Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Time indeed flies fast. I still vividly remember the 2003 fall evening I landed up in this little big campus town. Fresh into an alien land, adjusting to a new culture, so far away from my friends and family, with my awkward accent, it sure was a challenge.

Physics was not the only thing I learnt over the next five or so years. Staying up late in first few semesters, working on those lengthy homework assignments, taught me that that a lot of physics would be drudge work, training for the future. Research has been much more fun, although I realized it is almost impossible to make that ground breaking fundamental contribution, which we all dreamt about when we first decided to do physics, ignoring the temptation and allure of engineering and potentially big money . It has turned out that most of us are rather like cogs in a big wheel, making small (and hopefully somewhat significant) contributions to the big cluttered landscape. But I have also concluded that, this is what I want to do,
and by some fantastic coincidence, the next few years would be incredibly exciting time in our field.

Gainesville has definitely grown on me in all these years. People have been amazingly nice and kind. Once I left my passport in the department, the day before going on a month long India trip. Darlene Latimer and Chris Scanlon came all the way from their home on a Friday night to retrieve it, so that I did not have to miss the trip.

I have lived through what probably has been the golden era of Gator sports. I have first time voted and actively participated in a landmark presidential election. I have traveled all across the country (so far been to 35 states) and beyond, both for academic and pleasure trips. Now, driving up on I-75, when I see that little green sign saying Gainesville is near, it feels like I am about to be home.

And, after this wonderful journey, I would be moving across the Atlantic to Germany for my postdoctoral work. To a new country, without knowing the language, away from all the wonderful friends I made here. Déjà vu?

Published in UF Physics monthly newsletter, Proton, with a five year old mugshot of mine!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Voted for change, and the country did the same.

One of John McCain's last campaign rallies was in Roswell, NM. May be he was hoping for some alien intervention. Sadly that never came - and we all know what happened next.

People have run out of adjectives to describe how historic and overwhelming the night was, and so I would not even try. It was my first time voting in a general election here in United States, and the process was mostly painless and filling in the bubbles made me feel a bit nostalgic. Networks called Pennsylvania early, with Virgina, Indiana and North Carolina very close, we never got a chance to get worried. It was effectively over (time to change the Orkut/Facebook/Gtalk status messages!) and Florida has lost the bragging rights of being the decider. We met a bunch of screaming supporters in downtown and watched him speak at a noisy and cramped bar.

It never felt close on election night. The primaries were more entertaining. And I have to figure out how can I live without all the polls, rumors, debates, speeches and analysis keeping me occupied.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Voting for Change, in Gainesville

So finally the first Tuesday after the first Moday in November is upon us. By this time, tomorrow, we should have a clear sense of where the night is heading for. As an avid supporter "for change", I hope that means whether its a narrow victory or a landslide for Barack.

I have been following politics for while, back from my days in India. The issues and the candidates interest me, for sure. I do have decently strong opinions about those. But what fascinates me more is what happens at the background - the tactics and strategies, the opinion and the exit poll, and in generally the things shape the outcomes, unbeknown to the general public.

This election offered plenty of those. I went to a Joe Biden rally on our campus yesterday. It was my first time willingly in a political rally, ever. And i also got to "meet" the now famous "Obama-bot", a moving robot with glowing blue eyes carrying Obama banners, made by UF students. While all that was so much fun, I noticed far more interesting things. I saw a disproportionate number of people wearing "turn Texas blue" shirts. It has been happening in all across the country - volunteers from Illinois swamping Indiana and Ohio, from all the southern states congregating in Florida and from Arizona going to Nevada and New Mexico. While I dont know if they can pull off wins in all these key states, it just shows the remarkable ground game Obama folks have put together. I read reports that in Ohio, they have calculated the number of votes they need block by block, precinct by precinct, and there are people in charge of making sure of that. Well, it is surely a bad year for republicans, but that does not take away the credit of building perhaps the most exhaustive ground organization in history by Obama folks. And just in case things do not go right, there are five thousand lawyers standing by in Florida, which has been jokingly called the largest law farm in country right now.

May the best candidate win, as long as it is Barack. That would be the easiest choice for me on the ballot.

And that is me with the "Obama-bot" on Sunday at the Biden rally.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Congratulations Ganguly.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Good Ol Times Are Back in Bengal

My profound apologies to my nonexistent international readers. I could not resist commenting on this Singur-Tata-Mamata drama.

When I was growing up, this same bunch of people, who has been in power for an eternity in Bengal, opposed computers in particular and industrialization in general. They called it the US conspiracy to rob the youth of their jobs. We listened. After all, anything going wrong in Bengal was the fault of the imperialist Americans, when the central government could not be blamed. Again we listened. It felt slightly cliched when they supported the central government but still blamed them for all the ills. But then again, we were so used to it by then, we still listened. And of course the big bad Americans were sitting right there, staring at us, sniffing at every opportunity to harm the hard working Bengalis.

So how did they keep all these enemies away? By sheer people power, of course. Any thing you do not like, assemble a mob, pelt stones at random directions, set something totally unconnected on fire and block traffic for hours. It obviously worked, since the idea gained ground. Soon, we were swamped with gifted holidays (read strikes) and a chance to play cricket on the main thoroughfares of the cities. One has to notice how cricketing fortunes of Bengal improved from then on. The police never tried to stop any protesters (unless they were from opposition parties, who by definition were anti-people and pro-American) - and anybody even thinking about defying them, willingly or by some compulsion, met with violent consequences. All was well. How I miss those peaceful times.

Now this poor lady. She is only trying to learn from history. Only way to connect to the people of our state is evidently to cause chaos and disruption, and oppose industries grabbing land. And now, no wonder, she is being blamed as a part of a bigger conspiracy by Americans.

I do not know much about the exact details of the land acquisition process and fairness of the compensation. I do not know if it was good agricultural land.

But sitting in the land where Americans are still a majority, I do know this. Americans care a damn about whats happening in there. And I have a sneaky feeling they never did.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Tale of Walls

From the dusty grounds surrounded by the crumbling walls at the erstwhile Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin, to a city still trying to come in terms to the fact that the wall is not there - my one day visit to Berlin was indeed exploring what those walls meant to the psyche of an entire generation of people.

Someone at Hamburg told me, by heart Germans are Communists. I am not sure if I agree with him, but Berlin is the closest I have been to a former Soviet territory. Today, all the symbols of a booming capitalist system are jostling for space with countless memorials and leftover nostalgia from the pre-unification days - and somehow I felt that robs Berlin from having a distinct character as a city. The wall is very much alive in the collective consciousness, from thousands of pieces (or so claimed) of it sold in every other souvenir shop, to "follow the wall" tours designed for history-thirsty tourists. It would probably take a while for the wall that is not there to become truly history, and before that Berlin would still be defined by that. The most popular landmark is the Brandenburg Gate, followed by a free climb upto the dome of the former Reichstag, from where again, you can see the Brandenburg Gate in all its glory and trace the path of the wall - going through the strangely constructed but eerily calm holocaust memorial at the heart of the city, all the way to Checkpoint Charlie, with people comically dressed up as commies putting commemorative stamps on your passport (for a few Euros, of course).

There is also this huge green patch at the middle of the city, somewhat of a New York city central park. I did not get enough time to explore all the churches and museums, some impressive looking, some not so. But where I did get a chance to go to was this concentration camp an hour away from the city. It was not as big or notorious as Auschwitz, but to see the barren grounds surrounded by high walls interspersed with watchtowers, houses with no windows, divided in how-can-those-be-called-rooms and the weirdly emotionless execution pit, the horrors of those days do seem up, close and personal.

The photos are, as always in my picasaweb album. I also had a chance to explore Hamburg, which is a nice harbor city, and Lubeck, which has a unique skyline with old churches and the castle-like entrance, and famous for Marzipans!

Germany - 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

When you are in Germany...

You get this, in plain text when you type www.google.com:

We can't provide service under the Gmail name in Germany; we're called Google Mail here instead.

If you're traveling in Germany, you can access your mail at http://mail.google.com.

Oh, and we'd like to link the URL above, but we're not allowed to do that either. Bummer.

For general information about Google, please visit www.google.com or www.google.de.

And here is a screenshot. Notice the difference?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

My take on Sarah Palin...

In her own words:

And in the words of her supporters:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

No fear of flying

Like the song says, I have been pretty much everywhere. I should rather say, I have flown to everywhere. Starting from the bumpy ride from Atlanta to Gainesville in the propeller driven apology of a plane to huge Boeing or airbuses for coast to coast or transatlantic sojourns, it has been a long ride, in the true sense of the term.

And like all folks who pretend to be geeks, I love to find out how things work. No, not how that giant metallic structure stay afloat midair, that is trivial. Rather I love to know what goes in behind the scenes. Some of my experiences in all these years, not always exactly pleasant though, helped untangle some mysteries. I would take this chance to bask in the glory of my acquired wisdom now!

"Taking over the plane" : Not as alarming as it may sound. The first time I encountered the phrase when having missed an earlier flight, I was trying to get a standby seat on the next flight five hours later, and the agent at the gate told me she can give me a seat only when she takes over the plane, which would happen an hour or so before the take off. Then I learnt before that, the check in counter controls the plane. I was trying to book a flight within a day, and I could not get a seat assignment, either online or by phone. They simply said, the airport has taken over the plane. So that is that.

All those "special" seats: United has premium economy seating, with a little bit of extra leg space, and they try to sell it to you before the flight. The best way to get them? In a full flight, just do not choose any seats. They would be forced to hand them out eventually- I managed to fly on those quite a few times without paying an extra cent. Same with Northwest, they charge for those spacious seats at exit rows, and often times try to force people to buy them so that they can seat together. Again, traveling solo has its own advantages and checking in late often means they have no choice to give an exit row seat to you. Feels less like a herd of cattle packed in.

And finally, "Channel 9": The only reason I love United. For those uninitiated, channel 9 broadcasts the communication of the pilots with the control. Again, there are different controls taking over the plane at different times - starts from ground control who directs it till take off, then to successive "centers" as it flies by and finally to the ground control where it lands. And it is so much fun listening to the exchanges. All the code names and jargon's, how I love them. It also gives you a sense of power, listening to the instruction to turn right by some degrees and then actually feeling it turn or the warning of "weather" up ahead and then seeing the seat belt sign come back to life. They have intersections in the sky, and routes precisely documented by altitude and angles. And on ground, its pretty much like the traffic on roads, "follow the heavy American jet" or "stay close to the pack". Fascinating stuff.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Travel Companions

Well, I wont mind some. While time and money are the usual suspects, too many trips have not happened due to the lack of people. And, as I have learnt in the had way, its better to travel alone than to end up with a bunch of people not ready to spend at all, or too worried about the comforts of life.

But that is not what this is about. I remember back in India, when traveling back and forth between my home in Siliguri and my university in Calcutta, we used to scan the reservation charts pasted beside the train doors, and would be excited to find any teenage female names around. It is altogether another story that we would rarely end up talking with them. I am not the most talkative of persons unless I know the people around, and that extends to public transits too.

However, on occasions here, I have ended up having conversations with some bizarre people in plane. I ended up beside a drunk musician from New Orleans when going to Chicago for the first time in the winter of 2004, and it was entertaining, for lack of a better word. Initially what started as his not so polite rant about the airline not allowing to carry his guitar or something, turned into an interesting, albeit slightly incoherent conversation. He talked a lot about New Orleans, and this was well before Katrina. He talked about Jazz music, and asserted that only Chicago and New Orleans has good Jazz - which is probably true. The thing I remember him most for is, however for none of the conversations we had. It was my first time landing in a big city after dark, and the view of Chicago from up there is simply awesome. They always go anticlockwise over the lake and the downtown, and from the left side of the plane, where we fortunately were and he allowed me to look out, you can see the most perfect grid, tiny squares after tiny squares. Then comes the lake and as the plane turns around towards the ultra compact downtown - you can almost identify each individual building. Night landing in Chicago is always spectacular - of course, you have to be sitting at the left side, as the guy told me. Rightly so.

This summer, I was coming back from Phoenix, AZ and the route was already absurd - flying up to Minneapolis, MN and then coming down to Orlando. That is the price you pay when you get a cheap ticket nowadays. We were delayed in Minneapolis, and to avoid weather, they flew all the way southwest toward the the direction of Omaha, NE before continuing southeast. So it added an hour or so more to what was already a needlessly long flight, and I so did not mind too much when the guy next to me started talking. As it turned out, he has spent some time in Bangalore, and written poems about India. It is always fascinating to hear about India from a different perspective, so it was all great till then. However once I said I am a physicist, he started talking about all the conspiracy theories - UFO sightings to his belief that the Pyramids were built by aliens. He suggested me books and websites - it did get boring after a while, but he simply would not stop. I never knew people so passionately believed in those.

The poems were nice though.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How do you feel when you do something for the last time?

(Disclaimer: This post is by no means influenced by recent observations that most of the posts here are either travelogues or my political rants. They would be back)

A couple of years back, I visited Siliguri, a pretty little town known more as a getway to Darjeeling. This would have been no story, except for the fact that I grew up there and this was perhaps my last trip there for a while. My family moved away from Siliguri since then and there would be no reason for me to go there now, especially when the India trips are usually so hectic.

Growing up in suburbs was fun. We lived away from the town, inside the university campus, in a way isolated from the world. Kids were kids then, and the pleasures of life were simple. After coming back from school - we would circle around the campus in our cycles, talking about immensely forgettable stuff. We played Badminton and Table Tennis with an intensity as if the winner gets to play in the Olympics. There were occasional pranks of course, and flare ups, as all kids do. Growing up introduces its own complexities and we were no exceptions. The random cycling excursions were not so random anymore, and new words like "planned coincidences" started creeping into the vocabulary. It was all nice and clean though, even when the hidden emotional turmoils were not so. The evening outings took new meaning and became more personal than group activities. And they also became an outlet for me to vent my frustration arising from different unrelated reasons. The open roads and presence of very few automobiles meant I can cycle as fast as I wanted, "speed limit" was an unknown phrase then. It was a great way to unwind - too bad I cant try it here.

Eventually, we all moved away from out little world. But we all carried some of it with us, wherever we went. I still prefer living in suburbs compared to a big city, and when very upset, drive to this place just out of Gainesville, which somehow feels far from all civilization, turn of the engine and just wait in the absolute darkness till I feel better. When I went back to Siliguri, I brushed of the accumulated dust of years from my once shiny black cycle and realized it is no good to ride anymore. My sister's cycle still worked, so I took it, rode around all those places which have so many memories associated with them. It was like traveling back in time. I went past my old place, traced and retraced my old routes, stared longingly at empty balconies, received a royal reception at my old primary school, ate a "Singara" at "Savitri Sweets" and finally when it was all done, the enormity of the moment descended on me. This is something I would do never again. I would never ride a cycle through North Bengal University campus. Never again in my life. Not just because I wont probably ever get a chance, but also because it wont mean anything anymore.

The moment has long been gone.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Which began as a very promising summer, turned out to be a majorly disappointing one. May be I would go into all that sometime, or may be not. However, I am back.

Question of the day: Why the nuclear deal is bad for only Muslims, according to a big array of politicians? If it is bad, then it should be bad for everyone, I would think. Why no one has the guts to use that s word, which would be used every time the word Hindu is used in a sentence?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Judging a Science Fair

This was something I had never done before. Never as a kid I built one of those toy models and never as an adult I cared to look carefully at them. A week or so ago, I had the opportunity to judge the Alachua County Science and Engineering Fair, where kids from local middle and high schools put of their projects. On stake was invites to the state fair - and it was amazing to see the amount of effort and enthusiasm those kids (and in most cases their parents or teachers) put in.

The day started off with me looking at some of the "Physics" projects - and they ranged from super methodical to interesting to downright stupid. The winner in this category had toy cars of different shapes and sizes in a homemade wind tunnel and looked at those affect the wind flow. It was a pretty neat idea, although not the most conclusive way of looking at that particular problem. Another girl measured how high a dry and wet soccer ball would jump with varying amount of air pressure - again not terribly innovative, but one has to give it to them for the effort. On the other side there were projects where one kid after a lot of measurements concluded that dark colored liquids absorb more light than light colored - oh well, is not that what "dark" exactly means? Then there were politically correct projects, where this guy basically hooked up his dad's generator with some load and ran it till it exhausted 5 gallons of petroleum with different octane ratings and concluded which variety is more economical.

After lunch, it was time to branch out to different areas - and I came across some of really eye catching, albeit useless projects. One involved making a dog smell different foodstuff and record how it reacted. Another one played different sound tracks to a chicken and saw which one got it scared. There was one project where a guy poured different brands of carbonated soft drinks on animal tissue, and predicted comparatively how harmful they are depending on how much the tissue is dissolved. Only one problem though - it also got dissolved in distilled water.

I did not have to judge those though. I was pretty impressed by this project where a photo sensor, depending upon how green the leaves are, automatically started watering the plant. I was not at all impressed where they tested different fishing lines strength - how much weight it can support before they break, and they had no clue how all that would change inside water. I am no expert on fishing, but I always thought there must be some water involved, right?

Many of the projects, across the disciplines, involved comparing commercial products. How long different brands of candles burn, how strong different sunscreen or detergents are or how different cameras reproduce the color spectrum. While these are interesting, I am not fully sure if I would call them projects in the sense of term.

Overshadowing most of those, was this 8th grader, explaining how she made silver nanoparticles and looked at their properties. Wow. I am not sure if I can pull that off even now!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Deja Vu?

My first peek at US presidential elections was through "Wonder Years". Like so many other things, it portrayed the everyday America life through the eyes of teenagers. A lot was happening in 70's America, and the keen interest I developed for that exciting period of this countries history may began from those daily half an hour time spent with ever adorable Kevin and Winnie.

Coming back to politics, this episode portrays how a super enthused and motivated Winnie joins the campaign stuff of George McGovern's 1972 presidential bid. He was in many ways like Barack Obama of today - hugely motivating, big appeal among the younger crowd and definitely the anti-establishment democrat. He was anti war and wanted troops to be withdrew from Vietnam. He lost a few primaries, including Florida (which then counted!), but picked up enough delegates to win the nomination at the convention. Sounds eerily similar?

I hope not. In November, against Nixon, at that time he suffered the second worst defeat in history. He won only Massachusetts and D.C, losing even in his home state South Dakota. While I strongly believe that in this day and age, the same fate would not befall on Obama, I am slightly worried about his cult like status now. A win would be a win, and great for the country, whichever way it is achieved, as long as it is fair. But I do not trust the republicans would play a fair game, and my respect for the Senator from Arizona is getting less by the day.

That night, after McGovern lost, Winnie and Kevin realized that life is bigger than an election and all the behind the scene activities we don't know about. On a November night, nine months from now, when all the votes would be counted - no matter who wins, we would learn that all over again.

Until then, Go Obama.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Quick Thoughts!

Not a perfect night - would have liked closer races in NY/NJ/CA and not a blowout loss in MA. But winning 13 out of 21 states, with NM so close, does help the campaign in the long run.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Baez for Barack!

Joan Baez came out in support for Barack Obama this weekend. Here is her letter to the editor in San Francisco Chronicle.

Leader on a new journey

Editor - I have attempted throughout my life to give a voice to the voiceless, hope to the hopeless, encouragement to the discouraged, and options to the cynical and complacent. From Northern Ireland to Sarajevo to Latin America, I have sung and marched, engaged in civil disobedience, visited war zones, and broken bread with those who had little bread to break.

Through all those years, I chose not to engage in party politics. Though I was asked many times to endorse candidates at every level, I was never comfortable doing so. At this time, however, changing that posture feels like the responsible thing to do. If anyone can navigate the contaminated waters of Washington, lift up the poor, and appeal to the rich to share their wealth, it is Sen. Barack Obama. If anyone can bring light to the darkened corners of this nation and restore our positive influence in world affairs, it is Barack Obama. If anyone can begin the process of healing and bring unity to a country that has been divided for too long, it is Barack Obama. It is time to begin a new journey.


Menlo Park

I love my favourite singer even more.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

My endorsement for Barack Obama

I resisted the temptation of writing this post for a while. I was cynical, like most Americans, if Barack Obama can even stand a chance of being the president. The conventional wisdom said no way. His Iowa win was followed by losses in New Hampshire and Nevada. She had huge leads in opinion polls in most states - 25 percentage points, 30 percentage points or more. She was virtually assured to win the biggest states.

I am following politics for a long time - the dramatic rise of BJP in Indian political scene, the night of 6th December 1992 - which changed the politics in India forever, the remarkable speeches by Vajpayee and much more. Never ever I have seen such an inspirational leader like Obama, nor I have seen such an amazing outflow of support in such a short time for one person.

State after state, the leads for Hillary are shrinking. The states where Obama had no chance would all come into play this Tuesday and after. Opinions polls do not mean that much just by themselves - but when viewed along with the spontaneous endorsements by established democratic leaders and popular unions and big newspapers across the country - it is impossible to ignore the momentum Obama would still not win all the states - but he would be more competitive in New York than Hillary would be in Illinois and leave with a huge chunk of delegates from California. That says a lot. It is not everyday that registered republicans come out in the support of a liberal democrat.

Watching his speeches almost brings tears to the eyes. I always liked motivational leaders, mavericks, who think out of the box and have the courage to follow that up. We saw Martin Luther King only in youtube and read about John F Kennedy in history books. Somehow, in some way, Obama is a leader in the same spirit. History will judge how much he would succeed. But this is very clear - this is an incredible moment in history - whether Barack gets the nomination or not - he had a made millions a believer in politics again - which happens so rarely.

And incredibly, this is personal too. I know I would never be a politician, would never run for a public office. However, from the day I read in the history books that only someone born in United States can be a president, I always felt proud that one day I can run for that position. Of course I knew I would never. But when I see a non-white guy, with a funny name, whose father immigrated from Kenya, and having no political background, running from president, something tells me inside that achieving something and dreaming about it in this country may not be so improbable after all.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How the politics has changed...

I was reading a piece contrasting Barack Obama's presidential bid to that of Jesse Jackson's in 80's, and this line kind of stuck out. However, since Florida's Democratic primary counts for nought, I started concentrating a bit on the local races, the ones for Gainesville city commission and all that. This would be my first time voting in Unites States, after expressing my opinion in different Indian polls a few times. Obviously the Democratic no show dilutes it significantly, but looking at those local races and trying to decide, I realized how the decision making process for me has changed from Indian elections.

Back in India, there were mostly no decisions to be made. Either we opposed a political party vehemently, or supported it wholeheartedly, and that rarely had very little to do with that party's stance on issues. That carried over from campus polls to the parliamentary polls, with everything in between. Most of the times, we did not even need to know who the candidates were, we just looked at his party affiliation and voted. I plead guilty of the same offence, that's how I voted for candidates mostly, without knowing who they are or what are their qualifications. Only once, in college poll, I realized I cant stand the guys who were opposing the party I oppose, so left the ballot blank. But other than that one aberration., it was never a decision. And I know its true for most people back there.

To my surprise, I realized, here I am looking at each candidates stand on issues that affect me. Let me give a real example - for a city commission seat, for which I am going to vote this Tuesday, there are three candidates. One is an ex-business owner, tauting her long involvement and experience with the city and her goals are to be selective about giving tax break to developers, improving the the bus system, decrease neighborhood tensions between long-term homeowners and student renters. The second one is a professor of economics and government in a local college, and his main aim is to invite emerging businesses, such as biotechnology and clean energy research firms in the city, and is counting on the support of the student population. The last candidate is also a successful local entrepreneur, and have pretty much the same goals, attracting high paying jobs to the city, promoting social programs for the needy, like vocational training and affordable housing, and being careful in giving tax breaks to companies.

Funny thing is I do not even know who who comes from which party- although I am sure it wont be too difficult to find out. Rather I chose to focus on the agenda. All of them have sensible platforms - but I was tempted to go with the third guy, probably because of his social programs for the needy bit, since homelessness is becoming a growing problem here, and as we all know, that breeds crime. But I saw he proclaims that his vision is to would turn the city into the next "Orlando, Jacksonville or Tampa", which are the nearby big cities. That immediately turned me off. Why? I like Gainesville to be this little big campus town, not a frantic big city where campus is just a part of it. So that reduced my options, and I decided I would go for the professor, partly because I am biased towards those in academia, and partly because I don't trust entrepreneurs. That is probably not the most objective selection, but at least I decided based on who they are and what they want. That's a big change by itself.

(With input from Alligator, the campus newspaper.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Before writing my next post, let me take this opportunity to thank everyone who took time to read my last post.

Thanks to those friends and strangers who thought my "dissenting" viewpoint made sense and supported that wholeheartedly. I am glad that I spoke for all of us, who think that blind or passionate activism does not bring about solution to every problem. The odds of me getting shot in Gainesville, FL is no way correlated to some other Indian getting shot in Durham, NC.

Thanks to those who did not quite agree with my calling the petition futile, but were ready to have a sensible dialogue. We should always agree to disagree without casting aspersions on the other person, which is unfortunately too prevalent.

And finally thanks to the abusive gentleman who is threatening me with dire consequences for my "insensitivity", without showing his face. You are too insecure to come out in the open, or lack the courage to put your across point or the lack of it publicly. Is that all you can do? I pity you. I really do. Get a life!

Monday, January 21, 2008

It does not make sense...

Incredibly sad? Yes
Immensely disturbing? Definitely.
Something "we" need to do? No.

That would be my summary reaction to the murder of this Indian graduate student at Duke and the subsequent rants and ramblings. Reactions have varied from unfair generalization (Indians are being targeted), to a more paranoid version of that (There is an organized effort to kill Indians) and to absolute paranoia (I don't feel safe anymore in my apartment). While the killing of two other Indian graduate students in Baton Rouge, Louisiana roughly a month back contributed to this paranoia, a little sanity check would convince us otherwise.

Crime happens. A Senegalese graduate student of University of Chicago was shot dead in November. Now should we conclude that someone is after international graduate students? A University of Georgia graduate student is missing for two weeks and is suspected to be dead. Now is it a conspiracy against graduate students at large? I see them as unrelated local crimes. They were just at a wrong place at a wrong time. A burglary gone wrong. A gun abuse by a drunk or a drug addict. All of us living here know that all parts of any city are not created equal - there are elements who you would not want as your neighbor, to put it mildly. However, international graduate students often end up living dangerously close to those areas, sometimes because its close to school or most of the times its just plain cheaper. Sometimes the security is reassuring, like my friend in Baltimore has automatic security alarm installed, sometimes its not, as apparently this guy from Duke was a victim before, from the stories we hear.

The reactions have been predictable. The shock and grief are inevitable, and I know some folks who knew this guy personally. While sadness is genuine, we have to understand there is not much we can do. Of course we should be alert while walking back alone late at night, but who is not? It means nothing to the deceased to fill up his Orkut scrapbook with our messages and it certainly a total wastage of time and energy to draft futile online petitions. It is a local law enforcement issue, unless proved otherwise, and not a threat to any community in general. A foreign government has no say gun control issues of this country, however insane they may seem to be from outside. All Indian government can do, and I am sure would be doing with or without a petition is to push for a fast investigation. Another pet peeve is, it has not given enough media coverage here. True enough, on Saturday, it was not in the headlines, but it happened late on Friday and Saturday was a big day in politics, with a couple of states having presidential caucuses and primaries, so no wonder it was not headline news. Since then, I have seen reasonable coverage of it and no signs of a cover up, as alleged by some.

The killing does not make sense. So does not the reactions of most Indians around me.