Sunday, January 27, 2008

When the wheel gets stuck...

Ever wondered what happens when the wheel gets stuck? Or what is the point when you decide that the wheel is stuck? Any layman like me without a honors degree in physics would say "You know the wheel is stuck, when it is not moving". Fair enough, no revolutions, no motion, no change in frame of reference, no energy used, no work done, WHEEL IS STUCK.

So what is the point, what is there to even ponder about it, leave alone write about it. The current state of affairs as it stands in my life,my wheel is rolling, technically that is. I am on course for a doctorate from a premier institution in a field that interests me a lot. But a deeper insight into it, I realize my wheel is stuck. I stand enlightened at this moment of time, that the wheel that rolls exactly the way it had been rolling for the last million moments, using up energy, but doing no work, changing positions, but stuck in one frame of reference is a stuck wheel. Monotonous revolutions with monotonically non increasing enthusiasm is a salient feature of a stuck wheel. In other words, my life is not going anywhere. I am going places, I am doing things, I am actively trying to be active but my wheel is stuck and I am not happy about it.I remember a movie where they very astutely metaphored life to boxing; "boxing is an unnatural act, that everything in boxing is backwards: sometimes the best way to deliver a punch is to step back... But step back too far and you ain't fighting at all".

I realize the irony in it, to get my wheel moving I need a brake. But if I brake too hard, my wheel will veer off course. I love driving, but this is my life that I am driving and I don't know when and how hard to brake....

Any suggestions????

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What is it about "IT" ?

What are you doing now?
How did you end up here?
Was it intentional or was it somewhat forced on you?
Are you tired, bored or plain lifeless?
Are you interested? Are you even listening?
Did I catch your attention?
Am I making you wonder?
Are you clueless about where is this going?
Are you guessing?
Are you just waiting for me to tell you?
Did you give up already?
Are you irritated?
Do you not see the point in all this?
Do you like music?
What kind?
Do you listen to music seriously?
Or do you just lend an ear to relax?
Is that floyd that is playing there?
Ohh wait, is that your neigbor playing that and not you?
Or is it just that I am hallucinating?
Ohh, did I digress from the what I was saying?
Or did you forget what I was trying to say a while ago?
Are you losing your patience?
Are you going to stop reading?
Am I getting on your nerves?
What do you usually do when you are angry?
Do you sometimes feel angry for no reason?
Do you try to rationalize those moments?
Does that help?
Do I ask a lot of questions?
Don't you think it is not me,but it is you who are making me ask you these questions?
Now, did I befuddle you?
Do I make absolutely no sense to you?
Have you tried harder?
Do you think, then you would understand?
Do you feel life is somewhat like this?
Do you think your life makes no sense to you?
Do you walk on these lines very often?
Do you spend a lot of your time thinking?
If you do, then don't you recognize me?
Shouldn't I feel offended that you don't?
Or do you think I am inured to offence?
Why is that you are ready to leave?
If you leave do you think I won't come back?
What would do the next time you come across me?
Now why do I sense you have an urge to kill me?
Do you really think you can kill me?
Do I see a shrug of the shoulders?
Do I take that as a sign of resignation?
Are you walking away?
But if you walk away, then wouldn't I have no meaning?
Ohh, did you just realize you don't have to fight me?
Did you realize if you walk away I would no longer exist?
should that make me happy that at least you know me and we will meet again?
Should I expect you to smile and shake my hands next time we meet?
Shoud I expect you acknowledge me as
pay your due respects next time?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Resolving Resolutions

Life in general is a great leveller,just when you think that you have figured it all out, you are on top and there is nothing to remove you from your ego throne, it gets back at you with annoying alacrity. For me it is this moment, this very second and few thousand more seconds to follow. My physical body is a part of a biology discussion class where we are discussing the hyperdynamic plasticity of chromatin proteins. This is one of those situations you wouldn't like to be in, specially when people think (or so you think that people think) you are one of the intellectually elevated species. There are two harsh realities of life a) I don't get Biology, b) there are things for which you have to work hard in life and sadly for me that is biology.

At this point I am clinging hard to the bottom rung of the ladder of biology knowledge in the class and the only person who knows lesser that I do, is I myself. What made me write this apart from total disinterest in chromatin modelling is the quality retrospection you go through during these "lost" moments. The first thing I do during this solitude is make a resolution to be regular, more prepared and better read. Sadly, the only resolution I accomplish with alarming regularity is to make a resolution, and of course break it to get to the next one. This is the only time when yesterday's sleep, TV and internet surfing seem like a total waste of time, when I should have been "actively" involved in research. I am being slightly harsh on myself, because I did spend most of the weekend doing school work. But these are moments when you free fall to the extremity (hence you promise yourself to do work and nothing else).

After setting my goals, I look around to see my worthy competitors. The manicure expert, the pondering daydreamer and the lost in slumber genius don't seem a real threat. What I need to beat, is the competition from the rambling frontbenchers. That does not seem like a easy task, since they string phrases like pleuripotency, gel isolation and marker analysis into strong coherent sentences to powder puff and make up a moot point into a strong argument.

Almost a few minutes to the end of the class, the fate of another, anxious, weak-willed resolution of mine waits for its fate with not a lot of hope....

The Cooking Conundrum

Being a student living away from family, and a male (tribute to all stereotypes), the most neglected of pleasures for me is the gastronomical one. To add a dash of pity, picture a true vegetarian ("oafishly orthodox-no-onion-no-garlic-Iam royally screwed" club) in a land where meat dominates wheat like spice rules Indian food; after a point that is all you find.

I am one of the fortunate souls who can find my way through trouble without stepping on the regular kitchen landmines. But I have a fair share of "thorough-bred" Indian male friends, who have feasted on curd rice like there is no tommorow, because that is the easiest thing to 'cook'. Learning to cook rice is the first step up the self sustinence ladder and first step down the chauvnism one. Living with a bunch of guys who have no idea of household chores, teaches a few basic points, a) what your mom does is the hardest job in the world, respect it. b) cooking is an art,admit it. c) kitchen is also a part of the house, use it.

One of the cliches about life is that it is a great teacher...Believe me, the first class in art of living is when you live alone and fend for yourself. After living at home with parents for over twenty odd years, "bachelor life" or living alone, seemed embellished with thrills of freedom. What one tends to forget, that the things we take for granted like being served good food, all regular chores done in oblivion etc suddenly vanish. Fending for yourself is the real learning curve that I hit and overcame when I came to the US. What I learnt living alone, is not just cooking, being responsible and doing my work on my own, but a deeper and more important lesson. What parents specially mothers do at home, is indispensable, hard and never to be taken for granted. A very banal reply to what does your mum do, is "nothing, shez a housewife". To call that nothing, is not just making a dumb statement but being outrageously unjust to someone's work. What I learnt was a more profound lesson, the art of patience, the joy of self sustinence, and probably the first steps towards understanding how hard it is to be a parent....

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Smoke, sense and sensibility.

I was visiting the medical school campus at Boston University a few days back. And I noticed 'irony' in its most uncanny form. A bunch of smart, savvy, young minds, mindlessly dispensing snow white fumes from 4-inch sticks, pushing sensibility to oblivion. The stark irony; this picteresque cynicism was outside the Lung Cancer Research Deparment in the med campus. I was at loss of words or reason, when I tried to reason how a bunch of scientists (or so I presume), could devote a whole lifetime to study a rampant addiction and yet cool their heels by being addicted rampantly to the same addiction.In school I learnt 'necessity is the mother of invention". However I am still in the process of genotyping the DNA behind 'Nicotine addiction' to find who its mother is. Smoking is injurious, smoking kills, smoking puts you at a health risk blah blah blah..we have heard it all, we know it all, and yet we still do it all. Why?

How cool is it to puff in a heady cocktail of 4000 chemicals, many of them known carcinogens, sifting the smoke into the deep alveoli of our lungs, reducing them to a chimney to filter tar. Its so obviously wrong, that if it were mathematics, it would be axiomatic to conclude "smoking is wrong" like "multiplying by zero gives you a zero". And that is what you smokers are doing, multiplying your life with a cigarette to get a zero. The sad part being the zero carried over to your near and dear(which I am not sure about) ones.

Many of my very good friends are smokers, and I have passively inhaled half their sorrows, their tensions, their depression. And believe me every whiff is more depressing than the previous one. And when I try to sound my "quit smoking" alarm, I get a indignant "you don't know, you have to do it to know". I am at loss, trying reason why I should do it. I have also heard the oafish "ohh my god its so cool" deep breaths about smoking. But what astonishes me is the transition this stamina stick brings in smokers. One puff brings a certain swagger to a tremble, a whiff of lewd tobacco can concieve a great idea, a four inch stick I can't believe can actually dispense inhibitions into a air of chutzpah. I don't like to pontificate or be a moral witholder, but to me, people who tend to hide behind a smoke screen, trying to blow away their fears with the something as cheap as tobacco need to do some thinking, without the stick, of course.

"I am going to quit tommorow", "this is my last cigarette","I can quit whenever I can", "one cigarette doesn't hurt", "I just smoke one a day"....

During my good ol' days, I was assigned to a project with one of my friends. Planning an approach, zeroing in on a date to start and deciding when to stop procrastinating brought us three days within the deadline. We both were gladiators of "last ditch effort" fame; working 36 hrs at a stretch with him made me realize what a curse smoking is.

Every step was validated by a cigarette, each milestone was labelled by a cigarette, it became both the motivation and the reward for the effort, the project was shabbily reduced to a smoke fest. At the end of it, I came out huffing, stifled, smoked filled, disgusted and one friend less....

Smokers, its your life, your body, and your right to be masoschistic, but please don't try to justify it because I don't buy what you sell. Smoke when others are not around because we breathe the same air, and we have the same right as you to do to decide not to be smoke. I don't want to be cool, I just want to live. So thanks but no thanks.....

Saturday, March 03, 2007


There are times when life just speeds by, sailing through time at a frightening pace. Faces we know becomes mere milestones on the road to nowhere, words become ramblings that echo from time to time without any purpose or meaning; Routine becomes a compulsive, vicious stranglehold.

The remarkable irony, I just discovered, is that we realize life is a journey when we are on a actual journey. When we are between a source and a destination, in the middle of nowhere, maybe happy to be going somewhere, or sad to go away from somewhere, but nonetheless, the journey sometimes sums up what you are with such eloquence, that the overemphasis makes you miss the point. For example, I never realized I am a rambler. I ramble on and on with no rhyme or reason. This one is a prime example of what I am trying to say. Before I embarked upon this utterly non adventurous 4-hour bus ride, I had meticuluosly planned out every minute of my existence in the bus to the atomic detail. Being a PhD student, I lack the so called proverbial "life". I am always catching up on the subjects, finishing assignments, dodging deadlines, wishing I could learn how to play to guitar (maybe next semester, no, no, definitely the next semester), finding an excuse of not doing it the last semester, trying to rationalize where does all the time go and so on. And then on this bus journey I made a realization, I plan, but don't execute. I try to chew more than I can bite.
And this important self analysis was worth penning or rather 'keyboarding' down.
But what I wonder is, how often we all realize what we need to do, what we lack, what we aren't good at, how well we should have been prepared for that day, how organized we should be etc etc, but never seem to answer the how, what and why. In fact realizations are like mosquito bites, it pinches for microsecond, itches for a while and then all of us forget that we fed an insect a while ago. I hope someday I get the resolve to act on the bite, before its turns into a malarial condition.......

Sunday, December 03, 2006

One God Many Gods....

Walking down the busy lanes of Harvard yesterday, I was feeling overwhlemed by the "high per capita" intellect that so effortlessly oozed out from the campus. Eavesdropping on every gossip, I was soaking in the elevated intellect, when I heard two students discussing religion and god. Seemed a pretty odd place to discuss the "mysterious" at the heart scientific mecca.

The discussion meandered through the pros and cons of religions. The ubiquotous flaw they found in Hinduism was polytheism. On my way back I was thinking about what they said and did it actually make sense? Being a staunch believer in objective criticism guided by rationale, I thought about the whole idea of polytheism or the concept of having "many" gods as opposed to "one" in other religions. I dont claim to be strictly religious, I do believe in God, if you define, living a wholesome content life and helping others finding their wholesome content lives is a way to God.

What really bothers me is the apolegetic nature of Hindus towards Polytheism. They justify it by drawing quotes and making extrapolations from ancient text, supporting the fact that there is one universal God but exists in many forms. I dont find any problem with thid explanation apart from the fact that its superflous. Why do you have to adopt a gossamer interpretation of the holy texts to explain a point of view that needs no importance?

Universally, all religions in one form or the other say that God is formless, shapeless and beyond comprehension. If that fact draws a consensus amongst the religious beings, then how can one possibly quantify this shapeless and formless being. What plausible count can you assign to some abstract idea, or unsurmountable faith which we label God?
In fact just to support the very fact from our holy texts, the Vishnu Sahasranamam ( one of the most sacred stotras in hinduism) in one of its stanzas says:

Stanza 27
asankhyeyo-aprameyaatmaa visishtah sishta-krit-suchih
siddhaarthah siddhasankalpah siddhidah siddhisaadhanah.

Asankhyeyah -Sankhyaa means number; Asankhya=numberless. Asankhyeyah is one who has numberless names and forms. The infinite variety of things and beings that constitute the manifested Universe are all His Own Form, and hence He is indeed numberless, whom He expresses Himself as the Universe.
source (

Propoents of hinduism defend it, saying we have one God, manifested in many forms. But why attach the number one, why cant we say we have many Gods, synergetically existing together to do whatever that one god does. Why adopt an apologetic attitude for not having just one God? This question is very important in today's religious hegemonistic world because it raises another fundamental query. Why is religion considered an absolute truth? The very essence of any religion is to seek the ultimate truth, which is not possible if I am not allowed to question and contradict. Isnt that the only way of knowing anything and everything, knowing God, knowing Gods....

Friday, November 24, 2006


The newspaper proudly spelt out the names of two american scientists who were awarded this year's nobel for their study of RNA interference. The pride, the humility, the humanity, the dilligence and brilliance, the dedication and the endurance of two human lives that spanned over half a century was all eloquently voiced out in one word: Nobel.

For PhD students starting out as pawns in the chessboard of science, how many moves does it require to checkmate and reach the other end of the board. And that many moves are possible out of how many trillion moves... According to complexity theory its a NP hard problem, the hardest of all; in plain english its equivalent to finding a needle in stack of needles.

Or do people like me who come up with a chessboard analogy have an inherent hole in our thinking cap? A chink that sprouts out of a rational brain, which finds happiness and joy in "other" things in life. Is starting out research to find the solution to a problem the right approach.

A few months down the dusty, sullen lanes, I have realised, its the journey that is the essence of research, not the goal. The failures, the fiascos are far more important than the inventions themselves. Success is just one path that countless failures pointed out, its a road that will never be built without digging up the rubbles of failure.

One of the pure joys of human kind is adulation. But is that more joyous than the pristine joy of doing something without expecting the joy of adulation. I am standing at crossraods of the most important question in the quest of knowledge; one that leads somewhere or maybe nowhere but has the scenic serenity of contentment carpetting it. And the other that has signs and milestones impeccably laid out to success, but misses out on the joy of the journey... As much as I am tempted to take the path often trodden, I choose to take a path of contentment.

Some people say research is formalised curiousity, its poking and prying with purpose. I would add- its poking and prying with purpose, because that is what I like to do...