Archive for October, 2007

You know you grew up in India in the 90s when….

Got this as a forward from a friend today, and there are loads of points in it, that does take you back to the ‘growing-up days’. Red‘s are my comments/views/experiences….

“You know you grew up in India in the 90s when….” is a group in facebook. And it is hilarious! Everyone of us should be able to relate to more than one of these!!! Have fun! 🙂

1) You know the words to ‘In-pin-safety-pin’ and ‘akkad-bakkad’ by heart :
For kolkata chaps, you have to akir-mikier-chaam-chikir’ 🙂
2) Cricket is almost a religion for you, and you idolize at least one of Kapil Dev/Rahul Dravid/Sachin Tendulkar/Saurav Ganguly
Come on Dravid
3) You have read at least some Chacha Chaudhary or Tinkle comics
Still do! Got to ask the Indian store owner if he can get Tinkle here
4) You’ve watched Shaktimaan on TV at least once in your life. And you can immediately recognize the character when you see him.
I can recognize him, but I have not watched even a single episode of it. (And, it is not too bad a costume for haloween is it?)
5) You have some ‘NRI’ relatives.
Hoping that I do not become one for my relatives
6) You couldn’t wait for it to be December so you could have the Toblerone chocolates your NRI relatives brought you
Missed that
7) You watched Cartoon Network, and then the late night movies on TNT that came after Cartoon Network ended.
Scooby-Dooby do, yabba dabba doo, zoykes…..
8) You watched corny dubbed versions of Small Wonder, Silver Spoon, and I Dream of Jeanie
Sony TV/Star TV rocks….school used to start at 11:30, and the daily schedule was Silver Spoons/ Who is the Boss/ Bewitched/ Richie Rich (on Cartoon network) before going to school and Small Wonder in the evening
9) You were THRILLED when McDonald’s opened in your neighborhood (or even eight kilometers away)
Surprisingly, the first time I went to McD, was in Mumbai, March 2006
10) Your first burgers were at Wimpy’s or Nirula’s.
11) A visit to Pizza Hut used to mean a special treat
I still get treats in Pizza Hut.
12) You have seen Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Hum Aapke Hain Kaun at least 5 times each
13) You still remember the theme song to Hum Paanch.
No, but reminds me of the awesome TV programing of Door-darshan, with Tu-Tu-Main-Main, Dekh bhai dekh, zabaan sambhal ke, shriman shrimati, marshall, kanoon, tehkikaat, ajnabee
14) You have played hours upon hour of Pukdam-pakdai, oonch-neech, kho-kho,’Doctor,doctor, help us!’, ‘Lock and key’
Countless hours!
15) You have played ‘Uma Joshi’ more times than you can remember.
who is Uma Joshi?
16) Dog ‘in’ the bone was your favorite co-ed game.
It is an interesting game
17) Much of your free time in school was spent playing UNO.
Reminds me of the train trip from Bombay to Kolkata, when the train got 24 hours late, and all the time was spent playing ‘UNO’ and the memory game with co-passengers.
18) You collected trump cards of wrestlers, cricketers, and airplanes, and did not quite understand why your younger siblings were obsessed with Pokemon and the other Japanese trends that followed.
Yes! Hulk Hogan had 1st rank, and Yokozuna had the largest chest size. What is the pokemon?
19) Your summer vacations were often synonymous with visiting your grandparents
Got to refer you to this
20) Your parents, at some point, told you ‘Dark Room’ was a bad game to play. But you still loved playing it.
Why was it a bad gam?
21) Bole mere lips, I love uncle Chips!
yummy! but amma never used to let us have them when we wanted it. Always used to refuse buying it. (we = me and my sister)
22) You know the song ‘Made in India’ by Alisha Chinoi
That song was a craze
23) You have seen many many many episodes of ‘Antakshri’ on Zee TV and know the only thing constant in the show is Anu Kapoor.
He still is! Only that he has migrated from zee to star
24) Amy evenings have been spent watching little kids gyrate vulgarly on Boogie Woogie on Sony.
25) You were the coolest thing in class if you had a computer in your house while it was still the 90s.
Oh! remember the night-outs at our place playing Cricket-97 (or some thing like that) and Dink Smallwood
26) You learnt LOGO in school!
and I made Titanic using it
27) You couldn’t wait to start 4th/6th standard so you could start writing with PENS instead of with pencils!
So very true! It was 4th standard for me, and I was like the BIG boy then….and often made my sister cry because she was still with pencils
28) You often you terms and phrases like ‘kutti’, ‘abba’, ‘same to you, back to you, with no returns’, and ‘shame shame, puppy shame, all the donkeys know your name.’
and a lot more
29) You most probably saw Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge at the cinema at least once. You also fantasized singing songs in mustard fields like in the movie.
Reminds me however of third year in college, when Anshu and I revised the movie so so many times
30) You have seen David Dhawan and Govinda movies and laughed at them.
My favourite is Deewana-Mastana! It was riot, but may be because we went to the movie as a gang of 10-12
31) You have said ‘haw’ or ‘haw ji ki pwji’ when you saw people kissing in English movies
or tried to watch ’15+” english movies on star plus by pretending to watch golf/EPL etc
31) You have seen Titanic at least 12 times.
First time itself was a pain
32) You thought seeing English movies and speaking English made you the coolest thing ever.
There are people who still think that 🙂
33) You remember the Orissa cyclone, even though you didn’t know what a cyclone was.
I remember the days leading up to the cyclone. There was a slight effect of it in Kolkata. And, I really felt the lull before the storm. Also, remember traveling through Orissa, a few months after the cyclone, but still being able to spot its ravage.
34) You remember the Gujarat earthquake very clearly and could possibly tell everyone EXACTLY what you were ding when the earthquake occurred.
I remember another earthquake in Latur.
35) Barbies for girls, and GI Joes for boys were the ultimate status symbols. You just wanted more more more and more. And how can I forget Hot Wheels, for both boys and girls?
I had a few hot-wheels. Never collected them though
36) You have worn Osh-Kosh B’gosh and United Colours of Benetton clothes while growing up. And you thought ‘imported’ clothes were definitely way better than ‘made in India’ clothes (never mind that a lot of clothes brought from overseas by NRI relatives were actually made in India, before ‘Made in China’ started appearing on EVERY existing thing)
I had a favorite Singapore T-shirt
37) You know the words to ‘Posham Paa’, and like it better than ‘Oranges and Lemons’ even though you’d sing the latter to sound cool (see 32 above).
I only remember Oranges and Lemons
38) At some point or other, cool was your favourite, and therefore, most overused word.
39) Captain Planet was your first introduction to environmental consciousness.
That was super smart of Cartoon Network people eh!
40) You have tried to convince people around you to not burst crackers on Diwali, and then gone straight back home and burst them yourself.
Diwali without crackers ain’t diwali
41) You have had endless packets of Parle Gluco G biscuits, and of Brittania Little Hearts biscuits.
42) You loved licking off the cream from the centre of Bourbon biscuits.
And the cheap cream biscuits too from the corner shop
43) There were no Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Puma- Bata and Liberty was the way to go for your sports shoes.
They are still good, I think
44) You have probably consumed more Frooti in your lifetime than there is oil in Iraq.
or Rasna or Gold-Spot
45) You watched Baywatch on Star World even though (or because) your parents said you shouldn’t watch it.
Never liked it, but ya! have watched it. There however, used to be a time on star movies, where much ‘better’ things than baywatch used to air.
46) You bought packets of potato chips for the specific purpose of collecting Tazoa. And you had Tazos depicting everyone from Confucius to Daffy Duck to Daffy Duck dressed as Confucius.
Do not remember this, but do remember collecting Cricket Stars cards. Sachin was a rarity in those.
47) For the longest time, the Maruti 800, the Premier Padmini, THE Fiat, and THE Ambassador were the only cars you saw on the road, and the Contessa was cool because it was bigger.
Yup! I always pestered appa to get the Contessa because it was so cooool
48) You would literally jump up in excitement if you ever chanced upon an imported car (Oh my gosh, is that really a MERCEDES?)!
You still say gosh! it is a mercedes
49) You spent a good part of 1998 drooling over the Hyundai Santro and the Daewoo Matiz , debating which one was better.
50) You used to chew Big (big) Babool and/or Boom Boom Boomer chewing gum. They were bright pink and disgusting tasting, but you loved them for the temporary tattoos.
Ya! Chewing gum was considered cool too
51) Talking of temporary tattoos, you sometimes had contests with your classmates about who had more tattoos on their arm, leg, knee, hand, forehead, wherever.
52) You thought Mario and Tetris were the coolest things ever invented, especially if you were a boy.
Mario is the coolest TV game ever. period.
53) You knew that having the latest Hero or Atlas bicycle would make you the coolest kid on the block.
Oh! to have MTB cycle, with those extra little horn like things on the handlebar. That was the fad. I sulled for many days because my cycle did not have that
54) You can imitate Sushmita Sen’s winning gasp to perfection.
55) You have, at some point of time, worn GAP clothes (real or fake) like SRK in KKHH.
or the chain with ‘cool’ spelled out on it.
56) Seemingly senseless acronyms like SRK, DDLJ, KKHH actually make sense to you.
57) You have at some point debated who was more beautiful- Aishwarya or Sushmita.
58) If you lived in Delhi, you went bowling at Essex Farms, or Go-Karting at 32nd Milestone and couldn’t think how you could get any cooler than that.
Looks like the writer has drifted into early 2000’s. The coolest thing in Calcutta, 1997-99 was 3rd Agenda gaming parlor and one more next to Lighthouse cinema, and the ice cream parlor scoop next to Lighthouse.
59) Baskin Robbins ice-cream was THE thing to have!
60) You know what Campa Cola is. And you also knew that Coca Cola was THE drink.
61) When you would watch WWF keenly every evening/afternoon and really think that Undertaker had 7 lives and he made an “actual” appearance in the Akshay Kumar- starrer Khiladiyon ka Khiladi.
They really had us fooled
62) When all backpacks (or ‘schoolbags’) and water bottles and tiffin boxes had strange cartoon characters that were hybrid versions of seven or eight different characters, and you still bought them, because a green man wih a water pistol, boots, a jet-pack, Johnny bravo hair, a rajasthani mustache, gloves, and underwear (long johns) over his pants, called ‘Mr. X’ was OBVIOUSLY a status symbol.
63) You remember the Nirma tikia jingle.
Washing powder nirma, doodh se safedi….
also char boondon waala ujaala
64) You remember the Nirma girl.
65) You remember the ‘doodh doodh’ ad and also the ‘roz khao andey’ ads.
Doodh-Doodh to me is the best TV-ad I have seen
66) You grew up reading, if you read at all, some or all of Nancy Drews, Enid Blyton books, Hardy Boys, Babysitters Club, Animorphs, Sweet Valley series, Judy Blumes, and Tintin, or Archie comics. Because naturally, reading foreign authors made you much coller than reading Tinkle.
Love Archies, but Tinkle rocks!!!!!
67) Towards the late 90s (1998-99) at least some of us started our Harry Potter obsessions!
68) You absolutely HAD to go to Essel World if you wnet to Mumbai! “Essel World mein rahoonga main, ghar nahin nahin jaaonga main!”
For people who grew up in Calcutta, it was Nicco Park.
69) You watched the Bournvita Quiz contest on TV pretty religiously. The smarter ones amongst you actually took part in it and had your entire school and your entire extended families watch you on it!
Everyone saw BQC
70) “Jungle jungle baat chali hai, pata chala hai. Chaddi pehen ke phool khila hai, phool khila!”
90s Classic! Yay for Rudyard Kipling and Doordarshan adaptations!
Sundays had to have mowgli.

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Aasthe Bochor Abaar hobe *

The door-bell rings at 3Am in the morning. For an instant, I think that it is the doorbell to our apartments in my dreams, and that I open the door and let my friends in.
The door-bell rings again. For another instant, I think that it is to doorbell to our apartment in my dreams, and that I open the door and let my friends in. A Deja-vu in my dreams. Some logical part of my brain kicks into action, and decides that it is the real life doorbell that is ringing. I strain my ears a little to listen to a couple of people shouting ‘Apartment-D’ from below.

For another instant again, an insane part of the brain starts to dominate. What if, they were a couple of robbers, waiting down with a gun in their hands. And, then to add spice to the masala, my phone rings. That totally gives me the creeps. As I slowly walk to my phone and pick it up, a flash of relief. It is my apartment-mate. The bell ringing has also woken him up. And, he is as scared as I. ‘Do we go down and investigate?’, he asks. I, without a second thought reply in the negative. My life is too precious to be taken by a maniac with a gun, I think.

The bell rings again. This time, I dare a peek through the window at the main gate. A couple, totally drunk are standing there. The fear of death gone, I am angry that a couple of drunken idiots are playing a prank on us. Then the guy starts speaking feverishly on the phone, and the girl starts feverishly searching in her purse. Both of them are hardly able to stand. They manage to ring the doorbell once again though. I had no idea what they wanted or when they would stop.

Suddenly, the girl yells ‘I have found it’. And it is the key to the apartment. They get in. I get back to my bed. My apartment-mate then calls me all tensed up, ‘they are going to knock on our doors now. What are we going to do’. I assure him that they were some people living in the building, and get back to sleep. But for some more time, my ears were alert to a knock!

Maha-Navami is the best day of the Durga Pujo. No second thoughts on that. The first pujo in Madison, and I was really sad and low that, I will have to spend it confined to our apartments with some arbit assignment in my hand, that I will hardly understand. So, in full desperation, I googled for durga pujo and Madison, and lo!, I found that there actually was a Durga pujo in Madison (or to put is properly in Verona). So, with all gusto, I call up my bong friend, Nirjhar, and we decide to visit the pujo.

So, I wake up early on MahaNavami (atleast Maha Navami in USA), and go to Verona to see the pujo. And it was like there was a hole in the time-space continuum and I was transported back to India. I, am surrounded by quite a lot of Indians, but it felt so great to see Indians from our parents generation. Don’t know why, but it felt great, different and better. Also, it was really nice to see people dresses up in dhuti-panjaabi and sari. It felt great to the prasad and bhog arranged in front of the moorti. It felt great to see people making the dodikormo. It felt like India, with the incense stick and the kapur aroma filling the hall. The Dhak (albeit played by a total stranger to any kind of percussion) sounded brilliant. The sounds of the Indian bhajan and shlokas from the tape-recorder was awesome. Everything took me back to Kolkata in 2000 (the last pujas I spent in Kolkata), as I joined my hands and prayed to the Madison-Verona-Maa Durga.[1]

Pictures always speak better.

The evening got even better. Voice Chat is an amazing invention. Voice Chat with web camera is even more amazing. Voice chat with conferencing is thrice as good. For the first time since May, I spoke to my sis and my parents at the same time, and once again, it felt like being in India. And as usual, my sis and I paired up and took the toll heavily on appa (who loves it totally, when we do that). Ah! those times!!!

[1]: As we sat and waited for the cab, Nirjhar and I were discussing is it worth to come to America and settle here, in a strange land amidst strangers, for a better job, and more money and good lifestyle? Although, we had both come because of either or all of the three conditions to the US, our answer was No! I want to spend my best festivals amidst a city that comes to a still because of that festival, and that can happen only in India.

*we will celebrate again in the next year


irony and philosophy

that the day before my mid-term exam, all I could think of was sleeping, and I did sleep. Studies kept getting postponed 😦

and the after the exam is over, I hardly feel like sleeping 🙂

(Obviously, statistical thermodynamics is too boring. To not sleep when studying it is a disgrace to the subject)

…but on a philosophical level, this brings me to my views on Research/ UG ChemEng curriculum etc etc:

The pinch of salt with my views is that, I have never worked in my life. Another pinch of salt, is that my view of ‘research’ is pretty much that which has been born and matured in India.

So, a few weeks ago, we had this onerous task of deciding our thesis advisers. A PhD is a life-time’s work, given that you will rarely change the field you will be working on after a PhD. To make this decision, we ( meaning the Fall2007 CBE grad students) had to attend talks by the faculty about their research and general work being done in their group. We had to follow this up with one on one meetings with faculty we are interested in and read papers after papers and narrow in on the faculty/area we wanted to work with/in.

This method to select, is just slightly better than the one at IIT-B, but still fails (at least IMO).
What I felt missing, in both the places where some judgment on the application of the research.

Chemical (& Biological) Engineering, is presently a very confused field. There seems to be hardly any connect between what we read during our undergraduate and what is being taught in graduate courses. Most obvious amongst those is that for 4 years we are taught more than 50 courses, and the first course that we are advised to take in Graduate school is an Mathematics course, as it lays the foundation for most of the analysis in the papers.

Well, at this point, I even question the stuff being taught in traditional Chemical Engineering, a.k.a. the undergraduate curriculum. I have definitely not seen any demand for knowledge of these fields in India ( I will be happy to eat my words if I find things are different in America) in both the places where you think mastery over the concepts will be important. The Process industries mainly want ‘managers’, but mainly people who are technology-scared, those who will do something because the user’s manual says to do so. The industrial research component is mostly missing in India, but from what I have heard about the Research divisions of GE/Shell etc in India, research in traditional chemical engineering fields do not rank among top priorities. That leaves, academic research institutes, which frankly, boils down to the IITs. Research in traditional chemical engineering in IIT is non existent.

In America, so far, I have not interacted with the companies, but traditional chemical engineering research here, is not there at all.

I am not too sure about the development of research interests in students who do UG outside India, but for Indian UG-Chemical engineers, applying for MS/PhD is mainly because
a.) Some subject really interests him
b.) America calling
c.) Both of the above

Now, if I just consider the narrow (unfortunately narrow) subset of students in the a.) category: All they have before plunging into a decision to pursue research are
1.) Faculty meeting and websites
2.) A quick read over some published papers in the field.

Grad school, by itself admits that UG ChemEng does not prepare you to understand the papers. Faculty meeting can only take you so far, because you do not have any idea about what the work is like.

So, what do you base the decision for selecting your work on?

You join Grad school and you are bombarded with courses and faculty research interest that you have hardly heard of before. I sit through classes on Statistical Thermodynamics, I listen to professors talking about simulating the DNA in a fluid flowing in a micro-conduit, or about predicting catalyst behavior using quantum chemistry, or about designing a bio-polymer that may do something, and all I see is a big dis-connect.

Some questions that I want to ask before taking up a work will be among these
What does these research accomplish. Are there successes in these fields. If so, what are they?
How will the world use my work? Will it be useful? Perhaps the most glaring dis-connect that I see is that if these fields like biological re-engineering of genes, simulation of DNA particles in a box and other such things, quantum chemistry are driving the research in Chemical Engineering, why am I not, introduced to them(at least as epilogues) in the UG course work.

I took the decision to work in Systems on a whim. Prior to joining IIT, I wanted to work in Thermodynamics, as I found it the most interesting. A semester of Statistical Mechanics, made me think otherwise, and I took the project that involved building on concepts introduced to me in my most favourite 1st sem course at IIT-B.

But is everyone so lucky to enjoy the field they chose to (Can we trust our genes on this?)
And from a bigger perspective, I would like to know the scope, the effectiveness, the impact of research in most fields ( atleast in CBE). The present system, just does not give that insight.


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a post 45 days too late

It has been just a little over a month that I have been in Madison, and yet, India feels a lifelong ago.

I had wanted to write about the last couple of days before I left Bombay and my first couple of days here in Madison, for a long time, but my sleep and laziness got the better of me.

August 2007 has been a completely mixed month, bitter-sweet, magical, dreamy and the least bit boring.

End of July was really hectic, with all the thesis writing, and more thesis writing. But the defense (what a phrase, I am defending my thesis tomorrow!) was a breeze. I had already written before about packing and leaving the hostel, the emotions that packing brews, and that after-taste. This time around, the memories were different, but the sadness of leaving was the same.

However, the lasting memory of IIT that lingers on inside me is that one afternoon, walking in a slight drizzle, just after selling my cycle, first to H-4 and then to H-12, listening to ‘It-aint me babe’ by Dylan on the loop. This just before, I took the taxi home. IIT is a beautiful campus to walk around, and more so when there is a slight drizzle. And, the 1 hour or so that I walked that day, I was reliving the days in IIT, the dreadful sleepless first semester, the excitement with which I attacked research at the beginning of the second semester, movie watching, linux learning, PAFs, MoodI, Placements, the long lonely walks, the wait for Friday evening and taking the 524 home. Weekends for most part of the two years was spent at home, but somehow, home seemed, then to be a part of the campus.

Commuting between home and the lab was a long 1 hour and 30 minutes by the bus. And, it was a perfect time to paint my dreams. Once the admit came, dreaming of America in the bus became like a ritual (Oh! all the great things I will do with my PhD, my own company, teach etc etc etc), but the real import, the feeling that, I will be on a flight to USA, stuck me, not when I got my tickets, not when I got the visa, but really surprisingly, when I went shopping for clothes and suitcases, and learned how to differentiate between sambhar dal and ven-pongal dal.

Convocation day was one of the perfect day’s that I have ever had. Graduation day ceremony, the way everyone knows it is going to happen, always sounds dull and boring. First you listen to someone ramble on about stepping out of the university to the outside world, and then you wait and watch 500 people go to the stage to get their degrees. But, when you are one in that 500, the whole ceremony is really special, and you feel awfully proud when you get on to the stage and collect your degree, a feeling that you will never get when you see your degree lying in your mailbox. The fact that 1000+ IIT’ans sat quietly for over 2.5 hours, watching friends get their degrees, is proof enough that the Convocation day is going to remain fresh in our memories for a long long time. And the noise that we made, once the last student received his degree and we finished the graduates oath.

I was really lucky that my parents were with me, and they could come and watch the convocation. The joy and pride reflecting from their faces, is something that I will not dare try to find words for. I am just happy that I could, in some way, make them proud of me.

The day before I left, I wanted to live a huge many days into a single day, wanted time to go as slow as possible and wanted everyone I knew to be at my home. None of it happened, but still, it was a day that lingers on and on. 24 years in India, and memories that jump out at the thought of home, are the moments from the 19th of August. I never received so many calls on the same day.

The lasting memory of 19th is the two trips that I made to Nerul station, once with appa, and then in the evening with amma. Both the jaunts, were surreal to say the least. All three of us (and of couse vids in chennai) were sad, yet happy and instead of talking about missing eachother and all, we planned for future reunions. But the sadness was pent up, and it slowly seeped out later in the evening, as we sat waiting for the cab, and discussing so many things, from my research interests, to the dosage of advice, to life ahead, to discussing about relatives, to remembering the fun time in calcutta/chennai, to remembering tatha and patti. Our eyes were moist, and I am sure, all three fought really hard against the tears.

The final trip (atleast for quite some time) on the streets of Bombay, was with a heavy heart, and all the excitement of America was forgotten. The crying faces in CST airport hardly helped. But somehow, as I dragged my luggage into the security check area, a switch in the states happened. I was fearing that I would completely break down, but a sudden calm took over me, I felt ready. And I felt the same feeling, change of state in my parents thoughts too ( yes! i sensed it). Those final minutes before I went to security check, was spent talking about all the nothings, totally arbit and useless stuff, finding something to laugh in almost anything, the real good times.

The flight was nothing eventful, largely because I slept through it.

Adjusting to America was another surprise for me. I did not think that it would be so easy. But for that I will be indebted to Asim, my apartment-mate here, for doing all the basic initial work, so that I could ease into America.

Life, except of-course for the cursed coursework, has been really wonderful here for the last month and a half, with nice friends and interesting conversations and movies and food and all the adventure and novelty of living alone, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning etc…

Just hope that it remains so for the rest of the 4 or 5 years that I have to stay in Madison.