Friday, December 25, 2009

Barcelona Day 3 : Drizzles and Dazzles

What a day this has been! This is the only way to put this into words after a day that started at 6AM in the morning and is still to end at 00.00Hrs! After the usual breakfast, we started to out to the preplanned destinations. Today is the day before christmas and usually on this day, everything comes to a halt in Germany. Sparse trains and metros and no trams, absolutely no shopping and yeah, no one on the roads too. This is not the case here(was not the case in Paris last year too). The metros and trains run 24hrs and with twice the frequency in the evenings and many people love to party tonight. Its the 25th that is significant here and I will write about how it was tomorrow!

So, the first destination stop was at the main Cathedral in Barcelona. Well, it is Gothic and surrounded by the Roman influence on Barcelona. Spending a few minutes in this, we then proceeded to the Archaeological museum which houses the Roman foundations of the city. This was very informative historically but not so very culturally. I have to visit a culturally and artistically informative museum on Saturday!!

Out from the ruins, we proceeded to the Casa Mila, the most visited Gaudi house here in Barcelona. I went inside this one and personally I feel that Gaudi is brilliant from the outside, but the interiors of the apartment were a bit too non conventional. Details will be posted along with pictures!!

It was then lunch at an Indian restaurant, Bombay spice. I had a limited north Indian thali and the food was very average. This lunch was readily digested when we decided to visit the Gaudi park. It is a flop idea of a commercial apartment complex that was commisioned to Gaudi. It contains loads of mosaic designs and beautiful pillars. The adventure was in reaching this place. From metro stop we had to trek 30 minutes uphill to reach this place.

The next stop was the Olympic stadium. Its massive and romantic. Totally. I think its the best romantic place Ive seen till now to spend the evening alone with you girlfriend/wife, or at least I would prefer to do it someday!! I will write about the architecture when I am able to post the pictures.

7PM we entered the Spanish village for the Flamenco concert. Well, it was just breathtaking!

This blog has just been a simple travel log because I am totally running out of energy now. I have loads to write about the Flamenco concert!! But let me recharge my batteries(the ones in my camera and mobile too) to start yet another adventurous Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Barcelona : Day 2

The day started at 6 AM after a fairly decent sleep of 5 hours. Hot shower and emails to mom followed by breakfast at 8 AM occupied the time I spent inside the hostel. It was filling breakfast of cereals, bread with nutella and orange juice and this was perfect to kick start the day. I have seen beautiful sun sets where the sky is splashed around with a hue of colors, but this was the first time I was treated to a painted morning sky.

The first place of visit was Sagrada Familia. This is a famous architectural structure built by the renowned Antonio Gaudi. I will write more about Gaudi after tomorrows in-detail visit to one of his master pieces. Sagrada Familia was started in 1882 and was left incomplete due to his untimely death. Further constructions were also disrupted due to the Spanish civil war. This church is yet to be completed and is expected to take yet another decade, but still this is one of the most visited places in Barcelona. My want to go inside was cut at point blank by the expensive entrance fees of 12E!

Having navigated with ease with the city map in Brussels and Krakow, I thought we could walk to the next Gaudi architecture with ease. Let Spanish and Catalan be praised, we lost of way in spite of the detailed map I had in hand. The reason, the street names are so similar, even the parallel streets. Carrer Maria and Carrer Mariana and the likes ran parallel causing a retinal malfunction leading to disorientation of directions!! Anyways, these things happen for the best.
So, we figured out the nearest metro station and headed straight to La Rambla (more on this street tomorrow) where we had to meet at the Travels Bar to start our free walking tour of the Gothic part of the city. I am not going to write in details about what I saw during this walk, for I want to do this in detail with the pictures posted along side. But the history is fascinating and seriously, if my history teacher had made our classes as wonderful as our guide did, I would have probably taken up history as my main subject!

Our walk group consisted of nine people, 4 from India, 3 from Mexico and 2 from Australia. I liked the way our guide made us interact with each other to make it a well knit group and not the known people talking their own language during the tour. It did rain, but I only now I think about it, I actually remember that it rained! The 2 hour walk through the Gothic quarter ended with lovely Sangria. This is a typical spanish wine punch with sliced fruit, sweetener and brandy. Await the surprise blog regarding this on Sunday morning (27.12.2009)!!

Lunch was in a small vegetarian eatery, Maoz. It consisted of a custom made falafel, exactly th same I ate in Amsterdam. Not wasting time we took the metro and then the funicular up to the Montjuic castle, the highest point in Barcelona. The sunset was imposing upon the city. Yet again, detailed description will be given along with pictures as soon as I touch base in Germany!

Walking down the hill, we located the place we want to visit tomorrow and also confirmed our reservation to the event I had book for. Dinner consisted of dough nuts and a lovely Mexican Desperado (Beer with tequila) and 1L of Pineapple juice that I purchased from the supermarket.

So, what is the place I located to visit tomorrow and what is the event I attend? Also, what does the Sangria hold as a surprise?! Tune in again to indulge in Barcelona through me!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

First evening in Barcelona

Lets try something different this time, a live blog about each passing day in the new country I visit. Barcelona. This is the ninth country I am visiting in the past 2 years and I have never arrived so impressed!

The flight to Barcelona was from Dusseldorf Weeze, one of the misnamed airports in Germany but allowing the cheapest travel possible! Every flight for the day was delayed owing to terrible snow. But since snow is seldom heard of in Barcelona, ours was the only one that was on time. After 2 hours and 15 minutes of uneventful air journey, I had to take the bus service from Girona airport to the main city. Accommodation was booked in Dreams hostel. This is the first time I had booked a youth hostel for my stay, in every other country it was a cheap hotel. Rains welcomed me into the country and now I have learnt after my Krakow experience that a rainy welcome will lead to the best enjoyment and its proving to be true again! 1 hour of bus journey saw the rain fade away to lead into the most pleasant winter evening so far. 14 degrees and wet with little breeze. The thermals that I had to wear to fight the minus 10 in the morning was already starting to feel uncomfortable and useless.

The hostel is situated in a place called Pep Ventura, 20 minutes from the city center where we [myself and Vimal] got off. But the well structured metro connections made it a cake walk to reach this place. Learning from a Spanish guy how to locate the hostel, I was highly impressed by its neatness and organization. The 12 bed dormitory is clean and well insulated. The reception is spacious allowing space for numerous activities and the guy at the reception too was helpful with the touristic doubts.

After a refreshing face wash, we were surprised in the reception by an Indian couple who had also just checked in and plan to stay for the next 3 nights. So we teamed up to get to the city center and walk around. The city center, Plac Catalunya is enormous with fountains and huge streets which resemble the Champ Elysee in Paris. Brilliantly lit for the christmas, its is truly a shoppers delight. The four of us were just walking and awing at the beautiful lit complexes, buildings and restro bars. Finally the long walk ended in an all you can eat Catalan buffet. Wonderful salad and the Catalan spinach was my pick and I relished it very much.

back in the hostel at around 10 and we planned the itenary for day 2. Until then, its good night from Rp!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The mud between my toes

10 minutes isn’t a big time to lose when you are traveling from Dusseldorf to Muelheim, especially if it is a Sunday and the previous night was some amazing Christmas market visit filled with hot Met (honey wine) and an extended night with Cacasa cocktails. Cacasa is a Brazilian spirit made from sugarcane and tasted lovely with sweet lime juice and sugar. So I decided to take the S bahn from Dusseldorf to home not minding the extra 10 minutes. New york nagaram was playing in my i-pod and I was leaned against the window in the not so crowded train.

It was a beautiful sight. A few farmers were harvesting huge pumpkins and red cabbages. Though this picture was in frame only for a few seconds, I was able to take in the entire scenario and nostalgia began to bring smiles to my face. To feel the mud in your toes in the garden is such a wonderful feeling. May be the Germans were wearing leather boots to avoid this and also to protect themselves from the chillness of the winter. But not me and not my sister. We always used to be bare footed when we were gardening in our grandmother’s place in Trichy.

It was a compact garden but still huge enough for two crazy siblings who came to spend the summer and winter holidays there. Since there wasn’t much age appropriate company around, me and my sister spent most of the sunny afternoons in the garden. Watering the plants in the afternoon was such a favorite job and the smell of Geosmin (the smell when rain hits the dry muddy lands) used to elevate the atmosphere. There was a huge mango tree which was responsible for the shade over the entire garden. A huge hibiscus bush and a Guava tree nearby. Further near the compound was a Neem tree, a bush with flowers what we used to refer in the local language as Idly Poo and a Pavzhamalli tree (or was it not there?!). There was also lime and once also were snake gourd creepers that hung supported by a structure. Near the clean water sump, there were white pumpkin creepers and our favorite touch-me-not plant. We used to always touch the leaves and watch them shrink. There was Jasmine, Rose, flowers that were beautifully colored but no fragrance and even pillayar poo (well, I am not a botanical gardener, so I just know some of them in the local lingo!). Also not to forget a few tomato shrubs, egg plants and green chili. Aloe vera and spinach stood in space opposite to the main garden. Oh! And the coconut tree in the corner near the dangerously deep well.

As a young kid and also without anything to do in the hot afternoons, the garden was the only fun provider. We had tools for digging and scooping the earth off and a huge hose pipe that could be dragged to any corner of the huge garden. Our regular job was to dig nice water channels that would store water around the tree and also to interconnect them with ducts so that if you water from the start of the duct, it would flow and distribute amongst all the plants. Usually these constructions were done every afternoon and destroyed in the evening and planned in a new design every afternoon!

We also planted seeds and loved to wait to see the tiny little plant peeping out and watch it shed its cotyledons and if we were lucky enough, also see the first flower. There is a thrill involved in this and if I compare this feeling to my present day scenario, I can say that it is similar to protein crystallization. Carefully planning your protein drops and checking every other day and the anticipation for crystals. Well, I got more lucky with plants!

Once, me and my sister were really involved in gardening. I used to remember all my science class lesson and try to utilize them. Earthworms are farmers best friend was the lesson I remembered on that particular day and want to implement it. So I asked my scout (my sister) to search for earthworms so that we can put them near the plant. We found several ones by digging the earth and transported those wriggly squishy little friends in the stem of a plant or on a leaf and put them near the plants. Suddenly my sister let out a cry of triumph and called for my backup. She had spotted a real long worm and it was escaping her by digging itself deeper into the earth and she was pulling it out with her fingers! By the time I rushed to share the moment, she has pulled out half the worm and I saw it snap into two. One part was wriggling in her fingers and the other part was digging into the earth. She was determined not to let the other part escape. So with one half clutched in her hands, she scooped out the other one! Since this was a long worm and still alive in two parts she wanted to put them for the egg plants. She is crazy about egg plants!

When we stepped out of the garden to wash ourselves, we were always covered in slushy mud. It was all over our hands and even faces. It will dry over your skin and change its color. Our toes would be in layers of such mud and also inside our finger nails. It has a real special smell and taste. Of course, how many times it has gone into our mouths! To get cleaned up would take an hours scrubbing and the water that washed our bodies would run totally mucky!

I don’t know if the trees and the plants still stand there, for the house along with the garden has been sold to someone. But they still do in our memories and I have the best harvest of mangoes, lime, egg plants, tomatoes and fabulous blooms.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Missing Diwali, Lights, Sounds and Aroma

Been ages and I don’t know what has been stopping me from blogging. I wouldn’t blame it on work for I had always found time to write and not the want of events either. There had been some over which I could keep writing until I feel bored of expressing them in different ways! But today, the thought of day after tomorrow has pushed me to write this in a last minute effort to feel closer to the best ever times I had had back home in India, celebrating Diwali.

The only thing I like about religion are the festivals it holds. A reason to celebrate, a reason to unwind and feel childhood every passing year. It feels shocking to me when some of my friends tell me that they don’t celebrate Diwali because they have grown up. Is this how you grow up? To lose the celebration, the anticipation and the fun? And a few of them turn environment conscious and child labour conscious and stop celebrating. This is a baffling paradox. India is such a huge country with a huge socio-economic barrier. Let there be no blame game, instead there could have been support. You stop the purchase of fire crackers since the NGO’s shout that the majority of them have child labourers and if you don’t buy them, who is going to feed them anyways? So, why cant there be support and regulation and then everyone is happy! Instead there are these emotional stories, pictures and advertisement which makes you feel like a pathetic human being every time you light up a sparkler. Truth be told, I’ve never felt that way.

Escape from this feeling and then here comes the environment friendly part. It is ok for the government busses to emit pathetic gasses all around the year. It is ok to sell doctored petrol and diesel and even give emission clearance for vehicles even without checking it. It is perfectly ok for the roads and traffic to be chaotic which increases the emission and it also perfectly fine for huge trucks and lorries to roam inside the city limits during day time and most important of all, parks can be converted into IT parks, trees can be cut to make broader roads, lights and blarring speakers can be run 24 hours for political purposes. And now you have rules for a one day celebration to protect the environment. No firecrackers before 6AM and after 11PM and no high decibel crackers. Wow, the government really cares!

Diwali is one festival that turns every grown up into a kid. For people who realise this, welcome to the club. Else, thanks for reading until this! I used to love the celebrations in my apartment. Loads of kids in the age group, juniors to whom we were heroes and seniors who were heroes to us. It was perfect. 12 Midnight used to witness intense competition on who lit the first firecracker of the season and after the first one burst, we used to go back home to prepare in the more traditional way. Oil bath and prayers and then off at 4AM in the morning with the back of crackers, candles, incense sticks and matches. I love the smell of crackers and the color of my hands after an intense session of bangs and poofs. Sulphur and Phosphorus and burnt paper. Combine this smell with the ones emanating from several kitchens in the apartment cooking elaborate festival meals and you can get an idea how heaven smells like.

The first session of fire crackers used to last until 8AM and after that is a pause to stop the bursting hunger inside the stomach. I don’t know why, but the sweets taste more divine when eaten with the chemical smeared fingers :P Though for weakly immune people the side effects could be a disastrous stomach! The early morning Diwali special programs on the television were a treat and a time killer until the next bursting session would start. The day would be filled with visits to my grandparents house and if lucky, my cousin brother’s visit to grandmothers would coincide and creative naughtiness would be at the peak. New firecrackers would be manufactured by us by reverse engineering the existing ones and certain experiments have taken place that would rise several eyebrows!

I felt the same intensity every year, the same anxious wait for this festival and the same restlessness. This is my third year away from this festival and I miss it, dearly.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Stage fear and beyond

I still remember my first stage appearance from my kinder garden days. May be because it has been repeatedly reminded by my parents and from the recording I have of the lines I had to recite on stage. It’s funny, because at that age, you know nothing about stage fear. You are not bothered about the huge crowd in front of you. All what you think about is how you look in your costume! I was in total love with the police costume that I had to wear. I even wore that dress on a school day and stood out from the class for doing such a thing. The very first lines I spoke on stage “police aaga naan irunthal, polla thirudanai pidithiduvaen, kaali sirai il adaithiduvaen, kambi yenna vaithiduvaen” (If I were a police, I would catch the notorious thief, hold him in an empty cell and make him count the bars).

After this performance, I didn’t get the chance to deliver dialogues on a stage until 1998. For some strange reason, I was chosen to play the role of Nehru in a play. I had to recite a few lines, emote patriotically and wear a costume. Stage fear showed its colors. I had to practice this several hundred times and still, seeing the entire school in front of me, I went numb and sweaty. The rose pinned on my shirt fell down and caused much laughter which made me even more nervous. How I spoke those lines, I don’t remember now, but it was over!

Its funny how life transits and how behavioral characteristics change and influence. Two years later, I still could not overcome stage fear during a simple intra school cultural event and exactly one year later, I was an orator. A change in school did the magic and the determination that this new crowd should never see me sweat or stammer during a talk. Credits go to my parents who framed my talks that time.

Now I crave for the stage. It’s like marijuana to me. Every talk I hear, I feel I could have done it better and I show that in the opportunity that I grab. I feel let down if some one does not utilize an opportunity to dazzle. The latest incident being a researcher messing up precious 10 minutes in front of 25 Noble laureates and hundreds of international researchers and several funding agency directors. What a stage it was and what an opportunity to make yourself noticeable and envied. Where else would have been the perfect place to glorify the scientific greatness on India and showcase India’s greatest research works and contribution to science. It was the perfect platform to bring to notice the great Indian scientific works that would have received the Noble prize if not for a racially biased committee. And he stood there, blabbering bits and pieces of his research work in English that was incomprehensible. I am amazed that the Indian government that nominated this group took so lightly the importance of these ten minutes. I couldn’t recover from this for a week and until I lit up the stage with my performance in the DFG at Bonn.

I don’t know what takes over me these days when I board the stage. I can reach out to the entire room without the microphone and tell confidently that no one gets bored or sleepy when I talk. I feel like a whirlwind thrashing with utmost ferocity to show it cant be matched against and until its there, it has to be respected. The awed look on the audience face tempts me even more to talk. I felt highly satisfied after my talk on 10 July, especially when officials from DFG praised me and when they told me that they too got excited about doing research once again, to actually step into the lab and start making things happen.

I have inspirations too. Very first is Rangarajan of Alma matter. Hearing his speech changed my outlook towards public speaking. Next comes Cho. I like his fierce dictation and slap stick humor that he vents out on politicians regardless of their power. Then my dear father. I like his style when he stands in front of the mike, his spontaneity and the way he observes and builds upon his speech as and when he talks. Finally, APJ Kalam’s motivatory content.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Travel to the land of Tintin : Brussels, Belgium

It’s been two weeks since my return from Brussels and somehow I have been kept busy and not able to write about it. Finally, today I start when my proteins are spinning upstairs leaving me a bit relaxed in the office. Every time, my experiences are written like a guide book, but this time, I would like to write it like a journal entry or perhaps like experience sharing. Either way, I can tell you, it might be a bit long!

Brussels Zuid or Brussels Midi, the main station is just 100 minutes away from Aachen, Germany. The fast trains are a pleasure to travel inspite the fact that Deutche bahn (German rail) is always very expensive. But luck brought a 38 Euro two way ticket to me!

First things first! Everyone speaks English! Relief, especially after the sign language and grunts in Paris! Brussels is nearly the centre of Europe and had 3 official languages, Dutch, French and English. Though you can hear people dabbling away in French, they also speak good English. I didn’t hear them speak Dutch but there were advertisements and announcements. Who cares as long as they all speak English!! Makes your travel much easier and allows you to get lost happily.

Brussels is very well laid out. Makes touristic travel very cheap since all the important visits are situated around the Grote Mart or the grand place. It lives up to its name, grand place, for it is really grand. Grandeur comes to this place from its oldness. The minute you stand in the centre of the Grote mart, flanked by the Flemish bell towers and the magnificent buildings, you feel transported back to the medieval times. The place smells of roasted nuts, caramel, ice creams, chocolate, chocolate and chocolate! There are pubs and restaurants and it makes the place very enjoyable.

Situated around the grand place are the churches, Royal palace, Belgium centre for fine arts, the comic strip museum and the Mannekin Pis. A couple of minutes in the metro will take you to the Atomium and the mini Europe. I did not visit the mini Europe because I did not want the miniatures to spoil my fantasy of standing before the originals. Probably I will visit mini Europe after I have visited all of Europe!

Brussels is the birth place of Tintin amongst other cartoon characters. As a kid, I grew up on him and liked the characters very much. To actually be in Brussels, was very exciting for me, just to satisfy the Tintin hunger! Cartoons painted over several walls and buildings all around the city boast of its glorious cartoon characters and their creators.

Belgium is a very beautiful country and the travel within Belgium is very cheap, even at 300Kmph! I bought tickets to Antwerp, Ghent and Brugge in the fast trains, both ways for just 21 Euros! Enchantingly tourist friendly!

The train from Brussels to Antwerp takes 40 minutes, at 300Kmph and as usual, the very first thing that attracted me in Antwerp, more than its diamonds is the really antique look of the railway station. Though modernisation is evident interiors, the structure is perfectly antique and massive.

Walking out of the station brings you right to the diamond centre of the world. Inspite the fact that business has changed hands from the Jews to the Gujjus (no offence meant!), the best diamonds are still out of reach for me at the moment! The Meir is the shopping street of Antwerp and seriously, wow! Women will freak out shopping here. The French impression is well seen when it comes to fashion and the Dutch impression is seen on the architecture. Exotic blend I would say. The city centre of Antwerp has less to offer but the Rubin house is really worth the visit when it comes to appreciating painting. The huge metal guy looking down on you near the harbour really gets into you when you look around the brilliantly shaped city and the once biggest harbour of the world. Incidentally, Congress party will have an easy victory in Antwerp since the symbol for Antwerp is the Hand (Antwerp – from the hand).

Ghent is another beautiful city, 30 minutes from Brussels. It was a merchant controlled town laid out in great perfection. Absolutely easy to navigate by foot with the tourist map, Ghent is a real good destination for walking tour buffs like me. Oh yeah, not to forget the awesome soup I had there. I was automatically attracted to the soup salon serving only vegetarian soups with various toppings. Brilliant!

Brugge is further 30 minutes from Ghent and is considered to be the best romantic spot in the world. Well, I would not argue much for I also felt the same way when I saw the city. It’s a city which has everything. Canals, churches, a perfect city centre, boats, walks and cycle routes. It is really a huge city and would take an entire day to enjoy its history by walk and by water. Unfortunately I could not spend the evening there, but then yeah, I wasn’t with the perfect companion either!

A surprise inclusion in the trip was Ostendee. It’s a beach and was hyped to be great. Well, being brought up on the seaside, it was not thrilling for me, just a blank, bland beach. I would any day rate our good old Marina as more happening and exciting. Not even babes in bikini decorated the vast emptiness. May be it was not the season yet, but this place holds nothing special.

Waterloo would seem an exciting bet as soon as you hear the name and imagine Napoleon at war and conquered. But trust me, its nothing more than a hill with a lion on top and green fields beneath. Well, the light and sound shows and museums might be of interest, but missing this place owing to a tight budget or time is no blasphemy.

Coming to the issue, food and people. Well, non vegetarians will love the food since Belgium boasts of one of the finest sea food. Me being a vegetarian always had French fries, pizzas, falafels and the likes to fill my stomach. No complains since it was cheap and always allowed place for Australian ice creams. This is the best selling brand here and the scoops are always extra big! People are tourist friendly and like every city, the night life always attracts. Brussels is safe and locals willingly help you with directions. This city also boasts highly about its gay population and yet again it is not a threat to any male tourist!

Shopping can get very addictive in Brussels. Being the French like in fashion, Brussels offers every new fashion you can imagine of. And chocolates! I think there are more chocolate bars in Brussels than the bricks that would have gone into constructing the city!
Every street has chocolatiers making home made chocolates and selling them and you get to choose from unheard but tempting varieties!

On the whole, Brussels is an ideal place to camp and move around Belgium and even entire of Europe. Its cheap and fast railways and international airport offers the best and quick connectivity.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The spirit of my lab coat(s)

My office room has been silent for a while now. No rhythmic beats emerging from the most hit gadget in the world. Imagine the number of people hitting it everyday all around the world, wow! Huge! Yeah, it’s the key board! Anyway, this exclamation has nothing to do with the blog that follows. Just my respects to the keyboard!

Before I started on a holiday to India, I hung it in my lab.

July 2007 was when I got it, a fresh, new, stark white, thick cotton full sleeved lab coat. Class XI was the first ever when we were asked to wear lab coats. It was very exciting and believe me, even though I outgrew sizes, I wore the first lab coat I bought then, till the end of my bachelors education. In school, we used to feel proud wearing the coats. The look in the eyes of the junior students when they see us going for the lab sessions gave us a sense of superiority. Well, I had the same look of longing when I used to see my seniors! But then I learnt that most of the students picturise themselves as medical doctors when wearing the coats and still continued to hate Chemistry and lab sessions and the only time they were proud about their lab coats was when they flaunted it before juniors and maintained it stain free!

A stain free lab coat?! This is a blasphemous by my standards. Come on, a lab coat should have stains. Well, that does not mean that you are careless, its just how involved you are and if you lab coat has acid burns, then it’s a wow and thumbs up from me! And wearing a lab coat allows you to have some fun beyond what would be considered safe. I remember us signing our names with potassium permanganate solutions and spraying the coloured solutions on each others lab coats and not to mention the unlimited fundas and art work that used to roam around on each lab coat! The usual was to write ‘Kick me hard ‘on the back of some ones lab coat. Drawing danger sings, designing cloth tattoos, signing names and designed splatter of non harmful chemicals are some.

Each lab coat has been special for me and every stain always brought back memories of experiments and happenings. Here, my coat bore my name, chlorophyll stains, Trifluoroacetic acid burns, protoporphyrin streaks and the pockets contained personalised spatulas, NMR labels, and custom designed crystallisation grease dispensers and markers.

When I came back to the lab from holidays, my lab coat was missing.

I never faced a situation like this. It was suddenly like realising that you had lost your arm or leg. I searched places even where it was least probable to find it and finally complained to my supervisor and put a word to all my co-workers. They were surprised that a lab coat went missing! Guess I have some secret admirer here!!

I ordered new spatulas, new markers, made my custom equipments again and finally loaded them in a new lab coat. To wear this now is like having your memory whitewashed. But now, my new coat bears on its back, in huge fonts, “Ask me if you want a souvenir! Don’t take away this lab coat too!!”

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Volatile Dream

This post has been put on hold again and will be released to public viewing after discussions.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fright and Flight

Nearly 6 weeks before, that was 2 weeks before my flight to India, I had to suddenly change my airlines from Emirates to Air France. I had travelled before in Lufthansa and Emirates and know pretty well about their air crafts and the baggage allowance. Well, this is the most important fear factor for everyone. Who wants to pack up excess, then throw away, simple but heart rendering stuff away in the last moment at the check in counter?! I definitely don’t want too!

So, Air France was new to me and they allowed just 20Kg of baggage. I don’t understand why people want to start a panic by discouraging them about the flight. I was discussing my India trip over the phone with my friend and as soon as he heard the airlines name, he was like “I’ve travelled once with that, its totally galeej (dirty) flight. It’s like taking a town bus in India. Rickety seats, dirty floors, not so friendly air hostesses and very bad food. Why did you have to book with this airline?” He literally took my enthusiasm about the flight, though the destination home was an annulling factor to his comments. So, I made up my mind, don’t care about the flight, just get on, think India and you are home!

The days rolled by and I had packed my baggage and weighed it, 21.7Kg. Not a big deal at all and for a frequent flier with various airlines, I knew it would pass through. Just when I was calling to say goodbye to friends, the second panic switch was pressed. “Do you know, these days everything is so strict. You flew a year back with a few kilograms excess. It’s near to impossible these days. I paid 90 Euros for an excess of 3Kg in Lufthansa and I’ve heard Air France is more expensive and totally strict. So, be prepared to pay for your excess” Well, it wasn’t really the panic button for me, but for my friend. I was carrying her expensive sarees to be delivered to her house and that was the major part of the baggage. I told her what I heard about Air France and she said she will come to the airport in morning (it was a very early flight!) and in case they demand money, she will take her sarees back. Well, it was disappointing for everyone, until check in…

The baggage weighed 22.7Kg on the counter! I bit my lips and crossed my fingers as the lady scanned my passport and visa. I could hear my friend chanting prayers that she must let the luggage through and then tadaa… It was through! No questions, no raised eyebrows, it was just through!

After crossing the first hurdle, the second one was still nudging my peace. Will the flight actually be as my friend described?! Well, I soon found. It wasn’t! I would rate it as the best one I actually flew with. Class interiors, awesome leg space, comfortable push back, tasty and good food and entertaining selection of movies! What else can you ask for?!

I don’t understand why people have to be so discouraging and negative about every airlines! Especially when someone is about to travel, isn’t it always good to put the positive points and if there arnt any positive points, why blow up the bad ones? Anyways, we cannot change the flight in the last minute just because someone tells it’s the worst! Grow up people, seriously!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The French Connexion

After a day of brilliant seminar and some tough structure elucidation through software, I thought, why not blog today and complete the hatrick! In principle, the sequence would be good if I wrote about nostalgia again, but then I guess its time for a change!

When I was taking a holiday in Paris, even though I was stunned by the beauty of the city, I was nauseated with the attitude and behaviour of the public. After living and travelling in Germany for nearly two years and having travelled quite a bit to other European countries, by far, Paris has been the place of worst public attitude.

The first repulsive moment was when people understood English but refused to answer back in English! Fine, don’t tell me now that I am a tourist and it is an adventure to travel like this. Accepted. It is really adventurous to explore places, but when the entire world is striving to be cooperative, why can’t the younger generation speak English?! French may be like music even when spoken, but it can be really irritating when you have to catch a train on a day of train strike! We were really luck to find a young French girl (no eye brows going up please!) who could guide us using her broken English to the correct platform and even she was confused. Finally it was my ingenuity that lead us to take the correct train in spite of announcements happening in French!

Let me not press further with the language. I guess in a non English speaking country, it is always like this and no complaints. The above was just an experience ;-)

The metro trains were always crowded and people were standing jam packed even near the doors. Funny that the doors do no open automatically and even the people standing near the door will not open the doors unless it is their stop! Come on French people, can’t you open doors atleast?! They stand right in front of the door, sometimes with big bags on their backs, not even giving way to fellow Frenchmen, forget tourists! The very first time, we didn’t know the doors weren’t automatic and I was waiting for the doors to open. When they didn’t I fiddled with the knobs and still didn’t open. If such a situation was here in Germany, the person behind you will gladly help you with a smile. Here people were least bothered. I finally managed to kick the door open and then learnt that you had to turn the knobs! Crazy!!

Talk about French wine, French perfumes and French kiss! I guess some frustrated tourist got bheja fried in France and hence the name French fries!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Solar Cooker, more memories of 2000

The previous blog was induced by boredom but triggered up real good memories. But this one is an inspired recollection derived by the comments of Vivek on the previous post.

Standard X is an important phase of life and it’s supposed to mould you into what you wan to pursue in future. Although in schools a students future depends only on his mark sheet and not on his potential, I never gave a second look at scored. True, it did result in a lot of tension during admission to the next level, but it was unable to stop us from mischief and what I am right now!

Physics classes were the funniest ones for we had the weirdest teachers. IX standard saw us through with one whom we named ‘kuthiral vaal gundama’ (pony tailed fatty: P). I seriously don’t remember what her name actually is! But this named suited her for her curly haired pony tail and squeaky voice. In standard X landed in our class, the most brilliant physics teacher we ever can rejoice of, of torturing to the maximal extent. Indira alias Aaya. Aaya in Tamil means servant maid and she was named so because of her looks, language and behaviour! Well to simplify things in her language, she has no capaquity whatsoever, even to handle electriquity and her classes were pure atroquity.

She commanded our class to submit a project in Physics for which we would be granted 5 precious marks and this would be added to the final score of the practical in turn to get added with our board exam marks. The final threat to make us all work. BOARD EXAMS! The class was divided into groups and mine had my dear companion Vivek. I can remember only Vivek in my group for it was only the two of us who decided to work weekends and actually submit the project. I think our group also had few other students who failed to understand the importance and need of our project, to construct a working model of the solar cooker!

Initial days went off in designing the cooker in paper. Well, there wasn’t much to design, but me and Vivek drew on pages and pages and finally came to the conclusion that it had to be rectangle! Unfortunately there was no Wikipedia to guide us instantaneously! Then came the list of raw materials required to build it. In principle, it was a small list. Wood to make a rectangle box, nails, hammer, black paint, mirrors to reflect the light inside and a pane of glass to cover the top.

The above bill was not passed since making our own box seemed a bit out of way for the project and hence we decided to buy one. Now the problem was how to get some box like that. Jumping from one hardware store to another finally taught us that we need a box which translates into English as 5 ½ woods and 3 inches (anjara katta, moonu inch). I still have no clue what the dimensions mean, but we did get one that exactly fitted our need. The next weekend was a black one owing to painting of the box with black enamel. For some reason it was a good feeling to smear our hands with the paint and then remove it using turpentine!

The reflecting mirror was bought from Vel glass works, just near to Sanskrit college and had been fitted with supporting styrofoam as a reflector. Now the task of getting a glass cover remained. We scanned the glass works but then they all asked for exorbitant rates for a small piece of glass cover. Finally we hit upon one kind glass workshop in St. Marys street and the owner allowed taking the glass broken covers for free! Rummaging the throw aways, we fished out a huge piece of broken glass sheet, got it cut neatly and placed it to complete our cooker!

It was really funny when we took it to class. That was the last day for submission of the project and our ingenious Aaya kept our cooker in the middle of the playground with a bowl of water inside it for testing purposes. A thermometer was kept on the water and we were told that only if the temperature rose above 80 degrees we would be given marks. Seriously, we couldn’t take that risk though the sun was at its hottest. So, after few minutes of waiting, we replaced the water in the bowl with hot water taken from the chemistry lab and once the thermometer showed 80 degree Celsius, we ran to fetch our teacher who reluctantly gave us the full marks!

And then the cooker remained in the attic of our class room and the students made good use of the mirror to comb and style. After a few months, the same was used by my sister for her project submission and I guess it still remains in some classroom shifting hands to fetch easy marks!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Electrical Gadgets, some memories of 2000

A sudden urge to write just filled me. Is it because the volume of diethyl ether I have kept under argon will probably take 4-5 hours for evaporation or am I getting bored of trying to fix the conformation of my compound to perform density function theory calculations? I guess it’s because of the Harris Jeyraj music in the background and the fact that I just read a lot of very good blogs (some of my old ones too!).

For the past few minutes I have been staring at my screen deciding on what to write. I know that now, whatever I decide on, is not going to hinder my thought flow and words are going to be typed until my co-worker sitting opposite to me goes mad due to the non stop sound of the keyboard.

Somehow my thoughts stray back to my 10th standard EG classes! Every Friday was a treat for us because the two classes before lunch was EG and typewriting and we had so much of free time and fun. Our EG teacher was a very old yet stylish mallu guy named Balakrishna Nair. I have a very clear picture of how we were seated too! Two parallel rows and boys on one side and girls on the other and the teacher could move in between. I used to sit at the very first and opposite to me was her as usual and always. Besides me was Karthik followed by Vivek. The line further down had no significance since the source of maximum distraction and fun has already been listed.

Our master seldom took classes. Usually the blackboard had some stuff already written with which we had to copy to our record notebooks and then idle away the rest of the time silently. But me, Karthik and Vivek had other plans. We started directing movies with our EG master as the hero! We even used to tell it to him and every time he moves or tells some stuff in the class, we used to pre phrase it by ‘ Movie name – Scene 1 – Take 1 ‘. The hero entry for the movie was like this… Our EG sir comes in, takes a live wire to his head and the shock makes the hair on his head stand straight. Then he takes some styling gels and puts his hair back and then pick up his 1 meter long wooden scale and walks to hit the students, Darpan, Siva Saravanan and Arvind who have been playing sharpener game! Our EG sir for some reason disliked when students played that game in his class: P

I always wondered how he heard the chaos of the sharpener game in the last benches for in the first row; we used to make such a racquet. I always used to sharpen a small knife on a touchstone with Karthik trying to spin the touchstone faster and faster to produce more noise and sparks! Somehow he never scolded us for doing that, though the girls opposite to us complained.

May be he was frustrated with scores of students taking his subject as a fun session or may be he didn’t really mind all this as it reminded him of his younger days. Whatever is was, these are just beautiful memories!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Skiing - The ultimate experience

“Origin has reached the maximum number of users, please wait until someone disconnects.” This was the message displayed to me when I excitedly opened it to analyse the spectral data I had been accumulating for the past few days. Hyperfine couplings between electrons and protons had been recorded and it is time for me to interpret. But then, why am I writing all this?! Gosh, too much of project thoughts…

January 4th 2009 recorded the highest snowfall in Germany in the past 25 years. The entire city engulfed in whiteness and buried under several inches of snow made it a mesmerizing sight. The first two days after the snowfall were good, but thereafter, the snow became dirty, slushy and sluggish and made walking in the streets a total pain. Still, the excitement didn’t dampen much. So, wanting to make use of these conditions, I decided to Ski!

Saturday 10th of Jan 09 was chosen for this adventure. My first ski trip. Accompanied by enthusiastic friends, I started to Winterberg. It is nearly 3hrs travel by train from my home town, Muelheim and we reached there by 12.15. The travel had made us hungry and we headed straight to the pizzeria in spite of the welcoming white slopes of snow. After lunch, we rented our ski equipment, a pair of heavy boots, ski and poles and walked up the hill with great difficult owing to the heaviness of the equipment.

The ski slope was wondrous and the people skiing down made the adrenaline rush in me. Small children were skiing like accomplished professionals and this gave me some confidence that even after initial trials, I would be able to ski decently well. I imagined myself as James Bond and got ready for my first attempt. There was a conveyer rope that you had to hold to ski up the slope and since so many people were doing it with ease, I thought it would be a cake walk. Confidently I held the rope and skied up for a few seconds. My legs twisted on their own accord and I lost balance and then bham, I was on the snow with my body twisted in all possible funny angles. Moreover, I had to roll to the sides to avoid other skiers! After a few seconds, I thought I heard the echo of my fall, but looking back I saw my friend twisted in a similar funnier fashion!

The lady who was overseeing the conveyer walked up to us and decently told us not to try this again as it was for professionals and commanded us to walk up the slope to ski down. Unfastening the skis, we started walking up. The thrill rose when I was ready to ski down. Just one small lean, I was racing down, balancing well. The chill air brushing against my face made it more thrilling. The view through my sport goggles was blurring as I picked up tremendous speed, probably 50km/hr! The slope was nearing end and I had to stop. Only now I realised I didn’t know how to! It was a planned fall and I was flat on the snow. It didn’t hurt but it was taunting me to try again and again! Finally after 25 times of falling down and getting up, we decided to call it a day. It was really the best experience.

Proudly displaying the pictures and narrating my experiences had encouraged more people to experience it and hence we started on a second ski trip the following weekend. Now it was group of 16! 15 Indians and one adventurous Russian. This time, we hired a ski instructor and took lessons on how to stop, turn left-right and walk up inclines even with the ski attached. It was just great and now I am waiting to go for skiing again to test myself again!