Get your hands dirty: Day one of ‘a post a day’

Today I was on the phone with my friend, brother, and mentor Srinivasa Ramanujam. He called me sensing that I was not seeing the light at the end of tunnel, and he sensed that I was thinking the light is that of an approaching train. It was soothing to talk to someone you trust and someone who understands you well. This blog post is a result of the talk. Well I have to start somehow, so today’s topic will be about the talk that started it.

He mainly asked me to stop thinking too much, start acting, and “get my hands dirty”. He also narrated a story of two woodcutters. Both went to the forest at 9 am and returned at 5 pm. One was highly successful and rich; the other was poor and miserable. The poor woodcutters wife accompanied the two to the forest one day to find out why her husband was poor and the other guy rich. She noticed that the rich guy took a break every 1 hr, whereas her husband continuously worked. On approaching the rich guy and enquiring why despite taking breaks he was successful, he replied, “In the break I sharpen my axe so that it is never blunt. This increases my productivity.” The moral of the story is to keep the mind sharp so that long unproductive hours go away to be replaced by enjoyable productive work. For this, Ramanujam suggested many ways, and hopefully, out of respect for him, I will follow. One of the suggestions was to write a blog post daily about any one thing. Forget about grammar and prose in the beginning. Just start writing, and persist, things will follow.

Today is a beginning. Everyday is a beginning. I will see the light at the end of tunnel and I won’t be scared that it is the train.

The sem and after…

Hello all. I am back after a long hiatus. Why? Oh, nothing. I had a lot of concepts to write about, and then they were not very interesting for others. However, one of my blogger friends encouraged me to write. So here it is.

Now what shall I tell you today? Let’s start with the last one month, which has been very hectic and awesome at the same time.

Eighth semester was one of those sems. After cupping GRE and wasting one month preparing for it, I was not really in a mood to study anything. As a result, I had put infinite give-up just mechanically going to class and contemplating on life in general. Then the end semester came on, crushing me with it. Two full day seminars, CFD project, 6 exams back to back, the heat was on. I felt the brunt of the give-up which I put. To top it all, of the 6 courses, I just enjoyed two of them. To put it better, of 21 credits I did, only 7 were enjoyable. And for the first time in 8 semesters I was in a position that I needed 60% in end semester to pass a course. That week was horrible. On the other hand, the news of Air India strike was no way helping my nerves. What timing by AI pilots to strike!!! Last week of April went like that and I was just plain happy that CGPA-significant exams were over. Phew!!! (On a side note, let me thank everyone who helped me during this time, in terms of giving notes, praying, encouraging etc. Without you people I couldn’t have done it)

By May 3, the Chennai summer was becoming unbearable and there seemed no end to AI strike. Crestfallen, I boarded the Alleppy express that day to go home. I just had 2 days at home. What this meant was sloppy packing for my Canada trip. I had a quota of 46 kg and I finally took only 28 kg. (More on packing for Canada on a separate blogpost).

MAA-DEL-YYZ, that was my itinerary. Of this the MAA-DEL part was uncertain. I had to come to Chennai one day before to fight (rather plead) with AI to change my itinerary. Thankfully, we were able to reschedule the domestic leg to Kingfisher rather easily.

The trip was uneventful but interesting. The major highlight was the food. The food which Vijay Mallya had arranged for us was simply awesome. There was panner tikka, noodle bajji, pulav, raitha. It was pretty good. We (there was one other friend travelling with me) landed at the huge Delhi airport and proceeded to Terminal 3 after collecting baggage. Yes, we had to collect baggage because we were changing carrier. There were huge queues and it seemed that the entire nation was flying out of the country that night. We met a talkative sardar who entertained us for the 2 hours in queue with interesting anecdotes from his life. Finally we boarded the aircraft – BOEING 777-300ER with huge turbofan (high-bypass) GE90 engines. I felt that the quality of plastics inside was very poor. Especially the overhead storage design was very uncomfortable to use. The 3-3-3 seating was comfortable though. I got a seat right above the wings with a good view of the beautiful engine. There was a delay because we were waiting for a connection flight from Hyderabad.

The in-flight entertainment was bad. There was just wake-up-sid and avatar worth watching and Wake-Up-Sid was available only for 110 minutes. Extremely unfortunate situation. However the food made up for it. They gave us dinner, breakfast, and lunch (according to Indian time). And it was all really good. The composition of the aircraft was interesting. I asked around and found that almost 60% of the roughly 300 passengers were Punjabi’s above 60 years of age. And 95% of them were Canadian Citizens. Wow! The Sardarji sitting next to us was born in Lahore and was a Canadian Citizen. He invited us to langar to get free food. I should try that someday. Majority of the cabin crew were fat 40+ males and females. On the other hand, Mallya’s handpicked (as he claimed on a video in-flight) cabin crew were extremely beautiful.

Throughout the 16 hour flight we were racing with the sun. The sun beat us everywhere and the maps and guidance system on the in-flight entertainment portal were extremely interesting and good for time pass. The flight path was India-Pakistan-Afghanistan-Russia-Scandinavia-North Atlantic at 63 degree-Canada (Labrador Sea)-Toronto. The sights outside were amazing. Due to a memory card malfunction, I lost all photographs taken during my journey.

We landed at Toronto 2 hours past scheduled arrival. And it took us more than one hour to clear immigration. Maybe because it was a Sunday morning, but I felt all the immigration officials were rude and not very helpful. Not at all like the Canadians I met in the city afterwards.

MITACS had arranged for our GSA (Globalink Student Advisor) to pick us up. After landing I noticed that there were atleast 7 MITACS students on the same flight. The GSA took us to our residence in a Punjabi Taxi. The driver was continuously talking on phone throughout the drive in rapid Punjabi. I was confused. Did I land in Toronto or Amritsar? The taxi charge from Airport to University was equal to the amount of money I need to travel to-and-fro twice in 2-tier AC from IITM to home. And the distance was around 26 km or so (just a 15 minute drive)

We are housed at Innis College Residence. In a suite, there are 4 single bedrooms with shared bathroom, kitchen and hall. The kitchen has a microwave, resistance stove and a refrigerator. Hopefully, I’ll blog later about some recipe’s which I have perfected here in the last two weeks. (If there are sufficient hits and comments to this blog post :P)

In the two weeks that I have been here, I have cooked my food, set up my PC at the lab, repaired cycle all on my own and travelled to Ontario Science Center, CN Tower, Casa Loma, Royal OntarioMuseum and Little India. Then we enjoyed the Victoria Day celebrations at the harbour front with the Toronto International Circus and generally roamed around to see Fireworks and had a lot of fun. Again, hopefully, I’ll blog later about this. But, if you want, you can catch some selected photos on facebook.