land - since your are from that part - but its also part of a republic, namely India, whether you like it or not. India consists of people of vastly different ethnic/cultural groups - and I'm sure Kasmiris, irrespective of their religious affiliations would be welcomed into the mainstream.
About Pakistan supporting terrorism - well we are biased by our allegiance - a debate wont lead to anywhere.
As an aside - I get to hear a lot about how beautiful that place is. Someday I wish I would be able to visit it without worrying about getting shot. I also believe people are inherently nice and most of these political problems are caused by a small number of people looking to settle scores.
And I dont think one needs to join any "SA" to learn about things.I surely would want know more and thanks for your "help"!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

An Obituary

I gathered all the stuff from there leaving a empty coke can, and a few cents here and there. All those cassettes which I never played, the documents which had to be there in the glove compartment, a pressure gauge brought for 99 cents months back and the finally the parking decal. Then I climbed into it one last time, revved up the engine, turned on the AC full blast. But I had nowhere to go - sat there for a few minutes with the engine running. Felt like the old times. Even the gas tank read full.

It was still drivable. Only the rear part was badly damaged - but nobody would fix up. People don't fix things here - they dispose it off and buy another. But you cant let go the memories so easily. I effectively learnt driving in it. So did a few of my friends. We explored the beaches and scenic places and the eateries in and around Gainesville in that. All the memories came flooding - the people who are no longer here, the places we went. The first long drive was to Cedar Key in Gulf coast sometime in January - and ironically the last one was too.

But those are all past. I turned off the ignition, unlocked the doors, left the key in the visor as instructed by the insurance guy. They called me a while later. When I would go back at the end of a long day - it would be gone. My first car. A white 98 Nissan Sentra. They would take it apart and auction the parts. May it rest in peace!