Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And once again - goodbye!

The following is an excerpt from a mail I meant to send a year ago(31/5/07 to be exact), but never did! I found it in the drafts today, while looking for something else, and I just thought I'll put it in. It describes a feeling I was to experience many times over in the following year:

You know that feeling you get when you see a friend off? You see her getting into the bus and take up a seat. She looks out at you from the window and smiles and waves. You smile back and keep waving till the bus turns around the corner. Then you turn around and start walking. The road suddenly looks both beautiful and empty. You have a smile on your face but you feel lonely.. Why am i typing this? Because i just saw Madhu off on her JNC shuttle and I wanted to get the feeling while it still was there. Sure there's another shuttle I can catch in another two hours but life - my work would've caught up with me by then. I would no longer want to get into the bus.. I'll meet her, maybe, this weekend, but the moment would be long gone. But, years later when I look back and ponder upon what our friendship was all about, it is this moment that i will think of. It is that feeling - a sudden loss of safety, a sense of loneliness - that I will remember.

And now, a year later, I've done that over and over again. Endless times. Now-a-days, it's with a "I dunno when I'll see you next, so I'll see you when I'll see you" - to close/best friends from school going abroad, to cousins leaving to different places, to classmates from college who work in different parts of the world, to friends I met during the summer during my internship... the list is endless!

There is no escape of course - the goodbyes must be said, the hugs must be given and you must watch them as they turn and disappear out of sight - perhaps forever!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

For Thine is the Kingdom

God - Possibly the most discussed topic ever. No, that would be food (three times a day per person min.). Well, alright, the second most discussed topic ever..

The fact that I'm an atheist has invited it's share of shocked expressions as I grew up. I still remember our valedictory lunch when all of us were sitting around a table in Mainland China - dressed in our saris and feeling all grown up - when Rabia suddenly remarked "Oh, but Chitra doesn't believe in God!".
"What?" - A general cry and shocked expressions all around followed by a discussion on God and Religion where everyone else agreed that 'God invented man but man invented religion'(quite profound for a 16 yr old, come to think of it).

That being the first time I had openly admitted to being an atheist, it was also the first time I had to put up with such a reaction. Also I came from a very Christiany Christian school - you know, prayers 4 times a day, teacher making fun of Durga's multiple hands during a history lesson, Darwin bashing during a bio lesson, scripture verses competitions, no bangles/bindi, plain sari for the valedictory(though, I have to admit, that looks very pretty), arguments on the big bang theory, the choir singing only religious songs - heck! the rock band played only religious songs!, etc.. you get the picture.
At the end of it all, I was sick of the whole thing. Sick of having a religion being pushed upon me and having to defend my beliefs.

I was also a very confused kid as I grew up. I don't come from a particularly religious family. There was the usual temple visits every birthday and every summer and pray to God on religious holidays thing, but I wasn't brought up on stories of Hindu mythology(things I pester my classmates at IIT for now!) - my dad used to tell me stories of the wars and the rise and fall of civilisations and dynasties - facts, not fiction, mind you.

Maybe that was what got me interested in Science - it dealt with hardcore facts. You got to verify everything. In religion on the other hand, you gotta trust blindly - something which never appealed to me. It was tempting, mind you. I mean, imagine putting all your trust and troubles and burdens and duties on someone else and believing that it'll all be taken care of! I would give a lot to be able to do that, but I know I never can.

It, somehow, doesn't seem right!

When my sister and I had our little accident, my mom prayed to some temple somewhere down south and said she'll do an 'archanai' there if we get better. We did and now she wants to go. She thinks my dad and I were sniggering at her when she told us this, but we weren't. Well, I can't speak for him, but I, for one, have never been against anyone else's blind faith. Just because I like to lead a life where I believe I and I alone am responsible for everything I do, doesn't mean I expect everyone else to do the same! Which is why it irritates me when others come and try to convince me that there does exist a God. Why do they do that? If they can accept that Hindus believe in Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the Muslims in Allah and the Christians in Jesus Christ, why can't they let me believe in none? Why is it impertinent that I believe in someone whoever he/she be?

Though I'm being a tad unfair in making the previous statement. People accept the other religions because of religious harmony but they don't stop trying to convince the others to accept their own. I can understand that. What I can't stand is when someone pushes their beliefs upon you. Like Mrs. Rajan in school who made fun of Kali when we were studying about Durga Pooja in Social studies (I was 8 and I wasn't pleased with what was happening - if I had been older, I guess I would've protested, but then again she wouldn't have made such a statement to a bunch of 16 year olds - which just makes me lose all respect for her, but that's besides the point..). Or that lady who came home and gave my mom, who politely asked her what she did, a nice long lecture on how Christianity is the best and my mom should come for some meeting somewhere (I couldn't control my laughter and walked out of the room soon enough), or my aunt(who I love a lot and would die for her and so shouldn't put her name along with the others, but, hey, it's just an example) who tries to convince me to attend 'Art of living classes' - something, Chicken Little will assure you I don't need, since acc. to her I can be happy in a jail - whatever that means!

Another thing which always struck me as strange was the way girls are usually either firm believers or atheist. They dislike being an 'agnostic' for a long time, while that seems the popular choice with guys!! Of course, I will discount the masses who claim they are an agnostic because "they believe in God - some God, no name, but a supreme power" (to such people, I would suggest that they please go look up the dictionary meaning of the word and not be ashamed of believing in a supreme power. Trust me, there's nothing 'cool' about being an agnostic or a atheist!).

There's another category of people - my favorite - the ones who believe in God thanks to Pascal's wager argument ! Smart people, they are.. but it does seem like cheating, doesn't it? And if there is a God who knows all and controls all, won't he know exactly what these people are getting at? Ah, well..

Whatever works for them!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The night before the wedding.

One evening Marilla, coming in from the orchard with a basket of apples, found Anne sitting along by the east window in the twilight, crying bitterly.

"Whatever's the matter now, Anne?" she asked.

"It's about Diana," sobbed Anne luxuriously. "I love Diana so, Marilla. I cannot ever live without her. But I know very well when we grow up that Diana will get married and go away and leave me. And oh, what shall I do? I hate her husband--I just hate him furiously. I've been imagining it all out--the wedding and everything--Diana dressed in snowy garments, with a veil, and looking as beautiful and regal as a queen; and me the bridesmaid, with a lovely dress too, and puffed sleeves, but with a breaking heart hid beneath my smiling face. And then bidding Diana goodbye-e-e--" Here Anne broke down entirely and wept with increasing bitterness.

- Anne(12) in Anne of Green Gables

"It's all pretty much as I used to imagine it long ago, when I wept over your inevitable marriage and our consequent parting," she laughed. "You are the bride of my dreams, Diana, with the `lovely misty veil'; and I am YOUR bridesmaid. But, alas! I haven't the puffed sleeves -- though these short lace ones are even prettier. Neither is my heart wholly breaking nor do I exactly hate Fred."

- Anne(21) in Anne of the Island

Friday, July 04, 2008

The narrative - Part 1

Here is a very brief (by my standards) report of my recent trip to Singapore. Popular demands et al..

Characters you will meet during the course of this narative:

1) Ranjini: (a.k.a assie) She's a classmate of mine. A total nutcase/genius/idiot/sweetheart - you get the picture. She denies the obvious very vehemently. Both of us travelled to and fro together. She can be fun when she's not scared of the little beetle on my head or a water tank or, i dunno.. the skyline!

2) Aquila: My soulmate ;-) Well, the only other girl in India to be doing a master's in physics, have a blog, 2 friends from col., go through a make-over, read the way books should be read, etc.. If you know any other, we'll be happy if you could let us know!

3)Sharmila: Aquila's classmate (they're from Pune university). A complete sweetheart. The only sensible and responsible person among the lot of us - hence she gets stuck with handling our finances, tickets and p.o.a wherever we go. Oh and she knows moonwalking! But that's a tale of it's own..

4) Tanya: A girl from Delhi. One of those who remind you not to go by first impressions. Sweet, cheerful, bubbling with life, confidant, etc.. - a typical Delhi girl! Except she's smart too!

5,6,7) Siddharth, Soumalya, Veeresh: Three guys from my class. I will say no more. Read on and form your own opinions :-)

8) Sandip: Aquila's classmate. Obbessed with photography. Has been known to take a minimum of 1000 photographs in one day. And no, I'm not exaggerating. Oh, Veeresh like taking photos too, but Sandip takes the cake.

9) Rakhi: A PhD student from IIT-M. Helped us settle in and gave us murruku everytime we visited her. :-)

10) Sharon, Minrui, Binni, Yilin, Zhi Han: People in my lab. But more about them as the tale proceeds.

11) Dr.Sow: My guide. (Yeah, I admit his name should've been first conventionally, but heck, you guys don't wanna hear about my work in the lab, do you??)

The story:

Ranjini and I arrive at the Changi airport and are picked up by my brother. I guess he convinced the taxi driver that he knows the town well, cause we had to pay barely $20, while my friends paid $35! Guess the autos in B'lore and the taxis there don't really differ much!

We reached Temashek hall (our home for 6 weeks) at 9 in the morning. We went to the chap who was incharge of giving us the keys(correction: transponder) to our rooms only to be told by this lady (maid? wife? daughter?) that he was still sleeping!! We insisted that he be woken up, and he came out all grumpy and grouchy (it was only later that we found out that that's how he normally looks; even when he's telling jokes about how there are two sesons in S'pore: hot and very hot (you can roll your eyes all you want - i was forced to laugh politely)). He gave us the transponder and explained how it works. I never did get why they had to use something like that! What's wrong with a normal key?? Esp since they made us pay 42$ if anything happened to it!

To be continued..