Saturday, December 31, 2005

New year greetings


Gutes Neues Jahr!

Happy New Year to everybody!
I am having too much fun and there is too much apfelwine on the table :)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

In the Mind

And now it hits me. I am not in a happy cloud no more. Not that there was a fight or a dramatic altercation but just seeing off a friend back to NY triggered it. And I look around with unseeing eyes, realizing that I don't understand a word of what is being spoken around me... and I want to go home. But then this is home too, the loved one's abode, the one we or rather Ikea built together. But the bathroom doesn't look into the backwoods of nowhere anymore. Rather confused, very disoriented, and extremely nostalgic am I. Its the repercussion of a loss of feeling for the past 3 weeks, and its come in a torrent of emotional outburst.

Till now every change has been just when needed. Exciting and bursting with promise. This one change was needed for the longest time, took enough time for fruition, yet is a shock. Very unexpected turn of events but not when I think about it. Its been 6 years at a place, where a self did everything. The renting, the bills, teaching undergrads, self-study, making friends, having parties and night-outs, realizing the meaning of research, carrying on inspite of dissapointing results, personal and professional setbacks notwithstanding, the shoulders were set and proud. The independence heady and undistilled. To know that is to believe. And once the challenge faced is over with, its on with the new. But set in a life with the friends to match, its hard to start from scratch all over again. Maybe its called aging :) maybe its called not starting work soon enough, or maybe its not giving enough time, or maybe the challenge is not faced yet. Whatever it is... today is for nostalgia. Finally being able to feel what all I left back in NY, what I will miss, and how much the 6 years contributed to the 'me'.

Somehow feelings are always pushed back whenever there is change, there is too much to be done. Transitions from school to college (so welcome, even the treks from JNU to North campus were worth it, the first freedom of being allowed out late in the night), college to masters in Bombay (fell in love with the city, living away from home the first time, meeting K, my secret dream of going to classes in chappals, nbdu evenings, Powai lake at sunset), and then the jump to USA. First night in a dorm room without light, orientation, registration, the typical PhD student start, all in the hope that K will come soon. And then, the first glimpse of NYCity coming out of Penn Station and gasping in awe, the country bumpkin me with a crick in the neck at the end of the day, exotic tastes on the tongue, and a sense of the world contained in a city. Head turning exhiliration, and the promise to myself that I will enjoy this city till the day I have to leave. And I did, so I should have no regrets, then why? No amount of analyzing works. Just wish I could spend another weekend summer night at the Union Square again. Lots of things happened - K's visa issues, marriage in between, PhD troubles, the end of troubles and beginning of results, great times with Graz, the trips back and forth Europe meeting K, the Frankfurt decision, and through it all, a solid home in Cold Spring Harbor. All troubles dissapeared as soon as one came in through the door, my old-attic style rooms, sloping roofs et al, the charm of 200 years within the walls, with friendly ghosts and graveyard stones. White-washed walls with carved wood details, knobbly posts and just heart-wringing warmth. The companions within (Graz,HH,YW,LT) in harmony, loads of fun, enthusiastic and not-so enthusiastic dinners, the omni-welcoming couch and TV, the hamster on its wheel, and nonsensical yet so-satisfying conversations.. and in the meantime, research in one of the friendliest yet competitive places ever, with a support and facilities system that keeps it thriving the way it does. Familiar faces that greet every morning, the warmness of knowing you belong(ed) there and hence the familiarity, the routine jobs and the new experiments, urges of discussing data with people you know, relevance of their suggestions without the motive of showing up smart. All these building of relationships take time, each one is precious and its hard to say goodbye. But faces change, they come and go - the students and the post-docs, and in a few years there will be less and less people known in that familiar place as well. Its good to move on. Change pushes you to move on.

Beyond the past is the future, and the 'now'. So what can be made of it... learning the language, already I can feel the smiles on the streets, searching for the best food markets, getting a train pass and a schedule for work, cleaning this mess of a house filled with what seems to be only my clothes and shoes, finishing that last paper, and getting ready to welcome the new developments in this life with open arms and a wide smile... yes, I guess its time.

first sad news of Christmas

Seems like the natural calamities never cease... and some news are never reported in the NY times. This link (from Dweep who is in Kenya) alerted to the latest calamity in Africa. Sometimes the places we are in are worlds apart, and it seems like one half never remembers how the other half lives. Even when in a world with aeroplanes, some places are unreachable. And in the world with more income per person but less and less curiosity, they seem destined to remain that way. Should I hope for change?

And more sad news on farmer suicides, this time from India, via The Hindu.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

From Frankfurt. My 4th day in the city, its starting to feel like home :)

The day was leisurely, with friends- some passing through Flughafen, others newly married celebrating with good veggie food, and laughter. For the first time I went to an Evangelist church for the midnight mass and really enjoyed the experience. It felt like a home-made church service (somewhat like a barir pujo), few people, seating on wooden chairs, lots of smiles and kisses on the cheek. Candles being given, along with a copy of the hymns in German. A huge Christmas tree decorated with wooden ornaments, a beautiful Nativity scene carved out of fresh wood, lending a simplicity to the soaring ceilings and width of the church. No pews, no ornamentation, families coming together to pray for peace in the world. That is how it went in my head and heart, and that is how I conducted my service. Listening to the words spoken in German I imagined them saying what I felt, looking through the hymns in the book I sang along with huge joy, and holding K's hand through it all I just spent my best midnight mass ever. There have been grander services attended in bigger and more historic churches but this was different, this was new, and allowed a simplicity that is the real spirit of Christmas. Each candle was lit by people passing around the light in the Church, with a smiling "Danke Schön". As we walked out with our lighted candle, the organ playing in the background, that is what I said silently in my heart "Thank You". To everybody else "Merry Christmas"! with wishes for peace and joy in the coming year.

ps. Somehow, I always think of "Bare Necessities" from Jungle Book as my Christmas song.... Cheers ears!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A new Start

Starting a new life... :) after 2year and 8months of marriage, and 8 years of being together, we are officially living in the same house! Celebrated by having great Hungarian white wine (it was excellent - slightly like Gewurtzaminer), Ukranian Honey Pepper Vodka (Nemiroff's), and home-made Limoncello from Turin, I really feel at home :))) So good to be with Kaushik again. I am slightly drowsy after all the food, drinking and jet lag, here's to 21st Dec forever. Off to sleep now, with grand plans of going to the Chriskindlmarkt tomorrow. Very very happy, Ich liebe jeden and Gute Nacht :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Status

Will leave the house in exactly 16 hours, am very very stressed, still haven't finished packing but managed to see 'Brokeback Mountain' - very sad, stays with you, and gives vast glimpses of beautiful Wyoming landscapes. Each frame is a picture, everlasting, and makes you yearn for something deep inside. And most importantly it flows with lovely acting. Made me sadder than ever though, since only now I am beginning to feel emotional about leaving (maybe forever). Thankful to be so busy, would be bawling by now, otherwise.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

My waking world for now ...

blazes one word - PACKING!!! Thats all I do, get up and pack, eat and pack, do experiments and pack, in sleep I dream about what goes in which suitcase, someone help me. Its definitely not fun to move.

- Books sent - almost! (am finding more and more precious ones, that I think should not be entrusted to the cruel postal world that may engulf them)
- Bags- weigh a ton (all those books, aaaaaaaaargh!)
- Clothes - I never knew I had so many (so why do I wear those old pair of jeans and that sweatshirt forever?)
- Paintings in frames - have to be left behind (heart-breaking)
and why do I love Japanese pottery so much (I can't leave that behind...please please don't break)
- I seem to have my biotech notes from long ago too ... that was my handwriting? pages and pages full of it, all in ink pen, I remember the Sheaffer's..Oh I still have it! Yay!
- And my BSc certificate dwarfing the rest! Was it the hardest? :)

As I pack, I am assaulted by so many memories, oh that sweater I got in my first year in Macy's at 48 cents (yes I did!, it was a major first yr grad student achievement, was a nice one too), those emails that I printed out from K - we've come such a long way!, that picture from my first place in the US (we called it the UN - all different countries), my car title (Yay, found it!), my old learner's permit (ah, those first few steps), all the cassettes I got when I came (they were the treasures I bought when I was in Powai going across the city to buy them), the first Broadway musical ticket, pictures of my first trip in the US (to annie's LA), wedding gifts from the class reunion just before I left for India, my first Neuroscience abstract book....

.... each an ocean of memories. I am scratching the back of the phone card and there are so many numbers, I need them all to be complete, to make that call, the call home. and I realise that the numbers are there, in me, its the memories, and they make me their home. And I can carry them wherever I want without a suitcase.

But for now, maybe this suitcase is too small to fit that last book in!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The world of Narnia

Watched 'The lion, the witch and the wardrobe' and I liked it...not as much as the book but quite close. From the time it opened or even before, there were huge outcries about the Christian allegories and how churches in America are giving free tickets to families to go and see the movie, and all this had put me off seeing the screen adaptation till I realised that I simply didn't care! When I first read the book, I didn't have a thing on my mind except the joy of reading a wonderful adventure-filled series crafted with imagination and detail about the beautiful, magical land of Narnia. Baba had first got 'Prince Caspian' from Powell's during a trip to Chicago, and from then on I was hooked. I completed the series as and when I found another one, and so it was a fairly spread-out reading experience that "blind-bat" me never associated with religion. And that is why inspite of the blatant symbolism in the movie such as Aslan giving his life for Edmund's betrayal, the cracked stone table, Aslan's resurrection, I remained quite untouched by it all and could focus on the magical story taking life in front of my eyes. The movie is a beautiful adaptation of the book. The greatest triumph is Aslan, he is what I imagined and more. As a child, my favorite wish was to ride on Aslan's back, and the movie made me itch to do so. He is magnificient, golden and deep, with fur you ache to touch, filling the screen with his power. I loved the fawn, and the beavers too... palpalable in their excitement for change in Narnia. Tilda Swinton as the Witch is perfect - so icy cold, you shiver. Battle scenes are replete with talking beasts, red and gold flags, glittering armour, and the beautiful centaur! Replaying in my mind are scenes from the movie - the war in London, all those children on the platform, the huge old house and the professor (very well-played by Jim Broadbent), the children (sullen Edmund, the too-practical Susan, too-responsible Peter, and small Lucy), the huge and beautiful wardrobe, fur coats giving way to snow-laden branches, the lamp-post, shy Mr.Tumnus who invites Lucy to tea and plays the lullaby of Narnia, the witch in her carriage, Edmund greedily chomping Turkish delight, the Beaver's house, the Witch's icy castle with its eerie courtyard of statues, flight to Cair Parvel, getting gifts for the battle on the way, Narnia budding beautiful greeny from all-whitey, the Talking trees, the Talking beasts, and Aslan. His sacrifice, the Witch, Peter and Centaur in battle, the beautiful Phoenix, Aslan's resurrection, and the glorious ride across Narnia on his back... into battle. The coronation, reigning in beautiful Cair Parvel, and then Narnian years later back to England.

Whew, a beautiful ride, waiting for more, please.

And next I Want to watch/Need to watch - King Kong, and Brokeback Mountain!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Gold and Dumplings

A wonderful girls day out yesterday - Sandy, Helen, me and Graz. I have a huge crick on the neck meaning that I can't turn my head to the left, so no driving for me... Helen drove us, first to Flushing where super-hungry us ate some lovely pork dumplings, house-special Congee (has shrimp,ginger,scallions,fried dough), and noodle soup with shrimp and watercress dumplings. Yumm... Feel hungry again! I am seriously hoping that there is some small corner of Frankfurt which has authentic chinese food, otherwise I will feel so deprived (Note: Not the german-made so-called authentic chinese, now that is scary)!

We then took subway7 to Jackson Heights where Sandy, enamored by all the gold-laden windows, wanted a tiny part of it on her wrist. A lot of bargaining (in Bangla by me, am proud of myself!) yielded a lovely intricately-worked gold bracelet at a price that made Sandy happy and high on gold for the day. Helen then wanted some fabric and we got some lovely material for curtains and a scarf, and some cushion covers as Christmas gifts. Bought some hindi movie DVDs for myself (part of plan to torture K), and then we were all hungry! Oh and in the meantime, had 'mishti paan' and were walking about with our mouths full. Peered into some more gold shops to find a pendant for Helen but soon gave up, and went into Roti-Boti to get some amazing Seekh-kebab, Shami-kebab and Naan. Since we had to take it back home to share for dinner we decided not to carry the goat curry for fear of spills, which was such a pity. Got the sweets from Alauddin sweets - they make the best 'kaalojaam' and 'roshogolla' nearest Long Island. After which the satisfied us went back to Flushing, to eat scrumptious pork buns, buy tons of TenRen tea at Hong-Kong supermarket (fears of being deprived!), and succumbed to some lovely Japanese Kafuh-made cups.

Got home, put our feet up and consumed the delicious food all the while conversing about the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and Dr.Atkins, the matrix and the white rabbit, great stuff! I always seem to be a little out-of-date when people talk of the world, and all the things they know. So mostly quiet and very contented, I learnt some more. Wished K an enjoyable stay in Siberia (thats where he will be, all of next week), and then smiling, went on my way to sleep :)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

String theory at noon

Revisited Physics today. And realised how badly this subject was taught in school. Lost in meaning, just pure equations didn't convey any beauty nor the actual 'physical' implications thereby undermining the grandeur of thought that went into establishing them. All we did learn was where to use what equation, and the constant nagging of knowing it well so that 'beta, you can get into IIT'. And since engineering was never the goal, Physics was mostly hated. Till Stephen Hawking's book, and Feynman's lecture series when I realized how much I had missed, and more than that how much my teachers at school didn't know...because if they did they couldn't have remained immune to its beauty or failed to impart its true meaning to their students... and its a shame. Today was such an eye-opener. It was a lecture on string theory, but it started from the basics - from an atom, to the kinds of forces, gradually building towards how string theory came about, to the present questions in the field. I don't care how much I understood - for all the while I was in school-mode this time, I actually felt the subject! Very very uplifting, and completely made my day!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Home-made Christmas tree

My first waking moment today was looking out of my bedroom window to see a beautiful white wonderland. Snow clung to the pine branches, and they nudged my window sill as if to chuckle at this lazy being sleeping so late into a Sunday morning.



Another great weekend, centered around home, hearth, and friends! Its being increasingly brought home to me that I will be leaving soon and will miss terribly this beautiful house and the family I live with. Something the Bonn house family loves to do each year is to make ornaments for our Christmas tree - the Bonn house Christmas tree. The first year was an awkward mix of Ikea-bought and "us-made" decorations but over the past three years in our child-like enthusiasm for "us-made" ornaments we have made our tree an exclusive showpiece of Bonn house family artistry. Well we think its artistry anyways :)). But more than anything else, its a reason to spend an evening all together, sprawled on the living room carpet with expressions of intense concentration, wielding mostly clumsy but sometimes surprisingly dexterous fingers, sighing with satisfaction when a shape comes right or just laughing gleefully at the mess, trying to guess each other's creations, eating chocolate cookies and breathing in heart-warming fun! And after we sculpt the shapes - mythical and otherwise :), we bake them till they are translucent solids in our aging oven which cheerfully misinforms the temperature. After years of practice we hoped this year to make it exactly right and we nearly got there, at least our fantastical 'Fimo' figures were not uniformly brown!

My Bonn house family!


Working and taking a break :)


The men who were paying more attention to the Hulk!


Towards a grand plan!



We then put up our pre-lit tree and had fun sorting through the hopelessly entangled last years' decorations and the freshly made new ones. It was so much fun, and by coincidence we had this TV channel with Christmas songs playing in the background while we were happily pottering about putting our handicrafts on our very friendly little Christmas tree transforming her (yes, its her :)), into the homey, glowing, warm Bonn-house delight who fills us with such joy each year.

Decorating our Christmas tree!


Jest-waltzing through!


Witching through the flower moon ;)


Nightmare before Christmas?


The snowman and his gift.


Only a superwoman can put up a superstar!


Happy Jolly us!


Dreamy... and Wishing...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Starry-eyed

This week has been a movie week. Usually I don't see many movies in the theater due to pure lethargy, but to finish off the Loews discount coupons by November (which as usual I left to the last moment), it was a mad rush to see as many as I could this week.


First was "Pride and Prejudice". This was supposed to be a chick-flick for 3 of us housemates- H, Graz and me. But then it so turned out that H's boyfriend wanted to see Keira Knightley, and so a deal was made - he would not snigger or comment on any supremely chick moments. If he did we would get a bottle of Cointreau but if he refrained from any comments he would earn a full dish of Graz's pasta alla carbonara. While and after watching the movie however we all agreed that we needed both the pasta and Cointreau, and so maybe this weekend we are going to eat and drink ourselves silly! None of us liked the movie overall. It was too stretched out, and I wish they had spent more time with characters and conversations than with showing off the English countryside. The highlights of the book are the exchanges between characters in different situations and this allows you to know them, but the movie offers no such insights. I did like most of the peripheral cast, and also Mr.Darcy, but just couldn't abide the characterisation of Elizabeth. Knightley didn't convey much of the uniqueness that makes Austen's Elizabeth stand out, but instead managed to make her appear shallow, wearing the 3 principal expressions of a pout, a cheeky grin, or a hysterical giggle. And the last scene was downright hysterical, how could they do that? I read Buchu's review and thought it couldn't be that bad but it was! Sometimes I wish they would leave Elizabeth and Darcy to imagination alone, but then I did like the BBC production of "Pride and Prejudice", (digression :)) which was watched late one night during a stayover in Annie's house along with Sumi during our college days. Since Annie was in a different college than me, and Sumi in a med school down south, it was one of our rare times being together again since the school days, and it was memorable! (and now I am nostalgic...I do want another reunion with schoolfriends!)


And tonight we watched "Walk the line" and "Goodnight, and good luck". I liked the first, but the second is one of the best American movies I have seen for a long time. First, Walk the line. It was good. Again I found it dragged a little (I think I better see a hindi movie soon, seems like I have little patience nowadays). I do like country music, and I liked the fact that the movie covered many of Cash's songs. The start sequence from Folsom prison was intriguing. Then the movie went on to when he was 12, already a fan of June Carter, had a caring older brother, and a father with problems. Music was handed through his mother and stayed in his blood through the war, marriage, his stint as a traveling salesman until one day he auditioned along with his friends for a record company and it all came out...The music and the problems. But through it all, his obsession with June Carter was steady, slowly maturing into something strong and enduring - loyal friendship and eventually love. I really like the way Reese Witherspoon plays June Carter. I always loved Carter's voice but never gave it a character and this Reese-June fit in very well. Strong, no-nonsense and a beautiful character, she brings out the best in Johnny Cash and gives him new life, literally and musically. Cash's depiction was okay, I liked his 'man in black' but he looked drugged whether he actually was or not and I found tiresome the way they stretched his drug problem for so long. But all in all, a good immersion into the country music scene of the 50s & 60s and into the life and love of one its biggest stars.


About "Goodnight, and goodluck", I don't know how to start, except to say that I felt in the company of breathtaking journalistic integrity and courage for 90 minutes. The era is Black, White, and McCarthy. The movie is a tribute to CBS broadcaster Edward Murrow. The interviews are live, the honesty is sparkling, and the screenplay searing. The words come straight and true, holding so much significance in them, that I want to remember each one by heart. It made me soar above the dreary reality though the movie had plenty, because what it also had was Idealism. I never really thought so much about the lives McCarthy destroyed and how communism was such a big threat here and elsewhere, but this movie conveys that and much more. Its the same issues that come back over and over again, the same Fear and thats why the responsbility that the movie depicts means so much. Really, if inanimate wires and circuit can't educate and teach people more than they know, and help in the future of the country, then whats the use of TV journalism? I loved the details- the countdown when Clooney touches Murrow to start his program, the interspersed ads that get the money for CBS, the process of actually filming the program, the scotch, everything! And the Dianne Reeve songs just fit, exactly appropriate. I actually don't want to say anything about the movie itself because I feel the layers are endless and that everybody should see and feel it for themselves. I got transported into a place and company which was inspiring, humbling and real, and I just wish everyone gets there too.