Sunday, August 3, 2008

Mumbai Reflections

This is just rambling about my recent life. What follows is a completely disorganized set of facts and reflections. Sometime soon I plan to post a more detailed blog about my other experience at the conference in Germany

Finally I have joined TIFR as a student for Integrated-PhD in the Department of Theoretical Physics (DTP). I am yet to get into my permanent accommodation. Since I have joined late the proposed accomodation at Wadala seems to be over so I have been put up at one of the older hostels in-campus and some time soon I will have to shift to Wadala. That prospect is worrying me day and night! Its one hour bus ride from there to the TIFR campus and the only bus from Wadala to TIFR leaves Wadala at 8Am and the only bus from TIFR to Wadala leaves at 8:30Pm. I wonder how I am going to get into studies in this weird scenario where I have to leave home at 8Am and I reach my bed-room at 9Pm involving an hour of bus-journey on each side.

This scenario reminds me of the life I led at CMI (Chennai Mathematical Institute, undergraduate institute) for quite sometime when I used to wake up at 7Am to catch a bus from T.Nagar to Siruseri (a bus-distance of about 45 minutes) and then used to come back from there at 7Pm. While going to the institute if I missed the bus then the route via public transport was pretty troublesome and would take about an hour or more but if I miss the return bus then life is going to be hell. Public transport from Siruseri (which is a developing city at the outskirts of Chennai on the Old Mahabalipuram Rad) to T.Nagar is almost non-existent and finding the rare ones is just too difficult at 6Pm in the evening.

Those were really tiring days and studying was really difficult given that I study late in the night. But now I will have to go back to a form of life somewhat like that but what is very difficult now is to get out of some of the crucial comforts of the Siruseri campus that I had gotten used to over the last 2 years.

Some people chose to go to the US to their grad school even if it was not the top places of US to escape from these hardships of life at TIFR. Many advised and tried to motivate me to do the same. But I have other reasons to prefer TIFR over those colleges of the US.

I have seen enough of pain and agony in my personal and academic life and I am sure I have grown to be a more steeled person to fight any kind of hardship. Anyway mortal pains are always far less then the emotional pains or agony of being cheated by unfair means in a corrupt academic system. But I still firmly believe that these can only be local losses and in the long run she/he is the winner who has true depth of knowledge and understanding.

Here probably I should acknowledge the infinite debt I have to the CMI Mathematics department whose support helped me find an escape to some happiness when I felt that life was being very unfair to me at various different levels: personal and in pursuit of Physics.

But while at CMI in those days of bus-travels the hostels though very far from the institute were located in the center of a pretty posh city and hence lots of basic amenities like a restaurant and super-market were a walking distance from the hostel. Moreover because CMI maintained a small computer room near T.Nagar it added to the comforts. But here at TIFR things are going to be radically different since the Wadala hostels are far away from the main city and there is practically nothing around it. Hence once I leave the institute I am practically going to land into a desert.

And I just cant imagine reading a book or doing sme large calculation on anywhere but on my bed reclining. Given this schedule which is coming up in life I am yet to figure out how I am going to do my work being detached from my bed-room for most of the working hours of the day.

And even inside TIFR there is acute space crunch..unlike our seniors we don't have a computer room..and what we have been given as a computer room is more of a dump-yard!..a pretty dingy dirty room with lots of broken computers and a mess of wires and old tables and a few working computers...interestingly some of the working computers are pretty high-end like they have 21inch flat screen but many of them can't play music or can't play a DVD..I somehow have gotten used to be listening to music whenever I am on the computer.

More or less thats the only time I listen to music i.e when I am sitting on a computer. But given these amazing computer facilities at TIFR, I am not being able to do that very much.

But yes I am hoping that at some point of time these things will change for the better. More importantly I hope that the opportunity to interact with some of the best Mathematicians and Physicists at TIFR will help get over these innumerable mortal worries at TIFR.

Of the few things about CMI that I miss, one is the amazingly comfortable computer room and especially my cosy corner in that room which I had almost individualized. Of course here too I am trying to do the same as to individualize the computer room and its organization as per my tastes. Somehow this is probably how a fundamental instinct of human kind manifests itself and pretty strongly in me: That is the instinct to change the surroundings to one's needs unlike other species who adapt to the surroundings.

Of course among the many things that I don't have some are: a TIFR identity card, a TIFR computer account and email id, a computer network to which I belong and a locker.

Let me explain the last 3 things in a little detail: In CMI all the computers are networked so data like say my music is not localized and hence I can log into any machine and access my music from it but in TIFR I am yet to get to a networked system so it is becoming necessary to keep my frequently used data on all the machines that I use and thats troublesome.

Now about the locker:

I just can't carry around those books with me regularly from hostel to the institute! I mean those books that I am reading these days. I really need a locker to keep them in the institute.

This is why I didn't need a locker in CMI:

In CMI, I could walk around the entire campus in 5 minutes and could walk to my room from the lecture hall in less than 45 seconds...thats going to be radically different here...if I felt bored studying on my bed then I could hop into my computer room and again if I needed a book while in the institute then it would take me a minute to get it from my room...

This is the biggest luxury of CMI that I am going to miss here. Such frequent and fast transits are simply impossible like it was when I had to travel from T.Nagar to Siruseri for classes.

It is my first experience of a big institute and a big campus. On the positive side here there is an implicit cloak of anonymity...I don't know most of the people and most of the people don't know me..unlike in CMI where everyone knows every person a bit too well...this anonymity has both its advantages and CMI unfortunately almost everything that would happen in my life would become known to lots of people and that is unlikely here (thankfully!)...on the negative side not knowing most of the people can be a problem when Iam looking for a person to help me with something.

Shayantani didi (I met her an year ago while I was in TIFR as a summer student) seems to be the help desk for me as I can go upto her to know where to get what?

Of course there is one big comforting thing at TIFR ... the sea-side...the rocks and the furious waves lashing at it..the incessant ballet and love struggle between the water and the rocks...the seemingly infinite energy of the sea and its untiring motion..

But then there is something to be feared in everything that is beautiful.

Towards the corner of that sea-side, the sea is much more furious...and the pavement has a lot of moss on it..hence slippery. Obviously the adventurous spirit in me pulled me towards those areas...then I fell down from the rocks and have badly bruised my knee..about 2cm x 2cm area of skin is limping around with bandage...then I had to take a tetanus injection and then the hand is paining.

Minor casualties that one must be prepared for when in the process of conquering fear in attempt to progress because on the other hand failure begins with fear. In spite of the dangers, I think there is nothing more demeaning than to nurture fear for something.