Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Back at Work

I have been back from India for over 6 months now. I spent my summer in Columbus, teaching at Capital University again. It was quite a busy summer. Mom did not do so well, healthwise, so I was doing a lot of up and down to Windsor. I got only 2 or 3 weekends to myself. And then I spent my remaining 3 weeks of the 4 week vacation in Windsor also. So all my summer was gone like big issues, except of course my Mom. She is recovering....slowly.

It was interesting teaching at Capital. It was so nice to be teaching back in USA again. After the 10 weeks of teaching at Subharti, I was happy to be in a place where students attend classes, do the work, are not talking over me and I have technology in the classroom! It felt normal again. Students were really good and I really enjoyed it. Teaching at Capital gives me the relief that I need even from Palm Beach sometimes.

Then of course, I had to come back to Florida. I did not go to my office until the faculty meeting. Why bother? The cluster meeting was utterly useless. I don't talk to anyone, no one bothers to talk to me. It is the most dysfunctional department ever! Even more than Park and Shenandoah. Those departments were too small, but this one is big enough that people can talk to each other, but they don't. 

I had to try out my new teaching idea this semester with all the power point studies I had made for gen chem 1 and organic 1. Ugh!! That was a mess. Two things I did not account for: one - students don't print out stuff on time and two - so much grading for me!! It was too much. After 2-3 weeks of not getting work from them, I started getting copies for them, but then, so many would not come to class, so would not pick up the copy and so would not some frustration or another. On the other hand there were a high number of students who submitted all the work.

Organic 1 was a major disappointment this semester. Half the class is failing. First of all, not many students take my class because "someone" has told them not to. And the ones who take should know that they would have to work hard. Organic chemistry is not entry level class! I could not inspire them. Half the class will pass with good grades, while the other half will fail. It reflects poorly on me. But what to do? Go to teach at Capital in summer!! :-)

The college work life is the same. Nothing has changed. My colleagues are as sour as they come. We have not spoken for over two years. But who cares? Not the boss....he is equally bad. He has no communication skills and does not promote any kind of collaboration in the department or division. He is afraid to talk to anyone and I don't like talking to him at all. He has appreciated my input when I was the chair, but he still does not respect me or understand the difference between "someone" and me. He thinks we are all the same. Any person who cannot recognize the value of people who work for him, is not worth working for. Sadly, no one - HR, Dean, VPAA or the President - no can do anything about him. He is one of those people who will never get promoted, but he will also not go anywhere. So we are just stuck with a leader with no vision, no people value, no proactiveness or any quality that a leader should have. Maybe that is what the college wants! 

So essentially, I feel like a robot who goes in to teach with hardly any incentive to do anything creative. The students have their own lives and issues that they are not able to give time to college. The faculty have their own families that they don't want to socialize with colleagues. Our leaders are mere pencil pushers. The president is too far removed from faculty to have any influence. The only good thing that happened was that we got a little raise, because the college got "Gold" status. I think we all had a little bit to do with it. Ramos wanted 70% passing rate - he got it. I had to pass students I normally would not. 

So .... life just goes on at work. I have to inspire myself to keep myself motivated.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Movie Review - Silence

Yes...another movie review. Weekend goes by with at least one or two movies. I would normally not watch Silence, it seems a little too serious to me, but I am glad I watched it. It was a slow but engaging movie. With a great actor, Liam Neeson, although in a small but key role, but the major kudos go to Andrew Garfield.

The movie is set in 17th century Japan when Jesuits traveled with trading ships to proselytize the Japanese. The traders were Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish...maybe more. But this story is about the Portuguese Jesuit priests. Liam Neeson (Father Farreira) had gone to Japan and not returned, gone silent. Two young priests, Garfield (Rodriguez) and Driver (Garupe) take it upon themselves to go and look for him. They both land on an island where they luckily run into some converts who hide and protect them. In those times the Japanese Inoue (ruler?) was ruthless in his prevention of these conversions. The Christians practiced their faith, baptism, confessions etc, in hiding.

The locals (farmers/peasants) were very happy to have the two young priests. The first third of the movie is where the young priests are getting used to being hidden and performing their duties. Rodriguez still wants to go and find Farreira, but their circumstances do not allow it. Then the story takes a turn by the arrival a peasant (K) who offers to take them to another island. They go with him. Apparently priests have a bounty on their head! K takes them along with three other devout who offer themselves up so the two priest can escape and hide on the island.

There is an elaborate scene on how these devout are sacrificed. They are asked to step on a carving of Jesus to renounce their faith. They refuse. So they are tied to a cross and left in the ocean to die. It is a powerful scene. And after they die, they are cremated.  Rodriguez and Garupe watch all this in horror. They decide to separate so they are not caught together.

Now the real story starts. Rodriguez meets up with some other devout, but is eventually caught by the Inoue and taken as a prisoner with all the other devout.

I could write the whole story but the takeaway is that Rodriguez's faith is tested over and over again. He sometimes sees himself as Jesus, the saviour of all the peasants. Then sometimes he does not think God is listening to him. He keeps feeling if there is a God he will prevent all these killings that Inoue is doing to wipe out Christians. At one time he is taken to a place and shown Garupe dying while trying to save some of the converts. Something that Rodriguez has not been able to do.  This whole time all that the Inoue is asking him to do is step on a carving of Jesus, that's it. And he will stop killing the Christians. But Rodriguez is unable to do this. The Inoue keeps killing the converts. Rodriguez feels guilty but cannot bring himself to step on Jesus's carving.

And then the final straw comes when he is taken to meet a monk, Father Farreira! By this time Farreira has renounced Christianity and has become a Buddhist monk. He advises Rodriguez to do the same. But Rodriguez is still defiant. But in the end he gives up - how? He sees what caused Father Farreira to change. Five people tied up and hung upside down in a pit. On their neck is a small slit that lets blood drip slowly out of their body. It delays death ... just torturous!!  Farreira explains to Rodriguez that love of God is to love the people and not cause them to die like this. At all times Rodriguez is asking the Inoue to punish him - Rodriguez, but the Inoue instead tortures his converts. A great dialogue is when Inoue says to Rodriguez, "Your glory comes at their sacrifice".

It's really powerful movie. It is based on a book which is based on facts. It really touched me for two reasons: first - I don't believe in conversion. I don't believe any person has the right to convert anyone's religion. It is a personal choice. And second - I believe that love is the answer to all world's problems. The most basic message should be to show love, respect and kindness to everyone. If one can do that then I think one does not need religion in their life.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Movie Review - Aftermath

I am not a big fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger but Aftermath seemed like a different kind of movie. And it was. It started off really well, tragic, but well.  A plane accident kills Arnold's wife and daughter (who was pregnant). The accident was just that - an accident. The cause was a result of communication error in the flight traffic control room. It resulted in more than 270 people dying in the plane crash.

The movie is about Arnold (Roman) and Scoot McNairy (Jake), two men on two different sides of this story but dealing with immense tragedies: Roman dealing with the loss of the only two people he loved and Jake dealing with the guilt of accidentally killing 270 people. Jake is a happily married man with a young son, but everything in his life becomes meaningless after this incident. He goes into depression. Roman starts spending too much time in the cemetery.

The story takes interesting turns on how these two men are trying to cope with their grief. Eventually after one year both are sort of getting settled in new roles. Jake changes his life, his name and gets a new job in a new city. Roman quits his job and does odd jobs. Roman sues the airlines asking them only for an apology, which he never gets from them or anyone.

Their paths never collide until Roman asks a reporter, who had previously contacted Roman for a story, to find out about the identity of the air traffic controller. Until now the story was going fine for me, but after this incident the story took a bad turn.  They could have made the movie in such a different way. If you plan to see the movie, don't read anymore.

The reporter told Roman the identity of Jake and his home address.  Roman goes there to ask Jake for an apology.  At the same time, Jake is rebuilding his life and finally his wife and son come to see him in his new place. And then Roman barges in all this wanting an apology. Jake tells him to go but Roman doesn't and in his distress he kills Jake with a knife. Jake's wife and son are inside and it is just a shocking event. Roman goes to jail, comes out after ten years and goes straight to the cemetery. He is followed by a young man. Yes, you guessed right, Jake's son, now all grown up. Roman says nothing has changed in the cemetery but Jake's son says everything has changed since his father died. Then it clicks in Roman's mind who this young man is. The son has a gun and wants to kill Roman, but his conscious does not allow it. Roman apologizes to him and when the son asks him to go, he goes away.

My problem with the whole movie is how alone everyone is in this movie. Roman is alone in his grief. No one from his work comes to see him. He has no friends. Jake is lucky to have a wife, but she fails to empathize with him and support him. She does not divorce him and in the end is still waiting to be with Jake, but she was not as compassionate or supportive when he needed it most. Towards the end when Roman finds Jake's location and he goes, he is so focused on his own grief that he does not even want to listen to Jake. There was no need to kill Jake. Jake did not deliberately kill anyone or his wife and daughter. But it seems that no one is willing to listen or talk to each other.

Then there is the reporter - why did she give Jake's address to Roman without being present there herself to facilitate the meeting? So unethical. Lastly, the airlines people, who show no sympathy for the family of the passengers. They just offer money as if that compensates for the loss.

All in all, I don't know why the writer, Javier Gullon, wrote this movie which shows the worst of all human behaviour. The movie could have been made into such a positive one with love, sympathy and empathy. Why make such a depressing movie into an even more depressing movie?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Fashion in India….

I never got the memo that girls don’t wear salwar suits anymore. The trend is still kurti and slacks, that started 3 years ago.  And now there is the kurti and planko…oops plazo…what the heck! It’s this really just old fashioned pajamas. The kurtis on it are really really long, and the pajamas are really really wide! One looks like they are wearing a sack. It can be a good look for really tall and thin girls.  I don’t think its for me at all.

And then there is the “lowers” – again pajama! No girl wears a gown anymore. All these “lowers” are not in sync with the “uppers”. So T-shirts are really popular now.  This is the normal nightwear and casual wear.  Girls wear this all the time. 

I think being in Dev Sanskriti Vishv Vidyalay really protected me from all this fashion.  All girls were always wearing suits/uniforms when outside hostel. But in Subharti, everything is allowed. The girls here are quite different – jeans and capris are all worn here. It’s a different atmosphere.  I never got to see all these fashion trends in so much detail before. 

The party wear is wearing kurti and lehnga/skirt – really long kurti. Which looks good only in a party. I see that the long kurtis are quite in fashion. On the other hand, all the uniforms the girls wear have such short kurtis on salwars. Go figure…the old normal is gone. 

The guys are usually the worst dressed. They don’t even look good in uniforms sometimes. The non uniform clothes that men wear are just strange looking pants and shirts. They also have the sweat pants/tracksuit kind of pants, which is good when you are actually on the track. But young men here wear anything. The colors are dull and just not attractive. There are some professors I have seen who wear somewhat smart clothes but otherwise – not really. 

And then there is the beard! What is with this new unshaven look in young men. So uncivilized or so lazy?  

I sometimes feel that I am from some foregone era…there is no place for me in this new India.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Sound Pollution

I am used to the peace and quiet of my home in my neighborhood. India is full of noise.  All senses are alert anyways but sound is something that everyone ignores – actually, I think in India, everyone ignores every pollution.  And after living abroad for so long, these things bother me and I wonder why they don’t bother Indians in India.  Trash is the biggest polluting factor. But today I want to address sound pollution.

As soon as I come to India, and am out of the airport, the first thing I hear is all the honking. That is the most common pollutant the whole time. As soon as I am on the road, it is just honking – whether it’s the scooter, the car or even a bicycle! It’s just too annoying.  The pedestrian really is the last on the totem pole to get a right to be on the road.

I also noticed that people here shout a lot.  They yell out rather than walking a few steps closer.

When I stayed at the hotel in Ginger in Delhi, I checked in around 11 pm and went to bed about 12 am. But there were people outside in the hallway speaking loud and playing music. After 30 mins of it, I had to call the reception. 

At mausaji’s place, Banwari and family get up around 6:30 am and start making noise in the kitchen – all utensils playing music. Although after that there is not much noise. I can sleep peacefully.

At mamaji’s place, there is a mosque and a temple competing for people’s attention at 4 am!! Oh god! Yes – I do think of God at that hour and pray that he would tell these idiots to stop waking people up.

And then at chachiji’s place they get up at 6:30 am and work around in the kitchen, washing dishes, making tea.  I cannot really blame them, they have to get to work by 7:00 am. But there are some dogs outside the building complex. At night, the dogs would bark. So there goes the night!

And now that I am staying in the hostel there are issues here also. There are the dogs which bark at night. But then, it’s the ladies that drive me crazy! The ladies working during the night and early morning love to talk. And they talk like they are the only ones in the hostel – we don’t exist or we don’t sleep here. They move furniture, they shout out each other’s names. That is the one thing that has really bothered me about staying here.  Initially I was able to sleep but lately I have not been able to sleep and its really affecting me.

At the college, the students don’t know how to keep quiet.  They talk in the class, they talk in the hallways.  They swarm around me in the class like bees. Its claustrophobic. I just hate all the noise in the background. And then there are the two faculty colleagues who keep talking constantly while they are there.  The only time I get peace and quiet there is when one of them is in class. 

So really – there is not much peace for travelers like me.  Well…until I get home.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Socializing in India

One of the things about coming to India is the social aspect.  Every time I come to India, I get to meet new people, learn about their life, make friends and then part. Sometimes we keep in touch, sometimes not.  Friendship is a two-way street. 

Here in Subharti, I have been able to keep myself socially active. Much more than what I would be in USA.  I am able to make friends in USA also, but sometimes it just feels superficial. Or maybe I have a different frame of mind here.  Or maybe it’s the language that binds us.  I don’t know.  Although I have made some nice foreign friends also in India while I was in DSVV. Maybe it’s just that I am relaxed and I have more time to talk to people.

My first friend I made was the girl who recharges the phone. My BLU phone was having trouble with the internet and she, and her brother in law, spent so much time in figuring out what was wrong with it. I was really grateful because I really needed the internet to use it as a hotspot for my computer. The next day I took her some Hershey’s as a thank you. And then we became friends.  She is quite sweet, and very nice. Her husband also sits in the same shop. I felt comfortable enough to ask them to bring some stuff for me (candy!). And they did – so sweet. I routinely go and see her during my evening walks.

Then I got to know the warden of the hostel. I had gone to see the Nivedita hostel and even though I had seen the rooms, the ladies working there said I should meet the warden. I was happy to. And we talked and she showed me this room, where I am staying now in Rani Durgawati and as they say – the rest is history.  We hit it off – she had no one to socialize with and I was, of course, new.  We routinely meet to go for walks, we have been shopping together and meet regularly. It’s nice to know she is there. The only problem is that being a warden is a 24-7 job, which for me sometimes is not suitable because I am free after 4 pm and on Sundays, whereas she is not. But still – a friend.

When I moved into the hostel, the first day, I met another young lady. She is going to college here to finish her MPhil in Education. She works part time at the hostel. very nice young woman – has the best smile and temperament I have seen in a long time. She is always in a good mood. I see her every day and we talk a bit and some days we have had a longer discussion on things. She has a very promising future.

And then there are my colleagues. One of them and I get along really well – we go for tea together. The only issue I have felt with her is that it is hard for me to get a word in the conversation and she speaks too fast! I have to be totally alert to talk to her.  The rest of the two women faculty are quite friendly with each other and one of them especially stays away from me. Don’t know why. Although she will reply my questions, but does not initiate conversation. That’s okay – I don’t mind it, but it just seems odd that she sticks with just this one faculty the whole time.

I, of course, had no idea when and who I would meet….for me whatever happens is good. After my first experience in India at Shantikunj, I have become more patient and have a good humor about everything that happens in India. The best part is that everything temporary, nothing is permanent. Even life is not permanent. What is the point of living and not enjoying all aspects of it? Even at the absurdity of life! What is the point of getting angry? Happiness is the key to life. And after living alone I have learned to find happiness within myself. There is no one else! I also don’t want to intrude into people’s lives, nor do I want their mess in my life.

I am grateful for anyone comes into my life without their personal dramas.  I cherish every new friendship and hope it lasts….

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

SU - One month later

As my time at SU is coming closer to an end, I am feeling tiredness coming along.  My teaching load went from one full class to two full classes and just this week an addition of three labs in the morning.  The problem is not that I have two classes; the problem is that I have to prep for them. For one of them – the Biotech class is getting to more inorganic – and that part of chemistry is soooo boring. I am not enjoying teaching it and so consequently it’s hard for me to keep the students engaged. Those silly reactions that no one is going to use or remember are driving me crazy!

The other class is fine – its organic, but I still have to look over the material since the syllabus is slightly different here. And I am not happy that I cannot use my power point for spectroscopy.  How will the students learn if they don’t see what a spectrum looks like? And in this day and age, there are no accessible computers in this university. What the h%$#!! And now I have to start teaching Solutions? I cannot believe their syllabus is so messed up. How can you have organic and physical chemistry all in one semester?

And then this week, I was assigned three more labs in the morning. Since two faculty are now gone, each person has had to take in more than their share of load.  When I went to teach the lab this week I found out that the students have done only two labs! Just about two months and only two labs? What the h$%#!! So, I quickly did a qualitative analysis with them. The lab tech helped very nicely in getting the chemicals – but no pipettes! What the h#%$! I cannot believe I am teaching in this expensive university which is equipped even poorly than my college 35 years ago! I pity the students. I don’t know why they come here – it’s possible other places are worse? Or do they know what they are missing? I don’t know.

Since last week the HOD has been on and off. She says she is not feeling well – who would? With the stuff going on, it would give anyone stress. I am all tired out.  What is even more tiring is how the administration is behaving, as if losing two faculty is not a big deal. I am here only temporarily – on 10th April, these poor faculty will have two lectures and three more labs to accommodate. Then what? And really – why am I given so much to teach? I don’t even work here!!

Luckily next week is their mid-term exams, so I will get some time off. Hopefully I will not get examination duty anywhere. I just have to grade papers for my class. Which, the organic one is too large, if all the students take the exam! Not fair. But after that, I only have one week left. Then it is fun fun fun for six weeks before I start at Capital. And teaching at Capital is not bad at all. I will be back in States, in my usual elements.

This week has been particularly tiring….hope it ends soon.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

First Impressions of Subharti University

I came to Swami Vivekanand Subharti University (SVSU) for my sabbatical on 1st of Feb. There is some excitement and some apprehension. I don’t know where I am staying, I don’t know what I am doing (literally and figuratively).  Everything is new, except India…always the same. Crowded, noisy, smelly and dirty.  But it is still my India.

The campus is on Delhi bypass, the gate is big enough and there were guards to give us a parking permission slip. Manoj was driving, and we asked for directions to the guest house and were taken to the guest house. I had already spoken to the person I was given the phone number of to confirm my stay.  The guest house was very spacious. 

I asked Manoj to take me around the campus before leaving so I could get an idea of the size of the campus and location of the science building. It is a huge campus!! I am glad Manoj was there. The science building was on the other corner of the campus.  Dr. Bhatnagar, the head of department of chemistry, was there, so I introduced myself and sat for a few minutes.  She told me to stop by and see the Dean also. I did. Dr. Kaushik was a small unassuming man. He did not say much and I left in less than 5 mins. All in all, within a day I got my sabbatical assignment and within a week I was shifted to the hostel from the guest house, where I will stay for the rest of my sabbatical.  

My first views is that there are communication issues within the administration and within the sciences. Despite my calling from the States, it did not help.  If they had communicated well, I would have been settled in the hostel the same day with the bedding and all. I would have also known what my assignment was before being present physically.  The latter was not a big issue, but moving from one location to another is a little bit of a pain.  

The university itself is huge! The entrance in not welcoming.  The hospital is right in front of the main gate, so the front is always full of people and there is just too much traffic. It does not give a feeling of an academic environment.  Only when I passed a second gate inside the campus did it get better. All this crowd just makes it a little too much for me. I kept thinking of the peace and quiet of DSVV. 

There are buildings everywhere. It is a residential campus, so most faculty and students live on campus.  The residences are interspersed in the academic buildings.  The layout is good. The landscaping is nice and maintained but just looks shabby. There is dust and dirt everywhere. The stone sculptures need restoration – they have degraded over the years. There are various sizes of gardens everywhere but the grass could be thicker. There are flowers in a number of places and they are blooming – and they definitely look pretty…but something is missing – the up keep?  

There are garbage cans everywhere to help keep the campus clean – but they are not helping. In fact, the garbage cans are so conspicuous that they are all I see. 

There are stray dogs everywhere. I just don’t like that. Either make a park for them so they stay there or keep them off the campus.  All the people and all the dogs have issues….there is spit and poop everywhere.  At least I have to watch out where I step and look, as these things just gross me out.  Sometimes the smell of poop is everywhere.  

The guest house and hostel rooms are nice layouts, but the work in them is unfinished.  The paint is incomplete, the doors look old, some of the sidings and light panels are chipped.  With a little more care and money, this place could look and feel really great. But they leave that last touch which makes it look old. 

I had thought that there would be no men inside the girls hostels, but because of the mess, they are all around. Why?  I did not think they would be allowed to roam freely in the girls hostel or sit around the doors. I don’t feel comfortable going in my night gown to eat dinner, as I used to in RG. There is a sense that someone is watching all the time.  Well they also are, there are CCTV cameras everywhere!! 

The classrooms are also good size but again no good material is used. The chairs are the worst I have seen. When the students drag them they sound like a train screeching to a halt at a station. Or when they get up they just slam up instead of slowly rising up.  The blackboard is small and does not have a place to keep chalks. The professor’s lectern is broken. The lecterns are all slanted and things keep falling off (because the lip is not there anymore).  There is no table for the professor to keep books and pens. Forget about technology. My office table is in poor shape, the drawer is falling apart, the door of the little shelf does not close. And they got plug points in each office just the day before I came, which were stuck so poorly that a little pull on my computer wire pulled the socket out of the wall….I feel guilty!

And the damn gates!! What’s with the gates closed all the time? There are gates and road blocks everywhere inside the campus. Why? There are three main gates (or more) to get into the campus – can’t they control the traffic? There will be this huge gate and on the side, they have this little tiny curved path for just one person to walk through. Rubbish!! And then there are at least three guards on each gate, just sitting and talking and watching. I just hate going past those gates. Why are there men just sitting on their butts? Why can’t they at least get rid of the dogs? 

The roads are worn off and need resurfacing. It really looks like village once I look past the big buildings. Most of the canteens look like sheds. The one decent one is hidden behind the hostel. The shops inside the campus and near the hospital could really use an upgrade. If they could spend just a little more money it would make this place look and feel so much better.  And maybe I am feeling this because I am an outsider. It could be that to most Indians this is normal. 

Why? Why does India do this? JV Jain, RG College and now this…all looked similar.  This one should look much better; they have the funds and manpower. And their fundamentals are good. 

I had not known what to expect from the campus. But after being here for three weeks now, I can say that definitely things could be better to make this campus look beautiful and welcoming! But then its also possible they don’t need the welcoming….there are already people here…Am I being overly critical? I will post pictures soon....and I can make my point.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Living in the Hostel

After the initial mix up of living at the guest house and hostel, I moved to the hostel.  It had been so many years since I lived in a hostel.  I had packed for the hostel a bit – a pitcher, a glass, some plastic containers so I can keep snacks (that would have been even in the guest house!). I had also bought a bed sheet but did not bring as the university changed my place of stay to the guest house. Now I wish I had brought it. 

Living in the guest house was nice in the beginning, but as time went by I did not like it. It was too big for one person. I did not need the extra room….unless I was expecting guests, which I wasn't. And then the food delivery.  It was always the guys bringing the food and then taking the plates. It was not convenient. They also had to get me water etc.  I don’t like all these men coming and going in my room. So when I was asked again to check the hostel, I said sure, I will see the rooms and see if they are suitable.   

On checking some a couple hostels it turns out the new hostels are really nice, big room and large bathroom and a balcony. And AC! What luxury. So yes, I would move. And eating would be in the mess, at my time and amount.  

Just the basics!
So after one week of living in the guest house, I moved to the hostel. I had requested that they at least give me bedding for the room.  And they did. And they gave me a bucket also! Good. The room was quite basic: bed, table and one steel cupboard. I set up my room. I still had to get some stuff, like bulbs, but I was quite set.

I do like living in the hostel. No worries about food or safety or men or cleaning. Yes, this hostel has cleaners. Food is awesome, as usual (it was good in the guest house also).  Breakfasts could be paranthas – plain or stuffed, bread (cooked in various ways) namkeen jawey. I eat less lunch so I have gone only once in while but its good  - daal and veggies with rice and roti. I think evening snack is the best with pakora, bread pakora and so much more…and then who wants to eat dinner but still good with vegetables and daal and even saag.  I love that I don’t have to worry about thinking about what to cook, and cook and then clean up. And tea. I don’t have to make tea! I can have seconds and it will taste exactly like the first! 

The major issue I have with visiting India is laundry. Even if I give my large clothes to the dhobhi, I still have to wash my own socks. At least at DSVV there was a washing machine in the guest house, but not here in the guest house or hostel.  I miss my washing machine a lot when I come to India. Somehow I feel my clothes are never clean – but I am sure they are! 

What I had enjoyed at the guest house, believe it or not, was my almost one mile walk to work.  It became mandatory that I walk two miles every day.  But now, my walk is barely a quarter of a mile – takes all of 5 mins.  The hostel is within the campus while guest house was sort of away in the new part of campus. So now I have to make an effort to go for walks in the evening (after eating all that good snack – I need it!). So, in a way it’s good, I can get up little late also and make it to the department on time. And now I spend about an hour walking in the evening – which is really good for me and my waistline! And it also helps for me to get out and about.

Living in the hostel as a faculty gives me a lot of freedom. I have the comfort of living in the hostel without all the studying that the poor students have to do. I don’t have to worry about attendance or behavior issues. This is the carefree life. I will always miss the comfort of my house, but this is not bad either. Although there are times I wonder – what the heck am I doing? And why?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Emotions in India

My feelings on coming to India are always mixed. As much as I like coming here, I also don’t like doing the same thing over and over again.  This will be my fourth trip in 7 years. It’s getting a little boring now.  I have to find something else next time.  It was hard to find something in a completely different country for three months, which would not break my budget.  My sabbatical is for 6 months. I could have gone anywhere provided I had means and work. I had tried several places but this is the only one that worked out, that also because of some connections, otherwise nothing in this world works!  

My biggest positive and negative about coming here is trying to meet everyone.  Everyone wants to meet, very few want to make the effort, so they all say, you came and did not come to see us.  Well…I should not have to justify anything. If I can make the effort to come from USA….

My other main issue is transport and thus my freedom. I cannot get around much by myself, as I am not confident in the directions and transport mechanism.  As much as there are so many ways to get around, it is hard for me, as a single woman, to get that confidence.  I would rather someone came to pick me up or if someone was with me.  So getting around is tough. Be it Dehradun or Haridwar, I was not really able to go alone. Luckily in DSVV, there was some market outside the campus and there were autos that went straight to Har Ki Pawri otherwise I may not have gone there also. In Meerut now, I am trying to figure out how to go out. Market around the University is sufficient for now, but for good old shopping for clothes etc, I will need to get to the city.

Other small details that bother me – laundry. I hate washing clothes with my hands. I love my washing machine. And in India, whether I am in someone’s house or by myself, it’s just a chore. No matter that I find a dhobi, I still have wash some clothes myself. Which also means, buying soap. Then there is the dust everywhere and traffic is always bad, people just walking without looking, all vehicles honking all the time.  It shows life, but it’s also pollution. 

But keeping all my worries aside, I still came to India. It is my motherland and in some ways I like being here – the food, the language and definitely the shopping! All is good.  Of course, one has to be able to get around first!! 

The smell of India is the first thing my senses feel getting off the plane. After immigration, its all the customs people, all looking busy, no one there to answer any question, should I have one. And then of course, India hits you as soon as you leave the AC of the airport. This time I arrived on 31st Jan, but still the weather was warm in Delhi.  The smell of gas, dust and the honking….all there to greet you with full force.  

When I come here, I feel I smile too much.  People here are just rushing to get … wherever. I will smile at the waiter also.  That is how it is in USA. But not here. People keep stern and keep to business.  Well, I am also a woman, so it’s possible it might not “look right”.  So okay – I get it. I will smile sparingly.  

The one thing that I really like about coming here is that I find Indian food everywhere – haha! Good joke eh?! But seriously, Ginger hotel has great paranthas and south Indian food for breakfast.  Any decent or indecent, tea stall will have samosas and I can find Haldiram namkeen everywhere for less than a dollar! These things cost too much in USA. On the other hand, there is also the McDonald and Dominos, both of which have good Indianized menus. So I will eat there also sometime.
All the eating places, just one side of road! Can you see McDs?

 And now that I am here, I have to put all my feelings aside and take it as it comes. The first week was the hardest one (as it was in Haridwar also, once I finished my 9 day shivir at Shantikunj). Communication issues lead to misunderstandings.  No one wants to just pick up the phone and call or even reply to me. So these things will happen. But once those hiccups are over, life gets into a routine, just like home.  

I like being able to speak in Hindi all the time. I like that people are curious about America and ask me questions about it, that is my first home after all. I enjoy the confidence that I don’t have to worry about anything. I have a nice job and home waiting for me when I come back to USA. That confidence gives me a chance to sit back and observe, learn and grow.  Each time I have gone back home, I have that sense of calm in me that I am in a good place.  Yes, people here (and my friends there) always ask me where my husband is, and all I want to say is, “I don’t know, let me know if you find him!” 

Once again, I will spend three long months here. I always miss my house, I miss it’s comfort, but these journeys are also important for me.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sabbatical in India

I am spending part of my sabbatical in India this semester.  I got an Honorary Professorship in the chemistry department in Swami Vivekanand Subharti University, Meerut, UP, for a few weeks or a few months. Very flexible! I will not get paid. The only thing they are providing me is a room in the hostel. I will have to pay for my meals and any other personal expenses. I am, of course, paying for my own trip also.  I thought about the offer and decided its not too bad.  I will have flexibility, I will be in India, I will get to try out new teaching environment and hopefully get to do some creative project while here.  There is a good chemistry department here with about 7 faculty, as I saw from the website. 

I decided that 1st Feb would be good time to start.  Winter would be on its way out and that will still give me three months in India if I want to teach at Capital University during summer.  

As I was booking my flight the agent said that I could stop at Munich or Frankfurt on the way back (to get a cheaper deal). I said I would look into both places and then decide. It turns out Munich is the place to go and around it are Salzburg and Vienna. So deal done – I will stop over in Germany for 9 days before coming back USA. That will be my icing for the trip. I really wanted to go to someplace in Europe this summer and this turns out to be just perfect. 

With all the bookings done, I had plenty of time to pack and get ready. I had informed the relevant people at Subharti.  Strangely I got two emails from SU – one saying I was to stay at the guest house and one saying hostel. I contacted the person who the VC told me to call and I did and I was assured that I would be staying at the guest house. Okay – great! I would be reaching at night in Delhi so I booked a room in Ginger Hotel and then go on to Meerut the next day.

All worked out great. No issues. Except for one small flight delay all went smoothly. I arrived at SU on the 1st afternoon as planned and went to the guest house. Very nice suite with TV and all.  Great! I went to meet the head of the department (HOD) of chemistry and met the Dean of science while in the building. Both nice people.  I think Dr. Bhatnagar, the head, had thought a bit of what I would be doing, so I did get the teaching assignment. They knew in November that I would be coming this semester.

Next day I came to work and was called to visit the Vice Chancellor. Big personality. Seems easy going but I am sure he is not. My place of stay came up and it turns out I am not supposed to stay in the guest house. Oh well.  That took a few days to sort out. And then I moved in Rani Durgawati hostel. It is for post graduate students in Medicine so it has nice rooms with attached bathroom and a balcony. As I was looking through the rooms, I met the warden, Nisha. Now she and I are good friends. 

Then Sunday came and I was not going to spend it at home. Besides, I really need to buy some personal stuff. So I spoke to Dr. Bhatnagar for guidance and she told me that Ola cabs are really good to get around locally and the best place to shop is Shopprix mall for general stuff. Shefali, the girl at the phone shop, helped me get internet on my phone and I was all set with the Ola app. I can't believe they don’t have WiFi in the guest house. Even the science department one is password protected and not given to faculty.

Shopprix mall was huge, it's occupancy seemed only 50%. It has nice shops, movie theater and a nice food court.  So of course I spent some quality time in the shops.  The clothes are many but I like very specific stuff so it became a challenge. But at least I found some that I could live with.  And two of my favorite stores were there - Big Bazaar and 99. I am all set with personal stuff for some time. 

So within a week of coming to India, I started teaching, moved from one location to another and gone to the mall. Meanwhile I met so many people at the university, talked to so many relatives and adjusted with my jet lag. And on top of that a little mouse committed suicide in the bathroom in the guest house! 

Read on more for my first views on India in the next blog.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Movie Review - Remember

Watched the movie "Remember" today.  Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau.  I had an idea of what it was about - a Jew survivor searching to kill a Nazi for a friend.

It was a great movie.  I knew it would be a little slow and mindful.  Christopher Plummer is not really a young actor anymore.  The movie starts with Martin sending off Christopher on a hunt for a Nazi soldier from Auschwitz.  What I did not realize before was that Christopher Plummer's character, Zev, has dementia, so he tends to forget all the time. So he keeps reading the letter Martin's character, Max, gave him, to revive his memory.

There were so many things that were good and some that bothered me during this movie.  When Zev goes to buy a gun, the seller just sells him the gun, fully knowing that Zev will not remember how to shoot the gun. Why? And this is where I have problem with gun violence in America.

The good part was that everyone shown was so helpful to Zev.  They realize he is old so they help him get his room, taxi etc.  This is the America I really like - I have always found Americans to be very helpful people.

The movie goes on as Zev is searching through four people who might be this Nazi.  His journey is interesting.  I did not have to use my remote to forward any part of the movie. I will not tell the ending as it is very interesting.

The other part that got me was what Zev's son went through. Zev left the nursing home without telling anyone and his son was so worried about him, looking everywhere, especially knowing that his father has dementia.  And all I could think of was my own parents.  I am so lucky to have parents who have all their mental faculties. I could feel the son's pain, because just for one day I had to find my parents. I knew their general location so I found them. But the the time that I was waiting to hear back from them was hard.

And lastly, I want to write a few words about the Holocaust.  I had not heard the extent of the Holocaust until I came to the USA.  Killing 6 million of any people is unbelievable. I will not even pretend to understand what the survivors went through.  However, it has been over 60 years now, Nazi are no more.  And they were given their homeland, Israel, which they consider holy land, by the support of Britain and USA. But how much longer will it keep getting welfare from USA? And how much land will they keep taking from the Palestinians?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Trump's nominations

I don't know why so many people have their panties in a twist over Trump's nominations.  All these people have been waiting for someone like Trump to validate their ideas at a national level. Now they have their chance.  Some of these nominations are not qualified for the job, some don't know what the agencies do that they are supposed to head which the others have vowed to dismantle the agencies they are going to head.  

We don't have any say in any of this because American people chose Trump to make that decision for them. Don't know if this is really all they wanted but they will get it. All the liberal, righteous people can stop with the preaching because we are minority now. Uneducated, ignorant and rich people will rule from now on and feel good about destroying this beautiful country. I will not say all nominations are ignorant - however I will say that no one wants to tick of the big boss, Trump!! Republicans have majority right now with the a republican president - they are not going to do anything to mess with the boss's directions.

There is nothing the democrats can do about these nominations.  The republicans have a majority and they will confirm all these nominations. All these confirmations are just a show. 

My worry about all this is what we are trying to teach our younger generation? That it is good to be ignorant - you will still be eligible for a job? That only money talks? You pay enough to a political party and that qualifies you for a job. That you don't really have to know what agency you are heading - you can still be considered for the job? That you don't need to be ethical to be a good human being? 

There is so much wrong with all this....

Monday, January 16, 2017

Movie Review - Gaslight

I finally saw "Gaslight".  Since everyone has been saying, "Trump is Gaslighting us", the movie has been on my list to see.

The movie stars Ingrid Bergman (one of my favorite heroins!) and Charles Boyer as the wife-husband couple. Charles (Gregory) systematically and slowly creates an atmosphere for Ingrid (Paula) where she starts believing she is crazy and forgetful.  He will move items, give her items and then ask her for them. He would decrease and increase the brightness of gas lamps at home and make her feel that she is the only one who can see the change in the brightness. So slowly she doubts everything she does. He isolates her completely from everyone.

Of course the motive is all about money! The ending of the movie is really good. For a 1944 movie, I was glued to the movie and did not want to miss any scene.  Ingrid Bergman earned an Oscar for her work in this.

Now I realize that yes, Trump really is Gaslighting us. He says one thing today and tomorrow will say it did not happen, even though it is recorded and he said it in public.  His advisers do the same thing. They change the meaning of his words and then ask us to look into his heart rather than listen his words. What nonsense!! His goal is to isolate all of us from each other and the world.  And of course his motive is all money and power.

Good movie!!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Critical Thinking

It seems like peoples critical thinking is disappearing.  Forget about analysis and deduction. We don't seem to have the patience to read anything.  We don't want our brains to hurt by thinking about anything.  Everyone just wants the answers......I will google anything but please don't make me think!! (I need my time to gossip and play on my phone!)

My students
This is the toughest group of all.  As a chemistry professor for so long, I feel that students take chemistry as a means to get to a goal - med school, pharmacy, vet school etc. What they think is, "If I could just pass chemistry I would get to the life I want."  Which for me translates into, "I am not really interested in this subject, just give me a C so I can move on to my next thing."  Well okay fine! But then at least memorize a little bit.  No they don't even want to make that effort.  Now it comes down to, "Just give me the answers.  I don't want to even bother memorizing because I don't need this stuff anyway."

This creates a very formidable atmosphere to teach in. Thank God there are a few good students who do care about the subject and performing well. Those are the ones who make it all worthwhile.

My Colleagues
Another tough bunch! They are just interested in only themselves.  No one looks at the big picture or creativity or applying themselves. The job for everyone has become more like, "I will impart the information I have been giving for the past years, in the same manner I have been doing and I will go home." Like a robot!

So many times I would like to have a discussion about how to make our students learn better, how to change our teaching methodology, how can we develop professionally while doing all this teaching - but no one has time to discuss.  I barely get to talk about the problems I am having and I feel my time is up.

I would love to have some more time to develop some new strategies for teaching, some new labs for students....but how much can I do alone? It is exhausting.

The People
What happened to them?? I started writing this blog a couple years ago and never got to finish it.  Now seems to be the perfect time to finish it. What happened to the public? Were they always this stupid? I think they were - they just revealed themselves this year. How can anyone elect a person with no character or decency? They showed how they can be swayed by fake news and a fake leader.  I am not just talking about USA 2016, I am talking about all over the world!

When we don't think critically or even just think...we all lose, as a society as people as human of the biggest thing that differentiates us from animals (besides the separate thumb) is our ability to think. And if we give up on that, then what do we have left?

Trump.....4-5 whatever

As the inauguration date is coming closer, I am getting more disheartened by what is going on in the politics.  The republicans have shown their true colors by doing a 180 on everything they did with Obama.  I got angry when they said they did not want to work with Obama, but to to blatantly support a man of no integrity and morals and putting him above country is beyond what I had expected.  It is close to treason.  This is not just politics anymore. It is not about the country it is simply personal and racist.

I cannot write everything that I want to on Facebook, even though I do want people to know how I am feeling. I am getting tired of thinking about the hypocrisy of this whole situation.  Trump is not my president because he is Republican - he is not not my president because he is not a good human being. Period. He has no decency, no morals, no respect, no business acumen (as people say he has) - he is still building on his father's name. He is just an angry white man who got elected by a whole bunch of other angry white people. All are out of touch with reality.

I agree with Rep. Lewis - Trump is an illegitimate president. Read here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Joys and Perils of Living Single

I have been living along for 20 years now.  It is a loooong time to be alone.  Initially it was the job that took me to places where I had to be single, and then it was the job and destiny that kept me single.

My first single living experience was in Buffalo, NY, for one year.  I had an apartment to myself, I could do whatever I wanted, eat whatever I wanted and since it was my first "sort of real" job, I could buy whatever I wanted.  It was great! I decorated my place, bought the furniture I wanted (some of it made me overdraw on my account - but it was a lesson to be learnt). I learned the hard lesson of cleaning snow from my car and driving in the snow of Buffalo....still gives me the chills.

Second single living was in Vancouver, BC, Canada, again for about one year.  I had a nice little basement apartment, typical of Vancouver living.  I never felt lonely in Vancouver.  There was so much to do, life was all around me.  I had a few good friends to hang out with and the rest, I did not care. I went everywhere I could possibly go.  I did not know if I would ever come back there after leaving so might as well enjoy every moment of it. And I did! The only bad part was not having means to do laundry at home. I had to haul my laundry to a laundromat once in a while.

The longest single stay so far has been in Kansas City, MO - 11 years.  This, as Charles Dickens would start to say, was the best of times and the worst of times.  Academic life kept me busy for most part, I worked hard to get my promotion and tenure, but there was always time for fun.  I managed to take some evening classes, learned about computer science, web design, programming, candle making and yes.....candy decoration :-)  Every Indian friend of mine was married and eventually had kids.  I was lucky to have the best girlfriends who had wonderful husbands.  If it wasn't for them being good, I would not have been able to have an active social life. It seemed like I had three circle of friends; the Indian group, my academic group and my student-friend group. All of them kept me occupied one way or another.

Then came Winchester, VA, for two years. Winchester was the place where I really started watching more TV.  Work was limited to 12 credit hours of teaching.  I would be home by evening and then I would go to work out (diligently) and then.....nothing! I tried to have a little social life but there were three groups in this little city - the punjabis, the bengalis and the south Indians.  All with their own language and groups. The only hindi speaking person was a newly wed couple next door - and they were a little too lovey dovey for me to socialize with. I did do some touristy stuff there....but how long can that last for anyone?

Now I am at West Palm Beach. And as I took a walk in the Okeeheelee trail around the lake, I was thinking, "Wow! I was doing exactly the same thing 7 years ago! Nothing has moved in my life. Things may have gotten a little worse maybe. My pay has not improved, my working condition has gone down and my personal life sucks." So 7 years of complete nothing. Meanwhile, my friends have gotten married, have had babies, kids graduated, bought new homes and cars.....

As I am getting older, I have some more time to look back and see where I have been.  Of course I have more years behind to look at also! And as I am still single, I think about - "Is this really where I wanted to be when I was in my 40s."  I never in my wildest dreams thought I would still be single at this age.  All Indian girls get married by 26-28, so would I.  But ..... well that is another story (or blog).

The best part about living alone is the independence.  I get to chose what to do, what to eat, where to go, where to shop, when to shop, where to spend my money, what movie to see etc etc.  I am not responsible for anyone else but me...and the three plants I have at home.

The downside to living alone is the being "alone" part.  I have to make all my decisions - no one makes them for me, so I better be good at them.  I have to manage everything - domestic, academic, auto, travel etc all by myself.  Sometimes it is too tiring for me to even go and get the milk from the store....but I have to, or I will not get tea. The most boring part is not having friends like myself. At this age, I am limited to being with people I like - not just because I "need" to hang out. All girls my age are married, have kids it's little hard to socialize sometimes.

I spend a lot of time with my lovely TV. Writing has become my new hobby. The laptop is literally attached to my lap now. I do get to do innovative things that I would not do if I was with someone because I may not get time to think as deeply as I do now.

In short, I would say, life has been good.  Not great....just good. I have tried to do my best in my circumstances with my brain power. I have no regrets so far. I have stood by every decision I have made and I still believe that I am better off single than in a bad relationship. Loneliness hurts sometimes, but with being with a person who hurts you all the time it's worse.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Book Review: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

I just finished reading this book by Picoult.  She is an amazing story teller.  Her books always keep me engaged and I finish them sooner than any other author’s books.  

This book is about racism in America.  The problem is too big to tackle but she takes small steps in trying to understand the other person’s perspective, in a very nice way.  The book revolves around a black nurse who is asked not to touch the baby of a white supremacist parent.  At one point the nurse is alone with the baby and the baby dies.  What happened? The white supremacist parents sue the hospital which promptly throws the black nurse under the bus. The black nurse hires a white lawyer and together they go through this journey of litigation. 

It is a really interesting book.  It shows how we go through life without noticing things.  We take so much for granted – like turning on the light at night.  We take electricity for granted but ask that person who does not have electric power.  Similar is our daily life with the color of our skin. We generally go through life being oblivious about our skin color.  When we travel to a very different country than ours then we might think about it.  But otherwise…not really. 

On the other hand, some of us are conscious about our skin color every second of the day.  Depends who you are and where you are! People may call it a “chip on the shoulder”, but that chip got there for a reason.  People are treated differently because of the color of their skin. And we get so tired of it that we come 110% conscious of it. 

I grew up in Nigeria for eight years – from 6-12th grade.  All that time I was made fully aware that I was the foreigner in that country. Since I was about 8 years old, I was interacting with local kids, in school or playing in the evening.  There were just a few times that I felt comfortable in my skin.  Otherwise I was always aware that I was a foreigner. Nigerian kids would say things to tease me, pull my hair or make other jokes that I had to bear growing up. (Kids are cruel to each other everywhere – why?).

Same thing happened in Ethiopia.  We had privileges that the locals did not. Sometimes I felt bad and sometimes I felt good that I was a foreigner because I was treated differently.  USA also is a place where I have experienced racism.  It was not expected. I had always thought America was free and open and welcoming, so it was quite the shock.  But as I have been living here longer, I am realizing how deep racism is in America.

Well…the learning still goes on.  Globalization is increasing, people are moving all around the world and there are lot of adjustments to be made. With each generation come new challenges …and new hope.