Saturday, June 20, 2015


2014 was a remarkable year for me in many ways. It brought in many a heartbreaks, and boundless joy. This is an exercise for me to remember some of the significant things of the year.


First day of the year, I bid goodbye to Seattle after a wonderful holiday break. I land at the airport in the middle of a cold and wintry night. It had snowed the day before. In the process of driving back home on the freeway, I skid on black ice, not once, but twice. I am about to hit the side rails, driving at 50 mph on an 80 mph freeway, holding on to the steering for life, and waiting to be hit by any car, either from behind or head on. My life flashes by me in a few seconds. A miracle happens, and the car stops, barely a few inches from the guard rails. I am alive and unscathed, and have the presence of mind to not linger there, but quickly drive. My hands are shaking, I keep driving for the next 60 miles with my emergency lights on, and that was the longest night in my life. I come home and break down. I had a minor whiplash, and suffered from mental trauma. So much that it took me at least a month until I started feeling normal while driving again. I take the next day off to recover, but have to eventually go to work. For many weeks after that, something strange happened to me, and I stopped piling up food in the fridge. I started buying only as much as I would need for the next two days. For some reason, I could still not accept that I was alive, and stopped buying things, in case something drastic happens again.


February is a blur. The only thing I remember is driving to attend Saraswati Puja. This time, I was extra careful, and drove only during the daylight. Winter is at its peak, and every day is a misery. The Midwest sees a record of low temperature. I pray to God everyday that I don’t have to see another winter in Nebraska. In the midst of everything, I win a dissertation award, chosen among the top three finalists in my field. 


The beginning of March was the Academy Award ceremony. We watched it at a colleague’s place, who had cooked up a storm. Winter is kind of about to end, although it is still very cold. The ides of March, I learn that my contract will not renew next year. The job hunting starts. End of March, friends visit me from Seattle and Boston. It is the first time someone visits me in Nebraska. I had left hope that anyone would be even remotely interested in seeing this place. I was wrong. The last day of March, I have a conference presentation in Pittsburgh.


Beginning of April, I am away for conferences. After the one in Pittsburgh, I take a break at Washington DC for a few days, and meet up old friends. The train ride from Pittsburgh to Washington DC turns out to be quite inexpensive and relaxing. I visit the World Bank, and get very inspired about working there. I next go to Philadelphia for another conference and meet up with more friends. I realize that I have more friends in all the corners of the US than I have had in any other country. I am visiting Philadelphia after 6 years, and miss some of my old friends who used to live there. The weather starts to get better in Nebraska by mid-April. I discover a fantastic sushi place, and start frequenting there for the happy hours. The job hunt is still on.


I start going to these Friday art walks (held in many cities on the first Friday of every month), and start enjoying the experience. The job hunt is still on. I have applied to a bunch of places in the US, more than I can keep track of. But nothing seems to be working out. I am still hopeful, my visa does not expire until the end of August. Memorial Day, another friend from Idaho visits me. I am amazed at how many people are starting to visit me. The weather is much better now, leaning towards the hotter, humid side. I would prefer that any day over the cold and snow. I start driving more, and exploring the nearby lakes and forests. My friend and I are supposed to explore the Badlands National Park and Mount Rushmore. An hour into our 10-hour long road trip, my car breaks down for the first time. I have no clue what’s happening. We call the hotels and cancel our reservation, and spend the next 3 days at home, waiting for the car to be fixed. My friend is pretty cool about it, but I keep getting restless. This is the first time in many years that it is a holiday and I am not traveling.
In the meantime, I am still looking for a job, and now start talking to Indian friends who got a PhD from the US and then moved elsewhere. A particular friend who moved to Israel asks me to explore the options there. I am not terribly excited about Israel, I am still hoping that something works out in the US. I cast a wider net and start contacting faculty all over the country. In the meantime, I identify a good program in Israel, and contact the head. He asks me if I am willing to learn Hebrew. I say yes. Something in me is utterly lost and disappointed. He asks me to contact him in a few months, but in the meantime, contact a renowned research institution in Germany. This raises my hopes. I had loved Europe from my visits before. I contact the organization in Germany. End of May, I contact them. I hear back within a day, telling me that there is no available position. The next day, the head writes me back, asking if I would be willing to visit for 4 months. I miss going to my PhD graduation ceremony


I decide to go to Colorado for the first time, to meet my friend from college. I take the Amtrak to Denver (an amazing overnight train ride, cheaper and way comfortable than driving).  I meet my friend after 12 years and relive old memories. We drive down to the Rocky Mountain National Park, and other places like Vail. In the meantime, I hear back from at least 6 places I had previously applied to, asking if I am available to interview. I am on top of the world. I know that something is going to work out now. I had applied to two positions in Colorado alone. After my trip, I now start to hope that the job in Colorado works out. The rest of the month is spent interviewing with these places, and waiting. In the meantime, Germany has decided to offer me a position for a year (as opposed to four months), and now wait for my answer.


The positions I applied to are either not contacting me, or asking me for more time. I set a deadline of July 15, and decide not to prolong Germany. More friends visit me from Seattle for the July 4th weekend. This is the third set of friends visiting me. Germany won the world cup football. And I decided to move.


August mostly involved packing, moving, and numerous trips to Goodwill. There was some confusion with the date of my moving out, as a result of which, I had to pack and move out on one evening’s notice. Although I was preparing for it for a while now, it was sudden. I hardly got time to mourn my move. By the first day of August, I had moved in with a friend. He sponsored a wonderful farewell dinner for me at a very nice local restaurant, where I had duck for the first time. I started for my first solo road trip in the first week of August. For the next 25 days, I was on the road, travelling 8,000 miles across 22 states. My three-week long criss-cross country solo road trip ended in Seattle. It started in the middle of the country (Lincoln, Nebraska), going south (Houston, Texas), north (Chicago, Illinois), east (Washington DC) and west (Seattle, Washington). The distance I drove was the distance between Washington DC and India, via Europe. I met 42 old friends in the process, and made 9 new friends. In this process, I also got a renewed Indian passport and a new German visa. There were no speeding tickets.


September 5th, I sold my car. I lived for a month in Seattle, meeting old and new people, hiking Rainier and other places in Washington, and enjoying my last Durga Puja in Seattle.


I moveto Germany. I make my first friend there, a South Korean friend. I discover the only Starbucks in the city. I start enjoying the habit of watching huge cruise ships on a daily basis.


I make my second friend there. Also South Korean. I get my residence and work permit. I am slowly developing roots in Germany.


I visit my first Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt) in Germany. I have my first Glühwein (glow wine or mulled wine). I submit my first grant. I visit Calcutta.


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