Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Worming Up- I.

This summer, I decided to broaden the periphery of my learning, and do something unusual. I was skimming through the students’ board for campus job opportunities when something interesting caught my eyes.

Needed someone to feed the insects.

Now this was not exactly something I’d jump at. However, I emailed the professor and she agreed to meet me. She informed me that no graduate student had done anything like this before, and she also made it clear that the pay would be hourly and low. Moreover, I’d be expected to work on the weekends. But this being the time when the course load is low, I decided to give it a shot instead of whiling my time in shopping malls. We decided on a week’s training before I took charge.

Day 1-

She took me around to show me things and introduce me to the guy who’d train me. It seemed that he was leaving town for a while and the department needed a temporary replacement. The first thing that caught my nose is the stench so very characteristic of any animal lab. While she introduced me to the guy and left, I could almost feel my stomach churning and crying to puke.

My trainer was a Vietnamese guy, a short fellow reaching almost till my shoulders with hair standing out like a porcupine. And here read his English.

Trainer: There are many bokk of insek here. I go to Botton so you take care and feed insekk.

I could laugh and laugh the way he funnily skipped the S and replaced it by a K. What more, I went home and tried to peak like him. I mean speak like him.

I was taken to a lab full of these worms at different stages of their life. Anybody with a basic idea of entomology would know that most insects go through four main life stages of egg, larva, pupa, and adult. My job was to keep the cycle going, which consisted of about 25-30 steps daily. Mornings would take me some 4 hours while evenings would take me another one hour.

The first time I saw the insects, I wanted to flee as far from the department as I could. Let it suffice to say that I am an extremely touch-sensitive person who has never even let G's cat close till date in fear that the cat’s fur would brush on my skin. My nightmares consist of being in a room with insects let out, crawling all over me. It seemed that my nightmares we coming true after all.

My trainer told me to use forceps initially. I was pleased that he was aware of my discomfort. But he told me that that's because I should be gentle with the insects and not injure them and squish them in nervousness or fear, so it is better that I start with the forceps initially.

Now here take a look at the worms. They come in two types, the wild type (green ones) and the black type.

By the time I had watched him doing stuff on day 1, I had decided that I was not taking up the job. I could sell newspapers, work as a waitress, or do anything else. But it was a torture to spend five hours a day in such stench, letting hundreds of worms wriggle all over your hands. Come on, I was not really one of those shorts-clad guys from the Discovery channel who got their kicks out of jutting their hands into snake pits.

Later that night, she came into my room to have a talk with me. She as in my alter ego, my second half that talks to me during confusion and apprehension. And she told me this-

Look, someone has to do it. And you are helping someone in their research. If all this while you sold apple pies, now you are helping grow the apples. It might not be something as hot as learning to fly planes, but it is a job after all. If your dentist could make a living out of peeping and poring into people’s mouths (or worse still, think of your gynecologist), if masseuses could make a living out of oiling huge blobs of fat of strangers, if your local Govinda hair salon (pronounced as Gobindo heyar cheloon) could make business cutting lice-infested hair with dandruff, what was wrong in helping the department breed worms? For all the research you did with rat fetus, did you ever realize that someone actually does the job of extracting the rat fetus out of the mother’s body?
Will sunshine realize the point of her alter ego? Will she decide to go out of the way and take up the job that needed her to be in stinking places with worms all around her? Will she help the department and also gain some very unusual experience in the process? The experience might not make her a stellar resume, but it is an art learnt and a skill acquired nevertheless. Will her alter ego convince her that no experience in life whatsoever, goes waste? Will sunshine mentally prepare herself to deal with the occupational hazards of the job where she would have to touch the wriggling insects, clean insect exuvia (the dead remains of the insects or the skin they shed during molting), and work at weird timings like 7 AM on a weekend? Or will she chicken out, spend the summer comfortably hanging out in shopping malls and hogging on pizzas and burritos?

We will see.

sunshine.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hidden Treasures.

I was clearing up the table of a professor to make some lab space. This meant papers needed to be filed, files needed to be put neatly into cardboard boxes and put away someplace where they could be retrieved when needed. It took me longer than I anticipated, and I was covered with dust and grime. Anyway, a few hours of toil and aching muscles later, the files were put away, boxes shoved elsewhere and the place looked more in order. It is then that my eye caught on something. Something extremely mesmerizing that was hidden behind the files by the walls for God knows how long. I hesitated only a bit, wondering if it would be proper on my part to go and talk to the professor about this. I mean, I was not really eight anymore.

Debating, I finally went up to the professor and told him I had found this behind the files. I asked him if it was okay for me to take them home. The professor gave me a look of utter surprise, wondering if this was the right age of be excited about things like this. However, he gladly let me take them home. And every morning, I look at them mesmerized, wondering how different and yet how enthralling they look. For many, these are nothing more than few pieces of junk. For me, it is like a treasure hunt.

This is what I am talking about.


sunshine.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Cycle Of Crime.

A picture is worth a thousand words. And a gesture is worth a thousand warnings. Was taking a stroll in the campus when I came across one of the many cycle stands. I saw this.

And this.
And finally this !!!!

Amazing idea, whoever’s it is to get rid of the tires to carry while leaving the cycle frame behind.

There are so many things to see and learn in life. Beyond the text books I mean.

sunshine.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Truncated Love.

Hi

Wazzup

Hr u?

Gr8 gr8.

U liked the buk?

ROTFLMAO

temme

Gud

I lv u

Me2

I lv u 1/0

k. gtg. Brb.

Wtf?

lol. ttyl. Gtg.

k. tc.

U2.

Now that is what I call the expression of love in codes. Anybody care for full sentences, correct spelling and proper grammar?

Gtg.
-
sunshine.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Let’s SLEEP Over It.

Did you know?

I can usually go to sleep after I have woken up.

I cannot watch any movie in one go, not even a 90 minute English movie. I need to take at least one nap in between. Even at movie theaters. Ask my friends. We once went to watch Eklavya. I dozed off in an action-filled scene where Amitabh was crouched on mud in the sweltering heat amidst the lanky legs of the camels. The next scene, I see Saif and Amitabh together, only to wonder what happened in between.

G claims that she cannot sleep at anytime but night. I wonder why. I just need a place to lie on and close my eyes, telling myself that I need to fall asleep in the next 10 minutes. And this way, I can fall asleep even amid loud music.

The more exams draw near, the more I get tensed. The more I get tensed, the more I sleep. The more I sleep, the sleepier and guiltier I feel. Guilt only increases my tension, making me sleep all the more. Now this is what I call a real life synergistic effect of a vicious cycle.

I often hang around with a bunch of party animals. They meet at 8, start cooking at 9, eat dinner at 11, and then watch a movie or play a game, only to wind up at 3 in the morning. No matter what state the party is in, by 11 pm, I am fast asleep on the couch. These guys watch a movie while I sleep, call me when they are about to leave, I accompany them to the car sleepy-eyed, one of them drops me to my place, I climb up the stairs with my eyes closed, go back to my room, and resume my sleep from where I had left it.

I loved Vegas. I didn’t mind all the walking and casino hopping, as long as I had my 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. No wonder he went home and told his mom that I am the only woman he has seen who sleeps so much.

My naps are as dream-filled as you could imagine. My dreams are a potpourri of action-packed, comic, tragic, suspense-filled and romantic melodrama.

Sleep is therapeutic for me. When I am stressed, I prefer sleeping instead of crying.

I have never had to take sleeping pills. Believe me even consuming pills prescribed to make me sleep less wouldn’t help.

I can never breeze through a class without dozing off at least once. Seminars are definitely meant to be slept in. My max concentration time is about an hour. When I can’t sit through a class, I sleep through it. I can even sleep in class with my eyes wide open. And just so that I do not fall asleep, I take my laptop to classes.

I remember a funny episode when we had a picture exhibition of one of the best wildlife photography. There was a slideshow in a dark room for about an hour, and they were showing pics of animals in the order of their biological classification. This meant that the order would be like this-

Ø Plants and trees
Ø Microbes (bacteria, virus)
Ø Protozoa
Ø Porifera
Ø Cnidarians (jellyfish)
Ø Platyhelminths (flatworms)
Ø Annelids (roundworms and earthworms)
Ø Arthropods (cockroach, spider, prawn, shrimp)
Ø Mollusk (snails)
Ø Echinoderms (starfish)
Ø Fish
Ø Amphibians
Ø Reptiles
Ø Birds
Ø Mammals

Well, I remembered till the Cnidarians. With the darkness and the AC going full blast, who cared? When I woke up, they were almost at the end of the slideshow, showing the picture of monkeys and tigers. And I had gasped aloud- “But how did they come to monkeys so soon?"

While I travel in a train, all I need is the upper berth. I love the rocking motion of the train. Barring occasional loo breaks and food breaks, I have dozed the entire length of tracks from Kolkata to Chennai.

I can never read a book on the bed to relax. I eventually fall asleep. I need to be wide awake and upright in the study even to watch a movie or read a book.

They say I sleep a lot. I say my heavy-duty batteries take a little more time to get charged.

It often happens that I fall asleep in the afternoons, only to wake up in the fading light of the evenings to imagine it to be dawn the early morning and start getting ready for school.

If I am hungry and there is no food at home and I am too lazy to cook or to go out to eat, I can fall asleep in order not to feel the hunger.

There have been more than one occasion when I have fallen asleep prior to the day of the examination, only to wake up the next morning and realize that I haven’t yet started to study.

Back in India, I couldn’t sleep in loud music or even if the night bulb glowed. After coming here, life has been so stressed and my lab work requires such weird hours that I have trained myself to catch occasional naps amid work. Most days, I do not even come home to sleep. I sleep on the couch in the lab amid the droning of machines. Unfamiliar surroundings do not bother me anymore.

I once applied to a study where all you had to do was sleep, while they traced your sleeping and dreaming patterns. I wish they had selected me.

I have slept through Sleepless in Seattle, Sleeping with the enemy, and eyes wide shut. I haven’t yet tried the movie Jaagte Raho.

Unlike other lovers, I can never claim that I have lost sleep thinking of someone.

If they made a movie about me, I’d never let them name it Sona Manaa Hai. Guess what I’d call it? Sleeping in Seattle.

All said and done, I lead as much of an active life as anyone else would. I gym, I dance, I attend classes and hang around with friends, I go for hiking, I blog, and I do a lot more. It is just that I take sleep as seriously as any other thing I do in life.

The Sleeping Beauty signing off now.

sunshine.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Something sweet?

Ever woken up in the middle of the night craving for sweets? Naah, I do not mean the American cheese cake or the black forest cake, but the typical Indian sweets? Now, I never buy sweets from the Indian stores. I once bought 10 laddus in all of 4 varieties on a Friday evening, wanting to share it with my lab mates the next Monday. The entire weekend I had spent dipped in bucketful of guilt, having eaten all the laddus myself.

People have a sweet tooth. I claim that all my 28 teeth are sweet. And of all the days, I had to crave for sweets when I didn’t even have milk at home. How to I pacify myself?

Irritated and grumpy with myself, I got out of bed, brushed, and put on my thinking cap. I wish I could go back to sleep fantasizing about sweets, but that was not happening. Think harder! Something had to be done to mollify this sudden bout of sweet craving.

I heard the next door guy use the microwave. Still awake so late? I could already see my plan taking shape.

* Went out and told him hi, and gave him my sweetest smile.


* Told him that I barely saw him these days and if he was working very hard to get that Nobel prize he rightfully deserved.


*Opened the fridge and scooped out a whole large spoonful of vegetable curry for him, telling him that this is an Indian delicacy I was planning to share with him.


*Delved into the fridge, digging my nose into it and then making incoherent regret moans. Tsk tsk.

* Told him that since I had to keep awake at night studying, I came looking for some coffee, but it’s fine since I did not have milk.

Thankfully, my plan worked and he almost jumped at me, trying to help. 

“Oh no milk? Take it from me. And don’t ask me again, if you need for coffee, take it anytime you want”.

I started to act all coy and “no-no, thank you so much but I’ll survive without milk”, but after he left and shut his door and before he could open the door again telling me that he had changed his mind about the milk and being helpful, I grabbed at it.

Coffee be darned, I filled half the frying pan with milk. Put it on low flame and left it that way. But what to do with milk? Think, think.

Suddenly, a brilliant idea hit me. I had this huge packet of breakfast cereals that was quite misleadingly called “Honey bunches of oats with almonds”. I had bought it all greedy about the almond part, only to discover that there was one thin shaving of one-twentieth of an almond for every five spoonful of cereal. So the next 20 minutes was spent ripping open the cereal packet, hand picking the almond shavings, and putting it into the milk. Thankfully, I remembered mom telling someone always to add the sugar last while boiling milk so that it did not char.




So for the next 2 hours, the milk with tiny shavings of almond boiled. Two hours later when the milk had almost reduced to half its volume and had a brownish, thicker consistency to it post addition of the sugar, I knew my food was ready. I knew not what I had made of it and if it was an American version of payesh. But one mouthful and I was going mmmm mmmmmm mmmmm!

I thought it tasted a little like rasmalai, a little like rabri, and a little like kheer. The fat or malai was sticking to the walls of the pan with a thickness of almost a few millimeters, and scraping it with the steel spoon, the almond bits embedded in it was just…. just… just….Heavenly !!!

I licked my lips like a greedy cat, and man, finally after 4 am, it was the “sweetest” sleep I had. All puns intended.

sunshine.